The EOS 60D was the first video-enabled Canon DSLR to offer an articulated screen, and the EOS 600D is the second. The flip-out screen isn't the only area of commonality - in terms of specification and functionality the EOS 600D's video mode is almost the same as that offered in the more expensive 60D (and the older EOS 550D as well). There is one new feature, though, which is a 3-10x digital zoom that's available with Full HD recording, replacing the 60D's somewhat limited 'Crop 640' mode.

Video specification

The 600D offers progressive HD video capture at 1080p resolution and 30 or 25 frames per second, or 720p resolution and 60 or 50 frames per second, with the available frame rate dictated by whether you have switched the camera to NTSC or PAL video mode. There's also a 24fps option for 1080p irrespective of the video system you've selected.

The built-in internal microphone captures mono audio, but there is also a socket for a 3.5mm external microphone that allows recording of stereo sound. Furthermore, it is possible to perform basic video editing in-camera, by cutting clips to a selected start/end point. Like the 60D, the 600D offers the ability to manually control the recording volume, and it also features a wind filter which is designed to reduce the influence of wind noise on captured footage.

Sizes 1920x1080p: 30/24 fps (NTSC), 25/24 fps (PAL)
1280x720p (HD): 60 fps (NTSC), 50 fps (PAL)
640x480 (SD): 60 fps (NTSC), 50 fps (PAL)
Audio 44.1kHz Mono (Internal Mic), Linear PCM
Format .MOV MPEG-4 AVC, H.264
File size 5.5 MB/sec (1080P), 5.5 MB/sec (720P), 2.8 MB/sec (VGA)
Max file size per clip 4GB, max duration 29min 59sec
Running time 12 min for 1080P, 12 min for 720p, 24 min for VGA

Using Movie Mode

Like the EOS 550D before it, movie shooting is accessed on the 600D's main shooting dial. At this point, the mirror flips up, and a Live View screen appears on the LCD which is cropped to the aspect ratio of the selected recording format. Video capture can then be initiated by pressing the Record / Live View button just to the right of the viewfinder.

Just as in regular live view, it's possible to select which form of autofocus you wish to use at the beginning of recording - Live Mode (contrast detect AF - slow but no need to flip the mirror down), Face Detection Live Mode or Quick Mode (phase detection AF, which is very fast but requires the mirror to flip down for focusing, blocking the live view). During recording 'Live Mode' AF can be engaged by half-pressing the shutter button, regardless of which initial setting you've chosen, when 'AF w/shutter button during filming' is set to 'Enable'. Alternatively you can of course focus manually.

Focusing, it must be said, is the 600D's achilles heel in video mode. Although manual focus will be second-nature to experienced filmmakers, more casual videographers might (understandably) expect to be able to hand responsibility over to the camera's AF system. Sadly, the 600D's contrast-detection AF system is far too slow to be useful during video shooting, and barely useful even for pre-focusing. In recent months we've seen DSLRs (like the Nikon D7000) and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (like the Panasonic GH2) which have really raised the bar in terms of CDAF speed, but compared to them, the 600D's CDAF system looks like decidedly last-generation technology. Although accurate, it is fidgety, extremely slow and (depending on the lens) often obtrusively noisy. Our advice is to stick with manual or 'pre' focus when shooting video. Life is too short.

Moving on to exposure, the 600D user has the choice of either letting the camera take things into its own hands, or taking manual control over shutter speed and aperture. You can also lock and unlock the exposure during video recording (and have a choice of which buttons perform each action). Still images can be taken at any time by pressing the shutter button, with video capture resuming immediately afterwards, leaving a pause of around 1 second in the playback.

Overall the video shooting isn't as seamlessly integrated as it is on the 7D - you still have to select a separate mode to engage video shooting for one thing. However, the 600D does have some pretty impressive tricks up its sleeve, including an articulated screen, manual control over aperture and shutter speed, choice of frame rates and control over the behavior of an external mic. Taken as a whole, the EOS 600D's video specification is actually very attractive, and should be enough to satisfy any budding filmmaker.

Movie mode displays

The menu in movie allows you to configure how the camera handles exposure, focus and button operation during movie recording. The second screen allows choice over options including frame rate and sound recording options, as well as digital zoom.
Like the 60D, the 600D allows you to manually set the recording volume. The recording level can be set to one of around 60 positions to ensure a good recording level without clipping and distortion. The standard movie shooting screen is fairly minimalist, just letting you concentrate on framing your scene. Pressing the INFO button cycles through histogram, virtual horizon and a settings display that looks confusingly like the movie Q. Menu.

3-10x digital zoom

The 600D brings one new feature to Canon's already-comprehensive movie spec, which is a 3-10x digital zoom mode. This replaces the 'Crop 640' mode we saw on the 60D, and is essentially an enhancement of the same idea. It's only available in Full HD mode, and when set to 3x it crops into the central portion of the sensor, effectively producing a full-resolution output in which one sensor pixel corresponds to one output pixel. This is very much like Panasonic's 'Extra TeleConverter' function, but Canon's version differs in that you can also zoom in digitally by a further 3.3x (although at this point quality will inevitably suffer).

Digital zoom mode has to be engaged before you start recording. To do this, you press the Q button and use the right key to select it; the display is initially cropped to 3x view. You can then zoom in and out by simultaneously pressing the DISP button and one of the magnify buttons on the camera's shoulder. This requires a degree of finger contortion that will almost inevitably result in shake when shooting handheld - we think it would make more sense for the DISP button to toggle in and out of digital zoom mode. Zooming itself is very smooth (and of course completely silent), but you have no control over its speed.

While shooting with digital zoom you can end up at very high magnifications indeed - using the 18-135mm kit zoom at the long end, for example, the equivalent focal length ranges from 600mm to 2000mm, which is a very long telephoto indeed. This means that camera shake becomes a significant problem - you'll really need to use a tripod for best results, probably combined with image stabilisation to combat shake from button presses.

Video quality comments

As we'd expect from a system that is to all intents and purposes the same as that used in the 550D and 60D, the 600D's video image quality is very good indeed. Exposure in auto exposure mode is generally spot on, with the almost inevitable exception of strongly backlit subjects, where the 600D tends to need a little positive exposure compensation to give its footage a bit of a 'lift'.

The 600D's APS-C format sensor is smaller than the full-frame sensor inside its stablemate the 5D Mark II, but larger than the Four Thirds format sensor of a camera like the recently reviewed Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2, and far larger than the sensors in any compact camera. As such, although the 600D doesn't give you quite the same control over depth of field as you'd expect from a full-frame camera, the creative possibilities of video with the 600D are much greater than they might be with a compact, where control over exposure and depth of field is often minimal and occasionally nonexistent.

Like the 60D and 550D, video footage from the 600D exhibits a degree of rolling shutter - the wobbly effect created when fast horizontal movement is captured. This is because, in common with other current CMOS chips, the sensor reads each line of the sensor one at a time. This means the captured subject can move substantially between the sensor starting to capture the frame and it finishing. That said, the effect is subtle and only really problematic when the camera is panned very vigorously.

It is easy to overlook audio performance in video mode, but the EOS 600D's inbuilt microphone does a very creditable job. It isn't as good as an external microphone, obviously, but certainly good enough for grab shots and casual video shooting. It is no surprise that an external microphone gives cleaner, more directional audio which - of course - also has the advantage of being in stereo.

Sample videos

These videos were shot in a range of different environments, and at a range of different settings. We are pleased to announce that is now partnering with Vimeo to bring you high-quality embedded video in our test pages, but as always, the original files are available for download from the links beneath the thumbnails. We've turned HD playback on by default for our embedded videos, but depending on the speed of your internet connection, you may get better performance by turning it off.

Sample video 1

This video was shot in auto exposure mode, with exposure locked on the nearest boat, prior to capture. The EOS 600D was panned through roughly 180 degrees, and sound is courtesy of an external microphone.

1920 x 1080 25 fps, MPEG-4 .MOV file, 13 sec. 73.1 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 2

Also shot in auto exposure mode with the camera mounted on a tripod, sound on this video was captured using the 600D's internal microphone.

1920 x 1080 25 fps, MPEG-4 .MOV file, 11 sec. 64.9 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 3

This video was shot in auto exposure with +2/3EV exposure compensation applied to ensure good exposure of the backlit subject. The 600D was panned handheld, and sound comes courtesy of an external microphone.

1920 x 1080 25 fps, MPEG-4 .MOV file, 15 sec. 86.4 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 4

This video was shot handheld in auto exposure mode, in the 'landscape' Picture Style. Audio comes from the external microphone.

1920 x 1080 25 fps, MPEG-4 .MOV file, 8 sec. 47.0 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 5

The EOS 600D offers manual control over shutter speed and aperture. This video, shot on a dull day, was taken at 1/30sec. As a result of the slow shutter speed, the falling water in this scene is rendered smoothly.

1920 x 1080 25 fps, MPEG-4 .MOV file, 16 sec. 90.0 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 6

This is the same scene, but shot using a shutter speed of 1/250sec. You can see the effect that this has on the waterfall - each individual frame is sharp, but the overall effect is unattractive. Close examination also reveals that in order to manage such a high shutter speed, the 600D has boosted the ISO, which has created obvious speckles of chroma noise in this clip.

1920 x 1080 25 fps, MPEG-4 .MOV file, 13 sec. 79.0 MB Click here to download original .MOV file

Sample video 7

This is video demonstrates the 600D's new digital zoom function. It's shot using the 18-135mm kit lens at 135mm, on a tripod with IS turned on. The movie starts at 3x, zooms in to 10x, then back out to 3x. Image quality at 3x is absolutely fine, but detail is visibly degraded on zooming in.

1920 x 1080 25 fps, MPEG-4 .MOV file, 13 sec. 62.6 MB Click here to download original .MOV file