When Canon unveiled its T2i camera earlier this year, amateur photographers like myself got pretty excited. Sure, last year's T1i was an affordable DSLR with video recording, but the T2i looked like it was actually getting it right, promising better video capture in full HD and an all-new image sensor that cranked the megapixels to 18 — all for under $1,000. That puts powerful, pro-level imaging technology within reach of many, and when I finally got to use that tech, I went from excited to inspired.
First off, the images I captured with the T2i that Canon lent me were definitely the best I've ever taken from a sub-$1,000 camera. If you're stepping up from an entry-level DSLR, you'll be impressed at how much your photos will improve, and if you're jumping up from a point-and-shoot, forget about it. In particular, low-light pictures could be amazingly sharp and detailed with the right settings (the maximum 6400 ISO doesn't hurt either). Even using the built-in flash, pictures hardly ever looked washed out. And I never once encountered a red-eye effect.
Let's get to the meat of this thing, though: HD video. While the T1i could capture full-HD footage (1,920 x 1,080), it did so at a strange frame rate: 20 fps. The T2i corrects this problem, letting you shoot at 1080p at 30, 25 or 24 fps. Just reviewing such high-def footage is a good workout for your computer's processor; my 2.8GHz MacBook Pro had serious trouble trying to keep up.
But take that in again: This thing gives you a full-HD video camera — and everything else that comes with a state-of-the-art DSLR still camera — for $900 ($800 for just the body). That's pretty jaw-dropping, and the image quality really hits the point home. Looking at footage of my new baby boy, I could see the tiny imperfections in the fleece material of his onesie from 20 feet out.
The video experience isn't perfect, however. Low light was much more of a weakness in video mode, with darker footage, and even dark areas of footage shot in decent light, looking grainy. When I shot some footage in indoor light, white balance seemed off, with the picture typically looking a little too red.
This not being a dedicated video camera, there's really no way to get a smooth zoom out of the lens without using a tripod or some kind of rig — for most footage it's probably best to not even try, or just shoot video with a prime lens. Finally, you learn very quickly to not use the auto focus for video; it takes way too long aquire a target, it's often the wrong one, and it's always rough. Manual is the way to go, and a focus ring can really help here.
A skeptic might say that by convincing me to purchase accessories like that is just Canon fooling me into spending more money. But this isn't a deception, it's an awakening. The fact that this camera has an amateur like me considering buying more accessories — getting excited about the prospect, even — says a lot about what it represents. While no amount of technology can replace talent, having this kind of tech in your hands creates more ways for that talent to emerge. That thrills me in ways even a 3G iPad never could… and for roughly the same price.