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Watch our video preview of the Digital Rebel XSi by clicking on the play button below.

**Front

**The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi's front looks much like its predecessor, with a compact SLR look and feel. The updated SLR does, however, show changes in the right hand grip. It has an improved, textured rubber coating for better handling, compared to the smooth rubber grip on the earlier Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi. Above the grip is a sloped platform that holds the shutter button and mode dial. Next to the grip is a circular assist lamp. 

At the center on a high top is the Canon brand name and the tip of the pop-up flash. To the right of the lens is the barrel release button for switching lens. The "EOS" and "Rebel XSi" logos line the top and the bottom corners of the camera’s right side. Much of the front design mimics the predecessor model, but in general, the change in grip should be an improvement.

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**Back

**The back of the Digital Rebel XSi shows changes when compared to the earlier XTi. The XSi now features a larger 3-inch LCD screen versus the older 2.5-inch screen. To accommodate the larger screen, Canon removed the left hand controls and scattered them about the back of the camera, as the manufacturer did with the 40D. The LCD is now flush to the left.

To the top left of the LCD is the Canon logo, also a deviation from the earlier model. Above the LCD is the new position for the menu and display functions in two uniform circular buttons. At the top center is the viewfinder, with a cushioned eyecup and a slightly bigger diopter control. The camera borrows the Display Off sensor below the viewfinder from the earlier XTi. The Display Off shuts the LCD off when the shooter looks through the viewfinder and covers the sensor. 

To the right of the LCD is a four-way controller. While the size of the controller is much like the XTi, the buttons now accommodate more functions, represented by more icons on the camera. To the top of the controller is an exposure button, followed by a white balance control. Below the multi-selector are the play and trash buttons, also a change in position from the earlier model.  Like the front right hand grip, the XSi’s back thumb grip is updated with a textured rubber versus the smooth rubber on the XTi. The two thumbnail and magnify buttons remain in place. Also visible from the back is the mode dial, located at the top right.  

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 **Right Side

The right side of the Digital Rebel XSi shows off the change in memory card format, from CompactFlash to SD/SDHC. The CF card slot has been replaced with a smaller compartment for the SD media. The memory card door wraps around to the back to be accessed from the back or side of the camera.  
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 ****Left Side

The left side of the Rebel XSi is nearly identical to its older sibling, the XTi. The left side contains the cover for the port system of Video Out, USB connection, and AV port, which provides a good seal against dust and dirt. At the top is the eyelet for the strap in the same place as the older model. Users can control the pop-up flash and lens release from this left surface. 
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 ****Top

The top borrows the design from its predecessor. Most of the controls are clustered on the right side of the center pop-up flash and hot shoe. Controls include a rotary dial for the PASM, A-DEP, and custom image preset modes (Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Flash Off). The on/off switch, like the XTi, juts out from the main mode dial. On a slanted slope platform is another mode dial, as well as the shutter release. The slope allows users to comfortably access those controls from the top or right side of the camera and helps in extended shooting conditions. 
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 ****Bottom**The bottom of the XSi is much like the XTi, except the battery compartment underneath the right hand grip is more rectangular to accommodate the new battery. At the center is the tripod socket with serial information above.  
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UPDATE: Our full review of the XSi is now available here.

We couldn’t exactly steal the new Canon model from the PMA show floor and put it through our rigorous testing labs back home. But we can make predictions on performance. With upgraded features pulled from its flagship professional line, Canon claims the EOS Digital Rebel XSi will be its best consumer SLR yet, with better autofocus and faster processing.

 The predecessor model, the EOS Digital Rebel XTi, tested with near-perfect color accuracy. Although the newer XSi borrows some point-and-shoot features, we hope the Canon XSi maintains that faithful color rendering from the earlier model. Many cameras today tend to oversaturate colors in favor of extremely brilliant (dare we say, unnatural) color. The XTi batted a saturation score of 100.3 percent. We expect the XSi to do the same and not fall victim to the recent trend to oversaturate. We look forward to testing Canon’s claims about the XSi. Keep an eye out on DigitalCameraInfo.com in the coming months for a full tested review of the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi.  

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UPDATE: Our full review of the XSi is now available here.

Viewfinder

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The XSi has an eye-level pentamirror viewfinder with 95 percent coverage and a magnification of 0.87x, like the consumer Canon 40D camera. The XSi viewfinder displays AF points, shutter speed, aperture, exposure on a traditional scale view, ISO, and a frame counter. The viewfinder displays the 9-point AF points as a diamond, each as a small cross and highlighted red when selected.  The AF points through the viewfinder look like extremely tiny**red dots – sometimes too small to view focus points when shooting light-colored subjects. In those cases, users are better off using the LCD Live View to focus.  **


LCD**

The Canon XSi features a 3-inch LCD, up from the 2.5-inch screen on the XTi. Monitor resolution remains the same at a standard 230,000 pixels. It’s a toss up between whether or not the larger LCD is a good thing or bad. The bigger screen helps with viewing, especially for those who have to squint to view pictures on the screen. The downside is the LCD causes a redistribution of buttons that might confuse longtime Canon users. Coverage equates 100 percent, meaning what you see is what you get. LCD framing is proportional to real-life. As a result of user feedback, Canon toned down the brightness of the LCD screen and included seven brightness settings to adjust for indoor and outdoor shooting. The brightness settings cater to personal preference, just like setting brightness on your home television set. 

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The LCD displays autofocus points similar to the diamond-shaped 9-point AF design through the viewfinder. Instead of crosses, though, each AF point is rendered as a box shape that is easier to view. The LCD displays shooting information, including exposure, ISO, shooting mode, white balance, shot mode (drive or single), focus type, file format, and battery indicator. More significantly, the LCD now incorporates Live View, a feature pulled from point-and-shoots so users can shoot by looking at the screen and not through the viewfinder. Canon introduced SLR Live View with the 1D Mark III in 2007, followed by the Canon 40D and 1Ds Mark III. Although spearheaded by Olympus on its EVOLT consumer SLRs, other manufacturers have followed suit with SLR Live View, including Nikon, Panasonic, Pentax and Sony. The Live View, now in its third generation at Canon, completes the series in the Canon lineup, adding live view in the consumer SLR gap between pro SLRs and compact digital cameras. **Flash**

The Canon XSi has a built-in flash that pops up during automatic and program modes. It takes about 3 seconds to recharge the built-in flash. Users do have some manual control with flash exposure compensation of 1/3 or 1/2 increments up to 2 full EV stops either way. Some customers in this consumer SLR bracket might decide to upgrade to an optional external flash. In those cases, the E-TTL-compatible XSi is compatible with all Canon EX Speedlite flashes. Lens

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Customers will appreciate the upgraded lens bundled with the Canon XSi kit. Whereas the previous XTi had a non-image stabilized lens, the XSi comes with an EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens. It has the same mount and focal length as the previous model, but the added lens-shifting stabilization will help reduce blurry photos during zoom photography. The lens promises compensation for up to 4 full stops of shake correction. When converted, the lens has a 1.6x focal length conversion factor when compared to traditional 35mm format. The EF-mount on the XSi is also compatible with Canon’s EF and EF-S lenses - a choice of 60 of them - including the new EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS lens Canon announced with the XSi. 

  

UPDATE: Our full review of the XSi is now available here.

Model Design / Appearance

The design of the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi, like the older XTi, is rather attractive. There are some architectural changes to the back button controls, which seem to crowd the back space a bit. Overall, though, the look of the SLR is still tempting for a point-and-shooter who wants to upgrade to a more serious camera. Like the older model, the XSi is offered in both silver and black. **Size / Portability**

One of the complaints of the previous XTi model was its construction, which sacrificed durability. The XSi is about the same size and weight, measuring 5.1 x 2.4 x 3.8 inches. It weighs a little more than a pound at 16.8 ounces. The XSi is still lightweight, constructed of a stainless steel and polycarbonate with embedded glass fiber, but adds tighter seals. The SLR is portable enough to carry around for travel in a backpack or large purse.  **Handling **

The Canon XSi improves handling to a degree when compared to the former XTi. The updated rubber grip and thumb rest now have added texture so users can grab hold of the camera for extended shooting while resisting hand fatigue. The larger LCD, however, now lines the edge of the camera and lends itself to catching fingerprints. While we applaud the upgraded grip and optional vertical grip, little room on the back left of the camera makes it a bit difficult to shoot with both hands.**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size

The button controls are more akin to the Canon D40 than the XTi.  To accommodate the larger 3-inch screen, controls are shifted to the top of the LCD and to the right control panel, so most buttons control multiple functions. This causes the back to look a bit more crowded.  Like the older model, the main mode dial on the top of the camera that controls PASM and Scene modes still does not rotate a full 360 degrees like the dials on most cameras. The mode dial rotates a limited 270 degrees. It’s not a huge issue, but it does require the shooter to spend a little more effort switching between shooting modes. ****Menu**Canon has a history of simple-to-use menu systems when compared to elaborate, sometimes confusing menus of other manufacturers. Instead of listing all the functions under one menu as older Canon SLRs did, the Canon XTi has six colored tabbed sections. 

The updated menu system on the XTi exemplifies Canon’s strategy to target this SLR to point-and-shooters. The new graphic user interface caters to an entry-level user with larger font and personalized color schemes for the background: black text on white background, light blue text on dark blue background, white text on black background, and black on light brown background. The background/text customization really isn’t necessary, but we suppose it’s a nice option for those who like personalizing their electronics.      **Ease of Use**The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi certainly has the automatic functions and point-and-shoot features first-time SLR users can appreciate. The easy menu system, large LCD, and Live View are extremely helpful for beginners. The camera also successfully incorporates more advanced features so users can grow with the camera.  There are a few distractions that might hinder the emerging photographer, namely the back button design. The button controls are a bit crowded on the back. In general, though, this portable SLR can be used right out of the box and kept around for years once the photographer becomes more advanced. 

UPDATE: Our full review of the XSi is now available here.

Auto Mode

**The Canon EOS Digital Rebel has a full Auto mode, located on the mode dial and represented by a green box. This automatic shooting mode selects the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and flash settings so users won’t have to think and simply shoot. There is also a Program shooting mode for more control. 
 ****Movie Mode**The Canon XSi does not offer a Movie mode. Digital SLR manufacturers have yet to make this jump to the traditionally point-and-shoot feature, although the recently-announced Nikon D60 has a stop-motion shooting mode. We keep asking if and when DSLR makers will incorporate full Movie mode features to capture more of the consumer market, but we haven’t seen any indicator that video for SLR will happen anytime soon.  For joint still and video modes in non-SLR cameras, consumers should think about hybrids like the Canon PowerShot TX1 or Casio Exilim Pro EX-F1. **Drive / Burst Mode**Canon upped the burst rate on the Canon XSi from the former XTi. Whereas the previous model only shot at 2.7 frames per second (fps), the updated XSi shoots at 3.5 fps for up to 53 shots in JPEG or up to six RAW images. At that rate, XSi shooters can record in both RAW + JPEG mode for up to four consecutive images. The increased burst rate is a result of the Digic III processor Canon installed on the XSi for faster processing. As the first Rebel to use Digic III, the XSi finally catches up to the same processor used in the Professional SLR line and the compact PowerShot products. The drive mode groups with it the self-timer for a 2 or 10-second delay, like the XTi.**Playback Mode**Users can play back images as single frames or as an index of four or nine thumbnails. Users can also jump through large volumes of images by one, 10, or 100 photos at a time. Images can be magnified from 1.5x up to 10x, rotated, or displayed with EXIF data. Shooting information in playback includes exposure, ISO, shooting mode, white balance, single or continuous shooting, focus type, JPEG or RAW file type, and battery indicator. There is also a helpful Highlight Alert that blinks to indicate which areas are overexposed. **Custom Image Presets**Like the XTi, the XSi has six automatic shooting modes to cater to first-time SLR shooters. Most DSLR users tend to steer clear from these automatic modes because they crave the creative control found in manual settings. Scene modes are helpful for beginners slowly transitioning to serious hobbyists. The image preset modes are as follows: Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, and Flash Off.  Users can access these Scene modes through the mode dial. 

UPDATE: Our full review of the XSi is now available here.

Manual Control Options

**In addition to six automatic shooting modes (refer to the Custom Image Presets section), the Digital Rebel XSi has full manual shooting with PASM (Program, Aperture, Shutter and Manual) priority modes. The manual controls on the XSi are comparable to other entry-level SLRs. 
 ****Focus***Auto Focus

The Canon XSi uses a 9-point autofocus system, equal to the number of AF sites on the earlier XTi. The difference is that the XSi upgrades to cross-type AF sensors, which is like a double-check on image recognition. The cross-type AF sensors, as opposed to single-axis AF sensors, quickly and more accurately detect subjects, thereby improving the overall autofocus system. The cross-type autofocus is effective with EF and EF-S lenses with an aperture of f/2.8 or faster. The 9 points are displayed on both the viewfinder and LCD monitor, displayed as a diamond shape. They work both automatically or manually. Users can change the autofocus to one-shot AF, Al Servo AF for continuous autofocus, and Al Focus AF for tracking focus. To aid the autofocus system, the AF assist lamp illuminates the scene, or the flash fires a few small bursts. Canon claims the assist beam is effective for up to 13.1 feet. Overall, the autofocus system on the XSi is an improvement from the XTi. Many manufacturers are electing to use cross-type sensors for some or all of its AF points, claiming the secondary layer of image-registration is a better system. We'll do more through tests on this when our full review comes out soon.Manual Focus*How well the manual focus works depends mostly on the lens. The included kit lens (EF-S18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS) works well for manual focus. The viewfinder magnification is 0.87x, which isn’t as high as some of Canon’s higher-end cameras or other manufacturers, which makes focusing a little more difficult via the viewfinder. Most shooters in this market will rely on the autofocus system, but the manual focus option is useful for old-school shooters. **Exposure**The Canon XSi has a full set of manual and semi-automatic controls for exposure. The full Manual gives the user complete control over exposure for aperture and shutter speed. The Shutter Priority (Tv) mode adjusts f-stop values depending on shutter speed selected by the user. Aperture Priority mode selects shutter time depending on the aperture value selected. There is also an additional A-DEP mode for Depth-of-Field for auto exposure, which selects both shutter time and f-stop based on making sure that all of the objects in the field of view are in focus. ** ****Metering**

The Canon XSi now uses four types of light metering systems - finally. One of the complaints about the XTi was that the SLR lacked spot metering. The XSi, for the first time in the Rebel series, fills that void. The spot metering mode looks at approximately 4 percent of the viewfinder at the center. The other three systems of the 35-zone TTL full aperture metering are borrowed from the previous camera: Evaluative metering that is linked to an AF point; Partial metering located at 9 percent of the viewfinder’s center; and Center-Weighted average metering. Serious shooters will certainly appreciate the added spot metering on this entry-level SLR. **White Balance

The Digital Rebel XSi has the following white balance presets: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, White Fluorescent Light, and Flash. To manually control white balance, the camera offers a Custom option, used by shooting a white card. White balance can be adjusted +/- 9 full-stop increments. Users can also bracket white balance +/- 3 full stop increments. That’s a healthy dose of white balance control options to account for varied shooting conditions.  **ISO

In Basic Zone modes, the sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 800, which the camera sets automatically during Scene mode shooting. In the Creative Zone modes, sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 to 1600. Users can adjust ISO in increments of 1 full stop, unlike other SLRs that allow for 1/2 or 1/3 stops.The XSi is equipped with Canon’s High ISO Noise Reduction technology, which uses an array of microlenses over each pixel to focus more light onto the sensor, in theory leading to less noise. Though we haven't scientifically tested the noise reduction associated with high ISOs yet, we anticipate the sensor technology should combat grain in low light shooting. **Shutter Speed**

The Canon XSi uses an electronic shutter that reacts at 1/4000 of a second to a full 30 seconds for long exposure shooting. There is a bulb setting to customize shutter speed for longer exposures. The shutter speed range on the XSi is the same range on the XTi, and covers most shooting situations from action sports to night scenes. **Aperture**Aperture can be controlled manually or automatically in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments. The included kit lens functions moderately with an aperture of f/3.5-f/5.6. Users who frequently shoot night scenes such as weddings might want to consider an advanced, brighter lens with an f/2.8 or faster aperture. 

UPDATE: Our full review of the XSi is now available here.

Picture Quality / Size Options

The 12.2-megapixel, APS-C sized (22.2 x 14.8mm) CMOS sensor records in JPEG (14-bit Canon), RAW, and simultaneously as JPEG + RAW. Users can select through the menu how big the files should be with the following resolution and compression options:  There is no 640 x 480 picture size, which is typical for point-and-shoots but not SLRs. That means users will likely have to downsize the picture through post-processing software for e-mailing or posting to the Web.  **Picture Effects Mode

**The Canon Digital Rebel calls its picture effects mode "Picture Style," a capture mode that adjusts color, contrast, and sharpness. Users can access Picture Style through the Record menu for the following options: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, and Monochrome. This is especially helpful for photographers who deal with large volumes of photos on demand. Instead of post-processing, the camera makes adjustments during capture.  

UPDATE: Our full review of the XSi is now available here.

Connectivity

***Software
*

The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi includes an EOS Solution Disk CD in the bundle. The CD features Digital Photo Professional software, which is a post-capture program to remove dust traces from the image. The Dust Delete Data software tool is supposed to be used jointly with Canon’s EOS Integrated Cleaning System, an internal self-cleaning sensor mechanism to reduce dust and spotty pictures. *Jacks, Ports, Plugs The XSi Digital Rebel has ports for USB connection and AV output so users can link the camera to a computer, printer, or display such as televisions and computer monitors. The video output is a standard composite connection; the XSi bucks the trend of offering high definition video output we are seeing on compact cameras. *Direct Print Options

*The Canon XSi supports PictBridge-compatible printers so users can directly print from the camera without the use of a middle-man computer.  

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Battery  *

Canon updated the battery pack with a new LP-E5 lithium-ion battery, different from previous Rebels. Canon claims that the new battery will take 50 percent more shots per charge when compared to earlier models in the series. The battery shoots a reported 600 shots without flash and 500 shots with flash at normal shooting temperature. The problem - it isn’t compatible with other Rebels, so users upgrading from the XTi to the XSi won’t be able to keep using their old batteries. 

For further battery life, the XSi is compatible with a new optional BG-E5 battery grip that accepts AA batteries. The battery grip accessory, dedicated for extended shooting and vertical handling, retails for $220 and is sold separately. *Memory*

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To the surprise of many consumers, Canon elected to include a SD/SDHC memory slot on the Digital Rebel XSi, in lieu of the traditional CF slot on SLRs. While other SLR manufacturers sometimes give the option to record to both mediums, Canon nixed the CF compatibility that was available on the Rebel XTi. What that means is point-and-shooters won’t have to buy an additional memory card, but existing Canon SLR shooters will have to make the switch and shell out a few extra bucks. The Canon XSi is compatible with SD cards with up to 2 GB of storage capacity, and larger SDHC cards. **Other Features***EOS Integrated Cleaning System* – First introduced on the XTi, the XSi implements the EOS Integrated Cleaning System. The SLR uses a vibrating self-cleaning sensor that shakes dust off the low-pass filter and traps the particles on an adhesive. Every time the user turns the camera on or off, cleaning is activated. Users can also engage the function by manually selecting "Clean Now." The dust reduction system can also be combined with traditional manual cleaning of lifting the mirror or through post-capture software included in the kit.  (Refer to the Software section for more information.) *Highlight Tone Priority* – This Custom Function mode is borrowed from the Canon EOS-1D Mark III Professional series and 40D model. Highlight Tone Priority is dedicated to exploiting dynamic range in highlights, known as the middle gray, and to render as many tones from an image as possible. *Auto Lighting Optimizer* – Accessed through the Custom Function menu, the Auto Lighting Optimizer is pulled from the Canon 40D series. It automatically adjusts contrast and brightness for built-in underexposure correction, for scenes such as backlit faces.  This feature is now accessible on all exposure modes on the XSi, previously not available on the XTi. 

UPDATE: Our full review of the XSi is now available here.

ValueThe anticipation for the Canon Rebel XSi, or previous Rebels for that matter, has photo nerds’ hearts racing. Buyers in the market for a consumer SLR are most likely dropping a good chunk of their savings on this camera, as customers move up from a point-and-shoot and venture into photography as a serious hobby and potentially as a business if they upgrade into higher-end models. So is the $900 worth it? With the added features, it’s a sweet deal. That’s not to underline the fact that almost every other manufacturer this week at PMA 2008 under-priced the XSi: the Nikon D60 ($749), the Sony Alpha A300 ($800), and the Pentax K200D ($799). The point is that yes, the Digital Rebel XSi costs more than its competitors. The reality is, though, that consumers won’t care. The Rebel series has consistently been Canon’s top seller, and we anticipate it will remain so. **Who’s this Camera For?***Point and Shooters* – The EOS Digital Rebel XSi is far from a point-and-shoot, but Canon is actively marketing its new SLR to this segment. The XSi suits point-and-shooters who want to buy a DSLR to pursue more creative control in photography. With personalized background menus, larger font, and automatic modes, the XSi does fine to suit new DSLR users. *Budget Consumers* – The lowest original MSRP in the digital SLR market for a kit is about $750 new. Nikon, Sony, and Pentax each offer bundled DSLR kits (with included lens) that retail for the price of the Canon XSi body alone. While the $899.99 kit price on the Digital Rebel isn’t the least expensive, the sub-$1000 is still affordable. It fuels the democracy of photography that puts more DSLRs in the hands of more average consumers. (Refer to the DSLR Comparison charts below.) *Gadget Freaks* – The XSi lacks certain gadget favorites like a touch screen, true Movie modes, or Wi-Fi capabilities that SLRs have yet to employ; these features are more typical in point-and-shoot cameras. Techies in pursuit of a DSLR, however, might be drawn to the Live View, which is becoming increasingly popular among Olympus, Nikon, and Panasonic SLRs. *Manual Control Freaks* – The Canon XSi brings with it a few more manual controls over the XTi, including an additional spot metering setting and expanded Auto Lighting Optimizer. Although the camera could use more incremental stops in ISO sensitivity, the Digital Rebel will satisfy Canon users.*Pros / Serious Hobbyists* – Hardcore addicts would normally lean toward Canon’s higher-end professional models, such as the 1D Mark III or 1Ds Mark III. They would, however, consider the XSi as a backup camera to their existing line of EF lenses, since it is priced at a budget $800 price tag for the body. The smaller body and lower price tag is tempting for pros to take the XSi on trips or to parties. **Comparisons *XTi vs. XSi*The Canon Digital Rebel XSi makes significant upgrades from XTi from a year and a half ago. At the same original retail price, the newer SLR comes with an image-stabilized lens, larger LCD, higher resolution, Live View, updated processor, improved autofocus, an extra metering mode, and faster burst rate.  For consumers who want to save the extra bucks, the XTi currently retails for about $560 online. ** *PMA 2008 consumer DSLRs*Among the entry-level digital SLRs announced at PMA this year, the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi is one of the more expensive for a bundled kit with lens. It also happens to be one of the fastest, with a 3.5 fps burst rate. It’s up to the consumer whether the extra $100+ bucks is worth the speed.  

UPDATE: Our full review of the XSi is now available here.

  **Conclusion

**The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi joins a successful line of Rebels that rank as the manufacturer’s top seller. This 12.2-megapixel entry-level DSLR is the third in the series. The XSi incorporates features borrowed from its flagship professional cameras, mixed with functions targeted for its PowerShot customers to cater to the point-and-shooter upgrading to an SLR for the first time. With its added features of Live View, Spot metering, improved autofocus, and faster burst shooting, combined with an image-stabilized kit lens, the Digital Rebel XSi is sure to do well in the market. It still faces competition from Nikon, Sony, and Pentax, all of which undercut the XSi’s near-$900 kit price. Despite that, we anticipate Canon’s brand recognition and history of the Digital Rebel will make the XSi a favorite among entry-level DSLR consumers.

Meet the tester

Karen M. Cheung

Karen M. Cheung

Editor

Karen M. Cheung is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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