Just 14 months after the launch of the EOS Rebel XSi (450D), Canon has unveiled its latest model, the Rebel T1i (500D). It's the fifth generation of Rebel and enters the market at a difficult time - in the midst of a global economic downturn and against the fiercest competition we've ever seen in the entry-level DSLR sector. So what has Canon done to make this latest model in the longest-established family in the sector live up to the edgy and exciting image implied by its US naming?

The 500D/T1i doesn't quite have to be the everyman camera that its predecessors were. The introduction of the Rebel XS (1000D) in June 2008 means the T1i no longer has to appeal to everybody who doesn't want to stretch to buying into the 50D class. As a result, the 450D was able to bulk up its feature set to include a selection of features that price-conscious shoppers don't necessarily realize they want, such as a larger viewfinder and spot metering. The result was probably the most complete Rebel we'd seen.

There's a full explanation of the differences between the 500D/T1i and it predecessor on the coming pages but, in general terms, it's a gentle re-working of the 450D. So you get the 15MP sensor much like the one that appears in the 50D, helping this to become the first entry-level DSLR to feature video (and 1080p HD video at that). You also get the lovely 920,000 dot VGA monitor that has been slowly working its way down most manufacturer's DSLR line-ups. There are a handful of other specification tweaks that come from the use of the latest Digic 4 processor but essentially this is most of a 50D stuffed into the familiar 450D body.

And, if the loss of the letter 'X' from the US name seems a bit disconcerting, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that the Japanese market will still know it by the odd-to-European-ears 'Kiss X3 Digital.' For simplicity's sake, we'll refer to the 500D/T1i/Kiss X3 by the name 500D throughout the rest of the review.

A brief history; Canon entry level digital SLR series

* The Canon EOS 1000D represents a sub-class of the Rebel series and hence should be considered a parallel series

Compared to predecessor - key differences

Although for the time being the EOS 500D will sit alongside the 450D in the Canon DSLR line-up there is no doubt that sooner or later it will replace the older model and occupy the spot between the 1000D as and the EOS 50D on its own. The most noticeable new features on the EOS 500D are the higher resolution sensor, the new high-res LCD and the HD video mode but the camera also comes with the latest generation DIGIC imaging processor which brings a few more low-key improvements such as fine-tunable noise reduction and Highlight Tone Priority or a fresher, animated menu design with it. See the list and table below for all the spec and feature changes..

  • Higher resolution sensor (15.1 vs 12.2 effective megapixels)
  • Extended ISO range up to ISO 12800
  • HD video capability
  • New 3.0 inch 920K pixels screen
  • Adjustable noise reduction and highlight tone priority
  • Face Detection in Live View
  • Peripheral Illumination Correction
  • HDMI output
  • Larger buffer in continuous shooting
  • Digic 4 style menu design

Canon EOS 500D vs. EOS 450D feature and specification differences

Canon EOS 40D
Canon EOS 500D
Canon EOS 40D
Canon EOS 450D
Sensor • 15.1 million effective pixels • 12.2 million effective pixels
Image sizes • 4752 x 3168
• 3456 x 2304
• 2353 x 1568
• 4272 x 2848
• 3088 x 2056
• 2256 x 1504
Image processor DIGIC 4 DIGIC III
Sensitivity ISO 100 to 3200, extendable to(6400) and H (12800). ISO 100 to 1600
Auto ISO ISO 100 to 1600 ISO 100 to 800
Noise reduction Four levels On/Off
Auto lighting optimizer Four levels On/Off
Viewfinder info Now includes Highlight Tone Priority icon  
LCD monitor • 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 920,000 dots
• 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
Video mode • 1080p @ 20fps
• 720p @ 30fps
• VGA @ 30fps
• MOV (Video: H.264, Sound: Linear PCM)
No video capability
Live view AF • Quick mode (Phase detect)
• Live view mode (Contrast detect)
• Face detect (Contrast detect)
• Quick mode (Phase detect)
• Live view mode (Contrast detect)

Peripheral illumination

• Profiles of 25 lenses includes
High-speed continuous • 3.4 fps
• 170 JPEG/Fine frames
• 9 RAW frames
3.5 fps
53 JPEG/Fine frames
6 RAW frames
Menu UI Digic 4 interface Digic III interface
Connectors • USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
• Video output (PAL/ NTSC) (integrated with USB terminal)
• HDMI Type C
• USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
• Video output (PAL/ NTSC) (integrated with USB terminal)
Menu languages 25 20