Monday, April 19, 2010

Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D: After One Week

After one week of using the T2i/550D I quickly came to the conclusion that the sensor is not enough of an improvement for me to even consider switching to Canon from my Nikon gear. What I will say is that it is a good camera, for people who want a high quality entry level camera with a fully featured video mode and high resolution images. Many of the points I am going to make will be included in my review of the T2i. The photo posted here is the best outdoor photo I was able to get. The RAW file was edited in Lightroom 3 beta 2, since Aperture 3 does not support the T2i/500Ds CR2 files yet.

18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS @18mm, ISO200, 1/250s @F13

I realized the place where the T2i works the best is indoors in low light, because Canon's mid-range/semi pro evaluative metering system (T2i has the same meter as the 7D) protects shadows at the expense of highlights. Now that can be remedied by using spot or center weighted metering, but I do not think that is the point. Nikon's 1005 pixel matrix metering system in the D300/D300s is far more conservative and works to protect highlights, which is far more important to me, because I shoot outdoors in mixed lighting conditions. I can use spot and centered weighted metering, but I realized that there are times when I just do not have time to think about what metering mode I should use. As a result I cannot trust the T2i's metering system to do what I need. In ideal lighting conditions, and with spot, partial or center weighted metering, the T2i does a remarkable job.

One of the biggest problems I have is that in RAW files there is not very much headroom for highlights, I can recover far more detail from Nikon RAW files with blown highlights than I can from the CR2 files from the T2i. The above image is an example of what I am talking about. I was able to recover a little bit in Lightroom, but not much in the highlight range. Similar photos from my D300 at least toned down problem. That is disappointing to say the least, and made me wonder if shooting RAW was even worth while! Not to mention that RAW files come in at around 20-25MB! That would fill your hard drives up fast if you did a lot of RAW shooting. I thought I was using my storage space fast when using the D300's 14bit RAW files that came in at 14-16MB!

Once I have finished my review, which wont take more than a few weeks now, based on my earlier points and ones to come, I'll be returning the demo unit. Good camera, as I said before, but not enough to make me want to keep it long term. Image quality was rather poor with the kit lens, which becomes apparent once you start taking landscape photos, where the sensor totally out resolved the lens. Since getting other Canon lenses is out of the question right now, I cannot make a proper review of image quality as I feel the kit lens is not good enough to truly judge the camera.

When it comes to image quality with the kit lens, the area of focus (where the AF point is) tends to be very sharp and crisp, but the due to the poor resolving power of the kit lens images were overly soft for the most part. One of downside of the 18MP sensor is less room to stop down your lens, as diffraction kicks in early, around F10! Of course, that may have just been the sensor out resolving the lens, so that may not be the case.

On the plus side, I love the video files. I shot several videos at ISO1600 and the noise was not very noticeable on my 22" LCD. If video was more important to me, I would hang onto the T2i without a doubt, but since I shoot video only for fun on the odd occasion it just is not worth while.

Some might say, well it looks like you tested the camera in poor lighting conditions. Yup that is correct, but keep in mind I have tested the D300 in the same conditions and got slightly better results. My findings lineup with the dynamic range tests from Dpreview which shows that the Canon models have less RAW headroom. As for image sharpness or the lack there of from the kit lens, I think the images speak for themselves. I don't think there should be much softness since I stopped down the lens to F8 or F11 most of the time, which should mitigate any soft focus, unless it is way off. The first photo shows that you can get very good results out of the T2i, but for me, I could capture the same image with my D300, without any trouble at all.

I'll post these findings and more in my full review.