The T2i lacks common perks that Sony, Pentax, and Olympus equip their cameras with, including features such as in-body mechanical stabilization and a wireless flash controller in the body, a feature I occasionally find quite useful, in this camera. The company's inclusion of an image-stabilizing kit lens doesn't quite compensate for the omissions, since additional optically stabilized lenses tend to cost more in the long run. (For a complete accounting of the T2i's features, download the PDF manual.)
In many ways, the T2i is exceptionally fast. It powers on and shoots in just less than 0.3 second, which may not be fastest in its class, but it is still speedy enough. With a time to focus and shoot of 0.25 second in optimal shooting conditions, it bests the 0.3-second plateau where most of its sub-$1,000 competitors have rested. At 0.5 second, it ties for best in class with the Pentax K-x for shooting in dim light. There's about a 0.1-second difference between JPEG and raw shot-to-shot times, with raw slower at 0.6 second compared with 0.5 for JPEG, but both are among the fastest in its class despite the camera's relatively high resolution. The only comparative disappointment is its 3.4fps burst rate. On one hand, both the autofocus system and the image processing are certainly fast enough to handle the action-shooting needs of the typical personal or hobbyist photographer, but there are faster models out there.
Overall, I think the T2i delivers the best image quality in its class, with great color and dynamic range outweighing its marginally weaker noise results. Canon's inexpensive 18-55mm kit lens delivers reasonably sharp images. Keep in mind that other manufacturers tend to dial up the sharpness a bit more than Canon does for their defaults. Unlike Pentax and Sony's competing models, Canon takes a light touch with its default color settings--and, in fact, has more defaults that deliver accurate color than any other. While its Standard Picture Style does boost contrast a touch, it doesn't cause wholesale hue shifts the way others do, or as its Landscape setting does. The T2i renders excellent color, saturated or subtle, with very good accuracy.
For the money, Canon delivers an excellent noise profile in the T2i. Photos taken with the camera look clean up to and including ISO 800; at ISO 1,600 they begin to lose a bit of detail. The camera's usability beyond that ISO depends upon scene content and lighting. As with most of its competitors, the highest ISO sensitivities can be useful for images that will be reproduced at small sizes, but there's too much color noise for decent prints. Canon excels with its noise-reduction algorithms, though it seems to start with a surprisingly low-noise image to begin with, at least at ISO 3,200. By the numbers, the Pentax K-x displays lower noise at almost all ISO sensitivities than the Canon T2i, with the greatest disparities at ISO 6400 and ISO 12,800. Pentax preserves sharpness better and Canon has a lot more color noise, but comparatively I'm not crazy about some of the Pentax's artifacts; sometimes I prefer the smoother albeit softer and more dithered appearance of the Canon to the blotchiness of the Pentax.
The camera also delivers the best video capture quality I've seen in a sub-$1,000 dSLR--subject to the inescapable limitations the technology, like unusable autofocus--with good exposure, sharpness, minimal artifacts, and excellent audio.
Though it isn't perfect--and they never seem to be--I think the Canon EOS Rebel T2i is a crowd-pleasing inexpensive dSLR. I could list individual aspects where competitors surpass it, including burst performance, high ISO sensitivity numbers, control layout, and viewfinder. But overall the camera is fast, with great photo quality and relatively standout video that help put it over the top.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim light)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)