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Layout and Controls - Head-2-Head Review: Canon EOS Rebel T1i vs. Nikon D5000
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H2H ROUND-4: Layout and Controls

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Some of the best advice you can get, in selecting a camera, is to handle it; see what fits in your hands, see what you like and what you seem to understand intuitively. You don’t want a camera that makes you hunt for controls, or run for the manual every time you try to do something new. The handling of the camera - the controls, layout and feel - is a very personal thing.

These two cameras probably differ the most in the controls. They both toe the company line - thankfully, Nikon and Canon are seeing the wisdom in trying to standardize camera controls and menus. It’s far more common that photographers, especially pros, will own several bodies of one brand- and if the menu is the same from one to another, it saves a lot of confusion and time.

The first thing you see, when you turn on the cameras, is this.

 


Canon EOS Rebel T1i

Nikon D5000

 

This type of display is fast becoming the standard approach, and with good reason. It’s a well-organized interface, and allows fast and easy access to the common settings. The Nikon screen adds a nice little touch - a graphic showing the aperture setting. This may seem like fluff, but it’s a well thought out addition. How many times have you been shooting, looked at the aperture setting and had to stop and think which lens you were using and how far away you were from “wide open”?

Using the “Set” buttons on either camera, you get to each specific control feature. Neither has fast access to the “Format” control, however. To get to that, you need to hit the “Menu” button.

Here are the Menus.

 


Canon EOS Rebel T1i - Menu Screen (Tools)

Nikon D5000 - Menu Screen (Shooting)

 

The Canon menu has been tweaked and redesigned recently, and much improved. You scroll through the main submenus with the pad, moving right and left. You can quickly and easily get through all of them to see the choices and find the features you need to access, and, to us at least, the naming makes sense.


Nikon has kept the menu structure it’s had for years now; it’s easy for loyal Nikon users to pick up, but if you didn’t like the menu in the past, then you are still going to hate it. As they add features and controls, the menu gets more ungainly because you need to scroll through more things to find what you need. This is clearly a case of personal preference, but suffice to say, it’s taken us consistently longer, and with more scrolling, to find what we need on the Nikon. We’d give the edge to Canon in the menu department.


How the camera feels in the hand is maybe the biggest single feature for many photographers, and nothing could be more subjective. Take a look at the layout of the right-hand controls:

 


Canon Rebel T1i


The Canon puts the shutter button forward, and the control wheel back a bit. The ISO button is in a curious spot, just back from that, making us wonder - do people need fast access to ISO? The control wheel for the aperture and shutter is reachable, but certainly not comfortably, and you need to move your finger off the shutter to do so. The On/Off switch is not easily accessible with the forefinger, nor the thumb when the hand is in shooting position. The thumb has very little access to anything important, or frequently used.



Nikon D5000

 

In contrast, the Nikon layout puts the shutter button right on top of the On/Off switch. The second most accessible controls from the finger are the Info button and the EV compensation - two very useful controls to have handy. Your thumb gravitates right to the control knob that handles your lens or shutter settings.

Here’s what I mean. Here’s a shot of my (excessively large) hand in shooting position on the Nikon. I like to pick up a camera, turn it on, select the mode and adjust the lens or shutter and shoot. Both of these cameras feel cramped to me, but that makes the layout all that more important. The Nikon feels better to me in handling and shooting. For this reason I’d call it more of a “shooter’s camera” and based on that alone, it’s what I’d grab for heading out the door for a day of casual photography.

 


Nikon D5000


One side note: Nikon included a very nice feature in the White Balance settings for fine-tuning color. Out of respect to Canon, who had it first, we’re showing the Canon screen, but it’s a nice 2-axis graph allowing a very visual fine adjustment. The Canon fine-tuning is applied to all your White Balance settings; it’s a separate selection on the menu. The Nikon allows you to apply fine adjustments to each White Balance preset individually. Out of the two strategies, it seems like Nikon’s gives the user more control, and more customization ability.

 


Canon T1i - WB Fine-Tune

 


One other thing; turn the Nikon sideways with the main display showing and you get a pleasant surprise- auto-rotate of the main menu. Not a deal-maker or breaker, but certainly a nice touch.

 


Nikon D5000 - Vertical Menu Orientation




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