Announced on March 21, 2013 and available in the marketplace this past April, the Canon Rebel T5i becomes the "new flagship model" of the Rebel line. Canon followers will be excused if they are suddenly imbued with a strong sense of deja vu, as the previous Rebel flagship, the T4i, first became available barely 10 months ago. If this quick turnover didn't resonate with Canon fans it certainly did with me -- when I did this site's review of the Rebel T2i back in 2010 it was coming to market 10 months after the T1i flagship. Barely a year later I did the T3i review, so never let it be said that Canon is sitting on its hands when it comes to refreshing the top end of the Rebel line.
"Refresh" might be too strong a word in the case of the T5i. A quick look at the major specifications between the two latest cameras shows they are virtually identical: 18 megapixel resolution, DIGIC 5 processor, identical exterior dimensions (but the T5i is about 1.8 ounces lighter), same viewfinder coverage, five FPS maximum shooting speed, full 1080 HD video, identical native and expanded ISO ranges, same basic AF system, viewfinder coverage and lens compatibility. The list goes on and I basically went blind comparing specifications between both cameras as I've never gotten hands-on with a T4i, but it's safe to say there is nothing significantly different between the two cameras. Unless, of course, you consider any of the following significant (and thanks to site editor Laura Hicks for ferreting out these differences in her hands-on preview of the T5i earlier this year at a Canon demo):
"The T5i has a redesigned hybrid CMOS AF system in order to accommodate the new STM lenses that are being released. Taking advantage of the stepping motor (STM) technology, these lenses eliminate autofocusing sounds by silently tracking the subject.
The T5i has an improved mode dial and scene modes in live view.
The T5i has "real time" viewing of creative filters. All adjustments can be made at the time of exposure instead of post processing after the image has been taken.
The T5i now has digital zoom in movie mode.
The T5i has a new texture/finish. Also, the allergy issues, which were originally present with the T4i's rubberized grip, have also been eliminated."
While it may be an oversimplification, when considering a camera purchase involving a particular camera or its follow-on model, it's generally prudent to go with the latest technology (i.e., the successor camera), assuming the absence of any strong reason not to. With such strikingly similar feature sets and specifications the decision to go for a T5i versus the older T4i may well come down to cost.
A T4i body is currently being offered by reputable Internet vendors at $799; the T4i with an 18-55 mm EF-S lens from the same vendor is $749 (thanks to a $150 rebate until early July) and with the 18-135mm STM lens $999. The T5i is currently going for the MSRP: body only for $750; 18-55mm STM lens kit at $899 (a $1 discount) and the 18-135mm STM kit is $1099.
The T5i makes use of SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media and Canon includes an eyecup, battery pack and charger, camera strap, USB interface cable, CD-ROM software and a printed camera instruction manual.
Build and Design
The Rebel T5i follows the current design philosophy for DSLRs with a rounded rectangular body topped by an elongated pentamirror/built-in flash housing and a deeply sculpted handgrip at the right front of the camera. The camera's overall dimensions are approximately 5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 inches, placing it towards the smaller end of the DSLR size spectrum; shooting weight of our review unit (battery, memory card,) with the 18-55mm lens was about 27.5 ounces. The camera itself is made in Japan, the lens in Taiwan. Materials, fit and finish appear appropriate for the price point
Ergonomics and Controls
As is typical with DSLRs falling towards the smaller end of the size spectrum, the little finger of my right hand had no place to go but curl itself under the camera body. The tip of my shooting finger fell a little bit past the shutter button and required a slight bit of relocation to feel right. There was adequate room for the fingers of my shooting hand in the space between the handgrip and lens barrel. The handgrip and thumb rest area on the right front and rear of the camera are covered with a somewhat tacky rubberized material that promotes a firmer grip. The left side has the same material adorning it, but typically the left shooting hand doesn't make contact with it. The T5i balances nicely with the 18-55 kit lens. As with any DSLR body falling towards the smaller end of the spectrum, folks with large hands should try before they buy.
The top center of the camera contains a hot shoe and microphones along with the built-in flash assembly; the top right is taken up by the shutter button, main dial, ISO speed setting button, power switch, and mode dial. A good part of the camera back is dedicated to the articulating monitor; arranged horizontally from left to right across the top rear of the body are menu and info buttons, the diopter adjustment knob for the viewfinder, live view shooting/movie shooting button, AE lock/FE lock button and AF point selection/magnify button. Arrayed vertically to the right of the monitor from top to bottom are an aperture exposure compensation button, quick control button and a configuration of white balance, picture style selection, drive mode selection, and AF operation selection cross keys surrounding a setting button. Below this array are playback and erase buttons, arranged horizontally. Memory card storage is accessed on the right side of the camera while the left houses connections for an external microphone and HDMI/digital output connections.
The LCD monitor is a touch sensitive panel that may be operated with fingers; tapping the quick control icon causes the quick control screen to appear and display icons of operations that may be possible by touch control, such as setting menu functions, ISO, metering method, image size, autofocus method, flash configuration settings and compensation, auto lighting optimizer, white balance, exposure compensation and picture style settings. Depending on the individual shooting mode chosen on the mode dial, some or most of the above functions may not be available.
The T5i also has a touch shutter incorporated into its monitor operation that is available in any shooting mode. You can enable touch shutter by pressing the live view button and checking the touch shutter icon on the screen's bottom left--if the touch shutter is off activate it by tapping the icon (the touch shutter setting can also be activated via internal menu). Once the touch shutter is active simply tap on any point on the monitor screen (except the touch shutter icon) to establish focus and the camera will take the picture once focus is acquired.
There is a remote control sensor for wireless remote operation of the camera located at the front of the handgrip, but its location means wireless operation can only be performed with the operator standing towards the front of the camera, unlike some competitive cameras in the class that feature sensors facing the front and rear.
Menus and Modes
Menus in the T5i are about what you would expect from an entry-level/midrange DSLR: detailed, but fairly intuitive and not so daunting as those found in a professional model camera. Menu tabs and items displayed within will differ depending on the shooting mode, and Canon broadly groups individual T5i shooting modes into basic zone, creative zone and movie shooting categories.
The basic zone modes include scene intelligent auto, flash off creative auto, portrait, landscape, close-up, sports and special scene shooting options; the creative zone modes encompass the traditional DSLR modes of aperture and shutter priority, program auto, and fully manual exposure. The movie shooting options speaks for itself, but it is probably more accurate to call it live view shooting as both video and still images can be captured in this mode. Canon provides a quick visual clue to help you differentiate between basic and creative zone shooting modes--the creative zone modes are enclosed within a silver bracket on the mode dial while the movie shooting mode is accessed by toggling the on-off switch to the white movie camera icon. Anything else on the mode dial is a basic zone mode.
A basic zone modes offer a one page shooting menu, one page live view shooting menu, two-page playback menu and three page setup menu. Creative zone menus are more complex: a three page shooting menu, one page live view shooting menu, two-page playback menu, four page setup menu and a one-page "my menu settings" menu. With the camera set for live view there is a three page setup menu, two-page live view shooting menu, two-page playback menu, four page setup menu and the my menu settings menu. The image shows a look at the basic menu lineup for a creative zone setting.
If you look closely you'll notice the first three camera icons at the top of the screen have a small dot or dots adjacent to it, indicating it as page 1, 2 or 3 of the shooting menu. The fourth camera icon is slightly different from the shooting menu icons, indicating it is the live view menu. Playback menu pages are indicated by the playback icon and corresponding dots, wrench icons signify set up menus and the star icon represents the "my menu settings" menu. You can scroll horizontally right or left in the menu pages and up or down amongst the items of any individual page with the appropriate corresponding cross key. Individual items in the menu may then be selected by the set button, which causes further options to be displayed.
Here's a more detailed look at the T5i shooting options:
The 3 inch TFT liquid crystal monitor on the T5i has an approximately 1.04 million dot composition and is adjustable for seven levels of brightness. Hinged at its left edge, the monitor can be swung horizontally through 180 degrees of travel and rotated along the center of its long axis through 270 degrees, allowing its use as either a waist level or overhead viewfinder. Despite its ability to articulate and be adjustable for brightness there were times when using the monitor in bright outdoor conditions for image composition or review were difficult. This problem is exacerbated by using the monitor's touchscreen features with the concurrent smudging produced by the fingertips. Monitor coverage is approximately 100%.
The eye level pentamirror viewfinder features .85x magnification and approximately 95% coverage in both horizontal and vertical planes. This degree of coverage means that objects towards the edges of the frame that are not visible during image composition will be visible when the final image is actually captured, making precise framing a bit more difficult. The viewfinder has a built-in diopter adjustment to compensate for varying degrees of eyesight acuity. In practice the viewfinder was pleasant to use and certainly on a par with other viewfinders of cameras in this class.
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