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

Canon's updates for the T4i mostly bring the top-end dSLR of the Rebel line into parity with its non-dSLR competition.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
9 min read

Editors' note, March 28, 2013: Canon recently discontinued the T4i and has replaced it with the nearly identical EOS Rebel T5i.


Canon EOS Rebel T4i

The Good

The <b>Canon EOS Rebel T4i</b> delivers extremely good photo and video quality plus improved performance in Live View shooting over the T3i -- as long as you buy the more expensive 18-135mm STM kit. Plus, the camera has a more streamlined shooting design than its predecessor.

The Bad

The feature set remains rather blah, and its photos aren't as good as the T3i's at high ISO sensitivities.

The Bottom Line

A fine camera, the Canon EOS Rebel T4i's more expensive 18-135mm STM kit (or body with another STM lens) is the only version that merits an unqualified recommendation. You can probably find better alternatives if you just want a sub-$1,000 dSLR for still photography.

People who use Live View with autofocus for stills or video are the biggest winners with this generation of the top model in Canon's EOS Rebel series. The big updates to the T4i (aka the EOS 650D overseas) over its predecessor are the addition of a touch screen and the incorporation of a new hybrid CMOS sensor that includes both contrast autofocus sensors, the type of autofocus used in camcorders and other video AF systems, as well as the traditional phase-detection sensors you find in dSLRs. That said, the new sensor and expensive STM lens that you have to pair with it to take advantage of improved Live View autofocus really serve to bring the T4i into parity with newer technology, such as Sony's fixed-mirror SLT system and mirrorless ILC alternatives.

Image quality
Overall, the photo and video quality of the T4i still rates as excellent, though at high ISO sensitivities it's slightly surpassed by the T3i; it looks like either the blue channel in the new sensor just isn't as sensitive as the previous one or Canon's processing the heck out of it. JPEGs are fine up through ISO 400 if you're not a pixel peeper; if you are, you'll find even slightly out-of-focus areas start to show some artifacts as low as ISO 200. At high ISO sensitivities the noise reduction is relatively intelligent, with suppression artifacts only in the dark areas and on some high-contrast edges. I suggest you don't use the default Auto Picture Style when shooting JPEG in low light, because it boosts the contrast and you really lose a lot of shadow detail. If you shoot raw, you've got latitude up to about ISO 1600, but you'll end up applying a lot of luminance NR to get rid of the hot pixels.

Canon EOS Rebel T4i photo samples

See all photos

The T4i is capable of reasonably accurate color -- just not in its default Auto Picture Style setting. Auto pushes the contrast and saturation so that you lose detail in shadow areas and normally bright, saturated colors clip highlight detail. That's why Canon offers four different non-special-effect color settings: Auto, Standard, Neutral, and Faithful. My normal Canon setting is Neutral with sharpening bumped up a couple notches, but at the very least dial it back to Standard, which is still better than Auto.

Click to download ISO 100

ISO 400
ISO 3200

The camera's tonal range is fine for a consumer model, but there isn't a lot of latitude in shadows and highlights, despite the fact that the camera offers a +/- 5-stop bracketing range.

Video quality is very good for a consumer dSLR but not outstanding for its price class (if you count the price with the 18-135mm lens), which includes models like the SLT-A65 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2. It's pretty comparable to the A65, though I have to say I like the A65's tonality in bright light a little better (I actually reviewed the SLT-A77V, which uses the same sensor and processing technology). In dim/dark conditions, the T4i does very well, though. There's some color noise in blacks and on thin edges, but it delivers a nice range in the details. I didn't see any rolling shutter but did spot some moiré and aliasing on diagonal edges.

Note: We recently updated our testing methodology to provide slightly more real-world performance, so the results aren't necessarily comparable with previous testing. Until we're finished refining our procedures, we will not be posting comparative performance charts.

Through the viewfinder -- i.e., using phase-detection AF -- the shot lag is roughly the same with both the traditional 18-55mm kit lens and the 18-135mm lens. In bright conditions, time to focus, expose and shoot was a solid 0.3 second for both lenses, though the 18-135mm rounds up to 0.3 second and the 18-55mm rounds down to that speed. In dim conditions, they're both 0.7 second. In contrast AF mode (i.e., Live View), the STM clearly surpasses the 18-55mm: 0.8 second in bright light and 0.9 in dim versus roughly 2.2 seconds for the 18-55mm. (This is the only test I ran for the 18-55mm lens)

Sequential shooting is similarly fast: 0.3 second for two shots of JPEG or raw, rising to 0.8 second with flash enabled. Burst performance results were interesting, in a disappoining way. For a nonmoving subject but with center-point AF active, the T4i clocks about 5.4fps on average for JPEGs and 5fps for raw (once you've exceeded the 6-frame buffer limitation for raw). However, with moving subjects -- in practice, that is -- it's far slower. In some cases it seemed to drop to roughly 2fps based on the file time stamps. It may measure a bit faster, but it's definitely not 5fps, even with the 95MB/sec SanDisk Extreme Pro card we use for testing. Accuracy, on the other hand, is very good, with roughly 75 percent of shots locking well enough for typical nonprofessional uses for panning, approaching, and random movements.

The AF system seems to work fairly well with wide apertures on fast lenses, including the 50mm f1.2. But despite updates to its automatic operation, it's still making unintelligent AF choices, such as always opting to focus on the closest element in the scene.

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
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
6 raw/22 JPEG
16 raw/58 JPEG
4 fps
n/a raw/100 JPEG
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
95% coverage
0.78x/ 0.63x
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
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.

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.


Canon EOS Rebel T4i

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8Image quality 8