The EOS Canon Rebel T2i 550D, the latest edition in its popular Rebel line, is sure to make continued fans of its devoted users. Now with an 18-megapixel CMOS digital image sensor, you can practically shoot in near complete darkness and still produce recognizable images of quality. In fact, it is precisely in those low-light situations where the Canon Rebel T2i shines best: colors are reproduced distinctively and accurately, light-filled areas burst with incredible detail, and long exposures are reproduced extremely well with very little noise. Both professional and amateur photographers will be especially impressed with the T2i’s increased range of nighttime shooting possibilities and how easy it is to exploit even the smallest amount of light in an otherwise darkened landscape. Canon’s Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone also help ensure realistic skin tones so users may achieve more full-bodied and detailed shots even in harsh lighting conditions, such as under mid-day sun.
Another improvement in the Canon Rebel T2i is in its nine-point focusing area that enables users to determine exactly when and where images are clear. And while some photographers may find the blinking light determination difficult to follow (a dot inside the AF-point flashes briefly in red when accurate focus is achieved), a beeper sounds at the same time to keep you in step, which is handy when trying to shoot a series of quick action shots on the fly, up to 3.7 frames per second to be exact, which is slightly faster than in previous models.
Those upgrading from older Rebels will enjoy a variety of other important improvements as well, such as the bonus of shooting high-quality RAW files, faster downloading speeds, full HD video with zoom effects, three different video frame rates, and manual exposure control in video mode. The T2i also provides easy transitions from image playback to live view settings and a menu mode that enables slide show viewing on T2i’s large three-inch LCD screen. Users can shoot up to one hour and 40 minutes of HD video with full battery power. If you are using the camera to capture video of performances or any type of live music, however, you’ll want to get the optional external microphone for the best audio quality.
Among the T2i’s greatest features is its ability to enable users to customize frequently used settings. Customizing specific settings saves time when switching between still-shooting modes (AE/Automatic Depth of Field, M/Manual, AV/Aperture Priority, TV/Shutter Priority, P/Program, and CA/Creative Auto). Increased ISO options enable you to switch to a whooping 6400, which is where the camera’s noise-reduction features are especially evident. We also enjoyed using the CA mode that enables quick changes of the picture’s brightness, depth of field, and color tone. (As in earlier Rebel models, the Depth of Field preview button, which remains located just next to the lens on the bottom left, makes seeing your blurred background in real time simple and effective.) Built-in color filters in yellow, orange, red, and green are a welcomed addition, too, which makes it easier to find subtle ways to effectively improve any image, such as by increasing its contrast. Also new is T2i’s in-camera picture editing, a feature that will vary depending on the compatibility of your at-home printer.
More advanced photographers will appreciate some of T2i’s more complex variables, like the ability to change between metering modes to achieve the best possible exposures as well as optional exposure bracketing that offers five full F-stop adjustments up or down to be sure that you’ve best optimized your exposure. Sports enthusiasts or anyone shooting live action where focusing can be problematic will likely enjoy T2i’s Al Servo (in AF mode) for the benefit of continuous automatic nine-point focusing. Those advancements, combined with automated bracketing, can virtually ensure that even a partially-sighted person can achieve a great series of action shots.
One of the reasons why Canon’s series of Rebel cameras are still so successful is that they are perfect for both amateur and professional users. While beginners can shoot in fully automated modes and get great results, pros enjoy all the subtle changes afforded by Canon’s many optional adjustments. And though first-time users may at first be intimidated by T2i’s increased functionality and myriad buttons, stick with it because once you see what the camera is capable of, you’ll want to tear through the manual, experimenting as you go. No matter your skill level, it’s always better to purchase a more advanced camera that has the ability to challenge you as your photography skills improve, rather than one that has the limitations of a traditional point and shoot. The T2i’s amazing capabilities will only become more important to you as you learn and develop your signature shooting style.
Although the Canon Rebel T2i is an amazing camera, it is not without some minor flaws, such as its somewhat shorter-than-expected battery life (about 550 exposures without a flash) and the internal video sensor’s sensitivity to temperature, which automatically aborts video recording after about 15 seconds in extreme hot or cold conditions. Still, the video quality is fantastic, and aborted video attempts will hardly be problematic for typical users. We were also hoping for a redesign of the pop-up flash, which has remained the same since the first Rebel and can often be too harsh in many shooting situations. For that reason most pros override the pop-up flash completely or manually diffuse it with external attachments.
In terms of its physical ease of use, the T2i is lightweight and durable with a grip handle that easily enables one-handed shooting. The Rebel series, given its smaller size, has often been popular with photographers with small hands and the T2i is no exception. All users will get great results immediately and even better results over time, especially in extremely low-light conditions or for long exposures.
Overall, the Canon Rebel T2i is a great value for the money, especially for experienced users who want most of the advancements available in the higher-end and typically twice as expensive Canon EOS 7D — including the same image sensor. In image quality, both cameras are comparable, and 99 percent of users won’t miss the little advancements in features provided by the much more expensive model.