Just six months after Canon wowed us with the video capability of its EOS 7D, along comes the EOS Rebel T2i—with the same movie-making prowess at less than half the price. And this 18MP DSLR ($800, street, body only; $900 with 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 EF IS lens) also delivers the highest still image quality we’ve seen at this price level.
Indeed, the T2i, the new top model of the three current Rebels, provides the most imaging power and best video footage of any sub-$1,000 camera available. In the Pop Photo Lab, the Rebel T2i proved to be the first camera in its class to earn an Excellent image-quality rating under our current standards (which we raised more than a year ago ), doing so from ISO 100 all the way through ISO 800. The achievement rests on the strength of a resolution score of 2555 lines—just enough to edge into the top rating for this criterion. It handily beat all its competitors: the Pentax K-7 (2350 lines), Nikon D90 (2315 lines), and Sony Alpha 550 (2285 lines).
Color accuracy also earned the T2i an Excellent rating with an average Delta E of 6.7 from 8-bit TIFFs converted from the Canon’s 14-bit RAW files—again, the best of the bunch.
In our noise tests, this Rebel ran about middle in a pack of excellent performers. While it kept noise to a Low or better rating up through ISO 800, the top-performing Nikon D90 did so through ISO 3200. And though the T2i suppressed noise better than the Sony A550 did at lower ISOs, the Sony pulled ahead at higher ISOs.
Specifically, the Canon noised up into Unacceptable territory at ISO 3200, whereas the Nikon just touched the Unacceptable level at ISO 6400, its top sensitivity. The Sony beat them both at ISO 6400 with a Moderate noise rating. At ISO 12,800, which only the Canon and Sony reach, both scored Unacceptable, but the Canon produced considerably more noise.
However, if low-light performance seems like a weak point for the Canon, autofocus speed tells a different story. In the brightest light, the Rebel T2i autofocused speedily, but the Nikon and Sony were speedier still. Yet from a moderately bright EV 4 down to EV –2, the dimmest level in our test, the Rebel focused faster than any of its rivals. Just achieving focus in this near-moonlit darkness impressed us— neither the Pentax K-7 nor the Sony A550 managed it.