Canon EOS 650D/T4i Camera Review

Canon_t4i_front image For almost 20 years, the Canon entry-level “Rebel” series has been one of the most popular cameras among consumers looking for professional features. With a long heritage of popularity that started in the days of film, Canon has constantly sought to stay on top of the affordable DSLR market. With each release of the digital Rebel, Canon attempts to rethink, reinvent and revise consumer expectations in the DSLR world. The past few releases, however, have fallen flat—with Canon releasing cameras that look the same, feel the same, and almost function identically. The new EOS 650D/T4i is not just a simple revision of older Canon technology. Looking deeper into the features of the camera proves that it will serve as one of the best photography tools of the year for amateur photographers seeking the latest in image quality, features and technology.

Read what Canon EOS Rebel T4i owners are saying about this camera HERE.

The EOS 650D offers an 18 megapixel CMOS sensor, a 9-point AF sensor, and a newly designed flip-out screen with a touch screen interface. Some of the features of the EOS 650D appear almost identical to the older EOS 600D. They are far from the same. While the past few releases from Canon may have been strikingly similar, Canon’s approach to refining and redesigning key elements of the EOS 650D point to a new marketing approach—one designed to target the entry level DSLR user.

Canon has come to realize that as DSLR manufactures move toward the future, they are going to encounter a few problems convincing more modern tech-savvy consumers of the value of more expensive professional-style single-lens-reflex camera equipment. Consumers often upgrade to cameras like the EOS 650D/T4i from simple and easy-to-use smartphone cameras or point and shoots. The modern entry-level DSLR user is used to looking at an LCD screen to compose an image. Almost no one in the younger growing consumer market aside from professional photographers and DSLR users are familiar with photo composition and metering from a viewfinder.

The problem that Canon wants to address is that in a fast-paced and technologically advanced world, consumers expect their cameras to do everything. Traditional DSLRs have evolved from a universe that is completely separate from the realm of point-and-shoot smartphone cameras that automatically upload photos and video to the internet for the would-be photographer. Modern DSLRs are almost universally focused on replicating the experience of 35mm film technology. The entire system of DLSR photography is built around the features of 35mm cameras and film.

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The EOS 650D is a successful attempt to blend the experience of the best point-and-shoot features with the creative freedom allowed through traditional DSLR technology. Canon has decided to use improvements in live view, focusing and video shooting to meet these new goals. The improvements made to the Rebel series with the 650D/T4i say a lot about Canon’s goals for the future of consumer-level cameras.

This release becomes first SLR camera that can track and stay focused on moving subjects during video recording. This is big news for the digital SLR world. To accomplish this feature, Canon produced a “Hybrid CMOS” sensor—one that is in part solely allocated to phase detection autofocus. The hybrid sensor AF system is—in theory—able to correct focus in live view and video mode.

Aside from an improved flip-out screen with touch features, improved live view and video focusing and AF support for moving subjects are perhaps the most important features the EOS 650D/T4i offers.

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Key Features and Specifications:


-18MP APS-C “Hybird CMOS” Sensor (1.6 FOVCF)

-Subject tracking and continuous autofocus in movie mode

-14-bit DIGIC 5 Processor

-ISO 100-12800 native, ISO 25600 extendable

-5 FPS continuous shooting

-9-Point AF system

-63 zone metering system

-1080p30 video, stereo sound, internal or external microphone

-1.04m dot touch-sensitive, variable angle LCD (ClearView II)

- Capacitative type screen with multi-touch support.


Hardware and Technology Updates


At first glance, the EOS 650D appears quite similar to other Canon Rebel models including the older EOS 600. While they look the same, the internals of the EOS 650D/T4i have been completely revamped. Canon redeveloped the sensor image processer, shutter unit and AF


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“Hybird CMOS” Image Sensor


The new 18 megapixel “Hybird” CMOS sensor can capture still images from ISO 100-12800 (extendable to 256000). It also supports the shooting of 1080p HD video at 25 or 30 frames-per-second. The sensor will shoot 1280 x 720 video at 60 frames-per-second. The “Hybird” sensor is partially devoted to phase detection autofocus, making AF tracking in live view and movie mode effective for the first time in a DSLR offered by Canon.

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New DIGIC 5 Processor


Image quality is unsurpassed thanks to the addition of the DIGIC 5 processor—the same model used in the high-end professional Canon G1 X. The processor works well to correct chromatic aberration during JPEG procession. This creates more ascetic images while cutting down on post-processing time. The processor can adjust for vignetting and it also has a feature called “Multi Shot Noise Reduction”—something that averages processing values to create less high-ISO noise in JPEG processing. This feature does not work while shooting in RAW mode.


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New AF Sensor


The AF module is directly from the Canon 60D. All nine AF points are cross type—they have two-dimensional contrast detection. The older EOS 600D only has a single cross-type AF point in the center of the view finder. Focusing is faster, more responsive and more accurate on the EOS 650/T4i.


From 3.7fps in the EOS 600D to 5fps in the 650D, the new shutter makes a big impact on action shooting. The high still shooting rate allows Canon to implement several multi-fire modes that control everything from ISO noise (the mentioned Muti Shot Noise Reduction mode) to dynamic range. When enabled, the Camera snaps multiple exposures and averages the dynamic values of each to determine the best average exposure variables. The result is a smarter camera that can help you produce better images.

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 The Canon EOS 650D/T4i has a touchscreen. It is the first time a DSLR has offered this feature. The screen is identical to the type used in the smartphone industry. It is capacitative, which means that it is sensitive to contact and not pressure. This provides a more responsive user experience. While recording video and in live view mode, photographers can use the touchscreen to specify focus points and to release the shutter---features common on both smartphones and mirrorless point-and-shoot style cameras. Add caption: Multi-Angle LCD Touchscreen

In another move that makes the 650D similar to smartphones, the touchscreen supports both gestures and multi-touch. Users can pinch-to-zoom and swipe across the screen to cycle through images. Exposure values and camera settings can be controlled through the touchscreen as well. Canon implemented these features with the hope that smartphone users will find camera functions instinctive and intuitive. For photographers you enjoy the feel of analog buttons and dials, the EOS 650D supports all of the old knobs and controls that Canon users are familiar with. The touchscreen feature can be shut off if you dislike it.

Updates for improved functionality

Much like the Canon 5d Mark III, the T4i/650D supports image rating. Photographers can rate images out of five points at the time they are shot. This feature has helped pros sort through tons of images on CF cards to determine which shots were the best—or which ones they thought were the best at the time they were shot. The rating system is directly linked to EXIF data so that the ratings are seamlessly integrated with digital darkroom software like Photoshop in post-processing.

Canon has introduced two new shooting modes for inexperienced photographers. Handheld Night Scene mode is a multi-shot mode that uses Canon’s multi shot system to reduce blur while shooting at night without a tripod. The camera takes a series of photos and then combines them with auto-aligning. HDR Backlight mode uses the same multi-shot technology to combine three images into one with a correctly exposed background and foreground.

Two new Creative Filters—Art Bold and Water Painting Effect—are in-camera processing features similar to those seen on smartphone image platforms. They definitely don’t replace traditional post-processing techniques.

The Canon 650D has a built-in stereo microphone that supports audio during video shooting. Controls for the microphone have been moved for easier access while shooting video. There is still an external microphone socket for those that need better sound.

Phase Detection Autofocus

The addition of a Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF) system is what really makes the 650D/T4i shine in video and live view performance. To this point, Canon cameras have had a only contrast detection autofocus method (CDAF) for live view focusing. CDAF works great when operating the camera through the viewfinder but cameras with PDAF are much better at tracking moving subjects in live mode. Nikon 1 series cameras are notable for using PDAF systems to allow photographers to flawlessly shoot moving subjects at 10 frames per second. Canon combined the best of both systems with a dual method powered by the “hybrid” image sensor. A set of pixels are dedicated to each of the two focusing systems—CDAF and PDAF. Working together, these focusing systems produce results with greater speed and accuracy through the viewfinder and in live view mode than any previous entry-level cannon DSLR.

Phase detection focusing systems work best with dedicated lenses—a factor particularly noticeable with cameras in the Mirco Four Thirds format. To bolster the focusing ability of the PDAF system, Canon released two new lenses designed to work well with the camera. These lenses feature a liner stepper motor similar to the type used in dedicated HD video cameras.

New Lenses Designed for the 650D/T4i

Canon released two lenses designed to work specifically with the contrast AF system of the 650D. They are the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM and the EF 40mm f/2.8 “Pancake” lens. They both have liner stepper motors—a type frequently used in mirrorless digital cameras and video-dedicated cameras. The AF of an STM lens is fast and quiet during video recording and they work perfectly with contrast detection autofocus.

Combined with the live and video mode AF tracking system, these lenses provide ideal support for video and hint at the possibility of a Canon release in the future that is completely mirrorless. While the 40mm f/2.8 lens is a full-frame offering designed for cameras like the 5D Mark III, it will still ship as a kit lens with some 650D packages. This is a noticeable difference for the artistically minded photographer—Canon recognizes that having a single prime lens (with one focal length) is an added bonus for those looking to improve their photographic skill. Occasionally limitations become creative possibilities.

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Final Thoughts:

While it looks similar on the outside, the Canon EOS T4i (650D) is a noticeable upgrade in the digital rebel lineup. The addition of a ‘Hybird CMOS’ that powers a dual contrast and phase detection autofocus system is where the technical features of the camera shine. Having a DSLR that can focus quickly and accurately without constant searching in live view mode and while shooting video serves as a perfect bridge between the handheld point-and-shoot world many consumers know and the advanced features offer by professional-style SLRs.

The use of a DIGIC 5 processor is another move to increase functionality and improve image quality for beginning users. New shooting modes that automatically adjust for handholding in low light and the ability to correct for ISO noise and chromatic aberration while shooting will make post-processing much easier for amateur photographers without expensive photo editing software.

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Canon’s touch screen interface is a great step forward for digital photography and one that should prove intuitive for smart phone users. Overall, the EOS 650D should be a camera well sought after by amateur photographers familiar with the Rebel lineup and those looking to get into digital photography in the SLR format for the first time. Canon is clearly focusing on improving usability for amateur photographers. While the 650D offers only a modest increase in sensor size and even though it looks the same as its predecessors, it takes big steps towards making the creative capabilities of DSLRs a viable tool for the inexperienced photographer while adding some features—like improved live view focusing and video AF tracking—that professionals can appreciate.


All photos © 2012 Canon U.S.A., Inc.