Canon EOS Rebel T2i
It's tempting to refer to Canon's T2i as an evolutionary upgrade to its predecessor, the T1i. That is, until you review its pictures and video on your computer screen. Yes, Canon has added incremental refinements to its latest Rebel, but they add up to improved image quality and movie recording that is a notable step forward.
The T2i has been bumped to 18-megapixels (compared to 15.1-megapixels for the T1i). Video capture has improved substantially and now features your choice of video size, including 1080p at 30, 25, or 24 fps (frames per second), 720p at 60 or 50 fps, or 480p at 60 or 50 fps. To further satisfy filmmakers, the T2i includes an "audio in" jack that allows for external microphone use in addition to the built-in mic.
The LCD is a gorgeous 3.0-inch TFT screen that packs 1040,000 pixels in its new 3:2 dimensions (same dimensions as the APS-C sensor). The more rectangular shaped LCD provides a satisfying viewing experience because the photograph fills the entire screen. And if you want to see the basic image data, you can choose to have it superimposed on the photo.
Back menu buttons now have an elegant oval shape with a lower profile. The Movie Record button has been repositioned so that it's higher, near the optical viewfinder. And now, instead of pushing the SET button to enter Q mode for changing settings on the LCD, Canon has added a separate Q button where the movie button once resided. This is a clearer, more intuitive approach to selecting settings than on the T1i.
The top mode dial is black, so you can quickly distinguish the T2i from the T1i, which has a silver mode dial. Canon upgraded the battery pack to the LP-E8 instead of the LP-E5 that powers the T1i. The good news is that battery performance is better. Bad news is you can't use any spare LP-E5 batteries you have laying around the house. Most other physical controls remain in their familiar places, so experienced Canon shooters can get to work right away and save reading the owner's manual for later.
Digital Rebels are often referred to as feeling plastic-like compared to more expensive DSLRs. The T2i continues that tradition with a very light body made of high-tech synthetic material. But the quality is quite good, with excellent fit and tight tolerances and a metal lens mount. It's true that the T2i probably wouldn't fare well in the hands of a globe-trotting photojournalist. But it should provide years of service to the less rugged photo enthusiasts who are its intended audience.
The T2i includes both phase-detection and contrast-detection AF (autofocus). Canon continues to employ the 9-point system, using a more sensitive cross sensor for the center point. The phase-detection system is snappy and accurate, even with the kit's included 18-55mm lens. In everyday shooting, the AF didn't seem like a huge improvement over the T1i, but then again, the T1i was already strong in this category.
Image and video quality
The T2i provides excellent image quality in all formats: JPEG, raw, and H.264 mov. Image noise is well controlled up to ISO 1600, and without the smearing that you often see at higher sensitivities in other cameras. Even in the auto modes, the camera rewards photographers with crisp, colorful images in a variety of lighting conditions. And if you use the professional level "L" lenses, the T2i captures photos that can compete with the Canon 7D. The T2i is definitely one of the best of class in this category.
In our lab tests, the T2i did well in the Color and Exposure test categories in it's test group of seven cameras. It had a word score of Very Good in each category, and a word score of Good in the Sharpness and Distortion tests. Click on any of our lab's test images to view the original files.
Video quality has also improved with the T2i. Colors are bold, resolution is good, and the image stabilization is effective. It had the third highest score for video quality in its testing group, coming in behind the Canon 7D and Sony's NEX-5. It scored particularly well in the audio quality test.
Here are sample clips that we shot in bright indoor lighting and in low light with the Canon EOS Rebel T2i. For the highest-quality clips, select 1080p from the drop-down menu in the lower-right corner of each player.
Macworld buying advice
The Canon T2i is highly recommended for serious photo enthusiasts and will serve nicely as a backup camera for professionals. Current owners of Canon's T1i might be tempted to upgrade thanks to improvements in video recording, resolution, image quality, and the new 3:2 LCD. The kit price tag could deter some first time DSLR shoppers, but the camera does deliver the goods. Clearly, it's the best Digital Rebel to date.