The Canon Digital Rebel T1i (500D) is a nimble DSLR that hangs light on the shoulder and responds quickly when you press the shutter. I mounted a Canon 70-200 mm L f/4 zoom on the 15 megapixel body and hit the pavement in San Francisco's Nob Hill district to see how the T1i would hold up on the streets.
The first thing I noticed is that the 70-200mm f/4 is a good lens for the T1i in this enviroment. The rig felt light and balanced, yet substantial enough to steady when shooting. Focusing was very fast. I set the AF pattern to the center point (cross sensor), which is the most sensitive of the nine focusing points. Automatic AF point selection worked well too. I'm just in the habit of telling the camera where I want it to focus.
Buildings on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Photo by Derrick Story with Canon Rebel T1i and 70-200 mm f/4 zoom. Image was captured in Raw and processed in ACR 5.4. Click on picture to zoom to larger size.
I shot in Raw, Jpeg, and Raw+Jpeg. Burst rate was good, hovering right around 3.5 frames per second. I usually had 9 frames available in the buffer for each sequence when shooting Jpeg or Raw. But it went down to 4 when shooting Raw+Jpeg. With a fast card (SDHC Class 6), the buffer empties quickly, and the camera seemed ready to go when I was. So the T1i's burst mode feels fine for street shooting. For fast action sports, you might have to wait on occasion, but the rest of the time, you should be fine.
Workers on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Photo by Derrick Story with Canon Rebel T1i and 70-200 mm f/4 zoom. Auto Lighting Optimizer was set to Standard for this image recorded as a Jpeg. Click on picture to zoom to larger size.
I had the Auto Lighting Optimizer set to Standard. This feature (customizable via the Custom Functions) is helpful in contrasty lighting conditions. It helps you hold detail in the shadows and highlights. You have four "strengths" for the ALO: Low, Standard, Strong, and Disable. I think it's helpful for street shooting because I often encounter strong highlights and shadows, and am usually working quickly. You can see the ALO at work with the Jpeg image of the workers in this article.
Jpeg file size (4752 x 3168) was around 6 MBs per shot at the high quality setting. Raw files weighed in around 21 MBs per shot. I processed the .CR2 files from the T1i in the latest release candidate for Adobe Camera Raw (5.4). I could also use the Digital Photography Professional software that came bundled with the camera. Keep in mind if you're shooting Raw+Jpeg, you're averaging around 27 MBs per shot.
Overall, I think this is a fine camera for street shooting. It's not a quiet picture taker, nor does it have Silent Shooting in Live View as does the Canon 5D Mark II. But with street noise, most people never hear you working anyway. This might be more of an issue, however, at weddings, I'll continue to test the Canon T1i in other situations and let you know. For this type of work, however, it's terrific.