Overall performance of the 500D is pretty much in line with its predecessor, the 450D. The camera always feels responsive in use and you can take a picture almost instantly when powering on. There is no discernible shutter lag and a very quick mirror return giving a very short viewfinder blackout. While continuous shooting is very slightly slower then on the 450D (3.4 vs 3.5 fps) buffering has been improved so that you can now shoot a burst of eleven RAW images before the frame rate starts dropping. The EOS 500D's speed will hardly ever be the limiting factor in your photographic undertakings.

Timings & File Sizes

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 4752 x 3168 JPEG Fine (approx. 6,800 KB per image).

The media used for these tests was a 8 GB Sandisk Extreme III (30mb/s edition) SD card

Time, secs
(8 GB Sandisk)
Power Off to On *1   1.1
Power Off to Shot   <0.1
Shot to shot time (JPEG) Live View 1.0
Shot to shot time (RAW) Live View 1.2
Switch from live view *2   0.3
Power On to Off *3   1.6

*1 This is the time from turning the switch to the 'On' position to the status display appearing on the LCD monitor (as soon as you would be able to verify camera settings). As you can see from the 'Off to Shot' time this doesn't actually affect how quickly you can begin using the camera (as good as instant) assuming you knew the camera was in the correct mode.
*2 This is the time from pressing the Live View button to the status display appearing on the LCD monitor (as soon as you would be able to verify camera settings).
*3 This is taken up with 'Sensor cleaning' (dust removal), if you disable automatic sensor cleaning the power off time is instant.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/500 sec, F5.6), ISO 100. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was always 3.4 fps (+/- 0.05 fps)
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst (for JPEG there is no limit with a fast card)
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held down after burst (buffer full)
  • Write complete - How long after the last shot before the CF lamp goes out

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images

8 GB Sandisk
Frame rate 3.4 fps
Number of frames n/a
Write complete 0.8 sec

Burst of RAW images

8 GB Sandisk
Frame rate 3.4 fps
Number of frames 11
Buffer full rate 1.0 fps
Write complete 9.1 sec

The EOS 500D delivers exactly the frame rate that Canon specifies in the documentation - 3.4 frames per second. Despite of the larger file sizes (15.1 megapixels vs 12.2 megapixels on the 450D) this is almost the same speed as on the 450D (3.5 fps). You can shoot an unlimited number of frames in a JPEG burst.

When shooting in RAW after 11 frames the camera's speed will drop from 3.4 fps to 1.0 fps. At the end of a RAW burst it takes 9.1 seconds to write the contents of the buffer onto the memory card. Note that when shooting RAW+JPEG the camera only manages three frames at full speed before the frame rate drops significantly (0.8 fps).

USB transfer speed

To test the EOS 500D's USB speed we transferred approximately 350 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme III (30MB/s edition) SD card. With the 500D connected via USB cable, the only transfer method available is WIA - Canon doesn't provide a simple 'mass storage device' feature in the camera (enabling the camera to act as a normal card reader). Because of this you have to have EOS Utility installed to ensure the transfer of all your images (as drag-and-drop WIA doesn't support RAW). The transfer speed has, compared to the EOS 450D, greatly improved though and is now more or less on par with a USB 2.0 card reader.

Transfer rate
EOS 500D USB 2.0 11.0 MB/sec
Sandisk Extreme III (using built in USB connector) 20.2 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme III in USB 2.0 reader 11.3 MB/sec

Autofocus speed / accuracy

The EOS 500D's Auto Focus performs very well in almost any condition. The camera locks focus quickly with the kit lenses and Canon's Ultrasonic lenses alike (the latter give you the additional benefit of focusing almost silently). In none of our several hundred real-life sample shots that we took while working on this review did we have any issues with focus accuracy. Focus performance in low light is excellent as well. Naturally the AF slows down a little but much less than you would expect. Even in very dim conditions the 500D still reliably finds a focus lock which helps you avoid the sometimes rather irritating AF help flash strobes.

In live view and video mode the picture looks slightly different. The 500D's contrast AF is so slow that it's almost unusable. Don't expect to lock the focus on any fast moving objects while shooting a video or when in live view. To be fair though, this is not significantly better on any of the competition's models.

Battery life

The EOS 500D uses a the small Lithium-Ion LP-E5 battery that was introduced with the 450D but the camera's new sensor, high resolution screen and the extra DIGIC 4 processing power take their toll. The battery delivers a little less punch than on the predecessor with quoted CIPA test battery down by approximately 100 shots. Having said that the battery still lasts for a couple of days' heavy shooting (though we didn't use live view or flash much). Canon reports tested battery life as:

No Flash
50% Flash use
At 23°C / 73 °F
0°C / 32°F
Live view shooting at 23°C / 73 °F
Live view shooting at 0°C / 32°F