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Canon Announces Updated Digital Rebel SLR

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Jan. 23, 2008 – Canon has announced an update to its popular Digital Rebel XTi SLR: the EOS Rebel XSi. The XSi ups the resolution to 12.2 megapixels and includes improved autofocus, live view, an enlarged 3-inch LCD screen, and an optical image stabilized kit lens. The storage medium also changes to SD and SDHC memory cards; previous models used CompactFlash cards. The Digital Rebel XSi will cost $799 for the body and $899 for the kit with the 18-55mm lens, and will be available in April.

As well as upping the resolution to 12.2 megapixels (from from the 10.1 megapixels of the Digital Rebel XTi), the XSi has a new and improved analog-to-digital converter. Canon claims it allows recording of up to 16,384 colors per channel, leading to better, more subtle colors. In addition, Canon has added micro-lenses over every pixel that focus the light, which Canon claims will lead to better low light performance. Although the resolution has increased, the size of the image sensor has not, so the lens conversion factor remains at 1.6. The Rebel XSi also includes a new DIGIC III image processor, previously seen on higher-end EOS models such as the 1Ds Mark III.

Another new feature is Live View, which allows users to frame and preview shots using the LCD screen. This is an increasing trend in SLRs; several other models (such as the just-announced Pentax K20D) also offer this feature, which is a big plus for point-and-shoot upgraders who are used to composing shots with the LCD.

The viewfinder on the XSi has been improved to 0.87x magnification, up from the 0.8x magnification found on the XTi. The improvement in the viewfinder places the XSi closer to Canon's higher-end EOS 40d.

The LCD screen is larger than found on than previous models; Canon has managed to fit a 3-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD onto the back of the XSi, while only marginally increasing the size of the case. In addition, Canon has added personalization to the LCD screen, allowing users to view menus with black text on a light gray background, white text on a black background, white text on a dark blue background, or dark brown text on a light brown background. Chuck Westfall, Canon’s director of media and consumer relations, said customer personalization is a trend, as can be seen from the variety of color options found on the manufacturer's PowerShot point-and-shoots.

'It seems to be a kind of a trend overall in the digital camera market to offer some personalization with color,' he said. In addition, the camera body will be available in two colors: black and chrome silver.

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Canon also claims the XSi is the fastest firing Rebel; it can capture up to 3.5 frames per second in a burst of up to 45 images as JPEGs, or six images as RAW files. The autofocus has also been improved; a new cross-type AF system is, Canon claims, better at finding the focus point than the single axis system used on previous models.

Although the SLR does not feature face detection, a popular feature found on most modern point-and-shoots, Westfall said the XSi's Auto Lighting Optimizer uses face detection technology in all exposure modes to attain optimal brightness on detected faces.

Images captured by the XSi are stored on SD or SDHC cards; a departure from the CompactFlash cards used in previous Rebels. The largest SDHC card widely available at the moment is 8 GB, but 32GB SDHC cards will be available in the next few months.

The kit lens that comes with the new Rebel is also improved; the new EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 lens is the first of Canon's kit lenses to include optical image stabilization. Canon claims the advantage of an optical image stabilizer in the lens is that the user can see the effect through the viewfinder; other systems that move the image sensor don't offer the user a preview of the effect.

The battery on the XSi is also new, providing upward of 50 percent more battery life in about the same size. Batteries from XTi SLRs, however,will not be compatible with the new XSi.

The XSi is slightly larger than its predecessor, Westfall said, but is minimally different - less than 2 millimeters in each dimension. The XSi is also 35 grams lighter than the XTi, at 375 grams, most likely due to the SD/SDHC card reader, which is lighter than previous CompactFlash readers.

The Digital Rebel XSi will cost $799 for the body alone, and $899 for the body and the 18-55mm lens. It will be available in April.

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