Canon EOS Rebel T4i review: Good dSLR choice, but only if you opt for top-end

I have to admit: shooting Live View and video with the T4i is a joy compared with most dSLRs --but only with the STM lens -- because the contrast AF snaps in relatively quickly, decisively, and quietly when shooting. Ironically, some folks used to camcorders might find that the AF moves a little too quickly if they're used to the more gradual fade-into-focus operation of those cameras.

I think the battery life should be a little better for the money, though.

Design and features
Canon has enhanced the design significantly over the T3i. Grip allergies aside, the camera feels much like the T3i: slightly plasticky, but ultimately solid and relatively lightweight.

On the right shoulder of the camera sits the mode dial, which has the usual assortment of manual, semimanual, and automatic modes . There's a new multishot HDR Backlight Control mode, which automatically combines four image exposures to retain detail in shadow and highlight areas for backlit subjects. It works pretty well, but like most HDR modes requires that you hold the camera extra steady and wait a few seconds for the image to process after shooting. There's an analogous Handheld Night Scene mode as well.

But the most notable change to the top controls is the introduction of a three-way on/off/movie switch, a vast improvement over putting movie mode on the mode dial. If you frequently jump between stills and video, this streamlines shooting immensely over the T3i.

The control layout on the back remains essentially unchanged, but Canon tweaked the design on the menu and info buttons for the better; they're slighly easier to feel now.

While the LCD remains the same size, it's now a touch screen. It's responsive and has an updated user interface and the usual capabilities, like touch focus, that streamline Live View shooting. You can view the screen pretty well in direct sunlight. You don't have to use it if you don't want to, though operations like selecting ISO sensitivity go much faster when you can directly select rather than having to cycle through them. Overall, I find Canon's interface straightforward and easy to use. The viewfinder also remains unchanged, including the annoying tiny AF points.

Canon EOS Rebel T3i Canon EOS Rebel T4i Canon EOS 60D Nikon D5100 Pentax
K-30
Sony Alpha SLT-A65V
Sensor effective resolution 18MP CMOS 18MP hybrid CMOS 18MP CMOS 16.2MP CMOS 16.3MP CMOS 24.3MP Exmor HD CMOS
22.3 x 14.9mm 22.3 x 14.9mm 22.3 x 14.9mm 23.6 x 15.6mm 23.7 x 15.7mm 23.5 x 15.6mm
Focal- length multiplier 1.6x 1.6x 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 12800 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 12800 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 12800/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Burst shooting 3.7 fps
6 raw/34 JPEG
5fps
6 raw/22 JPEG
5.3fps
16 raw/58 JPEG
4 fps
n/a raw/100 JPEG
6fps
8 raw/30 JPEG
8fps (10fps with fixed exposure)
13 raw/17 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag/ effective mag) 95% coverage
0.85x/ 0.53x
95% coverage
0.85x/ 0.53x
96% coverage
0.95x/ 0.59x
Optical
95% coverage
0.78x/ 0.63x
Optical
100% coverage
0.92x/ 0.61x
Electronic OLED
0.5 inches/ 2.36 million dots
100% coverage
1.09x/ 0.73x
Autofocus 9-pt AF
center cross-type to f2.8
9-pt AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8 9-pt AF all cross-type; center cross to f2.8 11-pt AF
center cross-type to f5.6
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
(SAFOX IX+)
15-pt phase-detection
3 cross-type
AF sensitivity -0.5 to 18 EV -0.5 to 18 EV 0 to 20 EV -1 to 19 EV -1 to 18 EV -1 to 18 EV
Shutter Speed 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 x-sync 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/6000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/180 sec x-sync 1/4000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 63-zone iFCL 63-zone iFCL 63-zone iFCL 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 77 segment 1200 zone
Metering sensitivity 1 to 20 EV 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 22 EV -2 to 17 EV
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p 1080/30p/ 24p; 720/30p/ 25p/24p H.264 QuickTime MOV H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/24p/ 25p/30p; 720/ 50p/60p AVCHD 1080/60p @ 28, 24Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/60i @ 17Mbps
Audio Mono; mic input Stereo; mic input Mono; mic input Mono; mic input Mono Stereo; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a Yes
Maximum best quality recording time 4GB/11m 4GB/12 min 4GB/12 min 20 min 4GB/25 minutes 2GB/29 min
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift
LCD size 3 inches articulated
1.04 MP
3 inches articulated touch screen
1.04 MP
3 inches articulated
1.04 MP
3 inches articulated
921K dots
3 inches fixed
921K dots
3 inches articulated
921K dots
Memory slots 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC 1 x SDXC
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 470 shots 440 shots 1100 shots 660 shots 480 (Lithium Ion); 1600 (Lithium) 510 shots
Size (WHD, inches) 5.1 x 3.8 x 3.0 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 5.7 x 4.1 x 3.1 5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.8 5.3 x 3.9 x 3.3
Body operating weight (ounces) 20 20.8 27 19.6 22.9 (est) 22 (est)
Mfr. Price n/a $849 (body only) $999 (body only) $799.95 (body only) $849.95 (body only) $899.99 (body only)
$799.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $949 (with 18-55mm lens) n/a $899.95 (with 18-55mm VR lens) $899.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $999.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/a $1,149 (with 18-135mm STM lens) n/a n/a n/a n/a
Release date March 2011 June 2012 November 2010 April 2011 July 2012 October 2011

If you're looking for a broad or unusual feature set, this camera will disappoint you: it basically has the baseline set of essential features for a camera in its class. I really miss peaking for manual focus in Live View; it would make focusing with every lens besides the STM model so much easier. It does include the Video Snapshot mode carried over from the camcorders and PowerShots for shooting quick clips.

For a complete accounting of the T4i's features and operation, download the PDF manual.

Conclusion
I liked shooting with the T4i and think most people who get it will probably love it. But that's true of a lot of the cameras in this class -- you really have to try hard to make a bad camera for about $1,000. Comparatively, though, it falls a little short. While some improvements in the camera benefit photographers with older lenses, you really need the new STM lenses to take full advantage of the camera.

On one hand, I really like the 18-135mm lens as a kit option. It offers a good focal range for everyday shooting and it's sharp through the middle aperture ranges. Plus, it's faster at 55mm (f5) than the smaller lens.

But if you just want a decent still Canon dSLR, the T3i still fills the bill, and is cheaper, if a little slower. With better buffer processing, the 60D remains better for continuous shooting, though the T4i's AF may be more accurate if you're willing to accept a slowdown. For video, the T4i is a great relatively inexpensive Canon pick, but there are comparable alternatives available, like the Sony Alpha SLT-A65, if you're willing to sacrifice an optical viewfinder.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Digital camera type SLR
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 18.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 14.9 x 22.3mm