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Canon Digital Rebel T2i Review

by Bob Atkins, April 2010 (updated March 2011)


The Canon Rebel T2i is the latest (spring 2010) addition to Canon’s entry level “Rebel” line of Digital SLRs. Each new Digital Rebel seems to add more and more features and the T2i is no exception. In fact it’s getting increasing difficult to regard the Digital Rebel series as cameras only for “beginners”. For example, Canon has put an 18MP CMOS sensor in the T2i. This is the same resolution as the sensor in the “top of the line” EOS 7D and is the highest pixel count currently found in any DSLR as well as having the highest native resolution (smallest pixel spacing) of any DSLR (including full frame models). The T2i is now capable of operation at up to ISO 12,800 while maintaining reasonable image quality and the continuous shooting rate has been increased to 3.7 fps.

But, as they say on late night TV, “There’s More”. The Rebel T2i has HD video at 1080p, with three different frame rates and manual exposure control, plus, like the 7D and 5D MkII, you can connect a external stereo microphone if you want stereo sound recording. Even the LCD screen has been updated and now has a 3:2 aspect ratio and over 1 million dot resolution.

The T2i isn’t your grandfather’s Digital Rebel anymore!

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the camera in 2 options: the Rebel T2i body alone and in a kit with the EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

If you are new to digital photography, start with the photo.net guide Building a DSLR System.

Rebel T2i Key Features

  • 18MP CMOS sensor with a 4-channel readout (the 7D has an 8-channel readout)
  • ISO 100-6400 (up to 12,800 with boost)
  • DIGIC 4 Processor
  • 3.7 fps continuous shooting speed (34 high-quality JPEGs, 6 RAW)
  • 9-point auto focus system
  • metering is 63 zone dual layering
  • movie mode: 1080p at 24, 25, and 30 frames per second (fps), 720p at 50 and 60 fps, VGA at 50 and 60 fps
  • manual exposure in video mode (like the 7D)
  • external stereo mic input
  • new movie crop mode
  • new LCD with 3:2 aspect ratio and 1.04 million dot resolution
  • quick control button
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC cards (adding compatibility with SDXC cards)
  • size/weight: 5.1×3.1×3.0 inches (close to the T1i) weight 18.7 oz
  • typical battery capacity – 550 shots without flash (430 shots with 50% flash)

Operating Speed

Like all current Canon EOS DSLRs, the Rebel T2i seems to turn on instantly and is ready to shoot by the time you’ve moved your finder from the on/off switch to the shutter release. Other operations are fast too, no doubt helped by the now common Digic IV processor used in all new DSLRs

The Canon EOS Rebel T2i Digital SLR specifications list continuous shooting at up to 3.7 fps for up to 34 Large/Fine JPEG or 6 RAW frames. This is actually a decrease from the Rebel T1i buffer size, but remember that the pixel count is now higher and the maximum continuous shooting speed has been increased slightly. The buffer size numbers (especially for JPEGs) also seem to be based on the use of slower SDHC cards than are now available.

In actual tests using a class 6 Kingston 8GB SDHC card, with the camera set to ISO 100, manual focus and manual exposure with a shutter speed of 1/400s, I measured a continuous shooting rate of 3.56 fps when capturing Large/Fine JPEGs and the buffer held 45 images before the frame rate dropped to 2.5 fps. In RAW mode I measured 3.53 fps for 7 frames. Then the buffer filled and the frame rate became irregular. After 3.5 seconds two rapid frames were shot followed by 2.2 second gap, then a 4.5 second gap, then a chain of frames about 2 seconds apart. A faster cards such as the 30 MB/s class 10 SanDisk Extreme series might provide an improvement in buffer size but I didn’t have one on hand for testing.

Note: in common with other EOS DSLRs, the use of high ISO noise reduction results in a reduction in the number of images that can be stored in the buffer, presumably due to the fact that the image processing power required for noise reduction slows down writing from the buffer to the memory card and so the buffer memory fills up faster.

Controls

The control layout of the Rebel T2i is very similar to previous models and the size and shape of the T2i body is very similar to the T1i body

Like the T1i, the T2i has a CA (creative auto) mode. This is somewhat like the full auto mode, but allows you to save some custom settings. You can save flash mode, picture style, image brightness, single shot or continuous mode, image recoding quality and bias exposure toward smaller or larger apertures. Once saved, these settings will be remembered every time you select the “CA” mode. If you don’t change the settings from default, they will be exactly the same as the normal “full auto” exposure mode.

The 13 shooting modes available are: A-DEP (auto depth of field), Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program AE, CA (creative auto), Full Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Flash off and Movie.

Control buttons and dials on the rear of the camera are almost identical to those on the T1i, but with the addition of a dedicated button for Live View selection and movie mode stop and start. The other buttons and switches are in the same place but the direct print button now also provides access to a “quick control” mode. In this mode using the 4-way control buttons you can highlight the shooting parameter displayed on the LCD that you want to change (e.g. ISO, white balance, metering mode, picture style, exposure compensation etc.) and then change it using the main control dial.

Like the other Digital Rebels, the T2i lacks a rear “Quick Control Dial” used on the more expensive EOS models such as the EOS 50D and EOS 7D and it does not have a top mounted LCD to display camera settings. The rear LCD is used to display all camera settings and a proximity sensor below the eyepiece turn off the LCD display when the camera is raised to the photographer’s eye.

Image Resolution

The pixel count of the Rebel T1i is 18MP, the same as the EOS 7D and the two cameras show very similar resolution. It’s slightly higher than the resolution you get with the 15MP sensor in the EOS 50D and Rebel T1i, but it’s not really a “night and day” difference. Going from 15MP to 18MP is a 20% increase in pixel count and just under a 10% increase in linear resolution. Theoretical resolution at the sensor for both the 7D and T2i is around 116 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm—the traditional measure of image sharpness). Both have a 4.3 micron pixel spacing. In comparison the T1i and EOS 50D have a pixel spacing of 4.7 microns and corresponding theoretical resolution limit of 106.5 lp/mm.

Due to a number of factors including the limitations or lenses and the anti-aliasing filter over the sensor, the practical resolution limit is lower than the theoretical limit. With the T2i and an EF 85/1.8 lens at around f/4, I’ve measured a resolution of about 90 lp/mm in RAW images converted with DPP In terms of “line pairs per picture height” (lpph), a measure used by many other reviewers, that would correspond to approximately 2700 lpph. Of course exactly what constitutes “resolved” for digital images is something of a subjective judgment, however whatever standard you use, the T2i resolution is very good.

The EOS 5D MkII has a pixel spacing of 6.4 microns and a resolution limit of 78 lp/mm, but of course the sensor is larger so images need be enlarged less to get to a given print size. All else being equal (which it rarely is), the 5D MkII should still be capable of yielding slightly sharper prints and any inequalities favor the larger sensor even more.

Image Noise

Not surprisingly, the image noise of the Rebel T2i seems quite similar to that of the EOS 7D. Both use an 18MP sensor, both use the Digic IV image processor, both have (presumably quite similar) high ISO noise reduction algorithms. Comparing data from the T2i with data I took from the EOS 7D last year, there wasn’t much difference. Given that the 7D is Canon’s top of the line crop sensor camera and the T2i is designated as an entry level camera (at 1/2 the cost), this is pretty impressive performance. Despite the increase in pixel count (resulting in smaller pixels) the Rebel T2i appears to better the noise performance of the Rebel T1i. In a quick, somewhat unscientific, comparison with the EOS 40D and EOS 5D, I’d say the T2i shows lower noise when looking at 100% screen crops. ISO 3200 on the T2i was similar to ISO 1600 on the 40D and 5D.

Note that while both the T1i and T2i have an ISO range of 100-12800, the T1i has a native range of 100-3200 with 6400 and 12800 available through range expansion, while the T2i has a native range of 100-6400 and a single expanded 12800 setting. Native ISO settings seem to show lower noise than equivalent expanded settings. The difference, to the best of my knowledge, is that native ISO settings are hardware determined and expanded ISO settings use the highest native ISO setting then apply some digital tricks to get a higher apparent sensitivity.

All cameras apply some level of noise reduction to high ISO images when saved as JPEGs. Software noise reduction techniques can be remarkably effective at lowering noise without obviously degrading resolution, but all do degrade the image to some extent. The noisier the image, the more noise reduction that has to be applied and the more detail is lost. Since some noise reduction is applied to JPEGs even when High ISO Noise Reduction is set to “off”, if you want ultimate control of just how much noise reduction is applied it’s best to shoot RAW and adjust noise reduction for luminance and chromatic noise in Canon’s DPP software.

Autofocus

The Rebel T2i inherits the basic AF system of the Rebel T1i. There are 9 AF zones arranged in a diamond pattern. There is a cross-type AF zone in the center that is effective with all EF and EF-S lenses, and also provides enhanced precision with lenses having maximum apertures of f/2.8 or faster. The outer 8 AF zones have linear sensors, some of which respond to only vertical detail, while others only respond to horizontal detail.

There are the usual 4 focus modes: manual focus, one shot AF, AI (which tracks moving subjects) and AI servo (which uses one shot for static subjects but switches into AI if subject movement is detected).

In general, autofocus seemed fast and accurate though it may be less capable under difficult conditions than a camera like the EOS 40D or 50D (which have cross sensors at all 9 AF positions) or the EOS 7D, which uses an even more advanced AF system.

Metering

The Rebel T2i uses the same (or at least very similar) metering system of the EOS 7D, with a 63-zone multi-segment metering (linked to AF zones), plus a center-weighted averaging option, partial metering (9%) and spot metering (4%). Canon specifies the operating range of the Rebel T2i as EV 1-20 (at 73°F/23°C with an EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, ISO 100).

Auto exposure bracketing with the Rebel T1i is possible over a ± 5-stop range, from -7 stops to +7 stops. For example, what this means is that you can shoot one shot at -4 stops, one at -2 stops and one at the meter reading, or you can shoot at the meter reading, +2 stops and +4 stops, or you can shoot at -2 stops, the meter reading and +2 stops. What you can’t do automatically is bracket at -4 stops, 0 stops and +4 stops from the meter reading. You can only bracket over a ±2 stop range, but you can center the bracket over ±2 stops from the meter reading. This sounds more complex than it actually is.

As with the EOS 7D, the Rebel T2i allows ±5 stops of exposure compensation to be applied to the automatic metering. The viewfinder readout only shows an exposure compensation scale up to ± 2 stops, but the rear LCD display has a scale with the full ± 5-stop range

The default metering in evaluative mode (the mode most people will use most of the time) is pretty good and certainly seems to try to “expose to the right” with reference to the histogram. Though it rarely blows highlights, sometimes dialing in a small amount of negative exposure compensation (less exposure) can generate better looking images right out of the camera. Of course if you shoot in RAW you can make adjustments later, but I suspect many users will simply accept whatever JPEG the camera delivers. In that case some time spent on experimenting with various pictures styles and exposure settings may be required to give optimum “out of the camera” results.

Viewfinder

The Rebel T2i viewfinder is the same size as that of the Rebel T1i. It uses a pentamirror rather than a pentaprism and shows about 95% (linear) of the actual image at a magnification of 0.87x (based on a 50mm lens focused at infinity). The eye point is 19mm. The viewfinder screen is fixed, which means that Canon do not supply any alternative screens. However, like earlier Rebel models, it’s possible that some 3rd party screens may become available.

The viewfinder displays extensive information on the camera’s operation, including AF points, a focus confirmation light, Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO speed, AE lock, Exposure compensation, Spot metering circle, Exposure warning, AEB, Flash ready, High-speed sync, FE lock, FEC, Red-eye reduction, White balance correction, SD card information, Monochrome shooting, Burst frames left and Highlight tone priority.

It’s quite easy to get used to the relatively small viewfinder. While actually using the T2i I honestly didn’t notice the viewfinder being smaller than the 40D/50D. Of course the difference is more noticeable if you switch back and forth between the 5D and T2i.Some people regard a large bright viewfinder as a big selling point, but I managed quite well with the smaller T2i viewfinder and don’t consider it to be a significant issue.

White Balance

The Rebel T2i has the same white balance settings as the Rebel T1i, namely Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, White Fluorescent Light, Flash and Custom WB Setting. There is no option to set white balance via color temperature.

Most of the white balance modes do a good job, but, as usual with EOS DSLRs, images shot under domestic tungsten lighting are noticeably warm, even when using the tungsten white balance setting. This is a common trait of all Canon EOS DLSRs and seems to be because Canon uses a color temperature of 3200K for the tungsten setting. This is about right for professional photographic (photoflood) tungsten lighting, but too “hot” for domestic lighting. It’s also the color temperature for which “tungsten” balanced film is designed. A typical 100W domestic tungsten light bulb has a color temperature closer to 2900K and a 40W bulb is usually around 2500K. I’ve found the tungsten WB setting is about right for 500W tungsten halogen lights, but they’re typically not what you would use to light your living room. If you want neutral colors under domestic tungsten lighting you need to do a custom white balance or shoot RAW and use DPP to set the white balance.

While “auto” mode usually does an OK job, if you want the best results it’s sometimes better to chose one of the fixed setting (e.g. cloudy or shade) or to perform a custom white balance. If you shoot in RAW mode and process the images using DPP, while balance can be adjusted for optimum results.

LCD

The Rebel T2i has an improved LCD monitor, for high quality playback and easier menu navigation. The large 3-inch high-resolution screen makes it easy to zoom in, for examining focus and fine details. The dot count has been increased from 920,000 on the Rebel T1i to 1040,000 dots, the difference coming from a change from an aspect ratio of 4:3 ratio on the T1i to a 3:2 aspect ratio on the T2i. The LCD now has a dual anti-reflection and anti-scratch coating resulting in better visibility and contrast in bright light.

Live View

The Rebel T2i offers both phase and contrast detection AF in live view. Phase contrast AF uses the standard AF sensors and requires that the mirror be lowered (which blanks out the LCD display). Contrast detection AF uses the actual image being recorded by the sensor to set the focus point and so the mirror does not need to be lowered and the LCD image does not black out. Phase detection AF is faster and more accurate, but contrast detection AF is more convenient if somewhat sluggish. Focus can take 2-3 seconds in contrast detection mode. The Rebel T2i also has a “face detection” AF mode, which is basically the same as contrast detection AF, but the image is analyzed for faces (up to 34 or them!) and focus and exposure is optimized for them.

The live view image can be zoomed to 5x or 10x in order to see increased detail for precise manual focusing.

Movie Mode

The Rebel T2i is the latest DSLR in the EOS lineup to offer a movie mode (along with the Rebel T1i, the EOS 7D and the EOS 5D MkII). There are three settings: 1080p HD (1920×1080) at 24, 25 or 30 frames/sec; 720p HD (1280×720) at 50 or 60 frames/sec; 640×480 SD at 50 or 60 frames/sec. Mono sound is recoded via a built-in microphone, but an external stereo mic can be attached if desired.

In Movie mode focus is fixed on the first frame and you have to focus (using a separate button) before you start recording (using the record button). You can refocus while shooting (by pressing the button which doubles for exposure lock), but focus is slow and hunts around since it’s using contrast detection. There are no options to change compression settings or frame rate. You can manually set white balance and picture style. Movies are recorded in .mov format (Quicktime) using the H.264 coded. Audio is recoded using PCM.

The maximum image duration is 30 minutes or 4GB (whichever comes first). The 4GB limit comes from the fact that 4GB is the largest file size supported by the card format (FAT 32). Canon recommends using a class 6 or faster SD/SDHC/SDXC card for movie mode to ensure smooth capture. Slower cards may be a problem, especially for 1080p HD recording.

Movie mode is selected via the main control dial and recording is started and stopped using a dedicated button on the rear of the camera. At any time during movie recording you can take a still image using the normal shutter release. During the still frame(s) the movie recording is paused.

Either phase or contrast detection AF can be used, but as in live view the mirror must drop and return when phase detection is used.

Exposure can be set to auto or manual. In manual mode you chose both the aperture and shutter speed. You can have a sort of “auto-manual” mode if you select manual and auto ISO. You set the shutter speed and aperture and the camera picks the correct ISO for optimum exposure.

The T2i has one unique movie feature not found on any other EOS DSLR. It’s called the movie crop mode and it can be used when recording VGA 640×480 SD video. In normal VGA mode the image from the whole sensor (or at least as much as can be used for a 4:3 aspect ratio) and downsizes it to 640×480. In the crop mode only the image from the central 640×480 pixels from the sensor are used. In effect this gives you a multiplier of about 7x on the focal length of the lens in use, so your 300mm lens gives you the same FOV as a 2100mm lens would if you were using the whole sensor to record the movie. Obviously you’d need a very sturdy support to be able to effectively use so much magnification. However, it does turn your 18-55is zoom into an effective 126-385 zoom, which may still be hand holdable with the help of image stabilization. In crop mode only contrast detection AF is available and using an EF 70-300is lens I found it to be very slow and sometimes it failed to get a good AF lock. However you can always use manual focus if AF won’t lock in.

Peripheral Illumination Correction

While Canon has offered peripheral illumination correction (also known as vignetting correction) in DPP when doing conversions from RAW image files for quite a while, the Rebel T2i can apply the same corrections to in-camera JPEGs when certain Canon lenses are used. The camera has a built in database of Canon lenses. The Canon EOS Utility software can be used to check which lenses are in the database and to add others for which the data is available.

Self Cleaning Sensor

The sensor cleaning system of the Rebel T2i has been upgraded to include what Canon calls a “fluorine coating” on the low pass filter (I presume this is a fluoride coating, since fluorine is a corrosive gas!). This is said to provide “better dust resistance”. The sensor uses an ultrasonic shaking mechanism to shake any dust particles off the low pass filter when the camera is turned on and off. The position and size of any dust stuck on the sensor can also be saved as reference “dust delete data” and this data can be used for removal of dust spots using post processing with Canon’s DPP software.

Color Rendition

The color rendition of the Digital Rebel T2i is consistent with earlier Rebel models and indeed, all the EOS DSLRs.

Color rendition can be modified using any of the supplied “Picture Styles,” which are:

  • Standard – for crisp, vivid images that don’t require post-processing
  • Portrait – optimizes color tone and saturation and weakens sharpening to achieve
    attractive skin tones
  • Landscape – for punchier greens and blues with stronger sharpening to give a crisp edge to mountain, tree and building outlines
  • Neutral – ideal for post-processing
  • Faithful – adjusts color to match the subject color when shot under a color temperature of 5200K
  • Monochrome – for black and white shooting with a range of filter effects (yellow, orange, red and green) and toning effects (sepia, blue, purple and green)

Canon also supplies a Picture Style editor, which allows the user to create and upload new picture styles to the camera. Picture Styles can also be applied to RAW captures using Canon’s DPP software.

Highlight Tone Priority

The Rebel T2i includes a highlight tone priority (HTP) setting. What this does is to reduce the clipping of bright highlights. It appears to work by using a nonlinear amplifier gain setting to the sensor data, which effectively could be considered to be the equivalent of shooting the highlights at an ISO setting about one stop slower than the shadows. The slowest ISO setting which is allowed when using HTP is 200 and the maximum ISO is 6400. ISO 12,800 are not available when HTP is active. HTP can quite effective at increasing highlight detail, at the possible cost of slightly noisier shadows. The effect of HTP can be quite subtle and only affects very bright areas, so it’s not a function you’d want to use all the time.

Auto Lighting Optimizer

The Auto lighting optimizer function analyzes the image and can optimize the brightness and contrast to improve the image (e.g. it can correct for dark subjects in back light situations). The T2i has 4 options (off, low, standard and strong). This function can also be applied to RAW images during post-exposure processing using Canon’s DPP software.

The effect of the auto lighting optimizer is subtle. With some images it makes no visible difference at all, while with others the effect is small but noticeable, even on the “strong” setting.

Flash

The Rebel T2i has a built-in popup flash with a Guide Number of 13/43 (m/ft) at ISO 100. It illuminates the field of view for lenses of 17mm or longer focal length and has a recycle time of 3 seconds. FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) of ± 2 stops in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments. There is no PC socket.

At ISO 400, flash range with the EF-S 18-55 kit lens is up to 24ft at 18mm (f3.5)and up to 15ft at 55mm (f5.6). A red-eye reduction lamp can be enabled via the menu system. Maximum flash sync speed is 1/200s.

Memory Cards

The Rebel T2i uses SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) memory, as do all of the current Digital Rebel series. SD cards are limited to 2GB capacity but can be used in the Rebel T2i, so any existing SD cards you have will work just fine. The Rebel T2i is also SDHC compatible, which means you can use larger capacity cards such as the increasingly common 8GB, 16GB and 32GB cards and it’s also compatible with the new SDXC cards which can have a capacity of over 32GB (in fact they have a theoretical capacity up to 2TB or 2000GB!)

Given the size of the files generated by the Rebel T2i, I’d recommend a 4GB or 8GB card. If you shoot RAW + JPEG (as I often do), the combined file size will normally be in the 20-30MB range (depending on the subject and ISO setting) but can be over 40MB, so an 8GB card will typically store somewhere between 200 and 400 images. I’d look for cards rated at at least SDHC speed class 6 which means a minimum transfer speed of 6 MB/s or 40×. Speed classifications of SDHC cards are somewhat strange. Until recently that all cards faster then 6MB/s were class 6, so, for example, the Sandisk Extreme III cards with data transfer rates up to 30MB/s was still marked as class 6, though I think that’s changed now and they are marked as Class 10. Since 1080p HD movies generate about 330 MB/min, a class 6 card (360 MB/min) is required to support them.

Canon does not supply a memory card with the camera, so if you don’t have any SD cards you’ll need to order one when you buy the camera or you won’t be able to play with it when it arrives!

Batteries

The Rebel T2i uses a new Lithium-Ion LP-E8 rechargeable battery. An optional grip, the BG-E8 is available (which also fits the XSi). This allows the use of two LP-E8 batteries or 6 AA cells. The BG-E8has built-in camera control buttons for easier vertical shooting, including shutter release, AE/FE lock, Main Dial, and and aperture/exposure compensation button. The T2i is not compatible with batteries from earlier Rebel series cameras (or with the batteries in the 40D/50D, 7D or any of the full frame DSLRs).

A 110-240v charger is supplied with the T2i

Choosing a Lens

The Rebel T2i can use any Canon lens, either EF (full frame) and EF-S (crop sensor). There are two lenses which match the Digital Rebel series in terms of cost and coverage, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, (compare prices) (review)(which is available as a kit with the T1i), and the Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS, (compare prices) (review). Both are excellent value and both have very effective image stabilization. The T1i coupled with these two lenses would make a very lightweight travel kit.

Once you go beyond the EF-S kit lenses, the obvious choice for a wideangle lens would be the Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM, (compare prices) (review). It’s a good lens and has a very useful superwide zoom range. The excellent Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM, (compare prices) (review), would pair well with the 10-22 (nobody will miss 23mm). It’s a very sharp “L” series lens with built in image stabilization.

If you wanted one lens to do as much as possible, the Canon EF-S 15-85/3.5-5.6 IS USM, (compare prices) (review), would be a good choice. With a focal length range equivalent to a 24-136mm lens on a full frame camera, it covers most wideangle and short telephoto needs. Image quality has been improved over the older Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, (compare prices) lens, especially at the edges of the frame. If you want something faster and with higher quality, look at the Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM, (compare prices) (review). As long as the smaller focal length range isn’t a problem, it’s a better (though more expensive) choice. If you want the maximum possible zoom range and image stabilization, take a look at the Tamron 18-250mm F/3.5-6.3 Di-II for Canon, (compare prices) (review). You may lose a little in image quality compared with lenses with a smaller range, but you gain in flexibility and convenience.

For a telephoto zoom, my pick would be the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, (compare prices) (review). It’s small, inconspicuous, sharp and the IS works well. One of the EF 70-200 “L” series zooms would also be a good match, which one depending on the size of your wallet. The EF Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, (compare prices) (review), is the best, but it’s quite large and heavy. The EF Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L USM, (compare prices) (review), is smaller, lighter and one of the least expensive “L” series lenses, though it doesn’t have image stabilization built in. All the 70-200 “L” series lenses are optically excellent.

Rebel T2i vs. Rebel T1i

The T2i and T1i are very similar in size, shape and control layout. However, the T2i adds a number of features which include:

  • A higher pixel count (18MP vs 15.1MP)
  • 1080p HD at 24, 25 or 30fps
  • 720p HD and VGA at 50 or 60 fps
  • Crop video mode (VGA at 7x magnification)
  • External stereo mic input
  • Native ISO range of 100-6400 plus H (12800)
  • A higher dot count 3:2 LCD
  • Slightly faster frame rate
  • 63 zone evaluative metering
  • ± 5 stop range of exposure compensation

Rebel T2i vs EOS 50D

Technically the EOS 50D is a more advanced model than the Rebel T2i, though based on features that’s getting kind of hard to justify. While the 50D is better in some areas it lags behind the T2i in others.

For example, the 50D has microfocus adjustment, a 1/8000s shutter speed, a better AF system with 9 cross sensors, two LCDs, a rear QCD (Quick Control Dial), a faster continuous shooting rate with a larger image buffer and a larger viewfinder with a true pentaprism. The 50D also feels more solid then the Rebel T1i and its size and shape may fit larger hands better.

On the other hand the Rebel T2i has video capability, which the EOS 50D lacks and that may be a significant factor for some users. While the T2i can’t yet quite compete with a dedicated video camcorder in terms of features, it’s nevertheless very convenient to have both still and video capability in one camera – and the video quality is outstanding. The T2i also has a higher pixel count sensor, a wider exposure compensation range and 63 zone metering.

I can’t help feeling that given the features of the T2i and EOS 7D, the EOS 50D is looking pretty dated. There are constant rumors of an EOS 60D, but as of the time of writing (April 2010) there has been no announcement from Canon and the rumors are just rumors. If a 60D is ever released I’d expect it to have much the same feature set as the T2i, but with a rear QCD, a true pentaprism, microfocus adjustment and a slightly higher frame rate and larger buffer. It’s also possible that there be no 60D and the 7D will be the successor to the 50D. Time will tell and I’m making no predictions.

Key Rebel T2i Features




Image Sensor 22.3mm x 14.9mm, 18 MP CMOS,
Autofocus TTL-CT-SIR AF-dedicated CMOS sensor, 9 AF points (Center cross-type)
ISO Speeds ISO 100-6400 + H(12800)
Metering Modes 35-zone Evaluative, 9% Partial, 4% Spot, Center Weighted
Viewfinder Pentamirror, 95% coverage, 0.87x
Shutter Speeds 1/4000 to 30 sec. + B,  X-sync at 1/200 sec.
Type Retractable, auto pop-up flash, GN 13/43 (ISO 100 m/ft), coverage for 17mm
lens
Memory SD/SDHC/SDXC
LCD TFT color, 3.0 in, 1.040,000 pixel, 160 viewing angle
Power LP-E8, optional Battery Grip BG-E8 (2 x LP-E8 or 6 x AA)
Dimensions (WxHxD) 129 × 98 × 75 mm (5.1″ × 3.9″ × 2.9″)
Weight 530 g (1 lb 3 oz) with battery

Conclusion

The Digital Rebel T2i is an impressive camera for the price. In terms of image quality it’s very close to the EOS 7D (which costs twice as much). It has a high resolution sensor, low noise, excellent HD video capabilities, ISO settings up to 12800, 3.5+ fps continuous shooting and enough other bells and whistles (PIC, HTP etc) to keep most photographers happy.

It is still a Rebel which means that it’s lacking some of the more advanced features of the higher priced models, such as the very useful rear QCD (quick control dial), focus microadjustment, a built in PC flash connector etc. It’s also smaller than the 50D/7D and doesn’t fit my hands as well, though if you have smaller hands than me (I’m 6ft) it may actually fit your hands better. I prefer the ergonomics of the 50D/7D series cameras and find them somewhat easier and quicker to use—but I prefer the price of the T2i.

Right now I don’t think there is a better “entry level” DSLR than the Digital Rebel T2i and I’d have no hesitation recommending it to someone who wanted a very versatile DSLR at a reasonable price. In fact, it’s the first of the Digital Rebel series cameras that I’ve actually been tempted to buy myself. No, it’s not as nice as the EOS 7D, but it is $900 cheaper!

Where to Buy

Photo.net’s partners have the camera in 2 options: the Rebel T2i body alone and in a kit with the EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6 IS. Their prices are fair and you help to support photo.net.

More

Example Digital Rebel T2i Photographs

Digital Rebel T2i, EF-S 15-85, 61mm, f6.3, ISO 6400. While ISO 6400 isn’t exactly noise free, it’s still quite usable for smaller images. Color saturation does suffer a little compared to ISO 100, but it’s still pretty good.
Digital Rebel T2i, EF-S 15-85is, 85mm, f11, 1/160s ISO 100. Images are sharp and well exposed. In bright sun auto WB also does a good job.
Digital Rebel T2i, Canon EF 500/4.5L, f5.6, 1/320s ISO 800. The crop sensor of the T2i results in the FOV of a 500mm lens being the same as that of an 800mm lens on a full frame camera, while the high pixel density gives excellent resolution. This image isn’t well composed because it was really a test shot, with focus in the center of the frame on the deer’s left eye.
Digital Rebel T2i, Canon EF 500/4.5L, f5.6, 1/500s, ISO800. Another test shot. This is a crop from the original image (shown as in inset, top left) and reveals a lot of detail being recorded.

Text and photos © 2013 Bob Atkins.

Article revised March 2011.

Readers' Comments


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Leonard Williamson , May 25, 2010; 02:09 P.M.

In the text it states it has a PentaMirror, but in "Key T2si features. at end - it says it has a "PentaPrism' which I understand is generally considered better and is on the higher priced models.

Bob Atkins , May 26, 2010; 07:09 P.M.

The T2i does have a pentamirror as stated in the text. The table is wrong and I'll get that corrected.

A pentaprism gives a somewhat brighter view, but a pentamirror is lighter and cheaper.

 

Michael MacDonald , May 29, 2010; 11:56 P.M.

It looks like a great camera to me and you sure can't beat the price. I am sure a lot of 7d owners are going to be pissed at Canon for using the same sensor in a rebel but the 7d is a far more capable camera overall and it is built much better. I bought the 50d about a year ago and I like it quite a bit. but I wish it had video capabilities I consider that a plus on a digital camera not a negative as some people do. If I had waited another year before I bought I probably would have purchased this rebel but I couldn't wait any longer my eos 3 was getting a bit long in the tooth. Will there be a 60d absolutely not the 7d is the sequel to that series. I could be wrong about that but I don't think so. Thanks for the excellent review Bob you always do a nice job and all your reviews are a pleasure to read. Mike

Dale L , June 21, 2010; 03:33 A.M.

Thanks for the review Bob.

Hey I been shooting with Rebels since the XT and I have never been fully happy with the focussing. I was reading the autofocus part of your review where you mentioned "The outer 8 AF zones have linear sensors, some of which respond to only vertical detail, while others only respond to horizontal detail." Can you explain further what you mean by vertical detail and horizontal detail and how would you workaround that limitation to make those outer points more reliable? Thanks.

 

Jim Dockery , June 23, 2010; 10:21 A.M.

Don't know if they are sooo popular, or Canon isn't importing enough, or both, but body only is hard to get right now.

Ed C. , November 01, 2010; 02:00 P.M.

I recently was able to purchase a T2i body. Compared with my XSi, color rendition during normal or slightly dim light seems to be much more accurate. However, colors continue to appear too warm in very low lighting. Higher ISO is also a welcome new feature. Just my thoughts so far.

Ken Dawson , March 22, 2012; 05:22 P.M.

Have noted some issues when photographing against a light background (e.g. birds against sky). The T2i seems to overexpose significantly in this scenario. Any thoughts, or workarounds for this?

John Fredy , June 05, 2012; 07:52 A.M.

Superb image quality in both photos and video. image quality is pretty good. I have made some test shots and despite going up to an 18 MP sensor the noise is not much of an issue and I shot several pics at ISO 3200 which look quite good. I then shot some in 6400 which did start to show some noise in the low light but still made for serviceable pictures. 

 

I have been using the video mode a lot more than I initially expected. While it doesn't offer continuous auto-focus and therefore might not replace a camcorder, once you get the hang of manually focusing this is not a big problem. I many times have found myself in situations where photos couldn't capture the moment as well as a video could, and the ability to record clips has been very convenient.

 

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Sophie Aljanabi , January 18, 2013; 04:05 A.M.

T2i is a great camera check out my flowers of life folder in my profile...all the pictures have been shot with a T2i...


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