Canon EOS Rebel T1i

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Hands-on Review of the Video Feature on the Canon EOS Rebel T1i

Since its spring release, the Canon EOS Rebel T1i has elicited praise from the reviewers and joy from the users. Because it is the first Rebel to implement video capability, this feature has received a lot of attention. I recently purchased the Rebel T1i, and a few days after purchasing, I took a major overseas trip to put the camera through the paces. Here are some of the stand-out (and maybe some not-so-standout) features of the T1i video capabilities that helped (or hurt) my photography on the trip.

A Note About Durability
Due to the rugged nature of my journey and the on-the-go mobility of my travel, I wasn’t able to give my new toy the TLC that a camera of its price probably deserved. More often than not, it was freely swinging on its strap or making unintentional contact with objects, walls, or other people. Other times, I was forced to stuff it quickly in my backpack or camera bag, and then quickly tear it out of the bag to snap a quick shot. Despite nearly four weeks of constant abuse, the camera looks almost brand new. If you look at the display in just the right light, you may see a hint of a scratch or two, and a trace of dust has accumulated in the flash mount. Other than that, the camera withstood my terrorizing amazingly well.Canon EOS Rebel T1i

First off, it is nice to have a DSLR that is fully integrated with a video feature. The video specs aren’t too bad (1080p HD, 20fps or 720p HD, 20fps) and fit my purposes perfectly. Even the onboard microphone records decent sound. In action, I found the automatic lighting adjustments were flawless. Color came out perfectly, even without any enhancements. Depending on the lens and filter, you are nearly guaranteed to have pleasing quality to your video from that perspective.

Unfortunately, the video feature gave me a few complaints: First, the image stabilizing lens seem to do precious little during video mode. Either bring your tripod along (for me, impossible, since I was shooting from a helicopter) or make sure that you practice your steadying skills.

Secondly, make sure you’re using a high-capacity (HC) SD card. The standard SD cards will not due, since they are incapable of recording video fast enough. Thankfully, I was equipped with a couple 16GB SDHC cards, which performed exceptionally well for all the videos that I took—with one notable exception. During one hair-raising helicopter swoop toward a waterfall, I was eagerly taking video. Since the camera is capable of taking still shots and video simultaneously, I snapped a couple quick ones as we rushed toward the waterfall. Unfortunately, the still shots dragged memory away from the video processing, meaning that several split-second chunks were eaten from the most critical part of my video. Quite disappointing.

Focusing the video is cumbersome. In order to auto-focus the video, you must hold down the focus button until the camera finds that sweet spot. Unfortunately, this means that it must cycle through the entire lens movement, regardless of where it was originally focused. The whole focus process takes about five seconds, which can be a lot of time in a situation where you want to take a quick video.

Finally, video capture is only available using live display. The eye viewfinder shuts off in video mode. nearly all my photography was outdoors, the screen display wasn’t bright enough for me to see what was going on. This created problems on several occasions, specifically when I wanted to make sure that the video was focused on the right object. Usually, I would switch the camera to a manual setting, focus the camera, then switch back to video and commence recording.

For its few shortcomings, Canon has done us all a favor by finally including video with the Rebel. Although it’s not perfect, we can probably expect some notable upgrades in the next generation of cameras.

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