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

You can find better deals than this umpteenth repackaging of years-old technology.

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Lori Grunin
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Lori Grunin

Senior Editor / Advice

I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.

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9 min read

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.

canon-rebel-t501.jpg
6.8

Canon EOS Rebel T5 (1200D)

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.

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 .

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

t5-iso-low-770.png
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

t5-iso-high-770.png
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

t5-picture-styles-770.png
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

t5-colors-770.png
Color settings are optimized to appear bright, saturated, and contrasty. Lori Grunin/CNET

Performance

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.

The battery life is possibly one of the few important areas in which it bests the T3i -- by only about 60 shots -- although even there it's significantly worse than its predecessor, the T3.

And keep in mind that there's no full-time autofocus when shooting video. On one hand, I can understand not including it, since you can hear the lens movement -- it's loud -- and there's no input for an external mic. But it really limits the flexibility for people who just want to shoot a video clip occasionally.

Shooting speed

Sony Alpha ILCE-3000 0.5 0.8 0.7 0.7 1.9Canon EOS Rebel T3i 0.3 0.9 0.4 0.4 0.5Canon EOS Rebel T5 0.3 0.9 0.5 0.4 0.5Nikon D3200 0.3 0.5 0.5 0.6 0.3Canon EOS Rebel SL1 0.3 0.8 0.3 0.2 0.6
  • Shutter lag (typical)
  • Shutter lag (dim light)
  • Typical shot-to-shot time
  • Raw shot-to-shot time
  • Time to first shot
Note: In seconds, shorter bars indicate better performance

Typical continuous-shooting speed

Sony Alpha ILCE-3000 2.6Canon EOS Rebel T5 3.1Canon EOS Rebel T3i 3.8Nikon D3200 3.9Canon EOS Rebel SL1 4.1
Note: In frames per second; longer bars indicate better performance

Design and features

The T5 uses a slightly modified version of the T3's body. It's just OK, and the design only occasionally gets in the way of shooting. You can grip it comfortably, and all the back controls are easily reachable with your right thumb.

The control layout is straightforward and functional. The four navigation buttons bring up ISO sensitivity, drive mode (single; burst; and 2-, 10- and custom self-timers), white balance, and autofocus mode options (Single focus, AI focus, and Servo AI).

Exposure compensation, movie record/live mode, menu, Quick Control, playback, and display buttons occupy other spaces around them. All of the buttons are flat with little tactile feedback. The only buttons with any sort of travel are the exposure lock and AF point selector buttons, positioned for thumb-based operation. They still manage to feel mushy.

You can program the Set button in the middle to bring up image quality, flash exposure compensation, depth-of-field preview, or toggle the LCD display on and off. The LCD toggle is already assigned to a button and the depth-of-field preview is usually impossible to see in small, dim viewfinders like this one, so you're pretty constrained in your button assignments. You can also reassign the pop-up flash button to control ISO speed, though that, too, has a dedicated button on the back. The limited feature set doesn't really require a lot of direct-access flexibility, though.

The top holds the hot shoe, mode dial, flash popup button and power switch. The mode dial contains all the the usual manual, semimanual, and automatic modes. Unlike many manufacturers that have a smart/intelligent auto mode (the auto mode where you can change a few settings), Canon calls its comparable mode "Creative Auto"; Canon's Scene Intelligent Auto is actually plain, old auto.

If you have to dive in to the menu system, you'll find it straightforward and easy to navigate. A My Menu Settings tab allows for programming quick menu access to the most frequently needed options.

As with the T3, the T5 has the old mode dial that doesn't rotate 360 degrees, so to get from the manual modes to movie mode on the opposite side of the dial requires a long turn -- even auto mode is a bit far if you switch between stills and movies frequently. Like all the old designs, you must switch into movie mode to shoot video.

The SD card slot is inconveniently located in the battery compartment, and the only connectors are for a wired remote, USB, and HDMI out.

The feature set is quite basic. Like the T3, the T5 lacks spot metering. I think it's because of the small viewfinder; Canon tends to have large spots for its meter, and the combination of a small viewfinder and a large spot means you're already at the partial meter size, anyway. In practice, I found very little difference in the results I got from the metering choices because of it.

Also similar to dSLRs at this price, there's no Wi-Fi built in, so if you want it you'll have to add it yourself.

Its one advantage over the D3200 is the inclusion of exposure and flash bracketing, as well as shutter-speed control in movie mode. However, the D3200 includes a mic input.

For a complete overview of the T5's features and operation, download the manual.

Conclusion

Let me start by making it clear that as long as you don't care that you're not getting the best camera for the money, or even a good bargain, you'll probably be perfectly happy with this camera as a replacement for a point and shoot. Once it's been out a while and the price drops, it may not be as bad a deal.

If history repeats itself, lots of people will buy the T5. However, if you do want a better camera for the money now, buy the older T3i (until supply runs out) if you're set on Canon. And when you can't find the T3i at the low price anymore, go for the now-cheap Nikon D5100 (until its supply runs out), or the Nikon D3200.

Once you've made your purchase, check out our tips for learning and using your dSLR.

Comparative specifications

Canon EOS Rebel T3 EOS 1100D EOS Kiss X50 Canon EOS Rebel T3i EOS 600D

Canon EOS Rebel T5
EOS 1200D
Kiss X70

Nikon D3200
Sensor effective resolution 12.2MP CMOS 18MP CMOS 18MP CMOS 24.2MP CMOS
Sensor size 22 x 14.7mm 22.3 x 14.9mm 22.3 x 14.9mm 23.2 x 15.4mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 1.6x 1.6x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 6400 ISO 100 - ISO 6400/12800 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 6400/12800 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/12800 (exp)
Burst shooting 2fps raw/3 fps JPEG
5 raw/unlimited JPEG
3.7fps
5 raw/34 JPEG
3fps JPEG
6 raw/unlimited JPEG
4fps
unlimited JPEG as tested
Viewfinder
(magnification/ effective mag)
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/0.50x
Optical
95% coverage
0.85x/0.53x
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/0.50x
Optical
95% coverage
0.80x/0.53x
Hot Shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 9-pt AF
center cross-type
9-pt AF
center cross-type
9-pt AF
center cross-type
11-pt AF
center cross-type
AF sensitivity 0 - 18 EV -0.5 - 18 EV 0 - 18 EV -1 to 19 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
1/4,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync
Metering 63 zones 63 zones 63 zones 420-pixel 3D color matrix metering II
Metering sensitivity 1 - 20 EV 1 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
720/30p/25p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/25p/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/25p/24p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/25p/24p; 720/60p/50p
Audio Mono Mono, mic input Mono Mono; mic input
Manual aperture and shutter in video No Yes Yes Aperture only
Maximum best-quality recording time 17m 4GB/11m 29m59s 20m
IS Optical Optical Optical Optical
LCD 2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches articulated
1.04m dots
3 inches fixed
460,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
Wireless connection No No No Optional Wi-Fi
(with WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter $60/£55/AU$100)
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes
Wireless flash No No No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 700 shots (VF); 220 shots (LV) 440 shots (VF); 180 shots (LV) 500 shots (VF); 180 shots (LV) 700 shots; n/a
Size (WHD) 5.9 x 3.9 x 3.1 in
129.9 x 99.7 x 77.9 mm
5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 in
150 x 99.1 x 78.7mm
5.9 x 3.9 x 3.1 in
129.6 x 99.1 x 78.7 mm
5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 in
125 x 96 x 76.5 mm
Body operating weight 17.5 oz
496 g
18.6 oz
527 g
17.5 oz
496 g
17.6 oz
499 g
Mfr. price (body only) $n/a
£420
AU$n/a
$500 (est)
£680
AU$520
$n/a
£350
AU$530
$n/a
£345
AU$600
Primary kit $450
£460
AU$n/a
$600
£770
AU$549 (est)
$550
£400
AU$650
$530
£550
AU$730
Alternate kit $n/a
£n/a
AU$n/a
$n/a
£n/a
AU$840
(18-55m and 55-250mm lenses)
$n/a
£n/a
AU$1300
(18-55mm and 75-300mm lenses)
$780
£n/a
AU$920
(18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses)
Release date May 2011 March 2011 March 2014 April 2012
canon-rebel-t501.jpg
6.8

Canon EOS Rebel T5 (1200D)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7Image quality 7
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