First of all, thanks to Gordon for the full review, I'm curious about the video review.
Last weekend, I had a chance to thoroughly test drive a Canon 500D which was on display at the local electronics outlet.
Very similar to the 450D. Chrome top plate on mode selector, metering button on four way selector removed and replaced by WB, former WB button now serves as video record button.
When I held the camera, somehow it felt a bit cheaper than the 450D, despite what spec sheets claim. The new plastic makes the body feel cheaper, the click wheel’s action is also not as damped. It actually reminds me more of the 1000D than the 450D. The 450D was like a mini-40D, this one looks and feels like a beefed up 1000D. The weight is identical, the 500D remains a light, compact Rebel DSLR. There are no changes to the grip size or depth, so people not liking the relatively narrow Rebel grip will probably not convert when holding the 500D.
The view itself seems the same as before. The AF point indicators seem updated. The action and way they light up is more reminiscent of the 40/50D now, which I liked. However, actual AF performance is unchanged from the 450D (fast but still not very adept at choosing faces or correct subjects in auto AF point selection).
Vastly improved screen, now up to the nowadays “standard” VGA resolution. Lovely Digic4 interface – still the same Canon structure but a lot nicer now.
The burst mode does seem a bit slower. But it’s only marginal, you’d be really pressed to notice it, or to suffer real practical issues because of this. The camera itself is as snappy as the 450D, so it is really fast in everything you ask it to do. Love it.
Ah, here’s the biggie. I popped in my 8gb card and took a couple of shots in ISO 400, 1600 and 3200. In preview, the pictures looked okay. The VGA screen prevents, to a degree, constant zooming in for focus preview. However, even in the store, I did not like the new Digic4 processing. This is even more apparent after DPP raw conversion at home. ISO 1600 and 3200 still suffer from loss of color reproduction, actually slightly moreso than the 450D and definitely when compared to Nikon. What’s worse, Canon seem to have changed their image processing: focusing on NR at the cost of color loss and the appearance of digital artifacts: black dots, sharpening artifacts, “digital grain”. I really liked the 450D/Digic 3 processing more: you had more chroma noise, but worthwhile detail was not destroyed and the image had a “film like” quality to it. That’s gone now, even in lower ISOs. As a saving grace, the ISO3200 images look, overall, pretty okay. Definitely a boon for low light conditions.
Check the images and the crops. The crops, and actually, most 500D shots, are crap, not by IQ means, but because of my bad skill.
ISO 3200: http://picasaweb.google.be/erwinho84/500DTestShots#5339880910052755794
Crop 1: 450D ISO 1600: http://picasaweb.google.be/erwinho84/500DTestShots#5340285902064691586
Crop 2: 500D ISO 1600: http://picasaweb.google.be/erwinho84/500DTestShots#5340285712974558658
The party piece. And indeed it is amazing. Check out a sample 720p I took here:
IQ decrease aside, the movie mode is a true revelation. It cannot replace a capable HD camcorder, and it is likely trumped by the GH1’s AF HD movie mode, but the facility is so nice to have. When used creatively, you could make some great clips with it: check Vimeo for dozens of wonderful D90 and 5DMII videos. The output is a H.264 MOV file with beautiful colours, progressive (no interlacing artifacts) and ready for editing/showing off.
Some other thoughts:
File sizes are huge: 5mb for a jpeg and 19 mb for CR2. The price is very, very, very competitive: €/$ 800 in the 18-55 IS kit. The 18-55 IS kit lens sadly underperforms on the 500D. The 18-55IS relates to the 500D and 50D like the previous kit lens did to the 40D/400D: as in: great on the cameras it is designed for (original kit lens with 300D), but a noticeable bottleneck for later models. I actually don’t understand why Canon continues to push the megapixel race. It is hurting their traditional CMOS IQ, and the increased resolution only shows in ISO400 or less or on L lenses: both circumstances often unavailable to many people and in many situations.
Oh, and I did not try the Live View Face Detection mode. Sorry.
Very competitive pricing
Screen, Digic 4 interface
Largely retained 450D operation, work flow
Perceived quality of materials (hugely subjective)
AF system not really updated
Slight loss of burst speed
IQ. ISO3200 is, all things considered, okay.
The 500D hates the 18-55IS.
I would buy the 500D if I was looking for an entry level, step-up, complete DSLR camera. The D90 and especially the D5000 would be better choices though. And if I don’t need video, actually, the 450D would be a real bargain.