Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D: Initial Impressions

    Wow! Hold on! A Canon DSLR? Have you lost touch? No, and this is not an April fools joke like my comment about buying the D3s and 70-200mm VRII. Didn't you just post three entries about high resolution and image quality? Yup I did, and no I will not be selling my D300 and Nikkor lenses, so don't rush off to eBay to buy them! I have this model for testing purposes, so I may or may not keep the camera long term. So far I am impressed with the T2i/550D (considering it's price point), although I would like to test the camera with something other than the 18-55mm IS kit lens before the demo period is up. I'll have my unboxing photos at the end of this entry.

    I'll post my full review, with image and video samples, within a few months. I like to give the camera a good run before posting my full review, which is why it will take some time. Today I'll just be giving my initial impressions. Oh and I haven't forgotten about the Nikon F90x review I talked about, it will come once I have a few rolls of film developed!

To read my impressions read on!

Canon T2i: Initial Impressions

    The Canon EOS T2i / 550D is one of the most impressive entry level models every released by Canon to date, and there are a few reasons for that. The T2i/550D is impressive in terms of resolution, coming in a 18MP (5184 x 3456 pixels), 1080p video recording with full manual control over shutter speed and exposure, and an impressive 3"(720x480 / 1040k pixels) 3:2 ratio (same as the sensor), which means none of the screens pixels are wasted when reviewing an image.

Build Quality:
    When you first pickup the T2i/550D the finish on the camera body makes it feel cheap, but it is tougher than it feels. You wont hear any creaks when you press on different parts of the body, even the flash unit feels very solid. The Nikon D90 is of a higher build quality without a doubt, but the T2i/550D is also a lot lighter so that is expected. There are no dust or moisture seals on the T2i, so you'd have to use a rain cover if you want to shoot outdoors in less than ideal weather conditions.

     The 18-55mm kit lens similarly feels a little cheap at first, but it is not bad considering the class of lens that it falls into. The Nikon 18-55mm VR feels better made, and is likely a a little tougher, but that again may come down to the finish on the lens body. The zoom is actually well dampened, which surprised me. The manual focus ring is also very well dampened and manual focus can be achieved without too much trouble. The lens extends, and the barrel rotates when zooming and focusing so using a Circular Polarizing filter would be a pain on this lens. I have read some reviews stating the the barrel of 18-55mm IS lens is loose and flaps around a little, that does not seem to be the case with the example I have.

    The mode and command dial are both a little stiffer than the dials I am used to from Nikon DSLRs, and is stiffer than the command dial on the Canon S5 IS superzoom P&S. The other buttons on the top, side, and back of the camera feel very nice. What is strange is that some of them have a very pronounced "click" when pressed, while others are soft and remind me of the buttons on the D300. The shutter release itself has a very pronounced feel when you press it half way, and you need to use more force to release the shutter, which is no different from any other consumer/amateur focused camera body that I have had a chance to use. The parts of the camera that feel the cheapest are the SD card slot flap, (the camera supports SD/SDHC/and the new generation of SDXC cards) and the port flap on the left side of the camera body. That being said, the flaps are tight, and unlikely to break off until you are throwing your camera around.

    As you can see from the image of the back of the camera, it didn't take long for me to get some smudges on the 3" wide angel LCD. Those smudges wipe off without any ill effect, with a microfiber cloth, if that bothers you.

Image/Video Quality:
The image quality is impressive, considering how many mega pixels Canon has crammed into the CMOS sensor in the T2i/550D. In my controlled indoor tests the T2i/550D has a slight edge in high ISO noise compared to the Nikon D300, but I would not switch brands based on this slight improvement! The T2i/550D also has a wider range of native ISO than the D300/D90/D5000, so that is also a plus for the little camera. I cannot see any noticeable difference in high ISO noise until ISO3200, where the T2i/550D pulls slightly ahead. For images I share with others or print images, I wouldn't use anything over ISO800, from either, unless the photo was taken in ideal lighting conditions with very few or soft shadows.

The 1080p video files from the T2i/550D are very crisp and noise is well controlled even at high ISO sensitives. This makes this camera ideal for shooting video in low light, while the same could not be said for a standard consumer HD camcorder in the same price range. A standard HD camcorder will likely produce superior sound, and have silent auto focus, something that T2i/550D cannot do without an external microphone. Of course the T2i/550D does have a 3.5" microphone jack, which means you can record high quality sound from an external source, which is a nice feature to have. Of course one of the big selling points of the T2i/550D is manual control over video, which is nice, although I have not used anything other than the default (1080p @30FPS) yet.

Thus ends my initial impresses of the Canon EOS Rebel T2i/550D. Watch for my full review, which will come in the next few months.

Here are the unboxing photos!

1. The BOX! (WOOT) Like most camera boxes, it is not sealed so you can inspect the camera before you leave the store.

2. Manuals, warranty papers for the camera body, and 18-55mm IS kit lens are on the top when you first open the box.

3. The stuff hidden under the big white flap. The camera body is on the right, wrapped in bubble wrap and a plastic anti-static bag. On left you'll find the camera strap (I wont be using this) and cables, the battery charger, battery, and under all of those things, the 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS kit lens (wrapped in bubble wrap and an anti-static bag).

4. Everything is out of the box, but still wrapped up!

5. The Canon T2i on the left and the 18-55mm IS kit lens on the right.

And that's all folks!