[Editors’ Note: Although we tested a final unit, it isn’t a production model. The camera on sale at stores may differ slightly from the images you see here, cosmetically, but is otherwise the same.]
Canon’s new entry-level DSLR, the EOS Rebel T5 ($550), is an upgrade from the now discontinued T3. That’s all well and good, but is it better than the more affordable mirrorless competition – which have become very strong performers in the past year? While the camera will satisfy newbie DSLR owners in ease of use and great image quality, the fact that there isn’t a major upgrade in features leaves us wanting a little more. (Check out our T5 vs. Nikon D3300 comparison here.)
Features and Design
Ho-hum, it’s another all-black basic DSLR with a textured grip. We really shouldn’t expect much more sizzle since, other than Pentax’s Day-Glo bodies, almost all digital single lens reflex cameras look alike. Canon fans will find nothing unusual here, neither will every buyer looking for a new DSLR. Granted, it doesn’t have the heft of the new pro-level Nikon D4S, but it also doesn’t have an MSRP that’s ten-times more expensive – the T5 is clearly for newbies and those looking to upgrade older Rebels.
Stealthy it is not, for it’s rather noisy as the mirror assembly flaps away.
At $549 with a kit zoom lens, the 18-megapixel T5 has solid imaging underpinnings but if you’re looking for “scintillating,” you won’t find it here. The camera measures 5.1 x 3.9 x 3 inches, weighing 17 ounces for the body, battery, and card. We know this is hard to quantify but overall it feels rather “plasticky.” At least, carrying it around your neck shouldn’t be too much of a burden.
The key feature on the front is the classic EF mount and, thanks to many years in the business, Canon offers a huge selection of glass. We can’t imagine anyone spending $1,000 for a wide-aperture prime lens to use with this camera, but the 55-250mm would be a good addition ($299); Canon sent that along for our review. Given the 1.6x digital factor, we had a 28.8-400mm focal range to play with, which was a lot of fun shooting landscapes.
Even though the T5 improves upon the T3’s 720p with Full HD 1920 x 1080/30p video, they neglected the stereo part of the equation, opting for a mono mic. We know manufacturers have to watch their pennies but this seems like a foolish oversight. Also, note the T5 does have an outboard AF Assist lamp like Nikon, Sony, et al. Here it’s part of the auto pop-up flash. This is nothing unusual for Canon DSLRs and fortunately we had few focusing issues.
We found the grip comfortable and the textured finish helped keep things steady. In keeping with its entry-level status, the main mode dial not only has Scene Intelligent (smart) Auto, PASM, and Movie, it has four commonly used scene options (Portrait, Landscape, Macro, and Sports) along with other settings.
The two key features on the back are the optical viewfinder and LCD screen. The VF has a 95-percent field of view and is fairly bright. The 3-inch fixed-mount LCD is rated 460k (up from 2.7-inches/230k on the T3) but it still lacks detail. And there are reflectivity issues galore when used in bright sunshine. Make sure you crank up the brightness to 7 (max) before heading outdoors since 4 is the default. Like the recently reviewed Sony A5000, you can’t appreciate the detail of the sensor until you review images on a large monitor. The back is also home to a blizzard of well-marked but typical DSLR buttons. It’s not intimidating at all and casual users should have few problems making the move to DSLR Land.
On the left side of the T5 is a compartment covered with a door that has a rather flimsy hinge, which hides the USB, mini HDMI, and remote control connections. The battery is rated 600 shots (no flash), 190 using Live View. These are OK numbers but a spare might be a good thing if you plan on using the display as your viewfinder all day or have an indoor family gathering on tap where the flash will be pulling heavy duty.
If you like having smartphone connectivity with a camera, look elsewhere. The T5 doesn’t have Wi-Fi built in.
What’s in the box
The camera body and kit lens comes with various caps and a strap. You also get the battery, plug-in charger, and a USB cable. To get you started Canon supplies a 114-page Basic Instruction Manual. You also get two booklets – “Flash Classroom” and “Do More With Macro” – which are quite helpful for newbies and even those who feel they’re pretty knowledgeable. Going against the trend of having everything in the cloud, Canon supplies three CDs: the EOS Digital Solutions Disk (ver. 29) with software for handling files, the full Instruction Manual, and a Software Instruction Manual.
The T5 comes with a limited one-year warranty. Full service and support information can be found here.
Performance and use
The T5 has an 18MP APS-C sensor (5184 x 3456 pixels), a nice upgrade of the 12MP imager found in the predecessor, the T3. It uses an older DIGIC 4 processor, so this camera’s performance is hardly supersonic. Top speed is 3 frames per second but you can crank off 69 JPEGs before the camera starts gasping. If you’re shooting RAW, this drops to six images. We doubt these limitations will put off casual shutterbugs since, for everyday use, the camera focuses very quickly and is ready to keep firing as long as the auto-flash doesn’t keep popping open. If this does occur, just hold it shut and go about your business.
The T5 does the job it’s intended to do, and that’s to take good photographs.
For a DSLR, the T5 is very easy to use, perfect for its intended audience. However, it is rather noisy as the mirror assembly flaps away; stealthy it’s not. The menu system is simple to follow and all of your main controls are within quick reach. But we don’t think buyers of the T5 will go beyond the Smart Intelligent Auto setting and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, since it does a good overall job of metering and adjusting for specific scenes. Why make life difficult for yourself if you don’t have to? Would we like an upgrade to the basic nine-point AF system (one cross-type)? And would we like a higher-res LCD display, stereo soundtracks, and Wi-Fi, just to name a few things? Of course, but this is a $550 DSLR kit, not a $1,199 Canon EOS 70D or any other high-priced enthusiast model.
Overall, the T5 does the job it’s intended to do, and that’s to take good photographs. We’ve always liked the “tone and feel” of Canon cameras, and it’s no different with the T5. Images have accurate colors with a depth that’s not over the top – they just look good (see samples). We went out on a boat ride in Arizona’s Saguaro Lake (yes, there is water in Arizona!), using the kit lens as well the telephoto zoom. Fortunately both are image stabilized which cut down on blur, but it was still hard capturing a speeding water skier from a moving craft. Once we slowed down, landscapes of cacti and hills came out just right. Other shots taken on land, of flowers and various still lifes, also delivered the Canon quality. That said, these aren’t the sharpest lenses in the shed; they’re good value but don’t compare them in any way to a quality prime lens.
Movies, on the other hand, did not have the superior quality of the 70D with its Dual Pixel AF technology. Colors were a bit muted and there was some rolling shutter that’s to be expected from low-priced DSLRs. Also, using Live View in bright sunshine is not pleasant as there are reflectivity issues aplenty. Make sure you know how to quickly adjust the LCD brightness in the menu settings to manage this problem. At 460k don’t expect to examine your videos (or stills) with a lot of accuracy; you’ll need a large monitor for that. And, of course, the mono mic transforms winds into roaring hurricanes.
The T5 has a basic ISO range of 100-6400 that can be extended to 12,800 once you adjust the Custom Settings. It’s really not worth the effort since 12,800 results are very poor and should be avoided at all costs. The camera does well to ISO 800 and starts to decline rapidly as you go higher. For best results, we wouldn’t tread above 1,600. This is somewhat disappointing, given the overall improvement in the industry.
For what it is and whom it’s intended for, the T5 is a decent camera. We wouldn’t go out of our way to recommend it, especially since there are less expensive options available like the recently reviewed, lighter weight Sony Alpha A5000. Sure, it doesn’t have a classic viewfinder, but you do get 20 megapixels, Wi-Fi, and 1080/60i stereo videos. We’re sure the T5 will be a best seller since Canon is a default choice for many buyers, and the price is reasonable. Yet, it definitely left us wanting more.
- Good stills with classic Canon image style
- Good for DSLR newbies on a budget
- Decent 1080/30p videos
- Noisy shutter mechanism
- Even though new, seems like old technology
- Doesn’t handle high ISOs well
- No Wi-Fi