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There might be a dozen great things to say about the T2i, but there aren't a dozen reasons to buy it. The 2010 entry-level DSLR from Canon is barely an upgrade over last year's T1i, which you can get for a couple hundred dollars less than this new model.
The new sensor — borrowed from the T2i's big brother, the Canon 7D — boosted sharpness, but didn't help with the lackluster performance in other areas. Only DSLR video fanatics will be tempted by the T2i, with its microphone input, four frame rate options, and much improved video performance.
**Size Comparisons **
In the Box **
• EOS Rebel T2i Body
• EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens
• Eyecup Ef
• Wide Strap EW-100DBIII
• USB Interface Cable IFC-130U
• AV Cable AVC-DC400ST
• Battery Pack LP-E8
• Battery Charger LC-E8E
• EOS Digital Solution Disc and Instruction Manuals
• 'Great Photography is Easy' Booklet and 'Do More with Macro' Booklet
**Color Accuracy ***(17.70) *
The Canon Rebel T2i was very accurate in our color testing, improving upon the excellent performance of last year's Rebel T1i. The camera was most impressive in reproducing orange, green, and flesh tones. This performance comes as no surprise, given Canon's history of excellent color reproduction. The T2i scored above every model in our comparison group.
To test color accuracy, we first determine which is the most accurate of the camera's color modes — in this case, Faithful. In this mode, we photograph the X-Rite ColorChecker chart under an even 3000 lux illumination. Running these images through Imatest software, we determine the recorded photo's variance from the known color values of the chart. This test only measures how accurately the colors are portrayed; you may prefer more or less saturated colors for your own photography. Click here for more on how we test color.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
The T2i outperformed its predecessor (the T1i) and every other camera in this group, including the excellent Canon 7D and Nikon D5000. This score is based upon the Faithful setting, which proved to be the most accurate of the T2i's shooting modes. If you would like images to be very close in color to what you see through the viewfinder, Faithful shooting on the T2i will get you precisely that.
The T2i brings back the 'Picture Styles' that we saw on last year's T1i: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, and Faithful. There's also an option for monochrome, plus three user definable settings. These three customizable settings can be created by selecting one of the pre-determined styles, then tweaking it for sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone. If you choose to base your custom setting on the monochrome style, the saturation and color tone options are replaced by filter effects and toning effects. Filter effects work like virtual colored filters (yellow, orange, red, or green), while toning will add a color wash (sepia, blue, purple, or green).
Neutral and Faithful were the two most accurate modes on the T2i. Both produced values quite close to those of the actual X-Rite chart, though Neutral mode tended to skew blue and pink hues more. Standard mode was a more saturated version of Neutral, with far less accurate reds, yellows, and blues. Portrait mode was also oversaturated and was the least accurate in reproducing greens. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Portrait mode actually altered skin tones — a trait that will be more or less desirable, depending on personal preference. Finally, there's Landscape mode: a setting designed to emphasize bold skies and foliage. Landscape certainly lives up to its promise, with almost terrifying blues and substantial shifts in green and red as well.
The following chart shows same-size crops from our test shooting in each color mode, for each color patch on the X-Rite color chart. The color names are those used by X-Rite.
*NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
The long exposure test is designed to examine color accuracy and noise at reduced lighting levels. Like its predecessor, the Rebel T2i fared poorly in this category, producing less accurate colors and noisier images than many competing models. Click here for more on how we test long exposure.
The graph above shows the color error across five different shutter speeds. Since color error is a bad thing, a shorter line represents a better performance in this chart. As you can see, the noise reduction setting consistently resulted in less accurate colors. The T2i really struggled across all shutter speeds in this test.
In the chart above, you can see that the T2i generally kept noise levels below one percent. This isn't a horrible performance, but it is worse than the numbers turned in by most SLRs. Fortunately, the noise reduction system does seem to reduce the noise levels at each shutter speed, if only by a small margin.
Compared to similar models, the Rebel T2i fared rather poorly in our long exposure tests.
Noise levels on the Canon Rebel T2i were slightly higher than those of the competition. The noise isn't anything that will ruin your photo shoot, but it's clear that squeezing 18 megapixels into the sensor has had an adverse effect on noise. At the end of the day, the T2i performed worse than many similar models, including the three non-Canons selected for our comparison group. Noise reduction proved somewhat effective, but you sacrifice a bit of image sharpness.
To test noise, we shoot the X-Rite ColorChecker chart at every available ISO. (For those cameras with an 'extended ISO range,' we test only the standard ISO levels.) We use Imatest software to calculate the amount of noise at each level of noise reduction across every ISO. Click here for more on how we test noise.
With noise reduction turned off, the T2i had noise levels above 2% at ISO 3200. That's more noise than registered in any of the competitors' models. Fortunately, the 'Normal' and 'High' levels of noise reduction were fairly effective, with normal noise reduction keeping noise to just under 1% at ISO 800.
The graph above shows the different levels of noise for each component color (the L stands for luma, which is gray.) Usually, these lines are grouped tightly together; the T2i is fairly unusual in having significantly lower noise in the yellow spectrum. The T1i registered similar results.
The noise levels on the T2i were generally higher than the competition — with and without noise reduction activated. With noise reduction off, this is especially true above ISO 800. Sporting identical sensors, the T2i and 7D have almost identical noise performance. (The 7D has slightly higher noise at ISO 3200, but is the same at every other level.) The only competing model coming in behind the T2i was the Sony A550, and that was only at ISO 400 (noise reduction off) or with noise reduction on.
Although the T2i demonstrated improved performance with maximum noise reduction, our score is based on overall noise performance. Taking into account noise at every ISO and every level of noise reduction, the Rebel T2i and the Canon 7D came in last place in our comparison group.
The official ISO range on the Rebel T2i is 100 to 3200, but the camera also boasts an 'extended range' that opens up additional options: ISO 6400 and 'H' (approximately ISO 12800).
The table below contains same-size crops taken from still life photos shot with each of the comparison cameras at all standard ISO settings.
NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.
The Rebel T2i fared very well in our resolution test: captured images were sharp and had little chromatic aberration. The 18mm-55mm lens did show some slight distortion, but it was less than you find on most comparable kit lenses.
To test resolution accurately, we photograph a resolution chart at three focal lengths, with three apertures for each distance. The photos are analyzed in Imatest, sampling multiple locations across the each image. We look at distortion, chromatic aberration, and sharpness, though distortion results are not used to determine the final score for interchangeable lens cameras. Click here for more on how we test resolution.
As we mentioned above, distortion was not used to calculate the T2i's resolution score: it's entirely a product of the lens, which many users will swap in and out on a regular basis. However, the kit lens of the T2i fared well compared to other cameras' kit lenses, measuring barely any distortion at the middle of the zoom range or even at the telephoto end.
Chromatic Aberration (7.55)
Chromatic aberration is the presence of color imperfections, caused when a camera is unable to focus different light wavelengths precisely. As was the case with last year's T1i, the T2i fared well in this department — about on par with most lenses in this price range. There were no real surprises with the testing results; chromatic aberration was most apparent at the edges of the image, when shooting at the widest angle settings.
We were impressed by the sharpness of the T2i, especially compared to the results measured on several competitors' cameras. The T2i was tested in Standard mode, which has a minimal amount of in-camera sharpening. The resulting images turned out to be quite good, with the best results coming in at the 18mm focal length: 2124 lw/ph horizontal resolution and 2279 lw/ph vertical resolution.
The tables below feature 100% crops taken from our test shots at each of the three focal lengths, with three aperture settings at each focal length.
At 18mm, the lens was sharpest at an aperture of f/9. At this focal length, the sharpness tends to be best right in the center of the lens, with gradually decreasing results further from the center. Chromatic aberration was generally worse on the edges as well; the lens turned in its poorest performance on the edges of the f/22 photos.
At 37mm, the lens demonstrated excellent sharpness at both f/4.5 and f/11. At an aperture of f/29, however, the sharpness was greatly diminished, even in the center of the image. Chromatic aberration was also worst at f/29, as you can see from the blue fringing in the crops above.
The best sharpness at 55mm easily belonged to those photos taken at the f/14 aperture. Though slightly softer than the images captured at the 18mm and 37mm focal lengths, these 55mm f/14 photos are still impressively sharp. At the f/5.6 and f/36 aperture settings, the lens simply couldn't keep up. Chromatic aberration was also at its worst in these two focal lengths.
The Canon T2i with kit lens delivered resolution scores surpassing even its brand mate Canon 7D.
Picture Quality & Size Options***(9.25)*
The Rebel T2i shoots photos exclusively in a 3:2 aspect ratio. There are three JPEG sizes available (see chart below), each size available in Fine or Normal quality. There is also the option to shoot RAW files — either alone or paired with an 18M fine quality JPEG.
The T2i was slightly below average in the dynamic range department. It performed quite well at the lower ISOs (i.e. ISO 100 through ISO 400), but it suffered a sharp decline at ISO 1600 and higher. This is an improvement over last year's Rebel T1i, which proved to have good dynamic range only at ISO 100 and 200. Click here for more on how we test dynamic range.
The Rebel T2i has a dynamic range optimizer function called 'Highlight Tone Priority.' This function which will improve dynamic range, but may result in higher image noise. As such, we do not test or score based on this mode.
The Rebel T2i had a dynamic range of six to seven stops at most ISO settings, dropping to 4.70 at ISO 1600.
The chart below compares the dynamic range of several cameras at ISO 200 (longer bars indicate wider dynamic range). As seen here, the Canon T2i has a narrower range, but not by a wide margin.
Though the T2i performed fairly well, it was below average compared to the competition. The Nikon D5000 and the Sony A550 both had a wider dynamic range. Unsurprisingly, the T2i's high-end cousin, the Canon 7D, performed much better in this test.
The optical image stabilization built into the T2i's kit lens did not do much to improve the camera's performance. In the best case scenario (1/60 second shutter speed at low shake), there was a moderate improvement in sharpness. In other cases, however, the stabilization either did nothing or made matters worse. Click here for more on how we test image stabilization.
In our low shake testing, the T2i performed much as we've come to expect: at higher shutter speeds; the stabilization actually hurt sharpness performances, while at lower speeds the system improved sharpness. At the lowest shutter speeds (i.e. 1/15 and 1/8), the stabilization simply wasn't effective enough to alter sharpness in either direction.
In our high shake test, however, the results were unusual. Once again, the lower shutter speeds (in this case, anything slower than 1/30 of a second) seemed unaffected by stabilization. The surprise comes from the sharpness results above 1/30 second. Stabilization actually helped sharpness at 1/125 second and higher, while it hindered the camera's performance at 1/60 second. Our interpretation of the data is that the camera's stabilization system is simply not predictable in high shake scenarios.
Compared to other cameras in this group, the T2i fared quite poorly in stabilization. None of these SLRs is particularly impressive in this category, but the Sony A550 and Nikon D5000 at least posted results that we feel indicate significant effectiveness on the part of their respective image stabilization systems.
The representative same-size crops below are taken from our test images. They should give you an idea of the improvement in sharpness — if any — offered by the stabilization system.
NOTE: As of May 2010 we have revised our image stabilization testing procedure to consider only horizontal stabilization. The scores shown here are up to date.
The Canon Rebel T2i performed below expectations — both in automatic and custom modes. Its poor performance under incandescent lighting is unsurprising, but the ineffective manual white balance was a huge disappointment. This feature typically produces highly accurate readings, particularly in SLRs. On the T2i, however, custom white balance left photographs looking cooler under multiple types of lighting. Click here for more on how we test white balance.
*Automatic White Balance (11.60)
*As with many cameras, the T2i had trouble producing accurate colors under incandescent light. It was just below average when it came to fluorescent lights and daylight. The Samsung NX10 was the only one of our comparison cameras that did consistently worse than the T2i in our automatic white balance testing.
Custom White Balance (3.87)
With a custom white balance, the T2i was able to capture much more accurate results. Unfortunately, there is still a significantly cool shift under all the light sources we tested. We witnessed similar trouble on last year's T1i, but the skewing was not quite this dramatic.
Across the board, the T2i was a disappointment in white balance performance. Only the Samsung NX10 scored lower, with particular problems with auto white balance. The Nikon D5000 did particularly well in this area, producing especially accurate results after a custom white balance.
White Balance Settings***(7.25)*
The Rebel T2i offers seven white balance presets, plus an automatic setting and the option to take a manual white balance reading. The available presets, with their corresponding color temperatures, are listed in the table below:
The custom white balance system is a bit cumbersome on the T2i, as it is with all Canon SLRs. Most cameras allow you to point the camera at a white or gray card surface and push a button to calculate the custom white balance. Canon cameras, however, require you to take a photo of a white or gray surface, then select that stored image as the basis for the custom white balance setting.
Under the WB Shift option in the menu, your current white balance setting can be adjusted along both amber/blue and green/magenta axes. The T2i gives you ±9 steps in each direction; each step is the equivalent of five mireds (a unit that measures color temperature shift). This same option in the menu sets the camera up to bracket white balance along either amber/blue or green/magenta axes: you can take three shots, with a ±1, ±2, or ±3 step difference between each shot.
Below you'll find a selection of sample photos. Clicking on the large image will open the full-size originals in a separate window.
Still Life Examples
The following shots were taken of our still life with each camera in its best color mode. Click on a thumbnail to open the full-sized image in a separate window.
*NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.
The following full-size crops were taken from shots of our still life, taken with with each comparison camera in its best color mode, using automatic white balance.
NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.
Playback mode is entered via a clearly marked playback button next to the LCD. As on most cameras, you can navigate from one file to the next using the directional pad. For quicker navigation, you can use the control dial, which defaults to jumping ten images at a time. (The dial can be customized to scroll through 100 images at a time, flip one at a time, shuffle through files by date, or swap between still images and video.)
Two buttons on the back near the shutter button allow you to magnify the still image during playback. The highest magnification possible is 10x. If you're using the playback zoom feature, the control dial will allow you to navigate between files at a consistent magnification. Zooming out allows you to view four or nine thumbnails on the LCD simultaneously.
There are four playback display options, as shown in the screen captures below. Pressing the display button during playback allows you to view just the image or the image plus varying amounts of additional information.
The T2i has a rudimentary built-in slide show function. There are no transition effects or music options; just how long to display each photo and whether or not to repeat. Videos can be played back in-camera at full speed, at one of five slow motion speeds, or frame by frame.
The offerings for in-camera editing are sparse. You can rotate images, but you cannot do any real image alteration; resizing, cropping, red-eye reduction, and dynamic range adjustments are all missing from the T2i. This is no great loss, considering that most SLR users will do this kind of work in post-production on a PC. Compared to competing models, however, the options are slim.
The T2i comes bundled with several programs, including Windows and Macintosh versions of each.
Direct Print Options*(6.00)*
The Canon T2i has an 18-megapixel 22.3 x 14.9mm CMOS sensor — the same size and resolution as the sensor found on last year's excellent Canon 7D. (The 18-megapixel resolution is higher than the 15-megapixel spec on the T1i.) As before, the T2i has a built-in sensor cleaning system that activates when the camera is turned off. You can also activate a sensor cleaning function manually.
If the built-in cleaning doesn't successfully clear the sensor of all dust particles, the included Canon Digital Photo Professional software can remove particles digitally, using a photo of a white background for reference. (In the camera, this is called the 'Dust Delete Data' feature.)
Crop factors of various Canon DSLRs
Like its predecessor, the Rebel T2i has an APS-C sensor. The APS-C sensor size is significantly smaller than the 35mm full-frame sensor used on Canon's 5D Mark II, and slightly smaller than the APS-H sensor size of the Canon 1D line. The smaller APS-C sensor means you multiply the focal length of a lens by a 'crop factor' to get the equivalent length for a 35mm sensor (in this case, 1.6x). Packing 18 megapixels into a relatively small sensor tends to negatively impact noise levels, as we saw on the 7D and here on the T2i.
The T2i viewfinder is identical to that of last year's T1i. The viewfinder has a 95% field of view at 0.87x magnification and a diopter range of -3.0 to +1.0 m-1. Beneath the viewfinder is a small proximity sensor, which deactivates the LCD when you put your face up to the viewfinder.
The viewfinder gives a good view of your subject (95% field of view).
The view through the eyepiece is detailed below:
The T2i ships with an eyepiece cover: a small bit of flexible rubber that can be used to keep light leaking in through the viewfinder from affecting exposure readings during tripod photography. The cover is conveniently attached to the neck-strap, but it inconveniently requires you to remove the eyecup for each use. Sliding that eyecup off is fairly annoying and it makes you feel like you're breaking the camera — not to mention the fact that you could easily misplace the eyecup once it's off. Still, the cover is a nice feature for an entry-level model, even if you only use it occasionally.
Canon has given consumers a slight increase in LCD resolution this year, with the T2i's 1,040,000-dot, 3-inch display. This high-res screen is great for sharp image playback and a more accurate manual focus in Live View. In comparison, the Nikon D5000 LCD is much lower in resolution (only 230,000 pixels), but it is articulated: the user can unfold the LCD and view it at different angles.
This year, Canon recycles the same Quick Control Screen interface seen on the T1i. When the shooting settings are displayed, pressing the Q button will switch the user into Quick Control mode. Though the two modes look nearly identical, in the Quick Control Screen, you can use the directional pad to navigate through the various options. Once you've highlighted a function, the name of that function is displayed at the bottom and you can use the dial to adjust it. If you press the Set button, a more detailed setting display appears.
The screen color option allows you to choose from one of four color schemes for the LCD: black on gray, white on black, white on brown, or green on black. The LCD can also be set to one of seven brightness levels.
The monochrome LCD panel you'll find on many higher-end SLRs is, understandably, missing from the $900 Rebel T2i.
The T2i comes equipped with a built-in pop-up flash. The built-in flash has a range of 43 feet (13 meters) at ISO 100. The T2i can also be used in conjunction with a large variety of external flashes. Canon's EX-series of Speedlites is fully compatible with the T2i, allowing for variable flash power. The EZ/E/EG/ML/TL-series Speedlites are also compatible, but only at full power. Finally, non-Canon flashes can sync with the T2i, but only at shutter speeds of 1/200 of a second or slower — and not while in Live View mode.
The built-in flash doesn't have a lot of options, but it is used for focus assist.
The flash has the usual red-eye reduction tool, which fires two flashes to help keep your photos free of evil red pupils. It can also be set to 2nd curtain sync, which causes the flash to fire at the end of the exposure rather than the beginning. This can help you create artistic light trails with moving subjects. Strangely absent is the option for slow sync, which cameras often employ in order to properly expose the background of a low-light image.
As we see with many SLRs, users can use the T2i's built-in flash as an autofocus assist tool: a quick series of strobes will activate in order to give the camera more light for an accurate autofocus. This is definitely a handy tool for low light portraiture, but it can be distracting — if not disorienting — when shooting candid photos.
The T2i, like its predecessor, is compatible with all of Canon's EF and EF-S series lenses. In fact, having access to such a wide range of excellent lenses is one compelling reason to purchase a Canon camera. However, since Canon houses the autofocus motor and image stabilization units within its lenses, it will cost you a pretty penny to accrue several lenses for your collection. Olympus and Pentax cameras, with autofocus and stabilization elements built within the body of the camera, generally offer more affordable lenses, but increase the price of the camera body accordingly.
*The T2i is compatible with
a large selection of Canon lenses.*
If your lens causes vignetting in the corners of your photos, the T2i has a Lens Peripheral Illumination Correction tool. This setting uses data from a large variety of Canon lenses to digitally adjust for vignetting, based on the specific lens you're using.
The Canon T2i has a 1.6x apparent magnification factor compared to shooting with a 35mm camera; that is, the 18-55mm kit lens is roughly equivalent to a 29-88mm. The photos below show the framing at three zoom settings, shot from the same spot.
The Rebel T2i uses the LP-E8 Lithium ion rechargeable battery, which is rated for approximately 550 shots per charge (using the viewfinder only). Naturally, the battery life is severely limited by use of Live View, providing only 200 shots or 1 hour 40 minutes of video recording.*The LP-E8 battery is enclosed in a compartment on the bottom of the camera. * **Memory***(3.50)* *** The T2i records both still photos and video footage to SD/SDHC memory cards, and Canon is also supporting the new high-capacity SDXC format, which is likely to gain popularity once card prices come down. If you want to shoot video, you'll need a Class 6 (or faster) SDHC card to handle the required data transfer speed. One thing we love about the memory card slot on the Canon T2i: it's mounted on the side of the camera, separate from the battery cavity. That means you should have no trouble accessing the memory card, even when the T2i is mounted on a tripod. *The side-mounted card slot allows easy access.* ** Jacks, Ports & Plugs***(6.50)* *** In addition to the SDHC card slot and battery compartment, there is a sizable port cavity on the left side of the Canon T2i. Beneath a flexible rubber casing lie four ports: microphone, remote control, AV out, and mini-HDMI. The former is a brand new addition for the T2i, giving the camera a bit more flexibility as a video recording device. This mini-mic port is the same as the port found on Canon's camcorder lineup. The mini-HDMI port is a standard size; the camera does not ship with an HDMI cable, but any standard mini-HDMI cable will work. The A/V output, on the other hand, is compatible only with the proprietary cables that ship with the T2i or are available through Canon.
All the ports are hidden inside this compartment.
In addition to the standard aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual modes, The Rebel T2i includes A-Dep (auto depth of field), Creative Auto, and full auto modes.
Live View has improved drastically since it was first introduced to SLR cameras. Last year's T1i functioned decidedly better than older models; the T2i is even a little more responsive than the T1i. This is probably driven by the need for improved Live View to record video, but still photography modes get to reap the benefits as well.
The most significant problem with Live View is the slow and/or cumbersome autofocus. The T2i has three focus methods: live mode, quick mode, and face recognition. Live mode is great in theory, but is very slow and sometimes inaccurate. Face recognition has the same trouble: it detects faces well enough, but the focus takes so long that your subject has often moved by the time the camera has set its focus. The quickest, most accurate alternative is the 'quick mode,' which works great, but blacks out the screen briefly in order to determine focus. (The screen blacks out while the camera is raising the mirror to focus.) Quick mode is the only focus method available in Live View that uses phase detection focus; live mode and face recognition both use contrast detection.
On top of all this, manual focus is not a walk in the park. You could simply use the LCD to determine focus, but that's unlikely to get you the accurate results you need. For a more accurate focus, you can zoom in on the LCD, but you do so using the zoom buttons, which also double as exposure lock. It's not the most intuitive process and we highly recommend that you stick with the viewfinder if you plan on performing a manual focus.
Of course, there are advantages to using Live View. The most useful feature for many will be the ability to see changes in color mode and white balance dynamically, giving you a hint of how your final photo will turn out. There's even a depth of field preview that can be shown by using a button on the front of the camera. Another advantage to Live View is being able to see more of your subject. You get 100% field of view and you have the ability to zoom the Live View image up to 10x magnification. Finally, there's the obvious advantage of comfort in using Live View. Many people don't want to spend a whole day shooting with their eyes crammed up in a viewfinder.
Like in Playback mode, you can alter the amount of information shown on the LCD in Live View by using the Display button. The various display options are shown above.
The Rebel T2i provides the user with five scene modes, each accessible via the top-mounted mode dial:
On some entry-level SLRs, including models from Pentax and Olympus, you'll find a number of interesting filters and effects you can apply to the image. (See the Controls section of the Pentax K-x for a sample of the myriad picture effects that are available on some cameras.)
The Rebel T2i has fewer options, focusing mostly on the color modes (or 'Picture Styles') we discussed in the Color Modes section of this review. These options include: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, and Faithful. If you want a little more customization, each of these Picture Styles can be tweaked for sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone: sharpness on a scale from 0 to 7, the others on a scale from -4 to +4. When adjusting the Monochrome settings, your options are sharpness, contrast, filter effect, and toning effect. You can create three 'User Defined' settings and save them for future use.
There is also an 'auto lighting optimizer,' which adjusts exposure and contrast. When enabled, the options are standard, low, and strong.
The Rebel T2i has the same nine-point autofocus system as most Canon DSLRs. Eight points are arranged in a rhombus, with one central point in the middle. You can either focus manually, allow the camera to focus automatically with all nine focal points, or select one of the nine specific points to use for autofocus.
The T2i features a nine-point autofocus system.
The focus generally feels fast, though it slows down a bit in low light. Even in low light, however, we found that the T2i autofocus system is responsive and accurate. The focusing motor isn't too loud, but when you're recording video, its proximity to the microphone definitely provides an audible grinding noise in the background. This is a problem with most SLRs. You can read more about it in the Audio Features section of the video portion of the review.
There is an 'autofocus assist beam,' though it's associated with the built-in flash, which will fire a short series of bursts in order to help the T2i autofocus in low light. There is no dedicated infrared focus assist beam. If you prefer to use only IR focus assist, you can purchase an external flash with this feature and set the camera to activate focus assist only when the infrared beam is available.
The T2i has three choices for focus modes:
The range on the T2i exposure controls is narrower than on many cameras. We would have liked to see exposure compensation run at least ±3 EV rather than just ±2, and to see the auto exposure bracketing span more than three photos. If you're looking to push exposure more drastically, you could bump the exposure compensation to its maximum or minimum and combine that with bracketing to achieve +4 or -4.
Speed and Timing
Shot to Shot (3.40)
The manual for the T2i states that the camera can get 3.7 frames per second in continuous shutter mode, and we got close in the lab, with the same 3.4 frames per second: rate we measured when we tested the T1i last year. Many similar cameras are able to record more quickly, but this is by no means the slowest camera we've tested either.
Drive/Burst Mode (6.50)
There's only one option for drive mode: the aforementioned 3.4 frames per second continuous shot mode. There is technically no limit to the number of photos that can be taken in this mode, but the capture speed slows down significantly after about eleven shots (or about five if you're shooting in RAW). You also won't be able to have a 3.4fps speed if you're using the flash or have high ISO noise reduction cranked up; in these cases the continuous shot moves much more slowly.
Depth of Field Preview*(2.00)*
The Rebel T2i has a button just below the lens for activating depth of field preview. This stops down to aperture to let you see see how much of the scene is in focus under your selected settings. The feature works even better in Live View. Not many entry-level cameras have a depth of field preview; we're happy to see Canon continuing to include it here on the T2i.
The T2i has a 63-zone TTL metering system, with four different modes, described below:
The range of shutter speeds here is standard for this level of camera. You'll have enough control for most situations, although slightly higher-end models will probably get you a wider range.
The T2i sports three different self-timer options. The remote control option works with either a wireless or wired controller.
Design & Handling
If you've handled other Canon Rebel models, the T2i will feel very familiar. The weight is a bit more evenly distributed than the XS or XSi, but it feels virtually identical to last year's T1i. The weight is also nearly identical: like the T1i, the T2i is lighter than many comparable SLRs. This is great if you're lugging the camera around all day, but it lacks the solid, reassuring feel of a weightier body. The light weight can also make Rebel cameras feel less stable than a heftier model.
The button layout is very close to that of last year's T1i. The most significant change is the addition of a dedicated Live View and video record button, located right next to the viewfinder. This button is easier to reach and it no longer shares duties with the playback print button. Playback print is now the secondary function of the Q button. This sharp new addition lets you pop into Quick Control mode, where you can change each individual shooting setting on the fly. We like this a great deal more than assigning this function to the ambiguous 'Set' button.
One of the advantages of an entry-level DSLR is in its sparse button design, which can be less intimidating to first-time users. Controls on the T2i fit nicely into this category. The buttons are all sensibly laid out and the most important features get their own buttons here on the body of the camera. (You'll have to plumb the depths of the menus for everything else.)
There are a couple new design elements this year, including the dedicated Live View / video record button up near the viewfinder. Most beginners won't know that this symbol is Canon's universal language for Live View, but once you know it's there, you'll appreciate its convenient location. There's also a button for the Quick Controls screen; the new button is much more obvious than pressing down the Set button, as you were required to do with the T1i.
The Canon menu system always sets a high standard, and the T2i is no exception. The design is always clear, easy to read, and easy to use. There is only one page of options per tab, so you don't have to scroll down to see all the options quickly.
Manual & Learning*(8.00)*
As always, Canon provides users with a thorough, well-written user manual. The Rebel T2i manual includes countless diagrams to clarify camera operation and explains even the more difficult terminology well. The organization of the book is perhaps its greatest weakness; Canon has chosen to explain the simplest settings first and the more complex settings at the end. That means that similar settings are not grouped together, but often scattered throughout the manual. You'll find yourself using the index with great frequency. A pdf version of the manual can be downloaded from Canon by clicking here.
There are two extra information booklets included with the T2i, which will be a familiar sight to Canon consumers. 'Great Photography IS Easy' essentially lavishes praise on Canon's image stabilization system. 'Do More With Macro' is actually a bit useful, especially since a lot of first-time SLR users will probably want to shoot high quality close-up images for the first time.
On the Canon website, you can also access the Digital Learning Center. Canon continually adds more lessons to this tutorial-based website, making it easier for amateur photographers to make the most of Canon products.
Video Color & Noise
The Canon T2i did a so-so job in our color accuracy test, but we were mostly satisfied by its performance. The camera managed a color error of 4.7 and a saturation level of 86.11%. The camera has a number of color modes that can be used to record video, but we did all of our testing using the Standard color mode. You can see examples of other color modes further down in this section. Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests color performance.
From the color error map shown above you can see the Rebel T2i did best with rendering blue tones correctly. Greens, yellows, and certain reds, however, were found to be more inaccurate in our test. We found the T2i produced the most accurate colors using its Portrait color mode, but the results weren't all that much different than what we saw in Standard mode.
Since what determines good color production is mostly based on personal preference, we urge you to take a gander at the comparison charts below. Each of these cameras produced colors in our test that are quite different and we feel the two Canon models did a very good job capturing colors in a pleasing manner. The Samsung NX10 did have the most accurate colors, however, which is why it scored the highest in this test.
The T2i averaged 0.5275% noise in our bright light testing, which is a good score. Most video-capable DSLRs do exceptionally well in this test, however, which explains why the T2i scored a bit lower than the rest of the models in this set. Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests noise performance.
The crops shown above do a good job displaying each camera's ability at capturing a sharp, detailed image. The Nikon D5000 and Samsung NX10 should immediately jump out as having less sharp images than the two Canon models, but that's because only the Canons can record Full HD video (the Nikon and Samsung are limited to 1280 x 720 recording).
Video Motion & Sharpness
The Canon Rebel T2i showed similar results to the Canon 7D in our motion test, but we found the 7D rendered motion a bit better overall. The two cameras offer the same frame rates for recording 1080p video: 24p and 30p. These options resulted in motion that looked quite smooth without too much trailing — something that couldn't be said for last year's Canon T1i (which utilized an unusual 20p frame rate for recording 1920 x 1080 video). Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests motion.
Canon Rebel T2i
*Click Here for large HD Version *
The T2i showed slightly more artifacting than the 7D, which was the main difference between the cameras. We also saw a bit more interference and blur on the T2i, particularly in the black and white pinwheels. In addition to the 24p and 30p modes on the T2i, the camera also can shoot 720/60p HD video (and 640 x 480 standard definition video). Since the T2i is an actual DSLR its videos are prone to having a rolling shutter effect (we also saw this on the 7D and Nikon D5000). The rolling shutter adds a significant amount of wobble to any quickly panned footage (sometimes it is called a jell-o effect).
As we noted above, the Canon 7D had a very similar motion performance to the Canon T2i. It shoots with the same frame rates and it captured a decently smooth image overall. Both cameras had minimal artifacting in our motion test, but the 7D managed to show slightly less than the T2i.
The D500 was not a strong performer in our motion test. The camera's motion video had lots of artifacting and numerous straight lines were rendered with jagged edging. The camera also had a major problem with its rolling shutter effect, which is something we also noticed on the two Canon DSLRs in this testing set. The Nikon D5000 records 720p video using a 24p frame rate.
The Samsung NX10 didn't produce loads of artifacting in our motion video, but it did show lots of trailing and blur. The camera's 720/30p recording option also didn't produce very smooth motion and we even saw signs of a rolling shutter effect — something we usually don't see from a mirrorless camera like the NX10 (the problem usually only exists on full-fledged video-capable DSLRs).
We expected some strong results in this test for the Canon Rebel T2i because it is one of the few video-capable DSLRs that can capture a Full HD 1920 x 1080 video image. The camera did not disappoint, as it managed a horizontal sharpness of 600 lw/ph and a vertical sharpness of 700 lw/ph. While these are very good scores for a video-capable DSLR, we have seen significantly higher numbers from many high-end HD camcorders (including models from Canon like the HF S21). Of course, some aspects of obtaining a sharp image depend on the quality of lens you are using, so it is probable that you could get sharper video from the T2i if you mount a better lens on the camera. Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests video sharpness.
Video Low Light
The Canon T2i required 11 lux of light to reach 50 IRE on our waveform monitor, which is a decent score for a camera of its class. Much like we saw with the Canon 7D, the T2i didn't have much difference between its low light sensitivity when shooting 24p or 30p video. Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light sensitivity.
A low light sensitivity of 11 lux is close to what we usually see from high-end consumer camcorders, but you could easily improve the sensitivity on the T2i by shooting with a faster lens. A lens with a wider aperture setting will allow more light to hit the camera's sensor, thus improving low light sensitivity. This is an area where video-capable DSLRs hold a strong advantage over consumer camcorders that don't have interchangeable lens systems.
In our low light testing, the Canon Rebel T2i registered a color error of 4.11 and a saturation level of 90.56%. These numbers are good, although the Canon 7D managed much better color accuracy. Still, we like the low light image produced by the T2i and its strong saturation level produced vivid colors. These results were taken from shooting our test chart using the T2i's 24p record mode. When shooting 30p footage the results weren't much different — 3.86 color error with 89.88% saturation. Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light color performance.
The T2i rendered more accurate colors in low light than it did in our bright light testing, which is something that is fairly common for video-capable DSLRs. You can see from the error map that the camera captured blues, reds, and browns with very good accuracy, although it still had most of its trouble in the yellow-green spectrum. Looking at the comparison charts below you can see that the 7D produced a brighter, more vivid image in low light than the Canon T2i.
We measured the noise levels at 0.9425% on the Canon T2i in our low light testing. Much like what we saw in the camera's other low light tests, these are good numbers despite the fact that some of the other models in this set scored even better. The T2i had a slightly different noise percentage when we shot using its 30p setting, as the camera registered 1.02% noise in that mode. Click here for more on how CamcorderInfo.com tests low light noise performance.
The Rebel T2i showed fairly good overall low light capabilities, which should be clear when you look at the crops above. Overall, the Canon 7D is the superior low light performer, but the T2i comes in as a very strong second. Its low light image is sharp, but you can see some blur and interference along the horizontal trumpet near the bottom of the crop (compare this to the crisper lines on the 7D's image).
The Canon Rebel T2i uses the MPEG-4 codec to compress video and it has a number of shooting modes. You can record Full HD video using a 24p or 30p frame rate, 720p HD video using a 60p frame rate, or standard definition video that shoots at a resolution of 640 x 480 with a 60p frame rate. There's also a cropped 640 x 480 option that gives a telephoto effect of roughly 7x. Video files are saved in the MOV format. These are the same options that you'll find on the T2i's more expensive cousin, the Canon 7D.
In addition to these options, you can also switch the T2i over to PAL mode and shoot using 25p or 50p frame rates in lieu of the 24p and 60p options we talked about in the paragraph above. While many users will probably overlook this feature, it is a good option to have if you do a lot of videography in Europe and any other areas that use the PAL standard instead of NTSC.
Canon states that you should be able to store roughly 49 minutes of HD video on a 16GB memory card. With the standard definition mode the capacity basically doubles to 1 hour and 39 minutes of video on a 16GB memory card. However, the camera does have file size limitations of 4GB or 30 minutes — at which the clip will automatically stop recording when reached. You can begin recording again as a new clip, but you must press the record button to start recording again.
The Canon Rebel T2i has both an auto and manual exposure mode for recording video. In auto mode you can still adjust exposure manually, but shutter speed, aperture, and ISO cannot be set.
The T2i does not have a continual autofocus setting, which is the case for most video-capable DSLRs (we've only seen continual autofocus on Micro Four Thirds or other mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras). What this means is that you must press a button in order to have the camera perform an autofocus. This focus system can often take up to five seconds to bring an image into focus, which is far slower than what you get on any dedicated camcorder.
The auto exposure on the T2i wasn't too bad, and it did produce adjustments in a smooth, gradual manner. The exposure changes were a bit too slow, however, and they weren't nearly as quick or precise as what we normally see from a consumer camcorder.
Zoom Controls and Zoom Ratio
Zoom is controlled by rotating the zoom ring on whatever lens is attached to the camera. The kit lens for the T2i is an 18 - 55mm lens, which is equivalent to roughly a 3x optical zoom.
As we said earlier, there is no continual autofocus in video mode on the T2i. You can set focus manually while recording video (using the focus ring on the lens), or you can press the autofocus button. In addition to taking quite a bit of time to perform the auto focus, the system is not smooth like you get from a regular camcorder — and the process is also extremely noisy.
Exposure, Aperture, and Shutter Speed
All three of these settings can be adjusted manually on the Canon Rebel T2i's video mode, but exposure can only be set when the camera is in auto exposure mode. Aperture and shutter speed can be set manually when in manual exposure mode only. Each of these settings can be manually adjusted prior to or during video recording, which is always a great option to have.
ISO and Other Controls
ISO can also be set manually in video mode (in manual exposure mode only), and, like the other manual controls, it can even be changed during recording. Other controls available in video mode are a variety of color and image presets that we showed examples of in the Video: Color section of this review. There's also a feature called Highlight Tone Priority that expands the dynamic range when recording in video mode (gradation between grays and highlights should appear smoother). This can only be set when the camera is in manual exposure mode.
If you want to record audio with the Canon Rebel T2i you have two options: you can record monaural audio with the built-in microphone, or you can connect an external mic to the 3.5mm mic jack on the left side of the camera. If you actually care about capturing good audio to match your video, you should probably stay away from using the built-in mic. It picks up lots of unwanted operational noise and the quality of the audio is downright awful. Whether you use the built-in mic or an external mic the T2i compresses audio using the linear PCM codec.
The Canon Rebel T2i handles much like the Canon T1i and 7D did before it. It is roughly the same size and weight as the T1i, but it comes in as significantly lighter than the Canon 7D. It also has the same size LCD as its predecessors (3 inches diagonally), but the screen has quite a few more pixels on the T2i (a 1.04 megapixel resolution).
While the T2i does feel fairly light and compact for a DSLR camera, it is still bulkier than most mid-range consumer camcorders. When it comes to overall weight, the T2i is roughly on par with the flagship HD camcorders from Canon, Sony, and JVC (each of which hover around 500g). The Panasonic HDC-TM700, however, is significantly smaller and lighter than the rest of the high-end consumer camcorder crowd.
One of our biggest problems with the T2i as a video recording device is the fact that its LCD is completely stationary on the back of the camera. This makes it difficult to frame shots correctly — particularly if you are shooting at an odd or uncomfortable angle. This basic feature is something we loved about the Nikon D5000 and its flip-down LCD panel.
The T2i also suffers from overheating issues, which is something we've seen from most video-capable DSLR cameras. It is unclear how long the camera can record video before automatically shutting down due to sensor overheating, but we got an internal temperature increase warning from the T2i after roughly 45 minutes of continual use in video mode. When this warning appears, Canon recommends you stop using video mode on the T2i and let the camera rest, which isn't something you may necessarily be able to do if you're in the middle of an important shoot.
Canon 7D Comparison
As you might expect, the Canon 7D outperforms its less expensive cousin in most areas. The gap between the 7D and the Rebel T2i isn't quite as wide as you might expect, though, considering the $800 price difference. That's due in large part to the sensor upgrade that the Rebel received this year. (It now utilizes the same sensor as the 7D.) Long exposure, white balance, and dynamic range were the big winners for the 7D, while most other areas saw similar performance between the two models. We noticed slightly better video performance on the 7D as well.
When it comes to construction, the T2i definitely feels like the more vulnerable camera. The lightweight body is great for portability, but doesn't feel as rugged as the 7D. Both cameras feature a 3-inch LCD, but the display on the new T2i is higher in resolution. Neither camera comes with an articulated LCD — a welcome feature when you're shooting video. There are, however, several other differences that give the 7D a distinct advantage: a 100% viewfinder, wireless flash control, capture to Compact Flash, and several extra ports. Both the T2i and 7D give you access to the panoply of available Canon lenses.
The 7D is markedly larger and heavier than the Rebel T2i. It is surprisingly easy to handle, with good grip design and button placement, and the extra weight lends some welcome stability. The T2i is so light that you might forget you're carrying it — light enough that some users may find it more difficult to keep steady. The sheer number of buttons and dials on the 7D may intimidate amateur photographers, but the extra controls really come in handy.
As one might expect, the 7D has more options for how you set up your shots and make image adjustments. The 19-point autofocus is far more sophisticated than the 9-point system on the T2i. Plus, the 7D has a larger range of shutter speeds, exposure compensation, and other options. Both cameras offer Canon's excellent menu design for navigating among the various settings.
NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.
Nikon D5000 Comparison
The Canon T2i and the Nikon D5000 split the difference in the performance department, with each camera scoring well in a different set of tests. The T2i came out ahead in color, resolution, and dynamic range, while the D5000 took the prize for long exposure, white balance, and noise. The D5000 did prove to have more effective image stabilization, which may matter to you if you find it difficult to keep these light cameras steady. Video performance on the two cameras was similar, with one notable exception: motion recorded on the T2i looked much better than that captured on the D5000.
The Canon T2i has a slightly better component set than the D5000. The viewfinder has a higher magnification rating, the LCD has a much higher resolution, and it has a sensor near the viewfinder to turn off the screen when you bring it up to your eye. One notable advantage to the D5000: the LCD is hinged to make it easier to avoid glare and record at unusual angles.
The Nikon D5000 is a bit larger and heavier than the T2i, resulting in a more solid feeling. (We prefer the extra bulk, since it allows you to hold the camera more steadily.) In terms of menu and control schemes, both follow in the design of their respective manufacturers, so it's entirely a matter of personal preference.
In general, the D5000 has a better range of options than the T2i. The D5000 has more autofocus points, a wider exposure compensation range, better flash controls, a proper autofocus assist lamp, and more self-timer options. Both cameras have custom menus, but Nikon auto-populates the custom menu with your most recently used settings: a nice little touch. We do prefer the Canon menu system overall, since it restricts option display to a single tab, eliminating unnecessary scrolling.
Samsung NX10 Comparison
There were three chief differences in the performance of these two cameras: the Canon had the edge in dynamic range, the Samsung had the edge in long exposure, and the T2i absolutely killed the NX10 when it came to color performance. In noise, resolution, and white balance, the two models were very similar. As for video, the T2i definitely came out on top, with better motion, sharpness, and low light performance.
Both the T2i and the NX10 seem reasonably well built, though the Samsung seems to have more solid construction, despite its lighter weight. One notable exception here is the Canon T2i's optical viewfinder, which seems far more pleasant to use than the finicky NX10 viewfinder, with its stuttering and blurring problems. On the other hand, the Samsung sports a phenomenal OLED, which is great for using Live View. The big advantage, though, is in Canon's huge selection of lenses. Samsung has only recently introduced its lens format and there are few choices compared to the wealth of options you can get from Canon.
While the T2i is reasonable compact for an SLR, it's much larger than the NX10 in every dimension. In particular, the Samsung is nearly half the weight of the Canon (353g vs. 530g). While this certainly impacts the portability of the Samsung, it isn't necessarily an advantage in shooting. The button layout of the two cameras is surprisingly similar: everything is within easy reach and there seem to be just the right amount of buttons and dials to access the most important functions. The key question here is probably whether you prefer to shoot with Live View or the viewfinder. The Samsung's Live View mode has a more responsive autofocus system and the advantage of the superior OLED; the Canon has a quicker autofocus when using the viewfinder and a better viewfinder experience overall.
The Samsung NX10 is a dream for ambitious beginners, with its slew of scene modes and picture effects, plus an immense range of white balance options. The self-timer allows you to select a very precise delay, from 2 to 30 seconds. As for the more 'serious' controls, the offerings are both very similar on the two cameras. They have the same range of shutter speeds and exposure compensation. Both cameras give you some precise tweaking ability on sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone. The T2i does have better ISO control, including a wider range (ISO 6400 and an extended ISO range option), and the ability to set a maximum ISO for auto mode.We also found the aperture adjustment on the Samsung NX10 to be clumsy in full manual mode.
Sony A550 Comparison
The T2i's primary strengths in performance were color and resolution — in both of these tests, the Canon outshone the more expensive Sony A550. While the Sony did manage to eke out better results in most other areas, it was rarely by much. The Sony probably took its greatest advantage in shot-to-shot speed, proving itself quite capable in an area where the T2i really struggles. Long exposure, white balance, and dynamic range were also strong suits of the A550. Of course, there is one glaring difference in the two cameras: the Canon records excellent quality video, while the Sony has no video capabilities at all.
The Canon T2i and Sony A550 have a surprising number of small differences when it comes to components. They both have nice 3-inch LCDs, but the T2i's is higher resolution, while the A550's is articulated with a bottom hinge. Both have hot accessory shoes for mounting an external flash, but the Sony connection is proprietary, compatible only with Sony accessories. The T2i records to SD/SDHC cards and the new SDXC card format, while Sony has a introduced a dual-format slot, allowing users to record to SD/SDHC or Sony MemoryStick PRO Duo cards. One thing the two cameras have in common: neither has a proper autofocus assist illuminator; you'll have to rely on annoying bursts from the pop-up flash to help you focus in low light.
We felt that the Sony A550 felt better in the hands than its lighter, less comfortable competitor. The added weight might make the Sony less desirable to carry around for a long day, but it feels steadier and more substantial. The Sony has a nicely sculpted shape and a rubberized surface that's friendlier on your hands. When it comes to Live View, the Sony has another huge advantage: both cameras employ a quick and accurate phase detect autofocus system when shooting with the viewfinder, but the Sony uses this same phase detect autofocus when shooting in Live View. The Canon T2i, on the other hand, uses a slow contrast detect autofocus or blacks out the LCD in order to use phase detect in Live View mode, both unattractive options. We do, however, prefer the button layout of the Canon model, with its more responsive 4-way controller and extra buttons for accessing the most frequently used settings.
Both cameras have a similar set of controls available, including ISO 12800 — though that's more of a marketing claim than a feature you'd actually want to use. The T2i gets a huge plus in our book when it comes to connectivity. Not only does it offer a microphone input for recording audio, but it gives you the port and cable necessary to connect to standard definition television. Preposterously, there's no way to do this with the A550. It's not just missing the cable you need; it's missing that port entirely. (Both cameras do have HDMI outputs for high-def TVs.) There is light at the end of this tunnel, though... the Sony A550 has some nice fast burst modes and the technologically impressive in-camera high-dynamic-range shooting.
Specs & Ratings
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