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Canon T2i/550D Practical Video Review

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.

Candle Light Candles with 14w CFL baclit (Tiltle on screen shoot is incorrect)

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

VLC Media InfoVideo 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.

 

Live View

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

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.

Audio

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.

Editing Video

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.

Demo Video

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.

Candle Light Candles with 14w CFL Light (Tiltle on screen shoot is incorrect)

Conclusions

This is a great camera for a great price, it’s not perfect, but there’s also no un-resolvable issues.

Print | posted on Friday, February 26, 2010 2:58 AM | Filed Under [ Original Posts Tech Photos Commentary ]

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# re: Canon T2i/550D Practical Video Review

Thanks for the review. Great job shooting the footage!
3/27/2010 9:47 PM | TC
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# re: Canon T2i/550D Practical Video Review

nice
4/17/2010 10:29 PM | earsaregood
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# re: Canon T2i/550D Practical Video Review

Nice review. I've been doing some research on the 7D and recently found out the T2i is essentially the same thing, video quality-wise. I have a Canon HF200 but it is horrible in low light and I really want to take some video of our soon-to-arrive baby. My problem is that I have a Nikon D80 with 18-200VR/35mm f1.8 DX lenses, and a SB600 - so stepping up to something like the 7D - just for video - seems like a bit of a waste. Now, the T2i on the other hand seems like a decent price (~900cdn), then add a USM L lense or two for maybe $1200-$1500 and I've got a MUCH better low-light video recorder for not a whole lot more than a 7D body.

Choices, choices.

Thanks again for the review. Definitely helps ease my worries about the difference in video quality between the T2i and 7D.
4/26/2010 10:24 PM | JD
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# re: Canon T2i/550D Practical Video Review

The issue is that h.264 is a distribution format, and isn't meant for editing. I recommend converting to ProRes 422 if you're using a Mac. On the Windows side your best bet is probably HDV1080i60 (for speed) or you can use DVCProHD 1080p which will keep the quality pretty high.
5/26/2010 12:24 PM | Nicholas Zimmerman
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# re: Canon T2i/550D Practical Video Review

Dont spend too much on a vid card. You will need more cpu than graphics power for what you are doing.
7/5/2010 4:30 AM | ernie
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# re: Canon T2i/550D Practical Video Review

Can you share exactly what screw-on macro adapter you used? Also, what do the "4x65 flood bulbs, recessed" and "14w CFL desk lamp" lighting sources look like? I'd love to replicate what you've got here in the low light.
1/14/2011 9:42 AM | Bryan
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# re: Canon T2i/550D Practical Video Review

Bryan,

Thanks for your interest.

The macro adapter is just a cheapo "+10" lens I got on ebay several years ago, it just happens to work great on my 50mm f1.8, though doing a search on ebay now it looks like they are all more or less the same thing.

I didn't use any special lights for the test, just what I happened to have in the room at the time.

As for lighting, the 4x65 bulbs are just the house lights I had in my office, recessed into the ceiling. Nothing special here, just plan flood bulbs you by at the local store.

The 14watt CLF is also not a "photo" light, just a plain bulb house bulb in the lamp that happened to be on my desk. I think the only place I used this was when back-lighting the smoke in one of the candle shots.
1/14/2011 11:05 AM | jeremy

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