Canon Brings HD to Budget SLR

New Rebel T1i goes up to 1080p, sorta

Canon Rebel T1i

Courtesy Canon

We all swooned when Canon brought 1080p video recording to the Eos 5D Mark II cameras and showed off the gorgeous footage. But unless you're a pro photographer who can get a tax write-off for it, how likely are you to shell out $2700 for the Mark II? Now, Canon brings HD goodness to the entry level with the $800 Rebel T1i. (Fortunately, Canon's products are more user-friendly than their names are.)

Like its predecessors, the latest Rebel brings Canon's latest SLR tech to the entry level. Included are a 15.1-megapixel CMOS image sensor and the DIGIC 4 imaging processor. Together they allow the camera to capture photos at up to ISO 12800 (i.e. seeing better than you can), and grab HD video.

The definition of high definition is a little bit mangled, though. 720p video is captured at a standard 30 frames per second. But the "full" HD, with 1080 lines, is limited to 20fps, which will likely give the video a choppy look if you have any fast action. Still, the 720p mode is a welcome feature. And unlike Nikon's 720p shooter, the D80, it appears that the Canon offers autofocus while you are shooting video. (Still the best video-still hybrid may be the recently announced Panasonic GH1, which shoots 1080p at a film-like 24fps and 720p video at 60 fps for fast-action shots.)

With an asking price of $800, Canon is basically adding the HD options for free. And the more photographers that get video capabilities, the better the chances that budding filmmakers will stumble upon the art. Or we'll just have a lot more junk in the HD offerings on YouTube.