If you were to judge by the names alone, you might assume that the Canon Rebel T5 and the Rebel T5i are pretty similar cameras. And indeed on first glance they do appear so, but look a little bit closer and you’ll see some pretty interesting differences.
First let’s talk about the T5. This is the latest entry-level DSLR by Canon, and carries an 18MP APS-C sized sensor. It comes with a viewfinder and a nice big 3 inch LCD screen, either of which can be used to compose images. It shoots HD video, but only with mono audio. It comes with a pop-up flash but also has a hotshoe so you can mount a speedlight.
As you would expect from a DSLR you can shoot in fully manual mode, where you can control the aperture and shutter speed (see this post to learn more about manual controls). If you’re familiar with ISO you’ll know that this is another variable in the exposure equation, but the T5 allows you to set it to Auto, whereby the camera will choose the ISO for you, which is a handy feature that older cameras lack.
The T5 also comes with shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode (my preferred mode), and program mode, as well as 8 different automatic modes. Some of these are intended for specific situations like portraits or action shots, but you also get ‘Scene Intelligent Auto’ mode which assesses the scene and selects the most appropriate settings. It does seem a little bit odd that Canon still includes all the other automatic modes if ‘Scene Intelligent Auto’ really is that intelligent.
It’s a really lightweight and manageable camera – in fact I find it a little too small for my hands, as my little finger ends up underneath the handgrip instead of around it as it would be on my 5D.
One of the drawbacks of the T5 – and it’s a sign of how far camera technology has come that I would even mention this – is that it is not wifi enabled (nor is the T5i for that matter). The Powershot SX600 which I reviewed last week has wifi functionality, so Canon does have the technology, which makes it omission from the T5 all the more curious.
In my opinion the T5 is a camera for someone who’s interested in learning more about photography, someone who’s already spent some time shooting with a point-and-shoot or a camera phone and wants to push their photography a bit further. To get the most out a DSLR like this you need to move out of the automatic modes. I also think you need to replace the lens that comes with the T5, which really doesn’t do the camera justice. I always advise people to pick up the Canon 50mm f/1.8, which is a really great value lens that will yield much better results.
Now, on to the T5i. As I mentioned earlier there are a few significant differences here. In fact I think the naming system that Canon uses is unnecessarily deceptive. Think of ‘T5’ and ‘T5i’ as nicknames. The real names for these cameras are the 1200D and the 700D. The rule of thumb with Canon cameras is that the smaller the number the better the camera. Hence the professional models are the 5D and the top-of-the-range 1D.
So as you can surmise from the numbering, you do get quite a bit more with the T5i. One of the big features is the pop-out LCD screen, which you can twist and swivel to your hearts content. It’s also touch-enabled, which means you can work through all the menus simply by tapping the screen. You do have to press the ‘Menu’ button to get to the main menu, but once you’re in there it’s tap, tap, tap. You also have to use the mode selection dial to change modes, and if you want to shoot video the on/off switch has a third option which puts you into video mode. This is nice little shortcut – on the T5 the video mode is accessed via the mode dial.
You can actually control all your manual shooting controls via the touchscreen too, including aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, metering mode – the full monty basically. And here’s the real kicker: if you switch to live preview mode, where you’re composing your image via the screen instead of the viewfinder, you can actually tap to focus and shoot simultaneously. Now that’s cool.
When you’re reviewing your images in playback mode, you can use the touchscreen to swipe left or right, and also use your fingers to zoom in on the image, or pinch your fingers to see multiple images instead of just one. You can’t delete images using the touchscreen though, which is a feature I would personally like.
The T5i comes with an EFS 18-135mm lens with image stabilisation. To my mind this is a much better lens than the 18-55mm that comes with the T5, both in terms of the build quality and image quality. The ‘S’ in ‘EFS’ refers to the STM (Stepper Motor) which drives the autofocus, and does so silently, which is an important feature for recording video.
This brings us nicely to the T5i’s major strong point – shooting video. Along with silent autofocus and image stabilisation you get stereo audio recording (the T5 is mono only) and the ability to plug in an external mic (not possible with the T5). But the feature that really stands out is the touchscreen autofocus, which allows you to smoothly (and silently) change your point of focus while shooting.
With the T5i you basically have the ability to shoot amazing home movies, or even an independent film or documentary. This is powerful technology in a really compact package that totally levels out the playing field for potential filmmakers. If you’ve got an idea for a film, this camera basically takes care of the technology, freeing you to focus on everything else.