Canon Rebel T1i Digital Camera Review$799.99
The Canon T1i compresses video using the H.264 codec and video files are saved in the MOV file format. This compression system is similar to the various MPEG-4 codecs (including AVCHD) that are used by many camcorder manufacturers. It is also a more advanced codec than the Motion JPEG system utilized by the Nikon D5000. The fact that the camera saves videos in the MOV file format is good news for people who edit with Final Cut Pro or use QuickTime. The MOV files can be dragged and dropped right from the camera and they can easily be imported to FCP for editing.
The camera has a maximum video resolution of 1920 x 1080, which is full HD, but video recorded at this size is limited to a 20p frame rate. When shooting with the smaller video resolutions of 1280 x 720 or the standard definition 640 x 480 the camera records using a 30p frame rate.
Record times vary, obviously depending on what size SD/SDHC card is being used and the resolution settings, ranging from 12 minutes of 1080/20p video on a 4GB SD card, to 99 minutes of 480/30p video on a 16GB SDHC card. Single video files are limited to a maximum size of 4GB. Once a clip reaches that size recording automatically stops, but it can be started up again (as a new clip) by hitting the record button.
The video below was taken at Niagara Falls, and shows some of the strengths and weaknesses of the camera. While the center of the frame is very sharp, there is significant artifacting in the lower right corner, and along the skyline.
Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content
The Canon T1i doesn't offer much in the way of manual controls in video mode. The big absence is a lack of aperture control, which means you can't play around with depth of field very well. This is alarming because one of the strong selling points of video-capable DSLRs is their ability to control depth of field. There is also no manual control over shutter speed or ISO in video mode.
The Canon T1i has a video mode setting right on its mode dial and the dial must be set to this in order to shoot video with the camera. This means none of the scene modes are available in video mode. As with all DSLRs that shoot video so far, you must use the LCD screen while recording and the optical viewfinder does not function in video mode.
In video mode, the camera maintains an entirely automated system of control—with the exception of continual autofocus. Exposure is adjusted automatically as you shift from light to dark, as is ISO and shutter speed. There is also an auto exposure lock option, which can be engaged by pressing the ISO button on the camera. When this button is pressed, the current exposure settings are locked for a period of time. The length of which this lock lasts can be set at 4 seconds, 16 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute, 10 minutes, or 30 minutes.
One of the big drawbacks of DSLR cameras that record video is the lack of an autofocus capability while recording. You can autofocus with the T1i while recording video, but the feature isn't anything like the autofocus on a regular camcorder and its implementation makes it effectively useless. You have to press a button (the asterisk button on the camera's right side) for the camera to focus and doing so severely disrupts your footage. Focusing can take up to 3-4 seconds and exposure often changes for a second or two while the autofocus system begins to work. This means you'll probably end up having to edit out these 'focus moments' in post production. There is no live autofocus adjustment like you'd find on even the most basic of camcorders.
The video clip below demonstrates some of the difficulty of the autofocus capabilities in video mode:
Zoom on the T1i is entirely dependent on what lens is connected to the camera. The camera's kit lens is an EF-S 18-55mm lens, which offers a small zoom range. The zoom is controlled by rotating the large ring that makes its way around the entirety of the lens. If you want more zoom than this, or a different range, the T1i is compatible with any EF or EF-S series of lenses.
On the T1i's kit lens, manual focus can be adjusted by rotating the outer lens ring near the tip of the lens. Of course, the feel and position of the lens ring will change depending on what lens is used with the camera. There is also a 5x and 10x focus assist zoom option that can be activated in Live View mode.
Exposure can be adjusted in the T1i's video mode and it can even be controlled while you are shooting. The camera offers an exposure range of -2 to +2 with increments of 1/3. There is also the exposure lock option that is discussed in the Auto Mode section a few paragraphs back. Direct control over shutter speed and aperture are not available on the camera. This is highly disappointing, especially the lack of aperture control, as it severely limits the ability to control depth of field.
ISO options are not available in video mode, but you are presented with the same white balance presets that are available for photos. The white balance shift option, however, cannot be used in video mode. Picture controls can be set in video mode with Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, and Monochrome being the options. There are also three User Defined picture settings, which allow you to specifically adjust sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone in an effort to make your own picture style.
Grid lines can be used while shooting video to help you frame your shot and still photos can be captured while video is being shot. Strangely, when you take a photo while shooting video, the photo is of the entire frame—including the gray bars at the top and bottom of the LCD that establish the 16:9 aspect ratio.
The Canon T1i has the same bare-bones audio features that are found on the Nikon D5000. All the camera has is a built-in, monaural microphone that is located on the front of the camera, just above the EOS logo. There are no external audio inputs and the camera cannot record stereo sound. The worst thing about the internal mic on the T1i is the fact that it picks up camera noise constantly. If you focus the lens, use the zoom, change the exposure, or press any button on the camera, the mic is certain to pick up the sound. This, essentially, makes the internal microphone useless for anything less than simple audio notes or reference sounds. If you want to pick up good audio in conjunction with the Canon T1i, you'll have to use a separate audio recording device entirely.