canon 7d vs canon rebel t2i

Canon 7D vs. Canon Rebel T2i : Half the price… half the camera?

Who will benefit from paying for the Canon 7D?

This week’s introduction of the new Canon 550D / Rebel T2i raises some interesting questions.  This is a camera that clearly out-classes the Canon 50D in many regards, and has many of the features of the Canon EOS 7D, but at less than half the price (Currently $715 at Amazon.com). Will professional or semi-professional photographers be satisfied using the T2i instead of the 7D? What types of photographers will get any practical benefit from paying double for the Canon 7D?

Let’s get this out of the way first. If you’re at least a semi-pro, you’ll want to opt for the 550D designation over the “Rebel”, if it’s available. What photographer over the age of 15 wants a camera with “Rebel” in red letters across the front? Just kidding.

More seriously, though, let me do a quick side-by-side comparison of their features. If you’d like to see the whole table at once, just click use the drop-down menu at the top-left of the table:

 Canon 7DCanon 60D Canon Rebel T2i / 550D
Amazon Price $1599$1099$715
B&H Price


$1599$1099 (rebates available)$719
Body MaterialMagnesium AlloyPolycarbonate and Stainless SteelPolycarbonate, Fiberglass Resin and Stainless Steel
LCD Size / Resolution3.0"
920,000 pixels
3.0"
1,040,000 pixels
3.0"
1,040,000 pixels
LCD Articulated?NoYesNo
Sensor Size14.9 x 22.3mm (APS-C)14.9 x 22.3mm (APS-C)14.9 x 22.3mm (APS-C)
Crop Factor1.6x1.6x1.6x
Sensor Resolution18 Megapixels18 Megapixels18 Megapixels
ISO Range100-6400
+12800
100-6400
+12800
100-6400
+12800
Total AF Focus Points1999
Cross-Type AF Sensors19 (dual diagonal)91
AF Light Level Range-.05 to +18 EV-.05 to +18 EV-.05 to +18 EV
Metering System63 Zone Point Linked Evaluative
9.4% Center Weighted
2.3% Spot
63 Zone Point Linked Evaluative
6.5% Center Weighted
2.8% Spot
63 Zone Point Linked Evaluative
9% Center Weighted
4% Spot
Exposure Compensation1/2 or 1/3 stops via thumb dial1/2 or 1/3 stops via thumb dial1/2 or 1/3 stops
Auto-Bracketing
/ HDR Options
Max Frame Rate : RAW (14-bit)8 fps5.3 fps3.7
Max Frame Rate : RAW (12-bit)n/an/an/a
Max Frame Rate : JPG8 fps5.3 fps3.7
Max Burst Duration RAW (at highest frame rate)15166
Max Burst Duration JPG (at highest frame rate)945834
Shutter Speed Range1/8000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
1/8000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
1/4000th - 30 sec.
+bulb
Maximum Flash Sync Shutter Speed (standard flash)1/250th sec.1/250th sec.1/200th sec.
HD Video Resolutions1080p, 720p1080p, 720p1080p, 720p
Available HD Video Frame RatesPAL and NTSC
24/25, 30 at 1080p
24/25, 30, 60 at 720p
PAL and NTSC
24/25, 30 at 1080p
24/25, 30, 60 at 720p
PAL and NTSC
24/25, 30 at 1080p
24/25, 30, 60 at 720p
Firmware Sidecar AvailableUnder DevelopmentNoNo
Media TypeCompact FlashSD / SDHC / SDXCSD / SDHC / SDXC
Weight820g (body only)675g (body only)530g (with battery and SD card)
Viewfinder Coverage100% Frame,
1.0x magnification
96% Frame,
.95x magnification
95%
0.87x magnification
back view of the canon rebel T2i
The back of the Canon T2i is dominated by the 3″ LCD

If you think any items should be added to this table for comparison, let me know.

There are certainly some differences between these cameras. The 7D has a metal body and a brighter viewfinder with full coverage. The 7D will feel better in your hand,  and these things are always nice. On the other hand, the new 550D sports a higher resolution LCD than the 7D, which can be handy in the field.

The main differences, though, are centered around a very specific style of photography, and really might not be a benefit to many photographers. The main area difference? Speed. The Canon EOS 7D will focus on faster moving subjects, and take more photos at faster shutter speeds. It has a faster flash sync speed, too. Many of these are the result of the dual-processor power of the 7D, though some are certainly limitations for marketing purposes… (my Canon EOS A2 in 1994 had a 1/8000th sec. shutter speed at half the price of this camera… I’m sure this isn’t a technological based limitation for the “Rebel”. I don’t remember ever using it then, either).

For example, if you primarily shoot in the studio, there would be no benefit to spending the extra $900 on the 7D, especially for product photography. Since they use the same sensor, the image quality will be identical. Fast moving models might be a little more of an issue if you’re shooting with very dim modeling lights, but most models are staying within a relatively small studio space, so this just wouldn’t make much difference. In fact, a great deal of portraiture work would fall under this category as well.

Similarly, if you primarily shoot landscapes or other still-life fine art photography, you can expect the same image quality as that produced by the 7D, and being able to focus faster and take 8 frames per second won’t make any difference.  Both have mirror lock-up, which is more important to this type of work. Indeed, if you’re backpacking and every ounce counts, the Rebel T2i / 550D has the benefit of being lighter. Keep in mind that if you’re rough on your cameras out there in the wild, the 7D will hold up better.

canon 550d front view
I suspect that the lens mount is the only metal portion of the housing of the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D

On the other hand, journalists who need to catch fast action on a regular basis will have better success with the 7D, as it has a superior auto-focus system. The Rebel T2i’s AF system is basically the same that found in the 40D, so if you have used that camera with success, the Rebel may suit your needs as well. Sports photographers will undoubtedly enjoy the accuracy of focus provided by the 7D.

Similarly, wedding photographers (especially wedding photojournalists) may find the speed and accuracy of the AF (as well as the other high-speed functions) useful for catching those moments that only happen once. If you’re a more traditional wedding portraitist, the 550D may suffice, especially as a backup. Indeed, you could buy two of the Rebels for the price of a 7D. David Ziser, a well known Ohio wedding Photographer (see his training videos on KelbyTraining.com) used a 40D for years. Personally, I would not use a 550D as my main camera for shooting weddings since my own work involves catching fleeting moments… but I’d consider using one for a backup or second body.

Needless to say, if you have the extra money, the Canon EOS 7D is going to be the superior camera. However,  that saved $900 could buy a pretty nice lens (or two) or some pocket wizards or flashes… The choice in the end depends on your shooting style and how important it is to have extra money left over for extras.

As always, comments are welcome!

READY TO BUY ONE? I’ve found that the best prices are at Amazon, but some people prefer B&H for their selection and reputation.

Editor-in-Chief

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Jason
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Jason

hi, I know this is an old post but I have a question, and it may be kind of dumb but anyway. I own lenses for a T2i and a T3i. I’m currently thinking of upgrading cameras and have been considering the Canon 7D Mark II. Are my lenses going to be compatible with the Canon 7D Mark II?

Bijon
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Bijon

Hey Mathew, I’m a film student. And I was looking for a DSLR that can shoot great Video. I can’t afford films all the time, and sometimes It’s cool to use video depending on the story of course. I know you don’t shoot Video and Matt’s reply really helped me as well. As the video quality is exactly same, do you think it’d be better for me to get the T2i and some good lenses, instead of getting the 7D without that many lenses (as my budget is limited)?

Vikdaddy
Member

Hi Matthew, great site! I stumbled upon it when researching the 7D, which was likely to be my next camera until the 60D came out and confused things for me a little. I currently use the 450D, which to be frank I’ve outgrown. The size of the 450D just isn’t adequate for man-hands and I find the body too light. I have briefly considered the 5D Mark II, especially as I’m in to landscapes and candid (not studio) portraiture, but I love using my 10-22mm too much and considering I’m not a pro or earning shed loads I cannot justify the expense. The 7D is stretching my budget as it is.

Anyway, on to my first question; what mid-range lens would you recommend for the 7D? I currently use the 28-135mm lens for my 450D, but it’s too big and heavy, and from what I’ve read so far from your comments the better the camera, the better the lens that’s required. The 10-22mm is wonderful to use and the image quality is excellent. Would you say the 17-55mm f/2.8 is comparable, and an ideal lens to use with the 7D? I think the 17-55mm would be ideal for the type of candid portraiture I like to do.

Second, judging from my description of the type of photography I’m in to, would you say I should save a little money and go for the 60D? I also shoot events sometimes, and I’m guessing that the 7D’s shutter rate coupled with a fast(ish) lens like the 17-55mm would make it the ideal combination.

Thanks
Vik

Marcio
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Marcio

Very nice article! I’m looking for a new camera, leaving from a Nikon 40D. As I’m a weekend photographer, I understood that 7D benefits does not worth the money invested in it. Although it is pretty hard to find the 550D kit with 18-135mm lens in NYC or the body and lens sold separately, I just found the 550D kit with 18-55mm lens, which I don’t want it.

Anyway, I’ll look for the 550D, in case I don’t find it, I’ll think about the 7D.

Francisco
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Francisco

It’s my understanding that the Rebel T2i doesn’t output HD while recording, meaning that you can’t do critical focus using say, an HD on board monitor. Does anyone know if this is accurate, and secondly, does anyone have any info regarding firmware updates for the Rebel T2i that would enable it to do HD out while recording?

Matt
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Matt

Thanks for your article. It provides some good things to think about.

I’ve been a video guy for some time, and one of the things that we all wanted for years when digital video cameras started becoming available was the ability to overcrank the camera (or in other words shoot at higher frame rates) to produce real slow motion when the footage was played back at 24 or 30 frames a second.

All the main prosumer HD camcorders out there now provide the capacity to shoot at 60 or 50 frames per second (progressive) to make real slow motion. However, I don’t know of any of them (at least none that cost less that say, $10,000) that can shoot full 1920×1080 HD at anything over 30 frames per second progressive.

When I saw that you listed the Canon 7D as being able to shoot at 60fps at a 1920×1080 resolution, I was a bit surprised. I’m afraid it’s too good to be true. I’ve had a look over at Canon’s website and read the specs for video. Here’s what it said:

“Advanced movie mode with manual exposure control and selectable frame rates: 1920 x 1080 (Full HD): 30p (29.97) / 24p (23.976) / 25p, 1280 x 720 (HD): 60p (59.94) / 50p, 640 x 480 (SD): 60p (59.94) / 50p.”

So at the bigger resolution, the camera just shoots at 30p, 24p and 25p (the European standard), and it’s not until you get down to 1280 x 720 that you start seeing 60p or 50p…just like the T2i. I had wondered if perhaps the dual Digic processors might make it so the 7D could get more video onto the CF card faster and therefore not have to buffer as much, such that perhaps it could shoot longer clips. However, the pages for both the 7D and the T2i over at usa.canon.com say that the cameras max out at 4gb per clip. For video people, this might make the T2i again more attractive, because it appears to have exactly the same video capabilities as the 7D.

Nick
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Nick

“I suspect that the lens mount is the only metal portion of the housing of the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D”

I really doubted that statement so I did a quick magnet test, it sticks. Yup there seems to be a metal frame under it.

David
Guest

I expect that Canon knew that the 550D would cannibalize 7D sales to some extent. Do we expect to see an updated model that supersedes the 7D?

AJ
Guest
AJ

Very informative and well-flowing article. I didn’t know the T2i had so much in common with the 7D; it almost seems like the 7D isn’t really worth it for what you’re actually getting. I’m still shooting with the XTi so either would be a big leap ahead technology-wise, but the size of the body itself is a major factor for me; the XTi (which is around the same size as the T2i) doesn’t fit well in my hand. Thanks for the info!

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