Canon EOS Rebel T5i Digital Camera Review
A new Rebel sounds exciting, but won't wow enthusiasts.
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For several years now, shooters looking to get into the world of DSLR photography have leaned on Canon's iconic EOS Rebel line of APS-C DSLRs. Perhaps due in part to its popularity, Canon hasn't messed with the formula: the T4i is extremely similar in features and performance to the T3i and so on. Though the T4i saw the first fluid implementation of a capacitive touchscreen on the Rebel line of DSLRs, that level of innovation was spurned for Canon's EOS Rebel T5i ($849 with 18-55mm IS STM lens, $649 body-only)—virtually nothing changed from the previous model.
In terms of performance, this camera is nothing spectacular. The kit lens and camera combo doesn't produce very sharp images, but on the plus side, its low-light performance is actually quite decent. Sticking to a tried and true model has worked for Canon with cameras like the PowerShot S120, but here it just smacks of laziness. With no real upgrades worth discussing, we're hard-pressed to offer any concrete reason for going with the T5i over its near-identical predecessor, the T4i.
By the Numbers
So we've established that Canon's T5i is extremely similar to its predecessor save for a couple external characteristics, but what about the inside? Well, hate to break it to you, but the T5i is pretty much the same camera under the hood, too. However, the lack of excitement commanded by the latest Rebel DSLR is far from a bad thing: Canon gave us another well-performing Rebel with a different number on the case.
Color Accuracy and White Balance
With the exception of the "landscape" color mode, the Canon T5i sports above average color accuracy. For best results, we suggest using the "faithful" mode, which has a ∆C00 of 1.9—much better than your average point-and-shoot. That same mode does have a very slight undersaturation problem, so pictures won't "pop" as much as you're used to with that mode.
However, if you decide to go with one of the other color modes, you'll notice that they're all fairly accurate too. The only mode that poses a prominently visible difference is the "landscape" mode, but even then color error there is more artistic license than unintentional aberration.
If you hate taking a custom white balance reading all the time, take comfort in the fact that the automatic white balance settings are very effective. Though the T5i struggles with incandescent lighting, daylight and fluorescent lighting coloration are quickly and accurately corrected over and over again.
Design & Handling
New grip, not much else
A rundown of the Canon T5i shows an extremely similar device to its predecessor, the Canon T4i. Both cameras have an extremely light plastic body that stuffed to the brim with hardware like an 18MP hybrid CMOS sensor (APS-C), 9-point autofocus, DIGIC 5 processor, and articulating touchscreen LCD.
Like the T4i, the T5i is available in two kit varieties (body-only is also an option). Those needing a longer zoom might want to consider shelling out for an EF-S 18-135mm IS STM lens kit ($999 MSRP), while the 18-55mm IS STM lens kit option ($799.99 MSRP) is best suited for general, all-around shooting. Videographers will appreciate these STM lenses' ability to focus without making a racket—something that can easily tarnish an otherwise perfect cinematic. However, this comes at the expense of image quality.
Bringing this chunky camera along with you for the ride isn't as difficult or intrusive as you might think at first. Though the body definitely feels a bit like you're holding a toy, the camera itself with both battery and lens isn't all that difficult to hold for long periods of time. The articulating screen makes this one of the more forgiving DSLRs out there when held at extremes—letting you frame shots even when the camera is close to the ground of held high over your head.
Using the same touchscreen technology as most smartphones and tablets, the capacitive interface of the display is precise and fairly immune to unintentional commands. It's a small touch, but very necessary—if you've used a device with a resistive screen, you know the frustration of wonky input and phantom icon presses. Gloves will render the screen useless, unless you're take matters into your own hands and add a capacitive-friendly gel to them.
Boring doesn't mean bad
Putting all the cards on the table, the list of differences between the Canon T5i and its predecessor and the T4i are as follows, in full:
360˚ rotating mode dial
Improved grip material
That's it. Considering that the T4i and even the T3i are still readily available, are you really willing to pay extra for those features?
Though it's a thoroughly yawn-inducing camera, its standard features should give beginner-to-intermediate shooters plenty to sink their teeth into. Basic DSLR shooting modes like aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual are all present in the T5i—as well as beginner-friendly automatic, scene, and creative modes. However, there isn't much beyond that to keep budding enthusiasts interested for long.
For those shooting on the pitch, 5 shots-per-second will help you get a plethora of pictures to choose from. Additionally, the somewhat standard 100-12800 ISO range is quite good if you're stuck in poorer lighting conditions. Letting the camera play it fast and loose with automatic ISO settings will invariably lead to some grainy photos, but if you keep in check your shots can benefit from this flexibility.
Shooters of all skill levels will appreciate the touchscreen control on the articulating display, as it allows very simple adjustment of the camera's finer settings on the fly—while granting the use of the camera at odd extremes. Though the menu system is quite basic, it's more or less logically ordered and placed. You might not find the setting you want right away, but it won't take long once you're familiar with the setup, as this is easily the most intuitive SLR menu system.
Should you decide that the kit lens is not for you, there are plenty of after-market and Canon-made lenses available online. For those coming from older Canon SLRs, your EF and EF-S mount lenses will work with the T5i, so no need to go selling off the very expensive lenses you've accumulated over the years. Considering the number of after-market lenses available, you shouldn't have a problem finding ones you like even if you don't go with a Canon lens.
Much like its virtually-identical predecessor, the Canon T4i, the T5i has some notable sharpness problems. Though the 18-55mm kit lens is very appealing to videographers who need a silent autofocus, the tradeoff for this lens in particular is very low sharpness for a DSLR.
The only caveat here is that the mode we shot in adds no software-based correction to the shots, so maybe adding a bit in under the advanced settings will help a bit, but it's not going to save every detail. Using the 18-55mm kit lens, we found quite a bit of orange-yellow fringing on high-contrast edges, which will underwhelm those looking for a notable step-up in sharpness from their point-and-shoot.
If there's a silver lining in the somewhat poor results here, it's that there's really no oversharpening/haloing added into your photos. Sometimes software correction is a crutch for underperforming cameras, and the addition of artificial correction can be hit or miss when it comes to sharpening your snaps, and it's more ideal to avoid it if possible.
Return of the sharpness problems.
If you are looking to capture video with the T5i at family events like birthdays, take heart in knowing that the DSLR can capture broadcast-quality cinematics at light levels as low as 4 lux. This should cover just about any social setting that's at least dimly lit, but you'll still have trouble with nighttime shots unless you have additional sources of light.
However, that's ironically the bright spot of the video performance of the T5i, as that sharpness issue discussed above also shows up in video. With a recorded lp/ph value of 515 horizontal, 600 vertical in bright light, the T5i struggles to keep a sharp image even in ideal conditions. In low light, those numbers drop to 450 and 500, respectively—though this is normal for many cameras to lose a bit of ground here.
As far as other common video problems go, the T5i keeps a lid on potential issues fairly well. There are a couple smoothness and trailing issues, but no visible artifacting or frequency interference. That sharpness issue is a big one, but thankfully there isn't much else to worry about.
Adequate, if not great
In the past, this line of cameras offered more of the same, but with a different number on the front of the body. While a camera that was great two years ago is still perfectly capable, it does leave us wanting more. In part, it's because other cameras in similar (or cheaper) price brackets are starting to pass a camera that's standing still. Canon's own SL1 is a perfect example: The SL1 lighter, cheaper, and outperforms the T5i. What is Canon doing?
That's not to say that the T5i is deficient—but it's definitely not the best DSLR out there for its price. In particular, its sharpness and noise results were less than impressive. Though you could probably do a bit better with a sharper after-market lens, you should be aware that the camera really doesn't do much to help you out here.
However, the news isn't all bad: The T5i has some very respectable color accuracy. Using the "Faithful" mode in particular will net you some good results, though the color saturation sits at 96% in that mode. If you're looking for a mode that can give you the full sRGB color gamut, every mode but "landscape" will give you more middling color accuracy results—but offer the full range of color values with very little oversaturation.
Video performance is also below average for a DSLR, but much of that stems from the T5i's trouble with sharpness. Beyond that, low-light sensitivity and smoothness are fantastic, while artifacting is kept to a relative minimum.
The Canon EOS Rebel T5i is a decent camera. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a good value, but it's a known quantity: It's a T4i with a new mode dial. The Rebel line of DSLRs has offered a consistent level of quality that—while uninspiring—is good for anyone to learn on, and take them deeper into the world of digital photography.
However, the manufacturer kit options might not be the best way to get the most out of the T5i's body. The kit lens doesn't perform well, so we recommend going body-only and buying a better lens.
On top of all that, there's a catch: In the span of a year, this level of quality is now firmly behind the pack of DSLRs built around APS-C sensors, and even Canon has better models for less. If you're seriously considering this camera, you may want to save yourself some money by grabbing either the Canon T4i or the pint-sized SL1. At the moment, there isn't much reason to buy the T5i over those two cameras because they offer commensurate performance and features for less.
Given that Canon is still trotting out the thoroughly out-of-date T3 (released in 2011) as its entry-level SLR, you can expect stocks of older models to remain for the time being. At the very least, they should last until next year, when Canon will hopefully bring some real innovation to the Rebel line.
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