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Canon Rebel T4i Review

by Shawn Barnett, Mike Tomkins, and Zig Weidelich
Hands-on Preview posted: June 8, 2012
Review posted: November 1, 2012

Offering video on an SLR was a neat trick, but the inability to autofocus while shooting like you can with most common camcorders was disappointing. Canon's latest digital SLR camera, the Rebel T4i, attempts to address the issue with a new Hybrid AF system and two new lenses designed to make shooting video more like consumers expect.

Canon's included a host of other improvements as well, bringing the Rebel T4i into closer contention with both compact system cameras and even smartphones. Those improvements include a faster frame rate of five frames per second, nine cross-type AF points, a stereo microphone, and a 3-inch articulating LCD with an integrated touch panel. And the best news about the touch panel is that it's capacitive, not resistive. That means it works more like current smartphones and tablets, requiring only a gentle touch with a finger. Easily my favorite change to the Canon T4i is the new quieter shutter mechanism, which operates without that Rebel winding sound that's always spoiled the camera for me.

Physically very similar, but not identical to its predecessor, the Canon T4i is just a little thicker front to back than the T3i, measuring 133.1 x 99.8 x 78.8mm compared to the T3i's 133.1 x 99.5 x 79.7mm. Weight is 20.3 ounces (1.27 pounds; 575g) including body, battery, and card, or 36.6 ounces (2.29 pounds; 1039g) with the 18-135mm STM kit lens added. With the 18-55mm kit lens, weight is 27.3 ounces (1.71 pounds; 774g), again including battery and card.

From the front, there's some minor restyling, but all major elements are in the same places. The infrared remote port, the shutter button, the self-timer lamp, the lens release button and below that, tucked against the side of the mount, the Depth-of-field preview button. The lens mount accepts both EF and EF-S mount lenses, as with all of Canon's APS-C cameras.

Shown mounted here is the new 18-135mm IS STM lens, and the Canon T4i is the first camera in the line to support the kind of live continuous autofocus that gives the lens significance. Where other lenses would seek noisily for focus, the new STM lens seeks more slowly and quietly to avoid introducing noise to captured video. Live view autofocus for stills is also less cumbersome, without the noisy seeking or flipping mirror. This is the only kit lens that's STM, however, and it comes at a higher price of US$1,199.00. The 18-55mm IS II lens is bundled for US$950, and it's available body-only for US$850.

Just in front of the hot shoe are the new stereo microphones, imitating other competing designs. Canon didn't mention it, but often the stated goal for putting the mics here is to reduce noise from hand and lens movements. Canon removed the Movie position from the Mode dial, instead placing it on the power switch. They also removed the Display button from the top deck; indeed from the camera entirely. One reason they were able to remove the Display button is that they added back the infrared proximity sensor that turns off the LCD when you bring your eye to the viewfinder. It used to reside below the viewfinder, but now it's above, and just below the hot shoe.

Most elements in the back are in the same positions; slightly different button shapes and icon locations, but it should otherwise be familiar to upgraders. The thumbgrip area is larger. The LCD is a ClearView II monitor with 1.04 million dots of resolution, and it's said to have a smudge-resistant coating, which will be important when using the touchscreen. In my use, fingerprints nevertheless collected on the screen, unsurprisingly.

What was surprising was how much I enjoyed using the touchscreen. When I first encountered the T4i's touchscreen, we'd just finished our review of the Canon 510HS, a pocket camera with a resistive touchscreen that was very difficult to use. Eventually we realized we had to touch harder to make it work, or else use the stylus. But when I started using the Canon T4i's new touchscreen I found it as responsive as I'm used to on my iOS and Android devices. Suddenly instead of being a pain, the touchscreen became more fun. There's just something enjoyable about technology when it works, and works well.

Changing settings via the Quick Menu is made a little easier with the touchscreen. You can either touch the physical Quick Menu button or its equivalent in the lower left corner of the screen. Then the screen becomes active and you can just press on any element to make adjustments. Swiping between photos in Playback is easier than I've seen on other cameras, and pinch-zooming is pretty easy too.

As for the LCD, naturally it does get fingerprints, but they're not as bad as usual. The screen is sharp and contrasty, quite good outdoors in bright sunlight, and its off-axis viewing is pretty impressive. Canon also minimized the blue sheen that was a little annoying on the T3i.

 

Canon T4i Shooter's Report

by Shawn Barnett

The Canon Rebel T4i is just my kind of camera. Before the Canon T4i was announced, I routinely grabbed the T3i for important family events, shooting with it for nine months after the review was completed. I have access to many cameras, obviously, and often shoot family events with cameras I'm reviewing, but when I wanted to make sure I got the shot, I picked the T3i. When the T4i arrived, it supplanted the T3i most of the time in those same situations. (They look so similar, I often grabbed one when I thought I was grabbing the other, which was a little frustrating.) Another reason I choose these two cameras so often is because I'm already reasonably invested in a few Canon lenses whose glass I love, as well as a flash and a few accessories, so it's familiar territory.

For commercial work, I recommend higher-end cameras for several (obvious) reasons, but the Canon T4i now serves even better as a backup camera for pros thanks to its more serious-sounding shutter mechanism. I know that seems silly, but sounding and looking professional is important when the client is spending some money. And when someone is spending money, you want a backup camera. Also, when I'm shooting any event, I like to have two cameras, one with a wide angle or medium prime, and the other with a telephoto zoom. The Canon T4i is an ideal choice.

What differentiates the Canon T4i from its predecessors is its new Live View autofocus system, whose primary purpose is to support autofocus when shooting stills in Live View and when shooting video. As have several manufacturers, Canon integrated phase-detect autofocus into the T4i's main image sensor. Phase-detect autofocus is generally faster -- certainly faster than Canon's contrast-detect autofocus. We've seen its effectiveness proven in the Nikon 1 cameras as well as Sony's recent NEX-5R, NEX-6, and A99 cameras. But so far, Canon's implementation is quite a bit slower than those designs, and only marginally faster than the contrast-detect system in the T3i.

Since it's the major feature of the camera, though, I felt obligated to test it. I couldn't draw conclusions from my earlier tests with the 20mm f/2.8 lens, primarily because they'd told me it might not work as well, despite its STM designation. And they were right. So this review largely waited for the 18-135mm STM kit lens to arrive.

What I learned was that it's still not great, but if you learn its limitations, you can make use of the camera's Movie Servo AF mode, which lets the Canon T4i adjust focus just like a camcorder (default mode for most SLRs is to only focus when you half-press the shutter when recording movies).

Download Original (244MB)

I asked my boys to play out in the field behind our house -- coaxing them with a chance to shoot my old Rebel XTi -- to approximate an average family play scenario, and the results were mixed. Most often when framing them head-to-toe, the Canon T4i focused on the grass behind them rather than the boys themselves. If their face was large enough in the frame, the camera would begin tracking them, placing a box around their faces onscreen, but not always with accurate focus. The 18-135mm STM lens was indeed better at acquiring focus than the 40mm f/2.8 prime, but still sometimes quite slow and stubborn.

Download Original (174MB)

As with anything, once you learn what a system requires of you, you can adapt to it. But having to choose your framing to serve the needs of the autofocus system is less than ideal. It's also not something I've had to do with modern compact system cameras, even those with contrast-detection only. I got it right with the video below, and the Canon T4i did well enough.

Download Original (91MB)

Filling your frame with the subject seems to be the best strategy for making the system focus on the subject; it's also good strategy for interesting composition, but when someone is standing in a field, there's not much you can do to make them fill more of the frame than the grass.

Visit our in-depth video page for more details on the Canon T4i's movie capture capabilities.

Multi-shot Noise Reduction. Another major new feature is the Canon T4i's new Multi-shot Noise Reduction, which captures, combines, and micro-aligns four images into one. It seemed to exhibit considerably lower noise than the camera's high ISO settings alone.

No noise reduction
1/5 second, f/3.5, ISO 6,400, 18mm
Multi-shot Noise Reduction
1/6 second, f/3.5, ISO 6,400, 18mm

I set the Canon T4i to ISO 6,400 and made two handheld shots, one with no noise reduction and one with MSNR on. In this shot, I was most interested in the lunar rainbow effect seen in one of the clouds, in the area I've cropped. While the first image has quite a bit of chroma noise, the Multi-shot Noise Reduction image maintains the rainbow colors while getting rid of the noise. The only drawback to shooting in Multi-shot Noise Reduction is that you have to first turn off RAW capture; switching to the mode doesn't automatically turn it off for you. As one who always shoots raw, it's a hassle to say the least.

HDR. Shooting a High Dynamic Range image is a lot easier than before, and it's even easier than the Multi-shot Noise Reduction mode, because it has its own position on the Mode dial. Just turn the dial all the way to the right and you're in HDR Backlight Control. The camera will automatically capture three images and combine them into one, effectively extending the dynamic range available in an image.

1/60, f/5.0, ISO 100 1/125, f/4, ISO 160, HDR Backlight Control

Unlike other Canon EOS models, though, the HDR in the T4i is fully automatic, so you have no control over ISO or the amount of exposure compensation applied to the three shots, nor how aggressive the camera is in applying the merge. The camera also crops substantially when shooting HDR, as you see in the two shots above, taken from the same position. This results in some softness likely caused by interpolation back to full image size.

Pancakes. I'm also really pleased Canon's finally produced a small pancake lens, a 40mm f/2.8 STM lens, equivalent to a 64mm lens on a full-frame camera. That's a little more telephoto than I'd like, but still close to a "normal" lens. Here's hoping they also produce something like a 30mm pancake lens, which would be equivalent to a 48mm. It felt strange to hold a Canon camera with a pancake lens mounted. I liked it, though. Note that the lens is too small for image stabilization as well. It's not an essential feature at 64mm equivalent, but would still be handy for movies.

We reviewed the Canon 40mm f/2.8 on SLRgear.com, and I also went out and shot with it in July. You can read my Shooting the Canon 40mm f/2.8 story here, and see the SLRgear review here.

As a brief summary, though, the Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM lens is a nice little prime lens with good sharpness. It's slower to focus than USM lenses, and there is some sound when it focuses. It's also slower to focus in video mode when using Movie Servo AF. The shot above would not have been possible focusing in Live View mode, either. I tried. It wasn't until I abandoned Live View mode -- something I use all the time by default with compact system cameras -- and switched back to using the optical viewfinder that I got action shots like this.


Most of the cameras previewed on our site before Photokina 2012 benefited from the T4i's built-in ability to remote control Canon's EX-series flashes. (Thanks to Ellis Vener for adding his 430EX to the shot, creating the dramatic top lighting.)

September rush. Because of its reasonably small size, reliable image quality and ability to remote control a few Canon 580EX flashes from its pop-up flash, the Canon T4i ended up joining me in my September rush, including three trips to NYC to cover new cameras. Most of the cameras you see in our Hands-on previews were photographed with the T4i and the 17-85mm f/3.5-5.6 or the 60mm f/2.8. It's small enough to travel well, controls the 580EX flashes without wires and minimal setup, and serves multiple purposes. You can also set the T4i to not contribute to the exposure, but just signal the other flashes to fire, as I did with the D600 shot here.

I have yet to light portraits with the Canon T4i in concert with the 580EXs, but it's trivial to do so, requiring only a few light stands or even a chair or two to achieve. I demonstrated the feature in my Canon 7D review, but the T4i's pop-up remote-control capabilities are a little more limited by comparison. Whereas the 7D can control up to three groups of flashes, the T4i is limited to one group, plus the built-in flash itself.

I made the above shot just after the Sun went down, but I was able to bring it back thanks to the Canon T4i's remote-flash capability. I had a friend hold my 580EX about six feet to my left, onto which I'd attached the same LumiQuest ProMax bounce reflector I mention below. The gold reflector combined with the off angle makes the flash look more like evening sunlight, a nice effect considering we're all about to head out for Trick or Treating.

The T4i clocks in at about 5fps at 18-megapixels.

Most people won't go to such efforts to make a picture. But it's surprising just how easy this was thanks to the Canon T4i's straightforward approach, and the photo turned out just how I wanted.

High speed. A higher frame rate is a welcome improvement to the Rebel line, with the T4i topping out at five frames per second, capturing 19 frames before the buffer fills. It doesn't seem like five frames, and in Large/Fine JPEG mode it's actually 4.84 fps. Switch to RAW or RAW+JPEG, though, and things speed up to 5.05 and 5.56 fps. The buffer only holds six and three frames respectively.

I don't use fast frame rates that often, but it was fun to try it out on this brief action sequence. This wouldn't have been as interesting at three frames per second, but five frames captures just about enough action to make it fun to review after capture.

Portraits. As I mentioned earlier, I used the Canon T4i extensively through the Summer and Fall of 2012. Capturing portraits is one of my favorite pastimes, and I frequently grabbed the T4i for these as well, attaching a single 580EX and my LumiQuest ProMax reflector for quick and dirty fill flash with a softer light.

1/160 second, f/3.5, ISO 100, 60mm f/2.8 lens 1/200 second, f/3.5, ISO 100, 60mm f/2.8 lens

I captured these two seasonal shots with the gold LumiQuest insert, both to better match the late afternoon light and to give it that Fall look. At first the kids were sitting on the pumpkins, but it wasn't until I thought to place a pumpkin in my youngest son's lap that the smiles came more naturally. It's easy to see it was my other son's idea to throw the leaves in the air; that big smile tells it all. The images are a tad overexposed, unfortunately, but a quick tune in Lightroom improved them over what you see here (these are JPEGs straight from the camera).

Overexposure. Particularly with Auto ISO on, I experienced a lot of overexposed images, not always flash shots. All of my shots of my daughter's high school band were too bright, blowing out their white caps and feathers while trying to compensate for the black uniforms. I had to dial the camera back a full stop to get this shot. I didn't get any decent shots that night, but this is an example of how far I had to back down to keep from losing the feathers and shirts. Yes, it's a little too far, but the meter wasn't consistent, so I chose to overdo it by 1/3 stop just to be safe.

Other portraits like this standard Homecoming shot were also affected by the black dress and tuxedo. It's not too bad in this shot -- some of the other shots were worse, with the suit going gray -- and it's certainly not uncommon. Since I shot raw also, I was able to fix this in Lightroom with no trouble at all. I've had better luck with Canon's matrix metering in the past, though. Just like the T3i, the Canon T4i overexposes a little too often, so watch your highlights and compensate as needed.

Overall, the Canon T4i is a reliable digital SLR for stills, a deluxe package for the price, with a gorgeous high-resolution, swivelling LCD, an excellent sensor, as well as a fast frame rate (without all that winding noise). Movie Servo AF mode isn't quite as mature as I'd like to see, but I still think of this camera primarily as one for stills, so it doesn't bother me too much. Before recommending a Canon consumer SLR for family video capture, we'll need to see some improvements in responsiveness. Until then, it's probably best to prefocus and shoot short snippets of video. Otherwise, the Canon T4i's image quality is quite good, save for occasional overexposure. I recommend shooting RAW+JPEG most of the time to guard against this.


Canon Rebel T4i Technical Info

by Mike Tomkins

 

At the heart of the Canon T4i is a brand new APS-C CMOS image sensor, related to that seen in the T2i and T3i.

Resolution is still 18 megapixels, with a native 3:2 aspect ratio. Maximum image dimensions are 5,184 x 3,456 pixels.

So if the resolution's unchanged, what's new? The answer: on-chip phase detection autofocus, or Hybrid CMOS AF in Canon parlance. The system, available during both live view and movie capture, uses a combination of phase detection and contrast detection when the subject is in the center, and uses only contrast detection when the subject is in the blue area. The use of on-sensor phase-detect enables smoother AF with less hunting.

Since it only covers a smaller area at the center of the image frame, this on-chip PDAF is supplemented with contrast-detect AF over most of the image frame, as outlined in blue above right.

The roaming CDAF mode only works with two simultaneously-announced STM lenses: the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM and EF 40mm f/2.8 STM. With older glass, only the PDAF mode is available. These lenses are designed to provide smooth, silent autofocusing.

The on-chip PDAF capability isn't used for still imaging when shooting through the viewfinder, though. In this case, the T4i uses the same dedicated sensor seen previously in the EOS 60D.

Although there are still nine points as in the T1i, T2i, and T3i, they're now all f/5.6 cross-types, with the center point being an f/2.8 high precision dual cross.

Autofocus working range is EV -0.5 to 18 at 23°C, ISO 100 equivalent.

Output from the new image sensor is handled by Canon's current-generation DIGIC 5 image processor.

Said to be five times faster than the previous-generation DIGIC 4 chip, this coupled with a new shutter mechanism allows an improvement in burst shooting performance to five frames per second, up from 3.7 fps in the T3i.

The benefits of DIGIC 5 also make themselves known in the T4i's expanded sensitivity range.

From a base of ISO 100 equivalent, the T4i offers up to ISO 12,800 equivalent ordinarily, and can be expanded to a maximum of ISO 25,600 equivalent. Movie capture is limited to ISO 6,400 or below.

As you'd expect in a Rebel-series camera, there's a Canon EF lens mount that's also compatible with EF-S lenses.

35mm lenses have a 1.6x focal length crop when mounted on the T4i. Two kit lens choices are available; either the ubiquitous 18-55mm IS II, or an 18-135mm IS STM lens. You can also buy the T4i body alone.

The T4i's viewfinder is unchanged from that in the T3i. It's still a pentamirror design with fixed focusing screen, rather than the brighter pentaprism type with interchangeable screen that's found in more expensive cameras. Coverage is 95% with a 0.85x magnification, and a somewhat tight 19mm eyepoint. Diopter correction is -3 to +1m-1.

On the rear panel is a three-inch, 3:2 aspect LCD panel with 720 x 480 pixel resolution (~1,040,000 dots), the same size and resolution as used in the T2i and T3i.

Where the T3i had a Clear View panel, the T4i has a newer Clear View II type that removes the air gap between LCD and cover glass, reducing glare.

As in the T3i, the T4i's display is articulated on a side-mounted tilt/swivel mechanism. This allows viewing from a wide variety of angles, including in front of the camera.

It also allows a degree of protection for the display when not in use, since it can be closed facing inwards towards the camera body.

The biggest difference between the display on the T4i and its predecessors is the addition of a touch panel, though. It's a first for a Canon DSLR, and uses a multitouch glass capacitive display like most smartphones, rather than the less accurate plastic resistive type used in past Canon compact cameras.

Canon has completely overhauled its GUI--shown here in live view mode--to make it easy to control using the touch screen. You can also control the shutter, select a focus point, swipe between photos and use pinch zoom in playback. With the exception of the shutter function, the touch screen can't be disabled or locked.

The T4i's built-in, popup flash strobe has a guide number of 13 meters (~43 feet) at ISO 100. Coverage is approximately 28mm (35mm-equivalent), and the recycle time is about three seconds. X-sync is at 1/200 second.

As well as the built-in flash, there's an intelligent hot shoe compatible with EX-series Speedlites and Canon's E-TTL II metering system. Both Canon's IR and radio-controlled wireless flash systems are supported, with the appropriate hardware.

The Canon T4i's healthy selection of exposure modes includes Scene Intelligent Auto (aka 'Green' mode), Program AE , Shutter priority AE, Aperture priority AE, Manual, No Flash, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene, and HDR Backlight Control. The latter two are new, and we'll come to them in a moment. Scene Intelligent Auto mode was introduced on the T3i, and differs from the typical Auto mode in that it uses scene recognition technology to determine an appropriate scene type, and then not only controls exposure, white balance, and focus automatically, but also tweaks the picture style and tone curve appropriately to your subject.

Metering modes in the Canon T4i include 63-zone AF-linked evaluative, 9% partial, 4% center spot, and center-weighted average. The metering system has a working range of EV 1-20 (23°C with 50mm f/1.4 lens, at ISO100). Shutter speeds range from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, plus bulb. White balance modes include Auto, six presets, and custom, along with a +/- nine step white balance adjustment on blue/amber and magenta/green axes.

A new option, the Handheld Night Scene mode automatically captures four shots in a quick burst, using high sensitivity to attain a hand-holdable shutter speed. These are then microaligned and merged in-camera, to provide a single image with reduced noise levels, but with reduced likelihood of blurring from a slow shutter speed.

The other new exposure mode is HDR Backlight Control. This, again, captures three shots and microaligns them.

However, this time the exposure is varied between frames so as to hold onto more dynamic range than is possible with a single exposure.

Another multi-shot function dubbed Multi-frame Noise Reduction is found via the High ISO Speed NR mode. This is similar to Handheld Night Scene mode, in that it is used to reduce noise by averaging across exposures, but doesn't require the high initial ISO sensitivity.

The T4i includes a variety of post-capture Creative Filter functions, as seen on the T3i.

Two new options are the Art Bold filter, and the Water Painting filter, both fairly self-explanatory.

As you can tell from the new Hybrid CMOS AF function discussed previously, Canon is courting consumer videographers with the T4i.

This is reinforced by removing the Movie mode from the Mode dial, and instead placing it on the Power switch for quicker access.

Video capture options are similar to those in the T3i: up to Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) resolution at 30 frames per second, using H.264 compression.

There's still both an external microphone jack and manual audio levels control capability. Where the T3i's built-in mic was monaural though, the T4i upgrades to a stereo mic located in front of the flash hot shoe.

As well as the mic jack and hot shoe we've already mentioned, other connectivity options include a wired remote port, an infrared remote receiver in the hand grip, and both a combined USB data / standard-def video output plus a high-def HDMI video jack.

The Canon T4i can still accept SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards, as well as Eye-Fi wireless cards.

New, though, is support for higher-speed UHS-I cards.

Shoot with the T2i or T3i and considering an upgrade? You'll be pleased to note that the T4i still uses the same LP-E8 battery pack, and is still CIPA rated for 440 shots on a charge.

It also still accepts the same BG-E8 battery grip.

The Canon EOS Rebel T4i is set to ship from the end of June 2012. Without a lens, it will retail for around US$850.

Two with-lens kits will be offered: one with a standard 18-55 kit lens at a price of US$950, and the other including the new 18-135 STM lens for US$1,200. 

 

Canon Rebel T4i Overview Video

We had Canon USA's Derek Simmons-Tobias, Technical Specialist, Camera and Video Marketing Division, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, run through some of the high points of the Canon T4i, ranging from the new lenses to the touchscreen to the quiet AF system. Click the Play button to check it out!

 

Canon T4i Image Quality

The crops below compare the Canon T4i to the Canon T3i, Pentax K-30, Nikon D3200, Olympus E-M5, and Sony A65.

Most decent cameras produce very good results at base ISO, but the T4i is interesting enough we wanted to show how it did at ISO 100 compared to similar cameras at their base ISO. We also like to see what they can do at ISO 1,600 and 3,200, and finally we'll compare high-contrast detail at base ISO, 3,200, and 6,400.

Note that these images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction. Each camera was shot with one of our very sharp reference prime lenses.

Canon T4i versus Canon T3i at Base ISO

Canon T4i at ISO 100

Canon T3i at ISO 100

There's very little difference between the T4i and T3i, except perhaps in the fabric swatches, where there appears to be less detail in the T4i's shots. That could be a slight focus difference, or more noise suppression at work in those areas.


Canon T4i versus Pentax K-30 at Base ISO

Canon T4i at ISO 100
Pentax K-30 at ISO 100

The Pentax K30 is a little sharper in some areas, but it actually shows less detail overall, particularly in the mosaic image. Its rendering of the pink swatch is far more magenta than the T4i's more accurate pink.


Canon T4i versus Nikon D3200 at Base ISO

Canon T4i at ISO 100
Nikon D3200 at ISO 100

With its 24-megapixel sensor, you'd expect the Nikon D3200 to completely outshine the T4i, but that's not quite the case. While it finds the threads in the pink swatch, its rendering of the mosaic image is very soft and low-contrast, as is its rendering of the Mas Portel label.


Canon T4i versus Olympus E-M5 at Base ISO

Canon T4i at ISO 100
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 200

The Olympus E-M5's 16-megapixel sensor does very well against the T4i's 18-megapixels, and its processing produces very sharp images, though with a few artifacts here and there in the mosaic bottle. The Canon still gets the pink better.


Canon T4i versus Sony A65 at Base ISO

Canon T4i at ISO 100
Sony A65 at ISO 100

Sony's 24-megapixel A65 does better than the Nikon D3200, showing a little more detail than the Canon T4i, with less-pronounced sharpening halos.


How images look at 1,600 is also of importance.

Canon T4i versus Canon T3i at ISO 1,600

Canon T4i at ISO 1,600

Canon T3i at ISO 1,600

Canon definitely turned up the default noise suppression, which you cans see in the shadows and the red leaf swatch. Even the pink swatch is less clear than in the T3i.


Canon T4i versus Pentax K-30 at ISO 1,600

Canon T4i at ISO 1,600
Pentax K-30 at ISO 1,600

The Pentax K30 uses a more selective approach to its noise suppression, sharpening in some areas, while blurring dramatically in others. The background and red leaf swatch in particular are blurry, while the mosaic image has a little more pop than the T4i's version.


Canon T4i versus Nikon D3200 at ISO 1,600

Canon T4i at ISO 1,600
Nikon D3200 at ISO 1,600

The Nikon D3200 begins to pay the price for all those smaller pixels on its sensor, with more noise and more noise suppression blurring. Small black dots also appear on the red leaf swatch and other areas.


Canon T4i versus Olympus E-M5 at ISO 1,600

Canon T4i at ISO 1,600
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 1,600

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 really shows its prowess here, looking quite good against the larger, higher-megapixel Canon T4i, even at ISO 1,600.


Canon T4i versus Sony A65 at ISO 1,600

Canon T4i at ISO 1,600
Sony A65 at ISO 1,600

At ISO 1,600, the Sony no longer out-matches the Canon T4i, thanks to greater noise suppression. The only major exception is the red leaf swatch. But for the mosaic image, I prefer the Canon, though only by a little.



Today's ISO 3,200 is yesterday's ISO 1,600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3,200.

Canon T4i versus Canon T3i at ISO 3,200

Canon T4i at ISO 3,200

Canon T3i at ISO 3,200

Strangely at ISO 3,200, the T4i's mosaic image looks a little better than its predecessor, with better color, better contrast, and slightly more detail. The red leaf swatch, though, still looks softer.


Canon T4i versus Pentax K-30 at ISO 3,200

Canon T4i at ISO 3,200
Pentax K-30 at ISO 3,200

The K-30 manages to make a better mosaic image, but the rest of the image looks very artificial with too stark a mix of noise suppression and sharpening.


Canon T4i versus Nikon D3200 at ISO 3,200

Canon T4i at ISO 3,200
Nikon D3200 at ISO 3,200

The Nikon D3200 loses contrast and adds more black dots as well as orange blotches in spots, in an effort to keep the color from fading.


Canon T4i versus Olympus E-M5 at ISO 3,200

Canon T4i at ISO 3,200
Olympus E-M5 at ISO 3,200

The Olympus E-M5 continues to sharpen more aggressively than the T4i, producing images that seem a little better. They will likely print better. The E-M5 is a pretty good match for the T4i.


Canon T4i versus Sony A65 at ISO 3,200

Canon T4i at ISO 3,200
Sony A65 at ISO 3,200

The T4i's images would look almost the same as the A65 if you sharpened and enlarged them, thanks to the A65's aggressive noise suppression. The red leaf swatch, while completely inaccurate, still looks a little better than the T4i's rendering. Both are quite close, though.



Detail: Canon T4i vs. T3i, Pentax K-30, Nikon D3200, Olympus E-M5, and Sony A65

Canon
T4i

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Canon
T3i

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Pentax
K-30

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Nikon
D3200

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Olympus
E-M5

ISO 200
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Sony
A65

ISO 100
ISO 3,200
ISO 6,400
Detail comparison. High-contrast details are often sharper as ISO rises, so they're worth a look as well. The T4i does well against the T3i, but is bested by the D3200, K30, and E-M5. The Olympus E-M5 comes out shining at 6,400 by comparison.

 

Canon T4i Print Quality

Good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISOs 100/200; ISO 3,200 shots are better at 8 x 10; and ISO 12,800 makes a good 4 x 6.

ISO 100 shots are very nice at 24 x 36 inches, with sharp detail across the board except for our hard to please (er, render) red fabric swatch.

ISO 200 images also look quite good at 24 x 36.

ISO 400 prints nicely at 20 x 30 inches.

ISO 800 shots are slightly soft at 16 x 20 inches, with minor noise in a few shadowy areas, but are still quite good.

ISO 1,600 prints are quite good at 13 x 19. At 16 x 20, noise suppression has started to affect reds, and some luminance noise affects the shadows.

ISO 3,200 shots are better printed at 8 x 10.

ISO 6,400 images are a bit rough at 8 x 10, but are reasonably nice at 5 x 7.

ISO 12,800 images are decent at 4 x 6, although with a slight loss in color fidelity.

ISO 25,600 prints are not usable.

Overall, a pretty impressive performance from the Canon T4i, especially up to ISO 1600.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and on the Canon Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)


See below for our conclusion; be sure to check the other tabs for details and test results.

 

In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

 

Recommended Accessories



 

Canon T4i Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • 9 cross-type AF points
  • Records Full HD video
  • Improved AF during live view and movies (but still slow compared to most CSCs)
  • Stereo microphones, plus external mic jack
  • Infrared remote port
  • Display sensor turns off LCD automatically when the camera is against your eye
  • Very good JPEG image quality
  • Accurate color
  • Low shutter lag
  • Good AF speeds with optical viewfinder
  • Remote flash function surprisingly easy to use
  • High-resolution articulating touchscreen LCD
  • Quieter shutter mechanism
  • Excellent touchscreen is easy to use
  • Good single-shot cycle times
  • Good burst speed of 5 fps (but see Con about shallow buffers with raw files)
  • Built-in chromatic aberration and vignetting correction
  • New low-light, NR and HDR multi-shot modes work well
  • Movie Servo AF not fast enough for most purposes
  • No real improvement in high ISO performance despite the increase in maximum ISO
  • Dynamic range not as good as competing models, though HTP helps
  • Auto and Incandescent white balance very warm in tungsten lighting
  • Tends to overexpose, particularly with Auto ISO on
  • Higher than average distortion from the 18-135mm STM lens
  • Moderately high to high levels of chromatic aberration from 18-135mm lens, though camera can correct for it
  • Shallow buffer (short bursts) with raw files
  • Below average battery life
  • No dedicated AF illuminator (must use flash)

 

When a company touts a new feature that turns out to be, well, not so hot, it casts a pall over the entire product, sometimes unnecessarily. This is one of those cases. Most people still don't think of SLRs primarily as video cameras, so that the on-sensor phase detect isn't as responsive or accurate as we'd like doesn't take away from the Canon T4i's excellence as a still camera. That low speed in Live View mode does mean that for any kind of action, you're better to shoot through the optical viewfinder -- which is why you bought an SLR in the first place, right?

As a still camera, the Canon T4i is a joy to use. It does everything you'd expect, and opens new possibilities with its wireless flash control and multiple exposure modes to reduce noise and create high-dynamic-range images. Its new touchscreen is also easy to use, working just like the smartphones people are so familiar with, and the articulating LCD is convenient when you need it. The razor-sharp image on the LCD is very good, and easy to use in sunlight.

Of the two kit lenses, the new 18-135mm STM answers most photographic needs with one lens, so it's a good choice if you can afford it. Options like the 40mm pancake are a real plus, and of course T4i owners have access to Canon's very large selection of EOS lenses. So far, though, only these two lenses offer the stepper-motor technology necessary to use the new phase-detect autofocus smoothly.

Thus the latest flagship Rebel remains one of the top choices for family SLRs on the market. It's a little faster, has a few more modern features, and still offers the beautiful articulating LCD. Most importantly, it still produces great images with relative ease. It's a Dave's Pick!

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