March 14th , 2010
Canon recently released the Canon Rebel T2i SLR (also known as the EOS 550D), which serves an update to the Canon Rebel T1i / 500D. The Rebel T2i is designed to appeal to both novice and hobby photographers by offering a wide range of both automatic options and extended manual creative control.
The Canon Rebel T2i shares a similar body design to the Rebel T1i, although receives a number of updated features, among them an almost identical 18 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor to the one found in the popular higher end Canon EOS 7D. Another addition is that the Rebel T2i inherits the more advanced iFCL exposure metering with 63-zone dual-layer metering sensor found in the EOS 7D, compared to the older 35-zone metering system found on the T1i / 500D.
The Rebel T2i also sports an updated wide screen (3:2) LCD monitor with 1.04 million dot resolution, a new button design and the ability to customize Auto ISO.
The other big news surrounding the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D is the upgraded video recording capabilities compared to the Rebel T1i. The Canon T2i now offers full HD movie recording with manual control and selectable frame rates (1080P at up to 30 fps, 720P at 60 or 50 fps), and provides for the welcome ability of being able to plug in an optional external stereo microphone.
The Canon Rebel T2i / 550D new headline features include:
18 MP APS-C CMOS
sensor similar to the Canon EOS 7D
The Nikon D90's popularity is not simply as a result of the fact that it can shoot HD movies, it is because the camera offers excellent image quality and is backed by an impressive feature and performance set. The Nikon D90 is currently the highest rated non professional camera in terms of sensor quality, incorporating the best sensor in its class according to the respected DxOMark benchmark sensor tests (see results in comparison below).
Canon initially responded to the success of the Nikon D90 by introducing and positioning the Canon Rebel T1i / 500D into the same class at a lower price point. In our earlier Canon Rebel T1i / 500D versus Nikon D90 side by side comparison we showed that the Rebel T1i feel short in a number of areas compared to the D90. So how does the updated Rebel T2i / 550D stack up?
We have now had the opportunity to test the Canon Rebel T2i vs the Nikon D90 and have put together a comparison to show that the Canon Rebel T2i does indeed bring their new Rebel flagship closer to the offerings provided by the Nikon D90 SLR. Are the Canon T2i / 550D improvements significant enough to dethrone the popular D90? Read our review to see all that has changed with the new Canon T2i SLR.
you are looking to find out more detailed information about the specifications
incorporated in these two cameras then jump directly to our Canon
Rebel T2i versus Nikon D90 side by side feature comparison
The Canon Rebel T2i features a 18MP sensor compared to the Nikon D90 with a 12.3MP sensor: The common assumption is that more is better and that the Canon Rebel T2i offers an advantage with its higher resolution sensor.
When we first compared the 15.1MP resolution Rebel T1i versus the 12.3MP D90, we stated that we would have been more impressed with Canon's new product direction if they had opted to recycle the better quality output 10MP sensor from the Canon EOS 40D and incorporate it into the Rebel T1i.
Now Canon has gone one step further in the megapixel race by upping the resolution in the new T2i / 550D to 18MP, while keeping the sensor the same size. In theory, this means that the image quality will suffer as each individual pixel has to be reduced further in size in order to be able to wedge the extra pixels onto the sensor.
Canon's workaround this problem has been to adopt a gapless microlens design for the Rebel T2i's sensor, which means that the quality of each pixel (photodiode) has been looked at by Canon and improved. By using a more advanced micro-manufacturing process, the circuitry around each diode has been reduced in size so each individual diode can be larger, giving better high ISO performance and a wider dynamic range. Although the sensor records the light it is the microlenses above each pixel that funnel the light into the pixel well.
The above diagram shows how the Rebel T2i / 550D (like the higher end Canon EOS 7D) uses a gapless microlens design compared to the T1i to gather the light more efficiently. Likewise, the distance between the sensor and the microlenses has been reduced. The combination of these improvements in the T2i / 550D is lower noise levels at all ISO settings and higher pixel sensitivity compared to the earlier Canon T1i / 500D.
All in all though, in order to fit 18 megapixels on a sensor that is slightly smaller in size compared to the DX format sensor found in the Nikon D90, in comparison the pixels on the Rebel T2i sensor still have to be smaller and packed closer together. (Pixel pitch on the D90 is larger at 5.5΅m vs. 4.2΅m for the T2i)
Pixel density (or how closely together the pixels are located) is calculated by dividing the number of pixels on a sensor by the imaging area of the sensor. Even with the gapless microlens design improvements, the pixel density on the Rebel T2i / 550D is still higher at 5.5MP / cm² versus 4.5MP / cm² on the Rebel T1i / 500D. The Nikon D90 features a notably lower pixel density of only 3.3MP / cm².
There are a number of disadvantages associated with higher pixel density sensors. One important consideration is that you will want to invest in a higher end quality lens that can support the sensor's increased resolution capability. The simple rule is that if you invest in a higher-resolution camera you need a lens that offers sufficient resolving power, which generally means spending more.
Other issues related to high pixel density include; lower dynamic range, reduced high ISO performance, diffraction issues, and increased possibility of camera shake. Although the extra resolution from a 18MP sensor provides for gain in fine detail compared to a 12.3MP sensor, the disadvantages typically outweigh the gains. By adding even more pixels to the Rebel T2i / 550D without increasing the size of the sensor, Canon is pushing beyond the resolution threshold of APS-C sensor technology, and in our opinion has once again opted to sacrifice on quality and practicality in favour of a marketing based decision.
DxOMark Sensor test results for the Nikon D90 versus the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D support these arguments, showing that the Nikon D90 delivers better RAW sensor output compared to the Rebel T2i, including improved colour depth, dynamic range, and high ISO capability. (See specifications below)
The Canon Rebel T2i and the Nikon D90 both offer a large 3.0-inch high resolution LCD monitor: The Canon T2i features a 3.0-inch Clear View LCD monitor with a wide 3:2 aspect ratio designed to match the camera's sensor. In comparison, the Nikon D90 incorporates a 4:3 aspect ratio LCD monitor with approximately 640 x 480 pixels versus the roughly 720 x 480 LCD pixel array on the Rebel T2i.
On both the T2i and the D90, each LCD pixel includes three individual colored dots (red, green and blue - RGB) making for a total of about 1.04 million dots on the Rebel T2i monitor compared to approximately 920,000 dots for the screen on the Nikon D90 (640 x 480 x 3 RGB dots)
The LCD monitors on the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D and the Nikon D90 both offer a wide viewing angle (160° for the T2i and 170° for the D90) with anti-reflective properties and 100% coverage.
Likewise the monitor brightness can be adjusted on both cameras depending on viewing conditions. The Nikon D90 comes supplied with a removable clear LCD protection screen (BM-10) to prevent the monitor from getting scratched. Although being more exposed to the elements without a cover, the Canon Rebel T2i LCD screen features anti-scratching and anti-smudging properties to help protect it from wear and tear.
The Rebel T2i offers enhanced Live View (LV) capabilities with Phase Detect and Contrast Detect AF: The Canon T2i / 550D offers three AF options in Live View shooting mode: (1) Live Mode - uses contrast AF detection, (2) Face Detection - contrast detect AF with face detection, (3) Quick Mode - uses phase detection (mirror up) for faster Live View focusing. A Live View Histogram is also available on the Canon Rebel T2i to assist in determining exposure.
With the Canon Rebel T1i / EOS 500D Live View was not available in the 'Basic Zone' auto exposure modes (Scene modes), which seemed rather odd considering that novices upgrading from a point and shoot would find Live View appealing. Canon has corrected this in the T2i / 550D by making Live View available in all exposure modes.
Additionally, the Canon Rebel T2i provides for up to a 10x magnified view when using manual focus in Live View mode making it easier to verify focus. The Nikon D90 in comparison provides for up to a 6.7x magnification when manually focusing in LV mode.
Although the Nikon D90 also offers three Live View AF modes, the camera does not offer the faster type of phase-detect autofocus. The three contrast-detect AF Live View modes available on the D90 include: Face Priority AF, Wide Area AF, and Normal Area AF.
In Live View Face Priority AF mode, the Nikon D90 offers AF Face Tracking where the camera will track the subject within the frame once face detection is achieved.
The Rebel T2i offers superior HD video recording capabilities compared to the Nikon D90 D-Movie mode: When we first compared the Rebel T1i / 500D versus the Nikon D90 we noted that the Rebel T1i's 1080P movie recording mode is crippled by a slow 20 frame per second capture rate, meaning that videos are not very fluid at the higher resolution recording setting. With the new Canon EOS Rebel T2i this feature has been noticeably improved.
Borrowing on the technology from the higher end Canon EOS 7D, video can be captured with the Rebel T2i / 550D at a number of resolutions and frame rates suitable for various applications and broadcast standards. The T2i can capture 1920 x 1080 Full HD video at frame rates of 24 (23.976), 25 or 30 (29.97) frames per second, for up to 4GB per clip.
Movies are saved as MOV files and can be viewed in Full HD through the camera's HDMI output. Other recording sizes available on the T2i include HD at 1280 x 720 (50/60 (59.94) fps) or SD/VGA at 640 x 480 (50/60 (59.94) fps).
The Canon Rebel T2i features a built-in microphone for simple mono recording (like the T1i) although now stereo sound can be recorded through a self-powered external microphone (optional) utilizing the T2i's stereo microphone input jack. Coupled with the fact that the Rebel T2i now also offers manual control of video exposure, the Rebel T2i has become a more serious tool for movie shooters.
In situations where the subject is further away, the Rebel T2i / EOS 550D also offers a 'Movie Crop' function in which the camera records VGA quality video utilizing only the central 640 x 480 pixel area of the sensor, creating an effective magnification of approximately seven times. When shooting movies in general, a large capacity SD card rated SD Speed 'Class 6' or higher is strongly recommended or quality may suffer.
With the Rebel T2i maximum movie recording time in either 1080P or 720P HD is 12 min clips (based on 4GB limit), and up to 29 min and 59 sec clips in VGA (640 x 480) movie mode.
In comparison the Nikon D90 offers 720P HD movie recording at 24 fps with up to 5 min of recording time per clip. The Nikon D90 does not provide for the option of plugging in an external microphone like the T2i. The Nikon D90 records movies in the motion JPEG format which are stored as AVI format files.
Without a doubt if SLR movie recording is your main objective, then the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D is the best choice in this class of cameras (as of 11/03/10).
One advantage that the Nikon D90 does offer with respect to D-movie recording is better file manageability for entry level videographers, making the Rebel T2i more geared towards the video enthusiast. Shooting in either full 1080P or 720P HD movie mode, the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D produces approximately 1.7GB MOV files per 5 min clip, compared to the Nikon D90's approximately 600MB AVI files per 5 min clip recorded at 720P 24 fps.
The above diagram shows the relative difference in frame size between HD movie recording in 720P (1280 x 720) versus 1080P (1920 x 1080).
The Canon T2i 720P HD movie files take up more memory space compared to the files from the D90 because of its faster frame rate (60 / 50 fps) versus the 24 fps captured by the Nikon D90, as well as the different type of movie file format.
With the T2i / 550D it is possible to grab fairly useable still images (1920 x 1080 suitable for web use, small prints) from your 1080P HD movie clips. Likewise it is also possible to grab stills from the Nikon D90's 720P D-movie clips, although the quality suffers in comparison because of the lower 1280 x 720 movie capture resolution.
Canon Rebel T2i offers high ISO boost up to 12,800 ISO compared to the Nikon D90 to 6400 ISO: While the 12,800 high ISO boost capability on the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D sounds good from a marketing point of view, the reality is that this setting produces pretty poor results (only for emergency use).
Available in the Nikon D90 and now added to the Rebel T2i (not in the T1i), both cameras offer the ability to set a limit on the highest ISO the camera will select in Auto ISO mode, enabling the user to retain the desired lighting and look for a scene while concentrating on capturing the subject.
The Nikon D90 offers the added advantage of providing for the ability to select the minimum shutter speed at which the Auto ISO setting kicks in. General ISO settings are also selectable in 1/3 stop increments on the D90, compared to one stop increments for the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D, allowing for ISO fine tuning with the D90.
Better results could
be optained by shooting in RAW and post processing the images in software,
something that most users for this class of SLR cameras do not tend
to do. Apart from having to take the time to process the images after
the fact, shooting in RAW also results in much larger image files compared
to shooting in the more common JPEG format.
The sensor in the Nikon D90 offers a higher signal to noise ratio (see definition below graph) compared to the Canon Rebel T2i. The DxOMark test results comparing the signal to noise ratio from the Nikon D90 versus the Rebel T2i / 550D are shown below.
The Nikon AF-S DX 18-55mm VR zoom kit lens outperforms the Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS kit lens: the Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Nikkor zoom is an entry level kit lens that offers decent performance and image quality with the D90.
The standard AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G Nikkor zoom lens features an AF-S motor for faster and quieter focusing. The Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens does not incorporate an ultrasonic motor (USM) like higher end Canon lenses.
The Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS kit zoom lens does not appear as sharp from corner to corner, imperfections that are highlighted even further when used with a higher resolution camera like the Rebel T2i. The Canon EF-S 18-55mm kit lens is also more prone to producing chromatic aberrations which tend to show up as purplish edges around the bright highlight areas of an image.
Like the professional Nikon D3x and higher end Nikon D300s, the D90 has a built in feature that compensates for lateral chromatic aberration. This feature facilitates the use of the Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm VR with the D90. The Nikon D90 "Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction" function serves to reduce moirι and provides optimized edge sharpness providing a practical advantage with any lens.
Both the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D and the Nikon D90 are available with longer range kit zoom lenses, in the way of the Canon EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS and the Nikon AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G VR. For the extra dollars we feel that both lenses are well worth the upgrade.
If you are looking for a good secondary lens delivering better image quality, we would recommend considering the fixed prime Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens for the Rebel T2i / 550D or the Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8 standard lens for the Nikon D90, both reasonably priced accessory lens options.
With the 80mm and 75mm equivalent field of view in 35mm terms provided by these respective lenses, they are an ideal bargain solution for family portrait and other types of fine art photography and videography. (Canon = 1.6 crop factor x 50mm and Nikon = 1.5 crop factor x 50mm)
The Nikon D90 is faster and quieter than the Canon EOS Rebel T2i: The Nikon D90 is designed to allow you to capture the decisive moment more easily. The D90 features faster focus acquisition, a shorter mirror black out time and shutter lag compared to the Canon Rebel T2i.
The Nikon D90 also features a quieter shutter mechanism compared to the Canon Rebel T2i, making less noise when the camera takes the picture.
The Canon T2i can capture images at 3.7 frames per second (fps) with a buffer that will allow up to 6 RAW or 34 JPEG images in a burst. In comparison the Nikon D90 can capture 4.5 fps up to 11 frames in RAW or 100 JPEG's in a burst. Being able to shoot twice as many (or more) frames in a burst can have significant advantages when trying to capture that precise 'action' shot.
The Nikon D90 provides an enhanced ergonomic layout compared to the Canon Rebel T2i: In comparison to the Rebel T1i / 500D, the new Rebel T2i / 550D does offer improvements in design with larger more accessible buttons.
The Nikon D90 compared to the Rebel T2i still features a more ergonomically thought out placement of control dials and buttons that takes into account real world practical use. Nikon's engineers not only looked at adding features when designing the D90 from the ground up, but also at how these functions should be able to be accessed by the photographer.
For example, the Nikon D90 features two command dials for changing camera settings. You can make quick settings adjustments with your index finger controlling the front sub command dial and your thumb controlling the main command dial while still being able to look through the camera.
The Nikon D90 further incorporates dedicated button's conveniently located on top of camera allowing the user to adjust metering, exposure compensation, continuous shooting and autofocus settings on the fly.
The Nikon D90 also features a programmable Function (Fn) button located on the front of the camera. The Fn button can be customized to provide fast access to adjust the settings for a particular feature on the camera. The following functions can be assigned to be activated by pressing the Fn button on the D90:
Framing grid (On,Off), AF Area mode (Select AF Area), Center focus point (Choose Wide or Normal AF point coverage), FV lock, Flash off, Matrix metering, Center weighted metering, Spot metering, Access top item in my Menu, + RAW / NEF (adds a RAW / NEF copy when shooting JPEG)
The "My Menu" option on the Nikon D90 can be used to create and edit a customized list of up to 20 options from the playback, shooting, Custom Settings, setup, and retouch menus. Options can be added, deleted, and reordered.
In comparison, the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D offers a customizable "My Menu" tab were you can register up to 6 menu options and Custom Functions for settings you change frequently.
Another advantage of the Nikon D90 is that it incorporates a top LCD information panel. The LCD can be illuminated in low light situations.
In terms of design, the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D offers a smaller grip compared to the Nikon D90. In our opinion the larger rounded grip on the Nikon D90 makes for a more comfortable and secure hold, although this is a matter of personal preference.
Both the Canon Rebel T2i and the Nikon D90 provide for a vertical release battery grip accessory option, making either camera more balanced and natural to hold, especially with a longer telephoto lens attached. The Canon BG-E8 can hold one or two Canon LP-E8 Li-Ion batteries or 6 x AA type batteries, the same as the Nikon MB-D80 which can hold one or two Nikon EN-EL3e Li-Ion rechargeable batteries or 6 x AA batteries. (see battery timings further below)
The D90 offers a larger viewfinder with 0.94x magnification compared to the smaller viewfinder 0.87x magnification on the Rebel T2i / EOS 550D.
The Nikon D90 also offers enhanced shutter durability with a shutter mechanism that is rated up to 100,000 exposures. Canon does not provide official specifications on the durability of the shutter built into the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D.
Note: In response to our request for a shutter durability rating for the Canon Rebel T2i, Canon Canada provided us with the following reply:
When we in turn referenced another web site claiming to have received official shutter ratings for Rebel cameras, our Canon contacts reconfirmed the above:
First introduced on the professional Nikon D3 and D300 digital SLR camera's, Nikons exclusive Scene Recognition System is also featured in the D90.
This unique technology utilizes the camera's 420-pixel RGB sensor to analyze scene and color information in order to understand what the camera is about to shoot. Milliseconds before the shutter is released, the camera optimizes the autofocus, auto exposure, i-TTL flash control (if applicable) and white balance.
The Nikon D90's 11-point AF system offers faster and more precise autofocus coverage across the frame. In addition, the D90 has more versatile AF-area modes to handle most shooting situations: Single-point AF is recommended for stationary subjects, dynamic-area AF for moving subjects, auto-area AF for spontaneous shooting and 3D-tracking (11 points) AF.
With 3D tracking AF, after initially locking focus on the subject the camera will perform AF tracking using the 11 focus points while you recompose the shot.
The Nikon D90 provides greater autofocus accuracy by utilizing color and brightness information from its 420-pixel RGB sensor. When shooting in Auto-area AF mode, the camera quickly focuses on the main subject by detecting foreground, background and subject position. When using 3D-tracking (11 points) mode, the camera uses the subjects color and brightness information to keep it in sharp focus as you change the composition.
The Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D offers the same 9 point AF system found in the Canon EOS Rebel T1i. It has a number of focus modes, including One-Shot AF, AI Focus AF and AI Servo AF.
Although the Rebel T2i offers a competent AF system, the Nikon D90's advanced autofocus technology provides the advantage including better low light autofocus capabilities and offering greater reliability in our real world comparison tests.
Likewise the Nikon D90's auto white balance control combines with the Scene Recognition System to analyze each scenes light sources, cross-referencing this information with 5,000 actual picture data examples from over 20,000 images in the cameras onboard white balance database thereby offering a higher degree of accuracy.
Nikons 3D Color Matrix Metering II has become one of the most highly acclaimed metering systems by delivering consistently well-balanced exposures even in lighting conditions that confuse other systems. 3D Color Matrix Meter II takes into account the scene's contrast and brightness, the subject's distance (via a D- or G-type NIKKOR lens), the color of the subject within the scene and RGB color values in every section of the scene.
The 3D Color Matrix Metering II system in the Nikon D90 uses the Scene Recognition System to evaluate the highlights, delivering even more light metering precision. The meter then accesses a database of over 30,000 actual images to determine the best exposure for the scene.
The metering system in the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D has been improved upon from the Rebel T1i / 500D. While the T1i / 500D uses a 35-zone metering sensor, the Canon T2i now incorporates a 63-zone iFCL dual metering sensor similar to the EOS 7D. The iFCL system uses Focus, Colour and Luminance information to determine exposure. The Rebel T2i's 9 focus points provide distance information to the metering system to determine proximity to the subject and allow the algorithm to weight the exposure accordingly.
Typically, metering sensors are more sensitive to red subjects which can lead to overexposure. The T2i / 550D combats this with the dual layer sensor, which has one layer sensitive to red and green light and one that is sensitive to blue and green light. The metering algorithm then compares the level of the two layers and adjusts the meter reading accordingly.
It is interesting to see that in updating to a new 63-zone iFCL system, Canon has now chosen to adopt a somewhat similar technological approach to metering that reflects concepts that Nikon has taken into consideration, implemented and further refined in their SLR cameras for over a decade. (Beginning with the Nikon F5 in 1996)
From our tests of the Canon Rebel T2i vs the D90, the 420-segment 3D matrix metering system II in the D90 offers a distinct benefit versus the 63-zone iFCL system in the T2i / 550D, and clearly stands out in tricky lighting situations.
The Nikon D90 Active D-Lighting feature extends dynamic range beyond the capabilities of the T2i's Auto Lighting Optimizer Technology: With the Nikon D90,the 'Active D-Lighting' and the Active D-Lighting bracketing feature provides for dynamic range expansion (set before taking the picture). The Canon Rebel T2i offers an 'Auto Lighting Optimizer' feature that is intended to achieve the same. In our real world tests this is not the case.
The Nikon D90 controls for highlight and shadow detail and adjusts exposure according to the scene. The Rebel T2i's 'Highlight Tone Priority' processes for highlights and 'Auto Lighting Optimizer' adjusts for shadows and highlights using tone curves. These different approaches lead to very different results as can be seen in our sample test shots below.
In this difficult lighting situation the Nikon D90's Active D-Lighting feature combined with the camera's metering technology offers a better result compared to the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D. The Canon T2i delivered significant blown highlights in this test with most camera settings set to default.
Although the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D features a "Highlight Tone Priority" mode, when this feature is enabled via the Custom function menu, the 'Auto Lighting Optimizer' function is automatically disabled at the same time.
Both the Canon 'Auto Lighting Optimizer' and the Nikon 'Active D-Lighting' feature are activated in the shooting menu. The Canon Rebel T2i / 550D provides for four settings, including; Off, Low, Standard and High. The Nikon D90 offers six Active D-Lighting settings, including; Off, Low, Normal, High, Extra High and Auto.
When set to 'Auto' the D90 will determine the degree and when to activate Active D-Lighting based on an analysis of the scene before the picture is taken. The screen grabs below show the respective dynamic range optimizing menu settings for the Canon T2i / EOS 550D and the Nikon D90.
The Nikon D90 also allows users to apply D-Lighting to an image that has already been captured. The in-camera processed image is then saved as a copy so that the original image is left intact. This feature is accessible in the Nikon D90's 'Retouch Menu' further outlined below.
The Nikon D90 offers an advantage in terms of flash technology compared to the Rebel T2i: Nikon has long enjoyed a reputation as the leader in the world of SLR flash photography with their proprietary i-TTL speedlight technology.
Compared to the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D, the Nikon D90 does a better job at calculating flash exposure using information from the camera's 420-segment RGB sensor combined with subject distance information from the lens and integrating colour information from the speedlights monitor pre-flash.
With the updated iFCL 63-zone metering system incorporated in the Canon Rebel T2i, the camera does improve upon its predecessor the Rebel T1i, although it still does not match the accuracy of the Nikon D90 as shown below.
While the sample image from the Canon T2i might initially come across as acceptable, the under exposure becomes more evident when compared with the results from the Nikon D90 side by side. Note: our 'Storm Trooper' is wearing an orange shirt.
The Nikon D90 also offers full support for the Nikon Creative Lighting System and Advanced Wireless Lighting capabilities with compatible Nikon Speedlights. Users from novice to enthusiast can easily explore creative wireless flash photography even in automatic exposure modes.
The D90's wireless flash "Commander mode" allows the built-in flash to function as the master flash unit and perform as a two-group remote commander that provides direct wireless control over one or more optional external SB-800, SB-600 or SB-R200 Nikon Speedlights.
Although Canon did add a feature for wireless flash control from the built-in speedlite on the higher end Canon EOS 7D, in order to achieve this functionality with the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D you need to invest in the external Canon ST-E2 transmitter, a $350 CAN accessory option.
The Nikon D90 features an AF-assist illuminator beam which aids flash photography in dim light by projecting a pattern of light so that the camera can focus. The beam is also used for redeye reduction.
The Canon Rebel T2i / 550D uses a multiple strobe burst from the built-in flash to illuminate the subject under low light conditions and for redeye reduction. The strobe from the flash has a tendency to make subjects blink before you take the picture since the AF-assist and redeye reduction pre-flashes are so bright. The strobe may also be seen as an interference by others depending on the situation.
The built-in flash on the Rebel T2i needs to be raised in order for the low light AF-assist system to work. Under similar conditions, the flash can be left down on the Nikon D90 since the AF-assist beam operates independently.
Nikon D90 battery EN-EL3e provides close to double the performance of the Canon Rebel T2i battery LP-E8: based on CIPA (Camera & Imaging Products Association) test standards the Nikon D90 can take up to 850 shots per charge with the supplied Nikon EN-EL3e battery (50% with built-in flash), compared to 470 shots per charge with the Canon Rebel T2i using the included LP-E8 Canon rechargeable battery under the same CIPA test conditions.
Once the GPs data is stored, images can be plotted on a map in Nikon View NX software or on-line at myPicturetown.com, as well as many other programs and web sites.
The Nikon D90 offers a greater degree of customization compared to the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D: the Nikon D90 features 41 custom functions compared to 13 on the Canon Rebel T2i. The D90 provides more range for fine tuning in terms of exposure control, metering, ISO range (available in steps of 1/2 and 1/3) and White Balance (WB).
For quick in-camera edits without the need of a computer, the Nikon D90 features a built-in "Retouch Menu'. Available options include:
to brighten shadow areas while keeping highlight areas intact
Based on the differences highlighted above, Canon could have placed themselves in a stronger position versus the competition with the Rebel T2i / EOS 550D by not increasing the resolution to 18MP on an APS-C size sensor.
While the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D does feature some welcome additions compared to the Canon Rebel T1i / EOS 500D, like the impressive 1.04 million dot anti-reflective 3:2 LCD monitor, 1080P HD movie recording with manual control + selectable frame rates and the updated 63-zone iFCL metering system, the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D does not offer enough improvements in our opinion to outclass the Nikon D90.
If being able to shoot digital SLR type HD movies is an important requirement, then the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D offers a distinct advantage versus the D90 as stated above. If photography rather than videography is the primary objective, the Nikon D90 offers extended features and overall performance abilities compared to the Rebel T2i while also offering the ability to capture very decent quality video clips to complement your stills.
If you do not already have an investment in lenses or a predetermined brand preference, we do not hesitate to recommend the Nikon D90 as a better solution compared to the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D.
Even for the novice DSLR photographer looking to expand upon their abilities and to learn on the go, the Nikon D90 SLR kit with the AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G zoom lens provides enhanced performance compared to the Canon Rebel T2i / 550D kit with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens.