First off, I must admit that the announcement Canon’s new Rebel, the T4i (known as the 650d outside of the US) took me for a complete surprise. I have certainly been known to follow the rumor mill in anticipation of new gear and cameras being released, but I really hadn’t done much of that in the last few months and thus this new camera was a complete surprise to me.
The BIGGEST feature of this camera setting it apart from the competition is Canon’s addition of a brand new auto-focus technology they are calling STM, which brings smooth, quiet auto-focus during video mode to a DSLR body for the very first time.
If you’ve come across this post, you may very well be aware of the dramatic changes that DSLR video-capable cameras have brought to the industry since Nikon’s foray into the field with the D90 a few years ago. Taking advantage of these cameras’ large sensors and their decades-long legacy of lenses, savvy vidographers quickly realized the creative doors that could be opened using this new technology. Before long, TV and Film studios caught on too and started using them for broadcast and feature film work. The finale episode of the hit television series HOUSE was shot on a Canon 5d and 7D! A huge obstacle to entry had been cut down to size, and its reverberations have already changed the industry dramatically and will only continue to do so going forward.
To make this new technological feat possible, Canon has designed two brand new STM lenses; a new 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 IS lens, retailing for $550 — and a new 40mm f2.8 STM pancake lens which will retail for $200. Both lenses incorporate a stepper motor for quicker, quieter AF during video capture and the new body adds a new contrast autofocus system in video mode that is similar to autofocus systems used in traditional camcorders and other video AF systems. Canon says that the new body can auto focus older, non-STM AF lenses during video capture too, but the new STM lenses will provide quicker, quieter and smoother performance than their predecessors.
The other big new feature of the T4i is the addition of a new touchscreen display – a first for Canon – and I believe it’s the first in the industry. This will undoubtedly make the T4i the most video-friendly body of the bunch.
All that being said, auto-focus during video mode is certainly not ideal in many applications. For any type of filmmaking, manual focus is really a necessity, allowing the camera operator to willfully tell a story behind the lens. However, for many types of shooting, including sports (or just any casual shooting where focusing manually becomes more of a chore than a creative avenue in which to tell a story), the T4i will likely become a welcome addition to many video shooters’ arsenals.
And from a purely customer-focused perspective, new bodies and new technology always serve the purpose of dropping prices of older gear and serves as a catalyst, spurring competitors to create new and better products in an effort to compete in an ever-evolving industry. And that’s always good for the end-user.
I’m looking forward to seeing this new T4i in person! Many merchants have already started taking pre-orders, with the bodies expected to ship around the end of June with an MSRP of $849