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Canon EOS Rebel T2i Review

How Does it Compare?

Canon's Digital Rebel models have always been the leaders in the entry-level D-SLR category, and that tradition continues with the EOS Rebel T2i. This 18 Megapixel camera features excellent photo quality (even at high ISOs), a compact, well-designed body, a gorgeous 3-inch LCD display, snappy performance, and a Full HD movie mode. There aren't many downsides: Images are on the soft side, especially if you're using an inexpensive lens. Redeye is a problem, and there's no tool to remove it in playback mode (in fact, there really aren't any editing tools in playback mode). The continuous shooting mode could be better and, like other D-SLRs, contrast detect autofocus in live view mode is sluggish. Despite a few flaws -- many of which were also on the Rebel T1i -- the EOS Rebel T2i is an entry-level digital SLR that should not be ignored.

The Rebel T2i looks a lot like its predecessor from most angles, with the biggest differences found on the back. It's a compact D-SLR with a stainless steel frame covered with a composite shell. Build quality is good in most respects. One beef I've had with the Rebel series for a long time are their small right hand grips. That hasn't changed here, so if you have large hands, you may want to try the camera out in person before you buy it. The T2i features a whopping 18 Megapixel CMOS sensor that is quite similar to the one found on the EOS-7D, which costs nearly twice as much. As with all D-SLRs in 2010, there's a dust reduction system to keep spots from appearing on your photos. The T2i supports all Canon EF and EF-S mount lenses, with a 1.6X focal length conversion ratio. Since the camera does not have built-in image stabilization, you'll need to buy lenses that come with it (though don't worry, Canon makes plenty). On the back of the camera you'll find the biggest change since the T1i (aside from the sensor), and that's the T2i's stunning 3-inch LCD display. This LCD packs 1.04 million pixels, and it's the sharpest screen I've ever seen. It also has a 3:2 ratio -- the same as the photos the camera is taking -- instead of the usual 4:3 ratio found on other D-SLRs. The Rebel T2i is quite expandable, with support for wired or wireless remotes, an external stereo microphone, and a battery grip.

This latest Rebel has the usual mix of point-and-shoot and enthusiast features. If you want to "set it and forget it", just use the Auto mode. There are several popular scene modes to choose from, as well (though Canon didn't go overboard like a lot of other manufacturers). If you want to dabble in manual controls, you can use the Creative Auto mode to set the aperture and exposure, without having to know what either of those things are. Manual controls include the usual shutter and aperture controls, plus focus and white balance. The latter can be fine-tuned or bracketed, but not set via color temperature. Naturally, the Rebel T2i supports the RAW image format, and Canon includes some very capable software to work with those files. Another nice part of the software package is Remote Capture, which lets you control the T2i from your Mac or PC. The camera's playback mode is very basic, with hardly any editing options -- just image rotation and movie trimming.

Speaking of movies, let's talk about the Rebel's awesome movie mode for a minute. You can record video at Full HD -- that's 1920 x 1080 at either 25 or 30 frames/second -- for up to 12 continuous minutes, with monaural sound. Should you want stereo sound, you need only attach an external mic to the appropriate port on the side of the camera. You can use the optical zoom while you're recording, though autofocus is not continuous (you can press the shutter release to refocus at any time). Lower resolutions are also available, including 1280 x 720, 640 x 480, and a rather strange 640 x 480 crop mode, which applies 7X digital zoom (and nothing in-between). The camera can record movies with automatic exposure, or you can take matters into your own hands and adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.

Camera performance is very good in most areas. The Rebel T2i is ready to start taking photos as soon as you hit the power switch, though you may want to wait for it to finish running its dust removal cycle first. When shooting with the optical viewfinder, you'll get very good autofocus speeds. In live view mode, focus speeds will increase. With the Quick AF mode, they're a bit longer than they would be with the viewfinder. The two live AF modes are quite sluggish, and can result in focus times of 1 - 3 seconds. The camera focusing fairly well in low light situations, provided that you've popped up the flash, which is used as an AF-assist lamp. Shutter lag is not an issue, except in live view mode where it's barely noticeable. Shot-to-shot speeds are very quick, regardless of the image quality setting or whether you're using live view. The T2i's continuous shooting mode is average, with the ability to take six RAW or twenty-four JPEG photos in a row at 3.3 frames/second. Battery life is also right in the middle, though you can double it by picking up the optional battery grip. This grip supports both the proprietary lithium-ion batteries normally used by the T2i, as well as easy-to-find AAs.

Photo quality was very good, though you'll want to use a good quality lens to get the most out of the Rebel T2i. While the kit lens and things like the new 18-135 are fine for "regular folks", enthusiasts will want to buy some higher quality glass for sharper photos. The T2i's exposures are generally very accurate though, like most D-SLRs these days, it will clip highlights at times. Color saturation is average at default settings, though you can mae things a lot more "punchy" by fooling with the Picture Styles feature. Images are on the soft side straight out of the camera, which is a combination of Canon's conservation in-camera sharpening (which is adjustable) and the aforementioned fact that you need good glass with this high resolution D-SLR. The Rebel T2i performs very well at high ISOs, especially when you consider its 18 Megapixel resolution. You can safely shoot at ISO 1600 in low light and ISO 3200 in good light, without having to worry about noise or detail loss. The higher sensitivities do have both of those, but shooting in RAW will get back some detail and make those sensitivities more usable. One unfortunate tradition the Rebel series has is a problem with redeye, and that continues on the T2i (and there's no way to remove it in playback mode).

In case you haven't noticed, I'm a fan of the EOS Rebel T2i. I brought it with me on vacation and it produced some fantastic photos that will soon be hanging on my wall. Sure, there's some room for improvement, but the Rebel T2i does what it does very well. I can highly recommend the Rebel T2i to just about everyone, though you may want to save that tax refund for some nice lenses, as they'll allow you to get the most out of the camera!

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality
  • Excellent high ISO performance, especially considering the 18 Megapixel resolution of the camera
  • Compact, well-designed body
  • Ultra-high resolution 3-inch LCD with 3:2 aspect ratio
  • Fast startup, focus, shot-to-shot times
  • Full manual controls, with support for RAW image format
  • Full HD movie recording with full manual controls and several resolutions/frame rates to choose from
  • Auto Lighting Optimizer brightens shadows; highlight tone priority improves highlight detail
  • Remote capture software included; supports live view and movie recording
  • Optional battery grip (that supports AA batteries, too)
  • HDMI and external microphone ports

What I didn't care for:

  • JPEGs are soft at default settings; good lenses needed for best results
  • Redeye a problem; no way to remove it in playback mode
  • Small right hand grip not for everyone
  • Outdoor LCD visibility could be better
  • Sluggish contrast detect autofocus in live view
  • Continuous shooting mode could be better
  • Very basic playback mode
  • Wireless flash control would've been nice

Some other D-SLRs worth considering include the Nikon D5000, Olympus E-620, Pentax K-x, and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A550. You may also be interested in the even more compact, mirrorless Panasonic Lumix DMC-G10 and Samsung NX10.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local camera or electronics store to try out the Rebel T2i and its competitors before you buy!

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.