Monday, June 07, 2010

Canon EOS 550D / Rebel T2i Review

I was lucky to get a Canon 550D (Rebel T2i) for a two week review. Out of the box, this camera is impressive.

Side View: Canon EOS 550D (Rebel T2i / Kiss X4 Digital)

I mainly focused on experimenting how to shoot videos with the camera, but also had fun using the camera's 50mm 1.4 lens to shoot some photos.

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When I was offered the Canon 550 D to evaluate I was excited because I was closely looking at the both the Canon 5D and 7D. My friends, the Bui brothers, use these cameras to shoot broadcast quality TV commercials and the video quality on them is amazing, so I was excited to get the opportunity to try out the Canon 550 D.

I own a Canon Digital Rebel, which has a normal lens, so I asked if I could try out the 50 mm 1.4 lens. That lens seems to make photos look amazing. I wondered how it would work with video, so when the camera arrived as happy to see it came with the 50 mm lens. First off I went crazy taking photos.

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Really great quality. Next up was video.

Front View: Canon EOS 550D (Rebel T2i / Kiss X4 Digital)

When the camera was en route to me I got an e-mail asking if I'd be interested in testing out the fly pack II from ikan. It's one of those huge professional rigs that help you shoot video with a digital SLR, much like the one I was getting, so I said yes.

It came along, and it was really fun to try because it has a little HD monitor that allows you to really check the focus when shoting video. That was one of most important things I found when shooting with this camera. I'm used to either automatic focus our fixed focus. With this camera you have to be careful especially when using the lens with like the 50 mm 1.4 which has a shallow depth of field. You have to be very careful where you're focusing, so the ikan rig, with the additional monitor, let's you see where your focus is.

The first problem I encountered was shooting video of yourself. In order to set the focus you need to push the focus button, but if you are sitting in a chair you need to be close enough to press the shutter to autofocus on yourself, but then you're too close.

Using manual focus, to focus on a prop at the location where you'll be seating seems like a good solution, but auto-focus while recording would be even better.

Maybe a remote will help fix that. Maybe a lens with a wider depth of field would help too, but I was so enamored with the 1.4 that I pretty much used it for all my testing, and quality of the video is amazing.

I looked the manual and found out that I could change my settings. You can change your aperture and you can change your shutter speed. This is what everybody is very excited about with this kind of camera, the control over all of your video settings. So far, in the videos I've experimented with, with aperture priority and a really shallow depth of field, they look really cool.

What bugs me is that the camera doesn't have a flip out view screen like the Panasonic G1 does. I would like that.

Shooting Video

Here's how you shoot a video:

1. Put camera in Movie mode
2. Focus by pressing the Shutter button half-way
3. Start recording a movie by pressing the Movie button on the back of the camera, NOT the Shutter.

Top View: Canon EOS 550D (Rebel T2i / Kiss X4 Digital)

This procedure caused me lots of issues. It would be a lot simpler if you could record movies by pressing hte Shutter button. Many times I pressed the Shutter and nothing happend. I'd miss the shot. It's not intuitive. The Shutter button should function a a Movie Start/Stop button.

Here's a video I shot using auto-focus. Most of the people in this video are at the same distance from the camera, so I auto-focused on the first person, then as I walked along, I tried to keep everyone at the same distance to keep them in focus. In the video you can see the effects of using hte 50mm 1.4 lens.

Live Preview

Here's another thing that ls not intuitive, Live Preview.

Rear View: Canon EOS 550D (Rebel T2i / Kiss X4 Digital)

I didn't figure out that the 550D has a live preview for shooting photos until my last day of testing. It's not intuitive, but it is in the manual.

On my other cameras, when you pwer them on, they give you a Live Preview on the display screen. The Canon 550D does not. I finally figured out that you have to press the Movie button, while in any of the photo modes, to turn on Live Preview. That makes no semse to me. There should be an option to have Live Preview be the default setting.

I didn't have enough time to do a thorough test of audio. The on camera audio for the things I filmed was fine.

I plugged in a few external mics and the Auto Gain Control took over when I wasn't speaking and made the background noise too loud. It would be nice if hte camera had an option to shut off auto gain control.

I would have liked more time with this camera. I would have liked more time to try out different microphones. I would have liked more time to try out different settings. I would have liked more time to experiment more with manual focus.

The quality that comes of of this camera makes you stop and say "whoa!" It's very impressive.

I'd love to get the next model of the Panasonic GH1 to try out for comparison and there's also the new Samsung NX10, Olympus PEN, Canon Powershot S90 and Sony NEX-5.

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