Canon's new entry-level dSLR should get the job done (hands-on)

 
/ Updated: April 2, 2014 3:30 PM PDT

When you learn to drive, your first car isn't generally a Porsche or an Aston Martin. The same rule should apply when learning photography -- start small and work your way up. Like your first car, the Rebel T5 (aka the 1200D everywhere but the US) probably won't stay with you forever. But the experience of learning to drive it will.

There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about the T5, and in many respects it is trumped on specs by its competitors. But for the most part, it does the job that's required of it, taking photos and videos without needing any prior knowledge of SLRs.

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ISO 1600

Like all of Canon's entry-level SLRs, the T5 definitely pumps up the saturation on default picture settings. Colours are rich but almost cartoon-like. the T5 is able to produce some very decent close-up images using just the kit 18-55mm lens. The image sensor on the T5 is essentially the same as that found in the slightly older generation Canon SLRs like the T3i/600D so there's nothing too new in terms of image quality. The kit 18-55mm non-IS lens, which these photos were all taken with, is fine for a starter lens but there's some detail that it can't quite resolve.

To cater to SLR first-timers, this camera matches a small body with just enough controls to get you started. It's lightweight and reasonably compact at just under a pound (480g) for the body, though it is not as small as the Rebel SL1/EOS 100D which is the tiniest SLR in the Canon range. There is no doubt that this is an entry-level camera, and you get what you pay for in terms of screen size and resolution.

From the ground up, this camera is designed for beginners. Scene intelligent auto mode is there to do all the work for you if you don't want to touch manual controls. If you want to adjust colours or saturation, but you're not sure of how to do it through the menus by playing with white balance settings, the camera will let you tweak these easily in Live View mode and see the results in real time on the screen.

The mode dial houses other controls such as scene selections for portrait and landscape shots, while full program, aperture, shutter and manual exposure modes are available as well.

The 9-point AF system is unchanged from the older T3/1100D, but will suffice for users who are stepping up to an SLR for the first time. At the heart of the 1200D is an 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor (3:2 aspect ratio), teamed with the Digic 4 processor. There's a pop-up flash and a hotshoe provided for attaching external speedlight units.

A series of creative filters are available, adding effects such as fish-eye and black-and-white to images. Metering remains simple, with the camera having multi, centre-weighted, and partial zones to choose from. Unfortunately, it misses out on spot metering, which can be useful for portrait work.

Depending on where you buy the T5 or 1200D around the world, kit configurations will differ. However, it's more than likely that one of these options will include the stock standard 18-55mm lens, which comes in several different variants. The most important distinction to make is whether or not the lens will come with image stabilisation, denoted by "IS" in the lens name.

For many purposes, such as shooting in bright outdoor situations, not having image stabilisation won't make much of a difference. However, in low-light situations without flash and for handheld video recording, the difference between a non-IS and IS lens is huge. I suggest spending a little extra and getting the kit with the IS lens.

On the video recording front, the 1200D is decent enough for quick clips and capturing 1080p video without too many bells and whistles. You will need to focus the camera before filming, as autofocus during recording is not supported. Sound from the built-in mic is decent, which partially makes up for the fact that there's no external audio input.

Stay tuned for a full review.

Canon EOS Rebel T3 Canon EOS Rebel T5 Nikon D3200 Sony Alpha ILCE-3000
(A3000)
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.2MP CMOS 18MP CMOS 24.2MP CMOS 20.1MP Exmor HD CMOS
Sensor size 22 x 14.7mm 22.3 x 14.9mm 23.2 x 15.4mm 23.5 x 15.6mm
Focal- length multiplier 1.6x 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 - ISO 6400/12800 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/
200 - ISO 6400/ 12800 (exp)
ISO 100 - ISO 16000
Continuous shooting 2fps raw/3 fps JPEG
5 raw unlimited JPEG
3fps JPEG
6 raw/ unlimited JPEG
4fps
(unlimited JPEG as tested)
2.5fps
5 raw + JPEG/
13 JPEG
(3.5fps with fixed exposure)
Viewfinder (mag/
effective mag)
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/ 0.50x
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/0.50x
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/ 0.53x
EVF
0.5 inch/
201,600 dots
100% coverage
0.70x/ 0.59x
Autofocus 9-pt AF
center cross-type
9-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type
25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity 0 to 18 EV 0 to 18 EV -1 to 19 EV 0 - 20 EV
Shutter Speed 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync 1/4000 to 30 seconds; bulb; 1/160 x-sync
Metering 63 zones 63 zones 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II 1200 zone
Metering sensitivity 1 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 to 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/30p/ 25p
(17 min max)
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/ 50p
AVCHD
1080/60i @ 24, 17Mbps, 1080/24p @ 24, 17Mbps; H.264 MPEG-4 1440 x 1080/30p @ 12Mbps
Audio Mono Mono Mono; mic input Stereo
Manual aperture and shutter in video No n/a Yes Aperture only
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical
LCD size 2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches fixed
460,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3-inch fixed
230,400 dots
Wireless flash No No Yes No
Wireless connectivity None None Optional
via WU-1a ($59.95)
None
Battery life (CIPA rating) 700 shots (VF); 220 shots (LV) 500 shots (VF); 180 shots (LV) 540 shots 480 shots
Size
(WHD)
5.9 x 3.9 x 3.1 in
129.6 x 99.7 x 77.9 mm
5.9 x 3.9 x 3.1 in
129.6 x 99.7 x 77.9 mm
5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 in
125.6 x 76 x 76.5 mm
4.0 x 2.3 x 1.5 in
128.0 x 90.9 x 84.5 mm
Body operating weight (ounces) 17.5 oz
496.1 g
16.9 oz (est)
480 g (est)
17.6 oz
499.0 g
14.2 oz
402.6 g
Mfr. Price body only (USD) $400 (est) n/a
$400 (est) n/a
Mfr. price basic kit (USD) $449.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $549.99 (with 18-55mm lens) $499.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $349.99 (with 18-55mm lens)
Mfr. price alternate kit (USD) n/a n/a $599.95 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses) n/a
Release date May 2011 March 2014 April 2012 September 2013

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 18.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 14.9 x 22.3mm