This past weekend I went out and purchased my first DSLR for personal use. After weeks of reviewing DSLR camera’s I settled on the Canon T1i or 500D as it is called in Europe.
Ever since I was a Freshman in High School and even before then, I was interested in photography. I will never forget taking my first summer school class as an incoming freshman in photography and really falling in love with the art and the mechanics of it all. Naturally I borrowed equipment from my Dad (which I am sure was from the 1960’s), and soon after was able to invest in my first SLR after mowing enough lawns. I really learned the art through Black and White photography, and then decided to minor in it in College, where I tried my hand at large format Black and White. Soon after graduation from college and making even more money, I bought my first New SLR, the Canon EOS elan IIe (I am looking to sell this if anyone is interested). This was 1999 and still the era of 35mm film. Digital however was making its ways into the scene, but I just bought what was a revolutionary eye tracking SLR camera. (I wish I had waited a few more years). A few years later I have a family and am on my second house now. Money isn’t flowing like it once was as a bachelor, so research was king in my decisions when looking for a new SLR, now a DSLR. This brings me to the actual point where this past weekend I bought what I hope to be the camera that will help me revitalize my love I had for photography.
For those who do not know, the T1i has two close cousins in the Canon Family, the 50D and the 5D Mark II. The 50D being the closest cousin to the T1i. Originally right before the news of the T1i, I was looking at purchasing the Canon XSi in which a friend of mine had purchased earlier. However, the news of the T1i peeked my interest for several reasons. First, it was new, it had to be good right? OK, it was the fact that this camera was the first sub $1,000 Canon DSLR with the DIGIC 4 image processor, which has lower noise, faster frames, and the capability of doing high definition video. Second, was the price point. I wanted a camera kit (with lens) for less than $1,000. Sad to say, but the 50D was out of my price range from the start, and that was without the lens, plus no video. Third, 15.1 mega pixels. I know, the marketing hype does work somewhat for me. The more mega pixels the better right . . . well, in this case, it is a larger sensor, so I was OK with a couple more mega pixels. Last, it was a Canon. I looked at all the competitive models, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony, but came back to the Canon, because I knew the interface from my previous job, which had a Canon EOS XT, and the fact that I had one previous Canon EF Lens from my Elan IIe days. To me, research showed me the Canon T1i was my next camera.
Let me start this section with a little background. I think the first photo on every camera should be a picture of a flower, why, well, is shot decently, it will look nice, show the camera’s tonal range, image sharpness, show depth of field, lens bokeh, and in my case let me know that the camera is working properly. In my case, after close review, I noticed several red dots on each and every photo I took, and in the exact same spot. After a lens change/cleaning, and numerous sensor cleanings, I realized the red dots were due to dead pixels on the sensor. All said and done, I was able to return mine for a new one with little questions asked.
After all said and done, the images are were very clean with the auto focus and manual focus working very well, even in lower light conditions. I tend to shoot in aperture priority as I like to be able to compose my shots more than one with a point-and-shoot camera would. The camera was quick and responsive, as well as accurate when using the auto white balance. Some people have complained about soft images, and reporting that the lens is not that great for such a high mega pixel camera. I am not sure that that is a sound argument in that, One, there are smaller sensor point-and-shoot cameras with tack sharp images, and might I add, smaller, and cheaper lenses. And two, depending on the AF mode you are in, and a whole host of other variables, sometimes manual focus is just better.
In all, I am extremely pleased with the images I have been able to make with this camera and lens kit. Even when testing this camera in several ISO ranges, the images showed little to no noise, and vibrant color.
I will be the first to admit that the Video feature is an extra for me on this camera. I wanted the camera more for photography than video. It is in an essence, and extra feature that when I need it will be great to have it. That being said, the Canon shoots two different rates of HD video, 1080p 20FPS and 720p 30 FPS video. The problem is, the 1080p at 20 frames per second is practically unusable and a huge disappointment once the action or camera moves. There is a lot of jitter once something happens to move. I guess this would be great for still life or slow life movies, but then, why not use a still image if nothing is going to change? I think Canon in their infinite wisdom missed out on the “Full HD” idea. It needs to be usable. I would wish for an update to 1080p at 24 FPS, but I will not hold my breath on that.
The 720p at 30 FPS video on the other hand is sharp and very usable video. I think the average video user will be more than happy with this configuration. I found very smooth panning was able to be accomplished, and moving objects did not have the same jagged, stuttering feel to them as in the 1080p video.
Some overall drawbacks I noticed was the auto focusing noise on the video and the lack of an audio input jack. To start, The auto focus is a bit strange coming from a camcorder. Each time you want to focus using auto focus, you need to press and hold a button. This then makes the lens motor activate, and become a noise on the video because the microphone is placed near the lens. I have hear that if the lens were a Canon USM (ultrasonic) lens, this might be less of an issue. In any case, I think manual focus is a workaround for this for the time being until I test some other methods and/or lens configurations.
As for the sound input methods, there is only one, and that is the mono pick-up microphone that is on the front of the camera. This comes to a little disappointment to me, because like I said the video feature is a nice odd-on feature for me, not the main reason I bought this camera. The sound is, well as good as mono sound will be. It works, but could and will be better as future camera versions evolve.
In my overall viewpoint, the video features need some work from Canon. I would not buy this camera for the video. This is first and foremost a still camera with video capabilities. If you are looking for video first, look elsewhere.
The Canon T1i is a great camera with extensive options for the amateur to the pro. With the wide assortment of EF and EF-S lenses able to be used, one could go broke quickly. The camera is a little light for my taste, but adding a vertical grip to the bottom gives a weight that is more hefty. The lens that comes with the camera kit is a basic intro lens. I wish that it was a USM lens, because this lens is a bit noisy audibly. The lens is however image stabilized (IS) which is great for those without a steady hand, or shooting action. The camera will also work with several other Canon IS lenses giving you options galore.
The color reproduction is accurate and vibrant and with the new DIGIC 4 image processing chip, low in noise. I find that shooting indoors at iso 800 and no flash will still produce great looking natural images. The white balance also works fairly well, but has some limitations. This is where the custome white balance feature shines. With a few clicks you can have every shot looking closer to the actual lighting you see through you eyes.
Finally, I think Canon did a great job in making a sub $1,000 camera a hit. Personally I love it, and plan on keeping it for some time as I get back into photography. I would consider this a pro-sumer camera that isn’t too hard for a knowldgable amateur or professional in need of a lighter street camera.