Which camera would you choose, and why — the Canon EOS 50D or Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D / Kiss X3 digital SLR camera?
What are the pros and cons of each?
In this post, I attempt to compare and summarize the benefits of, and the differences between these two digital SLR cameras from Canon and hopefully, this will help those who are researching whether to get the 50D or the T1i / 500D.
In terms of resolution, both cameras have the same 15 MP (Megapixels), so you’ll have to make the final decision on which camera to buy based on the other comparison factors.
For a quick side-by-side comparison of both cameras, see this page on DPReview.
Canon T1i / 500D Advantages
Smaller, and lighter
If you plan on doing lots of hiking where weight needs to be kept to a minimum, or simply don’t relish the thought of carrying a bulky camera around, then the T1i / 500D is the logical choice.
Let’s look at some relevant figures.
Canon T1i / 500D: 129 x 98 x 62 mm (5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
Canon 50D: 146 x 108 x 74 mm (5.8 x 4.3 x 2.9 in)
Weight, including batteries
Canon T1i / 500D: 520 g (18.3 oz)
Canon 50D: 822 g (29 oz)
HD movie / video capture
This is an extremely useful feature to have, as you can capture high-definition clips anytime the need arises.
Certain events and happenings are certainly best recorded as video and the T1i allows you to record footage in the following formats:
- 1920 x 1080 (1080P, 16:9) @ 20 fps
- 1280 x 720 (720P, 16:9) @ 30 fps
- 640 x 480 (4:3) @ 30 fps
Canon 50D Advantages
Superior burst speed
If high speed action photography is your thing, and you need to capture extremely quick sequences of photos in rapid succession, then you’ll need the 50D, as it is able to shoot at either 6.3 fps (frames per second) or 3 fps, while the T1i manages only 3.4 fps.
Part of the reason why the 50D is the faster camera is due to the difference in the number of channels that is dedicated to sensor data readout. According to Rob Galbraith’s article, “HD video capture, 15MP sensor in Canon EOS Rebel T1i“:
The two share a sensor that is nearly identical, and in some early side-by-side testing with a beta Rebel T1i, it appears the image quality is nearly identical too. The only notable specification difference is the number of channels each sensor incorporates for data readout: the 50D has four, while the Rebel T1i has two.
RobGalbraith.com has more to say on the burst depths of both cameras.
A maximum frame rate of 6.3 fps (CIPA standard) for a Canon-specified 90 Large Fine JPEG (when a UDMA-capable CompactFlash card is used; 60 with a slower, non-UDMA card), 16 RAW or 10 RAW+JPEG frames (all at ISO 100). RAW (any type) + JPEG (any type) shooting is also possible. Note that burst depth doesn’t drop when High ISO Noise Reduction is enabled, except when the Strong option is selected.
The new model has a maximum frame rate of 3.4fps (CIPA standard) for a Canon-specified 170 Large Fine JPEG or 9 RAW CR2. Note that burst depth doesn’t drop when High ISO Noise Reduction is enabled, except when the Strong option is selected.
Autofocus (AF) sensors
All nine autofocus points on the 50D are of the cross type variety, while on the T1i / 500D, only the center one is.
AF and tracking accuracy, and speed of subject acquisition is higher on the 50D (especially if you’re talking about low-contrast subjects in low-light situations, say indoor sports) even if you use the outlying AF points.
You won’t get the same level of performance with the same AF points on the T1i.
Maximum shutter speed
Top shutter speed on the 50D is 1/8000 seconds, while the T1i manages 1/4000.
The advantage of having a higher shutter speed comes into play when you’re photographing subjects outdoors in bright light with a fast lens, say f/2 or larger.
In addition to presets and manual settings, the 50D lets you set White Balance in Kelvin values.
You don’t get to set Kelvin temperature values on the T1i.
The small RAW formats available on the 50D are a boon to photographers who want to shoot and enjoy the post-processing benefits RAW files, yet don’t mind images with smaller dimensions.
This resolution flexibility for RAW images is not available on the 500D.
The viewfinder in the 50D uses a pentaprism while a pentamirror is used for the viewfinder in the 500D. Pentaprism viewfinders give a brighter and larger image compared to pentamirror types.
Viewfinder magnification is higher on the 50D, 0.95x compared to only 0.87x for the T1i.
The 50D also has a higher eyepoint (22mm) than the T1i (19mm). This is an advantage for those who wear glasses as it means that you can still view the entire image in the viewfinder even if your eye is physically 22mm away.
For a really good read on viewfinders, please refer to this Luminous Landscape article.
Longer battery life
Because the 50D uses a more powerful battery, you get more shots on a single charge compared to what the T1i will give you. The following numbers have been extracted from the respective camera manuals.
50D battery life, based on CIPA testing standards: With 50% flash use and normal shooting, at 23?C / 73?F, approx. 640 shots. At 0°C / 32°F, approx. 540 shots. With 50% flash use and Live View shooting, at 23°C / 73°F, approx. 170 shots. At 0°C / 32°F, approx. 130 shots. Note that the 50D uses the BP-511A battery pack as its power source, which is heavier and larger than the battery used in the T1i / 500D.
The BP-511A battery pack has the following specifications:
Type: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Rated voltage: 7.4 V DC.
Battery capacity: 1390 mAh.
Dimensions (W x H x D): 38 x 21 x 55 mm / 1.5 x 0.8 x 2.2 in.
Weight: Approx. 82 g / 2.9 oz.
T1i / 500D battery life, based on CIPA testing standards: With viewfinder shooting (the manual doesn’t mention the use of flash), at 23°C / 73°F, approx. 400 shots. At 0°C / 32°F, approx. 380 shots. With Live View shooting (the manual doesn’t mention the use of flash), at 23°C / 73°F, approx. 170 shots. At 0°C / 32°F, approx. 160 shots.
The T1i / 500D uses the LP-E5 battery pack, which has the following specifications:
Type: Rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Rated voltage: 7.4 V DC.
Battery capacity: 1080 mAh.
Dimensions (W x H x D): 36 x 14.7 x 53.1 mm / 1.4 x 0.6 x 2.1 in.
Weight: Approx. 50 g / 1.8 oz.
Both camera offer the same, excellent image quality, but the difference in price reflects the types of use these cameras will be put through.
For photography that does not require high burst speeds, or blindingly-fast and accurate AF for moving subjects, the Rebel T1i / 500D is more than sufficient.
However, if the environment you’re shooting in dictates that you need a more solidly-built camera, or if you need more control over, and faster access to camera settings, then the EOS 50D is your camera.
There are photographers who would get both cameras anyway due to their unique requirements. The 50D usually ends up being the primary camera, while the T1i / 500D would serve as a competent backup unit.