Canon T1i

Red Stapler
Canon EF-S 18-55m IS – 1/40 f/4.5 – ISO1600

After 4 years, Canon has released an upgraded camera in the Digital Rebel series that has compelled me to replace my Digital Rebel Xt.

The Digital Rebel T1i, which started shipping in North America this month, is quite an extraordinary camera and a huge upgrade over the Xt. Excellent low light performance (high ISO performance), extreme versatility with the ability to shoot entirely automatic through to fully manual, and lots of usability upgrades.

I won’t be positing a detailed review. That has been covered far more effectively than I ever could by the folks at DPReview.

At above-left is the first image I shot with the T1i. Nothing terribly special, but I couldn’t have taken the same with the Xt without a tripod or switching to the relatively special purpose Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens (but that would have yielded a very narrow depth of field). Since someone asked, I added a link to the Amazon product page, too.

Eddie Scorching Scallop Nigiri
Canon 50mm f/1.4 – 1/125 f/1.6 – ISO 500

While there are many features and refinements of the T1i that I’m looking forward to leveraging, the high-ISO / low light performance is the one that yields an immediate benefit to me.

I like shooting photos in restaurants and the like, but I hate using a flash. Beyond making the food look artificial and destroying whatever natural ambiance the restaurant has tried to achieve, the flash is a huge annoyance to everyone — staff, customers, chefs, etc..

The photo at right is another shot that I could have done with the Xt without the flash or disruptive use of a tripod and posing.

Certainly, I will also leverage the upgrade from an 8MP to 15.1MP sensor, too. While the whole megapixel wars thing was overhyped and appears to now largely be over, there are some serious advantages to having a lot more pixels.

On the interactive front, it means that you can zoom into a photo and see some interesting details that wouldn’t be apparent with a lower resolution image. Looking at the full sized version of Eddie searing scallops reveals the slight haze caused by the scallops scorching under the flame.

But the biggest advantage of lots and lots of pixels is that it stretches the value of your lenses. In particular, I can shoot a shot with the Canon 100mm macro lens, crop nearly half the picture, and still end up with an image that is of the same resolution as a full framed image from the Xt. That would have been very handy for pictures like this, this, and this.

While the camera is brilliant, the software is not. At least, not so much when you want to work with an all RAW workflow.

Whenever a new camera is released, there is a lag between the release of the camera and when Apple or Adobe releases updates that include RAW support for the camera. Thus, I can’t currently shoot in RAW and import directly into Aperture (or Lightroom).

As I had shot a bunch of the initial images in RAW, I decided to install and use Canon’s RAW processing software to convert the images to usable form.

I summarized the experience with this tweet:

Canon’s camera software is a gigantic turd in the box containing an awesome camera.

Canon is in the camera business, not the imaging software business. And it shows in the software they ship with the camera.

First, don’t bother trying to download the software for your camera from canon. You can download firmware updates and you can download updates to the imaging software, but you have to have the original CD-ROM to do an installation.

How silly. What possible business reason does Canon have to prevent me from using my camera with any computer I encounter? This isn’t a revenue issue, the software “comes for free” with the camera (their description, not mine).

Because of this, I now have to install whatever outdated version of the software came with my camera and then grab the update from Canon’s rather poor web site to be able to upgrade to the latest version. For the rebel XT, the supplied installer is old enough and poorly written enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if it fails outright on Leopard these days (assuming I could even find my CD).

Now, with installer in hand, the experience does not improve.

The installer must be run from an administrative user’s account. University student trying to use a computer in a lab to process some photos? Not happening. Sensible user whose primary account is non-administrative? Log out, log in as administrator.

Once successfully run, the installer asks some questions and then does the installation into /Applications. No options to install it somewhere else.

The real kick in the crotch, though, is that the installed software is just a bunch of applications. It appears to be isolated to a folder in /Applications.

Even once installed, there is no guarantee the software is going to work. It certainly didn’t on my MacBook Pro; Canon’s own RAW decoding software can’t decode RAW images on my MBP.

However, the same software dragged to a MacPro works just fine.

Frustrating beyond belief and raises the question of why the hell the inferior installer is required in the first place.

Assuming you have the software installed on a working system, the actual user interface is awful, too. Non standard file browsers and toolbars. Toolbar buttons that make little sense. Icons in the UI that indicate something, but clicking on the icon yields no information.

And it doesn’t fully work, either. On the Mac Pro, the non-standard file browser randomly doesn’t allow some folders or volumes to be expanded. Like, for example, my user’s home folder. Got images in your Pictures folder? Nope. Can’t get to them from the software and there is no “open” or “import” that offers the system’s standard dialog box.

Of course, much of this stupidity might be explained by the obviously buggy implementation; so buggy that the system complains about the software loudly and often:

*** WARNING: Method setAutoresizesAllColumnsToFit: in class NSTableView is deprecated on 10.4 and later. It should not be used in new applications. Use setColumnAutoresizingStyle: instead.
*** WARNING: Method autoresizesAllColumnsToFit in class NSTableView is deprecated on 10.4 and later. It should not be used in new applications. Use columnAutoresizingStyle instead.
*** WARNING: Method setResizable: in class NSTableColumn is deprecated on 10.4 and later. It should not be used in new applications. Use setResizingMask: instead.
*** WARNING: Method isResizable in class NSTableColumn is deprecated on 10.4 and later. It should not be used in new applications. Use resizingMask instead.
*** -[NSLock unlock]: lock (%lt;nslock : 0x14a378a0%gt; ‘(null)’) unlocked when not locked *** Break on _NSLockError() to debug.
…. lots more deleted ….

To Canon’s credit, once you do struggle through the installer, move your images to somewhere the software can actually see it, and do all of this on a machine where the software can actually decode an image, it does a brilliant job of turning a RAW into a JPG that can be handled by Aperture or iPhoto just fine.

As an aside, the donateware RAW Photo Processor software can successfully decode T1i RAW images. It isn’t very easy to use, but at least it works. The resulting images don’t look as good as those decoded by the Canon software as they seem to have considerably more noise.

But at least it works and is straightforward to install.

For now, I’ll shoot in JPG on the camera. While it probably won’t look quite as good as using Canon’s software to do the RAW conversion on the desktop, Canon’s software is such a totally tedious pain in the ass to use, I can live with a bit of minor degradation to preserve the fun part of photography.

(I know I could shoot RAW+JPG and then import the RAW once Apple ships an update that supports the T1i, but that ain’t going to happen — I already have enough trouble keeping the photos I take now organized and don’t care to deal with that.)

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4 Responses to “Canon T1i”

  1. RudolphV says:

    How is the auto-focus performance on the 500D? It’s predecessor, the 450D, are notorious for front/back focus issues.

  2. Mayank says:

    Your blog is very impressive. I shoot in RAW format and generally process my photographs in batch. I have been using contenta converter which is a conversion and processing software. It can handle 50+ image formats, I just checked the features and the list of supported cameras includeCanon EOS 450D / Digital Rebel XSi / Kiss Digital X2 and Canon EOS 500D / Digital Rebel T1i / Kiss Digital X3. I think you should try out the free trial version and see if it works out for you.
    Warm Regards,

  3. Ran says:

    thanks for the info. I have been wondering if I “have to” install the canon software on my MacBook BEFORE I connect the camera as the instructions say, but since I shoot in JPeg, and use iphoto, I guess I do not have to do that.

  4. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » Canon EF-S 55-250mm Telephoto Lens (or Surprisingly Good At Making Far Things Close!) says:

    […] Canon caters to the cheap /frugal /broke /hobbyist prosumer crowd and my recent upgrade to the Canon Digital Rebel T1i also gained a significant boost in low light / high ISO performance vs. the Rebel […]

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