By Elias Plastiras PC World Australia | on May 11, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 756 . 843 . 1216
Pros: Excellent low-light performance (up to ISO 3200); can shoot video at 720p; produces soft and natural-looking colour tones .
Cons: ISO button in an uncomfortable position; Live View mode is not intuitive; LCD screen does not pop out; no external microphone jack.
Canon's EOS 500D slots in between the EOS 450D and the EOS 40D in the company's digital SLR line-up. It's by no means an entry-level digital SLR, but it's a pretty good option for anyone looking to make the leap from an advanced compact camera to a digital SLR that can also shoot video.
What you get in the Canon EOS 500D is a D-SLR with a relatively compact body that's approximately 12.8cm wide, 8cm thick and 10cm tall. It has a 15.1-megapixel sensor, a 9-point focusing engine, Canon's DIGIC4 image processor, and a Live View-enabled LCD screen. There is a pop-up flash as well as a hot-shoe, and a dial for changing the shutter, aperture and ISO values on the fly.
It costs £756 plus VAT to buy the Canon EOS 500D body on its own, but it is also available in two different kits: £843 for the single lens kit (18-55mm IS), and £1,216 for the twin lens kit (18-55mm IS and 55-250mm IS). The twin lens kit represents good value and gives you plenty of versatility with regards to focal range. The quality of the included lenses is a mixed bag: the 55-250mm IS lens produces reasonably crisp shots with minimal distortion and can focus quickly. On the other hand, the 18-55mm IS lens produces soft shots and makes a lot of noise when it focuses.
We wish the Live View mode worked better for still images, as autofocus is slow and the screen does not pop open to let you shoot from funky angles and make self-portraits easier. To autofocus in Live View mode you have to use a separate button to the shutter, and this is unintuitive. It also means that you can't frame a subject and shoot quickly. In some cases it is probably quicker to manually focus. The EOS 500D's LCD screen is of a high quality so you can see clearly if your subject is in focus or not. The implementation of Live View on the Nikon D5000 (read our review here) is far superior.
For still images, the Canon EOS 500D has seven shooting modes: manual (M), aperture priority (AV), shutter priority (TV), program mode (P), creative auto mode (CA), full auto (square), and a depth of field mode (A-DEP). It also has six scene modes to choose from, which is far fewer than the Nikon D5000's 19. It doesn't have the extensive in-camera filters and editing of the D5000, either.
Nevertheless, inexperienced users can make good use of the full auto mode, which decides all of the camera’s settings, and creative auto mode can be fun to play with, too. For best results use the semi-automatic shutter and aperture priority modes, or the manual mode.
It’s relatively easy to change the exposure values, but the controls could have been better laid out. To change the shutter speed, you simply move the control dial; to change the aperture, you have to hold down the +/- button while moving the control dial; to change the ISO speed, you have hold down the ISO button while moving the control dial.
The problem is that the ISO button is right next to the control dial, which makes it very uncomfortable to change. The ISO button would have been better off on the back of the body, in the position where the video record button is. In fact, the ISO and video record buttons should have been swapped around.