Canon Rebel T2i Digital Camera Review$899.99
The Canon Rebel T2i was very accurate in our color testing, improving upon the excellent performance of last year's Rebel T1i. The camera was most impressive in reproducing orange, green, and flesh tones. This performance comes as no surprise, given Canon's history of excellent color reproduction. The T2i scored above every model in our comparison group.
To test color accuracy, we first determine which is the most accurate of the camera's color modes — in this case, Faithful. In this mode, we photograph the X-Rite ColorChecker chart under an even 3000 lux illumination. Running these images through Imatest software, we determine the recorded photo's variance from the known color values of the chart. This test only measures how accurately the colors are portrayed; you may prefer more or less saturated colors for your own photography. More on how we test color.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
The T2i outperformed its predecessor (the T1i) and every other camera in this group, including the excellent Canon 7D and Nikon D5000. This score is based upon the Faithful setting, which proved to be the most accurate of the T2i's shooting modes. If you would like images to be very close in color to what you see through the viewfinder, Faithful shooting on the T2i will get you precisely that.
The T2i brings back the 'Picture Styles' that we saw on last year's T1i: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, and Faithful. There's also an option for monochrome, plus three user definable settings. These three customizable settings can be created by selecting one of the pre-determined styles, then tweaking it for sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone. If you choose to base your custom setting on the monochrome style, the saturation and color tone options are replaced by filter effects and toning effects. Filter effects work like virtual colored filters (yellow, orange, red, or green), while toning will add a color wash (sepia, blue, purple, or green).
Neutral and Faithful were the two most accurate modes on the T2i. Both produced values quite close to those of the actual X-Rite chart, though Neutral mode tended to skew blue and pink hues more. Standard mode was a more saturated version of Neutral, with far less accurate reds, yellows, and blues. Portrait mode was also oversaturated and was the least accurate in reproducing greens. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Portrait mode actually altered skin tones — a trait that will be more or less desirable, depending on personal preference. Finally, there's Landscape mode: a setting designed to emphasize bold skies and foliage. Landscape certainly lives up to its promise, with almost terrifying blues and substantial shifts in green and red as well.
The following chart shows same-size crops from our test shooting in each color mode, for each color patch on the X-Rite color chart. The color names are those used by X-Rite.
The Canon Rebel T2i performed below expectations — both in automatic and custom modes. Its poor performance under incandescent lighting is unsurprising, but the ineffective manual white balance was a huge disappointment. This feature typically produces highly accurate readings, particularly in SLRs. On the T2i, however, custom white balance left photographs looking cooler under multiple types of lighting.
Automatic White Balance ()
As with many cameras, the T2i had trouble producing accurate colors under incandescent light. It was just below average when it came to fluorescent lights and daylight. The Samsung NX10 was the only one of our comparison cameras that did consistently worse than the T2i in our automatic white balance testing.
Custom White Balance ()
With a custom white balance, the T2i was able to capture much more accurate results. Unfortunately, there is still a significantly cool shift under all the light sources we tested. We witnessed similar trouble on last year's T1i, but the skewing was not quite this dramatic.
Across the board, the T2i was a disappointment in white balance performance. Only the Samsung NX10 scored lower, with particular problems with auto white balance. The Nikon D5000 did particularly well in this area, producing especially accurate results after a custom white balance.
White Balance Options
The Rebel T2i offers seven white balance presets, plus an automatic setting and the option to take a manual white balance reading.
The custom white balance system is a bit cumbersome on the T2i, as it is with all Canon SLRs. Most cameras allow you to point the camera at a white or gray card surface and push a button to calculate the custom white balance. Canon cameras, however, require you to take a photo of a white or gray surface, then select that stored image as the basis for the custom white balance setting.
Under the WB Shift option in the menu, your current white balance setting can be adjusted along both amber/blue and green/magenta axes. The T2i gives you ±9 steps in each direction; each step is the equivalent of five mireds (a unit that measures color temperature shift). This same option in the menu sets the camera up to bracket white balance along either amber/blue or green/magenta axes: you can take three shots, with a ±1, ±2, or ±3 step difference between each shot.
The long exposure test is designed to examine color accuracy and noise at reduced lighting levels. Like its predecessor, the Rebel T2i fared poorly in this category, producing less accurate colors and noisier images than many competing models. More on how we test long exposure.
In our test, the noise reduction setting consistently resulted in less accurate colors. The T2i really struggled across all shutter speeds in this test.
Noisewise, the T2i generally kept noise levels below one percent. This isn't a horrible performance, but it is worse than the numbers turned in by most SLRs. Fortunately, the noise reduction system does seem to reduce the noise levels at each shutter speed, if only by a small margin.
Compared to similar models, the Rebel T2i fared rather poorly in our long exposure tests.