Canon 1200D £349.99

3rd Apr 2014 | 16:40

Canon 1200D

Maybe this will be the next Bailey's first camera?

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Canon has once again produced a reliable camera capable of creating some beautiful images. If you're in the market for your first DSLR and you're fine with a no-frills purchase, then the 1200D is a great option.

Like:

Affordable; Textured coating; Optical viewfinder

Dislike:

Slow focusing in Live View; No touchscreen; No Wi-Fi/NFC

Introduction

Ratings in depth
Design 4Features 3.5Performance 4Usability 4Value 5

Despite the low price points, the entry level of the DSLR market is very important for building customer loyalty.

The new Canon EOS 1200D replaces the 1100D, which is now three years old, and sits just below the ultra-small 100D as the first camera in the line-up.

Rather than a major overhaul of its predecessor, the 1200D is more of a gentle upgrade, which in conjunction with the new app being launched for iOS and Android, is designed to entice beginner users.

The app gives the user a walkthrough of the camera's key functions, as well as dishing out tips and advice on how to use it. There are also tutorials and inspirational challenges to get new users motivated with different ideas to try out.

In terms of specifications, it seems like Canon has played it relatively safe with the 1200D.

Canon 1200D

Featuring an 18 million-pixel sensor, the camera has a Digic 4 image processor, which although not the most recent Canon imaging engine, has proven itself to be a decent performer in previous Canon models.

Aimed squarely at the entry-level user, it comes packed with several automatic modes, including Scene Recognition Auto and some Creative modes to give images a different look, something that may appeal to mobile phone and compact camera users. Unlike with the 100D, these filters can only be added post-shooting, rather than before the image is taken.

On the back of the camera is a 460k dot resolution, 3-inch, screen, which is neither touch sensitive nor articulating/tilting. It's joined by an optical viewfinder that offers a 95% field of view.

Rear

Full HD video recording is included, which means that the whole Canon DSLR line-up now has the capacity to record high resolution movies. You can also take full manual control of video recording, which is nice to see on an entry level model.

The camera's native sensitivity run starts at ISO 100, rising up to ISO 6400, but this is expandable up to 12800. As the camera doesn't use the most recent image processor, it will be interesting to see how well it copes with noise in high sensitivity and low light situations.

There are nine autofocus points, with just the central point being cross-type for extra sensitivity. This is the same as the 1100D, and not quite as good as the 100D, which although also featuring a nine-point AF system, has a central point that is f/2.8 sensitive.

Lens

The camera can shoot at up to 3fps, which doesn't compare particularly well with the Nikon D3300's 5fps capability.

Canon hasn't included built-in Wi-Fi or NFC connectivity for the 1200D. That may be slightly off-putting for those coming from a smartphone background, but it's to be expected at this price point. The camera is compatible with Eye-Fi cards though, if you want to expand its capability.

As a DSLR, the 1200D uses Canon's EF/EF-S lens mount, which is compatible with hundreds of different lenses. The size of the sensor (APS-C) makes for a 1.6x crop factor. As standard, the 1200D comes with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens, which, in 35mm terms offers an equivalent of 28.8 – 88mm. This makes for a versatile first optic.

Battery life is claimed to be up to 500 shots, which is a reasonable offering. Again though, it doesn't compete too well with the Nikon D3300, which claims over 700 shots per charge.

Side shot lens

As mentioned, the 1200D goes against the very successful Nikon D3XXX range, of which the Nikon D3300 is the latest model. Although both sit in the same position in each other's respective line-ups, the Canon, for now at least, is much cheaper.

Build quality and handling

Canon has given the 1200D an improved look and feel when you compare it with the 1100D it replaces, bringing it more in line with something like the 700D, which sits ahead of it in the line-up. The deep grip and textured coating give it a feel of quality and also make it easy to hold – even in one-handed use, if you feel so inclined.

There's no touchscreen on the 1200D, unlike some of the other DSLRs in Canon's range (including the 100D and the 700D), so all camera controls are accessed via physical buttons.

Despite it being an entry-level model, there are still a decent number of those buttons on the back of the camera, including dedicated buttons for white balance and sensitivity (ISO).

Front

As with all Canon DSLRs, there is a mode dial on top of the camera to enable quick changes between the different shooting modes on offer. There's a lot of choice on this dial, including the standard P/A(Av)/S(Tv)/M modes, as well as fully automatic and various scene modes.

Unlike the 100D, you need to set the mode dial on the 1200D to video in order to enable recording. The Live View button on the back of the camera can then be used to start a recording.

Pressing a button labelled Q allows you to quickly scroll through 12 different settings displayed on the screen and change them using the dial. So, for instance, you can navigate to the metering setting, then scroll with the dial to change from general purpose to spot metering. It's quicker than diving into the main menu all the time, speeding up the general workflow of the camera.

To change the autofocus point (there are nine available) you will need to press a dedicated button and use the four-way navigational pad to move to the point you need. As there aren't dozens of points, this is a relatively quick process, but you can always focus and recompose if you're in a hurry.

Side on

A dial on top of the camera's grip is used to alter aperture or shutter speed, depending on the mode you're shooting in. To alter exposure compensation, hold down a dedicated button on the back of the camera and use the scrolling dial to dial in positive or negative compensation. If you're shooting in manual mode, the exposure compensation button enables you to switch between using the dial for aperture or shutter speed.

There's not too much in the way of creative options to be found on the 1200D – there's no panoramic mode such as you'll find on the D3300 – but you can experiment with Picture Styles before shooting. A number of presets are modifiable, such as Landscape and Monochrome, in which you can up the contrast, for example. The benefit here is that you can shoot in raw format to keep a 'clean' version of the image, should you need it later.

You can also edit photos in-camera with certain filter effects. These are fun to experiment with, and as they're applied after the photo has been taken, you'll have the original version of the file too.

Angle rear

Some will prefer optical viewfinders to electronic. The 1200D's optical one is bright and clear, although it only offers a 95% field of view, which can be problematic when composing images. Something crept into the frame on more than one occasion that we hadn't noticed in composition, so that's something to watch out for. This is also true of the Nikon D3330, though.

If you prefer, you can shoot in Live View, which offers a 100% field of view via the LCD screen on the back of the camera. If shooting in Live View, you can use the directional keys to move around the screen to the point you need to set autofocus.

Anyone who has ever used a Canon DSLR before will easily be at home here, while those who haven't shouldn't find it too difficult to pick up and get the most from it. In terms of the user interface, Canon hasn't made any radical changes from its previous cameras – it's pretty much identical to the 1100D. While it's a straightforward and easy to read display, it could be argued that it looks a little old fashioned compared with the full colour offering from the Nikon D3300.

Performance

It feels like we have been waiting a long time for the 1100D to be upgraded. Three years is a pretty long time in the life cycle of a camera, especially for those at the beginner end of the line-up.

It's therefore a little disappointing that Canon hasn't offered anything particularly revolutionary in the 1200D, offering more of a gentle upgrade than a complete reworking of the 1100D.

That said, image quality is very good – as we've come to expect from Canon cameras. Colours are bright and punchy, without being overly vibrant – the 1200D maintains Canon's propensity for pleasingly warm tones that stay just on the right side of accurate.

Angle rear

You can use Picture Styles to experiment with how colours appear, which is useful if you want to increase vibrancy or contrast. Using the Automatic setting is good for everyday shooting scenarios, while the Monochrome setting gives pleasing black and white images. We found that adjusting the contrast in this setting worked well for some subjects too.

These days, an 18 million-pixel count seems fairly modest for an SLR, but the 1200D is capable of resolving a good amount of detail. Our labs tests indicate that the 1200D does well for detail resolution, favouring that over noise reduction, especially in raw format files. You can read more about our labs tests in the following pages.

If examining images at 100%, it's possible to see some image smoothing at mid-range sensitivities, but it's not something that's troubling at printing sizes of A3 or below. At very low sensitivities, such as ISO 100 or 200, detail is kept very well.

Side

The Nikon D3300 has a higher resolution (24 million-pixels), and no optical low pass filter, so it's better placed to capture detail – but the difference is probably only something you'll notice if you're making huge prints, or have a tendency to photograph subjects with lots of fine detail.

If we take a look at raw files, we can see that more detail is visible as no image smoothing is applied – this means that you can apply your own noise reduction, depending on whether you want to prioritise detail resolution or lack of noise. As this is an entry-level camera, it's not something we'd expect the majority of its users to be doing, but it is useful to have that ability if you need it. You can use Canon's Digital Photo Professional, which is supplied in the 1200D box, to apply noise reduction.

Noise is generally well controlled throughout the sensitivity range. At reasonably high sensitivities, such as ISO 800, noise is very limited, which is great to see. Happily, detail is also kept pretty well at these sensitivities too. At ISO 1600, more noise is visible. Although noise reduction does a good job of keeping it to a minimum at ISO 1600, it is possible to see some loss of detail when examining images at 100%.

Top

At ISO 3200, noise and loss of detail is worse still, but again, unless you're printing at large sizes, they are more than acceptable for use. Overall, we're pleased that despite using a two-generation old processor, noise doesn't seem to be too much of a problem.

Like other Canon cameras, the 1200D uses Canon's iFCL metering system. Generally this does a good job of producing well balanced exposures, but it can be problematic to use when you're shooting a high contrast scene. This is because iFCL metering gives precedence to the subject, which is under the active AF point, and can lead to under- or over-exposure in certain conditions. If this proves to be a problem, switching to spot metering can be beneficial.

The camera's automatic white balance system does an excellent job in a range of different lighting conditions. While shooting indoors, under artificial lighting, the camera errs ever so slightly towards warmer tones, but it's generally not too displeasing, and if you find it too inaccurate, you can always set a more specific white balance setting, such as Incandescent.

Sometimes, processing speeds can be a little lacklustre. For instance, if you take a couple of shots in quick succession, waiting for them to appear on the LCD screen can take a frustrating few seconds. We suspect this is due to the older processor used, but, in fairness, we also noticed it when testing Nikon D3300.

Angle front

Autofocusing speeds are generally fairly quick when shooting in bright or good light. The kit lens takes a little longer than some other prime lenses to focus, and because it's not hyper or ultrasonic, it can seem quite loud if you're shooting in a quiet environment.

It's also worth noting that switching to Live View significantly reduces the speed at which the camera can focus, so it's only really recommended for shooting still, or near still, subjects. It's also useful for shooting macros where the larger view given by the screen is useful for pinpoint focusing.

Going back to the kit lens, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 optic supplied with the 1200D is a decent all-round performer for your first lens. By shooting at mid-range apertures, such as f/8, we can assess the sharpness of the lens. Here, the kit lens puts in a good performance, producing reasonably sharp images across the frame.

Lens off

Although battery life isn't quite as good as the quoted Nikon D3300 battery life, it still puts in a very good performance. We shot for a few hours at a time and the battery indicator was still displaying as full or nearly full by the end of the day, suggesting it's unlikely you'll need a second battery unless you plan to shoot with it for several days at a time without charge.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the Canon 1200D, we've shot our resolution chart.

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:

JPEG

ISO 100

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

ISO 100

ISO 100, Score: 26. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 200

ISO 200, Score: 24. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 400

ISO 400, Score: 24. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 800

ISO 800, Score: 22. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 1600

ISO 1600, Score: 22. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 3200

ISO 3200, Score: 20. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 6400

ISO 6400, Score: 20. Click here to see the full resolution image.

Raw

ISO 100

ISO 100, Score: 26. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 200

ISO 200, Score: 26. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 400

ISO 400, Score: 26. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 800

ISO 800, Score: 24. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 1600

ISO 1600, Score: 24. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 3200

ISO 3200, Score: 22. Click here to see the full resolution image.

ISO 6400

ISO 6400, Score: 22. Click here to see the 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.

Here we compare the Canon EOS 1200D with the Canon EOS 1100D, Nikon D3300, Fuji X-A1 and Olympus E-PM2.

JPEG signal to noise ratio

JPEG signal to noise

In terms of signal to noise ratio for JPEG images, the 1200D puts in a good performance, which as we might expect is pretty close to the 1100D. It is significantly better than the Nikon D3300 however, which is this camera's main competitor. The Fuji X-A1 is the real winner in this particular test, significantly beating the rival cameras at almost every sensitivity, apart from ISO 100 where it is just about beaten by the 1100D.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Raw signal to noise

This graph showing the results for signal to noise ratio in raw format (after conversion to TIFF) images is interesting, as it appears to show a big drop in quality when compared to the 1100D. However, this suggests that Canon has taken the decision to prioritise detail resolution over noise reduction for raw format images - you can apply your own noise reduction to the files if it's proving to be a problem. We can see that the Nikon D3300 beats the 1200D, but that in turn is beaten by the 1100D - also indicating the Nikon's propensity for detail resolution over noise reduction.

JPEG dynamic range

JPEG dynamic range

For JPEG images, the 1200D puts in a solid performance in terms of dynamic range. It beats its predecessor, the 1100D, by a reasonably significant margin, while it is reasonably closely matched to the Nikon D3300, beating it at every sensitivity, but not by too much. Here it is the Olympus E-PM2 which puts in the best performance for dynamic range.

Raw dynamic range

Raw dynamic range

The 1200D puts in a more consistent performance across the sensitivity range for raw (after conversion to TIFF) images in terms of dynamic range. Here it is pretty closely matched to the 1100D, as we might expect, beating it slightly at the lower end of the sensitivity run. The Nikon D3300 beats it at the lower end of the sensitivity run, but this is probably a reflection of Canon's tendency to produce pleasing warm tones, compared to Nikon's colder, but perhaps more accurate, tones.

Sensitivity and noise images

JPEG

ISO 100

Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.

ISO 100

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 200

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 400

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 800

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 1600

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 3200

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 6400

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Raw

ISO 100

ISO 100 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 200

ISO 200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 400

ISO 400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 800

ISO 800 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 1600

ISO 1600 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 3200

ISO 3200 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

ISO 6400

ISO 6400 (Click here to see the full resolution image)

Sample images

Sample image 5

Click here to view the full resolution image

Colours straight from the 1200D are bright and punchy, with Canon's characteristic warm tones.

Sample image 1

Click here to view the full resolution image

Picture Styles allow you to shoot with different creative effects, such as Monochrome, while also keeping the raw format "clean" file to work with later if you decide you want the colour shot.

Sample image 2

Click here to view the full resolution image

There are a huge number of lenses available for the Canon EF-S mount. This image was captured with a Sigma 10-20mm f/4.0-5.6 lens.

Sample image 4

Click here to view the full resolution image

Fine detail is captured well by the Canon EOS 1200D.

Sample image 6

Click here to view the full resolution image

The camera's metering system seems to do a good job of providing accurate exposures.

Sample image 7

Click here to view the full resolution image

The 1200D copes reasonably well in low light, high sensitivity situations. If you examine this image at 100%, there are examples of image smoothing and noise appearing, but at normal printing and web sizes, the image has a good overall appearance.

Verdict

Probably the most interesting thing about the new EOS 1200D is the accompanying app for iOS and Android. That said, Nikon offers something similar in its D3300 directly in the camera, so some may find it a little frustrating that you have to download something extra to be guided through the camera and its key functionality.

The tutorials and challenges are more interesting though, but that's something which could be used by any camera user, not just those who are working with the 1200D, so it's not particular to this model.

The images produced by the 1200D are good, though not a massive leap forward from the 1100D. If you own the latter, it's probably not worth the upgrade. If however you're looking to purchase your very first DSLR or are looking for a second body, then this is a good option, and at the price it's quite a bargain.

Price will undoubtedly be a determining factor for many deciding to purchase their first DSLR. The Canon has the edge here with the 1200D, which comes significantly cheaper than the Nikon equivalent.

Detail resolution is good, but not quite as good as the Nikon D3300, which has a higher resolution sensor and no anti-aliasing filter. Unless you're planning to make huge prints though, it's not something that should be too much of an issue for you for the majority of subjects.

It's a shame that Canon isn't offering more interesting specs for its beginner option. This is more of a gentle upgrade than a full-blown revolution of the 1100D. It would be nice to see built-in Wi-Fi, which is starting to become a standard specification for even the cheapest of compact cameras.

Unlike on the 100D, there's no touchscreen. It would be nice to see such a specification on the 1200D given the number of buttons available on the body, but it's not desperately lacking the feature and it almost certainly helps to keep the price low.

Those coming from compact cameras or phones may be a little disappointed with the Live View performance of this camera. If you want to shoot using the LCD screen, rather than the viewfinder, you'll probably find the autofocus performance sluggish and frustrating, so it's not something we'd recommend doing often.

While many don't like electronic viewfinders, the downside of optical viewfinders like the one on the 1200D is that they don't offer a 100% field of view, which can lead to problems with composition.

We liked

If price is the key determining factor for your first DLSR purchase, then the 1200D is an extremely attractive proposition. For a good price, you get great image quality in a classic DSLR like package, along with the full support of the Canon range of lenses and accessories – which is large.

We disliked

The biggest problem with the 1200D is that it's just not that exciting. Having waited for three years for an upgrade to the 1100D, it would have been nice to see some more audacious specs, such as built-in Wi-Fi, or perhaps a higher resolution sensor.

Verdict

Canon has once again produced a reliable camera capable of creating some beautiful images. If you're in the market for your first DSLR and you're fine with a no-frills purchase, then the 1200D is a great option. If you have a little more money to spend, you might want to take a look at the 100D, which offers a smaller and lighter body, a few more advanced specs and a touchscreen. It's also worth looking at the Nikon D3300, if detail resolution is your concern.

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