The Canon T4i impresses even in the challenging swing test
My first digital SLR was a Rebel, so I have a soft spot for this entry level camera. Through the years it has always impressed me with its innovations that typically are not found on its more advanced siblings until the next generation. With this disclaimer, I was excited to get a chance to review the new Canon T4i to see what lies ahead for our future DSLR’s.
You can read here for a complete list of what’s new, but the big highlights are:
Touch screen LCD – Honestly I hated this and disabled it right away. It was so easy to get unwanted key presses that I only see it as being useful for people with tiny fingers with the camera mounted on a tripod.
ISO 12,800 Support – If you are shooting static subjects in reasonable light on a tripod this ISO might be useful to some, but most will find that 1600 is the peak ISO before noise reduction starts crushing detail. The high mode of 25,600 is simply not usable.
Continuous AF during HD Video Recording – I’ll try to cover this more in another article, but here’s where the T4i really impressed me. While the performance isn’t as fast an average camcorder over the last 20 years, it’s usable and much better than anything I’ve used on a DSLR thus far. The new Hybrid AF seemed to shine at picking up new subjects and generally doing the right thing when you pointed to a new subject. It’s certainly the most amateur / mom-friendly video AF system I’ve seen, so this is sure to be a big selling point for this camera.
ISO 6400 looks worse than ISO 51,200 on the 5D Mark III
A tripod is recommend for the HDR mode
This is a classic Rebel in that it is a functional camera that is easy for beginners. It offers lots of ease of use features that make it a real point and shoot DSLR, and features like the Hybrid AF, swivel LCD and stereo sound make it nice camcorder replacement.
The Q menu is excellent and the controls are laid out nicely on the camera. While this camera doesn’t have the safety button for the mode dial, I found that this design never moved (and is actually preferential over the safety button design).
The dynamic range of this cameras sensor isn’t anything to write home about. It was fine for the last generation, but with all of the stiff competition out there – especially in the mirrorless category (like the NEX-7) – it’s starting to feel outdated with no improvement over the G1X. That said, it’s not terrible – even with the STM kit lens – it’s just wise for prospective owners to not look at the 5D series (5D Mark II Or 5D Mark III) as you’ll start digging into your pocket for an expensive upgrade.
Real World Sample Images
This entire article features in-camera JPEG images with zero modifications. All images are copyright Ron Martinsen with all rights reserved. You may click the images to view the originals, but you may not modify, print, or otherwise consume these images for any purpose – private, commercial, non-profit or otherwise.
Click here to see the fully gallery, but here’s a few examples:
ISO Performance & Bookshelf Test
My recommendation is to avoid anything above ISO 1600 on this camera unless it’s absolutely necessary. After 1600 the in-camera JPEG’s start to exhibit quite a bit of lost detail as the in-camera noise reduction tries to clean up the image. The images are usable, but if you’ll be printing at 5x7 or greater you are going to see the issues with this cameras images that are above 1600.
The built-in flash is still abysmal compared to Nikon’s entry level DSLR’s, and I was quite shocked to see that this camera didn’t work with my 580EX II flash (but worked fine with the 600EX-RT) when it was mounted to my camera. Here's what I kept getting with the 580EX II in ETTL mode no matter what I tried:
My T4i didn’t like the 580EX II
The T4i can trigger remote flashes (not in RT mode though), so like the 7D it works great indoors when triggering Canon speedlites. I had no problems using it to trigger my 580EX II or 600EX-RT when they were configured as infrared slaves, but the EasyWireless feature wasn’t very easy (i.e., the flash failed to fire) in my testing.
40mm f/2.8 STM Pancake Lens
The all-new 40mm f/2.8 STM (which stands for stepping motor which is supposed to be smooth and silent) is all the rage by a lot of people who have never even held this lens, but honestly I was pretty unimpressed. For starters I expected it to be super quiet when focusing since it is a STM lens, but honestly it is not. In fact, I’d argue that many of my USM lenses are significantly quieter than this lens (you’ll see in future videos).
This lens was good at making a lot of real-time focusing adjustments which make it great for video, but it’s still no camcorder performance. Instead, you have to touch the LCD screen (in single point AF mode for best results) to get it to focus on a new subject, so severe out of focus moments aren’t uncommon. It does a great job of focusing and sometimes gets it right on its own without touch input, but it’s not as fast as old camcorders and it certainly isn’t silent.
Out of 228 photos I’ve taken with this lens so far, here’s the only one that I felt was worth sharing:
Yeah, that one didn’t impress me much either. This lens just isn’t as sharp as some early reviews lead me to believe, so it felt more like a kit lens than a great prime. It’s a pretty cheap lens to buy (B&H and Adorama), but it feels that way too in practice. The Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 XF R Lens for the X-Pro1 destroys this lens, but its over twice the price so I guess my expectations were too high for this one.
I’ll be doing more testing with this lens on different cameras, so this story isn’t over yet. However, if you are in the market for a T4i then I wouldn’t advise getting this one. If you don’t believe me, then just make sure you buy from a place with a good return policy as I think you’ll change your mind once you see for yourself.
EF 18-135 IS STM Lens
Detail and bokeh were acceptable with the kit STM lens
f/5.6 @85 mm, 1/125, ISO 250, No Flash
This lens impressed me because it was super quiet and fast focusing. It lived up to the STM moniker and made a good impression as a starter lens. While this lens won’t appear on my Which Lens Should I Buy? list, I’d say it’s a great lens for a tight budget – especially if you are short on cash or want to do video. It’s not super sharp and doesn’t have the warmth of better lenses, but it isn’t too shabby.
I still need to do a little more testing, but thus far the Rebel feels a bit like the DSLR version of the G1X. It’s a decent camera that gets the job done, but it feels a little dated and behind the game. I still prefer it over entry level Nikon cameras, but the gap is narrowing with this release.
The T4i video performance is solid and it will create images that will please beginners. That said, there’s a reason why I say “Parents Rejoice” in this 5D Mark III review because the extra ISO performance really does make your life easier as a parent to get those shots in your own real world environments (like kitchens and family rooms).
UPDATE: See part 2 of this review at Canon T4i Review–Part II–Image Quality and Video.
Where to buy
Here’s where I recommend purchasing from:
Order now from B&H
ORDER NOW from Adorama
Other articles you may enjoy
- Canon T4i Review–Part II–Image Quality and Video
- Canon 5D Mark III First Look (For Parents Version)
- Canon 600EX-RT Flash First Look (ST-E3 RT)
- Canon G1X vs G12 vs Fujifilm X10
- Fujifilm X10 (2011 P&S of the Year)
- Fujifilm XPro-1
- Nikon D7000 & 24-120mm Lens
- Sony NEX-7
- Tripod Recommendations
- Which lens should I buy?
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I was provided a loaner camera and lenses from B&H so I could bring this article to you.