It's been a full three years since Canon last put out an entry-level DSLR camera, but in 2014 it's back in business with the EOS 1200D. The replacement for 2011's 1100D, the 1200D is all about the balance of price to performance.

Three years has seen the rise of resolution and here the 1200D follows suit with an 18-megapixel CMOS sensor, similar to that found in its 100D cousin. It's not so much the quality that differs between those three models as it is features, build and performance.

READ: Canon EOS 100D review

With the 1200D you get a sturdy, albeit plasticky in appearance, build that delivers decent performance when using the viewfinder. If the thought of using an optical viewfinder is a deterrent to you then this probably won't be the camera for you.

We found the nine-point diamond-shaped array when looking through the eyecup covered a decent enough portion of the frame and, considering it's entry-level, was really fast too. It whipped into focus in a room where light was rapidly fading, acquiring focus with no problems. The focus point being used will also flash red to visually confirm that you're good to press the shutter.

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Pop the camera into live preview mode, however, and it's a different story. This is where the rear screen can be used to compose shots, but autofocus is stuck in the past here - it's really slow to the point we can't see a huge amount of use for it. Like we say, if you want to compose using the screen then you're better off taking a look at a compact system camera rather than this particular DSLR.

But if you're willing to learn then Canon has gone down an interesting path with the 1200D. Unlike Nikon's take of having an in-camera Guide mode in the D3300, Canon has opted for a companion app for Android and iOS that can help educate and instruct you about how the camera works, in addition to general shooting and camera knowledge.

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We had a preview of the iOS app and it seemed like an interesting delivery of an interactive manual. We'd have liked some more interaction and some more visuals to really set it off, but as a starting point it's a decent platform to assist with those things that you want to learn about. And as your phone is always with you, we'd wager it will always be to hand to look at should you need to.

But there are one or two things we don't like about the 1200D. Take its optical viewfinder, for example, which offers a 95 per cent field of view. This means to outer five per cent of the frame can't be seen when composing, but is captured when pressing the shutter button. It's hard to truly moan about this, however, as it's a commonplace standard in many DSLR cameras.

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And we can forgive it for the price. With the basic kit lens the 1200D will set you back £399, while the image-stabilised kit lens option comes in at £449. Nikon's equivalent is £599, so that's food for thought.

Elsewhere Canon has improved other features, such as the rear LCD screen. It's 3-inches and has a 460k-dot resolution, making it both larger and more resolute than that of its predecessor. Good to see it keeping up with the times, although there's no touchscreen or tilt-angle bracket to be found - nor did we expect there to be at this price point.

When it comes to DSLR cameras, if you've been thinking of getting one to get all the benefits of viewfinder-based shooting, but are on a tight budget, then the Canon EOS 1200D is a decent, affordable offering well worth a look. It's the price point that will float this model above and beyond anything else, and for the money there's plenty of performance power on offer here.