Canon EOS Rebel T2i Review
Originally Posted: April 16, 2010
Last Updated: April 24, 2011
The Canon EOS Rebel T2i ($899 with lens) is an entry-level digital SLR that doesn't skimp on features or performance. This camera, which is the follow-up to the popular Rebel T1i (which continues to be sold), borrows a lot of from the $1699 EOS-7D, and shrinks it down (literally and figuratively) into a consumer-friendly $899 camera plus lens kit. Some of the features "borrowed" from the 7D included a nearly identical 18 Megapixel CMOS sensor, a new 63-zone metering system, a wide ISO range, Full HD movie recording with manual controls, a new Quick Control button, and more.
Just how much of a step up is the Rebel T2i over the T1i that came before it? Have a look at this:
It isn't easy to top the Rebel T1i, which was one of the best entry-level digital SLRs, but Canon has managed to do it -- at least on paper. Ready to see how it performs in the real world? Keep reading, as our review starts right now!
Since the two cameras have a lot in common, portions of the Rebel T1i review have been reused here. The EOS Rebel T2i is also known as the EOS-550D and Kiss X4 Digital in some countries.
What's in the Box?
There are officially two kits for the Rebel T2i: one with the body only ($799), and another with the Canon F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm kit lens ($899). If history is any indication, you'll probably see a two lens kit at warehouse stores like Costco at some point this year. Here's what you'll find in the box for the two official kits:
- The 18.0 effective Megapixel EOS Rebel T2i camera body
- F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm EF-S IS lens [lens kit only]
- LP-E8 lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Body cap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROMs featuring EOS Digital Solution software and documentation
- 258 page camera manual (printed)
If you bought the lens kit, then you'll find the F3.5.5-6, 18 - 55 mm IS lens in the box. This lens is decent by kit lens standards, though certainly not spectacular. It produces fairly sharp images, though you will find some occasional corner blurring. It's quite light (being nearly all plastic) and I'm not a huge fan of the manual focus ring at the end of the lens. Should you want to use another lens, you can choose from over sixty Canon lenses -- both EF and EF-S. There will be a 1.6X focal length conversion ratio to keep in mind, of course.
As is always the case with digital SLRs, there's no built-in memory on the Rebel T2i, nor is there a memory card included. That means that, unless you already have one, you'll want to pick up an SD, SDHC, or SDXC card right away. I'd suggest a 4GB card at the very minimum, and movie enthusiasts should go at least twice as large. Buying a high speed card (Class 6 or higher) is strongly recommended.
The Rebel T2i uses the new LP-E8 lithium-ion battery, which contains 8.1 Wh of energy. This battery provides about 18% higher battery life than then LP-E5 that was used by the Rebel T1i. Here's how the T2i compares to other entry-level D-SLRs in the battery life department:
The Sony Alpha DSLR-A550 really throws things off, due to its exceptional battery life. In the group as a whole, the T2i's numbers are about 10% below average. Those numbers are with live view turned off (except for the Panasonic and Samsung, of course) -- if you use live view exclusively on the Rebel T2i, you can expect to get around 180 shots per charge, which isn't great.
With the exception of the AA-based Pentax K-x, all of the cameras in that table use proprietary lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are usually expensive (a spare LP-E8 will set you back around $60), and you can't use off-the-shelf batteries when your rechargeable runs out of juice. Well, that's not completely true...
The optional BG-E8 battery grip. Image courtesy of Canon USA
... because if you have the T2i's optional battery grip -- the BG-E8 -- you have your choice of proprietary or AA batteries. The grip can hold two LP-E8 or six AA batteries, giving you double the battery life of the camera alone. And, as with all grips, you get additional buttons for shooting in the portrait orientation.
When it's time to charge the LP-E8, just pop it into the included charger. This is a pretty fast charger, taking about two hours to perform a full charge in most situations. My charger came with a power cord, though yours may plug directly into the wall.
Digital SLRs support a ton of accessories, and the table below covers just a selection of those available for the Rebel T2i:
Those are just the items that I found the most interesting. There are also plenty of viewfinder accessories, various specialty flashes, and an Original Data Security Kit (for law enforcement).
EOS Utility - Main Screen
Canon includes version 22.0 of their EOS Digital Solutions Disk with the Rebel T2i. The first application that you'll probably run into is EOS Utility, which is sort of a gateway to all the other software programs. Here you can download photos from your camera, use remote capture (described later), adjust camera settings, or monitor a folder (used with the optional Wireless File Transmitter).
ImageBrowser in Mac OS X
Once photos have been transferred to your Mac or PC, you'll have two options for organizing and editing them.
The "consumer-friendly" option for viewing images is ImageBrowser (for Mac) and ZoomBrowser (for Windows). On the main screen, you get the usual thumbnail view, with quick access to image e-mailing, printing, editing, and slideshows.
Double-click on a JPEG image and you'll bring up the photo in its own window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment feature, for those who don't mess with all those controls.
The Browser software can be used to view RAW images, but that's about it. You cannot edit or convert the camera's RAW files to other formats. For that you'll need...
Digital Photo Professional in Mac OS X
... Digital Photo Professional! The main screen isn't too much different from Image/ZoomBrowser, with your choice of three thumbnail sizes, plus a thumbnail & shooting data screen. The batch processing tool lets you quickly resize and rename a large number of photos.
RAW editing in Digital Photo Professional
The RAW editing tools in DPP are quite robust. Basic properties you can edit include exposure, white balance, the tone curve, Picture Style, saturation, and sharpness. In addition to adjusting the basics that I described above, DPP also lets you tweak color tone, saturation, the tone curve, both luminance and chrominance noise, and lens aberration (such as distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing).
If you're a Photoshop user, then you'll want to have version 5.7 or greater of the Camera Raw plug-in in order to edit the T2i's RAW files.
So what's the deal with RAW, anyway? RAW images contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's sensor. Thus, you can adjust settings like white balance and exposure without damaging the original image, so it's almost like taking the photo again. The downside is the large file size (compared to JPEG), fewer shots in continuous shooting mode, and the need to post-process each image on your computer before you can turn it into a more common format like JPEG.
Remote camera control, complete with live view
Back when I mentioned EOS Utility, I said that it supports remote capture, so here's some more detail on this handy feature (which, might I add, doesn't cost extra). This software you control the camera right from your computer, with access to most camera settings. The live view feature is fully supported, complete with a histogram, composition grid, and the ability to enlarge the frame and manually tweak focus. Photos are saved directly to your computer, though they can be stored on the camera too, if you wish.
You can also take movies using Remote Capture, though the files are initially stored on the camera. When you're done recording, the software will allow you to copy the video files over to your PC.
Remote Capture also lets you set up the My Menu feature (more on that later), and it can also be used to send Picture Styles that you've created to the camera. The Picture Style editor (another piece of software) lets you open up a RAW image, adjust color, the tone curve, contrast, and sharpness, and then save the results as a new Style.
Though it's an entry-level camera, the EOS Rebel T2i is still a complex product, which means that you'll need a good manual to go along with it. Canon includes a printed manual that is very detailed -- certain to answer any question you may have -- though it's not what I'd call user-friendly. The only exception is the Quick Reference section, which is strangely located at the back of the book. Documentation for the bundled software is installed onto your Mac or PC.