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Canon EOS 500D first look Digital SLR Review

Despite what other magazines say, Matt Grayson also got a look at the Canon EOS 500D.

|  Canon EOS 500D in Digital SLRs
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Canon have expanded their number of DSLRs to eight with the introduction of the Canon EOS 500D.

canon EOS 500D
Holding the Canon EOS 500D.

Canon EOS 500D: Specifications

  • Resolution: 15.1Mp
  • Sensor size:22.3 x 14.9mm
  • Sensor type: CMOS
  • Image size:4752x3168
  • Aspect ratio:3:2
  • Focus system: TTL-CT-SIR with a CMOS sensor
  • Focus points: 9
  • Crop factor: 1.6x
  • Lens mount: Canon EF/EF-S
  • File type: JPEG, RAW
  • Sensitivity: ISO100-3200 (expandable to ISO12,800)
  • Storage: SDHC
  • Focus types: AI Focus, One Shot, AI Servo
  • Metering system: TTL full aperture metering with 35-zone SPC
  • Metering types: Evaluative, partial, spot, center weighted
  • Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 or 1/2 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 30-1/4000sec & bulb
  • Frames per second: 3.4
  • Flash: Built-in (Guide no. 13), external hotshoe
  • Flash metering: TTL
  • Flash sync speed: 1/200sec
  • Image stabilisation: Lens based
  • Integrated cleaning: EOS integrated cleaning system
  • Live view: Electronic viewfinder with image sensor (approx. 100%)
  • Viewfinder: Optical pentamirror type (approx. 95%)
  • Monitor: 3in. TFT LCD (920,000dot)
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: Li-Ion battery
  • Size: 128.8x97.5x61.9mm
  • Weight: 480g
Canon EOS 500D
Seen here with the 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.
Canon EOS 500D
The back boasts a 3in LCD screen and eye sensors to cut it out when the camera is raised to the eye.
Canon EOS 500D
Modest changes from the little sister EOS 450D are mainly cosmetic on the outside such as the silver retro command dial and live-view being added.
Canon EOS 500D: Features
After the relative success of the Canon EOS 5D MkII and the 50D it's unsurprising that Canon have released another DSLR to back the range up. The specification is pretty much what was reported on the rumour sites with a 15.1Mp CMOS sensor, although Canon say that the sensor is entirely new despite being the same size and resolution as the 50D.

It also boasts the newest DiG!C IV processor which can run images through onto the memory card at 3.4fps (frames per second). This is the precise number now that CIPA have changed the ruling and allow exact numbering instead of rounding up or down. In the past it meant that 3.9fps was rounded up to four and 3.4fps was rounded down to three.
Other features include the same monitor found on the 5D MkII meaning that it takes advantage of the full 920,000 dots for a clearer, multi-sized font menu screen. Most notably are the expandable sensitivity pushing the standard ISO100-3200 to ISO6400 and ISO12800 and full HD video at 1080p that was introduced in the 5D MkII.

However, the 500D only runs at 20fps instead of 30fps normally seen in video recording. It means that more information can be recorded onto the SDHC memory card but after using the mode, it doesn't show any of the jerkiness usually associated with less frames per second in video recording.

Looking at the EOS 500D and the 450D, there's not a great deal of difference in the layout of functions and buttons. In fact everything is laid out the same as the lower end models which makes it easier for users upgrading from the EOS 450D and provides the ease of use for newcomers.
On the top is the command dial which now has a retro silver plate on top. All the options are the same with additional video and CA modes added to the mix. A handy direct ISO access button is located just behind the finger wheel which adjusts the aperture or shutter speed depending on the mode you're in.
Canon EOS 500D
SD and SDHC cards are accepted by the EOS 500D.
The back of the camera is also the same as the 450D with a 3in screen placed over to the left allowing more space for the controls. Canon have increased the resolution of the screen from around 76,000px to 307,000px making for a much sharper, clearer image and menu display. This is a change from Canon's previous stance in an email that the Technical Assistance Dept sent to me explaining that they don't think a better screen is necessary as it's not what the photographer should be using to take pictures with.
Of course this was before the heady days of live view so it's no surprise that they've changed their mind to keep ahead of the game. I think it shows the attitude of a forward thinking company that is happy to change its mind whenever it needs to.

Canon EOS 500D: Build and handling 
Canon EOS 500D
Mike Owen.
The Li-Ion battery used in the 500D is the same as the 450D which is good for those looking for a second body and surprisingly it's also the same battery grip. Although this may seem like it's replacing the 450D, and the camera's designation certainly suggests it, Canon are quick to place the 500D above it. “The EOS 500D isn't replacing the EOS 450D” said Mike Owen, European CCI Product Manager for DSLR. “It's aimed as a top-end entry level camera giving amateurs the benefit of mid-range cameras in an entry level body.” So the EOS 500D actually expands the range of the Canon DSLR line up to eight in total and Canon say that is the amount that they're going to stay with.
The build quality is still good for an entry level model and the dimensions are basically the same. Canon are keen to provide solutions for photographers needs and keeping basic layouts the same is a key area. This means that the buttons are all in the same place as the 450D with the live-view button doubling up as a record button for the video mode and the * button providing a focusing mode for live-view or video.
Noticing the black on white screen I asked Chris Lowe about how people who are partially sighted may have trouble with the colour arrangement and he showed me a menu option in the custom functions that allow you to change the colour of the fonts and background. You can select black on white, white on black, beige on brown and light green on dark green.

This opens up more possibilities as partially sighted photographers can adjust to white on black if it's easier to see. Night photographers can use the green based option so that after an hour in pitch black, the screen isn't too bright spoiling your nicely adjusted eyes.
Canon EOS 500DThe preproduction model I got to see felt nice in the hands and was just as easy to use as any other DSLR which, Mike Owen pointed out, forms the foundation of the EOS philosophy. “We're the oldest Japanese photographic manufacturer which is why all our hardware is made by us. Nothing is outsourced which means we get to design and fabricate everything to our own high standards.”

Sensors have also been placed under the viewfinder to cut out the screen when the camera is raised to the eye. Of course the advent of live-view in DSLRs could remove the need for an optical viewfinder altogether so it's nice to see little bits of technology that still support its existence.
Dipping into the menu shows a similar one to the newer cameras such as the Powershot G10,  EOS 5D MkII and EOS 50D with the flashy graphics and compacted UI. Interestingly, the video menu will only come up when the camera is in video mode which is a nice touch as it lessens the amount of options in normal shooting mode.

Canon EOS 500D: Performance
Response times are pretty fast such as focusing which takes under a second without any hunting. In live view this time is drastically extended as it has a tendency to hunt a lot more. Focusing in live view is performed by pressing the star button on the right shoulder next to the AF point selection button.
I used the camera for a while taking many shots in various situations. It's spring and I like photographing my daffodils at this time of year. However, I enjoy getting low viewpoint images and the lack of an articulated screen causes a problem with this. Olympus have used these types of screens for a while now and Nikon have released the D5000 with one as well. It could be that Canon jumped the gun a little too early and EF system users will have to wait a little longer for this luxury.
Canon EOS 500DColours on the colour test chart are quite punchy with good rendition on the primaries especially. The mono tones are nicely balanced and I like the richness of the forest green and earth brown. Two areas I am pleased with are the skin tone tiles as they're not too warm or pale and the pastels down the left side of brown, orange and blue have some colour to them. Some cameras can wash them out but the EOS 500D has managed to retain them.
It was a misty day when I used the EOS 500D in the landscape test. There's no detail in the sky but the water of the lock looks sharp and detailed in the reflections. There's good detail on the grass in between the wilted Daffodils and the mist droplets can be seen on the blades of grass.
Canon EOS 500D
Metering has worked well with the backlit Daffodils bringing detail out in the stamen and keeping the translucency of the petals.
Canon EOS 500D
The image is sharp going into the distance until the mist works it's evil and blurs out the background.
Daffodils are my favourite flower, they always cheer me up and they're great to photograph because the petals go translucent when backlit. The metering of the Canon EOS 500D has coped well with the backlit scene and exposed some detail in the stamen as well as the petals without burning out the background.
Portrait mode has given a balanced skin tone and good detail in the hair. One problem I came across in this mode was that I couldn't adjust the white balance but it doesn't seem to have proved a problem.

Using flash has only added a slight amount of light filling in the shadowy areas from the previous image and creating catchlights for the eyes.
Canon EOS 500D
Portrait in portrait mode has given a good result but I couldn't adjust the white balance so had to rely on the camera.
Canon EOS 500D
Portrait in program mode allows the adjustments and doesn't give that much of a different result from portrait mode.
Canon EOS 500D
What I like about the flash image is that it hasn't overdone it. Recently I've seen some results from compacts where they don't look like flash has been used and I think that's what a lot of people are after these days. Playing with the exposure will solve this but it's not far off now.
Canon EOS 500D
Compare this detail shot with the RAW one.
This detail shot of the old camera shows the amount of detail available from the new 15Mp sensor. I've also taken the shot in RAW which can be dowloaded from the link below. Detail is good and JPEG compares nicely with RAW. Understandably it has more contrast and a mild amount of sharpening but the DiG!C processor has handled it sufficiently. I think until the update for editing programs is released, it may be down to using JPEG simply for ease of use.
Canon EOS 500D
This Robin was difficult to shoot and this was a lucky shot.

Canon EOS 500D detail RAW image

I took the opportunity on one of our nicer days this year to visit  Shire Brook Valley wildlife sanctuary on the outskirts of Sheffield. There were minimal creatures flitting about so I had to concentrate on the Ducks and a Robin.

A Coot and Little Grebe kept making brief appearances but were too shy to come close enough for me to get a decent shot despite using a 400mm lens.
Canon EOS 500D
I wanted to include this calmer shot as I think it looks like the Duck in front is getting an earful.
Canon EOS 500D
This female was getting harassed by the males, it is spring after all, and when it took off I got this great action shot.

Canon EOS 500D: Noise test
With an expandable sensitivity of up to ISO12800, the Canon EOS 500D starts off very well with no noise showing at all in any area of the image. I'm a stickler for good noise control and I think the camera controls it very well all the way to ISO6400. It is noticeable from around ISO1600 but it's easily tolerable until the final true setting and artefacts start to creep in with some purple blotches.
ISO12800 has been controlled nicely too as I think it could've got way out of hand with the expandable option but it's still pretty calm. One thing that deters me is the lack of detail in the petals which I'm putting down to the noise control program smudging it out to “smooth” the noise.

The RAW versions of ISO100 and ISO12800 can be downloaded from our download area by clicking on the appropriate link.

Canon EOS 500D ISO100 RAW file
Canon EOS 500D ISO12800 RAW file
Canon EOS 500D
The ISO100 test.
Canon EOS 500D
The ISO200 test.
Canon EOS 500D
The ISO400 test.
Canon EOS 500D
The ISO800 test.
Canon EOS 500D
The ISO1600 test.
Canon EOS 500D
The ISO3200 test.
Canon EOS 500D
The ISO6400 test.
Canon EOS 500D
The ISO12800 test.

Canon EOS 500DIn a more realistic situation, I took an image of this beautiful Rottweiler out for her morning stroll. It was shot at ISO400 and shows artefacts in low key areas. Metering has coped nicely with the harsh contrast between the dog and surroundings as it was a lovely sunny day.

If you're wondering about the white stripe on her head, it was slobber.

I would like to express my thanks to the owner of the dog who allowed me permission to publish this image.

DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Canon EOS 500D.

Canon EOS 500D: Verdict

With the incredible advancements Canon made with the EOS 5D MkII, they've certainly given themselves a head start when it comes to the future technology. Noise control is excellent on the EOS 500D as is colour rendition and its ability to cope with different styles of photography.

That latter point is important in a lower end camera as it's likely to be bought by all sorts of photographers who may or may not have developed a style or favourite genre.

Canon EOS 500D: Plus points
Easy to use
New sensor
Expandable ISO
Full HD video
Good noise performance
Nice colour rendition

Canon EOS 500D: Minus points
Price is high pre-release
Live-view focusing is slow





See the video review of the Canon EOS 500D here:

Canon EOS 500D video review

The Canon EOS 500D will be available with an RRP of £869.99 body only, £969.99 with the 18-55mm lens and £1399.99 with the 18-200mm lens.

Take a look at Warehouse express here:

Canon EOS 500D

Read the Canon EOS 500D news release: Canon EOS 500D

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Photographs taken using the Canon Canon EOS 500D

Statue of LibertyMay morning, Hooleyhey LaneAlesundOxford (All Souls?).Rowing on the River Cherwell at OxfordOne Sunday AfternoonPakefield Beach, SuffolkFamily Tour...From the Top of the Hill.AlesundThe Chaiwala...Wooden HousesThe River...Unable to move...

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bonna 16 2 United Kingdom
16 Apr 2009 10:02AM
my first thoughts were "fantastic" the new 500d
then I realised the price and was downright shocked to say the least.
For just under 1000 for the body and standard lens kit is just a rip off.

It's hardly destroying the older 450d which you can pick up for below half the price at around 500. and its the same price as the 50d which is far superior .

For me if you want an entry level camera then go for the 450d on a decent deal now.. or if you have 1000 to burn on a canon then the 50d is far better ..

for these reasons I just cant see the 500d ever selling
MattGrayson 15 622 3 England
21 Apr 2009 1:01PM
Street prices are rarely the same as SRP or RRP's. We'll just have to wait and see. Smile
dbuller 13 1 1
21 Apr 2009 7:04PM
Wow, I was expectin a bit more of a compromise on noise with that 15mp sensor, but I'm pleasantly surprised with the noise test.

I am however, befuddled with the shot of the dog -- is that really ISO 400? It looks a lot worse than the flower petal ISO 400 in the noise test.
dbuller 13 1 1
21 Apr 2009 7:10PM
Another question (sorry!) -- what NR setting did you use for the noise shots?

Thanks for the speedy review! Looks like this might be my first dslr
MattGrayson 15 622 3 England
22 Apr 2009 9:11AM

Quote:Another question (sorry!) -- what NR setting did you use for the noise shots?

Thanks for the speedy review! Looks like this might be my first dslr

thanks for the comments. I was just as confused with the noise. I had the NR set to standard which is the default setting. When I was out shooting those images, I only used ISO100 and ISO400. In fact, it's still set to ISO400 from when I came back and I've not altered the settings. Unfortunately, EXIF data hasn't recorded so I can't back it up with hard evidence. Wink
Morpyre Plus
17 1.6k 8 Wales
1 Oct 2009 4:26PM
i bought one today 01/10/09) from Jessops. i bought a 500D body with kit lens, canon battery grip, 8gb memory card and UV filter - all together this came to 745.

if you are willing to wait a few months after initial release you will see the price plummet before long.

i look forward now to using this new camera with my sigma lenses.

peter "morpyre" turner

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