Canon EOS Rebel T4i Review
Canon's EOS Rebel T4i (also known as the EOS-650D) is their flagship entry-level digital SLR (if there is such a thing). It packs many of the features found in Canon's more expensive bodies into a more compact package and adds touchscreen functionality as well as a new Hybrid CMOS AF system. The T4i's body may be mostly plastic, but it doesn't feel cheap. The only real design-related thing some folks may not like (myself included) is the small right hand grip). The camera can be controlled via its numerous buttons, or directly on its 3-inch, rotating LCD display, which packs 1.04 million pixels. Normally I don't care for touchscreen on cameras, but Canon has done a great job here. In addition to the usual touch focus/shutter features, there are menus that can actually be operated by people with larger fingers, and phone-like pinch-to-zoom and swiping gestures in playback mode. Those who prefer using an optical viewfinder will find the one on the T4i to be average in all respects. The Rebel T4i supports all Canon EF and EF-S lenses with a 1.5x crop factor -- same as on the Rebels that came before it. The T4i supports external flashes via its hot shoe or wirelessly using the built-in flash as the master.
There's certainly no shortage of features on the Rebel T4i. Those of you who don't want to have to adjust anything can just put the camera into Scene Intelligent Auto mode and let the camera do the rest. If you want a bit more control, there's Creative Auto mode, where you can change the "ambiance" and "background", which are code words for "Picture Style" and "aperture". There are a couple of scene modes as well, including new Handheld Night Scene and HDR modes. The former lets you take blur-free photos in very low light (though its best suited for small prints), while the latter produces much better photos in heavily back-lit situations. Another handy feature for improving dynamic range is highlight tone priority, which is buried in the custom settings menu. Should you encounter highlight clipping, it's worth turning that feature on. If manual controls are your thing, then you'll find plenty, including those for exposure, white balance, focus, and two types of bracketing. The Rebel can produce 14-bit RAW images, as well. As I touched on above, photos can be composed via the optical viewfinder, or on the LCD display. The T4i's live view feature is pretty good, offering touch control, a live histogram (though it blocks way too much of the frame), grid lines, and face detection. You can choose from contrast or phase detect autofocus, with the former only being usable (for anything but still lifes) with an STM lens. The Rebel T4i also has a nice movie mode, recording at 1080/24p or 30p with stereo sound, continuous AF (again, best with STM lenses), and manual controls.
Camera performance is mixed. The Rebel T4i's 1.3 second startup time is a bit slow for a digital SLR. Focus times depend on the lens you're using, the chosen focus mode, and lighting conditions. When shooting with the optical viewfinder, the T4i offers robust performance. Live view is a different story. With an STM lens in good light, the camera will focus in 0.5 - 1.5 seconds, which is better than your typical D-SLR, but nowhere near as quick as a mirrorless camera. Without an STM lens, live view focus times are about twice as long. In low light, all bets are off -- I'd recommend using Quick AF with the flash popped up (to act as the AF-assist lamp) in those situations. Shutter lag wasn't an issue, and shot-to-shot delays were minimal. Continuous shooting speeds are quite good (5 frames/second), but the buffer fills very quickly, especially when RAW images are involved. Battery life on the T4i is quite a bit below average compared to other D-SLRs in its price range.
I was happy with most of the photos that I took with the Rebel T4i. Exposure was generally accurate, with occasional highlight clipping and mild overexposure. Colors are nice and punchy most of the time, though in both my church interior and night shots, there was a pretty noticeable brownish cast. Photos are a tad bit soft, at least with the 18 - 135 mm STM lens that I used for this review. You can turn up the in-camera sharpening by using the Picture Styles feature, if you wish. The T4i keeps noise levels very low until you reach ISO 3200 in low light, and ISO 6400 in normal light. You can extend the usable sensitivity range of the camera by shooting RAW and doing some easy post-processing in Photoshop. I quickly noticed that there was quite a bit of purple fringing in the photos I took with the 18 - 135 mm lens, and an astute reader pointed out the chromatic aberration reduction feature. For some reason, this feature is off by default, and I strongly recommend turning it on to reduce this phenomenon. Something there's no cure for is redeye, which was very strong on the T4i. Since there's no real removal tool on the camera, you'll have to fix it on your computer.
Just when you thought that Canon couldn't refine the already excellent Rebel T3i any further, the T4i arrived. Canon has managed to improve live view autofocus, though only with new STM lenses, and add touchscreen functionality that's actually useful. Add in the impressive photo quality, numerous auto and manual controls, and HD movie mode, and they've got yet another winner in the entry-level D-SLR class. As always, there's room for improvement, but for those looking for a full-featured yet responsibly priced D-SLR, then the Rebel T4i is well worth checking out.
What I liked:
- Very good photo quality, with low noise levels through ISO 3200/6400 (low/normal light)
- Super-sharp 3-inch touchscreen LCD can flip to the side and rotate 270 degrees
- Useful touchscreen functions include focus, shutter, and menus in record mode; pinch-to-zoom and swiping makes playback mode a pleasure
- Live view AF performance is noticeably improved when using STM lenses
- Tons of manual controls, including 14-bit RAW support
- Two auto modes: Scene Intelligent (totally point-and-shoot) and Creative (offers some controls)
- Highlight tone and HDR features improve contrast (especially the latter)
- Continuous shooting at 5 frames/sec
- Built-in wireless flash control
- Records Full HD video at 24p/30p with stereo sound, continuous AF, and plenty of manual controls
- Stereo mic input
- Optional battery grip, wired and wireless remotes
What I didn't care for:
- Photos a bit soft, at least with the 18 - 135 mm kit lens
- Brownish color cast in a few situations (mixed/artificial lighting)
- Chromatic aberration correction should be on by default
- Strong redeye, no removal tool in playback mode
- Live view AF performance still very slow with non-STM lenses; poor performance in low light regardless of the lens
- Buffer fills quickly in burst mode (especially for RAW)
- Below average battery life
- Right hand grip may be too small for some
Some other D-SLRs to consider include the Nikon D5100, Pentax K-30, and Sony Alpha SLT-A57. It may be worth looking at the Olympus E-PL5, Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5, and Samsung NX20 mirrorless cameras, as well.
As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out the EOS Rebel T4i and its competitors before you buy!
Check out our Rebel T4i photo gallery to see how the EOS Rebel T4i performs in real life!