on April 29, 2009
Here's a quick, first impressions (from hands on shooting) of the Rebel T1i. Although we'll need more scientific examinations to determine ultimate image quality and usability, I'll try to give a hint into the camera's potential.
I'll not go in to any real detail on the kit lens, which has been well reviewed. Let's just agree that $100 for a good quality IS (image stabalized) lens is a very reasonable value it you don't have another option. There are no obvious reasons this kit lens should make or break your choice of this camera over a competitor's.
Styling and build wise, the T1i is an XSi made over, which is not a bad thing. Some found that camera to be a bit on the small size for their hands, or a bit lacking in weight, but most like the size and weight (include me). It uses the same, proven battery and accessories of the XSi. I've already used some generic batteries that worked well in an XSi, with similar good results, but I do not want to lump all generics in the "good to go" category.
In using the camera, the first thing you'll notice over the previous Rebels in the marvelous LCD screen. Yep, the images look much cleaner even at the original size. Don't get confused if you compare this camera side-by-side and think it's images are all that much better. They just look much better on such a sharp LCD.
First looks at IQ (Image Quality) were very impressive. I tried using the camera in a variety of situtations (biased to how I would use it), and got very good results throughout. Focusing was typical for a better Rebel, and images looked good throughout the ISO range, based on reasonable expectations. I thought the Auto White Balance is a very good job compared to previous results I'd had with Canons in general. They weren't perfect, but the tungsten areas seemed to look better than average. All in all, I'd say Canon made reasonable progress with the jump to 15 meg, but probably no reason to trade-in your XSi.
Live View never has been one of my biggest thrills, but the sharp LCD makes it a bit more enjoyable. If I was still shooting macros, I would like it much more.
But the biggest advantage of the newer screen for some will be while shooting videos. I only did videos in the 1080p mode, and was impressed by the quality. Sound was OK, and I was a bit disappointed that Canon doesn't have an option audio input (ala the 5D mkII or camcorders with intellegent shoe). I'm also not sure how practical the videos will be, considering they aren't using a "direct to HiDef player" format like AVCHD or AVCHD Lite. Also, 20fps is a bit odd for 1080p, but their software does support frame grapping, which should give nice 4x6 prints (there's a bit more than 2meg per frame). The 720p is recorded in a more standard 30fps, which should also help with moving subjects. You can also shoot a full 15meg image while recording your videos. You videos are interrupted for about a second (you'll see a still image for that length in the video playback), but the high quality image will be recorded in its own file (no need to frame grab). BTW, autofocusing did work during this recording, but the noise was picked up by the mic.
OK, so I liked the camera, but how would I rate it compared to the competition. Well, compared to the XSi, it's better, but maybe not worth the money. The LCD is grand (that alone would get my money), and it's a no brainer if you need video or shoot lots of macros. But with resent price drops and combo deals from Canon, the XSi should still be strong based on value.
I've also had a bit of experience with the new Nikon D5000 (but even less so). Although initial pricing is about $50 higher on the T1i, I thought the Canon was clearly more interesting. I like the way Sony incorporated an articulated LCD, but hate it on the D5000. I was constantly setting the camera down with the LCD back being the first thing to touch. You might never break it, but you'll surely scratch the cosmetics. The D5000 doesn't have the motor built into the body, so there's a bit of a limitation to lens. However, the biggest drawback was that the D5000's built-in flash doesn't support their wireless flash system (with their new lineup, we'll have to move up to the D90). The D5000 really needs to be lined up against the XSi, not the T1i.
The 14mp Sony Alpha 350 might be a good value oriented competitor (when Sony offers bundles), but the IQ of the Canon's CMOS sensor is probably better in most moderate to low light conditions. I think you'll be seeing something soon to replace this model.
Thus, it's prime competitors should be Canon's own XSi, the D5000 (especially if they drop the price about $100 more), and for those with a bit more money, the Nikon D90.
The T1i carries on the tradition of Canon Rebels with a lot of "curbside appeal" matched with solid performance.