Canon EOS 1200D

A simple model to get you started in the world of digital SLR photography

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Canon EOS 1200D
  • Canon EOS 1200D
  • Canon EOS 1200D
  • Canon EOS 1200D
  • Expert Rating

    3.00 / 5

Pros

  • Inexpensive entry point into the Canon digital SLR ecosystem
  • Good overall picture quality
  • Relatively simple controls

Cons

  • Focus performance of 18-55mm kit lens was slow and sometimes innacurate
  • SD card slot in battery compartment

Bottom Line

The bottom line with the EOS 1200D is that it's not a digital SLR camera to go for if you are looking for anything more than a beginner's model. Its relatively simplistic controls and no frills physical design are no match for experienced hands, but they are acceptable if this is to be your first DSLR.

Would you buy this?

Canon's EOS 1200D camera is designed to get you started in the world of digital SLR photography, and is a sensible step up if you haven't used such a camera before and want to upgrade from a compact or phone device. It's one of the cheapest DSLR bodies you can get, and it can be bought for under $800 even if you go for the kit that has two lenses included.

Simple design, basic controls

You should know from the get-go that this camera doesn't have the best feel or design as far as DSLR cameras are concerned, and if you've ever held a DSLR before, you'll immediately notice this. Its body is made out of plastic, with a tough-to-move mode dial at the top, and it has only one control dial for changing the exposure values. More expensive DSLR bodies (usually the ones over $1000) have two control dials, which allow you to more quickly change exposure settings, and their mode dials generally don't feel so rigid. But these are just a couple of things you notice that are traits of a shooter in this entry-level category.

If you're thinking about a DSLR, then it stands to reason that you're looking for a camera that will allow you to choose your own aperture, shutter, and ISO values, and this is certainly a camera on which you can do those things. Since it has a single control dial, you need to use it for both aperture and shutter value changes, and you can swap between the two by pressing the 'AV' button that's present on the back, just to the left of the thumb rest. If you need to change the ISO, then simply hit the 'ISO' button.

These are simple controls, and will perhaps be all you need at the start of your journey into DSLR photography. Other things you can quickly change from the back include white balance, auto-focus operation, and the drive mode. More settings can be changed when you hit the 'Q' (quick) menu button, which brings up a menu on the LCD screen, and which includes some brief descriptions for each setting that you select. The main menu is laid out with all options visible on the screen, and in tabs.

The mode dial at the top is a little tough to move, which is good in the sense that it won't easily move on its own while in your bag, but it's one of the first indications that this is a cheap camera.
The mode dial at the top is a little tough to move, which is good in the sense that it won't easily move on its own while in your bag, but it's one of the first indications that this is a cheap camera.

A logical control layout at the back shows the AV button, the Q menu, and the dedicated ISO button.
A logical control layout at the back shows the AV button, the Q menu, and the dedicated ISO button.

All of this makes the EOS 1200D an intuitive camera, and one that's easy to get the hang of if you are new to controlling a DSLR. It doesn't overwhelm, and instead provides just the right amount of physical control and on-screen menu settings. When you change the exposure, a meter is visible through the viewfinder, so you can play with the aperture, shutter, and ISO to get the correct exposure balance.

Of course, if manual settings still intimidate you, then you can make use of the auto setting, which selects the best scene mode for the lighting conditions in the picture you're currently taking, and even pops up the flash when it's needed. You can also choose from some dedicated scene modes that reside on the mode dial, which include macro and 'sports'.

Since the screen lacks a hinge, you can't easily take photos from high, low or side angles, and since Wi-Fi is not present, you can't use your phone as a remote viewfinder. The optical viewfinder itself is a little small, and it doesn't give you a full view of a scene. If you are trying to frame something perfectly, you might find that some unwanted elements sneak in at the bottom or side of the frame.

Another thing to note about this camera's physical design is that the SD card slot is located in the battery compartment rather than on the right side. This is an inconvenience if you want to quickly get the card out to view photos on your computer, and it's especially inconvenient if you want to access photos while the camera is still attached to a tripod.

When you take a shot, the camera makes a noticeable physical thud and electronic noise as its mirror moves out of the way of the sensor, and it can be startling if you're shooting in a quiet area. It's not as snappy sounding as a more expensive camera. The sensor has 18 megapixels, and it sits behind a lens mount that can accept EF and EF-S type Canon lenses.

Image quality

We tested with the 18-55mm kit lens, which is a small zoom lens that doesn't feel all that great to use, but it can help you capture images that look acceptably crisp for most screen and printed purposes, and it can render a nice, blurry background, especially when you are zoomed in and capturing a portrait. Fringing around high-contrast areas was minimal, and even then only visible when we viewed a photo at the native 18-megapixel size. Contrast was a little lacking in some shots in JPEG mode, with some shots looking a little too black.

This was taken in manual mode. We used the flash to brighten the front of the flower since it was backlit. You can see the circular 'bokeh' pattern that the lens renders (this was at 55mm). You can also see that there is a hint of brickwork showing along the bottom edge of the frame on the right side. Through the viewfinder, which has a 95 per cent field of view, this brickwork was not visible and our framing looked perfect.
This was taken in manual mode. We used the flash to brighten the front of the flower since it was backlit. You can see the circular 'bokeh' pattern that the lens renders (this was at 55mm). You can also see that there is a hint of brickwork showing along the bottom edge of the frame on the right side. Through the viewfinder, which has a 95 per cent field of view, this brickwork was not visible and our framing looked perfect.

This is a 100 per cent crop of the previous image. Shots are captured with good detail. You can see that there is some purple fringing, but it's not visible unless you scrutinise shots at this level.
This is a 100 per cent crop of the previous image. Shots are captured with good detail. You can see that there is some purple fringing, but it's not visible unless you scrutinise shots at this level.

For shooting in low-light environments where you might need to use a high ISO, the camera will handle things well up to about ISO 1600. At this point, images will start to take on a bit of a noise, but it will only be noticeable if you view the images at their native size, and will show most noticeably in shaded areas or other areas with lots of colour gradients. When viewed on a screen at a Full HD resolution, the noise won't be obvious for the most part.

Another shot showing the good detail that can be captured with the 18-55mm kit lens.
Another shot showing the good detail that can be captured with the 18-55mm kit lens.

Another detail shot. We put the focus point on the pink pen's writing.
Another detail shot. We put the focus point on the pink pen's writing.

Using manual exposure settings on this heavily overcast day. This was taken with a 1/50th of a second shutter speed while handheld.
Using manual exposure settings on this heavily overcast day. This was taken with a 1/50th of a second shutter speed while handheld.

The 18-55mm kit lens is not the quickest of lenses when it comes to focusing, and a lot of the time we found that the lens searched for a focus point without settling. We either had to select a focus point manually, or switch to manual focus mode and move the focus ring until our subject came into focus. In Live View mode, where you can use the LCD screen to frame your shots instead of the viewfinder, the autofocus was again slow. This is one of the things to be aware of if you choose the kit that has the 18-55mm lens, as it can make for a frustrating user experience.

The camera allows you to change focus points manually, which can help the camera focus a little quicker.
The camera allows you to change focus points manually, which can help the camera focus a little quicker.

Moving the focus point to the rear subject.
Moving the focus point to the rear subject.

Conclusion

The bottom line with the EOS 1200D is that it's not a digital SLR camera to go for if you are looking for anything more than a beginner's model. Its relatively simplistic controls and no frills physical design are no match for experienced hands, but they are acceptable if this is to be your first DSLR. And the main point is that it's an affordable entry point into digital SLR photography and the Canon camp, with the single-lens kit we've reviewed here costing about $600 from a camera store such as Teds (in New Zealand the body alone costs $600 from the likes of JB Hi-Fi). As you get more involved, you can buy better lenses for it, and then eventually upgrade to a better body while holding onto the same lenses.

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