Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Canon EOS Rebel T4i Verdict and Video Review
Canon's DSLR flagship in the entry level Rebel lineup, the Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D, touts an impressive list of upgrades only 16 months after the venerable Canon EOS Rebel T3i/600D came to market. Is the new Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D a compelling and worthy upgrade over the Canon EOS Rebel T3i/600D? Read my practical review of the T4i and judge for yourself!
The T4i shares the same 18 megapixel CMOS APS-C sensor as the T3i but the major internal similarities stop there. The T4i runs on a DIGIC V processor for a faster 5fps shutter rate to catch fast action sports, a more sensitive 9 AF point system like the Canon 60D, a Hybrid AF system for continuous tracking during video recording and Live View and the first articulating touchscreen control LCD for Canon DSLR's.
The list goes on like the HDR Backlight Control for high contrast exposures, internal stereo microphone for audio capture for video and the addition of wireless RF control to dedicated RF Canon Speedlites. The retail price for the Canon T4i body only is $849. That is at least $200 more than the previous Canon T3i body only currently online. Do all these added T4i features worth the extra coin? My answer may surprise you but I will explain the ergonomic differences first.
The most obvious external difference between the T4i and the T3i is the dedicated movie mode indent on the power switch. No more rotating the mode dial to access movie mode. It is just a flick of the lever and you are shooting the same glorious selection of video resolutions just like the T3i. The internal stereo microphone is now on top of the pentamirror viewfinder but I suggest using an external microphone connected to the mini jack port on the side to gather the best audio. You can call the Canon Rebel T4i a "baby Canon 60D". If you are looking a small form factor with big DSLR features, the Canon Rebel T4i fits the bill.
Just like the T3i, the T4i's image quality is outstanding. Skin detail and color vibrance out of the T4i make it difficult to shoot a bad picture. With all the entry level Scene Intelligent Auto and Basic Zone Modes with the addition of Creative Filters, the aspiring photographer can start shooting epic images with ease. Soccer moms don't worry, you won't miss a shot like with your slow Apple iPhone 4S.
Impromptu photo shoots of your toddler's precious steps in poor lighting got you worried? You can shoot a clean ISO 3200 all day with no problem. ISO 6400 is for extreme low light indoor church or auditorium shooting but very useable to freeze the action. ISO 12800 and up is "Snow Falling on Cedar".
The T4i's more sensitive 9 point AF system like the Canon 60D tracks moving subjects in AI Servo with ease. My kid's ice skating lessons made a great test bed for vertical AF point AI Servo image samples. Keeping any AF point in AI Servo mode on a moving subject can be a challenge but practice makes perfect.
The T4i's video quality is outstanding just like the T4i. It shares the same HD video resolutions at many different frame rates along with manual audio, aperture, shutter and ISO control at your fingertips. Just like the more expensive Canon DSLR's, you have full creative control over your HD movies.
Hesitant at first for change, the touchscreen LCD controls are surprisingly good and practical for recording video. With a touch of the Q (quick menu) button, you have touch control of all major functions including aperture, shutter, ISO, focus point, focus magnification and much more to list. The touchscreen is quite handy especially when choosing focus point and magnifying digitally for critical focus. No more fumbling with control dials and menus anymore.
Total video recording time is now up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Just like the Canon 5D Mark III, a new continuous video file is created when the 4gb file limit is reached. No more 4gb FAT 32 limit to make your videos stop short of 12 minutes at full resolution capture. Quite a remarkable feature for an entry level DSLR.
Now for the bad news and maybe the deal breaker for most people. The new Hybrid AF system of the T4i/650D allows objects or people to be continuously tracked in focus during video recording. With Canon's new EF STM or stepper motor lenses, the Hybrid AF system allows smoother lens focusing when compared to USM and non USM EF lenses. The new Hybrid AF system and the LCD touchscreen of the T4i/650D work in conjunction with STM lenses such as the new Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens for smooth focus tracking of subjects during video capture. Sounds like a fabulous feature since the invention of the wheel, right? Watch the video below and decide for yourself...
My Canon Hybrid AF conclusion? The Servo AF only works well with subjects and people moving at a toddler's pace. Anything faster than crawling, the Hybrid AF does not keep up with fast moving people or objects. My 15 month old baby daughter just started to walk recently and the Canon T4i/650D paired with the EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens kept her in focus most of the time. Before the test, my expectations were not too high for this T4i or any HD DSLR. Disappointed with focus tracking of normal everyday people or object movements, I was quite surprised at the quiet and smooth focus of the new STM or stepper motor. Say goodbye to noisy, ratchety and jarring focus movement of previous EF USM and non USM lenses. Canon's next step is to match the AF system of conventional camcorders out in the digital video market.
Now for more bad stuff...Gone are the days of 1080p 3x to 10x digital zoom video capture like in the previous Canon Rebel T3i/600D. Canon completely removed this useful feature adding that extra reach for distant subjects like in my Supermoon video. Next problem is the removal of the AF Quick mode option in movie mode. I found the AF system of the stills mode is much more accurate and "quick" than the new Flexizone single focus point. Habits are just too hard to break! As an added note, the Movie Servo AF is enabled by default in movie mode. It has to be disabled because the AF will be constantly hunting for focus during video capture. Another brief critical issue with the AF is switching between stills mode and movie mode. If you are in AF Quick mode in Live Mode for stills, your selected setting in movie mode for AF will be set to the AF face tracking mode by default. Confusing? This maybe corrected in some future firmware fix, hopefully.
Look familiar? This is my modified .plist for the Canon E-1 Movie Plugin v1.3 to make the Canon Rebel T4i compatible with the Log and Transfer feature of Final Cut Pro. All of the other higher end Canon DSLR's can quickly and easily transcode h264 video files to AppleProRes422 for smooth non linear editing except the Rebel series. I fix that problem easily like the previous Rebels here. Be warned! Follow instruction carefully in that link and click on the picture above to view the .plist modification for the Canon Rebel T4i/650D. Good Luck!
My Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D verdict? The T4i is a winner in the entry level still photography category. A tried and true image sensor and upgraded AF system outputs great pictures along with beginner friendly Basic Zone Modes. The integration of the LCD touchscreen just like the Canon point and shoot Powershots make the transition easy for any novice to upgrade to the big DSLR's. The Canon Rebel T4i make complicated and confusing DSLR's very simple to operate.
In contrast, T4i is a horrible disappointment in the video category especially the wildly hyped Hybrid AF system for continuous focus tracking during recording. On top of that poor performer, the removal of the 3x-10x digital zoom during video capture shakes salt on the bleeding wound. The only redeeming video quality of the T4i is the extended video recording time up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Amen!
For current Canon Rebel T3i owners, the new Canon Rebel T4i is a worthy and compelling upgrade for still photography but a big disappointment for shooting video. If you primarily shoot DSLR video, keep your Canon Rebel T3i until Canon fine tunes DSLR auto focus servo tracking. Maybe there is a mirrorless camera system in Canon's future? Only time will tell at this point.
You can view more images, ISO comparisons and videos in my Canon EOS Rebel T4i/650D Verdict and Video Review Gallery.
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