Whether you're new to the world of DSLRs, or are a seasoned photographer who wants to try your luck at video, the Canon Rebel T2i is perfect. I've had nothing but great experiences with it so far, and highly recommend to everyone.
Other than the T2i, I own (and primarily shoot with) the Rebel XS (1000D), and also have extensive experience with the Canon 50D. While my XS still serves me very well, I wanted to get an SLR with video capabilities since the release of the T1i. After finally saving up enough for the T1i, I really lucked out that Canon announced the T2i, which has even better features! I am lucky enough to finally have it, and want to share my experiences, and how they compare to my expectations
The camera is very small and light. It is not weather-sealed or as durable as some of the more expensive SLRs, but it doesn't "feel cheap" in my opinion. It features a 3-inch LCD (compared to the Rebel XS's 2.5 inch screen), which also has a very high resolution. It looks lovely! Auto-focus is fast, and I've been very pleased with the quality of the pictures and videos I've taken so far.
IMAGE QUALITY: I feared that cramming so many megapixels onto this sensor, there would be a lot of image 'noise' (the megapixel myth). This thankfully hasn't been an issue, and I've been very pleased with the pictures taken with this camera! Aside from White Balance issues (see below, Cons), image quality is pretty good!
VIDEO: Some people have disparagingly said that Video on DSLRs is just a gimmick. I disagree. Based on sample clips I'd seen on YouTube, I was excited about getting an HDSLR, and while videos are sometimes shaky if you don't have very steady hands, a tripod eliminates those concerns. Audio quality on the T1i was criticized by many, but the T2i has a microphone input jack, which allows you to connect a mic. I don't yet own one so can't comment on that feature, but will update this review if and when I save enough to try this feature out. Additionally, this offers improved recording options, including higher fps (frames per second) than the T1i, which technically offered "true HD" recording of 1080, but only at a choppy 20 fps.
LOW-LIGHT PERFORMANCE: I am much more impressed than I expected. My Rebel XS could go up to ISO 1600, but would perform pretty poorly there. This not only can go up to a significantly higher ISO level, but performs much better. Less image noise means you have to waste less time editing your pics, and many more keepers!
SDXC SUPPORT: Only own SDHC cards up until now, but it's great to know that this supports the next generation of flash storage, which means you'll in the future be able to hold many more pictures than currently available.
NOT A FULL-FRAME SLR: This is not a full-frame SLR like the Canon 5D Mark II, and the APS-C sized sensor results in a crop factor (1.6x), and doesn't necessarily provide the same image quality as the larger, full-frame sensor does. Still, at less than half the cost of the Mark II, I think this is a trade-off that's well worth it for most users.
Crop factor means that this camera, like other Canon DSLRs that have the APS-C size image sensor, will not be true to the lens's designation. A 50mm lens will produce an image more in line with 50mm x 1.6, or 80mm on a full-frame. This not only makes a difference for those who want to do landscape photography (which usually benefits from wide-angle views), but for those with unsteady hands. The general logic is that to ensure a steady shot, you need to shoot at the reciprocal of your focal length. So for a 50mm focal length, you should be shooting at a speed faster than 1/50 second for a steady shot. Keeping the crop factor in mind, you really should be shooting at a speed faster than 1/80 a second.
Crop factors are common for most digital SLRs, as full-frame sensors jack up the cost of production, which are then passed on to the consumer in the form of very expensive cameras. So it's not so much a shortcoming of the Rebel T2i, but just a note to keep in the back of your mind.
DIFFERENT BATTERY: This is more of a hassle for those who owned spare batteries than for those whose first SLR would be the T2i, but Canon changed the battery. Again, not such a big deal, but might be a hassle for some who find out that their old batteries can't be used on this model.
WHITE BALANCE: I found that the 'Auto' White-Balance setting was wildly inaccurate on my Rebel XS (often giving indoor shots a yellow tint unless I changed the WB to the 'Incandescent Light' mode), and I feel that the WB settings on this model still aren't as accurate as they should be. If you want truly accurate WB, you can use a gray card, or an alternative would be to simply try digitally editing the photos on your computer after shooting.
NO ARTICULATING SCREEN: No articulating screen, but this is a rare feature in DSLR's in general, so it's not a shortcoming of the T2i. Since most of your shots will probably be composed using the viewfinder, not a big deal, although it would have been convenient! If you absolutely must have an articulating screen on an HDSLR, look into the Nikon D5000.
A NOTE ABOUT THE KIT LENS
The lens that comes with this is the standard 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 that comes with the other Rebels. It's a very good all-around lens, but you more likely than not will want to at some point upgrade your lens for either (a) better image quality, or (b) better performance in low-light conditions.
This lens is very good, but for pros or those who pay incredibly close attention to detail, the optical quality of Canon's higher-end lenses is superior than to the kit lens. For most users, I don't think image quality will be a huge issue.
More likely, the aperture size will be the reason people want to upgrade their lens over time. A lens with a wider aperture allows more light to reach the sensor in less time than a lens with a narrower aperture. That means you can employ a faster shutter speed, which allows you to snap the shot faster, reducing the likelihood of a blurry picture. Outdoors on a sunny day, this aperture range of this lens won't be a limiting factor; inside a poorly-lit gym, however, you'll notice some blurry shots (see below for a recommended alternative for low-light shooting).
Still, this is a pretty good all-around lens that can result in some great shots!
1. An external flash: This will come in very handy. With the built-in flash, your photos often come out harshly lit. Bouncing an external flash off the wall makes a huge difference in image quality. I personally use the Speedlite 580EX II, but there are cheaper alternatives that are very good. Some higher-end cameras (i.e. Canon 5D Mark II) don't even have a built-in flash, which goes to show something about how high-level photographers view the lighting provided by internal flashes.
2. 50mm f/1.8 II lens - At around one hundred dollars, this lens is relatively cheap when compared to others on the market. Despite its low price, it offers great image quality. While it lacks IS (image stabilization) like some other Canon lenses (including the kit lens), with a wide aperture of f/1.8, enough light usually comes in to ensure a fast shutter speed, which in turn minimizes camera shake. Keep in mind that as a 'prime' lens, your feet will have to do the zooming in and out. This is not as convenient as an everyday walk-around lens like the 18-55 kit lens which gives a good zoom range, but is a great lens for portraits. Also would ideally be a good option for poorly-lit places where the aperture of the kit-lens isn't wide enough to ensure a steady shot.
From my list of 4 pros and 4 cons, you might wonder why I'm giving this product 5 stars?... It's because considering the great performance - and low price - of the T2i, the 'cons' I list really aren't that big of a deal. Just because some cameras offer the aforementioned features the T2i lacks, it doesn't mean the T2i isn't a solid performer. On the contrary, I have been completely satisfied with this camera's image and video quality, performance, features, AND PRICE, and would recommend the T2i to anyone looking for an affordable way to capture memories!
I just wanted to update this review to say that after shooting with the T2i for nearly half a year, I'm still as impressed by this camera as when I first got it. I have a few comments to expand on my initial review:
VIDEO I have been using the video mode a lot more than I initially expected. While it doesn't offer continuous auto-focus and therefore might not replace a camcorder, once you get the hang of manually focusing this is not a big problem. I many times have found myself in situations where photos couldn't capture the moment as well as a video could, and the ability to record clips has been very convenient.
A note on the video mode, however...while it's automatic exposure is fine for most situations, if you find your videos are grainy, it's best to manually control the exposure. I've seen that sometimes even in good lighting, the camera will keep the aperture small (to have a less shallow depth of field) and boost the ISO. You can get around that by manually adjusting exposure settings, but again, the automatic exposures are usually fine.
As for audio with videos, I personally still have not purchased an external microphone, but for those who are serious about movie production Amazon sells a highly popular 'Rode VideoMic' for a reasonable price. I have looked up videos on YouTube which demonstrate the difference between the built-in mic and an external mic, and while it's tempting, I'd rather spend my money on better lenses than audio accessories.
CROP FACTOR To clarify on my 'crop factor' point from above on a full-frame vs. a crop-sensor body, there is a useful video on Vimeo that illustrates what I'm talking about. If you Google '5D 7D crop factor Vimeo' it comes up as the first result. As you can see, a full frame camera offers a view truer to the lens designations. Again, full frame cameras are costlier to make and therefore more expensive to the consumer, so APS-C sensor cameras like the Rebel T2i, 60D, and 7D are very good values for the money. But if you are not on a tight budget and think you might one day want to upgrade to a full frame some day for the improved low-light performance, higher image quality, and wider field of view, maybe skip on a T2i and just aim for a 5D Mark II (I personally love my T2i, but am excited about some day having my 24-105 shoot wider than its current effective 38-168 range.). For most users, however, APS-C sensor cameras like the T2i should be great, and some might even find the crop factor useful for telephoto work.
LENSES After spending so much money on a camera body, many people have a difficult time justifying buying expensive lenses, and I understand that. After upgrading from the 18-55mm kit lens to the 24-105L lens, however, I can honestly say that the money is well worth it. Colors are more vivid and truer to real life than the [now noticeably] duller colors produced by the non-L lens, and I rarely use the kit lens now. Again, the 18-55 is very versatile and provides a great value, but if you can afford to upgrade your lens to Canon's L series, you won't regret it. Perhaps try before you buy, to see for yourself what I'm talking about.
LOW LIGHT While this camera offers a boost ISO mode (to 12800 from 6400), I don't use that since its results are too grainy for my liking. But for night shots without a tripod, I have found ISO 3200 and 6400 to be a real advantage over my previous Rebel XS which only went up to ISO 1600, and even then produced noisier images than the T2i at 1600. While this camera doesn't produce high ISO pictures as cleanly as a full frame 5DMk2 does, at a fraction of the price I am incredibly pleased with this camera.
MEMORY CARD Lastly, I wanted to recommend you do a lot of research into which SD card you want to use. Class 6 or higher is recommended, but look into reviews to see how the card actually performs. I used to use a Transcend Class 6 card since it's very affordable, and have had movies abruptly stop recording at inopportune times. I upgraded to a Transcend Class 10, and unfortunately continue to have that happen. Not all Class 10 cards necessarily write at the same speed, so look thoroughly into reviews if you plan on using video mode to ensure you get a reliable, high-speed card. The Transcend cards are a great value for the money, and have many times been fine, but you might want to consider more expensive alternatives for greater reliability.
I wanted to update this review to reflect the fact that the camera is still serving me well, and to recommend some additional accessories I have since paired my T2i with. I recently got the Induro AKB0 Tripod Kit (Black), Joby GP8-BHEN Gorillapod Focus with Ballhead X bundle, Dolica WT-1003 67-Inch Lightweight Monopod, and Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras, and highly recommend them.
CAMERA SUPPORT With the T2i you can pull off handheld shots in low light by cranking up the ISO, but even though the T2i shows relatively little noise, it does show more than some would like in their shots (especially at ISO 6400). Digital noise can be reduced in post-production, but it's much easier to shoot at a lower ISO in the first place, especially for night shots. After paying so much for a camera body and other accessories, buying an expensive tripod might be the last thing you'd want to do, and I understand that: for a while I was using an older, cheaper tripod that was designed more for light camcorders than SLRs with heavy lenses. While this set-up technically worked, I didn't feel very confident in its reliability. After doing a lot of research and asking many photographers, I got the Induro kit, and have been very happy with it so far. It is more expensive than I would have liked, but it doesn't make sense to skimp on support and risk damaging your gear! With tripods, you have to make trade-offs between price, sturdiness, and weight, and while I'm happy with my tripod, it might not be adequate for your needs. There are many websites with tips on what to look for in a tripod (i.e. ball head, pan-tilt head, etc) that can help you make an informed decision. The Gorillapod is not nearly as essential to your shooting as a dedicated tripod, but I recommend it if you find yourself in situations where you don't want to/might not be permitted to carry a tripod, but need support. It sets up much faster than a tripod which needs to have its legs extended and locked. Lastly, a monopod is a great way to stabilize your shots without the hassle of having to carry a tripod, and is even more portable than a Gorillapod. That being said, it doesn't provide as much stability, so I use it primarily to stabilize video shooting (which can be a bit shaky due to composition through LCD screen instead of viewfinder, especially with a telephoto lens).
TELEPHOTO LENS The T2i has a high resolution sensor that, in my experience, provides for great shots even after cropping. I have taken shots and cropped to 100% and been pleased with results, but sometimes you want extended reach without cropping, and here a good telephoto really shines. Canon and third-party lens manufacturers offer many great telephoto options for the T2i, and it's important to think of what you need a telephoto lens for before investing in one. If you'll primarily be shooting with a tripod, you probably don't need IS; if you're going to be shooting in adequate light, a wide aperture isn't essential. I used the Canon 70-300 non-L non-IS lens, but don't recommend it. Keeping in mind the reciprocity of focal length and shutter speed, Image Stabilization on a telephoto lens makes things much easier for hand-held shooting. I much preferred the 55-250 IS over my 70-300 non-IS (there are also IS versions of the 70-300), but found its low-light performance was weak due to its relatively small maximum aperture size. I recently got the 70-200 2.8 IS II, and am blown away by its fast auto-focus, great low-light performance, and superior optical quality. It is an expensive lens, but is well worth it if you need a fast lens (wide aperture) that features Image Stabilization.
EDIT 02/07/11 *FINAL UPDATE*
NEW REBEL The T2i's successor, the T3i has just been announced, and will be available in March. Based on its specs, I don't think this is a necessary upgrade for current T2i owners. The main improvements found in the T3i are a swiveling screen, wireless flash transmitter, improved Auto mode detection, an enhanced Movie Zoom mode, and creative filters. Of these, I think the most important or sought-after improvements are the flash transmitter (which is is great for advanced shooters and those who want to explore with lighting) and the swiveling LCD screen (which allows for more flexibility in shooting). While these are useful new features, they are largely incremental and I will be sticking with my T2i. For new buyers, the T3i looks great and is very worth looking into when it comes out. Canon also announced a T3 camera to succeed the Rebel XS, which is great for beginners but is lacking in features compared to the T2i and the newly-announced T3i, including the ability to capture 'true HD' at 1080. Even with Canon's recent announcements, I think the T2i is a great DSLR and I highly recommend it to everyone.
EDIT 06/13/11 *THIS REALLY IS THE FINAL UPDATE*
I know this review is now longer than some novels, but I really can't stress enough how great this camera is. I've used this in a variety of settings, both professionally and for personal use, and it's served me so well throughout. While I've shot events before, last night I shot the Tony Awards in NYC...which meant many thousands of shots over the course of many hours...and I was highly impressed with the T2i's performance. I did have to change batteries during the course of the event, but that was many hours into the event. You can easily get a spare third-party battery for just a few bucks.
I recently purchased a cheap (less than 20 dollars) intervalometer from Amazon, and have started creating time-lapse videos with my T2i. Setting up cool time-lapse, and capturing HD video, are two areas where an articulating screen (like that found on the T3i and 60D) would come in handy, but again, this is not an essential feature, so I am pleased with my T2i. The intervalometer I got through Amazon was third-party, but since it cost about a tenth of the official Canon one, I am very pleased and highly recommend it if you want to take your T2i to the next level.
The T2i is an amazing camera. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who is even remotely interested, whether you never owned an SLR before, or want a second body as a backup. I love the T2i!