For beginners buying their first digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, the Canon EOS Rebel T2i is a very capable alternative to the Nikon D3200 (Est. $530 with kit lens), experts say. Nikon's latest entry-level DSLR just squeaks ahead of the Canon to earn our Best Reviewed nod.
Like the D3200, the T2i delivers "pro-quality images at a mass-market price," says Geoff Harris at TechRadar.com. However, the EOS Rebel T3i (Est. $695 (with kit lens)) is basically the same camera with the addition of a swiveling LCD screen for a little more money.
Compact, natural-feeling grip. Testers call the small and lightweight Canon EOS Rebel T2i particularly easy to hold and shoot. CNET's Lori Grunin praises its "very comfortable grip, textured and rubberized in all the places your fingers touch and workable for single-handed shooting."
Yet she gripes about the optical viewfinder, which magnifies less than others in its class, with "horribly annoying tiny focus points." TechRadar.com's Harris says the viewfinder feels "cramped," but other reviewers report no problems. If you prefer, you can frame your shot on the LCD screen in live view; experts say the 3-inch LCD screen is clear and easy to see in most light. It doesn't swivel like the EOS Rebel T3i's, which is a useful feature when shooting movies or at odd angles, such as when you're holding the camera above your head to shoot over a crowd.
Overall, owners of the T2i have no complaints. "I started using the camera out of the box for basic pictures and later read the manual. It was that easy," posts one customer at Amazon.com, where the T2i earns nearly perfect scores from more than 600 owners.
Terrific image quality, even in low light. Critics rave about the quality of the Canon T2i's photos. "Excellent image quality," say the hard-to-please experts at Imaging-Resource.com. "Plenty of detail, true-to-life color and very good high ISO performance." Reviewers unanimously agree that the T2i is particularly impressive in dim light like at a birthday party: "Astonishingly good performance," Harris concludes at TechRadar.com.
Credit the T2i's 18-megapixel compact sensor, which is similar to the one found on the pricier Canon EOS 7D (Est. $1,000 (body only)). Of course, it has now been outmuscled by the new 24-megapixel Nikon D3200. However, while more megapixels are supposed to capture more detail, both the D3200 and the T3i -- which is basically identical to the T2i -- deliver comparably detailed photos in side-by-side tests at Imaging-Resource.com.
In addition, the Canon EOS T2i is "exceptionally fast," CNET's Grunin says; it takes just a quarter of a second to power on, focus and shoot. It can shoot bursts of 3.7 frames per second (fps) -- slightly slower than the 4-fps Nikon D3200 -- but Grunin calls the Canon's shot-to-shot times and autofocus "certainly fast enough to handle the action-shooting needs of the typical personal or hobbyist photographer."
The T2i can shoot video in full 1,080p HD with full manual exposure control and manual autofocus; theD3200 offers continuous autofocus, but testers say it's slow and noisy. The Canon's footage looks "impressive," Harris says. Other experts concur, but caution that DSLRs are more cumbersome to shoot video with than a dedicated camcorder.
Battery life is rated at 550 shots per charge, on par with the Nikon D3200.
Made of plastic, but still sturdy. Entry-level DSLRs -- including the Nikon D3200 -- cut costs by using mostly plastic bodies. However, experts and owners say the Canon T2i still feels tough. Although it "lacks the [Canon EOS] 7D's bulletproof alloy construction," the T2i's build quality is "pretty good," says Harris at TechRadar.com. "The plastic chassis manages to feel stiff and sturdy without being heavy, and the [T2i] is certainly lighter and easier to lug around than a more pro-spec'd camera."
Owners at Amazon.com agree. "It has stood up to very cold and very hot temperatures in my recent world travels, and the photo quality is amazing," one user says of the Canon T2i. "I do sometimes worry about the durability because it does not have the tough housing of some of the higher-end Canon models, but for the price I think it is very hard to beat."
"Baby brother to the 7D." There's no shortage of extras on the Canon EOS Rebel T2i. In fact, "Under the skin, the Canon T2i brings a few features from Canon's prosumer EOS 7D model into a Rebel-class body, creating a baby brother to the 7D," Imaging-Resource.com says. All that comes at less than half the price. The same metering system, ISO and exposure compensation range add up to "impressive" photo quality, testers say, and the T2i gets the 7D's advanced video-related features, too, including the external mic jack.
Compared to its primary rival, the Nikon D3200, the Canon EOS Rebel T2i lacks no major features besides the Nikon's outrageously high megapixel count. At any rate, the two cameras' photos are pretty comparable in tests, and the T2i offers exposure bracketing that the Nikon lacks. You can have the Canon shoot three photos -- one at a normal exposure, one slightly lower and one slightly higher -- just in case the normal exposure wasn't quite right.
Review Credibility: Very Good Although they prefer the slightly pricier Canon EOS Rebel T3i with its swiveling LCD screen, experts here say, "It's pretty tough to go wrong with the Canon T2i." The main review is incredibly detailed, but many sample photos and a video, as well as a thorough list of pros and cons, make it easy to understand.
Review: Canon EOS Rebel T2i (EOS 550D), Mike Tomkins, Shawn Barnett and Zig Weidelich, July 2, 2010
Review Credibility: Very Good This British website gives the Canon EOS 550D -- known as the Rebel T2i in the U.S. -- 4.5 stars out of 5. Harris reviews the T2i's features and image quality, posting sample photos and videos, before calling it "a killer deal."
Review: Canon EOS 550D Review, Geoff Harris, March 19, 2010
Review Credibility: Very Good ConsumerReports.org tests and ranks several digital SLR cameras, including the Canon EOS Rebel T2i. Each one gets separate ratings for the quality of its images, flash photos, videos, LCD and viewfinder, as well as for ease of use, so subscribers can see at a glance how cameras compare. Editors don't go into nearly as much detail in their reviews as dedicated photography websites do, though.
Review: Canon EOS Rebel T2i (EOS 550D), Editors of ConsumerReports.org, As of October 2012
Review Credibility: Good Grunin includes the Canon EOS Rebel T2i on this older list of the best entry-level DSLRs. In her accompanying stand-alone review, she praises its "excellent photo quality," fast speed and better-than-average video, although she finds the viewfinder and some video controls difficult to use.
Review: Canon EOS Rebel T2i Review (with 18-55mm Lens), Lori Grunin, April 12, 2010
Review Credibility: Good Like all Canon entry-level cameras, the T2i gets great reviews here; more than 630 owners award it an average 4.7 stars out of 5. Most are completely happy with the camera's features and image quality. Only 3 percent of users give it 1 or 2 stars, usually because they got a lemon that malfunctioned.
Review: Canon EOS Rebel T2i 18 MP CMOS APS-C Sensor Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-inch LCD, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2012