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Shooting like a pro

With plenty of new features, creative options and touch screen technology, the new Canon EOS 650D is a compelling buy



The new flagship camera in Canon's amateur class digital SLR range, the EOS 650D, takes excellent photos and very good quality full HD video but its several new features and improvements over the EOS 600D, which it has knocked off the flagship perch, are what make it an outstanding buy.

Like the 600D, it features 18 megapixel CMOS sensor, 9-point AF sensor, 3:2 swivel vari-angle LCD with 1.04m dot and it also offers continuous AF tracking while recording movies, the first DSLR from Canon to do so.

The EOS 650D comes with two new lenses that enhance video shooting. They are the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM zoom and EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens. Both use linear stepper motors for autofocus, hence the name.

The 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM is an EF-S lens for APS-C cameras and also features Dynamic IS image stabilisation, which compensates for the different patterns of camera movement that occur when you shoot a video while walking.

This lens is provided in the 650D package and it's great to use for shooting video as it's silent during focus.

The EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens, which you need to buy separately, is very bright and also good for shooting video.

I tested the EOS 650D with both lenses and found the 18-135mm lens took really sharp and beautiful photos in well-lit environments. Portraits came out sharp while landscape photos were sharp and clean with well-saturated colours.

Since the 40mm pancake lens is bright, it can be used in most lighting conditions. During the test, it captured very beautiful portraits with professionally blurred backgrounds.

Both optics shot equally good quality video during the test.

Another improvement is the touch screen - the first camera with this feature. It's a capacitive touch screen, meaning it can be used in Live View and Movie modes to specify the point of focus and to automatically release the shutter after the focus is achieved. Like the iPhone, it supports swipes and multi-touch gestures.

The touch screen can be used to navigate and select shooting functions by touching the Q or Quick Control Button on the screen.

The camera also displays icons on the Live View screen so some of 29 camera settings can be viewed at a glance.

The EOS 650D has fast auto focus because it uses a hybrid CMOS AF system. During Live View and movie shooting, both conventional Contrast AF and new Phase Difference AF are used in conjunction with new continuous AF to quickly focus on a subject even before the shutter is pressed.

Our XP photographer, Ekkarat Sukpetch, tested the EOS 650D during the press conference for reality show "The Voice Thailand" and was impressed by the fast AF system in the live view mode.

Another new feature that enhances video shooting is its built-in stereo microphone.

And the EOS 650D comes with Movie Servo AF to provide speedy and quiet Servo AF when shooting videos with STM lens.

The EOS 650D has two new scene modes as well - HDR Backlight Control Mode and Handheld Night Scene.

In the HDR Backlight Control Mode, the camera takes three shots consecutively at different exposures - correct, under and over exposures - and then combines them into one shot. The shots appeared sharp and with good detail throughout the picture.

I was particularly happy that Canon now provides a Handheld Night Scene Mode. The camera captures four consecutive shots at high shutter speeds and then merges them into one shot.

But I found that this mode tended to brighten up the captured shots more than the real lighting conditions at the time the picture was taken, leaving the surrounding scene less dark.

I tested the Handheld Night Scene Mode while on the Chao Phraya Princess dinner cruise and I was impressed by the quality. Although the boat was moving, I managed to use this mode to capture the Temple of Dawn and King Rama VIII Bridge against the darkness, a testament to the efficiency of the camera's auto tracking focus.

The technique of combining four consecutive shots is also available in the Multi Shot Noise Reduction Function.

This function can be used in the Program AE, shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, and manual exposure shooting modes. I found that the Multi Shot Noise Reduction Function was really useful when shooting in difficult light conditions, resulting in sharp and clean photos with a lot of details. Purists will probably regard this function as cheating though!

With most modes, you can manually select picture style - Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful or Monochrome. Now, the EOS 650D lets you select Picture Style Auto option, which is based on the EOS Scene Detection System analysis. The Picture Style Auto will make fine adjustments to colours to make them more saturated and vivid. This option is fun to use for shooting images with lots of blue sky and greenery, as well as sunset scenes.

Canon has also added more fun creative filters for the EOS 650D, bringing the total on offer to seven. I especially enjoyed the Art Bold filter that boosted the colours and emboldened edges in a shot to make it look like a painting.

The creative filters can be applied to RAW and JPEG images and each filter is customisable.

The fun part is that you can apply the creative filters using the touch screen while viewing shots you have already taken and you can also save shots applied with filters in new files.

The EOS 650D has very good performance, especially when used with a fast memory card. I tested it with Sony's fast SDHC UHS-I memory card and found that there was no waiting time for the next shots if I selected modes that required no in-camera picture processing.

The camera was instantly ready for taking the first shot when it was turned on. And it can shoot up to five frames per second in continuous shooting mode.

That impressive performance comes from DIGIC 5 imaging processor, which is six times faster than DIGIC 4 used in EOS 600D.

The 650D has very good battery life of 1120 mAh capacity. I was able to take more than 400 shots on one full charge.

Canon EOS 650D with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens retails for Bt40,900. The EF 40mm f/2.8 pancake lens costs an additional Bt6,900.



Key specs:

_ Image sensor: 22.3 x 14.9mm CMOS sensor with 18 megapixel

_ AF points 9 AF points. All AF points are cross-type at f/5.6. Centre AF point is diagonal cross-type at f/2.8

_ Metering modes 63-zone TTL full-aperture metering

_ ISO speed: ISO 100 - 6400, expansion to "H" (equivalent to ISO 25600)

_ Shutter speeds: 1/4000sec. to 30secs., bulb

_ Exposure mode: Program AE (Scene Intelligent Auto, Flash Off, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene, HDR Backlight control), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, manual exposure (including bulb)

_ Movie recording: 1920 x 1080 30p/25p/24p MPEG-4 AVC/H.264

_ Monitor size and dots: swivel wide, 3.0-in. (3:2) with approx. 1.04 million dots LCD

_ Recording media: SD memory card, SDHC memory card, SDXC memory card Compatible with UHS-I

_ Battery: LP-E8 1120 mAh

_ Dimensions (W x H x D): Approx. 133.1 x 99.8 x 78.8mm

_ Weight: 520g (body only)


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