Canon Rebel T2i Review

Ron Niebrugge Equipment, Photos 30 Comments

Dahlia photo with a Canon Rebel T2i and 100 Macro at f/11, 1/15 second and ISO 100.

Dahlia photo with a Canon Rebel T2i and 100 Macro at f/11, 1/15 second and ISO 100.

I have been in the market for another camera body – I have a couple of projects where I need HD video, and I wouldn’t mind having a backup to my every day camera, the Canon 1Ds III.  As reliable as my camera has been – it would look bad as a professional photographer to have a camera break and not have some backup option, especially on assignment.  I was considering a 5D II or a 1D IV, but really didn’t want to spend that much money.  Then I noticed the new Canon EOS Rebel T2i (Canon 550).

The Canon EOS Rebel T2iactually has full 1080 HD at 30 fps – something it shares with a handful of much more expensive cameras.  This met my video need, and at 18 mega pixels, it would be an adequate backup  if I got into trouble with my 1Ds III.  Actually as I compared features with my everyday camera, I was surprised to see in many respects that it outperformed my main camera for 1/10 the cost!  That is right, I paid $8,000 for the 1Ds III a couple of years ago, I just picked up a Canon Rebel T2i for just under $800!

First let me grumble about the name – I have found the Rebel line confusing enough with their t’s and 1’s, maybe there is a method to the madness, but why it is called a Rebel T2i in America, and a Canon 550 elsewhere?  Canon has a long history of giving each of  its cameras two names.

Now that I have played with it for a few weeks (I picked it up before my Denali trip), I thought I would share my thoughts.  Keep in mind, fair or unfair, much of my basis for comparison is with the much more expensive 1Ds III.

Build:  On one hand it definitely lacks the solid, quality build on the 1D line of Magnesium bodies, but then again, I absolutely love how light it is – it weighs 1.5 pounds less then my everyday beast!  I have already decided I will be taking the Rebel T2i on backpacking trips.  It is light enough that I will be much more likely to bring it along on mountain runs or bike trips, activities where I wouldn’t have taken a camera in the past.

I definitely will be more careful with handling it, and wouldn’t use it in the rain like I do with better protected cameras.  In fact, in the camera’s manual they say “do not drop it”  just in case you didn’t realize that a precision, computerized instrument that usually has many pieces of glass attached shouldn’t be dropped.

Ease of use:  Even with the addition of video and the additional settings required for such a feature, I found the camera simple and easy to use.  It has all kinds of automatic modes that I don’t care about, but are probably very helpful for the typical user.

I was thrilled to see it had numerous custom programmable functions including the one that allows you to move auto-focus from the shutter to the * button – probably something the typical user wouldn’t care about, but very  important to the more serious photographer who doesn’t like their subject in the near the center of the frame.

I really miss the Canon quick dial on the back – something that even my old film cameras had.  So I won’t be able to make adjustments to my aperture without looking, like I can with most Canon’s, but there isn’t much room on the back given the wonderful 3 inch LCD

Features: This is where the Rebel T2i really shines even compared to my two year old expensive beast.  The 1080 HD video at 30 fps is a really fun option.  It will shoot 18 mp raw files at 3.7 frames per second and utilizes the Canon’s latests DIGIC 4 technology whatever that means.  Heck, it even has depth of field preview!

I also like the little wireless remote which is a separate option for $25.  Many years ago I had a Canon Elan film camera with this feature and I loved it.  For some reason Canon hasn’t offered this option on its professional line of cameras until recently with the 5D II and the 7D, so maybe it will be an option on all Canon cameras moving forward – 15 plus years after the Elan.

Image Quality:  The Canon Rebel T2i has a less then full 35 mm sized sensor so it gives the appearance of having the focal length multiplied by 1.6.  This is great on the telephoto end as a 300mm lens will appear to be 480mm if compared to a full frame sensor, but it might be frustrating on the wide side of things as a 28mm now becomes a 45mm, so this might be an advantage or not depending on your subject matter and shooting style.

I have always used full frame cameras, but the larger sensor tends to be far more expensive.  Smaller sensors don’t have the image quality  nor do they typically handle noise as well as a full-frame sensor of the same megapixel, so I was curios as to the quality, and so far I am more then happy with the image quality.  I didn’t try to compare it to the 1Ds III as I would have had to use different focal lengths, and then re size one of the images so that they were both equal size – I will leave these exercises to the pixel peepers.  To me, it was clear that the camera produced excellent images – more then adequate, publishable images that are at least on par with the original 5D – that was all I needed to know.

HD Video This is a really fun feature and very easy to use!  I have some clips from my recent trip into Kenai Fjords – I was going to post one here, but this post is already getting a little large, so maybe I will add a sample in a follow-up day.  Suffice it to say, I am really enjoying this feature.

Noise:  Smaller sensors do have more trouble with noise.  Below 800 ISO, there is little if any noise, it is noticeable at 1600, but I think acceptable with some noise reduction.  At higher ISO’s, it becomes worse, but it is amazing what you can do with noise reduction software.  Since what constitutes “acceptable noise” is subjective I decided to attach a 100% crop of a 600×600 pixel section from the upper right corner of the below photo – this is straight from the camera without any noise reduction applied.

Image captured with a Caon Rebel T2i at 3200 iso.

Image captured with a Canon Rebel T2i at 3200 iso.

The upper right corner at 100%.
The upper right corner at 100%.

For comparison, I have attached a 100 percent crop of the original dahlia photo at the beginning of this post.  As you can see the image not only has wonderful detail, but no noise.

This is a full sized 100 slice a little right of center of the top photo of the dahlia.

This is a full sized 100 slice a little right of center of the top photo of the dahlia.

I have embedded this video from B&H this provides even more detail on this camera:

Time for a rant.  I recently upgraded my home computer to the latest version of Photoshop CS5 which includes Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 6.0 used for converting raw files.   The latest version of ACR doesn’t support the Rebel T2i, but fortunately I have CS 4 on my laptop which has ACR 5.7, which does support RAW conversion of Rebel T2i files.

This is true for a handful of other new cameras as well.  So in other words, if you want to convert raw files from the latest Canon camera, make sure you aren’t using the latest Adobe Camera Raw – that makes absolutely no sense if you ask me.  Note – A new version of ACR (6.1) is now available and includes support for the Canon Rebel T2i.

As long as I’m ranting, this camera also has one short coming that would be easy to overcome with a firmware fix that could make this an even more valuable camera.  As of now you can’t stop and start the video with a device like a Pocket Wizard.  That is too bad – I could see wedding photographers using these as a way to offer HD video by remotely placing a couple of these in a church.  For some of my uses I was hoping to be able to start / stop them remotely as well – this is only possible with the Canon wireless remote at very close range.

In Conclusion This is a great light camera with wonderful image quality and HD video for on $800.  If you are looking for something that is a step up from a point and shoot, something with interchangeable lenses, you can’t go wrong with the Canon Rebel T2i in my opinion.

Comments 30

  1. Ron, great post! I shoot with the T2i and it is reassuring to see a pro talking highly of it as well. When I bought it a few months ago, I just couldn’t justify spending a lot more money on even the 7D for not a lot more features. Sure, body construction is notably better in the higher end cameras, as well as a few other features, but for me, I can use the “extra” money and get some nice lenses instead. Cool post!

  2. I always tell people that it isn’t the camera that makes the photographer. I’ve also been suggesting to my photo tour clients that the entry level cameras were a great value & that honestly no one could tell the difference, which is what you have clearly demonstrated.

    You were running around with only 1 camera body? That is always scary, isn’t it? I did that once or twice last winter, but have been fortunate that Stuart Westmorland has loaned me his spare 5DmkII and I now own a 7D. Maybe I should practice what I preach & buy a spare Rebel body, too? Thanks for your review & the effort that goes into writing a longer blog post like this.

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    Thanks Jon. Yes, it is scary no having a backup! I figured, I could have a replaced via Fedex within a day or two, so that was always the plan – unless I’m out on a boat or in a remote location, then I would have been bummed!

    Thanks Sean – I think you made a good choice. It is certainly a better camera then my original Canon 1Ds, and we still regularly sell and print those files. I think if you are careful with it you can’t go wrong!

  4. Now I’m really exited. I collected my new Canon550D today but cannot play with it yet as I’m at work and of course I can’t bring my camera in to prison !! looking forward to getting to grips with it in a few days time.

  5. I am sold. I am heading to Katmai in September and have been trying to find a new camera. Just found a website where you can get the body for $324 and if you buy a wide angle lens you get a telephoto lens free. Pressing the checkout button now!!

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    Nina – that is tough having a new toy sitting there and not being able to use it!

    Jenn – if you can find the Rebel T2i for less then $799 then it is a scam. At $324, it is definitely a scam and I wouldn’t give them your credit card! Unfortunately, there are some bad camera retailers out there. I would stick to B&H, Amazon or Hunts.

  7. I recently made a purchase of a back-up camera for my workhorse 5D mark II, and wanted a crop sensor for it’s extra reach. The choice was between the 7D and the rebel T2i. Despite the extra cost, I opted for the 7D, as the controls on that camera very closely match the controls on the 5DII. When having to make quick decision about camera settings in the field, I do better with having a back-up camera that has settings as close to my main camera body. If I had a series one body, I might have saved the money and opted for the T2i like you did Ron.

  8. Hi Ron,

    6 a.m. and I’m just finishing transcribing the marathon interview 🙂 It’s been nearly 100-degrees here (translate that to 105+ in my office), so I’ve barely even turned the Mac on, but I had fun reading this T2i article. I’m going to buy one soon just to try it and to keep myself from getting too Nikon-biased in my writing. 🙂

    But my real reason for commenting is to suggest that you download the Adobe DNG converter so that you don’t have to go to CS4 to open RAW images. It’s a free bit of software and while it does involve an extra step (converting from RAW to DNG), it’s a very easy program to use and it has many options, including preserving the RAW file in a separate folder from the converted DNG (digital negative) files. The DNG files open in the RAW converter, so you really can’t even tell the difference once you open the image–you end up in the RAW interface.

    Plus, you can adjust the settings to tell the DNG converter what resolution (240 vs 300 dpi, for example) and what bit depth you want (8 vs 16). Since most of the time the reason for using RAW is to work in 16 bit, it seems a little goofy to have a choice, but if you shoot RAW all the time and don’t need all of the files to be in 16 bit (family photos, for example), you can convert them and have them land as 8-bit images which take up a lot less room and are a lot faster for editing.

    But you probably knew all of this already 🙂 I love yesterday’s photo of Phoenix! Can’t wait to get back to the SW in the fall!!!


  9. Oops, I meant to leave the url for the DNG software:

    Also, when I say an extra step, I just mean that you download the images from the card (or camera) to your disc, then you have to convert from RAW/NEF to DNG. But once you have the DNG files, you just open them and you’re in the RAW interface.

  10. This is a great write up Ron! I am curious to which noise reduction software you are using at this time? I am still using Noise Ninja and have been for the past 4 years, and thinking that there must be something much better out there by now.

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    @ Darcy – you make an excellent point – and I know for me, not having the quick dial on the back of the T2i is an adjustment – I really like that dial and the 7D does have it.

    @ Jeff – thanks for your input – great stuff! I have read about about the DNG converter, but hadn’t really thought through the advantages. I will have to consider that for my work-full – thanks!

    @ Michael Thanks! I have been using Nik Dfine 2.0 I tried the free trial as was really impressed. It did a way better job then the noise reduction option with CS 4. I haven’t tried noise reduction in CS 5 yet. I think Dfine would really clean up the noise you see in the 3200 closeup image you see above and make it very usable.

    The biggest drawback with Dfine 2.0 is that it is only a 32 bit program, so it means closing the 64bit version of Photoshop and opening the 32 bit version which is a bit of a pain. Well, the other drawback it the cost – it isn’t very cheap for a program I don’t use that often, but we you need it, you need it.

  12. The closeup photo of the upper right corner looks noisy–but at 3200 ISO that’s pretty awesome. Maybe I’ll try selling my Xsi on E-Bay and replacing it with this one. I’d love to have a backup that can go reasonably higher than 400.

    Sorry I haven’t had time to read your whole post, but is this full frame or crop sensor?

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  14. Thanks Ron,
    I will take a look at Dfine and maybe a couple others here soon. I feel that there is a need at this time because of the type of shooting I am doing.

    Thanks again,

  15. Ron,

    Suggest those looking for noise reduction software take a look at Topaz Labs ‘Denoise’. There is a pretty good review of the software on Luminous Landscape at Retail price is $79.99 but if you snoop around you can find discounts. 32bit and 64bit versions of the plug-in come in the zip file download. Full function 30 day trial versions of all Topaz plug-ins are available.

    Also suggest scoping out some of the other plug-ins Topaz describes at



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  17. Ron:

    Great post on the Canon Rebel T2i !

    I have been shooting for several years with the Canon Xti. I have been focusing on brushing up on my photography skills, learning new digital techniques to replace all my old dark room knowledge, purchasing lenses (EF-L’s), and accessories with the intention to move up to a full size sensor. Since I am not a professional photographer, I have been waiting for the megapixel and price points to match my budget. I am now very close to purchasing a 5DMII.

    I have been astounded at the difference in the quality of my images shooting with Canon L series lenses. However, with the purchase of the 5D, I want to add an additional lens. To get the biggest bang for the buck, my last lens purchase was the Canon 28-300mm EF-L lens. The lens is great. However, it just does not reach out far enough to capture some of the wild life shots I want to take. With the biggest bang for the buck in mind, I am considering purchasing a non Canon lens. I am looking at the Sigma 50-500mm and the 150-500mm lenses. Canon just does not have a lens in this mm range or one in the price range.

    I am pretty sure based on your posting you use exclusively Canon optics. Is this the case? Why or why not?

    What do you think?

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    Hi Barry,

    I have had good success with Canon lenses, and like the service from Canon Professional Services, so you are right, I have stuck with Canon lenses. I haven’t tried the lenses that you talk about, so I really can’t offer an opinion. A number of the people on my last tour had the Canon 400 5.6 coupled with a 7D – it was a light, sharp lens – it might be a possibility. Going long does get expensive! Going with a less then full frame sensor like the 7d might be a consideration.

  19. Pingback: Canon rebel telephoto lens

  20. I have shot sony prodcts for years but, with Canon’s release of the 550d.and a close look I have decided to change over to Canon almost soley on the basis of this camera. It is my believ after extensive study and research that this is by far one of the best camera’s on the market.

  21. That is really the head blowing good quality you are able to anticipate from the 550D. Obviously you may need a fantastic lens, a fantastic cameraman, and good post-processing abilities. Actually its great.

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  23. So i have been considering two different cameras to buy, i need something that can perform well in the studio as well as the street but i would prefer it to be better as a street camera. i have been considering the canon t2i and the nikon d3100. can anyone tell me some ups and downs to either of these dslr’s? i’m looking mainly for a good camera to take to college with me

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    Hi Bobby,

    I can’t give you a comparison between the two as I haven’t really used the Nikon. I will say, you really can’t go wrong with the Canon T2i, or even the newer T3i.

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