Controls and Video
The T2i’s body design is similar to that of its predecessor, the T1i, which drops down to second place in the Rebel line. (The Rebel XS takes the third slot as the line’s entry-level bargain.)
Buttons for exposure compensation, playback, and the new Quick Menu are now flushmounted, but their placement remains nearly identical, with the dedicated video/live view button moving up near the viewfinder and the Quick Menu taking its former place next to the four-way control pad.
While the new flush-mount buttons look nice, it’s not easy to tell them apart by touch— we’d have liked it better if Canon provided some tactile differentiation, even a little dimple on one of the buttons.
The T2i can capture up to 34 Large/Fine JPEGs or 6 RAW images at 3.7 frames per second—while that would be impressive for a basic entrylevel camera, it’s still behind its rivals in this price range: the Nikon D90, Pentax K-7, and Sony A550. Here, the Pentax is the champ at 5.2 fps.
Operationally, video recording and live-view shooting are basically the same as on the Rebel T1i: The shared button lets you enter live view mode when the T2i is in one of the still-shooting modes, and, with the mode dial turned to the video icon, turns video recording on and off.
The T2i’s contrast-detection AF in live view and video modes is noticeably faster than it was in its predecessor, though it’s still impractical to use while shooting video— not only is it not fast enough, there’s also no option for continuous AF during video.
And while the ultrasonic AF motor is super-quiet, it still makes noise in the audio track if you trigger AF in movie mode. So we were glad to discover that you can disable AF in movie mode, so you won’t accidentally change focus or sully your audio.
An option Canon calls Quick Mode AF will fi ip the mirror back down, use the regular phasedetection AF system to focus on a selected focus point, and then flip the mirror back up. So, while we preferred to disable AF during video capture, Quick Mode proved a great way to focus on a subject before starting to record a clip or to switch points of focus between clips.
We stuck to manual focus when changing focus while shooting a clip, but if your lens has a scratchy focusing ring, you’ll probably hear it in the audio. You can minimize this problem by using an external microphone through the stereo minijack input rather than the built-in mono mic.
Like the EOS 7D, the T2i lets you select shutter speed, aperture, and ISO in movie mode. You can also fully automate these decisions. In terms of pixel count and frame rate, the T2i offers the widest selection available from any DSLR today.
Video quality remains on a par with what you can expect from most mid-level HD camcorders.
Overall, the Rebel T2i feels like a higher-end camera than its placement in Canon’s line indicates. It beats the competition with its video capabilities, resolving power, and low-light AF speed, while remaining competitive in noise control.
If there’s one area this new Rebel trails a bit, it’s in burst shooting. But at this price level, faster AF in low light is likely to prove a more meaningful spec for most photographers.
Put plainly, the Rebel T2i offers the best imaging power and quality for its price. If you’re not already invested in a certain lens line, the Rebel T2i makes a great case for choosing Canon. If you’ve already got some Canon EF- or EF-S glass, it’s a no-brainer.