Originally Posted: September 30, 2012
Last Updated: October 3, 2012
The EOS Rebel T4i (from $849) is Canon's latest entry-level digital SLR, and the replacement to last year's Rebel T3i. The biggest change on the new T4i is related to autofocus. When shooting with the viewfinder, there's a new 9-point, all cross-type AF sensor, which improves focus speed and accuracy. When using live view, Canon's new Hybrid CMOS AF system uses both contrast and phase detection, which also offers better accuracy and performance (which I'll test later in the review).
Other changes include the new DIGIC 5 image processor, faster continuous shooting, a touchscreen LCD, continuous autofocus in movie mode, and much more. The Rebel T4i retains the same 18 Megapixel resolution (though the sensors are different) and 3-inch LCD size of its predecessor.
Speaking of which, the chart below compares last year's Rebel T3i with Canon's latest and greatest T4i:
So there you have it the differences between the Rebel T3i and T4i. I'll many of the new features in more depth as this review progresses. Speaking of which, let's get the review started!
The EOS Rebel T4i is known as the EOS-650D in some countries.
What's in the Box?
Officially, the Rebel T4i is available in three kits. You can buy just the body alone ($849), get it with the standard 18 - 55 mm kit lens ($899), or with the new 18 - 135 STM lens ($1199). In addition, don't be surprised if warehouse stores like Costco end up selling bundles that include two lenses and a camera bag (or something like that). Here's what you'll find in the box for the three official kits:
- The 18.0 effective Megapixel EOS Rebel T4i digital camera
- F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm Canon EF-S IS lens [18-55 kit only]
- F3.5-5.6, 18 - 135 mm Canon EF-S IS STM lens [18-135 kit only]
- LP-E8 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Body cap
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring Canon EOS Digital Solution
- 371 page camera manual (printed)
Those just starting out in the D-SLR world will probably opt for one of the kit lens packages. The 18 - 55 mm (second generation) kit lens features optical image stabilization, plasticky build quality, and average performance. The 18 - 135 mm STM lens is brand new, and uses Canon's new STM (stepping motor) technology, which allows for quiet, responsive autofocus, which is important when recording movies. The 18-135 definitely focuses faster than its non-STM counterparts, though it's a bit soft, and has issues with purple fringing. If you want to use other lenses, the Rebel T4i supports both EF and EF-S lenses, with a 1.5X crop factor.
As with all D-SLR and mirrorless cameras, there's no memory card included in the box with the Rebel T4i. Therefore, unless you've got one already, you'll need to pick up a memory card if you want to actually take any photos. The T4i supports, SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, including high speed UHS-I models. I'd recommend a Class 6 card at the very least, and perhaps faster if you're going to be taking a lot of Full HD videos.
The Rebel T4i uses the same LP-E8 lithium-ion battery for power. This battery packs 8.1 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, which is on the lower end of average for a D-SLR. Here's how that compares to other D-SLR and mirrorless cameras:
Comparing just the D-SLRs, the Rebel T4i's numbers are about 15% below average. Naturally, the T4i will beat the mirrorless cameras when using its optical viewfinder, but do note that it can only take 180 shots per charge if you use live view exclusively.
The EOS-650D (what the rest of the world calls the Rebel T4i) with its optional battery grip
Image courtesy of Canon Europe
If you want more battery life, you can pick up the optional BG-E8 battery grip (priced from $136), which holds two LP-E8 or six AA batteries. For those who aren't great at math, that means that you can get twice the battery life by using this grip.
When it's charging time, just pop the LP-E8 into the include charger. The charger may or may not plug right into the wall (depends on your country), but both models charge the LP-E8 in two hours.
If there's one thing that's true about a Canon D-SLR, it's that you have a huge selection of accessories at your disposal. Some of he most interesting include:
And those are just the highlights! There are also macro ring flashes and numerous viewfinder accessories available.
Canon has one of the nicest software bundles out there. You'll first encounter EOS Utility, which will download photos from the camera onto your Mac or PC. The main photo organizing suite is called ImageBrowser EX, which replaces the old ImageBrowser and ZoomBrowser software that came on earlier models. I'm not sure what Canon used to build this software (it feels like Adobe Air), but it definitely doesn't feel like a native application anymore, at least on the Mac side. That said, it'll let you edit your photos in a number of ways, including auto correct, redeye removal, tone curve and level adjustment, and more. It also allows you to edit your videos, including adding transitions and special effects, and save the results as a new movie. Both stills and movies can be shared via e-mail, Facebook. YouTube, or Canon's own Image Gateway service.
For editing RAW images you'll need to use Digital Photography Professional, which is a very capable product. Here you can adjust exposure, highlight and shadow detail, the tone curve, noise reduction, and white balance. There are also tools for reducing lens distortion, vignetting, and purple fringing. If you'd rather use Adobe Photoshop instead, just make sure that you have the latest version of their Camera Raw plug-in first.
Also included with the T4i is PhotoStitch. PhotoStitch can take photos that you've lined up (manually in the case of the Rebel T4i), and combine them into a single panoramic image. The only thing easier is if the camera did it automatically, which the Rebel does not.
Unlike some other manufacturers, Canon still puts a full, printed manual in the box with the Rebel T4i. Sure, it's not the most user-friendly book out there, but it's very detailed, and should answer any questions you may have about the camera. Documentation for the bundled software can be found on an included CD-ROM disc.
Design & Features
The EOS Rebel T4i is a fairly compact digital SLR, with a composite outer shell covering what is likely a stainless steel chassis. Despite the plastic shell, the T4i does not feel cheap in the hand. Speaking of hands, the latest Rebel still has a fairly small grip, though the rubberized texture helps compensate for that a bit. The camera has quite a few buttons scattered over three sides of the body. Thankfully, they're easy to reach, and most handle just one function.
So what's changed since the Rebel T3i (AKA the EOS-600D)? Let's have a look:
|The Rebel T3i (left) vs. the new Rebel T4i (right), fairly close to scale
Images courtesy of Canon USA
Not a whole lot has changed on the front of the T4i, aside for the disappearance of the microphone. That microphone has resurfaced on the top of the camera, just above the hot shoe (and now in stereo form). Other changes of note on the top include the removal of the display button and the addition of movie mode to the power switch (it was on the mode dial previously). The T3i and T4i are more-or-less identical on their back sides.
Alright, let's take the same group of cameras from the battery life comparison and see how they line up in terms of size and weight:
The Rebel T4i is the second largest/heaviest D-SLR in the group. It towers over mirrorless cameras, as you'd expect, seeing how the T4i has to make room for its mirror box and optical viewfinder.
It's tour time! Use the tabs below to move through various views of the Rebel T4i:
Here's the front of the Rebel T4i, without a lens attached. Like its predecessors, the T4i supports all EF and EF-S lenses with a 1.6X crop factor. Since image stabilization isn't built into the camera body, you'll want to look for that feature on the lens itself. To release an attached lens, simply press the button located to the right of the mount.
I want to talk a little bit about the 18 Megapixel CMOS sensor before we continue. This sensor supports Canon's new Hybrid CMOS AF system, which combines both phase and contrast detection systems, and promises better focusing performance when using live view or recording movies. Canon has placed phase detection sites toward the center of the sensor, and the camera will use those when the subject is in the center of the frame. When the subject moves out of the center, the camera will switch to the contrast detect system that Canon D-SLRs have been using for some time. This new AF system works best with the two STM lenses that Canon has released (the 18-135 that I used, as well as a 40mm pancake lens). I'll have more on performance later in the review.
Like all D-SLRs, the Rebel T4i has a system in place to keep dust from settling on the sensor. In this case, it'll use ultrasonic waves that literally shake dust away dust. You can have this system run when the camera is powered on and off, or whenever you want (via the menu system).
Getting back to the tour: straight above the lens mount is the T4i's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. This flash has a guide number of 13 meters at ISO 100 -- par for the course on a D-SLR. If you want something more powerful, there's a hot shoe at your disposal on the top of the camera. You can also cut the cord entirely and go wireless, with the built-in flash acting as the master.
The only other things to note can be found on and around the grip. They include the self-timer / redeye reduction lamp and the remote control receiver. The Rebel doesn't have a dedicated AF-assist lamp, instead using the flash for that function.
One of the nicest features on the Rebel T4i is its flip-out, rotating 3-inch LCD display. This allows you to take photos and movies over the heads of people in front of you, and I also find it handy for tripod shooting. The LCD can also be placed in the traditional position (see next tab), or closed entirely.
The LCD on the Rebel T4i may have the same size and resolution of its predecessor (3-inches and 1.04 million pixels, respectively), but now it's touch-enabled. I'll tell you more about the touchscreen features after the tour. The screen is extremely sharp and offers average outdoor visibility.
Just above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which has 95% frame coverage and a magnification of 0.85x (about average for this class). As you'd expect, the eleven focus points are illuminated, and there's a green-colored line of shooting data below the field-of-view. You can adjust the focus on the viewfinder by using the diopter correction knob on its upper-right.
Now let's quickly go through all of the buttons on the back of the Rebel T4i. To the left of the viewfinder are buttons for entering the menu system and toggling what's shown on the LCD. On the opposite side is a button for entering live view, follow bed a pair of buttons for zooming in and out in live view and playback mode.
To the right of the LCD we have the four-way controller, which has four buttons surrounding it. The four-way controller is used for menu navigation, adjusting manual settings, and replaying photos. It also has direct controls for white balance, Picture Style, plus the drive and AF mode.
The buttons above the four-way controller are for adjusting the exposure compensation or aperture (depends on the shooting mode), an entering the Quick Menu (more on that in a bit). Below the controller are a final pair of buttons, used for entering playback mode and deleting a photo.
The first thing to see on the top of the Rebel T4i is its hot shoe. Canon-branded flashes will work best -- they'll sync with the camera's metering system, and you'll be able to control many of them right from the menu system. A Canon Speedlite also allows you to take advantage of high speed flash sync. If you're using a third party flash, you'll be limited to 1/200 sec and cannot use the flash in live view. You may also have to set the flash exposure manually. As I mentioned earlier, the Rebel's built-in flash can also be used to control external flashes wirelessly, if you wish.
Right above the hot shoe is the T4i's stereo microphone -- an improvement upon the monaural mic on the T3i.
Moving to the right, you'll spot a fully-loaded mode dial, with the power / movie mode switch next door.
Above that is a button for adjusting the ISO sensitivity, the camera's sole control dial, and the shutter release button.
Just to the right of the lens mount is the release for the built-in flash. Below that is the lens release button, followed by a DOF preview button.
The camera's I/O ports can be found under a pair of rubber covers. They include remote control in, stereo mic in, USB + A/V output, and mini-HDMI.
The available 18 - 135 mm kit lens is at its wide-angle position here.
The only thing to see on the right side of the Rebel T4i is its SD card slot, which is protected by a plastic door of average quality.
The 18-135 kit lens is at full telephoto here. That's quite a snout!
On the bottom of the Rebel T4i you'll find a metal tripod mount -- in-line with the lens, of course -- and the battery compartment. The plastic door over this compartment is on the flimsy side.
The included LP-E8 li-ion battery can be seen at the lower right.
A histogram is available when using live view, though it blocks a large portion of the frame
I'm going to kick off my discussion of the Rebel T4i's features by talking about live view, which is activated by a button on the back of the camera. The live view feature works quite well for a digital SLR, though it's not as responsive as what you'll find on a modern mirrorless camera. Features here include a live histogram, grid lines, continuous autofocus with subject tracking, face detection, and frame enlargement (handy for manual focusing). As I mentioned in the tour, outdoor visibility is about average, while in low light the live view brightens up nicely.
There are several focus modes to choose from, including face detection+tracking, multi-area (31-point), and single-point -- all of which use the Hybrid AF system. In multi-area mode you can let the camera pick the focus points, or you can do so manually, with the ability to break things down into zones containing nine focus points.
The T4i's Hybrid AF system allows for continuous autofocus when shooting movies or composing photos in live view mode. It'll work with most Canon lenses, but is really designed for use with the two new STM (stepping motor) lenses that came out earlier in the year. Below is a silly, unscientific test that I put together to compare continuous AF performance between the 18 - 135 mm STM lens and my own 15 - 85 mm USM lens. I point the lens first at my knee (probably 10 inches away), and then to my printer desk (about 8 feet away). Watch how quickly each lenses refocuses as I do that:
As you can see, the STM lens is a lot more responsive. That said, it's certainly not as fast as a mirrorless camera, and focus speeds can be inconsistent. Sometimes it's really snappy, while other times it'll be obvious that the camera has switched to the contrast detect system. Focusing times can be glacial when contrast detection is used, especially in low light. Still, the Hybrid AF system is a step in the right direction -- too bad you need a new lens to take full advantage of it.
Canon also provides a Quick AF mode on the Rebel T4i. This will pause live view for about a second while the camera flips the mirror down and uses the regular AF sensor to focus. Unless you're using one of the STM lenses in good light, using Quick AF will be faster nine times out of ten.
The touch-enabled Quick Menu
When using live view you can take advantage of the Rebel T4i's 3-inch capacitative touchscreen LCD. You can touch to focus alone, or to focus and take a picture. Want to enlarge the frame? Just tap the magnifying glass. Touching the "Q" opens a touch-enabled shortcut menu, which even my big fingers could operate. In playback mode there are a bunch of other things you can do with your finger that I'll "touch on" later.
This info screen -- shown when shooting with the OVF -- can be a shortcut menu, too
If you're shooting with the optical viewfinder, then you'll see the info screen above. By pressing the "Q" button, you can adjust any of the settings, using buttons or fingers. The camera has a sensor which detects when you place your eye against the optical viewfinder, which turns off whatever is being displayed on the LCD.
Let's move on to the mode dial, which is jam-packed with options they include:
For those of you familiar with the Rebel T3i, you'll notice some additions (HDR, Handheld Night Scene) as well as some deletions (A-Dep) from the mode dial. Some of these deserve an explanation, and I'll start with Scene Intelligent Auto mode. In this mode, the camera will analyze the scene, and select the appropriate white balance, Picture Style, focus mode, and Auto Lighting optimizer setting for you.
Creative Auto mode
If you want something sort of in-between automatic and manual, then give the Creative Auto mode a try. This mode lets you adjust both color and depth-of-field without having to know what Picture Styles or aperture are. Instead, the camera calls these things "ambiance" and "background", which should make a lot more sense to beginners.
The T4i has seven scene modes you can choose from yourself, including two new ones: HDR backlight control and Handheld Night Scene. I probably don't have to explain HDR anymore, but just in case you don't know, the camera takes three shots in a row, each at a different exposure (you cannot set the interval). It then combines these exposures in a single image, allowing for greatly improved contrast. Here's an example:
|HDR off||HDR on|
Above is one of my favorite HDR test scenes (though Starbucks does not permit photography in stores, so shoot at your own risk). You don't need to be a camera reviewer to see that the HDR feature made a huge difference in this heavily back-lit scene. That said, there are two things that I don't like about the T4i's implementation of this feature. First, a smaller area of the frame is captured when using HDR (why, I do not know). Second, it takes the camera about ten seconds to process each image, which is a bit surprising considering that it has a DIGIC 5 processor.
The other features, Handheld Night Scene, can be found on many other (non-Canon) cameras under various names. This takes four shots in rapid succession, and combines them into a single image, which is (hopefully) sharp and not too noisy. The photo above was taken at ISO 12800 and looks pretty good, all things considered. That said, Handheld Night Scene is best suited for small prints or web viewing. As with the HDR feature, it takes about ten seconds for the camera to process and save these images to the memory card.
Fine-tuning and bracketing white balance at the same time
If you're worried that Canon skimped on manual controls, you need not. The Rebel T4i offers manual control over shutter speed, aperture, and white balance, plus support for the RAW image format (14-bit, no less). For white balance, you'll find the usual presets, a custom spot (for use with a white or gray card), and the ability to fine-tune and bracket. In addition to bracketing for white balance, you can also do so for exposure. The T4i also has a small set of custom functions, some of which I'll highlight below.
Now I'd like to talk about the items found in the Rebel T4i's extensive menu system. Canon's menu system hasn't changed much over the years, and that's fine -- it's responsive and easy to navigate. About the only thing missing are help screens. For those wondering: yes, you can use your finger to operate the main menu, too. Here are some of the still-shooting related highlights from the menu:
- Image quality: choose from a number of JPEG sizes and qualities, RAW, or RAW+JPEG; a RAW image will be about 23.5MB in size, while a Large/Fine JPEG weighs in at 6.4MB
- Lens aberration correction: reduces vignetting and purple fringing on modern Canon lenses; the former is on by default, while the latter is not
- Redeye reduction: uses the redeye reduction lamp to shrink your subjects' pupils, possibly reducing this annoyance
- Flash control: select the flash metering system, exposure compensation, x-sync speed, slow sync, and wireless setup for the built-in flash here; if you've got a Canon external flash attached, you can adjust its settings here, as well
- Auto Lighting Optimizer: improves brightness and contrast in a photo, with three levels to choose from; by default, this feature is disabled when using the manual exposure modes
- Picture Style: a Picture Style contains settings for sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone, plus filter/toning effects for monochrome modes; you can adjust the settings for the six preset or three custom Styles to your heart's content; an Auto Style mode will select one of the Styles automatically, depending on the scene
- ISO Auto: choose the highest sensitivity that the camera will use with Auto ISO selection
- High ISO speed noise reduction: choose from off, low, standard, and high, or try the new Multi Shot NR option, which I'll demo later in the review
- Live View AF method: choose from face detection+tracking, FlexiZone multi-point, FlexiZone single-point, or Quick Mode; I described this earlier in the review
- Continuous AF: whether the camera keeps subjects in-focus while in live view mode
- Touch shutter: whether you can touch an object on the screen and have the camera focus and take a picture on that area
- Aspect ratio: choose from 3:2, 4:3, 16:9, 1:1
- Feature guide: turn the help screens that display when you change modes or use the Quick Menu on or off
- Touch control: the master switch for all touch features on the T4i
Like most modern Canon D-SLRs, the Rebel T4i corrects for vignetting automatically (on most lenses). Something the T4i can also do is digitally reduce the amount of purple fringing in your photos. As with the peripheral illumination (vignetting) correction, this won't work for every lens, but if it does, I'd turn it on. Here's why:
|Chromatic aberration correction off (default)||Chromatic aberration correction on|
The cropped photo above has been enlarged to show detail. The CA correction tool definitely works, and if you're using a lens that's prone to this issue (I'm looking at you, 18-135), then I'd highly recommend turning it on. I have to wonder why it's not on by default on this consumer-level camera.
The Auto Lighting Optimizer aims to improve brightness and contrast in your photos., It's set to the "standard" setting in most shooting modes, and is off (by default) in "M" mode. Using one of our standard test scenes, here's the effect of the various ALO settings:
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The good news is that the Auto Lighting Optimizer brightens shadows, though it's fairly subtle. The bad news is that it doesn't do anything for highlight detail. Thankfully, Canon has something for that too, that I'll tell you about in just a moment.
One of the eight custom functions on the Rebel T4i
The Rebel T4i also has eight custom functions available that let you further customize camera operation. The only two that I want to mention are ISO expansion (opens up ISO 12800 for movies, and ISO 25600 for stills) and highlight tone priority. Highlight tone priority expands dynamic range and reduces highlight clipping, and is off by default. In order for it to work its magic, the minimum ISO is increased from 100 to 200. Let's use the same hallway from the Auto Lighting Optimizer test to show off highlight tone priority:
|Highlight tone priority off
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You'll want to be looking at the archway on the far left side of the photo to see the effects of the highlight tone priority feature. While it's not super-obvious, the sky is bluer and fewer highlights are clipped with the HTP feature turned on. If you're shooting in a situation where highlight clipping is an issue, by all means, turn on this feature.
Moving onto movies now: the EOS Rebel T4i can record full HD video at 1920 x 1080 at your choice of 24p or 30p (25p is available in PAL countries, as well). Sound is recorded in stereo using the built-in microphone, and you can add an external one if you want better audio quality. The maximum recording time is just under 30 minutes, and the T4i will automatically create a new file when the previous clip reaches 4GB. If you want a faster frame rate, a 720/60p resolution is available. A VGA option is also available for those not looking for HD quality video.
One of the big features on the Rebel T4i is support for continuous autofocus (what Canon calls movie servo) while recording a movie. You can do this with any lens, though it'll be much quicker and smoother with an STM, like the one I used for this review. Naturally, if your lens has image stabilization built-in, then you'll be able to take full advantage of that.
|Sound of the available settings for movie recording||Sound recording options|
As you'd expect, the T4i has a full set of manual controls available when recording movies. You can adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to your liking, or let the camera figure it out by itself. Audio control options include manual mic level adjustment, plus a wind filter and attenuator.
The Rebel T4i also has a feature called video snapshot, which lets you take short 2, 4, or 8 second-long video clips, and later compile them into a single movie. You can arrange the clips in this "album" and add your own background music, if you're so inclined.
Below is a combination of two movies that I recorded at the 1080/30p setting, using the 18 - 135 mm lens. You will see that I zoom out a bit during the clip, and it's not terribly smooth -- sorry about that! And now, some cable cars:
The video quality looks pretty good to me!
The Rebel T4i's playback mode is pretty nice. You can select options via traditional or touchscreen menus (pictured above), with these being the most interesting features available:
- Photobook: lets you organize your photos on the camera, which are then transferred to your PC in their own folder (assuming that you're using EOS Utility)
- Creative Filters: apply special effects to your photos; effects include grainy B&W, soft focus, fisheye, art bold (pop color), water painting, toy camera, and miniature
- Ratings: photos and videos can be rated from one to five stars; this information is sent over to your computer when you use Canon's software
- Image jump: use the front controller to jump by 10 or 100 images, or by date, folder, file type, or image rating
- Movie editing: you can remove unwanted footage from the beginning or end of a video clip
The big thing missing here is redeye removal. Thus, you'll have to fix this annoyance on your Mac or PC.
Playback mode is really where the touchscreen LCD struts its stuff. The T4i performs just like a smartphone (well, one with a small screen), as you can pinch-to-zoom, pan around with your finger, and swipe between photos. It's responsive and smooth, and a pleasure to use, rather than a distraction.
The EOS Rebel T4i shows just basic information about your photo by default. Pressing the info button reveals more, including a histogram, while an additional press provides an RGB histogram and a look at clipped highlights.
Moving between photos is instantaneous, regardless of it you use your finger or the four-way controller.
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:
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:
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!
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:
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 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:
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:
JPEG, standard noise reduction
JPEG, Multi Frame NR
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!
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!