Live View

The EOS 500D is the second generation of Canon's xx0D series that comes with live view. Like its predecessor the EOS 500D's implementation provides live view of the scene with magnification up to 10x, with optional overlays such as a live histogram and two types of gridlines. Additionally to the 'mirror up' and contrast detect auto-focus, there is now also a face detection AF mode. Live View can only be used in the 'Creative Zone' exposure modes (P, Tv, Av, M and A-DEP); however A-DEP becomes identical in behaviour to program mode (P).

Live View function settings

Like on the EOS 450D, the most useful live view parameters such as grid display and AF mode can be accessed and modified in the Live view function settings screen.

Live View function settings screen Choose from three AF modes in live view: Phase detect, contrast detect and contrast detect with face detection

Live view display modes

Pressing the DISP button while in Live View toggles between the four available display modes, each with differing levels of overlaid information. The final two views shown below are the default view with optional gridlines enabled.

1: Live view with magnification area indicated + status line showing shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, frames remaining, ISO sensitivity and battery status. 2: Live view with magnification area + status line + brief overlay (Picture Style, AF mode, drive mode, white balance, image quality)
3: Live view with magnification area + status line + brief overlay + live histogram 4: Live view with magnification area (and nothing else)
Optional gridlines overlay type I Optional gridlines overlay type II

Live view magnification

Just as in playback mode you can magnify live view by pressing the enlarge button (or back out again with reduce). While magnified you can use the multi-controller to move around the live image.

Live view Depth-of-Field preview, reaching the limit

One very useful feature in Live View is of course depth-of-field (DOF) preview, when the DOF preview button is pressed the camera stops the lens down to the selected (or metered) aperture which provides you with an accurate representation of the depth-of-field of the final image. You can also magnify and scroll around the image while holding down the DOF preview button to check for critical focus across various regions of the frame. On the EOS500D this works reasonably well up to F22, but if you are using extremely small apertures the reduction in light means the live view image gets very dark.

Normal Live View DOF preview button held at F22
DOF preview button held at F36  

If you'd like to see how the EOS 500D's live view mode will look in action, have a look at the display pages of our Canon EOS 5D Mk II review (which is very similar).

Overall handling and operation comments

We have in the past been slightly critical about the handling of the 500D's predecessors and we're still not too keen on the camera's ergonomics. The grip is comparatively small and, especially for photographers with larger hands, the camera doesn't sit as comfortably in the hand as, for example, the Nikon D5000 or Olympus E-620. The external controls give you good access to the most frequently changed shooting parameters but we'd love to see a 50D style second control wheel. Having said that we are looking at a budget camera here and the manufacturers have to draw the line somewhere.

The menu design is very intuitive and for everybody stepping up from a digital compact camera the Quick Control Screen will be a welcome alternative to changing settings via the hard buttons. All in all the EOS 500D is a camera that, after some initial adaption time, you will find easy to use. Just make sure you hold one before you buy and check if its smallish grip is suitable for you.

Like most current SLRs the live view feature is, mainly due to the very slow AF, of limited use outside the studio. One advantage though is that you can get an exact representation of focus point and depth of field on the LCD. The video mode delivers excellent quality footage it offers very little manual control. None of these points are deal breakers though and Canon might even, like it did in the case of the 5D Mark II, at some point offer a new firmware to allow for more manual interference.