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An In-Depth Comparison of the
Canon Rebel T2i and Canon EOS 7D

Review by Ron Risman -- January 2010

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Canon Rebel T2i vs. Canon EOS 7D

The announcement of the new Canon EOS Rebel T2i came as a surprise for most of the industry. While we were expecting a refresh of the Rebel T1i, we weren't expecting the feature set than Canon packed into the new compact Rebel T2i. Before getting into my thoughts on the camera I wanted to post the list of new noteworthy features that are available in the Rebel T2i.

Feature Highlights:
  • 18.0-Megapixel CMOS image sensor
  • DIGIC 4 Image Processor
  • Full 1080p HD EOS Movie Mode
  • Full range of frame rates available in video mode
  • New 7x Movie Crop mode at 640x480 (DVD Quality)
  • New iFCL 63-zone, Dual-layer metering system
  • ISO 100-6400 (Expandable to 12,800)
  • New Wide 3.0" LCD with 3:2 Aspect Ratio
  • Ultra High-resolution 1.04 million pixel LCD resolution
  • New SDXC memory card compatibility
Video Unboxing and Camera Body Comparison

If you are familiar with the more expensive Canon EOS 7D, you'll notice that quite a few of the features listed above were handed down from this camera. There is a lot of chatter online about the viability of the EOS 7D now that the Rebel T2i offers many of its features but with a price savings of $900 (based on street pricing). The thinking is that maybe they should get the Rebel T2i instead and put the extra $$$ toward better & faster lenses. Since this overview was written with the idea of helping you make those sort of decisions I wanted to outline some of the features that are available in the EOS 7D that are not available in the lower cost Rebel T2i.

Ultimately, the decision as to which camera to go with will be based on finances and the type of photography you shoot and whether or not the video function of the camera is the sole deciding factor.

Canon EOS 7D Features (Not available in the Rebel T2i)

  • Dual DIGIC 4 Image Processors
    Dual processors allow the EOS 7D to capture full resolution images at up to 8.0fps for a maximum of 126 Large/JPEG with UDMA CF Card and 15 RAW files.

    The Rebel T2i has a full resolution capture rate of 3.7fps for a maximum of 34 JPEGs or approx. 6 RAW files

  • 19-point, all cross-type AF system
    This new auto focus system allows the 7D to handle even the most difficult focus situations with ease. The system uses Light Source detection AF that automatically compensates the focus by taking into account artificial lighting sources and making appropriate adjustments. This AF system also features intelligent macro focusing, which tracks the object or camera movement when shooting close-up, to ensure that focus is never lost. All 19 focus points feature cross-type AF sensors, any of which can be selected automatically or manually. This system also features dual diagonal cross-type sensors in the center at f/2.8 and f/5.6.

    The Rebel T2i features a reliable but slower 9-point AF system. The center point is a cross-type AF sensor for use with f/2.8 or faster lenses. While overall reliable, the Rebel T2i focusing system was not designed to accurately keep up with fast moving objects (tracking).

  • Viewfinder offers 100% field-of-view.
    This allows the entire scene to be viewed through the lens.

    The Rebel T2i's viewfinder offers 95% coverage, so for critical framing you would want to use the LCD display.

  • Magnesium body with dust and weather resistance.
    This feature is a must for photographers & videographers that are often forced to work in less than ideal conditions.

    The Rebel T2i features a plastic body, not specifically designed for shooting in variable weather conditions. Typical precautions need to be taken when shooting in wet or damp environments.

  • In-Between ISO Capabilities
    While both the EOS 7D and Rebel T2i share very similar video quality, the EOS 7D does have one small advantage when it comes to ISO settings. The 7D allows 1/3-stop increments is ISO (ISO 100, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 640, 800, 1000, 1250, etc.) whereas the Rebel T2i only offers full stop ISO changes (ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200). The added flexibility means that instead of increasing the ISO from 800 to 1600 when you need just a bit more light sensitivity, you could jump to ISO 1250 on the 7D, which should help reduce noise over the ISO 1600 setting.

  • Shutter durability of 150,000 cycles
    This feature is also designed for professional photographers who often shoot over 1000 images per event. Think wedding, event, photojournalists, and sports photographers.

    The Rebel T2i most likely has a shutter cycle life of 100,000 although I have not yet been able to confirm this.

  • Exposure Bracketing
    Both cameras offer 5-stop exposure compensation, however the 7D offers 3-stop bracketing vs. 2-stop bracketing on the Rebel T2i.

  • Wireless Flash Controller
    The 7D's pop-up flash features a built-in integrated Speedlite transmitter that allows control of multiple off-camera EOS Speedlites without the need for an external transmitter.

    This feature is not available in the Rebel T2i.

  • CompactFlash Memory Support
    While this is up for debate, the fact that the EOS 7D uses the CompactFlash standard means it has access to some of the largest, faster memory cards currently available.

    The Rebel T2i does however add compatibility for the new SDXC memory standard, which promises increased speed and storage capacity (Up to 2TB) in the SD format. SDXC memory cards are not backwards compatible with SD and SDHC card readers.

  • Longer Life Smart Li-Ion Battery
    The EOS 7D uses the high-power LP-E6 (1800mAh) Smart Li-Ion battery, the same battery used in the EOS 5D Mark II. This battery is rated at up to 1000 shots per charge (at normal room temperature) and up to 900 shots per charge at 32 degrees.

    The Rebel T2i uses a new, smaller LP-E8 (1250mAh) Li-Ion battery that is rated for up to 550 shots per charge (room temperature) and up to 440 per charge at 32 degrees.

  • AF Micro Adjustment
    Serious photographers often discover that one or two lenses in their gear bag are not focusing on the spot they're supposed to. When this happens it usually means that the lens is either front or rear focusing. The EOS 7D has a feature called AF Micro Adjustment that allows the user to compensate +/-20 steps in either direction.

    For now, this is mainly a photographic benefit since most video users opt to manually focus prior to recording. However, if you opt to use AF prior to video recording you may also benefit from AF Micro Adjustment option.

  • Variable Resolution RAW
    It was pointed out to us that the EOS 7D also allows photographers to adjust the RAW capture size by selecting either 4.5-megapixel, 10-megapixel or 18-megapixel). The Rebel T2i only offers variable resolution when capturing JPEG.

    Since most users rarely need 18-megapixels, the adjustable RAW image resolution allows the user to decrease file sizes / storage needs, while increasing buffer performance. Also, high ISO noise can greatly increase file sizes, so the ability to lower the RAW file capture resolution to 10-megapixel you can help to offset this increase, thus get more mileage out of your memory cards.

  • Create New Folders
    The Canon EOS 7D allows the user to create custom folders on the memory card, thus keeping groups of similar images separated from each other. This could be useful in both video and photographic situations and is another feature that didn't trickle down to the Rebel T2i.

  • Wireless File Transmitter
    Since the EOS 7D was designed with professional photographers in mind, Canon makes a wireless file transmitter for the camera, that is not available for the consumer Rebel series.

  • Top LCD Function Panel
    The EOS 7D feature an top-mounted LCD display that allows you to view and set exposure, white balance, shutter and aperture, drive mode, and timer settings without having to turn on the rear color LCD display. This not only makes setting changes faster, it also conserves on battery life since the rear color LCD display does not have to turn on like it does with the Rebel series. Since the Rebel T2i already has a smaller, lower power battery, this makes the potential battery life differences between the two cameras even greater.

  • Shutter and Sync Speeds
    The EOS 7D offers a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000th second and a maximum flash sync speed of 1/250th second. The 7D also adds a 10-second timer delay with continuous shooting option.

    The Rebel T2i max's out at 1/4000th second and a flash sync speed of 1/200th second.

  • Flash Exposure Compensation
    The EOS 7D offers 3-stops of flash exposure compensation, compared to the 2-stops offered by the Rebel T2i.

  • Video Metering Mode
    The EOS 7D offers center-weight average metering in Live View Video Mode. The Rebel T2i offers Evaluative metering in all Live View models. Center-weighted metering tries to make sure that the center of the scene is properly exposed, whereas Evaluative metering gives equal importance to all areas. Is one better than the other? I think the answer would change based on the available light.

  • Silent Shooting Modes
    When shooting in Live View mode, the EOS 7D offers two silent shooting modes. This feature might be important for wildlife photographers and event photographers who often like to be as transparent as possible. The Rebel T2i does not offer these silent shooting modes.

  • Wider LCD Viewing Angle
    While the Rebel T2i boasts a slightly high-resolution LCD (1,040,000 vs 920,000), the 3.0" LCD on the EOS 7D offers a 170-degree viewing angle vs a 160-degree viewing angle on the Rebel T2i.

  • Command Dial
    The EOS 7D features a rotating command dial on the rear of the camera. This dial makes it a breeze to navigate the on-screen menu, to fly through images on playback, and to adjust the aperture or exposure compensation values of the camera. By using both the top-mounted Mode dial and rear-mounted Command dials the photographer can quickly make setting changes without taking their eye out of the viewfinder.

    The Rebel series uses the single Mode dial located just behind the shutter release to control shutter, aperture and ISO settings. In manual mode, this dial controls the shutter values. To change aperture values while shooting in manual mode, you need to press the Av button on the back of the camera while scrolling the dial to the proper setting. This really is not difficult, but it does require a little bit more dexterity.

  • Stronger, Heavier Camera
    Okay, stronger is better, but is larger or heavier? I guess if you need to impress, but this is one of those features that are more of a personal choice. The EOS 7D weighs 28.9 ounces (body only) compared to the Rebel T2i's svelte 18.7 ounces. The EOS 7D is also larger in size, measuring 5.8" x 4.4" x 2.9" compared to the smaller 5.1" x 3.8" x 3.0" Rebel T2i. Bigger hands will like the feel of the 7D, while those with smaller hands or who want a more compact camera will like the size and weight of the Rebel T2i.

    When it comes to body strength and durability, the EOS 7D wins hands down.

  • Charger with integrated AC prongs
    The charger included with the EOS 7D has built-in fold-out prongs for plugging into the wall current. The Rebel T2i uses a charger than requires the power cable. For me, the cord is just another piece I have to worry about losing or tripping over.

Which is the right camera for you?

If the main reason you were considering the EOS 7D was for the great video capabilities of the camera and not for the photographic features, then I would definitely recommend that you to consider the Rebel T2i as an alternative. The extra $900 spent on the 7D will not give you any real noticeable benefit with regard to video quality, at least at the ISO settings you're likely to use (up to ISO 1600). Virtually all of the advanced capabilities of the 7D center around its photographic capabilities (AF performance and frame rates) and not its video differences.

Of course, there are design differences that come into play regardless of whether you shoot stills or video. Those include the 7D's dust and weather resistance, stronger magnesium body, longer battery life, and even the type of media each of the camera's use. Often times videographers are forced to use their camera in less than ideal conditions (humidity, moisture, rain, snow) and the 7D was designed to hold up much better in these conditions. This is not to say that the T2i cannot be used in similar conditions - just that extra precautions will need to be taken to ensure the safe operation of the camera.

For photographers, the differences between the two camera models are much greater, so your decision will ultimately have to be based on finances and whether the camera will be used professionally or as a learning and/or family camera. For many of the same reasons above, the 7D is a better choice for professionals that need a beefier camera as well as a feature set that you are more apt to grow into, rather than out of. For action / sports photographers the EOS 7D offers a much improved AF and AF tracking system along with the high speed 8.0 fps burst rates. The Rebel T2i will never be considered a serious sports camera - though its important too keep in mind that just a few years ago 3.7fps was considered fast.

Portrait photographers might do well with the Rebel T2i since the capture speed and weather resistance is probably less of an issue. You won't be able to add the wireless file transmitter to the Rebel T2i, but if this is not a feature you would find yourself using, then why not save the $800 and put it toward your studio, higher quality glass, or just to keep in reserve?

Personally, I currently own the 7D and the 5D Mark II. I bought the 7D originally as a backup to the 5D Mark II and I use it almost exclusively for video. Like many of you, I am trying to figure out whether I should sell my EOS 7D and keep the Rebel T2i that I bought for purpose of this review instead. The feature differences are pretty extensive, though most don't effect video recording. There are, however, a couple that make me favor the 7D, despite wanting to pocket the $600 - $800 difference.
  • The fact that the 7D and 5D Mark II share the same battery and memory cards is a bonus as it keeps things consistent when shooting and charging the batteries (they can use the same chargers).
  • I also like the weather resistance of the 7D body, which is even better than that of the 5D Mark II. There are times that I need to shoot when the weather isn't ideal and it's nice to know that I can count on my equipment to be as ready as I am.
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