Canon EOS Rebel T5i review

The Canon EOS Rebel T5i is essentially the same camera as its predecessor, and it's still a solid performer.
Photo of Canon EOS Rebel T5i

At first glance, the Canon EOS Rebel T5i ($749.99 list, body only) looks a lot like its predecessor, the T4i. Look closer and you’ll discover, well, that they’re almost exactly identical. Aside from some cosmetic differences and very minor differences in the firmware, the T5i is a rebadged T4i. That’s not a bad thing; both are good cameras. The 18-megapixel sensor is proven and the rear LCD is sharp, hinged, and touch-sensitive. We didn’t like the T5i quite as much as our Editors’ Choice for entry-level D-SLRS, the Nikon D5200, which is a better performer at higher ISO settings.

Design and Features
The T5i measures 3.9 by 5.2 by 3.1 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.1 pounds without a lens, which is pretty standard for an entry-level D-SLR. Even though the competing Pentax K-30 is a smidge smaller at 3.8 by 5.1 by 2.8 inches, it’s heavier at 1.4 pounds. This is due in part to its solid glass pentaprism viewfinder, which is larger and brighter than the pentamirror found in the T5i. If you’re used to using the rear LCD of a point-and-shoot to frame the size of the viewfinder it may not bother you, but users who are accustomed to the large finders in older 35mm SLRs will likely find it lacking.

Experienced shooters demand a camera that provides easy access to shooting settings. The camera’s mode dial, which sits next to its power switch, gives you access to a number of scene modes, which configure the camera to shoot sports, landscapes, and macro images, among others. The dial also lets you use automatic, program, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual shooting modes. There are also a number of scene modes available, which will make shutterbugs who are moving up from a compact camera a bit more comfortable.

The T5i’s control layout works well, although it does feature only one control dial. You’ll need to move up to the EOS 60D to get dual dials in a Canon camera; the Pentax K-30 is one of the few mid-range SLRs with two control dials. The dial is up front, right behind the shutter release. You’ll also find the ISO control button on the top, but the bulk of the controls—exposure compensation, white balance, drive mode, autofocus mode, and JPG color settings—are located on the rear. There is a depth of field preview button, housed next to the lens. Holding that down closes the lens iris to the current setting so you have an idea about how much of your image will be in focus; but it’s in an awkward spot that requires you to remove your thumb from the lens barrel to use.

You’ll also find the Q button on the rear of the camera. It brings up a touch-sensitive menu on the rear LCD that lets you adjust shooting settings. You can tap icons once and a dialog will open telling you what that function does; pressing it a second time lets you dive deeper to adjust the setting. This Feature Guide can be disabled from the menu, and it will never appear if you navigate through the Q menu using the camera’s buttons rather than touch.

The display itself is extremely sharp and bright, thanks to a 1,040k-dot resolution. It’s housed on an articulating arm, so you can view it from above, behind, or face it forward for self portraits. When shooting in Live View mode the active focus area is shown on the LCD. You can move it by simply by touching the screen.

Performance and Conclusions
The T5i can start and shoot in only 0.5-second, records a 0.1-second shutter lag, and is capable of rattling off shots at 4 frames per second, just shy of Canon’s published 5fps claim for the camera. How long it can keep up the latter pace depends on your file format of choice—it is limited to 7 shots at that speed when shooting Raw, but manages to keep up the pace for 39 shots when shooting JPGs. The Sony Alpha 65, one of the faster cameras we’ve tested, starts and shoots in 0.8-second, matches the 0.1-second shutter lag, and can fire off shots at 7.7 frames per second; but it only keeps that pace for about 14 shots.

When using the optical finder, the camera focuses very quickly. In good light it can take an extremely out-of-focus shot and bring it into sharp focus in 0.2-second; this slows to 1.4 seconds in very dim light. When using Live View, the camera takes about 0.8-second to focus and fire in adequate light, but struggles in the dark. In our tests the focus averaged 2.4 seconds in that scenario when it did lock, but the T5i’s Live View focus system failed to obtain focus about half the time. If you prefer to use Live View, you’ll get better performance from the Sony Alpha 65—it uses a fixed mirror that allows for very fast focus regardless of whether you use the camera’s rear LCD or OLED viewfinder to frame shots.

We reviewed the T5i as a body only, but it is also available in a kit with the new EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM lens for about $900, or with the EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM for just under $1,100. The T4i was bundled with the older version of the 18-55mm lens, which lacked an STM focus motor. The STM motor is nearly silent when focusing, and is especially useful for shooting video—it provides a smooth focus experience, rather than the choppy one you’ll get with non-STM lenses.

I used Imatest to check for image noise, which can make photos appear grainy and rob them of detail as you increase a camera’s sensitivity to light. The T5i keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 1600, and only hits 1.7 percent at ISO 3200. If you’re shooting JPG files, image detail is excellent through ISO 1600, and still quite acceptable at ISO 3200. If you opt to shoot Raw, you can use the camera comfortably through ISO 6400 without seeing detail suffer, although images have a tight, noticeable noise pattern at that setting. The Nikon D5200, which has a newer, 24-megapixel image sensor, actually does a bit better in terms of noise control. The general rule of thumb is that sensors with lower pixel density do better handling noise, but the D5200 manages to keep noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 3200, records 1.7 percent at ISO 6400. A side-by-side comparison of photos on a calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W display shows them to be neck-and-neck in terms of detail at equivalent ISO settings.

The T5i records video in QuickTime format at 1080p30, 1080p24, 720p60, or 480p30 resolution. The video looks great, and the camera focuses continuously when recording, much like a camcorder. While it does this much faster than other traditional SLRs, it’s not as quick as a fixed-mirror model like the Sony Alpha 65 or a mirrorless camera like the Olympus OM-D E-M5. If you use an STM lens the focus is smooth and silent. However, if you use an older, non-STM lens like most of those in the current Canon catalog, the focus is a bit choppy and is quite audible. There is a mic input, so you can connect an external microphone to help improve sound. There’s also a port for a wired remote control, a mini HDMI output, and a mini USB data port. Standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards are supported.

The T5i is, in all practical terms, the same camera as its predecessor. Its image quality is excellent, although it’s not the best in class in low light, and the articulating rear LCD is quite sharp. Canon has done a good job melding its touch capability with physical controls, so you can interact with the camera in the way that is most comfortable to use. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the pentamirror viewfinder. It’s become standard in the low-end of the D-SLR market, but it’s not as large or bright as the pentaprism found in the inexpensive Pentax K-30. Canon shooters who are looking for a more versatile body are likely to get more satisfaction out of moving up to a mid-range body like the EOS 60D, 7D, or even the full-frame 6D, rather than jumping from an older Rebel to a new one.

The video autofocus is quite smooth and speedy for a D-SLR, but you’ll need to use an STM lens to really take advantage. There are only three of those available as of this writing, which is why we still recommend the Sony Alpha 65 for video. It uses an EVF rather than an optical finder, but provides fast autofocus at all times, and seamless transitions between shooting using the rear LCD and finder. Overall we found that the Nikon D5200 provides the best balance of features and price in this class, despite also being hindered with a less-than-perfect optical viewfinder. It remains our Editors’ Choice for SLRs priced under $1,000.

Specifications
Dimensions 3.9 x 5.2 x 3.1 inches
Interface Ports mini USB, mini HDMI, Mic, Remote
Megapixels 18 MP
Battery Type Supported Lithium Ion
Recycle time 0.23 seconds
LCD dots 1040000
LCD size 3 inches
Touch Screen Yes
Media Format Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity
Maximum ISO 12800
Type D-SLR
GPS No
Boot time 0.5 seconds
Sensor Type CMOS
Weight 1.1 lb
Lens Mount Canon EOS
Video Resolution 720p, 1080p
Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated) 0 feet
LCD Aspect Ratio 3
Image Stabilization None
Shutter Lag 0.1 seconds
Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 (APS-C) mm
Viewfinder Type Optical

Verdict
The Canon EOS Rebel T5i is essentially the same camera as its predecessor, and it's still a solid performer.
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