The design of the T4i is going to feel instantly familiar to those who have picked up a Rebel in recent years. It's small, lightweight, with a compact form factor and large buttons. It's a standard DSLR design, with a single control dial on the front and a four-way control pad on the back. The T4i includes the same 1.04m-dot resolution vari-angle articulated screen as the T3i, but it now offers very accurate touch controls, letting you move through the menu or quick control panel with ease.
Despite the headline-grabbing addition of touchscreen controls, the T4i's menu interface is exactly as you've come to expect it, with no real visible changes from last year's model. The only difference is now the panels and sections that were already there light up when you touch them, indicating that they've been selected.
In terms of size the T4i is just a tenth of an ounce heavier, with a primarily plastic body. It doesn't feel like it would survive too many drops onto hard surfaces, but at 18.3 ounces it won't feel terrible if it's slung over your shoulder for a few hours. The control design is nearly identical to the T3i, with a button layout that is simple to use, with buttons that are legible and offer a nice haptic response when engaged, so it's easy to operate as long as there's enough light to read the labels.
The menu on the T4i is the same as on all the other recent Rebel-series Canons. It's comprised of a series of color-coded tabs that are lined up horizontally along the top edge of the menu. Each tab is just a single page, so there are multiple tabs for shooting modes, for example. This is a great system, because in order to scroll between tabs, all you have to do is rotate the command dial. On some other cameras, namely Nikon DSLRs, there are only single tabs for things like shooting settings, requiring the user to scroll through a long list of options to get where they want.
The menu system is now also touch-responsive, owing to the addition of a touchscreen rear LCD. In the main menu this means you can wipe your finger along the top edge of the screen to scroll between tabs. The touch panel is accurate, but for the most part in the menu you should just stick to the standard control. In the quick control menu (brought up by pressing the big "Q" button on the back of the camera), you have instant access to all the current controllable shooting settings, such as exposure compensation and ISO. With the T4i, you can now engage the quick control menu and simply tap the setting you want to change, which does speed up the process somewhat.
The Canon Rebel series hangs its hat on the ability to be easy to use, especially for those who are first-time DSLR buyers. The T4i follows in this vein, with a control scheme and menu that is functionally identical to the T3i. The T4i comes loaded with a group of automatic and scene modes that would look right at home on any point-and-shoot camera, designed to make the T4i as approachable as possible.
We'd still caution that for real novices there is still a slight learning curve, but the T4i's collection of auto and scene modes gives you a fallback option that will let you explore the camera's functions at your leisure, snapping back to functionality regardless of what changes you've made.
The size of the T4i is just a hair larger than the smallest DSLRs from Sony, Nikon, and the bottom of Canon's lineup. It's still large enough that you'll want to keep it in a camera bag, and it's certainly too big to fit in a jacket pocket for most people. The size of the grip is great, though, accommodating both small and large hands. The one gripe we have with the T4i would be moving the ISO button on the top plate of the camera further to the left. This just makes it more difficult to press while holding the camera, and was an unnecessary change in our view.
The Canon Rebel T4i includes a standard physical mode dial on the top plate of the camera, in the same location as it was found on the T3i. The only change here is the move of the movie mode from a dedicated position on the dial, to an always accessible part of the on/off switch. This switch can now be pushed up to engage video recording in any of the camera's shooting modes, letting you more easily control video settings or begin recording when something memorable happens that you want video of.
The modes themselves are a pretty standard setup, with options for manual, program auto, automatic+, aperture priority, shutter priority, and standard scene modes like portrait, landscape, and night portrait. The standard PASM modes also all let you record video, with the manual mode offering full manual control over ISO, shutter speed, and aperture while recording.
The standard automatic mode on the Canon T4i is the program auto "P" setting, with an automatic+ mode also employing some scene recognition. When in automatic+ while shooting video or stills, the camera will switch to an appropriate scene mode if it feels that the conditions in the frame fit its parameters. These can include detecting a face and switching to portrait, or utilizing low light modes when it detects a low light scene.
The movie functionality on the T4i is greatly improved over previous Rebel cameras, with full autofocus during live view and video shooting now. The T4i records video at a maximum resolution of 1080p at 30, 24, and 24fps, with options for 720/60p and 480/30p as well. The movie mode is now engaged by a the same lever that is used to turn the camera on, letting you quickly engage video at any time rather than having to turn the mode dial to a dedicate setting.
The new image sensor is particularly good at focusing while recording video. In our hands-on time with the T4i we found the focus to be quite smooth and accurate with one of the new STM stepping motor lenses from Canon. This motor is included in the new 18-135mm lens, allowing for smooth, silent autofocus while taking video. The new image sensor utilize a combination of on-chip phase detection and contrast detection for subjects in the center of the scene, resorting to just contrast detection closer to the edges. We still noticed that it had trouble on low-contrast subjects, though. A metal mesh chair back in the office where we tested the T4i proved particularly troublesome for the camera, though the same target was also problematic for the T3i, so there's no downgrade in performance in those scenarios.
The new Canon Rebel T4i is significantly faster than previous models, with a burst rate (according to Canon's numbers) of five frames per second. That responsiveness is pretty obvious when shooting with the camera, though there is still a limited capacity that you can capture in a single burst. For just JPEG images that capacity is still quite expansive, but for RAW+JPEG or RAW shooting it was around ten shots or less for a single burst before slowing down.
Playback on the T4i is quite nice, owing largely to the camera's 1.04 million-dot resolution screen. It's the same screen as on the T3i, but the touch functionality works well in playback. It's easy to check focus or review small details on captured photos, though, with the ability to zoom in one a single photo to a large degree right on the rear LCD.
Actual photo editing options are pretty limited on the T4i, with options for resizing, rotating, and protecting shots. You can also set up a photo book or apply creative filters to shots, but we'd still recommend a standalone photo-editing application if you want to get the most out of your shots.
The T4i still houses a sensor capable of 18-megapixel images, though there are options for shooting in reduced resolutions if you need. The camera is also capable of recording images in either RAW or JPEG, with RAW+JPEG capture available. If shooting in RAW or RAW+JPEG your burst speed is the same, but the capacity is reduced, so it will slow down precipitously and take a few seconds for the in-camera buffer to clear, allowing for another burst.
The Canon T4i borrows the same 9-point, all cross-type sensor as used on the Canon 60D. This offers a single center high-precision point that's effective at f/2.8. The camera also has AF integrated into the CMOS image sensor, allowing for hybrid phase detection and contrast-detection autofocus even while recording video or shooting in live view.
We found the focus to be much snappier than on the T3i, in particular it was very smooth with the new 18-135 STM lens attached to it. During video, focus was nearly silent and smoothly moved to grab the subject we wanted. With a non-STM lens the focus isn't as smooth, but it's still accurate, though the same trouble with low-contrast subjects exists.
The Canon T4i will utilize the same 63-zone metering system that we saw in the Canon T3i. It's a fair system that tends to do well in most troublesome lighting situations, but struggles if there is a major discrepancy between the lightest and darkest areas of the scene. The T4i features the standard evaluative, spot, and center-weighted metering modes.
The combination of a new Digic 5 processor and a new 18-megapixel CMOS image sensor combines to give the Canon T4i an ISO range that extends from 100 to 12800 native, with expansion options allowing you to go to 25600 if you so desire. The ISO button on the camera has been moved slightly. It's still on the top plate but positioned further to the left, closer to the mode dial where the DISP. key on the T3i was located. The camera allows you to set ISO manually or automatically, with the auto ISO range controllable in the menu.
The Canon T4i features the same white balance system we've grown to love (or loathe) as other Canon cameras. It has a standard automatic white balance that handles most color temperatures, save for indoor tungsten lighting. In addition there are several standard preset white balances for cloudy, shady, daylight, tungsten, or fluorescent conditions.
You can also take a custom white balance, but as on other Canon cameras it's a little more difficult to do than is necessary, as you have to first take your shot of a white object, go into the menu, tell the camera to use that image as a reference, and then set white balance to the "custom" setting. This isn't by itself overly complicated, but when nearly every other camera in its class allows you to simply point the camera at a white object and take a custom white balance, without messing about in the menu, it's a frustration.
The Canon T4i does not feature any in-body image stabilization, as is the case with all Canon DSLRs. The image stabilization is a feature built into the lens itself. Canon doesn't claim any real improvement in this regard, with their IS still being rated as improving shots "by about four stops."
The Canon Rebel T4i includes a host of in-camera scene modes, as well as creative filters that can be applied in playback. These can even be combined multiple times over, allowing you to customize effects at well. The main additions with regard to this feature are the "Art Bold" and "Water Painting" effect that are making their Rebel-series debut. The filters are only available during playback, however, so there is no live preview of what the effect will have on your image while recording shots. When these are applied, though, the original image is preserved for posterity.
The Canon Rebel T4i features a new 18-megapixel CMOS image sensor that has been redesigned, offering hybrid phase detection/contrast detection autofocus built into the center of the center for live view and video recording. It's still an APS-C image sensor, which is much larger than your typical point-and-shoot, somewhat larger than most of the "mirrorless" interchangeable lens cameras, and smaller than your professional full-frame DSLRs.
The Canon Rebel T4i utilizes the same 1.04 million-dot display as on the Rebel T3i, but has added a touchpanel that adds touch control. This is useful in playback with pinch-to-zoom and swiping gestures, as well as the ability to use touch to focus and touch shutter controls while shooting. The LCD's resolution is great during playback for checking fine details and very useful for establishing focus. The LCD is also mounted on an articulated hinge on the left side, allowing it to swing out from the camera body and turned to face forward, upwards, downwards, or flipped inside so it faces the body, protecting the screen.
The viewfinder on the Canon Rebel T4i is bright and clear, offering nearly full coverage of the final image frame. It has the nine focus points outlined on the matte screen, with the points lighting up in red when they're being utilized in phase detection AF. This can be a bit distracting, as on the unit we tested the points lit up a little brighter than normal, with a fog around them, though that may be down to the unit being a pre-production sample and not a production unit.
The built-in flash on the Canon T4i is a standard model, flipping up from the body around the hot shoe. We didn't get an exact power figure on it (we'll update when we do), but it seemed to be the same unit as found on the Canon T3i. Flash control is available through the menu, with a no-flash automatic shooting option available on the physical mode dial as well.
The T4i houses the same ports as the T3i, with a mini-USB and mini-HDMI input/output interface on the left side of the body behind a rubber flap. In addition, the camera has a 3.5mm mic port and a mini remote socket terminal behind a second flap, also on the left side of the body.
The Canon T4i uses the same LP-E8 battery as found on the Canon T3i. It slots into a dedicated compartment on the bottom of the camera. If you're upgrading from the T3i this is great news, because your battery and charger are both still usable in the new model. Canon rates the battery as almost as effective as it was in the T3i, though that's by CIPA rating standards, which we don't feel represent true usage for any level of user.
The Canon T4i utilizes standard SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, with a dedicated compartment on the right side of the body into the grip. Memory is inserted into the camera by sliding the plastic door backwards, revealing the port. The camera doesn't feature any usable built-in memory and an SD card of some sort is required (but not provided) to use the camera.
The Canon Rebel T4i is the new flagship of Canon's line, offering 1080p video recording, a new 18-megapixel image sensor, improved autofocus, faster shot-to-shot time, and a greater ISO range than last year's T3i.
In shooting with the T4i, it's clear that the sum of all those spec upgrades is a camera that truly feels new. That's a good step for Canon, as we felt the T3i was a lackluster, marginal improvement on the massively successful T2i that preceded it. With the T3i staying in the line as a mid-level option (above the T3 and below the T4i, for now), that separation was necessary for the T4i to be relevant.
In our time with the camera, we loved the snappiness of the new autofocus and more responsive shutter. The camera itself is very familiar, as its body is almost identical to the T3i, with only some minor handling differences. On the inside, the new Digic 5 processor chugs through bursts much quicker than the T3i did, and the autofocus is a hair sharper.
The major improvement to AF is seen in live view shooting and video recording. In either mode on most DSLRs, the normal method of phase detection autofocus is not available, forcing the camera to rely on contrast-detection AF. With the T4i's new image sensor, the camera has a hybrid phase/contrast detection system available in the middle of the frame, combining with Canon's new stepping motor lenses to provide smooth, silent autofocus tracking to the subject.
The other major addition that's sure to grab headlines is the T4i's touchscreen, making it the first digital SLR to feature touchscreen operation. With that technology already in place on competing mirrorless system cameras, this is hardly earth shattering, but it should aid beginners who are buying their first DSLR.
Overall, the T4i doesn't radically alter what has been a successful formula for Canon. The Rebel series cameras are lightweight cameras that feature a simple menu system, high-quality video, and generally decent image quality at a sub-$1000 price. The T4i checks all those boxes, but with enough hardware upgrades that it may represent a significant step ahead of what last year's T3i offered.
We'll have to wait until we get a production-level T4i into our labs for a full performance breakdown, but on paper and in our short time with the camera, we were impressed. If the camera holds up under the bright light of testing, this might be the first Canon Rebel worth turning in your aging T2i for.
Meet the tester
TJ is the Executive Editor of Reviewed.com. He is a Massachusetts native and has covered electronics, cameras, TVs, smartphones, parenting, and more for Reviewed. He is from the self-styled "Cranberry Capitol of the World," which is, in fact, a real thing.
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