Now, onto video. On paper, this one's easily an area where the T1i should dominate... right? Unfortunately, the T1i's 1080p movie mode carries along an unorthodox (ad unappreciated) 20fps setting, which is obviously nowhere close to the more widely accepted 24fps and 30fps standards. The 720p mode does do 30fps, but we couldn't but point out that the Full HD isn't quite as luxurious as advertised. Much like the D5000, the T1i also has a limit on capturing clips. With the D5000, there's a five minute per-clip maximum at 720p. On Canon's shooter, there's a 4GB per-clip ceiling, which roughly equates to 18 minutes of 720p footage or 12 minutes of 1080p. Either way, the time limit isn't nearly as strict on the T1i as it is on the D5000.
Oh, the quality? We know the Nikonians hate to hear it, but the Canon takes the cake here -- for two reasons, really. First off, at least the T1i has
a 1080p mode, albeit a hamstrung one. When played back on a PC monitor, the output was definitely striking, as was the 720p footage. Secondly, the T1i doesn't exhibit the infamous "jelly effect" nearly as bad as does the D5000. Sure, there's a certain amount of wobble that's capture while walking as flat-footed as possible, but it's still far more tolerable than capturing that same walk with the D5000 (or D90, really). Also, we tended to lose focus a lot less with Canon's cam, and unlike either of Nikon's video-capable DSLRs, at least the T1i has a way (one that's admittedly clunky) to refocus automatically. Before starting a clip, the T1i instructs you to hold the "*" button to get the shot in focus; once you (or your subjects) begin to move, you can simply mash that button again to bring things back into focus without you having to touch the focus ring. We know, professional videographers will scoff at such a notion, but the novice born with only two hands and half a brain, it's a clever shortcut that gets the job done in most situations. Have a look at the clips below to see precisely what we mean.
- Unedited Nikon D5000 720p clip, leisurely walk
- Unedited Canon EOS Rebel T1i 1080p (20fps) clip, leisurely walk
- Unedited Canon EOS Rebel T1i 720p (30fps) clip, backyard / trees
As we close this section, we should point out that the 18-55mm IS lens bundled in the T1i kit is the Canon equivalent to the 18-55mm VR lens that Nikon tosses in the the D5000 kit. Take it from us -- buy the body only. The kit lens just doesn't have much usefulness in the grand scheme of things, and even an 18-105mm or similar would be entirely more flexible as an all-around option. Trust us, once you get this camera (or any DSLR, really), you'll quickly forget all about the kit lens once you splurge on a few nicer pieces of glass. That's not to say the kit lenses won't get the job done for novices, just that you should do a bit of lens research before selecting the kit over the body alone.
Honestly, we could debate the merits of the D5000 and T1i for days based on specs alone; in some areas, the T1i appears superior, while the D5000 looks like the champ in others. But really, it's about more than numbers and marketing hoopla. It's about "the feel," it's about the features and it's about the value proposition. In case you haven't noticed, we actually compared the T1i to the higher-end D90 on a number of occasions throughout this piece, and for good reason. Somehow, Canon has managed to actually produce a camera that actually rivals a Nikon model that's supposedly one rung up on the ladder of DSLRs. We know, all the marketing suits are insisting that the T1i is really the D5000's main competitor, but frankly, even the D90 should be on red alert.
After using the T1i alongside the D5000, one thing became exceptionally clear to us: the T1i just feels and acts more like a professional camera than does the D5000. It's more rigid, the grips are better built, there's more flexibility due to a higher ISO ceiling and a few more megapixels (we know, we know...), and the video mode is marginally decent -- which is really saying something in the fledgling world of video-capable DSLRs. In terms of image quality, you're really splitting hairs. Both cameras deliver stunning shots for the money, and both are sure to impress their respective buyers. If you're already invested in one brand or the other with lenses and accessories, neither the D5000 nor the T1i offers anything mind-numbing enough to completely derail yourself and hop over to the ambiguous "dark side," but for those brand new to the arena with nothing to lose, it'll be mighty hard to turn down Canon's latest $800 body. In this price range, the only camera we like better than the T1i is Nikon's D90, which is currently streeting for around $90 more (body only) than the T1i's MSRP (body only, also).
We know, you probably zoomed down here hoping for infinite wisdom, an epiphany or a combination of the two, but the sad (happy?) truth is that the "entry-level" DSLR realm is cramped, and we haven't even begun to mix in options from Sony, Pentax and the rest of the gang. If you've somehow narrowed your options down to the D5000 or T1i, spend the extra bones and snag the T1i unless you've got some Nikon-branded accessories weighing you down. You'll appreciate the superior fit and finish, and the 1080p movie mode won't hurt. Oh, and believe us -- you won't miss that articulating display. If you don't mind spending a touch more, we still feel the far more rugged D90 is the way to go when you reach that $900 level. Or, you could just reignite your love affair with that dusty old Holga
of yours and forget you were even caught up in this whole "digital" scandal to begin with.