Tech Review: No Frills Photography with Canon’s EOS 1500D

Canon’s new entry-level D-SLR offering is the very definition of “no frills”, keeping very simple functionality while still offering the intuitive handling you’d expect from Canon’s years of refining their camera bodies.

The EOS 1500D, known as the Rebel T7 in the US, was released alongside the 3000D earlier this year, and it’s hard to talk about one without mentioning and comparing it to the other – they’re very similar cameras. Both are entry-level DSLRs, both are very affordable, and both are aimed at people who want to step up their photo game from their phone to something more serious – like Instafashionistas, people gearing up for a big holiday or extremely keen foodspotters. I’m yet to test out the 3000D, so I can’t completely weigh in on it, but I spent two weeks getting know its big sister and found her to be a decent if not basic D-SLR, fairly easy to use, and… a bit dinky.

If it even looks small in my little lady-hands, you know it’s small.
It could be because I’m used to my big, tough workhorse full frame D-SLRs, but when I first pulled the 1500D out of its box I felt like I was holding a toy – it’s very light, plastic-y and small, weighing in at only 475 grams without a lens! None of those factors are necessarily a bad thing – light and small are generally great qualities for a camera’s portability – but it’s a little bit lighter and smaller, and feels a little more breakable, than I generally like my cameras to feel.

All the features you’d expect of a digital SLR camera in 2018 are present in the 1500D. It has a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor, comes bundled with an 18-55mm kit lens which is a decent wide-ish to close-ish range on a cropped sensor, has wifi to transfer photos to your phone or use your phone as a remote, offers RAW shooting, HD movies at 30fps and stills at 3fps, and since we are living in the age of Instagram, boasts a bunch of “creative filters” to play with. That’s actually pretty spartan for camera features in this day and age – there are no bells or whistles here; no 4K video, no flip-out or touch screen, not even a mic input. Vloggers, keep moving. This is not the camera for you.

Shot on the EOS 1500D.
18mm 1/6 second (handheld! Steady hands!), f3.5 and ISO 3200. Click to see full size version on Flickr.
The differences between the 1500D and its little sister the EOS 3000D are pretty nominal – they have the same sensor and megapixel count, same processor, focussing system and so on. The advantages of the 1500D, for an extra $100 or so over the 3000D, are a slightly bigger screen by 0.3 inches, compatibility with the GP-E2 GPS receiver, one-touch NFC connectivity for Canon and Android devices, and red eye reduction options. Say you were tossing up between the two cameras? If you don’t have an NFC compatible device, aren’t interested in GPS info on your photos and don’t mind a slightly smaller screen, you’d be better off saving your $100 and going for the 3000D.

I honestly don’t see most of the people who purchase this camera learning to use it on full manual mode or even aperture or shutter priority modes, so I did most of my testing with its auto modes to get the best idea of how a consumer might really use the camera. I tested all three auto modes – Program AE (P), Scene Intelligent Auto (A+) and Creative Auto (CA). All of these, as well as the usual host of presets for portraits, landscapes, macro etc, and full manual controls are where they classically live on the mode dial on top of the camera. Canon have refined their settings placement to a T over the years, so navigating settings around semi-automatic and manual modes is very easy and intuitive.

Shot on the Canon EOS 1500D
29mm, 1/40 sec, f4.5, ISO 3200. Click to see full size photo on Flickr.
Scene Intelligent Auto is the do-all auto mode that most would gravitate toward – on this mode the camera does all the heavy lifting for you, leaving you to just point and click. I like that it displays the camera’s choice of exposure settings as you’re composing your shot, both on the screen and through the viewfinder. It would be a good way for absolute beginners to get the hang of what kind of settings are required for what kind of light, as long as they paid attention to it, but it would be just as easy to ignore for those who aren’t interested in learning.

Creative Auto mode introduces a little more control without overwhelming the user with technical terminology, but they might need to read the manual to learn how to use it. If you flip to Creative Auto mode, you’ll need to hit the Q button to open up your options – from there you can choose a different colour mode, a more or less blurred background, change drive modes and turn flash firing on and off. I love the idea of a mode that helps users achieve the image they want, and I think this could be a good stepping stone to learning to shoot on manual if used correctly.

Shot on Canon EOS 1500D.
32mm, 1/60 sec, f5.6, ISO 2000. Click to see full size photo on Flickr.
Cropped sensors just don’t perform so well in low light – that’s an inescapable fact, and remains true for the 1500D. When combined with the 18-55mm kit lens, image quality is passable but not sharp. For someone who only consumes and produces images for small phone screens that wouldn’t pose much of a problem, but for anyone who wants to print their images, say for a largish wall canvas to commemorate a trip, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to upgrade to a sharper lens. Having Canon’s expansive catalog of lenses to choose from is a nice benefit here, but you can never go wrong with cheap-but-magical Nifty Fifty (50mm f1.8). The extra brightness of the f1.8 aperture would help with low light shooting as well as achieving that “artistic” shallow depth of field look.

The 1500D’s autofocus pleasantly surprised me, at least when using the viewfinder to compose a shot – it is quick to lock on and usually correctly guesses which of its 9 AF points I’m intending. The same can’t be said for autofocusing in live view – using the screen instead of the viewfinder. In this instance the autofocus was frustratingly slow, hunting back and forth for something to grab onto.

Shot on Canon EOS 1500D.
25mm, 1/160 sec, f6.3, ISO 100. Click to see full size photo on Flickr.
Canon’s Camera Connect app is easily the best and most functional camera-to-phone wifi linking app I’ve tested to date – it’s user-friendly, easy to set up, and looks nice to boot, which is rare when dealing with camera connection apps. I was able to connect to my phone, swipe through all the images on the memory card, give my photos a star rating and transfer a bunch of my favourite jpegs easily and without a single app crash. That’s the dream when you’re travelling!
Would I recommend this camera to a beginner photographer or keen Instagrammer? If they were really set on a D-SLR and video wasn’t at all important to them, maybe. I think it would make a great gift for a student or teenager who’s forever taking pictures of everything around them on their phone, or who’s expressed interested in REALLY learning to use a camera. The price point is fantastic, and it will get the job done, but there’s also plenty the 1500D can’t offer, and any really keen photography enthusiast would find themselves upgrading quickly.
Score: 6 out of 10
Highlights: Very light and portable, good focal length range on included kit lens
Lowlights: No 4K, no touch screen or flip-out screen, no mic input
Manufacturer: Canon
Price: RRP $729
Available: Now

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