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Conclusion - Pros

  • Comprehensive touchscreen interface that is intuitive and efficient
  • High image quality with good balance between detail and noise reduction in JPEG output
  • Good subject tracking AF in viewfinder shooting mode (compared to mirrorless competition)
  • 5 fps with ample buffering in JPEG-only mode
  • Very responsive operation, with menu access available even when buffer is full
  • Good-looking video output with manual exposure and audio controls
  • New 'hybrid AF' is a step forward (compared to its predecessor)
  • Built-in lens correction for vignetting and CA
  • Effective HDR, lowlight and noise reduction multi-exposure modes
  • Wireless strobe triggering via built-in flash
  • Eye sensor to toggle LCD on and off
  • Built-in stereo mics
  • External microphone socket
  • Updated LCD screen minimizes fingerprint smudges from touchscreen use
  • High quality raw converter in software bundle

Conclusion - Cons

  • Slow 'hybrid AF' performance in live view and video modes (compared to mirrorless competition)
  • Slightly higher noise levels than its peers
  • Default dynamic range lags a bit behind its peers
  • Using flash with Auto ISO enabled results in ISO 400 even in bright light conditions
  • Cannot configure common live view and movie mode options independently
  • AF illuminator integrated into flash (must have flash engaged to use it)
  • Shorter battery life than other DSLRs in its class

Overall conclusion

The EOS 650D/Rebel T4i provides an interesting window into Canon's thinking with regard to the entry-level DSLR market. The Rebel series of cameras is one with long-standing success that predates the digital revolution. And they remain very popular today. So you could imagine that Canon would be reluctant to make overtly radical changes. Why ruin a good thing?

Yet there's no denying that the entry-level DSLR market is under pressure from large sensor mirrorless models, the best of which which offer equivalent image quality in a smaller package. And for many novices with smartphone experience, the ability to easily capture video, as well as manipulate a device via a touchscreen may resonate just as much as more traditional photographic requirements.

The EOS 650D retains a good chunk of what we found compelling about its predecessor, the EOS 600D. Very good image quality from an 18MP CMOS sensor, sensible handling and a wealth of external controls for those who are ready to do more than simply point and shoot all adds up to a very capable little SLR.

What Canon has added, however, is a stunningly good touchscreen interface and a more direct method of activating movie mode. This may not sound like much, but Canon's well-designed and thoroughly-integrated interface transforms the EOS 650D into a camera that is actually fun to operate, something we don't often say about DSLRs at this level. Throw in a shooting rate of 5 fps, in-camera lens corrections, multi-shot noise reduction, stereo microphones and a maximum ISO sensitivity of 25600, and you have a camera that holds strong appeal for both novice and more seasoned DSLR users.

Our biggest disappointment, however, lies in the camera's 'hybrid' AF performance in live view and video modes. Make no mistake, this is an improvement over the EOS 600D, with the 650D focusing nearly twice as fast in well-lit conditions. Yet it is still far behind the better mirrorless models we have seen from the likes of Panasonic and Olympus as well as rival Nikon's 1 series. These disappointing results in live view also raise real concerns for the upcoming EOS M - Canon's first mirrorless camera - which is based largely on the 650D.

Image Quality

The EOD 650D carries on the tradition of high image quality from previous Rebel series cameras. Generally pleasing white balance is matched with well-judged exposures (in all but more extreme backlit situations) to deliver natural looking images with contrast that provides enough 'punch' to give pleasing results without going overboard. In-camera JPEGs display a pleasing balance between image detail and noise suppression at all but perhaps the highest ISO settings, although more advanced users will reap even greater image quality by processing Raw images, whether in Canon's fully-featured Digital Photo Professional software or in a third party offering.

The highlight dynamic range of the 650D lags a bit behind many of its peers, though this can be mitigated by enabling Canon's highlight Tone Priority (HTP) settings. Unfortunately, as on previous models, Canon buries this useful feature in the custom menu, where uninitiated users might never find it.

Video quality is very good. The camera's 1920 x 1080 30p output offers pleasing colors and contrast supported by a metering system that works well in a range of lighting conditions. The ability to manually control exposure as well as sound levels, along with the inherent benefits of shallow depth of field you get with an APS-C sensor, provides many creative opportunities for the budding filmmaker. While we still wish for significantly faster video AF performance - and a wider selection of quieter-focusing lenses, 10x magnification in video mode provides a viable option for manual focus.

Handling

The form factor and external control layout of the EOS 650D has changed very little from that of the EOS 600D. And this counts as a positive. We found little fault with the earlier camera's handling and operation. Any owner of a previous Rebel series model will feel right at home with the 650D.

Shifting movie mode from the mode dial to a position on the power switch is a seemingly minor change, but one that actually makes it far easier to toggle between stills and video shooting and to enable manual exposure control in movie mode.

The biggest news with regard to handling and operation is undoubtedly Canon's introduction of a touchscreen interface - the first on any 35mm-style DSLR. Canon clearly put a lot of thought into its implementation, and the EOS 650D sports the most comprehensive and intuitive touchscreen interface we've yet seen in any camera.

Equally as impressive is the fact that you are not forced to use one mode of operation over the other. In adding touchscreen control Canon has taken nothing away from the operational experience of using the external dials and buttons. The camera's eye sensor ensures that you don't accidently activate the screen while looking through the viewfinder. You can ignore - and even completely disable - touchscreen control and operate the 650D via its external controls, exactly as you would any of its predecessors. Or you can use the touchscreen in combination with the 4-way controller and main dial, which for some operations yields the most efficient results.

Taken as a whole, this is a level of efficiency and integration that surpasses anything we've seen from other camera makers; and doubly impressive given this is Canon's first attempt. Other than a minor complaint about menu tabs being a bit difficult to accurately press, we have nothing but praise for such a well-thought out design and successfully executed implementation.

The Final Word

With the EOS 650D, Canon faced the challenge of taking an already successful camera line and finding a way to offer more than a token upgrade without stealing too much thunder from its higher-spec'd DSLRs. By maintaining what has long been very good image quality for both stills and video shooting and addressing operational handling with a remarkably well-executed touchscreen implementation, the latest addition to the Rebel lineup carves out a niche as one of the more enjoyable to use entry level DSLRs on the market.

Where the camera falters, unfortunately, is with AF performance in live view. Canon's new 'hybrid' AF system, while a step forward compared to previous contrast detect attempts, is a long way from what we've seen in other mirrorless models, and from our experience of Sony's SLTs. And while we applaud Canon for attempting continuous AF in movie mode, it too is prone to more focus errors than we'd have liked to see.

For users moving up from compact cameras, the 650D offers a very significant increase in image quality and a comfortable to hold camera wrapped in an interface that accommodates both touchscreen and external control operation. A 5fps shooting speed makes it a useful option for those who want to capture recreational sports or fast action. And for those ready to take more direct control over the imaging process, manual exposure controls (for stills and video), combined with a bundled feature-rich raw converter provide the ability to get the most from your images.

Such solid imaging performance and easy-to-manipulate shooting settings garner the EOS 650D our silver award by a comfortable margin, with disappointingly slow live view AF performance holding it back from earning our highest honor.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Canon EOS 650D (EOS Rebel T4i / EOS Kiss X6i)
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Users who find a touchscreen interface more welcoming than dials and buttons but still want the option to grow into more manual control over their photography.
Not so good for
Users who need fast AF performance in live view or video mode.
Overall score
77%
The Canon EOS 650D combines very good image quality with easy access to shooting parameters and extensive manual control. Its touchscreen interface brings a new level of operational efficiency to the DSLR market. Added to this is a fast 5 fps shooting rate and quick phase-detection AF.

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