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.
The T5i starts promptly upon power up -- while there's a split second delay in the monitor becoming active the focus points in the camera viewfinder seem to go active sooner and I was able to get off a first shot in about .75 seconds. Single shot to shot times are basically as quickly as you can press the shutter button, reacquire focus and shoot again. Autofocus acquisition times were comparable to other cameras in the class in good light and, not unexpectedly, dropped off a little bit in dim light. The built-in flash operates as a focus assist lamp only if it is deployed -- there is no dedicated focus assist lamp per se.
Continuous shooting speed is listed as 5 frames per second and Canon claims the T5i can manage this rate for 30 frames of JPEG fine images using an 8GB UHS-1 memory card. I shot the camera using a 32 GB Lexar 600x SDHC memory card and the camera produced 16 images at the 5 frame per second rate before settling down to about a 3 frame per second rate that it appeared content to maintain indefinitely. Canon also claims 6 RAW images or 3 RAW/JPEG Fine combinations can be captured at full speed and our review unit met both of these figures. I reset the camera to default settings and tried everything I could think of but just couldn't get the T5i to produce the 30 shot burst at full speed touted by Canon.
What I did manage to do at one point was get a combination of settings into the camera that caused it to take three shots at what seemed full speed and then settle down to about 2.5 or 3 frames per second. I tried taking settings out and changing things around but to no avail -- I never did discover what exactly slowed the camera up. Resetting the camera to default settings brought back the speed and I was able to introduce additional settings that I wished to include in the image capture process without impacting the continuous burst speed. If you're the type that likes to fiddle around with camera settings and find you knocked out the camera's continuous shooting performance I'd suggest saving time and go straight to a reset followed by adding in settings that are of importance to you.
Write times for the 16 image burst of JPEG's were quite good, about 3.5 seconds; the 6 RAW images took about 4.5 seconds. The blinking of the access lamp indicates when file writing is in process, but Canon put it in probably the worst possible place at the lower right of the camera back where you shooting hand completely obscures it. The T5i will shoot before the buffer completely clears but the access lamp location means you have to change your shooting grip to see its status.
The T5i seemed to do a pretty good job holding focus on moving subjects during continuous shooting, perhaps in part due to the fact that all nine AF sensors are cross-type which maximize AF efficiency. A longer lens such as the 18-135mm kit lens would have provided a stiffer test on more distant subjects like surfers but in any event I have no complaints with the continuous autofocus performance of the T5i. The autofocus operation menu for the camera is succinct: you have choices of One Shot, AI Focus or AI Servo. One Shot, as the name implies, establishes focus for a single shot. AI Focus starts out as One Shot AF but if the camera senses the subject is moving converts to AI Servo. AI Servo, logically, is for moving subjects.
The T5i built-in flash is listed as having a guide number of 43 feet at 100 ISO; this translates into a flash range of about 12 feet at wide-angle and 7.5 feet at telephoto. These ranges can be increased by setting increased ISO sensitivity. I found recycle times on the flash to be quick, generally well under the 3 second time reported by Canon. The camera displays a "busy" notification together with a thunderbolt in both the viewfinder and monitor while the flash is recycling, and the camera will not fire with the flash deployed during a recycle period.
Battery life for the T5i is listed as 550 shots using the viewfinder and 200 shots using live view.
The EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM zoom lens supplied with the T5i shoots at a 35mm equivalent 29 to 88mm focal range owing to the camera sensor's 1.6x crop factor. Here's a look at both ends of that zoom:
The lens is marked with delineations at the 18, 24, 35 and 55mm focal points and appears to be of largely composite material construction. Neither the camera nor lens is weather sealed. The lens looked fairly uniformly sharp at wide-angle across the entire frame; at telephoto the corners looked to be a little bit soft. There's a bit of barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the lens that disappears as this lens is zoomed into the 26 to 27mm range, and I noted no other distortions out to the 55mm telephoto end.
There was a fair amount of lateral chromatic aberration (purple fringing) at the wide-angle end of the lens in high contrast boundary areas that in the worst cases, with close scrutiny, were apparent at 100% enlargement. There is a chromatic aberration correction feature in the T5i that may be enabled by the user and this did a very good job of correcting this defect. Folks who shoot this lens frequently at the wide-angle end with would be well served to enable the chromatic aberration correction feature as a default setting. The lens displayed a bit of lateral chromatic aberration at the telephoto end, but the amount was miniscule compared to wide-angle and difficult to detect until enlargements reached 200 or 300%.
The action of the zoom ring was smooth and required about 60 degrees of rotation to zoom from one lens extreme to the other. The focus ring is feather light to the touch. Close focus distance on this lens is a bit less than 10 inches which gives the lens a good close up capability. While not a true macro lens offering a 1:1 reproduction ratio, you can get pretty close to some tiny objects. Here's a look at a Navajo turquoise bracelet and industrious bee loading up on pollen in a cactus flower:
Video quality was quite good in the T5i -- and the STM lens was as good as advertised in not introducing autofocus noises into video soundtracks. The camera's microphones can be susceptible to wind noise but there is a wind cut feature that may be enabled by the user.
Acquiring focus initially can sometimes take 2 or 3 seconds, and on a number of occasions a bit more, but once established the T5i automatic AF adjusts to changes in focus distance fairly rapidly (and certainly quietly). Initial focus is established by a half push of the shutter button while video capture requires pushing the live view/movie shooting button to initiate or cease video capture. Completing a full push of the shutter button after establishing focus in video mode results in a single still image being taken. The live view movie shooting button is nicely placed for easy activation by the thumb of the shooting hand and the camera begins and ends video image capture promptly upon input with this button.
The default focus method for video capture is face+tracking, but there are also flexi zone -- multi and flexi zone -- single options available. Face+tracking detects and focuses on human faces; flexi zone-multi automatically selects up to 31AF points covering a wide area to be used for focus and flexi zone-single uses a single AF point to acquire focus. In practice, I found the default and flexi zone-multiple methods took the longest time to acquire focus, while flexi zone-single was consistently a bit quicker. If I were shooting video regularly with the T5i flexi zone single would be my AF method of choice for video capture, if for no other reason than to get the process underway quicker.
Default images out of the T5i are captured in the camera's "auto" picture style, which to my eye includes colors that are too deeply saturated and vivid compared to real life. Another drawback of auto is that the images appear a bit soft for my liking but nothing can be done about that in the camera. If you shoot the T5i with the color palette set to auto your only recourse for sharpening is through post processing as there is no additional sharpening available in-camera. As a practical matter, all the basic zone shooting modes use the "auto" picture style while the creative zone semiautomatic modes allow the user to choose from other picture style options such as standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, or monochrome. To my eye, neutral and faithful offer the most accurate approximation of the actual scene. Here's a look at the complete picture style lineup:
An additional advantage of shooting in the creative zone modes is that with the exception of auto the other six picture style color options allow the user to modify sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone within each specific color. By maximizing sharpness, shooting in the creative zone modes and opting for a picture style other than auto I was able to generate JPEGs out of the T5i that required no additional post processing.
However, one long-standing gripe of mine with Canon DSLRs continues--the T5i outputs images at 72 dots per inch, which results in an image size of 72 x 48 inches. You'll have to resize T5i output for the best quality prints and examining a 72 inch print at 100% enlargement (which is the size needed to best appreciate effects to the image from sharpening or other processing) is an onerous task -- and in all likelihood you'll be downsizing the 72 inch original to a more manageable size for email transmission as well. To my mind, 300 dpi output is the best of both worlds -- ready to print as is with downsizing to 72 dpi required for the most efficient emails. By way of example, all the product shots of the T5i were taken with my Nikon D3s and went straight to the review out of the camera -- every T5i image was resized to 300 dpi.
Auto white balance was used for virtually every image produced by the T5i for this review, the exception being the jewelry photos which were shot using a studio incandescent light system with the T5i set to the tungsten white balance preset. Auto white balance did a good job with a variety of lighting including daylight, open shade, flash and incandescent. The T5i also provides daylight, shade, cloudy, white fluorescent and flash presets along with a custom white balance option.
Evaluative metering is the default metering mode in the T5i, a general-purpose metering mode suited for most subjects and scenes and was used for all the T5i images in this review. The camera also offers partial metering, spot metering and center weighted metering options. In high contrast scenes the T5i had a tendency to clip highlights, a not uncommon occurrence with this form of metering. However, having recently reviewed both the Pentax K-30 and Nikon D5200 my impression was the T5i clips highlights to a higher degree than either of the other two cameras. Both the Nikon the Pentax are direct competitors with the T5i in the market niche and at least with regard to this one performance parameter appear to do a bit better job than the Canon. By no means should this be interpreted or construed to suggest that the Canon still image quality lags behind the two competitors -- if you can't make nice images with the any of these three cameras the fault doesn't lie with the camera.
The native ISO range for the T5i is 100 to 12800 ISO, but that can be expanded 1 EV for both still and movie capture (to 25600 and 12800 ISO, respectively). 100 and 200 ISO are indistinguishable from one another; I shot most of this review at 200 ISO to gain additional shutter speed. 400 ISO shows just a hint of graininess beginning and this effect continues at 800 ISO which, while still benign is noticeably more grainy than 400. 1600 continues the onset of graininess over and above 800, although color fidelity is remaining quite true. 3200 demonstrates increased graininess with retention of color fidelity and up to this point there has been no significant change between any two ISO settings, just a steady increase in noise. 6400 ISO appears to be the tipping point for this sensor/processor combination -- the increase in noise is the most dramatic of any step so far and is beginning to include some slight color blotches. 12800 has increased grain over 6400, most notable in the black portions of the image but color fidelity is still holding up fairly well. 25600 is clearly the sensitivity of last resort, when nothing else will allow capture of the image.
ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 6400 ISO 12800
Overall, I'd be comfortable printing large images up to and including 1600 ISO and perhaps even 3200 in a pinch although I'd much prefer it for smaller images. 6400 and 12800 are best left for small images and particularly e-mail transmissions if necessary.
Additional Sample Images
The Rebel T5i is the recently introduced flagship of the Rebel line but with a feature set and specifications largely reminiscent of its predecessor. Whether a modified AF system, real-time viewing of creative filters, a digital movie zoom and tweaks to the mode dial and scene modes in live view along with a new exterior finish will send hordes of T4i owners running to their nearest Canon dealer remains to be seen.
The camera produces good still and video image quality, has enough automatic bells and whistles that users who wish to merely point-and-shoot can have it their way while more experienced operators have a range of adjustments to set up camera performance to suit their taste as well. Autofocus performance is pretty good, ISO performance is competitive with other cameras in the class and the camera can shoot at five frames per second for several seconds and then clear its buffer promptly with an appropriately high performance memory card. External controls allow access to ISO, white balance, autofocus, picture style, and drive mode shooting options, a bit more flexibility than is typical with an entry-level DSLR. A touch screen monitor and quick control button offer access to a number of other shooting functions and camera settings, but at the expense of depositing smudges on the monitor that degrade its usability in some bright outdoor conditions.
Like the Nikon D5200 that I recently reviewed, the Rebel T5i is a nice little camera with no glaring weaknesses. The viewfinder offers 95% coverage which makes precise framing of images problematic, and like the Nikon the T5i has no weather sealing. That puts both cameras at a disadvantage when compared to the Pentax K-30 and the T5i seems to clip highlights a bit more than the others when shooting high contrast scenes. If you're a T4i owner there may not be enough incentive to change cameras this time around, but if you're moving into a DSLR for the first time, the Rebel T5i isn't a bad place to start looking.