June 8, 2012 at 2:17 PM ET
Canon has announced the latest in its Rebel series of compact DSLR cameras, and while it doesn't change the brand drastically, its under-the-hood improvements are very substantial. The new T4i has better autofocus in still and video mode and a new image processor for better and faster shots. And they've finally put a touchscreen on the back.
The marquee feature on the T4i has to be its improved "hybrid" autofocus. It uses a combination of phase and contrast detection to focus faster and more accurately in both video and still mode; this is a much-needed improvement, as historically DSLRs have had slow autofocus in video and live view modes, or even none at all.
An upgraded image processor lets the camera shoot five frames per second, quite an improvement over the T3i's 3.7. And the ISO range has been improved too, bringing 12800 into normal range and 25600 into expanded. The sensor itself is new, but produces the same number of megapixels as the T3i; it's been upgraded to allow for the fast focusing.
Canon has also finally implemented a touchscreen display on the back (it swings and rotates like the T3i's as well), which lets the user set focus points, adjust settings, or release the shutter with a few well-placed taps.
Welcome improvements, certainly, and perhaps ones inspired by the mirrorless competition from Olympus, Panasonic, and Samsung. Their touchscreen interfaces and improved autofocus systems have been making Canon's DSLRs look a little dusty in recent months. Some say Canon is planning a mirrorless itself.
Canon also announced a pair of new "STM" lenses. They use a stepping-motor mechanism, making them nearly silent in operation. And the 40mm F/2.8 looks to be one of Canon's most compact lenses ever.
The T4i and new lenses will be available at the end of June; without a lens, the camera will sell for $850, and there will be kit deals if you want to spend more and save more. It's a bit expensive for what is meant to be their consumer DSLR, but touchscreens and new AF systems don't come cheap.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website is coldewey.cc.