Canon EOS Rebel T5 (1200D) review: Rebel T5: Not bad, but not best

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The Good While it doesn't stand out particularly, the Canon EOS Rebel T5 does produce nice photos typical of its price class, its performance isn't bad, and it has a comfortable design.

The Bad The feature set is limited, even by entry-level standards.

The Bottom Line While it's a perfectly fine camera when you're making the jump from a point-and-shoot, there are better choices than the Canon EOS Rebel T5.

6.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 7

The Canon EOS Rebel T5 proves that not everything that seems newer is better. To replace the Rebel T3 , Canon repackaged the several-years-old T3i in the body of the T3, along with its stripped-down feature set. As a result, the EOS Rebel T5 is a much worse deal than the now-similarly-priced T3i.

It's a perfectly OK entry-level dSLR, but the T3i (which you can find for $500, £425 , or AU$549) delivers the same photo and video quality, has identical or better performance, and has superior features, including a higher-resolution flip-and-twist LCD and a bigger viewfinder. It kills me that Canon will (or already has) phased out the T3i to deliver a worse camera at the same price, though I also understand that dropping all those useful features is the only way to preserve shrinking margins on inexpensive cameras.

But where it counts, even the last-generation Nikon D3200 is better overall than the T5 for the same money.

Image quality

The T5's photo quality ranks as typical for an entry-level dSLR; in this respect, all APS-C sensor-size cameras at this price deliver about the same image quality. It does seem to have a slightly narrower tonal range than other models; JPEG photos look good up to ISO 400, at which point you'll start to see blotchy blacks when lighting get low. That happens with the D3200, too, but in lower light.

While you can fix it a little bit if you shoot raw, there's very little detail there to be had. You can get sharper images by shooting raw starting at about ISO 400, though. Also note that you probably won't be able to see the problem with the blacks when viewing it in a browser (as I discovered when trying to put an example together) or on a phone or tablet .

However, if you're not too picky, you'll probably be happy with the photos as high as ISO 3200 (though the quality will depend upon light and scene content). Beyond that, there's a lot of image noise and hot pixels -- those white dots you get in dark images.

Otherwise, colors look appealing at the default settings, but you can change them if you want something a little more accurate.

The video quality is OK for casual, spur-of-the-moment recording, but there's a lot of image noise in low light.

Analysis samples

The T5 produces usable JPEG photos up to about ISO 800, although you can start to see the image degradation in shadow areas -- for example, compare the word "pushed" in the shadow of the paper at ISO 400 vs. ISO 800. (Unless you view the samples at their full 770-pixel width, they won't look right.) Lori Grunin/CNET
While they are in focus, well-lit areas, though still not great, stay relatively detailed at higher ISO sensitivity settings; still, the images get mushy and noisy. Lori Grunin/CNET
The default Auto Picture Style increases contrast to the extent that some colors shift. If you want more accuracy, you can switch to the Neutral Picture Style, but remember to boost the sharpening because Canon dials it way down in that setting. Lori Grunin/CNET
Color settings are optimized to appear bright, saturated, and contrasty. Lori Grunin/CNET


Is the camera fast enough for typical kids-'n'-pets photography? More or less: generally only if they're not moving really fast or really erratically, and if the light's not terribly dim. The much older Rebel T3i is about the same price and delivers identical single-shot speed and better burst performance. Same goes for the Nikon D3200.

It takes about half a second to power on, focus, and shoot; typical for Canon's low-end models and not as slow as mirrorless competitors, but still not terribly zippy. In adequate light it's OK at 0.3-second, but in dim light it's quite slow and in practice frequently has trouble focusing on anything other than complete autofocus where it uses all the autofocus points. But when you use all the points, you run the risk of it not focusing where you want.

It actually fares pretty well when it comes to a couple of consecutive shots, with only about about 0.4-second lag between shots, either raw or JPEG (at 0.45-second, raw barely misses rounding down). The flash recycles reasonably quickly, with 0.8-second between flash shots.

While the camera can sustain a continuous-shooting rate of 3.1 frames per second for an effectively unlimited number of JPEG images but only 6 when shooting raw, the Servo AI mode (Canon's tracking autofocus, for focusing on moving subjects) and autofocus system delivers more misses than hits in a lot of situations.

Live View remains almost unusably slow, just like the old days. I did some casual performance testing, and it takes between 3.5 and 5 seconds to focus and shoot in Live View using the Flexible Spot autofocus; it's a little faster if you use Quick AF, but that mode works by starting with the mirror flipped up (so it can focus directly from the sensor) and is impractical to use all the time.

Even single-shot autofocus through the viewfinder using a single autofocus area -- i.e., not using all the AF points at once -- can be slow and inconsistent. That's because it's using an effectively (i.e., tweaked over the years) 10-year-old autofocus system and a 6-year-old image processing system.

Furthermore, the viewfinder, which I called "claustrophobic" in the T3, and which is the smallest in its class, has the same tiny, hard-to-see focus points that I've complained about for every Rebel model since they appeared 5 years ago in the T1i and most recently in the SL1. (And to be fair, in the Nikon D3200 as well.) They're impossible to see in moderate-to-dim light, so if you shoot on anything other than full auto, you first have to half-press the shutter to light up the appropriate focus point (in my case, center) before you can even begin to frame the scene.

Manually focusing via the viewfinder works fine in high-contrast scenes, but it's too dim to focus on dark subjects in low light. Generally, when the autofocus system has trouble focusing in those conditions, you'll probably have trouble manually focusing as well.

And the reflective, low-resolution LCD display is unpleasant to use in Live View mode for both stills and video. It's quite difficult to see in sunlight, and because it's fixed rather than articulating, you can't angle it for a better view. Checking focus of the shot is also difficult because of the low-resolution screen. At least it's a little bigger than the T3's.