Canon EOS 600D review (Rebel T3i review)
Canon EOS 600D review - Image Quality
Canon EOS 600D review - Tone & Exposure
The 63-zone iFCL metering system was first seen on the EOS 7D back in 2009, and has proved to be a very solid exposure system, and it's the same story in the Canon EOS 600D. Images are well exposed under a range of lighting conditions, meaning you won't have to spend too much time with the exposure compensation button, while there's a smooth tonal noticeable in the images. As well as shooting in Evaluative metering, you can switch to Partial, Centre-weighted or Spot metering in the menu of the EOS 600D.
Canon EOS 600D review - RAW/JPEG
The Canon EOS 600D's .CR2 Raw files can be read using Photoshop CS5 or Elements 9 (you'll need to update to the latest Camera RAW - 6.4, which is still in beta, but will read and allow for conversion), as well as similar programs. There's also Canon's bundled Digital Photo Professional software too.
As you'd expect from an unadjusted Raw file, they lack the punch and end results of the output JPEG file, which has a decent level of contrast and sharpness applied to them to deliver attractive final images. That said, to achieve the best quality from the chip, Raw conversion is recommended.
Canon EOS 600D review - Colour & White Balance
Colour reproduction from the Canon EOS 600D is just a little on the punchy side of neutral, delivering a pleasing result. If that's not enough, then there's the EOS 600D's Picture Styles - Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful and Monochrome. There are also three user-defined modes, allowing you to set Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation and Color Tone, which can be saved and used any time.
There are 6 white balance modes (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, White fluorescent light & Flash), as well as a Custom mode, white balance bracketing and Auto White Balance (AWB), which performs very well, though can be a touch warm indoors.
Canon EOS 600D review - ISO Sensitivity & Image Noise
The Canon EOS 600D has a standard ISO range of 100-6400 that can be expanded to an ISO equivalent of 12,800 (the 600D's H setting) at full resolution, though you will need to activate the ISO expansion in the Custom menu.
Even for an APS-C sized sensor, 18-megapixels may be seen as a bit of a squeeze for a sensor that size, with a poor signal-to-noise ratio resulting in pronounced noise. However, with some clever engineering has resulted in some of the best results for a camera of this class. Noise in Raw files up to ISO 800 is barely noticeable and very well controlled. ISO 800 is starting to show minor signs of breaking up, while ISO 1600 displayed some unwanted colour noise. Above that, and at ISO 3200 & 6400, Noise is noticeable, but considering the sensitivity, is well controlled. At the ISO equivalent of 12,800, and as you'd expect, Noise is quite pronounced but if it's your only option, still very useable.
When Raw files are compared alongside JPEGs of the same shot and at higher ISO settings, then it's the JPEG files that appear to handle Noise better, though this is at the expense of sharpness - this is where Raw processing is advised, allowing you to get the best balance of Noise control and sharpness.
Canon EOS 600D review - Sharpness & Detail
The 18MP sensor in the Canon EOS 600D is capable of delivering an impressive amount of detail, allowing you plenty of flexibility if it comes to the need to crop the image fairly aggressively. While JPEGs are more than acceptable, they do tend to be a touch softer, becoming more noticeable at higher ISOs as noise control takes prominence, with Raw files allowing you to resolve the most detail from the chip.
The 18-55mm kit lens has its weaknesses, tending to be a touch soft in the corners wide-open and struggling to get the optimum sharpness from the sensor. If you want to get the best from the camera, then a higher quality optic is recommended.