Canon Rebel T4i / 650D Best HDSLR? – vs 600D, 60D, Nikon D3200

June 8, 2012

Canon Rebel T4i camera on red background

The Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D was announced on June 8, 2012. It doesn’t replaces the 600D DSLR camera as most of you might have thought. It’s a uniquely designed camera comes as an addition to the EOS camera’s lineup. The T4i comes with updates and unique features, some of them we see first time on any EOS HDSLR camera. In this review I want to introduce you to the T4i and compare it versus the Nikon D3200, 600D and 60D. and the older Canon T3i / 600D.  I am always very excited when a new DSLR camera emerge and I always hope to see some new changes, something that we haven’t seen before. I hope that after reading this review you will be able to decide how good is the Canon EOS 650D / T4i and whether you should buy it or not.


Canon Rebel T4i / 650D – Introduction

The Canon T4i is the latest addition to Canon’s EOS camera lineup.  Since the EOS 300D, the xxD DSLR cameras are the most popular DSLR cameras in the world, and what gave Canon its great success in the digital photography business.

In a nutshell,The T4i/650D is equipped with a 18MP Hybrid CMOS sensor (will talk about this soon), 14-bit DIGIC 5 processor, ISO 100-12800 (expanded up to 25600), 9-pont AF sensor, a large 3-inch 1.04M-dots vari-angle Toucn-Sensitive display with multi-touch support. The camera can shoot at 5 fps in burst mode and record 1080p30 videos with stereo sound and continuous autofocus with subject tracking.

Canon really wanted to take this 650D / T4i not one step, but a few steps forward. The competition from Nikon’ DSLR cameras and the Mirrorless cameras don’t make the life any easier. Canon had to come up with a vastly improved camera in order to convince photographers that it  can innovate like the other companies. I personally think that beginners and enthusiast photographers just won’t accept any other average DSLR camera. It has been too long since we’ve seen Canon implementing unique features in its entry-level cameras. I was even convinced that it’s better for many people to grab a Micro Four Thirds over an entry-level DSLR. Can Canon make us re-think our decision and purchase the new 650D / T4i over the competition?

Upper Entry-level cameras like the 650D are targeted to beginners and enthusiast alike. People that might want to start with a less expensive camera and update as they grow. The Canon already has the 1100D, it’s most basic DSLR camera. The T4i is certainly a few steps a head of that model, and with its new features, it really looks like a completely unique camera in the EOS lineup.  The all idea is to have a camera with all the features that enthusiast might want, although not in the same build-quality and performance of the more expensive models (ie. 60D, 7D, 5D Mark III, etc.).

My first DSLR camera was the 400D, and I had such a great time shooting with it. Of course we’ve become spoiled when it comes to features. Most of us don’t need all the latest specs to shoot great images, but let’s admit it, there are here because they are useful, cool and can help beginners shoot better photos and videos too. In the days of mobile phone cameras, it seems that you need to put out more innovative products that can convince people to purchase your new products. The touch-sensitive screen is one of those features.

OK, let’s take a look at the Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D key features and see why you should be excited that this camera is released.


Camera Design

The T4i looks very similar to the T3i / 600D both front and back. Both cameras have a flip-out LCD at the back, button arrangement is almost identical to the T3i.

Canon T4i vs T3i vs Nikon D3200 size comparison

T4i, T3i and Nikon D3200 (left to right) Size Comparison


As you can see in the above image, no radical change, although if you looks closely you can see that the T4i is less rounded at the top. You can compare other sides of the cameras by visiting the Compact camera tool.

The body of the Canon EOS 650D body is made of Stainless Steel and polycarbonate resin with glass fiber.  You’ll have to get the 7D if you want to get a better durable and weather-sealed body. The 50D has a magnesium-alloy body, but that dropped in the 60D. All in all, the Canon Rebel T4i is a very comfortable camera to hold, even for people with large hands. Some people might prefer attaching a vertical battery grip for improved ergonomics when using heavy and long lenses.

Canon 650D top

Top view of the Canon EOS 650D / Rebel T4i

At the top you can find the stereo microphones, right next to the hot-shoe mount. There is a dedicated ISO button next to the mode dial which gives you quick way for changing the ISO sensitivity level.



Multi-Touch Display


Canon 650D back

The Canon T4i / 650D is the first SLR camera to feature a touch screen.  Some mirrorless cameras already have this feature. Because this camera is also aimed towards beginner photographers, the touch-sensitive display feature will be fanned by many.

So what you get is a 3-inch 1,040,000 dots Clear View II TFT LCD vari-angle Touch-Screen display. This display is among the best there is. The tilt/swivel design was made so you can easily shoot high and low angle shot (ie. shooting above you head).

The Touch-sensitive display is available throughout all the camera’s operation. It means that it’s not just for controlling the camera’s settings menus, but lfor changing settings in Live View, apply effects to photos,  edit movies, scroll a 100% magnified photo, pinch to zoom in and out, touch AF and take a photo by tapping on the screen.

It’s very nice too see that the touch functionality was implemented so good, and not just for the basic setting’s navigation.  The display is very responsive which is great. Many of you will find the touch-AF very useful when you want to focus on a specific point by using the Live View.

So what you get is the best display on the market: Full-articulated, 3-inc 3:2 aspect ratio with anti-reflection coating, 1,040K-dots high-resolution and Multi-touch support. The screen is also made of glass instead of plastic and it’s capacitive type, rather than resistive.  Capacitive technology is best used when the device requires a high speed response and long lasting reliability.  Most mobile phones used capacitive touch screen. The Apple iPhone use a layer of capacitive material for example. The Nokia N97 and HTC Tattoo use resistive touchscreens, but those companies improved the responsiveness of those type of displays and narrower the gap between those two technologies.

So what you need to know is that you are getting a responsive multi-touch screen that will be joy to use.


Hybrid Auto-Focus

The Canon EOS 650D is the first of the EOS cameras to have this feature. The Hybrid AF use both phase-detection and contrast-detection AF to give you a fast and reliable focusing for live view and when shooting videos. So the Hybrid AF system was mainly designed by Canon to provide much better autofocusing accuracy when recording movies. You probably have seen videos where the camera had to re-calculate the focus and that cause total blur in the video, at least until the camera was able to refocus on the subject again.

Hybrid AF, Canon

Canon Hybrid CMOS AF (Illustration courtesy of Canon USA) - click to enlarge

Canon utilize pixels on the sensor that are use fo phase-detection AF. Other DSLR cameras use contrast detection because in order to use phase-detection, the mirror has to go down to reflect the light to the phase-detection sensor (PDAF). Contrast-detection is used by the sensor’s photodiodes so there is no need for separate sensor. The phase-detection is much more reliable for detecting and tracking the subject, especially when the subject is focused in the center of the frame.

Canon utilizes both technologies, starting with the phase-detection and fine-tuned the AF using contrast-detection, that’s when the subject is within the center of the frame. When the subject is located outside the center of the frame, contrast-detection will be used. Contrast-detection speed was improved significantly in the past few years, yet it still prone for errors, mainly do to low contrast scenes. The combination of the two (aka Hybrid) should result in a better AF performance in Live View, especially when shooting videos.

The Hybrid AF is supported with any EF and EF-S lens, so you don’t need to buy a special lens for it.


Canon T4i / 650D Image Quality (High ISO)

magnifying glass on imageMany people just wanted to know how the image quality is. Bring them an improved high ISO performance and they might consider upgrading from older models. Impressive as the 650D, it won’t be a gem without a great image quality that is expected from Canon DSLR cameras. Canon make its own sensors and it is known for its very high image quality since the first EOS cameras. When we talk about image quality we usually refer to the amount and type of noise in high-ISO, dynamic range and sharpness (considering same lens for testing).

I must admit that Canon is having some very tough competition from both Nikon DSLRS and Mirrorless cameras too. If you’ve seen the Olympus OM-D image quality you know what I am talking about. It seems that technology was able to shrink the gap between Micro Four Thirds and APS-C sensors. Even though Micro Four Thirds sensor is smaller than APS-C, the low-noise performance is very small in favor of APS-C size sensors.

With each generation of cameras we expect to see more improved sensors. Of course the combination of a new processor and a high-sensitive sensor, both should result in improved image quality. The differences aren’t huge as you might think, it takes years for us to see big improvements. It happens a few steps in each generation, but the difference is there. The question is whether the Canon EOS Rebel T4i is able to outperform the 600D / T3i and other cameras in the same price range?

As for the time of writing this article, there aren’t a lot of high ISO sample images. Dpreview has posted some sample images that can serve as a good assessment of the high ISO performance of this camera.

Here is my observation conclusions:

ISO 800 – relatively very clean image slight noise start kicking in the dark areas, but overall very clean image. The 18MP provide great details and the colors are very well saturated (in JPEG).

ISO 1600 – Noise appears also in the mid-tones as well. I personally would have thrown ISO1600 images to a noise-reduction software, but still, images are very usable (remember, I am pixel peeping here at 100% scale photos)

ISO 3200 – more noise, but details and overall color tone is well preserved

ISO 6400 – Again, colors and tone is identical to lower ISO sensitivities, which is great. With lower resolution images you won’t even notice the noise. Of course when viewing the image at large scale you can see that the noise is all over the place, we start loosing fine details.

ISO 12800 – we lose just a bit of tone (look at the mouse brown fur). Lots of noise and you probably use this ISO in emergency, small prints, upload low-res images to the web, etc.

Overall the Canon 650D / T4i high ISO performance is very good. I actually didn’t expect anything out of this world, after all, it’s not an an enthusiast model nor a pro model. When dpreview will update their comparison tool with 650D photos it would be easier to comprehend the differences.

* The Canon EOS 650D / T4i offers a new Multi-shot noise reduction setting, which can combine four consecutive shots to create one low-noise image. That can be great when shooting a static scene and can result in a much better looking / low-noise image (only in JPEG).


Movie Recording with Continuous AF!

The Canon 650D / T4i can record Full HD 1080p video at 30p/25p/24p and also in 1080i60/1080i50 (VGA 30 fps is also available). However, the T4i has just become a much better HDSLR camera due to its improved AF system in videos. Furthermore, Canon introduced Stepping Motor (STM) lenses for quiet and fast autofocus, especially useful when shooting videos (EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM and EF 40mm f/2.8 STM).

Some people might still prefer using the manual zoom, but the new movie Hybird AF will certainly be more versatile and easy to sue for beginners. It’s like a point-and-shoot for videos, just click the movie button and start shooting great videos.

The T4i is an amazing HDSLR camera. It features a 3:2 high-resolution Fully-articulated LCD screen, has built-in stereo mic, 3.5mm mic jack to connect external stereo microphones, allows you to control shooting via the touch-sensitive display and offers great video quality as expected for Canon EOS camera range.

This is certainly a camera that many video enthusiasts will want to put their hands on.  The Canon 650D / T4i certainly packs some very useful technologies that makes shooting video more fun.

Canon T4i / 650D Movie samples will be added here when they become available


Canon 650D vs Nikon D3200

I already see people start debating whether to purchase the Canon T4i or the Nikon D3200. Two upper entry-level cameras, the Canon is selling for $949.00 and the Nikon $649, both with 18-55 mm lenses (price for the time writing this review). so in terms of price, it seem like the T4i should compete against the D7000?!

The price might not fit everyone’s pocket, but it certainly seems that Canon wanted to target HDSLR enthusiasts. Type of photographers who know how to appreciate the unique features on this camera and will pay more to enjoy those features.

Canon 650D and 60D cameras

The Nikon D3200 is a great DSLR for its price, but lack the articulated LCD nor the touchscreen. It can record videos in mono sound compare to the T4i’s stereo mic, although both have 3.5mm mic jack.  The D3200 does offer continuous focus during movies, and it seems (still on paper) that Canon has implemented a much more improved AF system for movies (phase-detection for movies also, rather than just contrast detection).  Canon also added STM lenses that are tailored towards movies shooters.

The D3200 does offer a higher resolution sensor, is cheaper, smaller in size and lighter and  has longer battery life. Let’s remember that Canon priced the 650D higher because of its unique feature that you won’t found on any other DSLR camera on the market. The Canon EOS Rebel T4i would certainly rate much higher when it comes to video shooting, but for those of you who don’t care about video shooting, the Nikon D3200 is a great beginners camera that can shoot very high quality images.

As the Nikon D3200 doesn’t come to replace the D3100 either. It seems that both companies take the same marketing strategy by adding new type of cameras to their lineup. That means that the selection is wider now. It’s a good thing to do because not many people will want to purchase an outdated camera, and they can price that model quite higher and offer it to those who want it and can afford it.


Canon 650D vs 60D

The 650D costs $50 less than the 60D. So the 650D sits below the 60D in Canon EOS camera’s lineup.  The 650D has the Hybrid-AF that the 60D doesn’t have, which is a great advantage when it comes to video shooting. The Canon 60D can’t autofocus during video recording.

Canon 650D and 60D cameras

Both cameras offer the same full-articulated 1,040K-dot 3-inch LCD, but the 60D isn’t touchscreen, the 650D has a multitouch LCD screen. The 60D is the better still camera of the two with a large viewfinder, fast maximum shutter speed (1/8000 vs 1/4000), a bit faster continuous shooting (5.3 vs 5 fps, not that significant though), weather-resistant body and much better battery life.  The 650D also has the advantage of shooting video with stereo sound, the 60D only record mono sound.

So the 650D is definitely a better HDSLR camera. It’s nice to see that the 650D also has a 5 fps continuous shooting. It’s really comes to a decision whether you are into HDSLR photography or not.


Canon 650D vs 600D (T3i)

The T3i / 600D is already a two years old camera (announced August 26, 2010). It features 18MP sensor but utilize the older Digic 4 image processor instead of the new Digic 5 one that on the 650D. It features a lower native ISO snesitivity (6400 vs 12800). It also has a 3-inch fully-articulated 1040K-dots display, but it’s not a touchscreen (same as the 600D).

The 600D / T3i also doesn’t come with the newly developed Hybrid-AF sensor. So that’s where the 650D has the biggest advantage over the 600D.  The 600D has a slower burst (3.7 vs 5 fps) and built-in monaural microphone but you can connect an external stereo microphone if you like.

Also on the T4i: “The EOS Rebel T4i features a built-in stereo microphone, a first for the Rebel line, that includes an attenuator function to reduce audio distortion in extra loud situations.” (from Canon press release).



The Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D was added to the EOS lineup as a more advanced HDSLR camera. It combines the look and some of the 600D features as well inherits some of the 60D’s. The T4i is in a league of its own when it comes to video shooting. The Hybrid-AF sensor will certainly help the camera produce great videos out-of-the-box, without the need to manually focus during shooting. Add the new STM lenses to the mix and you get one of the best HDSLR camera to date, at least in this price point.

The Canon T4i takes breathtaking images with low noise all over the ISO range, at least on par with today’s latest APS-C DSLRs. I personally won’t upgrade from the 600D if I wasn’t into video shooting, and I can understand why the T4i/650D doesn’t replace the 600D / T3i. It’s a more expensive camera, but you certainly get more for what you paid for. If you are buying your first camera, the T4i should certainly be on top of your list, even without the video features. Of course you can buy the less expensive 600D and invest more money on better lenses.

I also think that the main competition comes from mirrorless cameras rather than DSLR cameras. Canon really created a unique HDSLR camera that what left to see is how good the Hybrid-AF really is. Overall I am very impressed with Canon’s offering and I am sure that this camera will be very popular among beginner, enthusiast and those who are into videography.


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