On some counts, the T1i offers some pretty nice specifications, highlighted by the 15-megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor (for Canon's traditional 1.6x focal-length multiplier) and same nine-point user-selectable autofocus system as the XSi. Aside from new capabilities like movie capture and CA, the camera offers effectively the same feature set as the XSi, with its same strengths and holes. It lacks common perks Sony, Pentax, and Olympus include in their cameras, like in-body mechanical stabilization and a wireless flash controller in the body, a feature I occasionally find quite useful. The inclusion of an image-stabilizing kit lens doesn't quite compensate, since additional optically stabilized lenses tend to cost more in the long run. (For a complete accounting of the T1i's features, download the PDF manual.)
The T1i performs very well for this class of dSLR. It wakes and shoots in a quick 0.2 second. In bright conditions it can focus and shoot in a fast 0.3 second, and even in dim conditions maintains a 0.6 second shot lag--that makes it faster than the more expensive Nikon D90. Typical shot-to-shot time runs about 0.4 second, for both raw and JPEG, and throwing the pop-up flash into the mix bumps that to 0.7 second. Continuous shooting speed for this year's models in this price range are running between 3 and 4 frames per second, with the T1i coming in at a respectable, though not class-leading, 3.3fps. In practice, both the frame rate and nine-point AF system are certainly fast enough to keep up with children and pets.
It's always tricky to bump the resolution and not degrade photo quality--the pixels in the T1i's 15-megapixel sensor are, as you'd expect, smaller than those of the XSi's 12-megapixel version: 4.7 microns versus 5.2 microns--but the Digic 4 processor seems to compensate well for noise. Photos remain sharp with few artifacts as high as ISO 1,600--by the numbers as high as ISO 3,200--though sharp-eyed photographers will probably want to max out at ISO 400 for the cleanest photos. The extended sensitivity range goes up to ISO 12,800, and while that's not a setting I'd suggest for everyday use, as long as your subject isn't very detailed or dark it can work in a pinch. Canon seems to have tweaked its default exposure settings to be a bit brighter, more in keeping with consumer tastes, and the result is more clipped highlights than I expected but probably more crowd-pleasing midtones and shadows. The T1i also renders punchier color; bright and saturated, thankfully just shy of too much.
Though not quite as robust as on the EOS 5D Mark II, which supports 30fps for its 1080p capture, the T1i's video still surpasses that of the limited to 24fps 720p Nikon D5000. The movie quality is solid, but I'd stick with the 30fps 720p and avoid 1,920x1,080 mode--it's only 20fps, and motion looks a bit jerky. You can manually invoke AF while you're shooting, which is useful, but remember that it's slow and creaky. Initiating focus creates some jerkiness, but at least you don't have to stop, focus, and restart; I definitely prefer having the option. Like many of the low-end implementations, it uses mono audio (there's no mic input) and could benefit from a wind filter.
The T1i's improvement in low-light AF may be a compelling upgrade for current XSi owners; the higher resolution and video capture capability may provide some allure as well. If you're looking to buy an entry-level Canon, the EOS Rebel T1i won't disappoint, and if you need high resolution, good high ISO performance, or 30fps movie capture in this price range, it's the model to beat from any manufacturer.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim light)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)