Just as Sony were stealing the headlines with their new large sensor compact, the RX100, Canon quietly announced their latest consumer DSLR, the 650D.
The 650D (named Rebel T4i in the US and the Kiss X6i in Japan) is the upgrade to the 600D. Note to the marketing department: Pick one name!
Now we live in a world of global media, it’s far too confusing to use different names in different regions. Time to rationalize.
Anyway onto the actual features.
If you read the spec sheet, things like the sensor, the flip-out LCD, and the Autofocus (AF) sensors will seem the same as the 600D. If we dig a little deeper though, we can see some substantive changes.
There are still 9 AF points, but now they are all cross-type (which is a first for Canon’s low end DSLRs). Cross type sensors are faster and more accurate than standard sensors.
The LCD is now a touch screen, providing some useful functionality for menus and Live View focusing.
Speaking of Live View, that’s where the most significant changes have occurred. Canon have implemented a new hybrid autofocus system in Live View mode that promises to be much faster and more useable than in other DSLRs.
The Live View AF system utilises both Phase Detect (the system used in DSLRs when using the Viewfinder) and Contrast Detect (used in Compact and Mirrorless Cameras). This is a big improvement over the painfully slow Contrast-Detect-only Live View in other DSLRs.
I titled this entry Canon Bets On Video, yet I’ve not mentioned video. Now it’s time to explain though.
The underlying reason for the Live View improvements, genuinely good for still-photography though they are, is for video performance. The hybrid autofocus system should give significantly better performance in video mode than in other consumer DSLRs. To make sure it does Canon has released 2 new lenses alongside the 650D specially designed for the system.
- 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 STM
- 40mm f/2.8 Pancake STM
The STM designation means that the lenses have motors in them designed for use with Contrast Detect AF. Their Aperture blades also move smoothly for video use.
The 650D also features a Stereo Microphone to take better quality audio during recording.
To sum up the features, Canon has released a DSLR designed to offer much better video performance with 2 lenses specifically designed for video use.
For sure there are knock-on benefits for still-photography, but if you look at where the R&D money was spent in developing this camera, it was all on video improvements. As camera companies look for different ways to market their DSLRs, it seems Canon have chosen video performance.
Improving video is all well and good but I’m a bit concerned that Canon have forgotten that the vast majority of DSLR use is to take pictures. If Canon sink all their money into improving video, they’re going to get left behind in the stills arena.
In an era of online reviews leading to consumers pixel peeping for small performance differences, Canon can’t afford to fall behind in resolution and low light performance. (Which is not to say that you should concentrate on these things.) What is important for any company is to concentrate on their fundamentals. I hope Canon remembers that the primary function of a DSLR is to take photos, not video.
Don’t think from what I’m saying that the 650D will be a bad camera. It’s in all likelihood going to be great. I’m just ruminating about priorities, and what we’re likely to see in the future from Canon. (More video focus, less development of features and capabilities of still-photography.)
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