One key new feature, and a major selling point of the EOS 500D, is its HD video recording capability. The 500D was the second camera in Canon's range to feature HD video, after the success of the 5D Mk II. However while the 500D can indeed record video in full 1920 x 1080 resolution, it can only do so at 20 frames a second, and also only with mono audio through a frankly rather poor internal microphone, so it's unlikely to have the appeal to serious film makers that has sold so many EOS 5D Mk IIs. The 500D can record video for up to a second shy of 30mins, but a 4GB SD card can only hold 12 minutes and it needs Class 6 high speed cards to work properly. Shooting at the smaller 1280 x 720 resolution and 30fps gives visibly smoother results and 50 percent more shooting time.
Of course along with the video mode the 500D also has live monitor view. The monitor itself is outstanding, clear and bright with minimal glare or reflection, a viewing angle of close to 180 degrees in every direction, and with a resolution of 920,000 dots it's as sharp as anything else on the market. Live view is activated by a button on the back of the camera. It's a useful feature for certain types of photography, particularly for composing studio shots with the camera on a tripod, but the single-zone contrast detection autofocus that is available in live view mode is very slow, so it won't be much use for action shots.
The main processor of the EOS 500D is upgraded to the powerful DIGIC 4, the same as the EOS 50D and 5D Mk II, and with it the 500D has inherited the same excellent menu system. It's a well designed interface, with a series of non-scrolling pages arranged left to right, so every option is very quick and easy to find. It offers a lot of customisable control, including custom vignetting correction ("peripheral illumination") when using Canon lenses. It has manually adjustable high ISO and long exposure noise control, as well as options such as mirror lock-up, selectable exposure level increments and ISO range expansion. It is this level of control that sets the EOS 500D apart from many of its more entry-level rivals and indeed from the 450D. While it still has scene modes and a fully automatic option, the 500D feels like a more advanced camera, and has the versatility to match.
Less experienced users, or just those who prefer a quicker interface, are not forgotten, with a handy quick graphical menu for frequently used shooting and exposure settings. The appearance of this can be customised with half a dozen pre-set colour schemes.