Canon D-SLR users can be pretty much assured of obtaining a reasonable lifespan for their cameras before a replacement comes along and renders them ‘so yesterday’. Owners of the EOS 550D have had a particularly good run, but now the time has come to say good-bye, as the 650D rolls out to take its place at the top of Canon’s entry-level D-SLR line-up.
The EOS 650D shares quite a lot with the existing 600D, but with enough upgrades and additional features to extend its appeal across the gamut of beginners to enthusiast-level shooters. In this regard, the 650D is really more of an all-rounder than any other Canon D-SLR, particularly when the value-for-money aspect is taken into account. Tellingly, it’s the 650D that Canon’s first compact system camera, the EOS M, is based on in terms of its suite of features and basic specifications. It will be interesting to see how both models fare in the sales charts as an indicator of whether CSCs are being purchased as the alternative to entry-level D-SLRs – or are creating a new market.

The big really deal with the EOS 650D is that it’s the first D-SLR with touch screen controls, even though these are now quite common in the CSC world. This adds ‘new world’ functionality to a D-SLR while retaining the more traditional controllability based on menus and external buttons and dials.

In fact, in terms of the latter, the 650D is actually resolutely ‘old school’, complete with the main mode dial, single-function keys and the classic menu pages. The styling is also reasonably conservative and very similar to that of the 600D, which means pretty compact dimensions overall, a good-sized handgrip and a tilt/swing adjustable LCD monitor screen. While a number of the 650D’s features look to be similar to those of the 600D on paper, in fact most have been upgraded to put a reasonable amount of separation between the two models.

So the 650D has a nine-point AF system like the 600D, but all the points are now cross-type arrays – as on the 60D – rather than just the centre one. And the system has new, powerful capabilities, such as providing continuous AF tracking when shooting movies. Like the 600D, the 650D also has an 18 megapixels (effective) CMOS sensor, but it’s an all-new ‘Hybrid CMOS’ device which incorporates the pixel arrays to enable phase-difference detection autofocusing in the live view and video modes.

More Speed
The sensitivity range is expanded to the equivalent of ISO 100 to 12,800 (with a one-stop push to ISO 25,600) and, courtesy of an updated DiG!C 5 processor, the maximum continuous shooting speed is increased to 5.0 fps, compared to the 600D’s 3.7 fps. The support for the SDHC and SDXC cards is upgraded to the higher-speed UHS-1 types.

The sensor has an imaging area of 14.9x22.3 mm – giving a focal length magnification factor of 1.6x – and the total pixel count is 18.5 million. The maximum image size is 5184x3456 pixels for both RAW files and JPEGs, but the latter can be recorded in one of four smaller sizes and at one of two compression levels. However, the RAW+JPEG capture options are limited to appending a large file only. The new DiG!C 5 processor also allows for in-camera lens corrections for chromatic aberrations – new at this level of Canon D-SLR – and peripheral illumination (a.k.a. vignetting or brightness fall-off) which is also available on the 600D. The correction data for 25 lenses is already loaded into the camera, but additional models can be added via the EOS Utility software. The in-camera correction is applied to the JPEGs, but the RAW files can be corrected in the Digital Photo Professional software.

Canon has been slow to embrace the current fad for in-camera special effects and filters, but the 600D got a small choice of five, which has been increased to seven on the 650D. It’s a long way off what’s available on a Pentax D-SLR or CSC, but it’s a start, and the list of ‘Creative Art’ effects comprises Fish-Eye, Soft Focus, Toy Camera, Grainy B&W, Miniature, Art Bold and Water Painting. These are applied post-capture to create a new file, and most are adjustable plus they can be combined by simply processing the new image a second or third time.