Canon 500D review (EOS Rebel T1i in the US) - the DSLR bringing Full HD video to the masses; the What Digital Camera test of the Canon 500D DSLR reveals all...
The Canon 500D launch came at the same time as Nikon’s D5000 (first sample images available here), a model that is likely to be its closest rival, based on features and street price. The abnormal situation of rising camera prices may have left a convenient gap in the market for this type of camera, and interest level for the 500D has been high.However, does it offer enough of a benefit to the photographer to justify the £870 price?
The next models up from the Canon EOS 500D are the two-digit EOS 40D and EOS 50D. The newer EOS 50D offers benefits over the 500D and has a £400 higher RRP, yet currently you can pick one up on the internet for just £830 – that’s £40 less than the 500D. At the lower end are the still current EOS 450D at £670 and the entry model EOS 1000D at £460, with further savings on both to be found online. So what does the new Canon 500D bring that is unique from the others, and has caused it to gain so much attention? The What Digital Camera Canon EOS 500D review reveals all…
Hidden inside Canon 500D’s body is a brand new 15.1MP APS-C sensor, and though similar to that featured in the EOS D50 it doesn’t benefit from having gapless sensor sites. This produces an image that is 4752×3168 pixels in size, or roughly A3 size at 300dpi. However, this is enough resolution to take enlargements to A2 and beyond for poster-sized prints or selective enlargements. This sensor has impressive low-light and noise capabilities, allowing an ISO range of 100-3200 ISO, plus extended values of 6400, and H (approx. 12800 ISO) when allowed through the custom functions.
Canon EOS 500D review – Features
Canon EOS 500D review – processor
The 500D also features the latest DIGIC 4 processor and is designed to handle large image sizes at speed to ensure prolonged continuous shooting at 3.4 frames per second for up to 170 images in JPEG format, or nine Raw images. The 14-bit processing also ensures rapid start-up and review times.
Canon EOS 500D focusing and metering
The Canon 500D handles focusing by a 9-point TTL system, set out in a diamond formation around the centre-point and gives decent coverage of the viewfinder for all but the most extreme uses. The Canon 500D’s metering is equally well equipped, offering the TTL 35-zone system, with choice of spot, partial, evaluative, and centre-weighted options. Exposure compensation is available in third or half-stop measures up to a maximum of +/-2EV.
Canon EOS 500D sensor cleaning
As with previous EOS models, the Canon 500D automatically cleans the sensor in-camera by vibrating the sensor to shake dust off. This happens every time the 500D is turned on and off, and takes just a few seconds, though can be bypassed on start-up by half-pressing the shutter button, or disabled via the menu system. Canon has also sought to eliminate dust by reducing the amount generated inside the EOS 500D and, for stubborn particles, a dust-mapping mode used in conjunction with the Digital Photo Pro (DPP) editing software.
Canon EOS 500D LCD screen
The Canon 500D’s rear LCD screen may not have grown in size from the 3in model on the 450D (not that you’d need it to) but it has drastically improved in quality. It now boasts a resolution of approximately 920,000 dots, opposed to the 230,000 previously. This has resulted in a much crisper display that is very usable, even in bright conditions, thanks to new anti-glare coatings. This is particularly useful when it comes to composition, as the rear screen can be used with LiveView mode. The Canon EOS 500D has LiveView; allowing for full 100% coverage of the image on the LCD screen, refreshed at 30fps and with real-time evaluative metering.
Focusing can be achieved manually, using the focus ring on the lens, and the image can be magnified by five or ten times to ensure accurate adjustment. Autofocus is also available in three forms: Live mode, with a fully adjustable focus point across the whole image; face detection mode, which automatically recognises and tracks faces; or quick focus to use one of the nine AF points. The 500D also allows a grid overlay and live histogram to be shown on screen to aide composition and exposure.
Canon EOS 500D HD Movie mode
The Canon EOS 500D also has that all important 1080p Full HD Movie mode, accessed by selecting from the shooting menu on the top dial (it works in much the same way as the LiveView mode). The image is displayed on the rear screen and focusing can be achieved manually or by the three AF modes featured in LiveView. Recording is started and stopped via the LiveView button on the rear, while pressing the shutter the camera will still take a still image, even while recording video.
The 500D saves in a .MOV format at a choice of VGA or 720p at 30fps or 1080p at 20fps and sound is picked up via a small mono microphone on the front of the camera.
The only function missing is the ability to plug in an external microphone, but otherwise this appears fairly comprehensive.
Canon EOS 500D lenses
As with previous models, the Canon EOS 500D accepts Canon’s entire range of EF and EF-S lenses, giving you a huge range of creative possibilities. As well as the body only version, kits are also available with either an 18-55mm or 18-200mm lens in the box.
Canon EOS 500D shooting modes
On top of the regular creative shooting modes of Manual, Aperture priority (Av), Shutter priority (Tv), and Program (P), the Canon EOS 500D offers an aperture dependant mode (A-dep), which will highlight the area in focus using the AF points, and creative auto (CA). Creative auto provides the same control as the regular creative modes but in a simplified form to allow new users to experiment with ease.
A display on the screen gives two sliders – one for background sharpness and one for the overall brightness – essentially controlling the aperture and shutter, while flash and drive modes can still be set manually. For a more point and shoot control there is also a full auto mode (green square) and six scene modes.
Canon EOS 500D flash unit
The Canon EOS 500D has a built-in flash unit which springs open by pressing the button to the left side of the camera and will also open automatically if using the auto and scene modes. The flash itself sits nice and high above the lens and will cover wide enough for a 17mm lens focal length (27mm equivalent). It has a guide number of 13, meaning it will cover up to 13 meters at 100ISO – fairly standard for a built-in unit – and will sync up to 1/200th/sec. It does also feature red eye reduction and +/-2EV flash compensation. The full range of Speedlite models can be attached via the hotshoe and works with E-TTLII to provide complete control.
Canon EOS 500D SD card
Images are stored on Secure Digital (SD) cards, and it is fully compatible with SDHC cards for faster write times and larger storage capacities. Images and video can also be outputted and downloaded via the mini USB AV and mini HDMI ports.