Canon T5 Field Test

A lot of camera for the money

by Jason Schneider | Posted: 06/26/2014

18-55mm kit lens: 55mm, f/8, 1/160s, ISO 100

In the hand. The Canon EOS Rebel T5 is an entry-level DSLR being offered at the enticingly low street price of a whisker under US$500 to appeal to first-time DSLR buyers and casual shooters, but with sufficient tech, features, and overall street creds to motivate some enthusiasts as well. Size-wise it's on the compact side for an APS-C-format DSLR (5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1 inches body only) and its polycarbonate body with stainless steel lens mount weighs in at only 16.9 ounces (the standard Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS II, 29-88mm equivalent zoom kit lens adds another 2.8 inches in depth and 7.1 ounces in weight). The lightweight T5 is comfortable and beautifully balanced in your hands with sufficient heft to feel like a real camera, and its nicely rounded contours and perfectly shaped ergonomic handgrip contribute to that impression. Controls are clearly labeled and where you'd expect to find them and experienced shooters will have no problem operating this camera without referring to the clear, comprehensive printed instruction manual.

18-55mm kit lens: 55mm, f/7.1, 1/160s, ISO 100

Features. The T5's image capture system is based on Canon's proven 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor noted for delivering commendably crisp low-noise image quality even up to ISO 6400 in previous T-series Canons, coupled to an advanced (but not the latest) DIGIC 4 image processor. Other key features and specs include a fixed 3-inch, 460k-dot LCD, ISO settings from 100-6400 (up to 12,800 in extended mode), impressive manufacturer-rated start-up and shutter lag times of 0.1 second and 0.12 second respectively, continuous shooting at up to three frames per second, a 9-point AF system with a single central cross-type sensor, Full HD 1080p video capture at 30, 25, and 24 fps with video clips up to 29 minutes, 59 seconds, and Scene Intelligent Auto Mode that analyzes the image based on built-in algorithms and chooses the "optimum" exposure and enhancements. In addition, the T5 provides a Feature Guide to aid novices, a Creative Auto mode that lets newbies adjust background blur without having to understand how aperture works, a set of five built-in Creative Filters consisting of Grainy B/W, Soft Focus, Fisheye, Toy Camera and Miniature Effect that are applied in Playback mode, and GPS compatibility (with optional GP-E2 GPS receiver).

Canon T5's optical viewfinder

Design. Like all DSLRs with penta-mirror finders the Rebel T5's viewfinder exhibits something of the "tunnel effect" not present on more expensive DSLRs with larger, all-glass pentaprism viewfinders, but the T5's finder is nevertheless clear and relatively bright, showing good detail, and 95% of the image-capture area at a reasonably high magnification of about 0.8x.

Fortunately the optical viewfinder is complemented with an excellent 3-inch LCD that is generally bright (at the normal midpoint brightness setting) and provides good color accuracy, contrast, and color saturation. While the LCD's resolution (460k dots) isn't as high as some competing models which sport 921k-dot panels, it provides surprisingly good detail for the dot count, even when you zoom in using the magnification function to assess your captured images, or shoot stills or videos in Live View mode.

Unlike more recent designs that put the LCD panel closer to the protective glass surface, the Canon T5's LCD is more recessed with a larger air gap, and is consequently more prone to glare and reflections in bright sunlight. In fact, at the right angle in direct sun, the screen is practically impossible to read; completely blanked out with glare. In most sunny conditions though, while glare is certainly an issue, you can still see the screen well enough to use the camera and adjust settings with the on-screen menus. Canon gives you the option of four different UI color schemes, including black-text-on-silver background, that I thought would do better in bright light, however, I found the standard white-text-on-black scheme to be the easiest to read in bright conditions.

The angled shutter release is perfectly positioned atop the right-hand grip and its action is smooth and predictable. My only personal minor gripe is that the shutter/mirror release sound is a bit high pitched and "clattery" for my taste and I don't think the camera is ideal for discreet shooting at close range.

Tabbed main menu

UI. Setting the Canon T5's menus is logical and intuitive. Just press the MENU button on the back of the camera to display the tabbed main menu, and use the 4-way controller to select the tab or sub-menu entry you want and enable it by pressing the SET button.

Quick menu when using optical viewfinder

There's also a clever Q (Quick Control) setting menu that's faster, very useful for rapid access to more frequently adjusted settings, especially those settings that don't have a dedicated button. For example, you can adjust flash exposure compensation by pressing the Q button, navigating to the flash exposure compensation field displayed on the LCD with the 4-way controller, and selecting the value you want by turning the main dial. You can then half-press the shutter button to quickly get back to shooting. You can also press the SET button after selecting a function to display a standalone screen for that function with a usage hint displayed below, and you can optionally press SET to confirm a selection.

Clearly labeled buttons on the back of the camera provide direct access for setting the ISO, drive/self-timer mode, AF mode (One Shot, AI Focus or AI Servo), White Balance (including AWB and Custom White Balance) and exposure compensation which doubles as an aperture select button in manual exposure mode. Not so clearly labelled (at least to those not familiar with Canon DSLRs) is the AE lock/FE lock button (labeled with an asterisk) and the AF point select button just to the right of the thumbrest. The main mode dial atop the camera's right-hand shoulder lets you set the usual M (Manual exposure), Av (aperture value, more commonly known as Aperture Priority), Tv (time value or Shutter Priority), and P (Programmed) exposure modes, plus Scene Intelligent Auto mode, Flash Off, Creative Auto, five scene modes (Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, and Night Portrait), and Movie mode (denoted by a movie camera icon). There's also a handy flash pop-up button behind the main dial. There's nothing particularly original about this control array but it's well executed and very logical.

18-55mm kit lens: 41mm, f/10, 1/250s, ISO 100

Performance. Shooting still pictures with the Canon T5 is very pleasant and satisfying. The camera achieved focus rapidly in the vast majority of shooting situations even in dim light and with low-contrast subjects, when using the optical viewfinder. I mostly used One Shot AF (AF-S) with Multi-point AF (auto area) mode which acquitted itself admirably for a wide variety of subjects, however the T5 also allows for manual selection of the focus point in PASM modes when you need more control. Live View with a choice of Face Detection, FlexiZone (contrast-detect) or Quick focus (phase-detect) AF is preferable for some subjects, though as expected, focusing was a lot slower than with the OVF. At any rate, using evaluative (multi-pattern) metering, One Shot AF and Multi-point AF mode with the optical viewfinder, I achieved crisp, accurate exposures well over 95% of the time under a wide variety of shooting conditions including a few 3 fps burst sequences of badminton players and kids frolicking in a fountain pool at a park.

In terms of actual real world performance, this camera flat out delivers in my opinion, and performance in low light at high ISOs (to 6400) and in backlit situations, is exemplary and would do credit to a mid-range Canon DSLR. The images are clean and clear, while color accuracy and color differentiation in the reproduction of subtle color variations in a single hue is outstanding. Some of the credit goes to the EF-S 18-55mm IS II lens, which delivers surprisingly sharp and detailed images over its entire range for a kit lens, and provides very effective image stabilization in conjunction with the camera's circuitry. As for the T5's 3 fps maximum burst rate, it's admittedly on the slow side these days even for an entry-level model. For capturing high-speed action and extreme sports 5 fps is really the threshold of satisfying performance.

Canon T5 18-55mm IS II Kit Lens Wide & Telephoto Comparison
18mm, f/8, 1/100s, ISO 100
55mm, f/8, 1/100s, ISO 100

In low-light situations, the T5 uses its pop-up flash for focus assist (though not in Live View unless using Quick AF), which can be extremely disruptive to your subjects as it emits a burst of flashes to help achieve focus. In PASM modes, you'll have to manually raise the pop-up flash, but in full Auto mode or various scene modes, the camera will automatically pop the flash and fire off the focus assist burst as it sees fit, unless disabled in a Custom Function menu.

18-55mm kit lens: 46mm, f/6.3, 1/100s, ISO 100

Quick menu in Live View mode

Live View. Canon's Live View mode is one of the better implementations found on true DSLRs, and I found the exposure simulation to be quite accurate for stills, doing a good job of previewing what the final image will look like by including the effects of Picture Style, white balance, aspect ratio, Auto Lighting Optimizer, and Peripheral Illumination Correction. Even depth of field can be previewed (when enabled), and there is also an optional grid display to help with composition and keeping your horizons level. The Quick Control menu overlays the live preview as shown at right.

Prefocused shutter lag times were very short in Live View mode (the IR lab measured it at only 0.092s), but as mentioned previously, autofocus was quite slow, at least with the kit lens (the lab measured 1.24s using "Quick AF" (phased-detect) and 1.62s using "FlexiZone AF" (contrast-detect). You'll definitely want to stick to using the optical viewfinder in situations where autofocus speed is important.

18-55mm kit lens: 18mm, f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 100

Movies. I did shoot a few video clips with the T5, and it's easy and intuitive. Just set the camera to video (movie camera icon) mode, the mirror flips up with an extended click, and you're in Live View mode. An exposure compensation scale and (if enabled) other image data appear below the viewing image and a rectangular AF box appears in the center of the frame that you can move up and down and side to side by using the 4-way controller (when FlexiZone AF is selected). Center your main subject in the frame, press the shutter button partway in to focus, and the box will turn green when AF has been achieved. Now press the live view/movie record button to the right of the eyepiece and your video will begin recording. A stationary red circle appears in the upper right-hand corner of the frame to indicate that the video is being captured, and the red LED on the lower right-hand corner of the back of the camera flashes until you press the record button to stop the video.

You can also take photos during video recording -- both RAW and JPEGs -- but the sounds of the shutter will be picked up by the microphone, and the resulting video will have brief pauses at the moments the photos were captured. However, once the images are taken, video recording resumes automatically. The resulting images are high-resolution, although the JPEGs are cropped to a 16:9 aspect ratio (5184 x 2912) while RAW images maintain their full 5184 x 3456 resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio.

Full HD Sample Video. The Canon T5 can shoot 1920x1080 video at 30p, 25p or 24p, 1280x720 at 60p or 50p, and 640x480 at 30p or 25p, but sound is mono and continuous autofocus is not supported unlike some of its rivals.
1920 x 1080, H.264/MOV, Progressive, 30 fps
Download Original (267.3MB MOV).
Full HD Moiré Sample Video. Although video quality is generally excellent, the T5 's videos are susceptible to aliasing artifacts, as is true of video from a lot of DSLRs.
1920 x 1080, H.264/MOV, Progressive, 30 fps
Download Original (240.7MB MOV).

Video image quality is excellent when you set video recording for 1080p/30 fps as I did for all of my video shooting, though moiré patterns can appear when shooting subjects with repeating detail. Sound quality using the built-in monaural microphone is good but not spectacular, and there's an optional electronic wind filter. Sadly, there is no jack for an external stereo mic, which some competitors even at this price point are starting to provide. Although the T5 does not provide continuous AF while shooting video, you can reframe your subject at any time and press the shutter release partway in to activate contrast-based AF while shooting, which is a reasonable workaround for most purposes, however the focusing noise made by the AF motor in the kit lens was quite evident in the recording. You can, of course switch to manual focus which is exactly what many serious videographers do when shooting video with DSLRs that are a lot more expensive than the T5.

Movie menu options

Exposure in movie mode defaults to fully automatic, but provisions for manual control of ISO, shutter speed and aperture control as well as the option to shoot 720p at 60 fps are included, impressive for a camera in this price class. As mentioned, the T5 does not provide continuous AF when shooting video, though. This is the chief drawback in shooting video with the T5 for most consumers -- too bad because video image quality is generally excellent. And in case you're wondering, the quiet-focusing Canon STM 18-55mm lens included in the Canon EOS Rebel T5i kit will work on the T5, providing virtually silent AF. However, since the T5 is sold only as a kit with standard Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS II lens, and the camera does not have continuous AF capability when shooting video, acquiring it isn't a very practical proposition. In short, If you want quiet, continuous AF when shooting video, by all means opt for the T5i.

18-55mm kit lens: 18mm, f/3.5, 1/160s, ISO 800

Summary. Overall the Canon EOS Rebel T5 is a terrific, fun camera and certainly an amazing value for the money. However before more serious enthusiasts plunk down five C-notes for this engaging camera, they should take a close look at its main competition, which is, ironically enough, Canon's very own Rebel T5i. Granted, the T5i has a street price of US$750 versus $500 for the T5, a hefty $250 or 50% price premium. However, what you get is a camera with the following upgrades: An 18-55mm IS STM kit lens with quiet and smooth AF when shooting video, a better-performing, state-of the art DIGIC 5 image processor, a higher-res, tilting 3.0-inch Vari-Angle 1,040k-dot touch screen, Full HD 1080p video with continuous AF as you shoot, an external mic jack, a 5.0 fps continuous shooting burst rate, a 9-point all-cross-sensor AF system, and Multi-Shot Noise reduction. If that isn't enough, it also has ISO settings expandable to ISO 25,600, a slightly higher magnification viewfinder (about 0.85x vs. 0.8x), and a slightly wider eyepiece diopter adjustment range (-3 to +1 as opposed -2.5 to +0.5). Is all that worth an extra $250? As they say, it's your call, but if you do a lot of serious video or action shooting the choice is clear. (Editor's Note: You may also want to consider the Canon SL1 which has a street price of about US$600, is smaller than the T5 & T5i, and is even more adept at continuous autofocus during videos than the T5i, thanks to its more advanced hybrid AF system.) However, if you're not really into those things, or you're buying this as a family or backup camera to complement your high-zoot Canon DSLR, by all means go for the simple, unassuming, very competent T5 and chuckle all the way to the bank.


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