Best DSLR for beginners: 6 tested

Entry-level cameras and the best DSLR on a tight budget

Best starter dslrs: 6 tested

Canon EOS 600D - £640

Despite looking similar to the Canon EOS 550D, the newer Canon EOS 600D adds a wealth of features. Both cameras share the same 18MP image sensor, DIGIC 4 image processor, Auto Lighting Optimizer, iFCL metering and nine-point autofocus.

The 600D adds a fully articulated LCD, which enables you to shoot from virtually any angle using live view, and is particularly handy for self-portraits, as well as for shooting video. A step up from the EOS 1100D, video modes stretch to Full HD 1080p.

Like the 1100D, this camera boasts new Basic+ shooting modes and a beginner-friendly features guide via the LCD. Better still, there's a new Scene Intelligent Auto mode, which compares the image you see through the viewfinder with a built-in data bank, and then optimises the camera settings to get the optimum results. In-camera editing is also new, with creative filters such as grainy black and white, soft focus and fisheye. You can also rate your photos out of five stars for easy organisation.

Performance

Handling feels more assured than with the cheaper 1100D, thanks to the addition of textured grip surfaces. The higher-resolution 18MP sensor provides greater detail and enables more scope for creative cropping. In other respects, image quality is extremely similar in the 600D and 1100D, with near-identical colour rendition and contrast.

As with the EOS 1100D, EOS 60D and EOS 7D cameras, the iFCL metering system is very accurate, but it needs to be used with care. The overall exposure setting is heavily biased to the active focus point, so if this falls on a very light or dark part of the scene, results can vary even when using evaluative metering.

Outdoor image test

Best starter dslrs: 6 tested

Treatment of colour and contrast is near-identical to the Canon EOS 1100D, with results that tend towards faithful rather than punchy.

Resolution test

Best starter dslrs: 6 tested

ISO 200

Fine detail is retained very well in JPEGs, and in this respect, the Canon EOS 600D is a close match to both Nikon cameras in the group.

Noise

Best starter dslrs: 6 tested

ISO 200

Best starter dslrs: 6 tested

ISO 3200

Considering its class-leading 18MP resolution, image noise is remarkably well-contained at high ISO settings, along with good levels of detail.

Colour error

Best starter dslrs: 6 tested

Colour rendition is similar to the Canon EOS 1100D. It's true to life in the Standard setting, while the Landscape picture style boosts saturation.

Image test verdict

Images from the Canon EOS 600D are true to life and deliver plenty of shadow and highlight detail. However, shots can lack a little punch and contrast.

Read our full Canon EOS 600D review