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.
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.
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.