After selling my Canon Rebel T1i on Amazon for $565 (minus a $47 commission for Amazon), I bought a Japanese branded “Canon Kiss X4″ camera known as the Canon Rebel T2i in the US market and 550D elsewhere last week off eBay. Why would I do that? Because the Rebel T2i has been “out of stock” for the last 4 months in most places with no end in sight and the few people who do have it on Amazon or eBay are selling it for $1000+ which is $200 more than the retail list price.
Update 11:45PM – Looks like Amazon and Newegg just got the T2i body in stock for $799. I would have gone this route had I known, but I didn’t get a bad price on the Kiss X4 kit with lens for $830. The risk I take is that there is no warranty the first year.
The Kiss X4 didn’t come with a warranty (though I’ve never had a Rebel SLR fail on me yet), but the $830 I paid for it including the standard lens kit wasn’t a bad price. Of course now the seller is trying to point me towards an $80 3rd party warranty to which I am declining because my camera isn’t likely to fail in the first year. The other problem is that the camera only comes with a Japanese manual but that can be solved by downloading the English manual in PDF format.
The image quality has been unbelievably good when you force it to manual mode and ISO 400 and below, but I was stuck at ISO 200 and above. ISO 100 was simply not presented as an option and it was maddening. I emailed Canon support and they replied to me the next morning with the answer. It turned out that “Highlight Tone Priority” was enabled which requires ISO 200 and above. After disabling that feature, ISO 100 was available once again.
Note that you need sufficient light just like you do in photography, and it might be hard to use ISO 100 in a dim room because you won’t be able to achieve the minimum 1/30th of a second virtual shutter speed (physical shutter is locked open). In automatic mode, the camera will adjust the ISO up automatically but in manual mode, the scene will just get dark and under exposed. That’s actually a good thing because sometimes you want the scene to be dark. It was getting annoying and unnatural in automatic mode where the camera would literally make everything look like daylight even when you’re shooting a night scene with existing light. Manual mode also solved the erratic exposure problem which may have had something to do with the fact that I was using a third party 28-70 F2.8 lens from Tokina.
Automatic focus “works” but it is very noisy and very slow. It hunts around and the camera still jumps to a high ISO even if you’re in “manual” mode. Using manual exposure and manual focus solves all these problems and focusing is much smoother, more natural, and faster so long as you keep your eyes close to the LCD view finder so you can see the details accurately.
Here was the first short sample I shot and posted on YouTube. Note that you can bump it to 1080P mode. And yes, it’s the same little kitty all grown up.
This video is shot with the Canon 500D (AKA Rebel T1i). While the footage looks great (considering the fact that I didn’t really have much light in the room, Canon really needs to give us manual aperture and exposure control for video mode on this camera because of the erratic exposure behavior in video recording mode. When I zoom in or out, you can see a quick change in brightness and hear some clicking noises when the aperture mechanism becomes erratic. Canon added manual controls for video mode on their higher end 5D Mark II in a firmware upgrade, so all the 500D owners need to unite and demand the same firmware upgrade for the 500D (Note that full manual control is already supported in still photo mode).
Regarding the movie star in this video, this cute little orange tabby was feral 2 weeks ago when he came to my house looking for mommy, and now he’s nearly doubled his weight and became tame (and spoiled).
Note that despite the fact that I set the embedded video to so called “HD” 720P mode (which is actually only ~2 Mbps meaning it’s lower than DVD quality for everything other than completely still footage), Google changed it so that you have to manually toggle the “HD” button to see the higher quality. I’m sure the bandwidth costs are killing Google so they’re hoping that most people won’t opt in on the higher quality.
Update 7/26/2009 – This guy hacked a Sigma lens to do manual aperture. Update 7/27/2009 – This problem appears only when I’m using the Tokina 28-70 2.8 lens, which happens to be my favorite lens as far as optics and zoom characteristics are concerned. It doesn’t appear on the 18-55 USM/IS 3.5-5.6 Canon lens that came with the Canon 500D camera, nor does it happen with an older Sigma 70-300 macro-capable lens. Also noteworthy is I can pretty much shoot ants with the 300 mm Sigma. And because the resolution demands of even 720P and 1080P video isn’t that high compared to still photography, I can pretty much use any lens with great results.
If there’s one thing that video artists love, it’s being able to change lens and use the various optical effects. There’s no way a fixed lens video camera can get these closeup shots of the Lynx getting hurt real badly or scaring the cat away. Some photograph photography professionals are wondering why they would want video capability, and I think the video above answers that question nicely. There are some problems with the Canon 5D Mark II that need to be fixed with firmware updates but it doesn’t seem like a show stopper.
It would seem I can’t embed the 720P version of the video above and they want you to go to their site to watch that version.
On a side note, YouTube finally added 720P capability though it seems to be stuttering a bit for me and the content is still very scarce. The creative artists seem to have all gone to Vimeo which has been offering 720P capability for at least a year. YouTube is more of the casual content.
In more related news, Joost seems to have given up on Peer-to-Peer (P2P) architecture in favor of Content Delivery Network (CDN) architecture for video delivery (I explain what these architectures mean and more in my Network Management report). This not surprising given the fact that P2P content is delivered out-of-order which prevents it from streaming video on demand. In simpler terms, it just means that video you get from P2P can’t be viewed until after you’ve finished downloading the entire movie which could take hours, days, or even weeks sometimes. Furthermore, people prefer the simplicity of an Adobe Flash video player or a Microsoft SilverLight video player over additional software or plugins they have to install to get P2P working.
CDN architecture is used by every video streaming site because it is scalable and the video can be viewed just after a few seconds of buffering. At worst, 15 seconds of advertising starts to sound good compared to 10 hours of downloading before you get to watch the video.
The video sample above is why I love technology and progress. You couldn’t get this kind of video quality for $1000 in a full size camcorder 10 years ago and now you can get this for less than $200 in a form factor that fits in your pocket. The above is a video sample converted to a much lower bit-rate for Internet distribution on
detailed specifics on this camera. The killer feature for me is the 1280×720 30 FPS video capture at 13 Mbps H.264 compression which is stored in the SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) cards. Just pop in a 16 GB SDHC card at $70 and you can record 2.73 hours of 720p video or more than 5000 high quality 3MB 12 megapixel JPEG images.
The camera also has a relatively large 1/1.75″ CCD so that it can capture more light and less noise. The Samsung NV24HD is a very similar camera but it’s $150 more money and it’s only 10 megapixels with a 1/2.5″ CCD. That additional $150 on the Samsung NV24HD gets you a 2.5″ AMOLED display with stunning color and contrast ratios but the Kodak’s massive 3.1″ LCD touch screen display is no slouch.
I can easily seem myself putting this in to my ski jacket and following my daughter down the ski slope. Oh sure I have a big Sony HDV 1080i camcorder that does much better quality and I’ll take that on the trip too, but it’s not going to fit in my pocket so it’s not going to the top of the ski slope. I have a nice Canon Rebel XT SLR digital camera too but it’s even bigger than the Sony camcorder. As soon as I get my new job finalized, I’m leaning towards this camera over the Samsung. I need to do a hands-on comparison before I can decide.