DSLR cameras were once seen as these big, beastly pro-spec machines that you wouldn't want to lay hands on unless you had an encyclopaedic knowledge of photography. How times have changed, eh?

The Canon EOS 200D is an interesting small-scale DSLR, designed for beginners. It arrives at a time when mirrorless models - such as Canon's own EOS M6 - are arguably the more prolific cameras to buy, thanks to their speedy screen-based or viewfinder-based autofocus.

The Canon 200D - which replaces the 100D, as released back in 2013 - finds itself at the intersection between mirrorless and DSLR. While technically speaking it's the latter camera type, many of its features - the vari-angle LCD and touchscreen control, plus Dual Pixel AF for speedy on-screen autofocus - will make it a viable alternative to buying a mirrorless.

Which is exactly why we're surprised that the 200D exists. We're glad it does, though. To us, this camera is the exact reason to not buy a Canon EOS M-series mirrorless. Why? Because it has heaps more EF lenses directly compatible, it's got an easier-to-use Guided UI user interface system to help with taking the shot you want, and it's got an optical viewfinder that a mirrorless camera can't utilise.

Is the EOS 200D the best first-time DSLR ever? And is it worth its £650 asking price?

  • Small and lightweight design
  • Guided UI user interface for beginners
  • Vari-angle LCD screen and built-in viewfinder
  • Available in black, white or silver finishes

In pictures the EOS 200D might look like any other DSLR. Canon likes to think its less "daunting" to use thanks to a different and supposedly simpler button layout compared to what you'll find on other Canon DSLR cameras - but, realistically, those ISO, Av+/-, Q Set buttons and M, Av, Tv and P options on the top dial will more than likely have newcomers scratching their heads.

Pocket-lintCanon EOS 200D image 10

Which is where Guided UI comes into play. If you're shooting through the viewfinder, then the camera's rear screen is used to show you what the selected mode actually does. In Av mode (that's aperture priority in Canon speak) it shows the number value relative to "for more background blur" as an example, which is a snappy and useful way to decipher the camera's features and grow into it. Shame the user interface is slow as heck to respond, but the principle idea is great.

The other thing that really helps to break down barriers is that vari-angle touchscreen. It doesn't have to be fixed vertically to the rear of the camera, which is great for pulling it away from the body to use it in over-head or low-level situations for more creative shots. Because using the camera in live view mode will show everything in real-time on the screen, without necessitating the need to look through the viewfinder (although that's also an option, which is handy in bright sunlight of when steadying against-the-face shots can be useful).

  • Dual Pixel AF for on-screen autofocus
  • 9-point AF for viewfinder-based autofocus
  • Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth LE for sharing (downloadable app available)

The ability to simply tap on the screen to focus will work a treat for those more used to shooting with, say, a mobile phone. A clear focus point appears on the screen, with tracking AF even able to follow a subject around to some degree.

Pocket-lintCanon EOS 200D image 6

It's this Dual Pixel AF system - the same as you'll find in the EOS 80D - which works to deliver quick autofocus. It's fast enough to rival Canon's mirrorless range, which, to us, almost muscles out the need to consider an EOS M model. The focus types in the 200D aren't as complex as something like the Panasonic Lumix G80, but it's still a fast and efficient system.

For viewfinder-based autofocus the system is as basic as Canon now offers: it's a 9-point autofocus setup, arranged in a diamond pattern to the centre of the capture area, which can be used in its full arrangement or a specific point can be user-selected. It's just as quick, if not quicker, than when shooting via the screen - it's only the low number of focus points that make this system less versatile than Canon's higher-end DSLR models. In this instance, for the beginner level, that's really no problem. 

  • 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor
  • Digic 7 processor
  • 1080p video capture

Beneath the 200D's exterior is a tried and tested 24.2-megapixel APS-C sensor. Those caps denote its size: this is a large sensor, which is useful when it comes to overall quality, low-light capture ability and enhancing that blurred background (bokeh) effect for more pro-looking shots.

Pocket-lintCanon EOS 200D image 9

What's interesting about that sensor is it's the same as you'll find in, say, the EOS 77D or EOS 80D - both of which are cameras far higher up the Canon ranks and, thus, image quality shouldn't be any different (assuming like-for-like lenses). And that means the 200D is all about great quality.

Lenses will matter, of course, which is where the £580 body-only price can creep up. With a basic 18-55mm zoom lens the 200D increases to £650. If you were to buy a more professional lens - whether one with a far longer reach to capture far-away subjects, or something more pro-spec in terms of maximum aperture for extra blurred backgrounds - then it could double the cost of the camera.

Most people, we suspect, will buy into this mini DSLR and use it with the lens provided. Which is fine, as it does a good enough job in a portable package. Plus the ability to expand is one of the strong points of the EOS DSLR range and its EF lenses.

Pocket-lintCanon EOS 200D image 2

Now, we haven't been able to take away sample shots from the test 200D we were provided, so can't critically comment on its results just yet - but anticipate decent results, akin to the 77D/800D, when it arrives in July 2017.

First Impressions

We genuinely weren't expecting Canon to launch a 100D replacement model because of the potential cross-over this has with the company's EOS M mirrorless series. But we're really glad to see the 200D because it represents Canon's strong suit in a small-scale, easy-to-use and more versatile system with access to heaps of lenses. It's an ideal DSLR for the first-time shooter.

Its potential issue is its price. At £650 it's not hyper expensive, all things considered, but the Panasonic Lumix G80 is available for £699 with a lens - and that has a more comprehensive focus system plus 4K video capture and additional modes. Sure, the Panasonic doesn't have an optical finder like the Canon, while first-timers might find its button-heavy layout more daunting, but it's a strong alternative that can't be ignored.

But if it's a DSLR you want then we think Canon's served up a potentially great one in the EOS 200D. And, in doing so, it's only marginalised its not-so-hot EOS M mirrorless series all the more. Swings and roundabouts.

The Canon EOS 200D will go on sale in July 2017, priced £580 body-only, £650 with the 18-55mm DC kit lens, and £700 with the 18-55mm STM kit lens.