DCRP

Canon EOS Rebel T4i Review

Performance & Photo Quality

The Canon EOS Rebel T4i is a very responsive camera in most respects. It will definitely lag in the live view focusing department, especially if you're using a non-STM lens (which isn't hard to do, seeing how there are only two such lenses). Here's a summary of its performance:

Timing Measured Performance How it Compares
Startup 1.3 sec * Below average
Autofocus
(Normal light)
0.1 - 0.3 sec (W)
0.3 - 0.6 sec (T)
Average
Autofocus
(Low light)
~ 1 sec (viewfinder)
2+ secs (live view)
Average
Autofocus
(Live view)
0.5 - 1.5 secs (STM lens)
1.0 - 2.0 secs (non-STM lens)
Above average
Shutter lag Not noticeable Average
Shot-to-shot
(JPEG, no flash)
~ 1 sec Average
Shot-to-shot
(RAW, no flash)
~ 1 sec Above average
Shot-to-shot
(with flash)
~ 1.5 secs Above average
* With dust reduction turned off

With the exception of its startup time, the T4i puts down numbers that are average or better. I'd recommend using live view for static subjects only, except if you're using one of the STM lenses. Even then, shooting with the viewfinder will be a lot more responsive.

The Rebel T4i has just one burst mode, which makes it easy for me to tell you about it. Canon says that you can shoot at 5 frames/second, up from 3.7 frames/second on the T3i. Here's what I was able to get out of my camera:

Image quality Measured performance
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG 3 shots @ 5.0 frames/sec
RAW 6 shots @ 5.0 frames/sec
Large/Fine JPEG 20 shots @ 5.0 frames/sec
Tested with a SanDisk Class 10 UHS-I SDHC card

The T4i hits its promised burst rate of 5 frames/second, but the skimpy amount of buffer memory fills quickly, especially if RAW images are involved. The camera doesn't stop shooting when the limits shown above are reached -- things just slow down (especially for RAW).

Alright, enough numbers -- let's move onto photo quality now. All of these test photos were taken with the 18 - 135 mm STM kit lens.

The Rebel T4i (with 18-135 STM lens attached) absolutely nailed our macro test. Colors look are nice and saturated, with no sign of the color casts that often show up under our studio lamps. Plenty of detail is captured here, down to individual specs of dust. There's no noise to be found, and I certainly wouldn't expect any.

The minimum distance to your subject will depend on the lens you're using. The 18 - 135 mm kit lens' minimum distance is 39 cm, while the 18 - 55 mm kit lens is a bit closer at 25 cm. If you're a serious macro shooter, you may want to consider one of Canon's dedicated macro lenses (many of the product shots on this site are taken with the 60mm EF-S lens).

Aside from a noticeable brown color cast, the Rebel T4i's rendition of the San Francisco skyline looks pretty good. You can obtain proper exposure by either using manual controls (like I did) or by using the auto or scene modes. While there's some highlight clipping here, it's not too bad. The buildings are a tad bit soft, which is something that I noticed with this particular lens. There's no noise to see here, nor would I expect to see any. Much to my surprise, there's very little purple fringing here, and that's with the chromatic aberration correction turned off (which is, again, the default setting).

Let's use that same scene to see how the T4i performed at high sensitivities in low light!


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

There's almost no change between ISO 100 and 400 -- everything's nice and clean. At ISO 800 we spot a little bit of noise, though details remain intact. Fine details do start getting smudged away at ISO 1600, though the photo is still quite usable for mid-sized or perhaps large prints. I would definitely put the brakes on at ISO 3200, saving that sensitivity for small prints only (or switch over to RAW -- more on that below). Things get pretty noisy at ISO 6400, and there's way too much detail lost at ISO 12800 for that setting to be usable.

I just mentioned switching to RAW, so let's see how using this image format can improve the quality of your photos. I converted the RAW images with Adobe Photoshop's Camera Raw plug-in, cleaned up noise in NeatImage, then applied a little unsharp mask. Here's how the ISO 3200 and 6400 photos turned out after that treatment:

ISO 3200

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.7 RC1)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
 
ISO 6400

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 6.7 RC1)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

As you can see, there's more detail and less highlight clipping after spending about 30 seconds per image in Photoshop. Both the ISO 3200 and 6400 photos have gone from mushy to usable -- at least for smaller-sized prints. By the way, shooting RAW also makes it pretty easy to get rid of color casts like the one you've seen above.

We'll do this test again in normal lighting in just a moment.

As you can probably tell, the Rebel T4i had some pretty big problems with redeye. Canon relies on its anemic redeye reduction lamp to do the job, and it just doesn't work. Since there's no removal tool available in playback mode, you'll have to fix this problem on your PC. By the way, using an external flash would most likely eliminate this phenomenon.

The 18 - 135 mm kit lens has quite a bit of barrel distortion at its wide end (you can see how the 18-55 lens performed here), and you can really see the effects of that by looking at the building on the right side of this photo. The 18-135 did not have any major problems with corner blurring or vignetting.

Above is our now-familiar studio test scene. Since this scene is taken under consistent lighting, you can compare this photo against those from cameras I've reviewed previously. Keep in mind that since the crops below only show a small portion of the scene, you'll want to view the full size images too. And with that, let's travel through the fully expanded ISO range of 100 - 25600:


ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 12800

ISO 25600 (H)

Everything is very clean, albeit slightly soft, through ISO 800. At ISO 1600 we pick up a tiny bit of noise, but it does not concern me. There's a bit more noise at ISO 3200, but again, there's not enough to prevent you from making a mid-sized or large print at that sensitivity. At ISO 6400 it's time to think about stopping, or switching to the RAW format, as details are starting to get a bit mottled. I'd save ISO 12800 for desperation only (at least for JPEGs), and would avoid ISO 25600 (the "high" setting) altogether.

Let's see if we can make the ISO 6400 and 12800 images look a bit nicer by shooting RAW and performing some noise reduction:

ISO 6400

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 7.2 RC)

RAW -> JPEG + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask
 
ISO 12800

JPEG, straight out of the camera

RAW -> JPEG conversion (Adobe Camera Raw 7.2 RC)

RAW -> JPEG conversion + NeatImage + Unsharp Mask

Sure enough, there's a noticeable improvement to be had by shooting RAW, especially at ISO 12800, where you get back a lot of detail that was lost in the mushy JPEG. I tried this trick at ISO 25600, but did not feel that the results were usable.

But wait -- there's another way to improve high ISO photo quality, and that's by using the camera's Multi Frame noise reduction system. This option can be found in the High ISO Noise Reduction settings menu, and is for JPEGs only. The camera takes four exposures in a row, and layers them into a single image with less noise than a standard JPEG. Here are samples taken at ISO 6400 and 12800 (the same as for the RAW comparison) that show this feature in action:

ISO 6400

JPEG, standard noise reduction

JPEG, Multi Frame NR
 
ISO 12800

JPEG, standard noise reduction

JPEG, Multi Frame NR

You can see that Multi Frame NR does indeed produce photos with less noise than regular JPEGs. They're on the soft side, though, so you'll probably want to sharpen them up in Photoshop. At that point you might as well just shoot RAW, as those images retain more detail than what you see above. So, unless you really want a point-and-shoot noise reduction experience, I'd probably opt for RAW instead.

[Multi Frame NR discussion added 10/2/12]

Overall, the EOS Rebel T4i produces photos of very good quality, which wasn't a big surprise to this reviewer. There were a few issues that popped up, but most of them are related to the lens. In terms of exposure, the T4i was generally accurate, with just occasional overexposure. It will clip highlights at times (this photo has some evidence), so using the highlight tone priority feature in those situations isn't a bad idea. Colors are nice and vivid, with the white balance system handling most situations with ease (with notable exceptions of the night shots above and the church interior). Photos are a tiny bit soft, which is likely a combination of the 18 - 135 mm lens that I used and the relatively light amount of sharpening applied by the camera (hint: use Picture Styles to crank it up). Noise is kept in check until you hit ISO 3200 in low light, and ISO 6400 in good light. As I demonstrated above, you can get better results at high sensitivities by shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing in Photoshop. Purple fringing depends largely on the lens you're using, with the 18-135 STM lens, it can be quite noticeable at times. Thankfully, there's the chromatic aberration reduction feature, which is strangely off by default on the T4i -- turning this on eliminates the purple fringing problem.

Now, it's your turn to evaluate the T4i's photo quality. Check out our photo gallery -- maybe printing a few of the images if you'd like -- and then decide if the T4i's image quality meets your needs!

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