There haven’t been many recent DSLR introductions for less than $999. Sure you can spend four grand for a Canon EOS 1D Mark IV or a $5,000 Nikon D3s, two of the newer ones available, but those models are really for pros. News on the affordable DSLR front has been pretty sparse—until now as Canon just introduced an upgrade for the popular T1i which remains in the line-up. The new T2i bumps up the resolution from 15 megapixels to 18MP while juicing speed to 3.7 frames per second (from 3.4). Metering is enhanced as is the LCD screen. Since this is 2010, what’s a DSLR without HD video?—and the T2i has it at improved levels (1920×1080 at 24, 25 or 30 fps versus a very jerky 20 fps for the T1i). Sounds great on paper but the real world is the only one that counts. Time to check it out…
Features and Design
The Rebel EOS T2i measures 5.1×3.8×3 (WHD, in inches) and weighs around 26 ounces with lens, battery and card. It’s not nearly as beefy or speedy as the EOS 7D, but it costs a lot less. It has the form factor and heft you’d expect from a consumer-oriented DSLR which isn’t a bad thing. The grip has a nice rubberized texture as does the thumb rest on the rear. It doesn’t look like anything special–just your basic all-black DSLR.
On the front are the lens mount and release button. The camera accepts all Canon EF-S lenses and there are 60-plus to choose from. The kit lens is 18-55mm which equates to 29-88mm in 35mm terms because of the 1.6x digital factor of the APS-C sized sensor. Also here is red-eye/self-timer lamp, remote sensor, depth-of-field preview button and mic. The built-in flash acts as an AF Assist beam; you need to open it with pop-up button on the side of the camera. We’d much rather have a dedicated beam on the body itself like the Nikon D5000, one of our favorite DSLRs, which costs $799 with the 18-55mm kit lens. The Nikon is “only” a 12MP camera that shoots 720p video but the stills are top notch.
You’ll find the hot shoe, on/off switch, ISO, shutter and jog wheel and shutter button on the top of the T2i. There are 14 options on the mode dial ranging from full auto, full manual, movie, popular scene settings and so on. It’s pretty standard stuff.
The rear is dominated by a 3-inch 3:2 format LCD screen rated 1.04 million dots versus 921K for the T1i. The screen is quite good but the difference isn’t amazing from the older model. The viewfinder is decent with 95% coverage but a brighter view would be on our wish list. The control layout here is fairly typical with a four-way controller with center set button. The four points give access to focus type, Picture Style, burst/self-timer and white balance. We’d like the flash to be one of options rather than Picture Styles but that’s just us. As noted, ISO adjustment–which ranges from 100-6400 (with 12,800 custom)–is on top. This control placement wasn’t a problem at all during use. Other keys on the back include exposure compensation, playback, delete, menu and display. The Q key gives quick access to the main parameters so you can make adjustments with the jog wheel. There’s also the red dot button for Live View when in still mode or it starts recording when you’re in the mood to capture HD videos. A tiny speaker lets you hear what you’ve recorded but in the poorest fidelity you can imagine.
On the right side is an SD/SDHC card compartment. Canon is among the first to offer SDXC compatibility as well. This media has the potential for 2 terabytes of data. There’s nothing close to this currently available but you’ll be ready for it (SanDisk has a 64GB card). Definitely look for a Class 6 or better rating—especially if you’re shooting video. On the left side is a compartment for various ins/outs—mini HDMI, A/V out, remote and mic inputs. The compartment on the bottom holds the battery which is rated 550 shots using the viewfinder (per CIPA), a decent number which drops to 440 if you use the flash and Live View half the time. Either way, you should be good for day’s shooting without any problems.