Canon 650D £699.99

11th Jul 2012 | 11:01

Canon 650D

Canon's first touchscreen DSLR is put through its paces

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

Like:

Touchscreen; Vari-angle screen; Image quality and high ISO performance; 5fps continuous shooting; Easy interface;

Dislike:

'Only' 18MP; No headphone socket; Raw burst-depth; No rating button; New NR mode is JPEG only;

Introduction

The Canon EOS 650D - or Canon EOS Rebel T4i in the US - sits above the Canon EOS 600D/Rebel T3i in Canon's DSLR range, and has been designed for beginners and enthusiast photographers alike.

One of the key aims for the manufacturer was to make the new camera easier to use, so it has given the Canon 650D new automatic shooting modes as well as a touch-sensitive vari-angle LCD screen. There's also a healthy smattering of more advanced features to keep experienced photographers happy.

Despite the headline features, a close look at the Canon EOS 650D/EOS Rebel T4i reveals it's quite a bit more than just a 600D with a touchscreen LCD.

Although it has an 18-megapixel sensor like the Canon EOS 600D, for example, some of the pixels are dedicated phase detection tools - part of the new camera's Live View and video mode Hybrid AF system. In a first for a Canon EOS camera, the Canon 650D can focus automatically during video recording. Let's take a closer look.

Features

At full resolution, the Canon EOS 650D produces 5184 x 3456 pixel images. This means they are big enough for A3 (16.5 x 11.7-inch) size prints at just under 300ppi. While some may feel that's not quite as good as the 24MP offered by the Nikon D3200, it's enough for many photographers and, of course, it's the quality of those pixels that's important.

The Digic 5 processor in the Canon EOS 650D is six times faster than the Digic 4 processor found in the Canon 600D. This has enabled Canon to boost the 650D's continuous shooting rate to 5fps for approximately 22 JPEGs or six raw files - up from 3.7fps with the 600D for around 34 JPEGs or six raw files.

Canon EOS 650D review

So you gain speed, but lose out slightly on the number of images you can record. To be fair though, how often do you need to shoot bursts of 20+ images?

The better specified, bigger Canon EOS 60D is only 0.3fps faster, at 5.3fps (although it will capture around 58 JPEGs and 16 raw files in one burst). So having 5fps capability in a camera at the Canon 650D's level is quite a bonus. It's fast enough for most wildlife, action and sports photography.

When the Canon EOS 650D's new Hybrid AF system is in action it uses the central pixels to inform the phase detection part and get the subject close to sharp. Then the contrast detection steps in to get it into full focus.

Canon EOS 650D review

The aim is to make the Live View and video mode focusing quicker and more accurate. If this makes Live View usable when the camera is handheld, it could give the Canon EOS 650D appeal to those upgrading from a compact camera, even if it isn't a hugely popular feature with enthusiasts.

As on the Canon EOS 600D, Canon EOS 60D and Canon EOS 7D, the Canon EOS 650D has an integrated Speedlite transmitter, enabling you to use the built-in flash to trigger external flashguns remotely.

You'll need a flashgun with a slave option to use this function, but it's a great way to take very creative, professional-looking photos by adding dynamic side lighting.

Canon EOS 650D review

Videographers are also catered for. The Canon EOS 650D records Full HD movies (1920 x 1080) at the usual different frame rates, and there's a stereo microphone on the top. There's also a slot for an external mic - and if you're serious about recording video, then this is always the best option to record quality sound.

Canon has also included its Video Snapshot mode, so you can record two-, four- or eight-second bursts then edit them together for a slicker movie. The Canon EOS 650D also has a mini HDMI port so you can play your home movies on any HD TV. Shame there's no headphone port, though.

New modes and filters

Canon has introduced two new shooting modes on the Canon EOS 650D that are accessed via the now quite cramped mode dial. They are designed to help when shooting in tricky lighting conditions. HDR Backlight Control is handy for brightly backlit scenes, and is intended to help enhance both highlight and shadow detail.

In this mode the camera takes three shots with different exposures - under, correct, and over-exposed. These are then auto-aligned and combined into one image.

Canon EOS 650D review

Meanwhile, Handheld Night Scene mode is there to help you capture low light evening shots without the need for a tripod. It does this by taking four different images in rapid succession to achieve a longer total exposure. Again the images are auto-aligned and combined in-camera.

Other spec highlights on the Canon 650D include a sensitivity range of ISO 100-12800 that's expandable to ISO 25600, 14-bit image processing and a new nine-point wide-area AF system with all cross-type sensors.

There's also a new Multi Shot Noise Reduction option, which works in JPG mode only, in addition to the usual four High ISO Speed Noise Reduction settings (Off, Low, Standard and High). When this new mode is used, the camera shoots and combines four consecutive shots to create one low-noise image.

Build and handling

Give or take a few millimetres and grams here and there, the Canon EOS 650D is pretty much the same size and weight as the Canon 600D. We are told that the grip is very slightly modified, although we couldn't feel much difference.

We found the Canon EOS 650D comfortable to use, with Canon's usual ergonomic textured grip design. We found the shutter button responsive, whether half-pressing to achieve focus or fully pressing to take a photo. And as we've mentioned, the touchscreen is responsive and fast to use.

The buttons and dials on the Canon 650D have had a few minor tweaks since the Canon 600D. The ISO button, for example, has a nipple that makes it easier to identify when the camera is held to your eye.

Canon EOS 650D review

Perhaps the biggest change is that the On/Off switch has a third setting - Movie mode. To record videos you still need to press the Live View/Record button. And the Menu and Info buttons are circular now.

Lenses

As with Canon's other beginner and enthusiast DSLRs, the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II kit lens makes a nice, lightweight option for the Canon EOS 650D that is ideal for novices.

However, combining the camera with the new EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens makes a very lightweight setup, and it's great fun using this stubby, fast prime lens.

At 40mm, this new lens gives an equivalent focal length of 64mm on an APS-C format camera such as the Canon EOS 650D. This makes it a good choice for photographing portraits and still life subjects, rather than wide, sweeping landscape shots.

Canon EOS 650D review

STM stands for stepper motor, and the new lenses are specifically designed for use when shooting video, since the autofocusing is smoother and slower than with USM lenses. That said, we found the STM lenses fine for most stills photography, apart from sport, when faster autofocusing may be required.

We found that the Canon EOS 650D also feels nicely balanced with the larger, new EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens.

Touchscreen technology

The LCD on the Canon EOS 650D is a touchscreen vari-angle 3-inch (7.7cm) 3:2 Clear View II TFT, with approximately 1040k dots resolution. It's the same device as on the Canon 600D, but it's touch-sensitive.

Being able to move the screen so you can see more easily in bright sunlight (while the camera is still trained on the target) is a great help. It's also handy when shooting low to the ground, or overhead; plus you can take those popular self-portraits everybody puts on Facebook!

Canon EOS 650D review

It seems that many traditional photographers are quick to dismiss the Canon EOS 650D's touchscreen as an unnecessary gimmick. But we would urge you to try it in your local camera shop.

Like the iPhone and iPad, the Canon EOS 650D's LCD is a capacitive touchscreen, and it therefore requires just a touch rather than a press to function.

Capacitive touchscreens tend to be more responsive than resistive screens, and the Canon EOS 650D's monitor doesn't disappoint. We found it responsive, intuitive and fun to use. It's much more responsive than the touchscreens on Canon's compact cameras such as the Canon IXUS 510 HS.

Canon 650D

In any shooting mode, with the information screen visible on the LCD, simply tap the Q icon in the bottom-left of the screen to access a wealth of settings, which you can adjust at a finger's touch. You can do this using the Q button and a combination of various dials and buttons on cameras such as the Canon 550D and 600D, but it's much quicker via the Canon EOS 650D's touchscreen.

Scrolling through images is easier with a touchscreen, although the pinching to zoom in and out is a little fiddly on a 3-inch LCD compared to an iPhone's 3.5-inch display. Once zoomed in, it's easier to survey the whole frame using your finger on screen rather than scrolling up, down, left or right with navigation buttons to find the right spot to check if it's sharp.

The touchscreen really comes into its own when using Live View or recording movies. Because you're looking at the screen anyway, it's logical to touch it to move the focus point, or tap it to adjust settings (the accessible functions are highlighted in white-bordered grey boxes).

Canon EOS 650D review

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We also found that the Touch Shutter feature that triggers the camera to focus and take a shot works very well. Tap the subject or focal point on the screen and the Canon EOS 650D focuses and takes the shot fairly quickly.

Although there is a sensor just above the viewfinder that detects when the camera is held to your eye, so the screen automatically switches off when you shoot looking through the viewfinder if the touchscreen is still activated the sensor doesn't work. This means if you hold the camera to your eye you can mistakenly tweak settings on the touchscreen with your nose. Consequently it's important to touch the on-screen icon to turn off the touch-sensitivity once you have finished making adjustments.

Canon EOS 650D review

We think if you try the touchscreen you'll learn to love it, but Canon hasn't forgotten that there may be some who really can't get on with it - or who are put off buying the camera because they think they won't. The Canon EOS 650D still has all the usual direct controls, and it's possible to switch off the touch control in the menu.

We found it easiest and quickest to use a combination of dials for some settings (such as cycling through the menu with the top dial, since it was tricky to select smaller on-screen buttons), but then use the touchscreen for quickly swiping images to scroll thorough.

Performance

The full sensitivity range of the Canon EOS 650D has been increased to a maximum of ISO 25600 (the native range is ISO 100-12800). This is one stop more than the ISO 12800 max of the Canon EOS 600D and Canon EOS 60D. Images taken with the Canon 650D at ISO 100 are, as you'd expect, clean of noise and high on detail.

Chroma noise only really becomes visible in the dark areas of images taken at ISO 6400 when they are viewed at 100% on the computer screen. At ISO 12800, images are still useable, but using the new Multi Shot Noise Reduction setting improves them, reducing chroma noise and leaving more detail.

Canon EOS 650D review

It's only at ISO 25600 that the noise is very noticeable, rendering images with lots of coloured speckling. Consequently, we recommend keeping this expansion setting for emergencies, and where possible use it with the Multi-Shot Noise Reduction setting for smoother results.

Canon EOS 650D review

Being able to shoot at these high settings is a great bonus in low light, since you are able to use shutter speeds that enable you to shoot with the camera handheld. It's also useful for shooting action on drab days.

Canon EOS 650D review

Straight out of the camera, images have good colour and contrast, as well as plenty of detail. The camera also deals well with challenging lighting conditions - such as shooting into the sun - partly thanks to intelligent Auto Lighting Optimiser technology.

Canon EOS 650D review

The Canon EOS 650D also handles a variety of lighting conditions well, from bright sunshine and overcast weather to low-light and near-dark conditions indoors. The images don't appear to be over-saturated or too contrasty, so there is scope to add extra punch in post-processing as desired.

Canon EOS 650D review

We found the Canon EOS 650D's Hybrid AF worked well in all but the lowest lighting conditions when there was little contrast to focus on - or see, for that matter.

Focusing settings

Canon EOS 650D review

In reflex mode (when images are composed in the viewfinder) the Canon EOS 650D uses a nine-point phase detection autofocus system. All of these points are cross-type (only the central AF point on the Canon 600D is cross-type).

Canon EOS 650D review

We found the Canon 650D focuses quickly and accurately, although those used to bigger 'square' AF points (as on Canon 60D and Canon 7D cameras) might find the Canon EOS 650D's AF points a little small to begin with.

Canon EOS 650D review

There are also new focusing modes you can use with the touchscreen when shooting in Live View or HD Video mode on the Canon EOS 650D; Face Recognition and Tracking, FlexiZone - Multi, Flexizone - Single, and Quick Mode.

Canon EOS 650D review

Face recognition AF in Live View is already available on cameras such as the 60D and 7D (it's cunningly called Live Face detection). However, the new Face Recognition and Tracking AF mode on the Canon EOS 650D is much improved, thanks to the touchscreen.

Canon EOS 650D review

On other DSLRs you need to move the focus box around on the screen (using the cursor buttons) until it is over your subject, then focus and wait for the face recognition AF to kick in, then press the shutter button. It's slow.

Canon EOS 650D review

On the Canon EOS 650D, in Live View and using Face Recognition and Tracking AF, you can instantly touch the screen to quickly focus on your subject. It will then track their face around if you move the camera to recompose, or if the subject moves. This is helpful for both stills and videos.

Canon EOS 650D review

Quicker still, if you're using the Touch Shutter, you just touch the screen once to focus on the subject and take a picture. It's fast! This also means you can use the Canon EOS 650D to shoot handheld using Live View and still get sharp shots.

Canon EOS 650D review

The FlexiZone-Multi mode automatically uses up to 31 AF points to cover a wider area. This can be divided into nine focusing zones. Half-press the shutter button to focus and small green AF boxes flash up to show you where it's focused - usually on whatever's closest in the frame.

Canon EOS 650D review

Or you can tap the LCD to select a focusing zone - again half-press the shutter button to focus, or fully press the button to take the shot. This covers a larger area than the usual AF points, and we found this setting worked OK for videos, but better for still photos.

Canon EOS 650D review

The Flexizone - Single mode uses on AF point, but can't go to the edges of the frame, while the Quick Mode is works using the normal AF sensor and nine AF points as you would through the viewfinder.

New modes

Canon EOS 650D review

HDR Backlight Control mode is meant to help enhance both highlight and shadow detail, but in our tests the impact was very subtle, and in some cases hardly noticeable when shooting subjects against bright window light. It also added a warm colour cast.

Canon EOS 650D review

Our results when using Handheld Night Scene were pretty noisy, and any movement during the shots was blurred. It's OK for spontaneous evening scenic shots, but we'd recommend a tripod and shooting at lower ISO for better low-light landscape shots.

Canon EOS 650D review

The Canon EOS 650D also gets two new Creative Filters - Art Bold Effect and Water Painting Effect. Both of these, like the other five filters (Grainy B&W, Soft focus, Fish-eye Effect, Toy Camera Effect and Miniature Effect - also available on 600D) can be applied in-camera to images viewed in playback mode, and the results are saved as a new image.

Canon EOS 650D review

They're just for fun, really, and both the Art Bold and Water Painting filters are an acquired taste. We prefer the Miniature filter, with its tilt-shift focusing effect.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Canon EOS 650D, we've shot our resolution chart.

If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Canon EOS 650D is capable of resolving up to around 24 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 100

ISO 100, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 200

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 400

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 800

ISO 800, score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 1600

ISO 1600, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 3200

ISO 3200, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 6400

ISO 6400, score:18 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 12800

ISO 12800, score: 16 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 25600

ISO 25600, score: 12 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Raw

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 100

ISO 100, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 200

ISO 200, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 400

ISO 400, score: 24 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 800

ISO 800, score: 22 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 1600

ISO 1600, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 3200

ISO 3200, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 6400

ISO 6400, score: 20 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 12800

ISO 12800, score: 16 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Canon EOS 650D review: Resolution ISO 25600

ISO 25600, score: 12 (Click here to see full resolution image)

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Canon EOS 650D review: Signal to noise ratio

JPEG images from the Canon EOS 650D relate closely with the Canon EOS 600D for signal to noise ratio. However from the chart you can see that the Sony Alpha 37 just has the edge over both of them.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Canon EOS 650D review: TIFF signal to noise ratio

TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Sony Alpha 37 and Canon EOS 650D are closely matched for their signal to noise ratio, with the Alpha 37 just having the edge at the lower end of the sensitivity scale, and the EOS 650D showing lower noise at high sensitivities.

JPEG dynamic range

Canon EOS 650D review: JPEG Dynamic Range

Our dynamic range results show that there is an improvement in performance for JPEG images over theCanon EOS 600D, but both the Nikon D5100 and Sony Alpha 37 are capable of capturing more tonal gradation across the greater part of the sensitivity range.

Raw dynamic range

Canon EOS 650D review: TIFF Dynamic Range

This chart indicates that TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the 650D have a greater dynamic range than the Canon EOS 600D's images, but as with the JPEGs, they lag behind the results achieved by the Nikon D5100 and Sony Alpha 37 for the greater part of the sensitivity range.

Sample images

Canon EOS 650D review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Canon EOS 650D review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Canon EOS 650D review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Canon EOS 650D review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Canon EOS 650D review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Canon EOS 650D review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Canon EOS 650D review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Canon EOS 650D review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Canon EOS 650D review

Click here to see the full resolution image

Verdict

With its touchscreen, Hybrid AF and other user-friendly functions, the Canon 650D transforms the way you use a camera and how you take pictures.

While this is bound to be of interest to novice photographers, we think it also significantly improves the handling of the camera for experienced users.

We liked

We found the articulated touchscreen responsive and easy to use. It enables quick settings adjustments and fast shooting from awkward angles, but if you don't want to use it you still have all the button controls you would expect on a DSLR.

We disliked

Although it has Canon's rating system that enables you to score images with up to five stars, there's no dedicated rating button, so it's not quite as quick to use as with the Canon 5D Mark III. It's also a shame that the new Multi Shot Noise Reduction setting only works with JPEGs and not raw files.

Final verdict

It may not have the pixel count of the Nikon D3200, but the Canon 650D is a very well-rounded DSLR with plenty of features for novices and enthusiasts. Image quality and high ISO performance is excellent.

It's a worthwhile upgrade for anyone with a Canon 550D or a Canon 600D. Meanwhile, if you have an older 40D or 50D camera, you won't be disappointed if you 'downgrade' to a smaller Canon DSLR - although the specification of the Canon EOS 650D begs the question what we can expect to see when the Canon 60D and Canon 7D are replaced.

The current recommended retail price of £699 in the UK and $849 in the US (body only) may seem steep for an entry-level camera, especially when you consider the meatier, higher spec 60D body is available for £749/$899.

However, it's worth remembering that that the 600D/Rebel T3i was priced at £679/$799 RRP body-only when it came out in April 2011, yet today it can be found for around £499/$579. It shouldn't be too long before the Canon EOS 650D street price becomes more palatable as well.

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