Should I bother with a Rebel T1i as a stop-gap until I can afford a 5d Mk II or 7d? at DVinfo.net

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Old December 27th, 2009, 04:44 PM   #1
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Should I bother with a Rebel T1i as a stop-gap until I can afford a 5d Mk II or 7d?

The subject line basically says it all, but here's some background as to why I'm asking:

For professional video work, I already have and utilize a JVC GY-HM700 with a Fujinon 17x5 lens.

For web design work which requires occasional utility still photography, I have a Canon Powershot S5 IS (which is NOT an SLR) and a 430 EX II flash unit. This works just fine for what I do, as I do not currently bill myself as a pro photographer. Mainly it's used for shooting building exteriors, getting head shots of employees, the occasional web product shot.

In the long run, I'd very much like to have a Canon 5D Mk II (or whatever its incarnation is by the time I can afford it), but I just can't justify the expense right now. Not even the expense of a 7D. I think these cameras would be a great deal of fun to have, and would also allow for a different style of video production than the JVC, especially in terms of making "cinema-style" productions with a shallow DOF, etc.

Here's the dilemma: My partner is back in school finishing his degree, and he's taking a photography class to fulfill an art requirement. This class basically requires an SLR (or a micro-four-thirds with the appropriate manual controls.)

I already have some Canon gear, such as the flash unit, so it makes sense to stick with Canon.

We could just get a Rebel XS or Rebel Xsi and have a very nice basic SLR, and maybe start collecting decent used prime lenses for future attachment to a 5D. Right now we can get into an XS with kit lens for $450.

But Canon also makes a T1i which offers video. The 1080p mode seems useless at 20fps, but the 720p mode appears to do 30p in H264. There is no external mic input, but I can record audio to another device if doing something serious.

So, _can_ you do something serious with the T1i, or are its features just too darned crippled, or is the video over-compressed, etc? I could see justifying it as a 2nd camera with the JVC, even though I'm sure the images will be quite different, but when nothing else is available it could do for a roving hand-held with the JVC does the primary shots.

It looks like the T1i is at least $300 more, depending on kit options, than the XS.

Is it worth it? Or is the video mode so frustrating/underpowered for aux. pro use that it will never be worth the trouble? (And it just puts me $300 further away from ever getting a 5D or 7D)

(I realize the T1i is also 15 megapixels vs. 10 or 12, but I don't think we'll be needing that, and in reviews I've read those megapixels don't seem to make any appreciable difference using the entry-level lenses.)

Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Old December 27th, 2009, 05:13 PM   #2
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If I remember correctly, the Rebel doesn't have manual control for video. That could be a deal breaker.

The 20 fps thing is a bit lame - you will get stuttery video, or fast motion at 24p. But I think you could live with it if you make it part of your style.

The auto mode is a pain though. It works better if you have 3rd party lenses and an adapter. At least you can set the aperture that way. Otherwise, you will need to set the aperture in photo mode, press the DOF button, and partially untwist the lens. You then need to put light (or darkness) into the lens and hit the exposure lock button at just the right moment to get the desired shutter speed. It can be done, but it's a pain. And many shutter/ISO combinations are not possible in auto.

Then again, we shot a festival film with the 5D2 back in the auto-only days. It can be done, but it really shows things down and frustrates the crew and actors.

Thank goodness for the 1.1.0 firmware!
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Old December 27th, 2009, 05:32 PM   #3
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The 720P mode gives a nice picture, with natural colours. But as Jon mentions, there is no manual control of exposure in video mode. You can sort of lock the exposure, but it still changes (drastically) if you then try to zoom. And there's no way to get shallow depth of filed with this camera in video mode. Even if you add ND filters to reduce the light, the cam will add gain before opening the lens up wide.

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Old December 27th, 2009, 07:35 PM   #4
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Quote:
And there's no way to get shallow depth of filed with this camera in video mode. Even if you add ND filters to reduce the light, the cam will add gain before opening the lens up wide.
Ahh... that may be the deal-breaker right there. I'd really like to experiment with "cinematic" style and various lens options for shallow depth of field, but if I can't sufficiently override the automatic modes to do that...

Is there anything like "Magic Lantern" or other clever hacks for the T1i?
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Old December 27th, 2009, 09:07 PM   #5
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If you untwist the lens (or mount it with a mylar insulator), or use a non-Canon lens with an adapter, you can set the aperture to anything you want. That will give you the DOF that you desire. The problem is that the camera tends toward 100 ISO and the longest possible shutter duration. So you can get 1/50 or so only when it's bright enough to get 100 ISO. And you can only get higher ISOs at 1/30 on the 5D2 auto. Maybe it's 1/20 on the Rebel. I'm not sure. Never used one.

The way we adjusted things was to set the aperture manually, start recording, shine a light or cover the lens to get 1/30 and near the desired ISO, and then quickly press AE Lock. You can then use the exposure compensation control (the big wheel) to set the desired ISO for the shot. Unless you have lots of light (and 100 ISO), the motion blur will be on the sloggy side. When you stop recording, the camera forgets the setting, so you have to go through this shot after shot.

If you really want the shallow DOF look on a budget, don't mind untwisting your lenses (don't drop them!), and have the patience for dealing with the auto override, then consider the Rebel. Otherwise, save up for the 7D or 5D2.

Regarding the lens untwisting, you're unlikely to drop a lens while shooting. The problem comes if you forget to screw it back in, yet you think it's secure. You might start walking to the next setup with your lens hanging by a thread. Develop the compulsive habit of checking that the lens is tight after every shot, and you're pretty safe.
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Old December 27th, 2009, 10:15 PM   #6
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Bob, maybe you can finance a 5D2 or 7D. I picked up my 7D three weeks ago at Best Buy using their credit card and got 18 months same as cash. So I make 17 payments of $21.00 and in June of 2011, I make a balloon payment for the balance and avoid all interest charges. Not a bad deal.

I might pick up some lenses this way, too. Newegg has similar offers that I've leveraged in the past to buy PCs and laptops.

If you have decent credit, it might be worth looking into.

Cheers,
Brian Brown
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BrownCow Productions - Affordable Full-Service Video Production serving Longmont, Boulder, Denver and the Northern Colorado Front Range
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Old December 28th, 2009, 12:09 PM   #7
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Thanks for the tips & tricks everyone. We've decided to skip the T1i at this time.
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