The Canon Rebel T2i – A First Look

The New Canon DSLR:  EOS Rebel T2i

Yes, that’s right, I am looking at the T2i, but like everyone else, my look is virtual rather than real, so for those expecting a hands-on review, you’ll have to wait until it ships.  For what it’s worth though, here’s some initial thoughts on looking through the specs that Canon released.  First off, their PR description from the landing page on their website:

“The new flagship of the EOS Rebel line, Canon EOS Rebel T2i brings professional EOS features into an easy to use, lightweight digital SLR that’s a joy to use. Featuring a class-leading 18.0 Megapixel CMOS Image Sensor and increased light sensitivity for low light photography, the EOS Rebel T2i also has an advanced HD Movie mode for gorgeous Full HD movies. Able to capture up to 3.7 frames per second, it’s ready to go the minute it’s picked up. Advanced Live View, a new wide-area screen, plus features like Canon’s brilliant Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone features ensure brilliant photos and movies, easily. With some of the most advanced features of any digital SLR, it’s simply the best Rebel Canon has ever created.”

So, wow, right off the bat, they are calling it the new “flagship”.  Impressive words, but I am a little surprised by this as flagship is usually used in reference to the top-of-the-line in a product, which in Canon’s case is the 1Ds Mark III. Well, it’s a Japanese company though, so a minor nit…now, on to the nitty gritty details.

Media: First off, Canon has changed from the venerable CF format card to the SD format card for their entry level lines…which I think is a first (I am sure someone will sound off in the comments if I am wrong though).  This includes support for the traditional SD, as well as the high capacity, and the extended capacity cards (SDHC and SDXC respectively).  This is kind of cool as my P&S uses those card types, so this means buying fewer types of media for newcomers to the SLR world.  One point for Canon.

Megapixels: Weighing in at a whopping 18MP count – this is kind of surprising, given that the sensor is is the crop format – that’s an awful lot of pixels to be cramming onto a sensor that size.  With Nikon holding the edge in noise handling, I am afraid of what kind of noise this MP count will produce at anything above 400.  I remember my Canon XT (which had less than half the MP count at 8) was pretty rough above the 400 ISO setting.  We’ll see, but for now I am afraid this is one point against Canon.

ISO/Shutter Speed: Well, they went and did it…not only did they jack up the MP count, but they also brought the super high ISO settings to the entry level cameras.  You can now shoot in High ISO mode (12800), so the amount of noise that is going to appear here will likely be screamingly high which is not a good thing.  Sure, it enables more low light shooting, but at what expense?  Give me better noise handling and I’ll be impressed, but with the 18 MP count, I am not holding my breath.  On the shutter speed side, also a little disappointed.  They’ve upped the ISO, and MP count, why did they leave such a cheesy shutter in there?  Only 1/4000ths of a second?  This is the same that the Rebel XT had some 4 years ago – you can’t improve shutter quality in 4 years?  How depressing….another 1/2 point off for a total of more more gig against the body in this category.

Video: Not a big shocker here as most cameras are moving to add the video recording capability in SLR’s.  The big advantage of having video in an SLR is that you can change lenses where formerly you needed super-expensive video equipment to do this.  The fact that Canon has extended the HD recording capacity to its entry level line of DSLR’s is impressive with a full 1080p.  It seems the format is also in the popular .MOV style which is probably one of the most portable ones available.  Kudos to Canon here, so one point for them on the video.

Frames per Second: No surprises here, the entry level is still not very fast with only 3.7 fps.  One of the reasons I upgraded to the 40D and am now looking beyond that is the burst of 6 fps that comes in mid range models, so am happy to leave that behind.  The fact that they were able to eke that much out with the new MP count is impressive, but stil,l very much “entry-grade” in the shutter fps count.  One point against ’em (sorry guys).

LCD Monitor: I am glad to see that Canon has adapted in this regard and is now providing higher resolution screens for the entire lineup, with the entry level “flagship” weighing in at 1,010,000 dpi – something that my 40D doesn’t have!  The large 3″ size should be a notable nod as well so one point for you in this element.

Focusing Points: Only 9?  Really?  Disappointing, as this is available in many of the P&S line-up.  Pony up a little here Canon and give ’em a few more to choose from.  A little surprising that they haven’t raised the bar here – given the advances in technology.  Sorry guys, but gotta dock another point here for not bringing up the count.

Price: Ah yes, the final point to consider when buying an SLR – how many sawbones are leaving your bank account.  The MSRP for this is not surprising given the market point as an entry-level DSLR:  $899  This does include the kit lens of an 18-55 IS lens…so if we take that price from B&H of $170 off, that means the body only will weigh in at roughly  $729.  Once you stock up on a spare battery, media, and swapping out what I am sure is the cheap-o strap (which is still the one provided in their high end 1Ds Mark III camera which boggles my mind) for one with decent padding, your price is right back up into the $800 range for the body and required accessories.  This really starts getting into the subjective element here, but for me, when I see entry level SLR’s in Target, Wal-mart, Costco, and the like for $600, and high end P&S cameras in the same category, shelling out an extra $200 for the feature set doesn’t really seem worth it to me.  I’d rather save the $200 for the accessories, with a lower end SLR from the big box stores, or get a high end P&S from B&H that pretty much does everything this does except the interchangeable lenses.  That, combined with the economy being what it is, and this seems a tad over-priced.  Sorry guys, but another notch against you here…you gotta adjust to market conditions and given the rest of your product line, it’s just not worth it!

So, what’s the final tally?  let’s take a look and see:

Points For: 3

  • +1 – Media
  • +1 – HD Video
  • +1 – LCD Quality

Points Against:  5

  • -1  – Price
  • -1 – Focusing Points
  • -1 – Frame Rate
  • -1 – ISO/Shutter
  • -1 – Megapixel count

The final tally has more cons than pros, which means I can’t in good conscience say that this body is worth jumping into the DSLR range for beginners.  Save some moolah and go with the XS – it’s got roughly the same frame rate with an MP count that is more appropriate for a crop sensor camera.  Granted, you don’t have the HD video and are dealing with a slightly smaller screen (2.5″ versus 3″), but how much are you really planning on using that screen for checking image sharpness anyway…probably not much – that kind of evaluation comes in during post.  And you save $320 in the process.  Start off with this and some nice glass and you can upgrade to the mid-range down the road which will give much better features in terms of IQ, response time, and the like.

So, there you have it- my first look/thoughts on Canon’s latest release.  Have you looked at the details yet yourself?  What do you think?  Is it worth it or a waste?  Am I off in my estimation?  Sound off in the comments, as your feedback and input is really what matters… enjoy the weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Monday!  Until then, happy shooting!

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12 comments for “The Canon Rebel T2i – A First Look

  1. miss24sunshine
    February 13, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    So what would you recommend to get besides the XS if a person wanted HD video recording as well?

    • February 13, 2010 at 11:13 pm

      I always have been a fan of buying a device for the use intended. You want a nice camera? Get an SLR. You want to shoot video? Get a camcorder! 🙂 Multi-function devices will never compete in my book over a dedicated device. Just my 2 cents in a world where pennies are useless! 🙂

  2. miss24sunshine
    February 13, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    oh yeah! Nikon d90 or the t2i? For high quality video and picture. Which one will you say?

    • February 13, 2010 at 11:11 pm

      Well, the d90 has a 4.5 fps frame rate which is almost a full frame faster than the t2i, but it doesn’t do true HD video (only 720p)…however, it has more AF points, and we know that Nikon is better than Canon when it comes to noise handling. Also, the fact that they limit the sensor to 12 MP and 3200 ISO means they are recognizing the sensor limits of what they can do to address the noise, so I think the d90 gets the nod…

      • miss24sunshine
        February 17, 2010 at 8:44 pm

        Thank you.

  3. February 13, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    I’m equally concerned with the increase in megapixel count; this would put the pixel size smaller than anything before it in the Rebel line, and even though I love my T1i, it has a much harder time dealing with noise at low ISO than my XSi did.

    Speaking of which, Canon’s been using SD cards in their Rebel line since the XS/XSI (and maybe earlier).

    Also, regarding the screen — I love my XSi, but that’s one place were the screen on the T1i (and the improved one on the T2i) is a big pro. I can actually judge sharpness/focus on my T1i; the XSi would actually preview blurrier than the image actually was. Color accuracy and brightness of the screen is hit or miss for either, but that’s normal.

    Will I upgrade to the T2i? Not likely. My T1i isn’t a year old yet, for one, and for two, any upgrade will be to a xxD or xD camera.

    As for movies, (@miss24sunshine), I’d suggest grabbing a dedicated HD videocam. Quality will be better (although you don’t get the nifty depth-of-field), no rolling shutter, and the camera is optimized to take video. DSLRs aren’t there yet, IMO.

    • February 13, 2010 at 11:54 pm

      Good to know about the XS line – wasn’t sure but it caught my eye in the t2i so thought I’d mention it and let those who know the entry line better than I bring up details on the format…as it turns out the media format also has been extended to include compatibility wit the SDXC format which is what has the ultra-high capacities. I am sure Canon will include firmware updates for the others in the line-up to extend the card reader compatibility, but it’s always nice to have it built in…and this is the ONLY camera in their lineup to have that native compatibility!

  4. February 14, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I’ll through my 2 cents in about the sensor and stuff. It looks basically like the 7D specs which I’m now shooting with after upgrading my 40D (still love it), so I’ll draw a few comparisons…

    For noise, at 100% view, the 18MP definitely produces significant noise once you start moving up to high ISOs (1600-3200). The question for me starts to be… “How large am I going to display or print the image?” I’ve found that will a bit of noise reduction, the images get very good quickly. I don’t shoot above 1600ISO unless it’s an emergency though 😉 I’ve found that for poster size prints, noise can become apparent without good processing as you need all the MPs to produce the detail, but a really nice 8×10 is possible with limited work as 18MP is overkill for a small print. The quality of the output with this type of sensor starts to depend more on the processing capabilities of both camera and user.

    One more thing on the T2i – Kudos to Canon for putting in a detailed LCD screen. This is a major step up for zooming in to check focus, images problems, etc.

  5. Rex Kersley
    February 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Jason, DXOMark have their figures for a pre-production 550D (T2i) and comparing the noise figures against the XT shows what seem to me to be a significant difference, with the XT being better. I also compared the 7d which seems slightly worse than the T2i.
    Can you shaed any light on this?
    Cheers Rex

    • February 16, 2010 at 8:44 am

      Hi Rex,

      Unfortunately Canon hasn’t let me in on their algorithms and logic of image processor details so I don’t have solid insight on this, but from my perspective I think Canon may have missed a little detail that’s important to photographers here – noise handling. Their willingness to crank up the MP on the camera, combined with the noise handling between lower grade and higher grade cameras and its inconsistencies suggest that maybe its something they just don’t want to address. Perhaps they are saying “Nikon has us here, so we’re content to not even deal with it to that Nth degree..” Who knows? Not I said the fly! 🙂

  6. Nux
    February 15, 2010 at 2:04 am

    @Rex: You read the DXOMark figures wrong. 7D is better than T2i, which in turn is better than XT when it comes to noise handling. Higher scores indicate better noise suppression.

  7. Rex Kersley
    February 15, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Nux, exactly, the 350D shows a SNR of 37.9 db, the 550D 35.1 and the 7D 34.8.
    Cheers Rex

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