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Leica hopes to appeal to a new generation of photographer with the Leica TL2. Shunning more traditional body-mounted controls in favor of a large touchscreen interface as on the original T and TL, the TL2, like its predecessors, is rather at odds with brand's rich heritage, with its renowned film and digital cameras having been used by some of the world's greatest photographers. 

But with a price tag that would make some full-frame cameras blush (and that's before we've talked about the cost of the lenses), the question is whether the TL2 is a prime example of style of substance, or a camera that does justice to the Leica legacy.

Features

  • APS-C CMOS sensor, 24.3MP
  • 3.7-inch touchscreen, 1,300,000 dots
  • 4K video capture

The Leica TL's 16.3MP APS-C sensor was starting to look a little dated compared to both mirrorless and DSLR rivals, so it's no surprise to see the updated TL2 fall into line with the competition and feature a new 24.3MP APS-C sensor.

However, there's no built-in image stabilization featured in either the camera or the available lenses, so it's just as well the TL2 offers a pretty broad sensitivity range that runs from ISO100 to a ceiling of ISO50,000.

While there's no built-in viewfinder (there's an optional Visoflex electronic viewfinder that slots into the hotshoe) it features one of the largest, if not the largest, touchscreens available on a camera. The 3.7-inch display sports a resolution of 1,300,000 dots.

While there's a dedicated SD card slot, the camera has its own 32GB internal memory (good enough for about 400 RAW+JPEG shots), with images transferred to your computer via USB-C, or if you prefer, via SD card.

The TL2 also offers quick transfer of images to your smartphone or tablet for sharing via the Leica TL app, which also gives you access to a host of the TL2's functions; among other things you can use your phone or tablet as a remote viewfinder, through which you can change parameters such as shutter speed and aperture.

As for lenses, there are currently six TL-mount optics available

Leica hasn't forgotten about those wanting to shoot movies. The TL2 is capable of shooting 4K video at 3840 x 2160 resolution and 30fps and 1080p footage at 60fps, while if you want to shoot some slow-mo video the TL2 has a 120fps slow-motion mode at 720p. You'll have to rely in the built-in microphone for sound though, as there's no microphone port, but there is electronic image stabilization to reduce shake in footage when handholding the camera.

As for lenses, there are currently six TL-mount optics available: 23mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4, 60mm f/2.8 macro, 11-23mm f/3.5-4, 18-56mm f/3.5-5.6 and 55-130mm f/3.5-4.5, while you can also attach Leica's extensive range of M-mount lenses to the TL2 via an adapter (which will set you back £300 / $395 / AU$519) if that selection sounds a little limiting.

Build and handling

  • Machined from a solid block of aluminum
  • High-quality finish
  • Weighs 399g

The original Leica T was designed in collaboration with Audi Design, and little has changed in terms of how the TL2 looks, with some slight smoothing of the camera's edges compared to the TL it replaces.

The TL2 is crafted from a single block of aluminum, and there's no question that it's pitched towards the premium end of the market, but it does make the camera pretty heavy – especially when you attach the bulky 35mm f/1.4. The absence of any form of textured grip might not be to everyone's taste, though the camera's high-sided proportions mean you can just about wrap four fingers round it. 

This minimal approach also means it's also incredibly sleek-looking. Even the lugs from which you would hang a strap have been integrated into the body itself to produce very clean lines – if you want to attach a strap you'll need to release these from the body using a pin.

Leica's pursuit of clean lines also means the TL2 is pretty much devoid of direct controls, with the large touchscreen your main point of interaction with the camera. It's not a total touchscreen takeover though, as the TL2 also sports two dials on the top of the camera. These control different parameters depending on what shooting mode you're in, and can be customized to your preferred way of working. Aside from that, you're completely reliant on the touchscreen.

Once you've got used to how it works, the touchscreen experience on the Leica TL2 is the best we've enjoyed on a camera

It's a good job then that, as we found with both the Leica T and TL, using the touchscreen is highly intuitive; once you've got used to how it works, it's the best touchscreen experience we've enjoyed on a camera, and even those with fat fingers shouldn't inadvertently tap the wrong setting thanks to the generous size of the screen.

The camera's main menu is broken down into nine options, with sub-menus for each. Tapping a camera icon in the center-right of the screen brings up a suite of key settings, such as exposure compensation or white balance – you can customize which options are displayed. 

What's kept a little bit of a secret, though, is how to review images (unless you've got Auto Review active). With no dedicated playback button, and nothing obvious in the main menu, you'll have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen or down from the top. It's a pretty novel way to work, but once you get used to it it becomes second nature.

As for the lack of direct controls when shooting, for the more traditional user it's not quite as bad as it sounds thanks to the two top dials. When you're in aperture priority mode, for instance, the right dial will control the aperture while the left offers access to a range of settings; if it's assigned to exposure compensation you can then use the dial to control this, while a quick tap of the EV icon on the rear display will let you re-assign the left dial to one of six settings, including ISO and AF mode.

Autofocus

  • Six focusing modes
  • Can struggle in low light
  • Tap focus and tap shutter modes

The Leica TL2 features a contrast-detect AF system with six modes to choose from: Spot, 1 Point, Multi Point, Touch AF, Touch AF + Release and Face Detection. There's also manual focus, which when used with the 35mm f/1.4 lens we tested the TL2 with offered a nice smooth focusing experience, with the option to zoom in on the area you're focusing on. 

While the autofocus system isn't the most sophisticated, for general shooting it does a solid job, focusing briskly in most situations. We found it quickest to work with the TL2's Touch AF mode, but both the Spot or 1 Point modes are certainly very useful if you don't mind recomposing your shoot for off-centre subjects. That said, don't expect too much when shooting in the TL2's continuous AF mode though – it's just not designed for fast moving subjects.

Performance

  • 7fps burst shooting (mechanical shutter)
  • 20fps burst shooting (electronic shutter)
  • 250-shot battery life

The Leica TL2 can shoot at a not too shabby 7fps with its mechanical shutter at shutter speeds of up to 1/4000 sec, while above that its electronic shutter will cut in automatically to enable the TL2 to shoot at 20fps, with a maximum shutter speed of 1/40,000 sec. 

The TL2 can sustain either burst rate for up to 29 frames, but unlike on some cameras it's not possible to manually select the electronic shutter at lower speeds should you want take advantage of its reduced noise.

The TL2's multi-zone metering system does a pretty decent job, but we found it does have a slight bias for overexposing the scene, so you'll want to pay particular attention to this, and perhaps shoot with -0.3EV exposure compensation dialled in.

In terms of battery life the TL2 sports a what is a best described as modest rating of 250 shots

The TL2's automatic white balance setting does an excellent job of reproducing accurate colors, even when the camera is faced with an artificial lighting source, although if you're planning to primarily shoot JPEGs the colors rendered when shooting in the standard film mode seem a little muted. However, there are also Vivid and Natural presets to choose from, along with B&W Natural and B&W High Contrast. For each of these presets you can adjust contrast, sharpness and saturation to add more 'bite' if you feel it's required.

In terms of battery life the TL2 sports what's best described as a modest rating of 250 shots, which doesn't compare at all well to pretty much any other mirrorless camera available.

Image quality

  • ISO100-50,000
  • Good ISO performance
  • +/-3 EV exposure compensation in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments

With its decent boost in resolution over the 16MP TL, the Leica TL2 delivers image quality that's easily a match for the best 24MP APS-C cameras currently available. At the TL2's base sensitivity of ISO100 the sensor resolves excellent levels of detail (perhaps in part thanks to the excellent 35mm f/1.4 prime lens we were using). That said, for the best results you'll want to shoot raw files, especially at higher ISOs, where the TL2 tends to over-sharpen JPEGs and applies a bit too much noise reduction at the expense of fine detail.

Regarding image noise, as you'd expect at lower sensitivities results appear very clean up until ISO3200, where image noise starts to encroach on the image and shadow detail begins to suffer. As long as you shoot raw, though, you'll still be satisfied with results at ISO6400 and ISO12,800, despite more noise being present, though we'd shy away from using sensitivities beyond that. 

Dynamic range is also good. Shooting at lower sensitivities you'll enjoy a fair amount of flexibility when it comes to recovering shadow detail before excess noise begins to appear in shots, while highlight detail can also be pulled back. 

Verdict

The Leica TL2 is certainly not without its charms. For a start, it's a beautifully made camera, and the fact that it's crafted from a single piece of aluminium underlines the premium feel Leica is aiming for.

The large and bright touchscreen is great, while the interface Leica has developed for it is one of the best we've used on a camera. Not everyone will be happy the absence of the TL2's body-mounted controls, but the combination of the dual dials on the top plate and the screen works well in most scenarios. That said, the TL2 would benefit from just a couple more body-mounted function buttons to speed up operation when shooting.

Images from the 24.3MP APS-C sensor are very good (provided you shoot in raw), with plenty of detail, good noise performance and good dynamic range. It's a shame the TL2 no longer comes bundled with a copy of Lightroom like the T and TL, but the universal .DNG raw format it shoots in means you'll be able to open the files in any software that can read DNGs.

However, for the price, the Leica TL2 just doesn't quite cut it. The autofocus is more than adequate, but that's all it is – it just doesn't offer the sophistication that rivals at this price offer. And that's possibly the biggest hurdle the TL2 faces – it just doesn't offer the wealth of features we'd hope to see on a camera demanding this kind of money. With no built-in electronic viewfinder, no image stabilization for still photography, and no vari-angle display, it just doesn't measure up compared to rivals.

Competition

Posted: August 18, 2017, 4:05 pm

The Essential Review

This is TechRadar’s review summary that gives you all the key information you need if you’re looking for quick buying advice in 30 seconds - our usual full, in-depth review follows.

It was Panasonic which began the trend for making compact cameras that are specifically designed for travellers and those heading out on holiday, and the ZS series (known as the TZ series outside the US), is still one of the most highly regarded of the genre. 

It may no longer be the newest model in the ZS/TZ range (that honor goes to the Lumix ZS70 / TZ90), but the Panasonic Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 shouldn't be overlooked.

In a change from the norm of ever increasing pixel counts, Panasonic opted to actually reduce the amount of pixels to 12MP in the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 compared to 18MP in the Lumix ZS40 / TZ60 and it's all the better for it. With less pixels crammed on the sensor, noise levels are reduced and image quality overall is better. In fact, we reckon it's better than the Lumix ZS70 / TZ90.

Another key selling point of this camera is its very extensive zoom range, running from 24-720mm, making it incredibly versatile for a range of subjects. 

What's quite rare for a camera at this price is the addition of a built-in electronic viewfinder and it certainly makes composition easier in bright conditions, while there's a large 3.0-inch display at the back, though it's a shame to see it not touch-sensitive. 

As you'd expect, there are a range of auto controls for hassle-free photography, but there's also manual controls too and a handy control wheel round the lens to quickly adjust settings.

The 300-shot battery life should see you set for the day, but any longer than that and if you're going to be reviewing images regularly, we reckon an extra battery might be handy if you're leaving your charger at home.

Finally, there's the price - we reckon you'll be hard pushed to find a better compact camera for the money.  

Who’s it for and should I buy it?

The Panasonic Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 is a great option if you're looking for your first travel compact camera or simply want a better and more versatile camera than the one on your smartphone. 

If you're an absolute beginner, you can leave it in Automatic mode and enjoy the benefits of the huge zoom range, while if you're more of an enthusiast, the opportunity to shoot in raw format and manually control exposure is a definite plus.

With a huge zoom range, you'll find it's versatile enough for lots of different shooting scenarios from family portraits right up to far away views and more. 

You might be tempted by the newer Lumix ZS70 / TZ90, especially with its touchscreen functionality and 4K video capabilities, and it's certainly worth a look, but unless those two features are deal-breakers, the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 is still our pick.

Panasonic Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 price

  • Current price: £249 / $399

The best value travel zoom compact camera

  • Light Speed AF delivers snappy focusing
  • 30x optical zoom is incredibly versatile
  • Electronic viewfinder a nice addition

The Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 boasts Panasonic's Light Speed AF technology and in use we found the ZS50 / TZ70 to be generally very quick to lock onto our desired subject, even when shooting at the far reach of its extensive telephoto lens. 

In lower light, the AF system will search a little longer for the target, but it's fairly rare for a false confirmation of focus to be displayed.  

Perhaps the biggest appeal of the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 is its huge zoom range, but with these kinds of focal lengths, image blur caused by even the slightest movement of the camera is a very real risk. To that end, Panasonic has once again included the advanced Hybrid OIS+ (Optical Image Stabilizer Plus) five-axis anti-shake system and the good news is that it does a great job at keeping things steady – so much so that it's possible to get handheld shots even at the full reach of the lens.

Even better news is that at these reaches, the picture, while not quite as good as at the wide end of the lens, still has good resolution with plenty of detail, certainly at normal printing or viewing sizes.

There's also an additional digital zoom, which doubles the 30x range, which Panasonic dubs "Intelligent Zoom", but we'd avoid using that as you're just cropping into the image.

Electronic viewfinders are normally found on much pricier models, but it's great to see one featured on the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70. It may not be the largest one available, but the high resolution 1,160,000-dot unit certainly makes shooting much easier in bright conditions. 

Electronic viewfinders are normally found on much pricier models, but it's great to see one featured on the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70

There's also a 3.0-inch 920,000-dot display that sits flush with the body rather than tilting, while the absence of any touch control is a bit of a disappointment. 

It is, however, possible to compose images on a smartphone screen and control the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 remotely via a Wi-Fi connection when using Panasonic's free app. So, you sort of have a touchscreen by-proxy, if you like. The camera also features NFC for a quicker connection if you have a compatible device.

Other specification highlights include a top sensitivity setting of ISO 6400. As is pretty much the norm now, Full 1080p video recording is available, while the ability to create time lapse movies has also been included.

Impressive design, but you'll need large pockets

  • Both auto and manual controls
  • Can be used one-handed
  • Weighs 243g

Considering the heft zoom lens, the Lumix SZ50 / TZ70 is still pretty compact. You'll need a reasonably large, or loose, jeans pocket to fit the Lumix SZ50 / TZ70, but it remains fairly remarkable how manufacturers are able to squeeze a lens capable of such large zoom range in a relatively small body.

There's a decent sized grip on the front of the camera that helps your forefingers to sit snugly, working in conjunction with the raised thumb-rest on the back of the camera. In fact, Panasonic has designed the Lumix SZ50 / TZ70 with the aim of using it with one hand in mind, with all of the buttons on the back within easy reach of the thumb, and those on the top plate within easy reach of your forefinger. Just remember that camera's small inbuilt flash is found just above the front grip however, so it can be relatively easy to obscure, especially if you have fairly large fingers.

For those wanting to get a bit more creative and take a bit more control, there's both aperture and shutter priority shooting options

As you'd expect, there is a full automatic mode, along with scene and creative options, to appeal to those who want to concentrate on the act of taking the photo itself. For those wanting to get a bit more creative and take a bit more control, there's both aperture and shutter priority shooting options, along with a full manual mode.

The control ring around the lens allows quick adjustments to a variety of settings, depending on the mode you're in. For instance, while in aperture priority mode, its default setting is to control the lens aperture. If you prefer, though, you can set it to control other settings, including Zoom, Exposure Compensation, White Balance and others.

Image quality

  • Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 delivers nicely detailed images
  • Raw shooting option
  • ISO80-6400

Results from the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 look very good from a camera with this size sensor, with images appearing natural, yet still bright and vibrant. 

Detail wise, the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 delivers nicely detailed shots - certainly at normal printing sizes such as A4 or below. However, if you zoom in at 100% and examine closely, you begin to see some examples of image smoothing and loss of detail, even at sensitivity values as low as ISO160.

From normal viewing distances, the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70's shots give a great impression of detail, but up close you can see some smoothing in areas of fine detail

Meanwhile, images shot at higher ISOs, such as ISO3200, demonstrate a fair amount of image smoothing even when viewing at relatively small sizes. Of course, it's better to get the shot than not at all, but try to keep ISO speeds to below 1600 if at all possible.

You can get reasonable quality at ISO3200, but it's best to keep to ISO1600 or less if you can

While there is a degree of image smoothing throughout the sensitivity range, this does mean that image noise is usually kept to a minimum. 

A nice feature of the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 is the fact you can shoot raw files too, allowing you to really tinker with the files in post-processing to draw out as much detail as possible.  

The Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 all-purpose metering system does a sound job too, producing images that are generally accurate on most occasions, only requiring a little exposure compensation in very high contrast situations.

The automatic white balance setting performs well too, but it errs towards yellowish tones under artificial light. It might be worth using the Incandescent white balance setting if you're finding this to be a problem, or take advantage of the camera's raw capture to alter later.

Panasonic TZ70/ZS50 sample image

The Lumix ZS50 / TZ70's auto white balance has left this artificially-lit scene looking rather yellow

Not convinced? Try these...

If the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 isn’t for you, then we’ve picked three excellent choices for you to consider instead. 

Panasonic Lumix ZS100 / TZ100

If you've got a bit more money to spend and image quality is your prime concern, then the Lumix ZS100 (known as the TZ100 outside the US) is our pick. The zoom range isn't quite as impressive, but the larger 1-inch sensor delivers far superior images.

Canon PowerShot SX730 HS

Canon’s latest PowerShot, the SX730 HS  features a 20MP sensor, and can have its LCD screen adjusted to face the front. While it lacks the ZS50 / TZ70’s viewfinder, its 40x optical zoom range does give it a little extra reach.

Sony Cyber-shot HX90V

Sony's rival to the Lumix ZS50 / TZ70, and it shares many similar features, in a 30x optical zoom, built-in EVF and raw capture, but has a few neat tricks of its own as well, including a 180-degree tilting screen.

Posted: August 14, 2017, 2:50 pm

The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 (EOS 200D outside the US) is one of Canon's most compact DSLRs, designed to appeal to those who are looking for a small and unintimidating camera, but want image quality that surpasses that from a compact model. 

However, while the original Rebel SL1 / 100D arrived some four years ago and was designed to tempt users away from the mirrorless camera onslaught, Canon's own mirrorless range of cameras has expanded since then, so where does the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D now fit in?

Features

  • APS-C CMOS Sensor, 24.2MP
  • Full HD video recording
  • Guided interface

With the 18MP sensor in the outgoing EOS Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D starting to look very dated against much newer competition, it's no surprise to see the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D get a bump in resolution to 24.2MP. It's the same sensor we've seen recently in both the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D and EOS 77D.

The camera also gets Canon's latest DIGIC 7 image processor. The DIGIC 7 is said to be able to handle 14 times more information than the DIGIC 6, so it should be an even bigger step up from the DIGIC 5 chip in the Rebel SL1 / 100D. 

This should deliver a big jump in AF performance, which we'll come to shortly, but the DIGIC 7 also helps to facilitate the Rebel SL2 / 200D's ISO range of ISO100-25,600. That's an extra stop more than the Rebel SL1 / 100D's ISO ceiling of 12,800, while there's also a Hi setting equivalent to ISO51,200, although you’ll have to select this in the custom menu.

Instead of the display sitting flush with the body, as we saw with the Rebel SL1 / 100D, the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D now gets a 3.0-inch, vari-angle touchscreen display with a resolution of 1,040,000 dots. The coverage of the optical viewfinder is only 95%, which is typical for DSLRs at this price, so you may find that unwanted elements creep into the edges of the frame when your review images. If framing is super-critical, you'll want to use the rear display.

The EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D gets a 3.0-inch, vari-angle touchscreen display

The Rebel SL2 / 200D also gets Canon's new graphical user interface, which is designed to help new users get to grips with their camera and its various shooting modes; this can be turned off in the menu to be replaced by Canon's more traditional interface. 

As we've seen with Canon's other recent DSLR announcements (with the exception of the EOS 5D Mark IV), the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D doesn't have 4K video capture, with Canon settling for Full HD, although footage can be captured at up to 60p.

Canon is plugging the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D as "the perfect replacement for the avid smartphone photographer looking to step up to their first camera". And, to tempt those users in, it's included a new selfie mode, together with skin smoothing and background blurring controls. Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth are also on hand to further ease the transition.

Build and handling

  • World’s smallest DSLR with a vari-angle screen
  • Weighs 450g
  • Three different finishes

Thanks to the inclusion of the vari-angle display, the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D can't take the crown away from the Rebel SL1 / 100D as the world's smallest DSLR, although it is the smallest DSLR with a vari-angle screen. And it's still incredibly compact for a DSLR, measuring 122.4 (W) x 92.6 (H) x 69.8mm (D) and weighing just 450g with a battery and card installed. 

The Rebel SL2 / 200D is available in three finishes. There’s a white version and a silver/tan option, although most people will likely prefer the more sober black version, the matte finish on which looks particularly fetching against the silver-toned controls on the top plate. 

However, thanks to a combination of polycarbonate resin and carbon-and-glass-fibre, the majority of the camera's surface finish suffers from the same plasticky feel we disliked on both the Rebel T7i / 800D and EOS 77D; it just doesn't feel that nice to the touch.

The hand grip was pretty much non-existent on the original SL1 / 100D in an effort to cut down its size, so it's great to see that the grip on the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D is now pleasingly deep, and it should offer enough support for most people. The material for the hand grip has changed though, with Canon reverting to the traditional-looking leatherette finish it uses for a lot of its DSLRs, rather than the more modern-looking dimpled texture employed by the Rebel SL1 / 100D.

Canon has overhauled the top plate for the Rebel SL2 / 200D, with the mode dial now recessed into the body, and has gone with a new power control that gives immediate access to movie recording. There are also dedicated buttons for connectivity and display, in addition to the ISO button. The ISO/Disp buttons are somewhat spongy, however, while the shutter release button has a certain hollowness to it.

Round the back the controls are pretty much identical to those on the Rebel SL1 / 100D. The rear of the camera is relatively uncluttered, with the biggest change being the vari-angle screen, with a little indent next to the viewfinder enabling you to pull the display out from the body. As we've seen on other Canon cameras, the touchscreen interface is perhaps the best around, offering a polished user experience for both shooting and reviewing images.

Autofocus

  • 9-point AF, 1 cross-type AF point
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
  • Touch focus

While there have been numerous improvements elsewhere, the 9-point AF system from the Rebel SL1 / 100D gets another run out in the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D. Notwithstanding the fact that this camera is aimed at new users, this omission is a bit of a disappointment, especially as both the Rebel T7i / 800D and 77D use a new 45-point AF system.

The points are arranged in a modest diamond formation, but while they're reasonably well spread out across the frame there's just a single cross-type AF point. For comparison, all the Rebel T7i / 800D's 45 AF points are cross-type. Why's that such a big deal? Cross-type sensors are sensitive in both the horizontal and vertical planes, so when the camera's focusing it's more likely to lock onto its target than a sensor that's sensitive in just one plane, which can mean you have to rotate the camera to achieve focus.

For general photography the AF system performs fine; in our tests it proved its worth in both good light and darker indoor conditions, and focused on low-contrast subjects better than expected, but should you want to press it into more challenging situations, such as tracking moving subjects, you'll be left wanting. 

There is one improvement in this area, with the arrival of Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which allows the camera to use phase-detect AF for faster focusing speeds in live view mode and during movie recording; many DSLRs at this price point rely on contrast-detect AF for live view shooting, which, while very accurate, can be slow. Focusing is smooth and fast, and easily a match for mirrorless rivals.

Performance

  • 5fps burst shooting
  • UHS-I compliant
  • 650-shot battery life

With the arrival of the DIGIC 7 engine, Canon has stretched the burst shooting speed of the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D to 5fps, from 4fps on the Rebel SL1 / 100D. This burst rate is what we'd expect from entry-level DSLR at this price point, but those wanting to regularly shoot a fast sequence of shots, and who are on a budget, might want to look at some mirrorless rivals. 

Many of the features we’ve seen on much pricier EOS models have also made the cut here, such as the various lens aberration corrections and the time-lapse movie mode. Impressively, you even get in-camera raw processing, which is great for those who want to share their images immediately without compromising on quality.

If that all sounds quite advanced, don't be put off, as the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D is perfect for new users thanks to the clean graphical user interface. This is an area in which Nikon has been really strong, with its Guide Mode on the likes of the D3300, so it's good to see Canon follow suit. 

We first saw this interface on the T7i / 800D, and those taking their first steps in creative photography should find it really useful. Key settings are explained on screen, while the effects of changing a setting are illustrated in the various shooting modes. For example, in Aperture Priority mode the display will show what settings are needed for a blurred or sharp background, with annotations that change as you increase or decrease the aperture.

If you're a more experienced user looking to use the Rebel SL2 / 200D as a second body, you can disable this feature in the menu if you wish, and stick with Canon's more traditional menu system.

Those making their first steps with creative photography should find the graphical user interface really useful

The Rebel SL2 / 200D's metering is handled by a 63-zone dual-layer metering sensor, with Evaluative, Partial, Centre-weighted and Spot metering options. We found the Evaluative mode did a sound job; it did have a slight tendency to underexpose shots, but that's no bad thing in bright conditions when you want to preserve highlights.

The white balance system performs well, and it's nice to see the inclusion of an optional Ambience Priority white balance mode, which delivers a slightly warmer look to help retain the atmosphere of shots that can sometimes be lost. For occasions when you want a more neutral result, the White Priority white balance mode delivers clean, color-cast free results.

Battery life is pretty good – at 650 shots per charge it's actually better than on the Rebel T7i / 800D, and quite a bit better than comparable mirrorless rivals. If you're going to be using Live View for shooting pretty much full-time, though, be warned, as the battery life plummets to 260 shots.

Image quality

  • ISO100-51,200
  • Noise performance much improved
  • Pleasing color rendition

The EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D's 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor does a solid job, rendering very good levels of detail at sensitivities up to ISO1600. You'll easily be able to produce detailed prints at A3 size at 300dpi, while files should be able to be enlarged even further if needed.

Thanks to the 24.2MP sensor, the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D can capture plenty of detail

At low sensitivities, the Rebel SL2 / 200D handles image noise very well. Images appear noise-free all the way up to ISO3200, with colors nicely saturated. Even at ISO6400, while noise is evident, it's well controlled, and there was hardly any chroma (color) noise present in our shots.  

If you're prepared to sacrifice a bit of detail, then ISO12,800 is still very useable, despite both luminance (grain-like) and chroma noise being much more noticeable. Saturation of colors also suffers, but considering the sensitivity setting it's still very good. We'd avoid using settings beyond that unless it's really necessary. 

The camera slightly underexposed this shot, but it was possible to recover detail in the shadows quite easily

Dynamic range is also good, but it's still not quite a match for rivals like Nikon's D3400 – there's just not the same latitude in raw files to recover highlight and shadow detail.

Verdict

The compact proportions of the original EOS Rebel SL1 / EOS 100D meant it was a truly novel camera amongst its peers, but the slightly bulkier proportions of the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D make it feel more like a slightly pared-down Rebel T7i / 800D than anything unique.  

So what else does the Rebel SL2 / 200D have going for it if it can't brag about its svelte dimensions anymore? Quite a bit, actually. The Dual Pixel CMOS AF in Live View is excellent, while the refined touchscreen control and vari-angle display all add to its ease of use. And that's not forgetting the guided user interface, which offers a more welcoming experience for new users. We'd have liked to have seen more AF points spread across the viewfinder, but the AF performance is very good for general photography. 

Do we have any other concerns? The plasticky finish and the absence of 4K video capture disappoint, but perhaps the main hurdle the EOS Rebel SL2 / EOS 200D has to overcome is its price relative to the competition. Even if we just look at Nikon’s DSLR offerings at around the same price or less, you've got three capable options: the D3400, D5300 and D5600. And that’s before you consider mirrorless alternatives.

Competition

Posted: August 10, 2017, 4:16 pm

Just as when it followed up the X-T1 with the X-T10, Fujifilm has taken a lot of the good stuff from the X-T2 and packaged it in a lighter, more affordable body to give us the X-T20.

Rather than leaving a 16-month gap between launching the two cameras as it did with the X-T1 and X-T10 though, Fujifilm has hardly missed a beat, announcing the X-T20 just over four months after the X-T2.

So should X-T2 owners now be kicking themselves over their purchase, or are there enough differences to separate the two?

Features

  • APS-C X-Trans CMOS III sensor, 24.3MP
  • 3.0-inch tilt-angle touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
  • 4K video capture

Just as we’ve seen with the X-Pro2 and X-T2, the X-T20 incorporates Fujifilm’s latest 24.3MP X-Trans CMOS III APS-C sensor. It delivers a significant boost in resolution from the X-T10’s 16.3MP sensor, and brings the new camera in line with pretty much most of its competitors.

The ISO range gets a boost  as well, with a native sensitivity range of ISO200-12,800, compared to ISO200-6,400 on the X-T10, and while the expanded range stretches to the same sensitivity limits of ISO100-51,200, there’s some welcome news here too – unlike on the X-T10, where the expanded range was restricted to JPEG-only files, the X-T20 allows you to shoot raws as well JPEGs at this expanded range.

The X-T20 sticks with the same 2.36 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder as we saw on the X-T10. Interestingly, while the resolution matches that of the EVF used in the X-T2, the magnification isn’t quite as impressive, at 0.62x compared to 0.77x, and not quite a match for the Lumix G80/G85’s 0.74x magnification. 

While the X-T2 did away with a touchscreen interface at the rear – at the time Fujifilm believed, after feedback from users, that there wasn’t a demand for it – it seems to have had a bit of a change of heart for the X-T20.

The X-T20’s 3.0-inch touchscreen doesn’t quite offer the same breadth of control as, say, the one on the Canon EOS M5 or G80/G85 though, limiting you as it does to tapping the display to acquire focus and trigger the shutter, in addition to pinching to zoom when reviewing images; if you’re hoping to be able to toggle and adjust controls on the rear display you’ll be left disappointed.

The X-T20 sticks with the same 2.36 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder as we saw on the X-T10

Resolution receives a boost over the X-T10, increasing from 920k-dots to 1.04m-dots, matching that of the X-T2. Unlike the X-T2, the X-T20’s display doesn’t take advantage of Fuji’s double-jointed design, but the mechanism still allows you to pull the display outwards for waist-level shooting, and downwards should you want to use the camera raised aloft. 

The X-T20 also comes equipped with Fujifilm’s X-Processor Pro imaging engine, which sees it spring into life a little quicker than the X-T10 at 0.4 seconds, while the shutter lag has been reduced to 0.05 seconds.

There’s just a single SD card slot on the X-T20, compared to the X-T2’s two, while it doesn’t support UHS-II cards.

The X-T20 offers 4K video capture (3840 x 2160) at 30p as well as Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 60p, both of which support film simulations as well. There’s an input for a microphone, but not for audio monitoring.

Build and handling

  • Magnesium top and bottom plates
  • No weather-sealing
  • Weighs 383g

Just as we’ve seen with the X-Pro2 and X-T2, Fujifilm has opted to tinker with and refine an existing design for the X-T20, rather than go back to the drawing board and come up with a completely new one.

As such the X-T20 takes on the slightly hunched, DSLR-style design of the X-T10, looking like an X-T2 that’s been told to lay off the chocolate biscuits.

While there’s no weather-sealing present, as on the X-T2, the X-T20 sports magnesium top and bottom plates, which along with a comfy (if modest) grip and the tactile covering used, make the X-T20 feel like a very solid and quality piece of kit – it certainly doesn’t feel like a cheap version of the X-T2.

Fujifilm's decision to stick closely to the design of the X-T10 means the X-T20 is furnished with a decent, but not overwhelming, amount of body-mounted controls. Along the top plate and to the right of the viewfinder is the large shutter speed dial, with settings running from 1 to 1/4000 sec plus Bulb, Time and Automatic.

To the right of that is an exposure compensation dial – but whereas the settings on the X-T10 ran from -2 to +2EV, the X-T20’s range has been extended to ±3EV.

As we saw on the X-T2 there's also now a ‘C’ setting on the dial, which lets you set compensation up to ±5EV using the camera's front command dial, and as on the X-T2 this works very well – we probably prefer using it this way to manually adjusting the nicely machined exposure compensation dial, as it’s easier to quickly make changes when the camera is raised to your eye.

The dedicated movie button just to the right of the shutter button on the X-T10 is now a feature on the drive dial, while there’s a programmable function button in its place. We much prefer this arrangement; with no dedicated ISO button, a quick dip into the menu to assign the function button to ISO means you can now quickly change the sensitivity.  

As we’ve just touched on, there’s a dedicated drive mode on to the left of the viewfinder, which also has options for accessing the Movies, Bracketing, Advanced Filter (there are two settings for this), Multiple Exposure and Panorama modes. There are two bracketing options, one for exposure bracketing and another for Film Simulation bracketing, enabling you to produce a sequence of three images with different exposures or different Film Simulation settings.

As well as this dedicated function button on the top, there are plenty of body-mounted controls on the X-T20

Around the collar of the drive mode dial is the release for the built-in flash. We have to say that the little flash feels much less flimsy than we’ve become accustomed to on other cameras, with a decent amount of resistance when collapsing it down again.

There’s also a lever around the shutter speed dial that's designed to help less experienced photographers, enabling users to override the exposure settings of the X-T20 and set the camera to fully-automatic mode for easy point-and-shoot photography if desired.

Round the back of the camera things also look pretty familiar, with one difference: the function button that was at the bottom-right on the X-T10 has disappeared. A little disappointing perhaps, but when you consider that you’ve now got a better-placed function button on the top plate instead, it's not that great a loss. 

As well as this dedicated function button on the top, there are plenty of body-mounted controls on the X-T20 – it’s possible to assign a plethora of settings to the four-way buttons on the rear, and to the AE-L and AF-L buttons too. The front and rear command dials control shutter speed and aperture, but can also be depressed to select a secondary control; however, while the rear command dial can be assigned a function when pressed, the front one is dedicated to the ‘C’ mode of the exposure compensation control.

You’ll have to use the four-way control, or tap the touchscreen to select the AF area

There’s also Fujifilm's Quick menu system, accessed via the Q button. As the name suggests this gives you quick access to 16 key settings, and it’s possible to customise these should you wish, with a choice of 28 different options. This works well, and it's handy to be able exclude features that you don't use in favor of those you do. To speed things up in the field it would have been nice to have seen the touchscreen functionality extend to the Quick menu, but that’s not an option on the X-T20 unfortunately. 

While Fujifilm furnished both the X-Pro2 and X-T2 with a rather useful mini-joypad on the rear of the camera for quick AF point selection, this hasn’t made it over to the X-T20; instead you’ll have to use the four-way control, or tap the touchscreen to select the AF area.

Autofocus

  • 325-point AF
  • Eye-detection AF
  • 5 AF-C presets

You could be forgiven for thinking that Fujifilm would give the X-T20 a stripped-down AF system compared to its flagship siblings, but that’s not the case at all, with the X-T20 featuring the same advanced system as the X-T2. 

Fujifilm has made some big strides with its autofocus systems over the past year, so the upgrade in autofocus system here over the one employed on the X-T10 is a welcome change. 

The hybrid AF system employs both phase-detection and contrast-detection points, with up to 169 phase-detect points arranged in a large square formation (13 x 13) in the centre, supplemented by two grids of 6 x 13 contrast-detect points either side to deliver a total of 325 focusing points across a large area of the frame – that’s up from the X-T10’s total of 49 points.

The above is for single-point AF; for Zone and Wide/Tracking this drops to a still-impressive 91-point arrangement, this time with a central grid of 7 x 7 phase-detect points, with the edges of the frame covered by two grids of 3 x 7 contrast-detect points; if you wish, you can swap to this arrangement for single-point AF if 325 points feels like overkill.

Whether you’re shooting static or fast-moving subjects, the X-T20’s AF is nice and quick

While continuous focusing with the X-T10 could at times be an optimistic affair with miss-focused shots, just as we’ve seen with the X-T2, focusing tracking with X-T20 is much improved. 

Just as we saw on the X-T2, the X-T20 uses a new AF algorithm to boost accuracy, with three parameters taken into consideration. These are Tracking Sensitivity (how long the camera waits before switching focus), Speed Tracking Sensitivity (determines how sensitive the tracking system is to changes in subject speed) and Zone Area Switching (whether bias is towards the centre, auto or front).

The X-T20 features the same five presets we saw on the X-T2, with each preset using a different mix of these three parameters to suit different types of subject. The only thing that hasn’t carried across from the X-T2 is a custom setting, to enable you to tinker with the variables yourself.

Whether you’re shooting static or fast-moving subjects, the X-T20’s AF is nice and quick – we’d have little hesitation using this camera for action, especially if paired with a lens such as the XF50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR.

Performance

  • 8fps burst shooting
  • 350-shot battery life
  • Sound metering system

The X-T20 uses Fujifilm’s proven TTL 256-zone metering system, which performs admirably, even when directed at high-contrast scenes. Here it can tend to underexpose the shot, but we’d happily take this to avoid blown highlights, and recover detail in the shadows later. 

If you’re going to be shooting a lot of portraits the metering is geared to provide a bias towards overexposing the shot for a more flattering high-key result. It’s easy to fine-tune the exposure though – as we’ve mentioned, set the exposure compensation to ‘C’ and it’s quick to adjust. And the joy of mirrorless is that the EVF will display the exposure in real time, so you won’t get any nasty surprises when reviewing your images.

The 3-inch display is also very good – the slight boost in resolution is welcome

While we’re on the subject, the viewfinder is lovely and bright, but because the magnification isn't quite as impressive as on the X-T2 (they share the same 2.36m dot resolution remember) it feels that little bit more cramped to look through. 

The 3-inch display is also very good – the slight boost in resolution is welcome, with a crisp, clear feed perfect for composing or reviewing shots. It’s certainly nice to see the addition of a touchscreen interface – it works well for tapping to focus and when reviewing images, although as we’ve touched on it would have been nice to have the functionality extended to areas of the menu system.

Battery life is 350 shots on a single charge – in the ballpark for a mirrorless camera and a slight improvement over the X-T10, but when compared to the likes of the Nikon D5600, which has an impressive 820-shot battery life, it’s found a little wanting. It can be charged direct via USB however, while there’s also a dedicated charger bundled in the box. Either way, we’d recommend getting yourself a spare battery. 

There’s no support for UHS-II cards, but despite this the X-T20 can still rattle off eight frames in a second, with the buffer good for 23 uncompressed raw files or 62 JPEGs; opt to use the X-T20’s electronic shutter instead of the mechanical one and you’ll be able to shoot at 14fps, with the buffer able to handle 22 uncompressed raws or 42 JPEGs. It’s not going to top any lists of sports cameras, but it’ll let you capture a sequence of action if you need it to.

Image quality

  • ISO200-12,800, expandable to 100-51,200
  • Film simulation modes
  • +/-5 EV exposure compensation in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments

While the X-T10’s 16MP sensor delivered good results, the X-T20’s 24.3MP chip is a welcome step up. It uses the same X-Trans CMOS III sensor as the X-Pro2 and X-T2, and files from the X-T20 display excellent levels of detail, even at higher sensitivities, comparing very favourably to images from APS-C rivals with a similar resolution.

Dynamic range is also very impressive on the X-T20 – and there's plenty of flexibility to recover detail once you're in Photoshop. With JPEG files we found it was possible to recover a decent amount of shadow detail in images, while raws offer even more latitude. With low-ISO raw images you've probably got up to around four stops to play with, although this is reduced once the sensitivity increases beyond ISO1600.

Don't forget too that there's Fuji's own Dynamic Range mode, which works with both JPEG and raw files. There is a caveat here though – if you want to use the strongest DR400 setting, the base sensitivity increases to ISO800, while the moderate DR200 setting is a little better at ISO400. Results are very good though – if you're prepared to shoot at ISO800, the DR400 setting can preserve plenty of highlight and shadow detail in a high-contrast scene.

The X-T20's sensitivity range, on paper at least, compares favorably to rivals; the ceiling limit of ISO51,200 is a stop better than the Lumix G80/G85 and EOS M5, while the ability to record raw files at this sensitivity is an improvement on the X-T10's JPEG-only option.

Files at the lower end of the sensitivity range deliver really clean results – you'll be hard-pushed to find any signs of luminance noise (grain-like in appearance) in flat-color areas such as blue skies. 

As we've seen with the X-T2 and X-Pro2, it's only at ISO3200 that luminance noise starts to become an issue. That said, at this sensitivity results are more than acceptable; the noise has a natural look to it, while even up to ISO12,800, results won't be unusable, provided you apply a bit of noise reduction in post-processing.

Verdict

You could be forgiven for thinking the X-T20 might be something of a compromise camera from Fujifilm, but that’s certainly not the case.

True, sacrifices have been made compared with the X-T2 – there's no weather-sealing, the magnification on the EVF isn't as good and there's only a single card slot, while the buffer won't let you shoot for as long.

These will be deal-breakers for some, who'll want to shell out for those extra features on the X-T2; but pick up and start shooting with the X-T20 and it certainly doesn’t feel like the X-T2’s poor relation.

Despite the lack of weather-sealing the X-T20 feels very similar to its bigger brother in terms of build quality, while the tactile controls and polished handling make it a very satisfying camera to shoot with. We’d like to see the touchscreen interface integrated further, but that's only a minor grumble.  

Despite the lack of weather-sealing the X-T20 feels very similar to its bigger brother in terms of build quality

AF performance is identical too, as long as you don’t want to customize it, while the images the camera captures display the same lovely colors and detail that you get from the X-T2.

It's certainly brave of Fujifilm to bring out the X-T20 so close to the X-T2, as the more appealing price point of the X-T20, combined with many of the excellent features of the company's flagship X Series camera, is likely to hit the sweet spot for many photographers.

Competition

Posted: August 10, 2017, 11:35 am

Nikon’s entry-level DSLRs can be split into two groups: the D3xxx series, epitomised by the excellent D3300, offering a very affordable way into DSLR photography; and the D5xxx range of DSLRs designed for those looking for a few more features and greater creative control. 

The D5600 is the latest camera in this latter series, replacing the 18-month-old D5500, which is now getting hard to track down.

As we saw with the recent D3400 upgrade to the D3300, rather than usher in a host of sweeping changes Nikon has opted for a more modest update, with the most notable new feature being the inclusion of Nikon’s SnapBridge technology, which facilitates easy and automatic transfer of images directly from camera to smart device.

Features

  • APS-C CMOS sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3.2-inch, vari-angle touchscreen, 1,037,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

As far as features go, the specs for the D5600 are pretty much identical to those of the D5500. Resolution remains the same at a decent 24.2MP, with the APS-C-sized CMOS sensor again shunning an optical low pass filter in the quest to pull out even more detail from the data recorded. 

The D5600 also uses the same EXPEED 4 image processor, with a native sensitivity range running from ISO100 to 25,600 meaning it should be quite comfortable shooting in a range of lighting conditions.

The optical viewfinder provides coverage of 95% of the frame (pretty standard on a entry-level DSLR), so for some key shots you may want to double-check the composition on the rear display to ensure that nothing unwanted has crept into the extreme edges of the frame. 

Speaking of the display, there’s the same 3.2-inch vari-angle touchscreen display with a 1,037,000-dot resolution, although its operation has been improved. It now offers the frame-advance bar we’ve seen on both the D5 and D500 to speed up toggling through images, as well as a crop function for use during playback.

As far as features go, the specs for the D5600 are pretty much identical to those of the D5500

Another addition to the D5600 over the D5500 is Nikon’s timelapse movie function, as featured on models higher up the Nikon range. This allows for timelapse movies to be captured and put together entirely in-camera, with an exposure smoothing function helping to even-out variations in lighting as your sequence is captured.

While other manufacturers are starting to offer 4K video capture as standard, Nikon has, a little bit disappointingly, decided to stick with 1080p capture here, with a choice of 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p and 24p frame rates. The D5600 features a small stereo microphone positioned just in front of the hotshoe; if you want to use a dedicated microphone, there’s a 2.5mm port on the side of the camera.

As we’ve touched on, the most pronounced difference between the D5500 and D5600 is the inclusion of Nikon’s SnapBridge connectivity. While the D5500 featured Wi-Fi and NFC for image transfer, SnapBridge creates a constant connection between the camera and your smart device, once you’ve downloaded the free SnapBridge app and the initial setup’s been completed.

Using a low-energy Bluetooth connection, batches of images – or rather 2MP JPEG versions to be precise – can be automatically transferred from the D5600 to your device, or you can select individual images to transfer at full size, though again this is JPEG-only.

SnapBridge can also be used to transfer movies wirelessly, and for the remote capture of still images – in these cases Wi-Fi is used rather than Bluetooth.

The D5600 can be purchased body-only, but will more than likely be bought with the bundled AF-P DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens (there’s a non-VR version as well, but for a few dollars or pounds more it’s worth the extra outlay for a lens with anti-shake technology).

The lens is nice and compact, as well as offering Nikon's new silent AF and up to four stops of image stabilisation. It's more than up to the job of getting you started, and fine for general photography, although to make the most of the camera you'll want to think about investing in extra lenses down the line.

Build and handling

  • Polycarbonate construction
  • Design virtually identical to D5500
  • Weighs 420g

Nikon has used a monocoque construction for the D5600, as seen in both the D5300 and D5500, with the shell of the camera forged from a single piece of material – in this case, a strong polycarbonate.

This has enabled Nikon to reduce the number of parts used and keep the weight down – the D5600 tips the scales at 420g, body-only) exactly the same as the D5500. And it's not only the weight that's the same, as the body appears to be pretty much identical to its predecessor – even the dimensions are the same, at 124 x 97 x 70mm.

If it wasn’t for the need for a reflex mirror, the depth of the D5600 would surely put some mirrorless rivals in the shade

This means the body retains its narrow portion between the lens mount and grip – if it wasn’t for the need for a reflex mirror, the depth of the D5600 would surely put some mirrorless rivals in the shade. The D5600 also keeps the well-proportioned handgrip, which makes the camera fit nicely in the hand and provides a very comfy grip.

The top of the D5600 isn’t overly cluttered with buttons, with a mode dial on the top of the camera that features the switch to activate Live View around its collar – it's quick and easy to flick on and off whenever you need to use the rear screen to shoot.

Next to this is the fully-exposed command dial (pretty much every other Nikon DSLR barring the D5500 has only a small portion exposed from the body) that allows you to make adjustments to the aperture/shutter speed depending on the shooting mode you’re using, while the exposure compensation button just in front makes it easy to quickly fine-tune the exposure. If you’re shooting in full manual mode, you can hold down the exposure comp button to adjust aperture with the command dial.

Round the back of the D5600 the streamlined control theme continues. There’s a multi-directional D-pad for navigating the camera’s menus and settings, which also doubles as an AF point selector, while hitting the ‘I’ button brings up a range of core settings on the rear display.

You can navigate these options using the D-pad, hitting the OK button at the centre of pad to select the setting you want to change before toggling through the settings for that setting. This process could perhaps be refined by allowing you to simply navigate to the desired feature with the D-pad before using the command dial to flick through to the required setting.

The D5600 isn't overly-reliant on the rear screen if you prefer more tactile controls

That said, you can of course make use of the D5600's touchscreen functionality to change settings – you simply tap the ‘I’ icon on the display, then tap through to the required setting and adjust it with another tap of the screen.

The D5600 isn't overly-reliant on the rear screen if you prefer more tactile controls. There’s a programmable function button on the front of the camera that your left thumb can easily press when your left hand is cupping the lens, which when used in conjunction with the command dial can be used to quickly set ISO as the default option, although other functions can be assigned to the button if you prefer. 

There’s also a dedicated drive mode button just under the lens release which can toggle between the camera’s single and continuous shooting modes, as well as the self-timer.

Autofocus

  • 39-point AF, nine cross-type AF points
  • 39 or 11 AF points can be selected
  • 3D-tracking AF

The D5600 sticks with Nikon’s proven 39-point Multi-CAM 4800DX AF system. It may be starting to show its age against mirrorless rivals offering ever-more AF points, but it’s still a very solid and accurate system when shooting with the viewfinder.

Both single and continuous AF modes are fast and accurate, locking on with ease to static subjects, while the AF tracking modes on offer work well for moving subjects, although you don’t get the more advanced custom settings found higher up the Nikon range.

The D5600's AF system is fast and accurate

We did find that the bundled 18-55mm kit lens struggled a little when light levels dropped; this issue isn't unique to the D5600, but put some better (and faster) glass on the front – even the dirt-cheap 35mm f/1.8G DX prime – and you’ll be rewarded with snappier autofocus.

As we’ve found on the D5500, the D5600’s large vari-angle touchscreen display encourages the use of Live View, but is left a little wanting when it comes to AF performance. With well-lit subjects the D5600 delivers accurate and quiet (if slightly sedate) focusing, especially compared to mirrorless cameras, but in darker conditions there can be a fair bit of hunting as the AF struggles to acquire focus, and you’ll soon find yourself flicking the Live View switch so that you can shoot with the viewfinder.

Performance

  • 5fps burst shooting
  • 820-shot battery life
  • SnapBridge needs work

The D5600’s Matrix metering system copes well with a range of lighting situations, although you might need to dial in some negative exposure compensation in high-contrast scenes to retain highlight detail, and recover shadow detail in post-processing if necessary.

Alternatively, the D5600’s Active D-Lighting system can be useful in such situations, retaining more detail in both the highlights and shadows when shooting JPEG files.

The D5600’s auto white balance system performed well in a range of lighting conditions, rendering natural-looking results, although under some artificial lighting images can look at touch yellowish, so you may want to opt for one of the dedicated white balance presets.

The burst shooting speed of 5fps hasn’t increased over the D5500, and while it’s a solid number, some mirrorless cameras of comparable price and spec are offering considerably more speed in this area, so if action’s your thing this may give you pause for thought.

What a mirrorless camera will struggle to keep up with, however, is the D5600’s battery life

What a mirrorless camera will struggle to keep up with, however, is the D5600’s battery life. Good for 820 shots, it towers over most mirrorless options, with potential rivals like the Panasonic Lumix G80/G85 capable of just 330 shots before you’ll need to recharge or swap batteries.

SnapBridge on the D5600 still needs refining – we had issues partnering the camera with our iPhone at first, and it still feels a bit clunky in use. We love the idea, but it needs improving on.

Image quality

  • ISO100-25,600
  • Creative Effect modes
  • No low-pass filter

With the same sensor as the D5500 (and pretty much the same one as the D5300), the results from the 24.2MP chip didn’t throw up any nasty surprises.
As you’d expect, with all of those pixels packed onto the sensor, resolution is very good, with the absence of a low-pass filter allowing for intricate details to be recorded (for the best results, though, you’ll need something better than the 18-55mm kit lens), while there’s plenty of scope for decent enlargements too.

The D5600’s auto white balance system performed well in a range of lighting conditions

Images captured at lower sensitivities appear to be very clean, with little or no noise present. At ISO800 there’s a hint of luminance noise starting to appear in shadow areas, but this doesn’t have a detrimental impact on images, and it’s only at ISO6400 and above that the D5600’s processing starts to really encroach on image quality.

It’s at ISO6400 that detail begins to suffer, while both luminance and chroma noise become quite pronounced. Beyond that setting, while images remain usable, detail continues to decline, with saturation visibly reduced at the highest sensitivity.

Finally, dynamic range is impressive, with the potential to recover plenty of shadow detail in raw images shot at lower ISOs. This latitude does decrease as you ramp up the camera’s sensitivity, though, with ISO1600 about the limit at which you can expect recovered shadows to stand up to close scrutiny.

Verdict

As an upgrade to the D5500, the D5600 is a touch underwhelming - just like the D3400 update to the D3300, the changes are modest at best, while the SnapBridge technology featured still needs to be refined and become more stable.

Forgetting the D5500 for a moment, and viewed against its rivals, and the D5600 is a very good mid-range DSLR. 

While it does feel very much a sum of its parts rather than having one single standout feature that shines through, it's still a well-spec'd DSLR that should satisfy the appetite of both new or more experienced users.

It's a shame that there's not 4K video capture, but the high-resolution 24.2MP sensor produces very detailed images that won't disappoint - you'll have to get a full-frame camera to get better results. The articulating touchscreen adds refinement, while a decent 39-point AF system and polished handling make the D5600 one of the most well-rounded entry-level DSLRs available.

Competition

Posted: August 10, 2017, 10:08 am

The D3300 may have been replaced by the D3400, but that's no reason to discount this entry-level DSLR. In fact, while the D3400 costs a little bit more (though prices are continuing to fall), the D3300 is the better buy right now.

Despite the growing popularity of mirrorless cameras, the entry-level DSLR market is still incredibly popular for those looking to take the next step in their photography journey.

Nikon's range of D3xxx models has proved incredibly popular over the years for new users looking to expand their creativity thanks to their blend of easy handling and solid performance, backed-up by an impressive range of lenses and accessories.

Features

  • APS-C CMOS sensor, 24.2MP
  • 3.0-inch screen, 921,000 dots
  • 1080p video capture

The Nikon D3300 features a high resolution 24.2MP APS-C sensor, which is pretty impressive when you consider the enthusiast-focused (and much higher priced) D7200 shares the an almost identical sensor with it. Like the rest of the Nikon range, the D3300's sensor does away with a low-pass filter on the sensor as well, which means even more detail can be captured.

In addition to this, the native sensitivity range runs from ISO100 to 12,800, and there's an expansion setting that takes it to the equivalent of ISO25,600, that should provide plenty of flexibility for a range of lighting situations.

Like the Nikon D5300, the D3300 sports Nikon's now second-generation processing engine, the EXPEED 4, allowing the D3300 to shoot continuously at a maximum rate of 5fps, while it can sustain this burst rate for up to 100 fine quality JPEGs. Not probably quite a match for some mirrorless rivals, but more than enough for most people's needs.

The EXPEED 4 processing engine is also responsible for allowing the D3300 to record Full HD movie footage at frame rates up to 50p/60p and with continuous autofocus. Helpfully, there's a microphone port as well as a built-in stereo mic for better sound recording during movie shooting. If you want 4K, you'll either have to look further up the Nikon line-up or at some mirrorless competition like the Panasonic Lumix G7.

Unlike some (pricier) rivals sporting articulating screens, the 3.0-inch display on the rear of the D3300 sits flush to the body. The absence of a touchscreen interface is also a little disappointing, especially when you consider how many of the camera's controls are changed via the screen itself. If these are deal-breakers, then you might want to look further up the Nikon range to the D5600 or rivals from Canon. 

Like pretty much every DSLR at this price point, the D3300's optical viewfinder only offers a 95% field of view. While it is bright and clear, not being 100% does mean that there is a chance of something appearing in the final image that you didn't notice when framing up your shot.

There are a host of Special Effects on tap, allowing you to jazz-up JPEG files and videos with a collection of styles. Nikon has boosted the list of effects to 13 for the D3300, and it now includes Pop, which increases colour saturation, Toy Camera, which creates a retro effect, and Easy Panorama. These effects can be previewed in real time on the LCD screen, so you can see exactly what you'll get once you trigger the shutter.

Connectivity options are pretty limited, so if you want to wirelessly transfer images you'll have to invest in the optional WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter to make it so. If you want a connected entry-level Nikon DSLR, you'll want to get the D3400. Featuring Nikon's SnapBridge technology, this functionality allows the D3400 to be connected wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet. 

Build and handling

  • Polycarbonate construction
  • Small and lightweight body
  • Weighs 460g

The D3300 is the second DSLR from Nikon to use a monocoque construction - this means that the chassis is made from a single piece of material. Lighter than the D3200 it replaced, the D3300 is actually a bit heavier than the D3400, with Nikon managing to shave a very modest 15g off the 410g body-only weight of the D3300. 

The grip is still deep and comfortable to hold, with the textured surface making it feel particularly secure in the hand.

The new 18-55mm kit lens that the D3300 will probably most likely be purchased with is now collapsible. While by no means small in comparison to compact system camera lenses of the same equivalent zoom range, when collapsed the lens is quite a bit shorter than its predecessor, making it easier to fit into a small bag when not in use.

When you want to use the camera (with this kit lens attached), you'll first need to press a button on the lens barrel to expand it back into normal proportions. This does mean that start-up time from packed away is a little slower than other cameras, but you can of course leave it extended if you need a quicker start.

There isn't a huge number of buttons on the D3300, which is to be expected of an entry-level camera. On the top plate you'll find a mode dial for switching between exposure modes, such as fully automatic, aperture priority and the newly incorporated Effects mode. Also on the top plate you'll find the exposure compensation button (for use in automatic and semi-automatic modes) and an info button, which helpfully turns off the rear display, preventing it from being a distraction while using the viewfinder.

A sort of quick menu is accessed on the D3300 by pressing a button labelled 'i' on the back of the camera. After you've pressed this, use the directional keys to pick a setting you want to change – such as white balance – and then press OK to bring up the different options available to you. Unfortunately, this menu isn't customisable, so if there's something on this menu you rarely use, you're stuck with it.

There is also a function button near the lens mount. By default holding this down will allow you to quickly change the ISO, but you can change this to control JPEG quality, white balance or Active D-Lighting. ISO seems like a sensible choice since it's something you'll probably need to change the most often out of the options available.

Autofocus

  • 11-point AF, 1 cross-type AF point
  • AF-assist illuminator
  • 3D-tracking AF

Meanwhile, there's an 11-point AF system that we've seen on a host of previous models, which has a central cross-type AF point for extra sensitivity.

It's a little unremarkable, especially when compared to some mirrorless rivals, but its a tried and test system that does a solid job.

Autofocusing speeds are pretty high, especially in daylight or well-lit conditions. It's rare for the kit lens to hunt around to acquire focus, and rarer still for it to present a false confirmation of focus. Speeds do drop a little in lower light conditions, but it's only when it gets very dark that the lens struggles to focus at all.

It performs very well, allowing you to track a subject across the D3300's 11 AF points

The D3300 also sports Nikon 3D-Tracking technology and while it's not as advanced as that found on more sophisticated models, it performs very well, allowing you to track a subject across the D3300's 11 AF points.

Changing the AF point is very simple. All you'll need to do is press the directional arrow keys to move around to the point you need. As the central AF point is cross-type, it is more sensitive than the others, so you may find it beneficial to focus and recompose in certain situations, or, if you're just aiming for speed.

It's worth bearing in mind, though, that focusing speeds drop significantly when using Live View, so it's only really recommended you use that if you're shooting something stationery, or you're shooting from an awkward angle and can't compose using the viewfinder. This is where mirrorless rivals definitely have the edge.

Performance

  • 5fps burst shooting
  • Helpful Guide mode
  • 700-shot battery life

The D3300's interface has a pleasingly modern appearance, with the high resolution giving the display beautifully rounded edges and displaying the interface's colors well.

When shooting, the camera displays three circles which represent shutter speed, aperture and sensitivity (ISO). These displays change as you alter settings using the scrolling dials, most obvious being the aperture circle which closes and opens to represent the opening and closing of the aperture blades. If you're new to creative photography, this is a great way to get to grips with the basics.

The D3300 has a dedicated 420-pixel RGB sensor to gather exposure, white balance and focus information to inform the Automatic Scene Recognition system. 

In the majority of everyday shooting conditions, the D3300's general-purpose matrix metering system does a good job of producing accurate exposures, while the camera's automatic white balance also performs well. It manages to produce faithful colors even while shooting indoors, where under artificial lights produces images which are hard to fault, hardly erring towards warm tones at all, which is excellent to see in an entry-level DSLR.

Battery life is very good too, lasting for around 700 shots - better than similarly priced mirrorless rivals, though not quite as impressive as the D3400's 1200 shot battery life. 

Image quality

  • ISO100-12,800, expandable to 100-25,600
  • No low-pass filter
  • Punchy colors

As expected, the D3300 has excellent resolving power. Even when zoomed in to images at 100% reveals that very fine details can be seen. 

With such a high pixel count (24 million pixels), there comes the increased chance of noise appearing in images. The D3300 handles low light, high sensitivity situations very well. Noise only really starts to become particularly apparent when shooting at ISO 3200 above, and even then it's acceptable, or certainly preferable to a blurred or missed shot.

Image smoothing is something that can be seen right the way through the sensitivity run, but at the lower end of the spectrum it's not particularly noticeable, only when examining images very closely at 100% does it become apparent. When printing at normal sizes, such as A4, or sharing online, it doesn't present a problem.

One of the benefits of having a large pixel count is the ability to crop images and still retain a decent resolution, but this is something to bear in mind if you've been shooting at a high sensitivity and want to crop an image. Any image smoothing or noise may become more apparent the more you crop the image.

Verdict

With the Nikon D3300, you get a lot of seriously good kit for your money. For starters, the 24MP sensor is capable of producing excellent levels of detail. Then there's the interface. The crisp and clean look off the D3300's Guide Mode continues to be something which makes this camera appealing to novice users, helping you get to grips and understand the basics of photography as you shoot, whilst the collapsible 18-55mm kit lens is great when you're on the go. 

While the autofocus system might not be overflowing with AF points, the 11-point AF system works very, with a decent 3D-Tracking mode for moving subjects. Autofocus could be snappier in Live View however, while it's a shame you don't get an articulated touchscreen display (you'll want the D5600 if that's what you're after) or Wi-Fi connectivity, but Nikon does make a cheap plug-in Wi-Fi adaptor if that's a deal-breaker for you.

These niggles aside and when you factor in the excellent battery life and the wealth of lenses and accessories available, not forgetting the excellent value it is right now, and the D3300 is hard to beat if you're looking for your first DSLR.

Competition

Posted: August 9, 2017, 11:50 am
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