Canon Rebel T4i Review
Canon's Rebel T4i represents a middle ground between bargain-bin DSLRs and enthusiast models.
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The Canon T4i (MSRP $1,199) is a decent mid-range performer from Canon that's very easy to pick up and use, but it doesn't always capture clean, accurate photos with ease. It makes little headway in improvement over its predecessor, the T3i, and it houses a three-generations old 18-megapixel sensor that leaves a lot to be desired in today's competitive market.
The Canon EOS Rebel T4i (MSRP $1,199 with lens) is a satisfactory mid-level DSLR—nothing more, nothing less. If we sound unenthused, it's because this camera doesn't inspire enthusiasm. It's a competent, incremental upgrade to a well-received ancestor, and that's it. It gets the job done. It's not the best at many things, but it's not the worst, either. It rests comfortably in its class. Still, that's not to say it doesn't have a couple standout features.
Like most Rebels, the T4i does a great job of appealing to a huge number of possible buyers—potential T3 owners might be lured away from the lowliest member of Canon's DSLR family by the T4i's more advanced feature set, and those thinking about the enthusiast-targeted EOS 7D might cave to the T4i's more attractive pricing. While it's only a small upgrade over its predecessor, the T4i's notable improvements do include a capacitive touchscreen, a hybrid autofocus system, and a kit lens capable of continuous, silent autofocus.
Design & Usability
The T4i is a virtual twin to its predecessor, the T3i, which makes it a fairly average mid-range DSLR on paper.
The T4i's plastic body makes it lighter than higher-end cameras, but even so, it feels reassuringly substantial and solid. Despite a spec sheet that looks quite similar at first glance to the T3i’s, the new model brings significant improvements in several categories. Headlining features include a side-hinged articulating touchscreen (the first ever touchscreen on a proper digital SLR), a new 18-megapixel “hybrid CMOS” sensor with phase-detect autofocus, Canon’s latest DIGIC V processor, and an improved 9-point autofocus system.
The T4i comes in two kit varieties. The more expensive and also far more useful kit incorporates the new EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens, which covers an extremely useful focal range for walk-around shooting. It’s also one of only two Canon lenses that utilizes STM focusing technology (the other being the new 40mm “pancake” prime). Essentially, this means that it’s able to focus almost completely silently—a feature that’s potentially invaluable to videographers.
Typical for the series, the T4i handles almost identically to its predecessors, particularly the T3i. We do wish the grip were just a little deeper, but it’s certainly not uncomfortable, per se, even for those of us with larger mitts. The upper right rear corner has a nice thumb rest that helps secure your grip—a flourish we always appreciate.
The Canon T4i produced subpar resolution, even with the improved 18-135 STM lens, but at least sharpness was evenly distributed across the frame.
Much like its predecessor, the T4i turned in somewhat disappointing resolution numbers in our studio tests. While the results showed some improvement over the T3i (almost certainly thanks to the improved optics of the new 18-135mm STM kit lens), it’s still a decidedly mediocre lens-body combination. This isn’t any real surprise since the sensor is essentially unchanged from the earlier model, aside from the addition of phase-detect autofocus pixels, but we count it as a missed opportunity for improvement.
It should be noted that all test images were taken using Canon’s “Faithful” color mode, which produces the most accurate color rendition and does not apply any additional sharpening. Using different color modes, such as Automatic or Landscape, will artificially increase sharpness to some extent.
The T4i produces extremely accurate colors in the Faithful and Neutral color modes, but it goes astray when left on Automatic.
Studio photographers will appreciate the fact that the T4i renders colors very accurately when using the Neutral and (particularly) Faithful color modes, which are near perfect with regard to saturation and extremely reliable in terms of accuracy. Other color modes, such as Automatic, Portrait, and Landscape are less conservative, tending to amp up the saturation (as high as 123% in Landscape) and taper off in accuracy.
If you’re shooting RAW, of course, none of this matters much since the camera’s color modes are applied to JPEGs only.
The Canon EOS Rebel T4i has a competitive overall feature set for a mid-tier consumer DSLR.
Quick continuous shooting framerates, a speedy and accurate traditional phase-detect autofocus system, and a competent 18-megapixel CMOS sensor keep the T4i from lagging behind competition, and its superb touchscreen interface and hybrid live view autofocus even set it apart from the crowd a little.
Many users coming from compact cameras will be happy to see that there are several typical scene modes on the T4i, including Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports, and Night Portrait. Also present are oddities like “Handheld Night Scene,” which combines four exposures to ensure a blur-free image, and “HDR Backlight Control,” which is simply an HDR mode much like those found on competing models. Also, the T4i is compatible with Canon’s GP-E2 GPS module, which connects via the hot shoe, and a submenu houses adjustable GPS capabilities.
The Canon EOS Rebel T4i is kept from greatness by its outdated, now three-generation-old 18-megapixel image sensor.
What was cutting-edge in the T2i is now old hat. The T4i's dynamic range, noise control, and aberration numbers are all solid, but unexceptional. Sharpness is a disappointment, but our poor results probably have a lot to do with the kit lens we used.
During testing, the Canon T4i produced subpar resolution, even with the improved 18-135 STM kit lens, but at least sharpness was evenly distributed across the frame. On the other hand, the camera produces extremely accurate colors when using the Faithful and Neutral color modes (though it goes astray when left on automatic). Despite adding a stop of sensitivity to go up to ISO 25600, the T4i only improves a little bit on its predecessor in terms of noise handling.
Dynamic range performance is essentially unchanged from the T3i, but higher ISOs suffer slightly in lab tests due to less aggressive noise reduction. The T4i performs reasonably well in low light, toeing the line established by other cameras in its class. Chromatic aberrations are generally well controlled, but the new 18-135mm STM kit lens still has serious problems with distortion.
Canon's Rebel T4i is a satisfactory and rather unexciting mid-range performer.
This is not a camera that inspires strong feelings, yet it's mostly very reliable (sometimes, vanilla is the flavor you want). On the handling front, Canon’s Rebel-series cameras have always been notoriously easy for beginners to pick up and use, and the T4i is no exception. While it offers a number of advanced features, the controls are simple enough that newbies won’t have any trouble finding their way around. A few buttons are awkwardly placed (we didn’t love the location of the review button, for instance), but generally speaking, they’re logically and conveniently laid out. The flip-out capacitive LCD is a great addition, and the improved 18-135mm STM lens provides a very convenient focal range for everyday shooting.
Perhaps the only noticeable standout on the T4i is its capacitive touchscreen. The implementation is surprisingly fluid and intuitive for both shooting (tapping to focus and shoot) and image review (swiping between photos and pinching to zoom).
In the future, we’d like to see Canon rest on its laurels a little less. It could stand to get a bit more serious about image quality—that 18-megapixel unit is getting a bit long in the tooth—and generally speaking, we’d love to see an exciting new product rather than another incremental upgrade. The Rebel T4i is a fine camera for its target market; it checks all the major boxes and even tosses in a few class-leading features to sweeten the deal. It's just not very exciting.
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