Scott's Column
Canon EOS Rebel T2i, Inexpensive 7.1 Home Theater... in an Apartment

June 1, 2010
By Scott Lewis

Introductory paragraph goes here.

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The New Camera

I spent a lot of time going over what dSLR camera I wanted. I spent way too many hours thinking about this. This is the way I am with purchases like this. I would hate myself if I bought one camera and within a couple of months discovered I made the wrong choice.

The Choices

I had it narrowed to the Nikon D90 or the Canon EOS Rebel T1i. I could not decide. The Canon's single command wheel was a favorite over the D90's two scroll wheels, but it was at the front of the camera. The Nikon D5000 has its single command wheel at the thumb, and that's where I think it should go. Is the Canon at an advantage for having one command wheel if it is located in the wrong place?

The D90 has a few extra features over the T1i, speed being a big one. It shoots faster in continuous mode, and will get off a couple more shots before waiting to write the images to memory. But how often will I use this feature?

The D90 has a better sensor, and I like the fact they don't push too many megapixels at you. The Canon's 15 MP (to the Nikon's 12) seems like megapixels for the sake of megapixels to sell cameras. I feel Nikon's approach toward megapixels is quality over quantity. However, I have read that good lenses make up for this with the Canon cameras. As you know if you read my previous article on choosing lenses I plan on getting some pretty nice lenses.

Finally the D90's built-in flash can control remote flashes. With the Canon I would have to first buy an external flash as a master before I could buy slave flashes.

The Lenses

We want a dSLR for a number of reasons, the top two being the large sensor that does a better job of capturing light, and better optics for getting that light to the sensor. Yes, we also want the advanced controls, fast continuous shooting, external flash, etc., etc. But the fact is the lens is going to play a very important role in our dSLR journey.

I never planned on getting a "kit" lens. I want fast lenses, with large apertures of under f/2.0 on non-zoom lenses. Since I will be spending a premium on lenses it is critical that the lenses are very good. Remember, we said you can, and most likely will, out grow your camera body, but quality lenses will stay with you for the long hall. That means the lenses are more important than the camera.

That being said I did another go around with the lenses listed on BHPhoto's web site. I originally wanted to get a good dSLR camera with a fixed focal length lens (non-zoom) at the standard 50mm. This gives the closest approximation to what your eye sees as you are looking at a scene.

Remember that Canon cameras (below $2000) have a crop factor of 1.6, and Nikon's have a crop factor of 1.5. If we buy a 50mm lens it equates to 80mm for Canon, or 75mm for Nikon. That is mild telephoto range. This would be very pleasing for portraits... as long as you have the room to move back (sneaker zoom). However, I am not a portrait photographer.

When I bought my first camera (A Canon T50 if you will recall) it came with a 50mm lens... and that is all I ever used on that camera. I never got the chance to buy any other lenses. For decades people bought film SLR cameras with 50mm lenses and were completely happy.

So I entertained the idea of getting a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens for either the Nikon or the Canon. I read some good things about this $430 lens. On the Canon it would have an equivalent of 48mm, and on the Nikon it would work like a 45mm. That is close to perfect. But further digging revealed that the Sigma is good, but not as good as the f/1.4 lenses from the camera makers.

So how do I get close to 50mm while sticking with the manufacture's lenses. Canon makes a 35mm f/1.4 lens... for $1,400. Ouch! The closest thing to this in Nikon's catalog is a 35mm f/1.4 manual focus lens. Besides being a manual focus lens in an auto-focus world, this is an import lens not meant to be sold in the US (we call this gray market). Both Canon and Nikon have a 35mm f/2.0 lens. This is not quite as good as I would like, but these should make excellent general purpose lens for the money.

I have seen comparison photos of various focal length macro lenses. 100mm seems to hit the target for me. Canon has two very good 100mm macro lenses, one for around $600 and an L Series with image stabilization for close to $1,000. Nikon has a 105mm macro lens without vibration reduction priced for $900.

The deciding factor was one particular Canon lens. The 24-105mm f/4L IS lens. I originally wanted to go with the faster 24-70mm f/2.8L for maximum depth of field control. Nikon has a similar lens. However, the difference between f/4.0 and f/2.8 is only one stop. Canon's 24-105mm has Image Stabilization (IS). Neither Canon's nor Nikon's 24-70mm lenses has this feature.

Canon claims that the IS on the 24-105mm will reduce camera shake by the equivalent of 3 stops. That means that you can slow the shutter down by 3 full stops and still hand hold the camera. For instance, shooting at 1/125 sec without image stabilization is like shooting at 1/15 second with image stabilization. I think the IS will be more important to me in low light shooting than a one stop improvement in aperture control. The extra range on the zoom is just icing on the cake.

I could not find any Nikon lens that compared to the Canon 24-105mm with its image stabilization. Nikon does have a 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 that includes there VR technology, but this lens is no where near the optical quality of the Canon L Series lens.

Last Minute Entry

After I wrote all my articles Canon announced the EOS Rebel T2i. This is not strickly a replacement for the T1i, but slots in slightly above it and below the Canon 50D. The T2i provides the same HD video capability and megapixels from the $1,700 7D camera.

The Verdict - Canon EOS Rebel T2i

Since I had decided to go with Canon for there lens selection, and I didn't want to kick myself in a few months for not getting the best camera I could afford. I bought the Canon EOS Rebel T2i. Even though I say don't get the camera with the kit lens... that is what I did. I needed the camera in time for a vacation in Florida in August. However, an opportunity to go to a Corvette Car show made me accelerate my purchase by a couple of months. I checked everyplace online and nobody had the T2i in stock. However, Best Buy had plenty of them... just a couple miles from my home.

Best Buy only offers the Canon T2i with the 18-55mm lens in their stores. So I bought the camera with the kit lens... and immediately got on BHPhoto's web site and ordered the 50mm f/1.4 lens.

I really want the 24-105mm f/4L lens from Canon, but I cannot afford that at this time. Maybe next year. I really wanted their 35mm f/1.4L prime lens, but price puts that completely out of range. I will see how the 50mm lens works. Depending on how I like the 50mm lens, I may get Canon's 28mm f/1.8 lens as my next prime lens. With the 1.6x crop factor of the T2i the 28mm lens will be the equivalent of a 45mm lens, close enough to the magic 50mm, and the price is in the $400-500 range. Finally, I might consider Canons 17-55mm F2.8 IS lens. This is not an L series lens, but it is close. It has both the fast f/2.8 aperture through the entire zoom range and image stabilization.

There you have it... I have a Canon EOS Rebel T2i with three lenses. The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens (the kit lens), a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens and finally a really old 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens from my Canon EOS Rebel S film camera.


Inexpensive 7.1 Home Theater... in an Apartment

As part of Life 2.0, I am now living in an apartment. I had just enough money to get a flat panel TV, but not much more. How would I be able to get the most of the TV in my apartment?

I bought a Sony STR-DH800 7.1 receiver for $261, and an LG BD-570 Blu-Ray player for $230. I went so cheap on speakers that I didn't spend anything. That's right free speakers. I still have the 5.1 speakers that came with my first HTIB (Home Theater In a Box) from 1998. This included a center channel speaker and 4 non-center channel speakers for left/right/surround. Plus there was the sub-woofer. What about the 6th & 7th speakers? Simple, I had some speakers left over from a 5.1 system I put on a computer a few years ago. I only needed two of those speakers.

The TV is a Panasonic TC-P46G10 I got for $840. This is a 2009 model TV. It looks awesome. I mounted it on the wall... yes in an apartment. I cut a hole behind the TV and another one down by the outlets. I put a remodel box in the bottom hole and ran the HDMI & power cords through this. So there are no wires hanging down from the TV. I will have to patch the hole behind the TV when I move out, but I could probably get away with putting a faceplate with a phone jack in it into the remodel box. The next tenant would just wonder what that jack was for.

My living room is 12 by 12. My head is about 9 feet from the screen when watching movies. I have the surround speakers on end tables at either side of the sofa, and the rear speakers are on a shelf directly behind the sofa. Sound is amazing. Granted... I am at relatively low volume levels. I am sure at higher levels it would fall apart. But the room is small so it does not take much to fill it with sound. And I will have to worry about bothering my neighbors if I do try to go for a lot of volume.

I was most interested in the deep black levels of a plasma TV, and wanted the surround sound effect more than load explosions. I hit a perfect balance... and for a price of $1,331... complete.



That's it for this month. I don't know what's coming in the next few months. I am playing with my new camera and all my money is going toward a trip to Florida this summer. I am taking my boys to Celebration V, a very large Star Wars conference. Getting topics for this column may be tough.

Stay tuned, I am sure I will think of something.