I got my hands on the Canon T2i and I ran it though it’s paces, the things I was most interested in was the video modes and low-light performance.
To see the HD version downsized to 720p, you have to load the video from vimeo directly: Canon T2i, 550D Practical Video Tests.
T2i Vs. 7D
First a quick word about the T2i vs. the 7D. The T2i does not have that pro-feel that the higher level cameras have. The body is fairly light and it is most defiantly made of plastic, and you can tell when you hold it. For me that is not a big deal, it’s not worth nearly double the price to step up, though I do see the appeal.
Compared to “real” video cameras
In general I’ve been very impressed with the video shooting mode, in practice shots are easy to setup and the manual control works great. This camera lacks some features that a pro video camera may have, like a smooth auto focus, XLR audio inputs, and a power zoom.
Paired with a decent lens I feel that the video quality is just as good as the Canon XH-A1, a $3,000 HDV camera that I used in my last video shoot. In fact I would wager that the T2i is better in low-light, but I have no direct comparisons to show.
About the video codec
Video is captured in h264, at a high bit rate that is variable between 40 to 60 mb/s in 1080/30p and 1080/24p. I was unable to see any noticeable compression marks.
Needless to say, the video files are huge, order extra SD cards. A 4gb card is good for about 8 minutes of footage. Even though I knew that the files are big, I was surprised when the “No Space on Card” error came up, and it did twice while I was testing.
RAW still photos are about 20mb each.
I do wish that the camera settings like shutter speed, aperture and other EXIF properties were saved into the video, or at least the settings when video recording started. This is a minor issue barely worth mentioning.
A important feature for me is the ability to preview footage as it’s being shot, Live View mode in the EOS Utility works well, and a laptop would make a decent field monitor. The downside is that when recording the live view slows down to about 10-15fps, and motion is not a good representation of what is being recorded.
Another possibility is a HDMI field monitor, though I suspect a decent one would cost more then a average laptop.
When using live view and recording footage, the video file is written to the SD, not to your computers disk.
Capturing video on the camera is easy and the manual controls are more familiar to me with my photography background then the manual controls on a pro-video camera.
Things that I wish it has was a live audio monitor and histogram, but those are minor things.
Auto-focusing is something that you will want to avoid when taking video, each time I tried this the lens over focused before it found it’s place. USM lenses are better, but I will probably still manually focus in most cases.
There is also a handy magnification button you can press for detail focusing that switches your live view on the lcd to 5x and 10x magnification.
Edit: You can start movie shooting with a remote, but you have to use the 2-sec delay setting on the remote, "immediate" mode on the remote takes a photo.
Another feature I missed is the power zoom for those very slow zooms, doing a slow zoom by hand is fairly difficult.
I have not yet had the chance to do detailed tests on audio quality, but my old Rode VideoMic works very well with it.
When the rest of my gear arrives, I may do another review of just audio qualities.
My computer is relatively good, a dual core 3.2 with 4gb of memory, a 4-disk raid 10 array and a GeForce 6200, and I've never had issues with editing 720p mpeg2 video. But my computer just doesn't have the power to keep up with the 50mbit 1080p stream. The video is fairly watchable in VLC, but in Premiere Pro 4.0 playback is very slow, perhaps about 3-5 fps. Editing this demo video was very tedious.
I’ll be looking to options for a new video card, and see what plugins are available that may be able to help.
See the video at: http://vimeo.com/9753969 (Or above)
I’m also publishing some of my test videos in a little collection. Most shots were done with the Canon 50mm f1.8 (non-usm) lens. The extreme close up shots were done with the same lens with a screw-on macro adapter.
Their is also one shot with the Sigma 70-300mm f4-5.6 lens.
It was important to me to do tests without any expensive specialty lenses. I believe both of these lenses are valued under the $100 USD mark.
All of these shots were setup in 5 minutes or less, on special rigs or setup was needed.
Room lighting is 4x65w flood bulbs, recessed.
No lights were used in the lit candle shots.
A 14w CFL desk lamp was used in the candle smoke shots.
Shutter speed was 1/30sec for all shots.
This is a great camera for a great price, it’s not perfect, but there’s also no un-resolvable issues.