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Canon Rebel T1i Digital Camera Review$799.99
The Canon T1i does not offer the traditional frame rates you'd find on a regular HD camcorder. For recording full 1080p HD, the camera only has one frame rate—20 frames per second. 20p is such an unusual frame rate that we can't think of a single consumer camcorder that has it as an option. What you will commonly see are options for 30p and 24p, along with the standard 60i recording. The T1i does have a 30p record setting, but it only works with the camera's 1280 x 720 video resolution (or the standard definition VGA setting). The camera does not offer a 24p frame rate.
We found the 20p frame rate to produce very slow footage and the video looked as if it was captured using a slow-motion setting. Now, some people may like this aesthetic, but we can't imagine it would really catch on with most people. A 24p mode would have been a much better choice for Canon to include, as it closely resembles the speed of cinematic film. Other than its odd inclusion of a 20p frame rate, however, the Canon T1i produced very good motion. Its footage was somewhat smoother than the Nikon D5000 and it had less artifacting and frequency interference. If only Canon had implemented a 24p setting on the T1i instead of 20p—maybe then it would have been able to compete more closely with a dedicated HD camcorder.
With the video resolution limited to 1280 x 720, the Canon T1i can record 30p video. The speed of this 30p video is far more natural than that of the 20p footage captured at 1920 x 1080. Still, the 1280 x 720 image is not full HD video and the 30p frame rate is a bit of an awkward choice. Canon should have included a 24p option here as well. The Canon Rebel T1i also had a major problem with its rolling shutter. The rolling shutter, which also plagued the Nikon D5000, gives footage a Jell-O-like wobble whenever the camera is quickly panned or jerked back and forth. We have yet to test a video-capable DSLR camera that did not have this issue. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.
The Nikon D5000 isn't a real winner when it comes to motion either. Yes, it records all video using a 24p frame rate, but it runs into a lot of problems when capturing motion. The camera produced quite a bit of artifacting in its recorded video. The footage was also quite choppy and showed some strange frequency interference on the grayscale pinwheel. The black lines on the pinwheel appeared crooked and jagged rather than straight. In our book, the Canon T1i offers better motion—as long as you can deal with not having a 24p frame rate.
We included the Canon HF S100 as a comparison here because it offers a 24p and 30p frame rate in addition to its regular 60i setting.The HF S100's alternate frame rates aren't natively progressive, however, and they are really 60i frame rates that have gone through a conversion process inside the camcorder. This is in contrast to the 20p and 30p modes on the Canon T1i and 24p mode on the Nikon D5000 which are natively progressive and are recorded as such. Casual videographers probably wouldn't notice much of a difference between a native 24p mode and the downconverted one featured on the HF S100, but for professionals the discrepancy can be huge (specifically if the footage is being edited using a non-linear editing program).
Most HD camcorders capture video using a 60i frame rate, as we discussed above. The Sanyo VPC-HD2000, however, has a natively progressive 60p record mode. This gives the VPC-HD2000 smoother video while at the same time offering natural motion and speed. The HD2000 also has a 60i mode and a 30p record mode, all of which are available in full HD. Overall, we saw a bit less artifacting on the Sanyo VPC-HD2000 and Canon HF S100 than we did on the Canon Rebel T1i. The two camcorders also were able to capture smoother, more natural motion than their DSLR counterparts.
The Canon Rebel T1i did a good job in our video sharpness test. Testing the camera using its 1080/20p mode, it measured a horizontal sharpness of 650 lw/ph and a vertical sharpness of 775 lw/ph. This is far better than the Nikon D5000 was capable of, although that camera has a maximum video resolution of only 1280 x 720. When we tested the Canon T1i with its 720/30p setting it didn't do nearly as well with video sharpness. In fact, it scored 600 lw/ph horizontal and 500 lw/ph vertical, which are slightly worse overall measurements than the Nikon D5000 (575 lw/ph horizontal, 625 lw/ph vertical).
The T1i's video sharpness in 1080/20p mode is very good, and it's the first DSLR camera we've tested that has been able to compete with the sharpness of a high-end consumer HD camcorder. The Canon HF S100 still put up slightly better results, but the Canon T1i was a very strong competitor in this test. Remember, however, that the T1i was only able to achieve this level of sharpness when using its 1080p mode that records video at 20 frames per second. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.
Low Light Sensitivity
The Canon T1i had a surprisingly difficult time with low light sensitivity and the numbers weren't pretty—the camera required 26 lux of light to reach 50 IRE on our waveform monitor. This is more than twice the amount of light than the Nikon D5000 required (11 lux) and it is significantly worse than your average HD camcorder. Keep in mind, however, that all our video testing on the T1i was done with its kit lens, which has a maximum aperture of f/3.5. Using a faster lens with a wider aperture setting will likely produce better low light sensitivity results.