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Although continuous autofocus during video capture has already been seen on the likes of the Nikon D3100 and D3200, for Canon users, this is a significant development. The 650D isn’t a direct replacement for the 600D, which Canon intends to continue producing, but this latest arrival clearly shares a number of similarities to this older model.
Features & build
Placing the 650D next to the 600D, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the two cameras as the same model, with very little to distinguish between the pair. On closer inspection, however, there are a handful of notable changes, the most obvious of which is the On/Off switch that now extends to a third Video Mode option. Previously, this mode could be found as a dedicated setting on the mode dial, though the new format grants far quicker access to the increasingly popular Video Capture mode. To further add to the video experience, Canon has also included a set of stereo mics just in front of the hotshoe port on the top of the camera.
On the top-plate, the Display button has been completely removed in favour of a small sensor just above the viewfinder that automatically deactivates the rear monitor as the camera is brought up to the eye for shooting – although this is a feature that’s previously been seen in Canon’s enthusiast and pro range of D-SLRs.
Arguably one of the biggest additions to the 650D comes in the form of the 3in touch screen on the back – the same monitor seen on the recently announced Canon EOS M Compact System Camera. Sharing the same 1040k dot resolution and vari-angle capability as the 600D’s monitor, this latest variation allows you to alter camera settings by simply tapping the screen. Much like the 600D’s design, it can also be pulled out from the body and rotated approximately 270° around to aid with both low and high angle shooting, as well as being flipped the opposite way round to position it face-in and protect it from gathering any chips and scratches.
Inside the 650D there’s a newly-developed 18MP APS-C Hybrid CMOS sensor that’s capable of capturing 5184x3456px images. It also has an improved maximum ISO range of 100-12,800, which is expandable to an equivalent ISO 25,600 – improving on the 600D’s 100-6400 range (expandable to 12,800). Working alongside the new sensor is Canon’s latest DIGIC 5 processor. This is the first time the processor has been seen in an entry-level D-SLR from Canon, and allows it to capture images up to 5fps, trumping the 3.7fps speed for the 600D.
In order to grant the ability of continuous AF during video capture, Canon has taken its standard D-SLR phase-detection AF back to the drawing board and developed a brand new one. The new Hybrid AF System combines both Phase Detection and Contrast Detection technology, which allows the camera to utilise both types of AF detection for improved performance during Live View. The 650D still utilises a similar 9-point diamond AF configuration from the 600D, though this time round all of the points have been upgraded to the much more accurate cross-type points.
For novice photographers, two new automatic shooting modes have been added to the Mode Dial: HDR Backlight Control captures three exposures – one under-exposed, one over-exposed and one correctly exposed – then merges the images together in-camera to create a single HDR-style image to retain both highlight and shadow detail. To aid with capturing sharp images in low-light shots without the aid of a tripod, Handheld Night Scene helps by taking four stills in quick succession before combining them all into a single, sharp image. Clever stuff.
Performance & Handling
If you’re familiar with the layout of the 600D, then the 650D should feel right at home, with the large majority of the buttons and dials left unchanged. The deep, rubberised grip fits snugly in the hand with a moulded thumb-rest on the back providing further purchase. A grooved top section allows the index finger to rest ergonomically on top of the shutter button, with the primary command dial positioned directly behind it for quick and easy access. It’s also worth noting that all the buttons and dials feel slightly more responsive than the 600D this time round, now operating with a more reassuring click.
On the back, the new 3in, 1040k dot screen shows a bright, sharp image, resolving vibrant colours with crisp clarity. The addition of the touchscreen functionality now allows a vast amount of shooting options to be altered by simply hitting the ‘Q’ Quick Menu button, then single-tapping the option you wish to change and using the command wheel to cycle through the options.
Alternatively, a shooting option can be double-tapped to enter the menu proper for a full list of parameters. Although we found it much quicker to set the shutter speed, aperture and ISO using the conventional method, the touch screen did come in handy when changing settings like image quality, which would otherwise require delving into the settings menu to alter.
Being a capacitive-style touch screen – the same type seen on most smartphones – it was incredibly responsive to finger strokes, and when shooting in Live View mode we were also able to set the focal point by simply tapping on the screen. With Touch Shutter activated, touching the screen allowed us to quickly focus and capture an image from a single tap on the screen.
Under testing, the AF system proved to be quick and accurate, locking onto targets with ease, even in low-light conditions.
AF performance was echoed across all 9 cross-type AF points, which proved far more accurate than the 8 vertical-type and single cross-type points on the 600D. Switching the camera over to video capture mode, the Continuous AF function was a welcome addition, able to seek out and lock on to targets in a nice smooth motion. Although there were few occasions where it would struggle to lock on, causing the lens to hunt for focus, for the most part it put in a good performance. Tapping the screen also activated tracking AF, allowing you to lock on and keep the focus set to a specific point within the scene.
Setting the camera’s drive mode to Continuous, we were able to rattle off a steady stream of Large Fine JPEG images at 5fps onto our SanDisk Extreme 16GB SD card (30MB/s) without showing any signs of the pace slowing. When switching over to RAW mode, though, we were only able to record 6 stills before the buffer kicked in and slowed the pace. This was then further reduced to just 3 frames before buffering when set to RAW+JPEG (L).
Value for money
Priced at £699 with an 18-55mm IS II lens, the Canon EOS 650D is £40 cheaper than the 600D at its launch (£739 with 18-55mm II lens). Despite this, it’s still a pricey piece of kit for anyone considering buying their first D-SLR when you realise that its closest rivals, the Nikon D3200 (£525 with 18-55mm VR lens) and Sony A37 (£439 with 18-55mm lens), are £174 and £260 cheaper, respectively. Both these rivals offer Continuous AF during video capture and a close-matched 4fps (D3200) and 5.5fps (A37) burst shooting speed. That said, with its high-resolution touch screen, 9 cross- type AF points and higher ISO range, the 650D is able to claim back valuable ground.
Street price: £699 (with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II kit lens)
Resolution: 18Mp (5184x3456px)
Sensor: APS-C CMOS
Lens mount: EF/EF-S
Autofocus system: TTL phase-detection
AF points: 9 cross-type
Focusing modes: Manual focus, One-Shot, AI Focus, AI Servo
Metering: Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Centre-weighted average
Burst rate: 5fps Flash: Yes
ISO range: 100-12,800 (expandable to 25,600)
Shutter range: 30-1/4000, Bulb
Viewfinder: 95% coverage
Monitor: 3in vari-angle touchscreen LCD (1040k dot)
Video: Full HD (1920x1080 @ 30/25/24p)
Write speed: 1.7sec (RAW), 0.8sec (Large Fine JPEG)
Dimensions: 33.1x99.8x78.8mm (WxHxD)
Weight: 575g (body only)
As featured in the October 2012 issue of Digital Photo, for a back issue please contact 0844 848 8872.