Canon T2i vs Nikon D90

by Enche Tjin on February 10, 2010

If you plan to get a Nikon D90, you might a bit hesitate after the release of Canon T2i / 550D. It is cheaper, look very strong in the spec paper. But is Canon T2i really a superior choice? Let’s discuss!

Canon T2i / 550D Nikon D90
MP 18 mp 12 mp
ISO 100-6400 (12800) 200-3200 (6400)
fps 3.7 4.5
LCD 3:2 ratio 3″ 1 million res. 4:3 ratio 3″ 920k res.
Movie Up to Full HD 1024p @ various fps. Manual exposure control available. optional external mic jack. Standard HD 720p @24 fps and 5 mins/video. No manual exposure control.
Viewfinder Pentamirror 95% coverage 0.87x magnification Pentaprism 96% coverage 0.94x magnification
Lens 18-55mm IS 18-105mm VR

Comparing image resolution, Canon T2i is clearly superior in number, 18 megapixel and ISO range up to 12800. However, both cameras will do well only up to 1600 due to limitation of sensor size. From there, image quality starts to fell down significantly. So, is 18 mp provides a better quality image? the answer is yes if you shoot in low ISO because you will capture more detail, but if you shoot at 1600 or greater, D90 produces a cleaner result with more details.

One area that Canon T2i really shines is in the movie recording feature. It has the essential manual exposure control, optional external jack and most importantly it records 1080p @24, 25 or 30fps, while D90 only record standard HD 720p @ 24fps.

So is the Canon T2i is a better camera? The answer will depend on how you gonna use this photo/video tool. Nikon D90 is a better camera to use in practice because it has brighter and bigger viewfinder, great body and handling and bundled with better lens.

Based on my experience, those qualities are  important for taking still pictures. However, Canon T2i might be something that you might want if you want to explore creative video and multimedia or you have collection of Canon lenses. Keep in mind that the video recording mode in DSLR is not as efficient and easy to use compare to camcorder.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Darren February 10, 2010 at 7:33 am

Hi Enche

I was interested in some of your comments, especially about shooting up to ISO1600 and beyond. I’m interested in buying this camera and haven’t seen any other reviews that speak to the quality at high ISOs. What exactly would you say your experience of shooting at high ISOs was with the cannon? How did the pictures come out?

Enche Tjin February 10, 2010 at 7:42 am

Hi Darren,

Generally, Canon strategy to keep the image looks acceptable in high ISO is using special algorithm to suppress noises (Color and luminance) in expense of detail. So when you zoom in the image, you will see less detail. Generally pictures are good, especially the color. Canon picture is generally more saturated and warmer than Nikon.

kamera-gue February 10, 2010 at 11:49 pm

In term of ergonomy (grip, handling, body material, button layout, direct access button) all ‘value EOS’ lineup don’t even able to match the ergonomy of D90. How comfortable the photographer when holding camera is is one important factor for serious shooter, especially when a big lens is attached. Plus, D90 has two dial wheel on a proper place (front side and back side) while EOS maintaining a dial wheel on a wrong place near a shutter button (IMO).

Enche Tjin February 11, 2010 at 2:47 am

Oh.. yeah two dials are better than one. The Canon EOS Rebels front dial do not bother me because we generally don’t change aperture/shutter setting and press shutter at the same time.

But I also don’t like the placement of D90’s front dial. I wish the placement is like the one in Canon Rebels camera.

Well, seems like no camera is perfect

Darren February 12, 2010 at 9:14 am

Ah. I thought that you were speaking from experience. So what you’re saying is, that you expect image quality to fall off after ISO1600, but you haven’t actually seen this for yourself?

Enche Tjin February 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

Darren, there is a Canon T2i sample photo gallery that you might be interested to check out yourself.

Lee Widerick June 26, 2010 at 4:46 pm

I recently bought a Nikon D90 with the M80 Battery grip, spare battery and 18mm-105 VR lens. My friend picked up the T2i with a few other lenses and I got to play with his Rebel today side by side of my D90. I am not a pro shooter I just want to state that now, and all this is subject to my opinion.

To start with, most of us that have been shooting for a long time understand stability in our camera; I say this because I find that the smaller the camera the less stability we have in shooting. I find that with small cameras I’m more prone to shaking when I want to take a shot that requires longer exposure times. This being said the D90 vs. T2i wins hands down. The D90 is a bigger body with more grip, you’re not searching for somewhere to put your hands and the weight feels good in your hands. Also the front and back dials are ideally places and offer quick changes for those of us who enjoy shooting in manual mode without having to take your eye away from the viewfinder. I can easy change ISO, WB, F-stop, shutter speed and an assortment of other features extremely quickly on the D90. On the T2i I felt as if I always had to look away and hit a buttons to change settings. Also on the T2i trying to use the Focus selector in the viewfinder was non intuitive. On the D90 you can quickly move around your Focus selector with the built in D-pad and it also has a wrap around feature that makes it quick to go from one side to the other in demanding situations.

As far as the 18mp vs. 12mp, ISO range, and HD Video comparison between the two, I let the technology speak for itself. Yes canon has done a great job on these features and I think they have put allot into the sensors and soft ware package. Would I use my D90 for video? Maybe, in a pinch however maybe it’s just me but in the end, these cameras should be left for the DSLR market. I give props to those who find lots of uses for the HD video feature on the T2i. Personally I believe as a DSLR the D90 wins hands down; functionality, feel, and just general all around use. Everything is right where you need it without looking for it. Also the kit 18mm – 105mm with VR is a wonderful lens that covers a wide field of uses.


Ryan September 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Anyone who is trying to make a distinction between these two great cameras should check out this comparison:

It’s important to realize that when it comes to specs such as image resolution and ISO range, bigger isn’t always better. This review does a great job on examining that.

Jeff November 10, 2010 at 11:44 pm

I’m in the boat as many other of trying to decide between these two cameras. I will say that I stumbled onto the review Ryan posted and I’m very leary of it. While it appears VERY well researched, the slant towards the D90 makes me uncomfortable. Almost every line of the D90 is saying why it’s better than the T2i and every line of the T2i is saying why it’s worse than the D90. Couple that with the fact that if you hit the root of the website it doesn’t appear that they really focus on reviewing anything and for them to put that much detail into a camera comparison for a non-camera focused review site just smells of Nikon propoganda. Also, just so I don’t look like a Canon fanboy crying, we’ve purchased Nikon D5000 for my wife’s use previous to this and we’ve been very happy with it (I’m looking for a camera of my own currently though). I just wanted to weigh in on a review that smelled funny to me.

Jeff November 10, 2010 at 11:52 pm

Hmmm, I just realized I went the root of the .com site, not the .ca. Now that I see how focused that site really is on camera reviews I withdraw the majority of my above post. It still seems heavily slanted, but I’m more inclined to believe most of it now at least. If the moderator can delete my two posts I would be fine with that. Thanks.

scott November 27, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Hello Enche, I am looking for a dslr for my wife who is very picky about still picture quality but not interested in video at all. I had had been planning to get her the cannon T2i but your analysis convinced me to go with the D90–(the other camera I was considering and , in fact,the way I way I came to your site); however, it turned out to be to heavy for her –Can you recommend a lighter weight camera that might meet her need for good picture quality

Enche Tjin November 27, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Has she tried Canon T2i ? It is about 200g lighter (body). If she still feel it is heavy, then I suggest Sony NEX.

Masters86 November 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm

For still pictures only, either Canon or Nikon will give you excellent results. It depends on which “look” you like better. I prefer the Canon look. For pictures and video, neither Nikon nor Canon can touch the Sony a55

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