Mini Camera Review: Canon T2i

January 18th, 2011

I’ve been thinking about getting a DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera) for a couple of years now. This isn’t a sign that I’m abandoning film or the prelude to an impending apopalypse — I’m just looking for cheaper and faster alternatives to what has been a 100% focus on 35mm and 120mm photography. The push that finally made me pull the trigger on a DSLR is my ongoing Cold War documentary film. Up to now, everything has been recorded in standard definition video on a Panasonic DVX-100. While it’s a great camera in many ways, the DVX-100 is not HD and that was becoming an issue. I tried up-converting my SD footage to 1080p during the holiday break using a number of methods, but was really unhappy with the the results. Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen some really nice HD footage from Canon DSLRs, both here at work and online at websites like Vimeo. I started doing some research and found the Canon line of DSLRs are very popular HD film makers. Monte Hellman of Two Lane Blacktop fame supposedly made his latest movie using a Canon DSLR. I’m kind of a Nikon guy for the most part, so my first inclination was to look at that brand since I already have a couple of Nikon lens for my F100 sitting around. However, Nikon doesn’t offer audio input jacks on their DSLR, so that ended up being a deal breaker for me. So I started looking at the lower end Canon DSLRs, which are still pretty expensive, but offer a good value for the performance if you can get over the cheap build quality. I settled on the T2i because it was the best camera I could afford after selling my DVX-100. What really sold me on the T2i is an alternate operating system called Magic Lantern. This OS is open source, user installable, and opens up a number of video features not available using the standard Canon OS. For example, Magic Lantern allows for audio monitoring with the LCD viewer, variable bit rates for video encoding, zebra stripes for exposure, and time lapse photography (among other things). After spending an entire Sunday trying to install the Magic Lantern OS, I can attest that it’s not an entirely easy process, but well worth the effort.

I don’t have any Canon lens, but I do have a bunch of m42 (screw mount) lens I’ve been using on the T2i via an adapter. The only lens that has worked well has been my Super Takumar 55mm F1.8, which is not a very fast lens by today’s standards, but is one of my favorites anyway. One of the great things about DSLR photograph and video is the shallow depth of field when a prime lens is opened all the way up, which will be great for interviews when I want the background blurry. I’ve also discovered I can better focus on a subject using the built in digital zoom, which has two handy buttons on the top right side of the grip. With my DVX-100, I use to always manually zoom all the way in on a subject, set the focus, then zoom back out to my desired framing which was a hassle. This weekend I’ll give the time lapse feature a try and post the results. If anyone has tips for using Magic Lantern, please post a response. I would love to hear from other ML users.

Entry Filed under: Photography

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