Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.
The EOS Rebel XS is Canon's newest entry-level SLR. Based on the Rebel XSi, it’s marginally cheaper and less powerful, with a resolution of 10 megapixels versus 12 for the XSi, a smaller 2.5" LCD screen. It arrives into an already crowded marketplace, full of affordable, starter SLRs. The XS performed competently in most of our tests, and proved itself able to handle low light situations well, and boasting an impressive dynamic range. For an entry-level SLR, it would easily handle nighttime and indoor shooting well. At the same time it’s only barely cheaper than the Rebel XSi, and is more expensive than two of its major competitors, the Sony Alpha 200 and the Nikon D60. The former generally scored worse than the XS, but is significantly cheaper, and the latter offers roughly similar performance for a slightly lower price tag. The XS has a list price of $699 including an EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS Lens.
The body of the Canon Rebel XS is almost identical to that of the slightly more expensive Rebel XSi, only differing in the type and location of grips, a smaller LCD screen and one or two minor stylistic changes. Canon has had immense success with the EOS Rebel line, and they obviously have decided not to alter a winning formula.
As with most SLR cameras, the lens mount dominates the front of the Rebel XS. It sits on a raised platform about half an inch above most of the body. The platform arches above the lens to form the flash housing, and is marked with the white Canon logo. The raised platform meets the body at a sharp edge along its left side, but on the right it gently curves away. Directly to the right of the lens is the lens release button, and slightly further around the curve is the depth of field preview button. Up the wall of the raised area, between the lens and the flash is the flash control.
The labeling on the front of the camera is minimal; the aforementioned Canon logo under the flash, and the EOS label near the top right corner, written in silver. The Rebel XS logo is in the bottom right in a small recessed patch with the first word written in red, the second in silver.
The other major feature on the front of the XS is the grip on the left side. In a departure from previous models, it’s roughened plastic rather than the usual rubber material. There’s also no infrared receiver, as there is on the XSi. The grip itself is the same size as that of the XSi, which is smaller than many other SLRs. Above the handhold is the always important shutter control, usefully set in a fingertip-shaped clearing, and further up still is the control wheel. Between the grip and the lens mount is a small light, which is used as an indicator for the self-timer, and for Red Eye Reduction.
*The XS retains a similar style to its predecessor, the XSi *
The back of the Rebel XS is the area most noticeably different from that of the XSi. The LCD screen has lost half an inch of real estate, now down to 2.5" (63.5mm) and 230,000 pixels. This has increased the space on the back of the camera, which allows larger buttons with more space between them, as well as larger labels. The other major change from the more expensive XSi is the removal of the rubberized thumb pad from the right side. Also noticeably absent is the detector just beneath the viewfinder used on the XSi to turn off the LCD when you raise the camera to your eye.
The Canon label is directly below the LCD screen, and at the top left of the screen are the large buttons for Menu and Display. Along the right side of the screen are three buttons, all of which have likewise been increased slightly in size, as have the icons describing their function. At the top sits the AV/Exposure Compensation button, then below that is White Balance/Print and finally, right near the bottom corner of the LCD is Playback. Continuing along the bottom of the camera, there is the Delete button. This can be differentiated by touch from the others, as it’s concave with a small nub in the center, rather than convex.
Controlling menus is done by using the 4-way navigation pad, which has a Set button directly in the middle. When shooting, each of the four curved buttons controls a different setting. The top button is metering, the right is auto focus, the bottom is picture style and the left is drive mode and selftimer. All the labels are large and easy to read.
The last two buttons are on the very top right of the body’s back, and sit in a small indentation. The left button locks the Flash Exposure while shooting ,and zooms out in playback, and the right is auto focus point selection while shooting and zoom in during playback.
The viewfinder is prominent above the LCD screen, and has a rubber edge for comfort. The diopter adjustment is to the top right of the viewfinder, and surprisingly easy to turn. This can cause problems, as it may accidentally be moved, making it hard to see through the viewfinder.
The buttons are large and clearly labelled
Left Side* (5.75) The Rebel XS’s left side houses the camera’s output ports, protected by a heavy-duty rubber guard. This safeguards the video out and mini-USB ports from the elements, and feels robust enough to handle the job well. The majority of the left side is covered with the same textured black plastic as the grip on the front of the camera. This surface adds extra stability if you’re holding the XS like a point-and-shoot while using Live View mode. The only other feature on the left side is the metal loop for the neck strap.
The left side has textured black plastic to provide extra grip
The front half of the right side is devoted to textured material and the grip, and the back holds the card slot, which is protected by a solid-feeling latch. The XS can take SD and SDHC cards, a change from the CompactFlash format used by older Canons. The second neck strap loop is situated at the very top of the right side.
*The XS grip and memory card slot are the major features of
the rights side**
Once again, the XS’s top is almost identical to that of the XSi, barring a few minor aesthetic changes. The mode dial has been changed for a very slightly smaller one without the thin metal ring around its lip, and with a smaller but deeper dimple in the middle. This gives a little more space to reach the ISO button, so it doesn’t feel as cramped as its predecessor. The on/off switch is no longer in a small recessed area, and the lip beyond the ISO button is lower but sharper.
Beyond the ISO button is the Control Dial, which feels slightly flimsy, and then the shutter control.
The middle of the camera holds the flash hot shoe, which is the industry standard ISO 518, but has increased functionality with Canon’s EX-series Speedlites. These external flashes can be fired at automatically controlled, variable levels of brightness with the Rebel XS.
*The industry standard hot shoe offers extra functionality
with Canon's EX-series Speedlites*
The tripod mount of the Canon Rebel XS is made of metal and lines up with the lens. It has minor indentations on either side to provide grip on the tripod. On the right side of the base is the battery slot cover, which feels a little flimsy. The battery is held in place by a white plastic tab, and can be replaced by a special AC adapter, which is of identical size. Just to the right of the battery latch is a small rubber tab where the AC adapter’s power chord snakes out. On the far left of the camera’s bottom is a small area of grip plastic that continues up the left side of the body.
The battery is located beneath
Testing / Performance
The Canon Rebel XS scored average to well in all the tests we ran. Most scores were approximately on par with the XSi, which isn’t too surprising considering the similarities of the cameras. The only areas it performed significantly worse than the XSi was in color and resolution, with the latter score reflecting the lower megapixel count of the XS. The XS outperformed the XSi in our manual noise, low light and dynamic range tests, and generally scored better than both the recently introduced Sony Alpha 200 and Olympus E-520.
Color accuracy is one of the most important features of a digital camera. When you take a picture, you want your photo to come out as close to the colors you remember as possible. You want grass to be green, grain to be amber, and mountains to be purple – or, at least as purple as they are in reality. To test how accurately the XS performs, we shoot an industry standard color chart, the Gretag Macbeth, under precisely controlled lighting conditions. The resulting images are analyzed with the application Imatest, which, in addition to other factors, tests color accuracy. The resulting image, below, shows the captured color in the outer rectangle, the luminance-corrected color in the inner square, and the ideal color in the small inset rectangle.
*The ideal color in this test result represents the original color,
the outer rectangle the camera's rendition
The second chart shows the same data expressed as a vector. The ideal color is shown in a square, the captured color in a circle, and a line represents the difference. The longer the line, the greater the disparity.
*The squares indicate the original color chart values,
the circles what the XS captured.
The XS scored relatively well in this section. The only troublesome areas appear to be some yellow hues, and a little bit in some of the greens and blues, while the darker blues, neutral tones and flesh tones all turned out very well.
Canon XS Color Scores
With both the XS and the XSi, the most accurate color scores were gained not by using the default shooting settings, but rather by changing the camera to Faithful Picture Style, which we used for this test. When shooting in standard mode, the colors tend to appear brighter and more bombastic, which does make for more exciting photos, but not greater accuracy. Regardless, the XS scored significantly lower than the XSi and the Olympus E-520, approximately on par with the Sony Alpha 200, and quite impressively above the Nikon D60.
Resolution is more than just a measure of megapixels, it’s about the level of detail that a camera can capture. A camera with a good resolution score will give you more options for cropping and zooming. We test resolution in the lab by shooting hundreds of photos of an industry standard resolution chart. These photos are taken at a number of focal distances, and analyzed through Imatest, which determines the number of alternating horizontal and vertical lines the camera can reproduce, measured in line widths per picture height, or lw/ph.
A section of the* industry-standard resolution chart that we use for testing*
The XS showed average performance on this test, capturing 1802 lw/ph horizontal with slight undersharpening, and 1507 lw/ph vertically with significant undersharpening. This puts it approximately at the same level as the Sony Alpha 200 and the Olympus E-520, and slightly below the Nikon D60. The Canon XSi performed significantly better in this test than the XS.
Canon XS Resolution Scores
Image noise can appear in almost all digital photos, but is especially noticeable at high ISOs. It manifests itself as speckled static that is most apparent in areas of flat color, and is the bane of low light shooting.
To test the noise level of the camera, we shoot the Gretag Macbeth color chart at every available ISO, and use Imatest to measure the levels of noise across the different light sensitivities. As the Canon Rebel XS has a high ISO noise reduction feature, we shot this test with this setting both disabled and enabled to see to what extent it helps reduce noise levels.
*The graph below shows how the XS performed at the each ISO. It shows the expected increase in noise as the ISO level is raised.
The Rebel XS scored well in this test. Even with noise reduction turned off, the noise levels stayed quite low. Once the high ISO noise reduction setting was enabled, the percentage of noise was shaved down even further.
The XS punched slightly above its weight in this test, beating its big brother to show a good result when manually selecting the correct ISO for the situation. It also scored a little above the Sony Alpha 200, and a bit below the Nikon D60. This means that while shooting at a high ISO in poor lighting conditions, you will get images with comparatively little noise.
Canon XS Manual Noise Scores
Unfortunately, the XS didn’t fare quite as well in the auto noise test. For this second round of noise testing, we set the camera on auto ISO in a well-lit area, and let it choose the best ISO for the situation. The brightness of the lighting that we use is high enough that ISO 100 would produce a good image. In this situation, the Rebel XS defaulted to shooting at ISO 250. While this didn’t produce the highest score we’ve seen, it did significantly better than both the Sony and Olympus entry-level SLRs. The slightly more expensive XSi performed a little better in this test, and the Nikon D60 handily outperformed them both.
Canon XS Auto Noise Scores
White Balance (7.03)
This series of tests measures the camera’s ability to correctly compensate for the different hues cast by different light sources. It is easy to forget is that light from the sun is different from light cast by a fluorescent bulb or from a flash, and that unless a camera can compensate for these changes, the colors of your photo will come out wrong. Most cameras have both manual and automatic white balance settings. The former is where you choose a white balance preset based on the situation you’re shooting in. The latter lets the camera set the white balance based on its own analysis.
We test white balance by shooting the standardized Gretag Macbeth color chart under a series of lighting conditions, using both manual and auto white balance settings. The resulting images are run through Imatest, which analyzes how far from known gray values the images deviate. The results shown below are exaggerated, and the color error you see while shooting will not be this great.
For the auto white balance test, we shot with the flash, under fluorescent lights, in daylight and under a tungsten bulb, and allowed the camera to automatically set white balance for each. From these results, the XS managed to handle both the flash and the fluorescent light well, but stumbled with natural and tungsten light. This last one catches out many cameras, but is important as it’s the setting used for standard indoor incandescent lights.
*As with the previous test, we illuminated the Gretag Macbeth color chart with a range of light sources, but this time shot using the appropriate preset white balance. Once again, these results are exaggerated, and you will not see this level of error in your photographs.
The XS fared better using its presets over the automatic setting, which is common with most cameras. Its performance under the tungsten light was especially improved. However, it scored worse for fluorescent illumination in manual mode than it did for automatic. The reason for this is that fluorescent bulbs actually come in a number of different white levels, and the XS only has one fluorescent white balance preset, which isn’t appropriate for all situations.
Canon XS White Balance Scores
The XS performed above average in this area, scoring worse than the Rebel XSi and Sony Alpha 200, and better than the Nikon D60 and Olympus E-520. However, it is still a good result, and it means that your photos will generally come out looking very close to the proper color, especially if you manually set the white balance.
To provide a useful view of how the camera handles in everyday situations, namely shooting indoors under normal fluorescent lighting, we take a series of photos of the same two scenes at every available ISO. These photos of our loving couple and Rosie the Riveter and friends show how shooting at different ISO levels will alter color reproduction, image sharpness and noise levels. Click on the images below to see them at full size, but be aware that the files are large and may take some time to load.
**Low Light **(7.75)
Most photos, unfortunately, aren’t taken in ideal lighting, so a camera needs to be able to handle nighttime and indoor shooting. We test cameras in two ways to make sure they can handle these low-light situations, first taking photos at increasingly lower light levels, and second with increasingly long exposures.
The Rebel XS scored well, especially in the long exposure testing. Noise levels were low, and the color scores were accurate in both series of tests, so you can shoot both in low light conditions, and using long exposures, and expect a comparatively decent photograph at the end.
For the first test, we shoot the Gretag Macbeth chart at light levels that correspond to commonly occurring brightnesses. 60 lux is about as bright as a room lit by two small lamps, 30 lux corresponds to a room lit by a single 40 watt bulb, 15 lux equals the light provided by a computer monitor or television screen, and 5 lux equates to a single candle in a dark room. All shots were taken at ISO 1600.
As you can see, the Rebel XS managed to capture colors relatively accurately, even in the exceedingly dim 5 lux setup. There is a noticeable color difference between each of the light levels, which is to be expected.
The second test involves shooting the Gretag Macbeth chart at ISO 400 at exposure lengths from one second up to 30. This test is designed to see how the camera handles dealing with the long shutter speeds required for shooting in low lighting conditions. The XS has a long exposure noise reduction setting, so we ran the test with it both activated and deactivated. The graph below shows noise levels across the different exposure times.
As graph shows, noise levels stayed impressively low through the entire test. The noise reduction technology doesn’t seem to have improved the results noticeably. The XS uses what is known as subtractive noise reduction technology, where after you take a photo, then the camera takes a second exposure of exactly the same length, but with the shutter closed. The noise in this second exposure is then subtracted from the first in a bid to erase the static. However, due to the inherent randomness in noise patterns, this doesn’t always achieve much, as in the case of the XS.
Canon XS Low Light Scores
The Rebel XS did well in these tests, outperforming all the cameras in our comparison group. It scored especially impressively over the long exposure trial, marking it as a camera that is great to use at night.
Dynamic Range (11.74)
A camera’s dynamic range is a measure of how well it can show very bright whites, very dark blacks, and all the levels of brightness in between in a single shot. If a camera scores well in this test, it means that detail will be noticeable in shadow, and high contrast photos won’t blow out the white or turn blacks into murky grays. To test this we photograph a backlit Stouffer chart, which shows a series of tabs running from bright white to pure black, at all ISOs and all noise reduction levels,. The more tabs the camera can distinguish, the higher the dynamic range score.
The Rebel XS performed strongly in this test, with a very good dynamic range, especially at the lower ISOs. The dynamic range does decrease as the ISO increases, but this is normal. Shooting with the various types of noise reduction does nothing to alter the dynamic range, which is positive, as in some cameras these settings can lower the range of grays accurately recorded.
Canon XS Dynamic Range Scores
The XS scored well in this test, putting it slightly beyond even its more expensive predecessor, the XSi. This high score, better than any of the cameras we’re comparing it to, is excellent for its price point, and the Rebel XS’s high dynamic range score ensures your wedding photos will have the blackest tuxes and the whitest dresses.
**An SLR should function with as little delay as possible when powering up, between shots, and from the moment the shutter’s pressed to the moment the picture is taken, so we test response time in all these situations. All photos were taken using an Extreme III SDHC card, to minimize bottlenecks in memory processing.
Startup to First Shot **(7.74)
The XS took, on average, 0.83 seconds from switching it on to taking the first picture. While this isn’t as fast as the Nikon D60 (which took 0.3 seconds), it’s still fast enough that you’re unlikely to miss a shot.
In continuous shooting mode, with full resolution JPEGs, the XS was able to take 3 shots per second, which is in keeping with Canon’s cited number. This is faster than both the Sony Alpha 200 and the Nikon D60, but not quite up to the level of the XSi or the Olympus E-520.
This test measure the lag from when you press the shutter button until the shutter releases and the photo is taken. In older digital cameras, especially point-and-shoots, there used to be a significant delay between button presses and the action. With the XS, the delay was so minute as to be immeasurable, which is the result we hope to see from an SLR camera.
The processing test measures how much time elapses between taking a photo and seeing it appear on the LCD. The XS scored well on this test, as it only took 1.4 seconds on average before the image was shown. This is substantially faster than the XSi, a difference that could be due to the fact that the XS shoots smaller images, so it takes less time to process.
The viewfinder captures the standard 95% of the view from the lens, which means that there is a small amount of the image you won’t see, but will appear in your photos. The viewfinder is surrounded by a rubber ring, which can be removed and replaced with alternative eyecups.
We found the diopter adjuster a little too easy to change. Usually these small dials are stiff to prevent you from accidentally altering the focus of the viewfinder. The XS adjustment feels a bit loose, and we found it gets nudged easily.
One of the small but handy features of the XSi is a detector beneath the viewfinder that turns off the LCD when you bring the camera up to your eye. This feature has been removed with the Rebel XS.
The viewfinder captures 95% of the view
Live View is becoming increasingly common in SLR cameras, as it replicates some of the convenience of using a point-and-shoot camera. Rather than the light reflecting off a mirror into the viewfinder, the mirror is raised and the light hits the image sensor directly, which transmits it to the LCD screen. This lets you view what the lens sees on the LCD, much like compact camera. It also lets you digitally zoom in on the image on the screen to check for precise focus.
In the XS, Live view has to be activated through the menu system, and is toggled on and off using the Set button on the rear of the camera. The refresh rate in Live View mode was impressive, keeping up with even fast movements. However, be aware that using Live View will significantly reduce your battery life.
Canon recommends using manual focus while in Live View mode, but does offer two types of auto focus if you prefer. Both need to be activated before using, and are buried deep in an obscure part of the menu system, under the 7th page of custom settings. The types of auto focus are Quick Mode and Live Mode. Quick Mode briefly lowers the mirror and uses the standard auto focus technology before switching back to Live View. Live Mode attempts to focus while still in Live View, but is slower and less accurate than Quick Mode. However, neither seems to function quite as well as the Live View auto focus on the Olympus E-520.
Live View is most useful when using a tripod, as you can manually focus precisely, and don’t have to keep moving your face up to the viewfinder as you would when shooting without Live View.
The LCD represents the most noticeable difference between the XS and XSi, shrinking by half an inch to 2.5". However, it still retains the same 230,000 pixel count, so while the screen is smaller, it’s still just as sharp as that of its big brother. It’s very bright, and can be viewed from any angle without solarization.
the XSi on the left, the XS on the right
*The LCD is large and clear
While shooting, the LCD shows a large amount of information about the settings of the camera, all of which are written clearly and in a large font. Shutter speed, aperture, shooting mode, exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, picture style, metering, battery level, image size and shots remaining are all displayed in white against a black background in easy to read letters.
The options available while shooting
The built in flash is quite powerful, and relatively even. You will see some darkening around the edges, and a small hot spot in the middle.
Interestingly, the XS uses a small light to the side of the lens for Red Eye Reduction, and fires multiple flash bursts to assist auto focusing in the dark. Usually, cameras have a small auto focus assist light, and prevent red eye by firing multiple flash bursts to contract the subject’s pupils and prevent the reflections that cause red eye. Canon has inverted this. The advantage to using a flash burst to help the auto focus is that the light produced is far brighter than that of the small auto focus assist lights often used, so the camera can focus better on objects further away. Of course, the bright flashing lights are also distracting to your subject.**
The relatively high flash position helps minimize red-eye.
Canon has one of the largest selections of compatible lenses available, the EF series. With the XS, as with many of the other Rebel models, the auto focus is based in the lens, as is the optical image stabilizer. This has a net effect of making the camera body cheaper and lighter, and the lenses more expensive, but it only requires electrical connections between body and lens.
The lens bundled with the Rebel XS is the EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS, the same lens that comes with the XSi. It has an aperture range of f/3.5 to f/22 and f/5.6 to f/36 at the telephoto end. The camera is only available bundled with the lens.
One problem we did find with the optical image stabilizer in our lens was that when the function was activated it emitted a piercing, very high-pitched noise.
The Canon EF-S lens mount is compatible with a wide variety of lenses
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance*(6.00)*
The Rebel XS is almost identical to the XSi in terms of design, with many of the same advantages and disadvantages. One improvement comes as a result of having a slightly smaller screen than the XSi. The added real estate allows for larger labels and buttons, as well as more space between them. This helps prevent the somewhat cluttered look of XSi.
The XS is constructed of light plastic, making it feel slightly less sturdy than one would hope for. It also has its predecessor’s tendency to rattle when shaken, which is a bit worrying.
The XS grip is also on the small side, and will suit those with delicate hands, but anyone with large or long fingers may have trouble. The XS grip has also changed from the traditional rubber to textured plastic. Over the course of our review, we found this less comfortable than previous models, and slightly more prone to slipping.
Size / Portability*(7.75)*
The XS is 5.8 inches wide, 3.8 inches high and 2.4 inches deep (126.1 x 97.5 x 61.9 mm) without a lens. The body weighs 15.9 oz (450 grams), ever so slightly less than the XSi. As with all SLRs, this is not a camera you can casually throw in a purse or pocket. However, it is on the small side for its class, and has a lightweight body, which makes it slightly easier to lug around.
The Rebel XS has a petite grip for an SLR, lending itself to those with smaller hands. However, because it’s so light, it doesn’t require as much pressure to hold securely as some other cameras, so the grip is large enough. The shift from rubber to textured plastic is saddening, as the plastic doesn’t offer nearly as firm a handhold. One new addition is a strip of textured plastic along the left side of the camera. This seems to be designed to help hold the camera when using the Live View mode.
The XS grip is more suited to those with small hands
**Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size **(7.25)
In contrast to some other brands, such as Nikon, the XS primarily uses a system whereby each major function used in shooting is assigned to a unique button, rather than navigating an on-screen menu. This equates to a button for ISO, AF point, exposure compensation, white balance, shooting mode, metering, auto focus mode, picture style, playback, delete, menu and display options. Pressing these bring up the appropriate sub-menus, which are navigated with the four-way pad and the Set button. While this leads to a slightly more cluttered body than some of the competition, it also allows for fewer button presses to control each setting.
Canon’s entry-level SLRs put their single control dial just behind the shutter trigger, so you use your pointer finger to change aperture, shutter and exposure settings. This can take a bit of getting used to if you’re used to Nikon and Olympus’ method of putting the control dial by your thumb, but it is entirely up to personal preference whether one position is better than the other. The control dial on this model suffers from the same problem as some of the other Canons, namely it feels flimsy .
The mode dial turns quite easily, but not so easily as to make choosing the correct setting difficult. The dial does not rotate a full 360°, instead only turning three quarters of the way around. The disadvantage to this system is that, if you’re at one end of the mode dial, you have to shift all the way back to get to other end, whereas Nikon’s preferred method allows you to rotate in a full circle. The advantage lies in being able to identify your position on the dial by touch alone, as you know your absolute position on the continuum of settings.
Controls are clearly marked and easy to use.
The menu system for the XS has a series of tabs across the top of the screen that divides the settings into appropriate sections, which can then be navigated using the four-way directional buttons. When shooting in Manual, Aperture, Shutter and Program modes there are seven tabs to choose from, but in Automatic and Scene modes, this is reduced to four.
There is also an option tucked away in Custom Functions, in the Settings 3 section, which allows you to control some of the more esoteric areas of the XS settings.
A nice personalization feature is My Menu, which gives you a separate menu to customize to your heart's content. You can add almost any function to this tab, speeding access to favorite features..
Ease of Use (5.25)
The Canon menu system is straightforward to navigate, clearly labeled and easy to read. The tabbed menus are grouped logically for the most part, and each one is only a single screen long, which handily avoids having to scroll through pages of settings. However, some settings that are quite important are buried deep in the labyrinthine Custom Functions menu. Options like noise reduction or Live View auto focus are tucked away where new users will fear to tread. Luckily, these can be added to customizable My Menu tab, which lets you get to them far more easily.
Auto Mode (6.00)
Auto mode shifts the camera into fully automatic operation, removing almost all user control options. ISO, white balance, metering and auto focus are not adjustable in this mode, and shooting controls are trimmed down to only single shot, ten-second self-timer, or continuous self-timer. This last mode has a 10 second delay, then shoots a user-defined number of images at three frames per second.
**Movie Mode ***(0.00)*
As with most SLRs, the Canon Rebel XS does not have a movie mode.
Drive / Burst Mode*(8.25)*
The XS has five different drive modes. Single shot is self-explanatory, and continuous mode shoots a respectable three frames per second as long as the shutter button remains depressed, with the only limit being the number of images your card can hold. Of the three self-timed modes, two are the standard two- and ten-second , and one is more interesting: continuous self-timer. This sets the timer for ten seconds, and then shoots a user-defined number of photographs at three frames per second. You can choose from two to ten shots in this last mode. It’s particularly useful for grabbing group shots, to make sure you get at least one image where no one is blinking, sneezing or in the middle of falling over.
**Playback Mode ***(6.00)*
Playback Mode on the XS is standard fare, and offers nothing particularly groundbreaking. Pressing the Play button sets you into Playback Mode where photos are navigated using the four-way buttons and deleted with the Trash button. Images can be zoomed in up to 10x with the button on the top right of the camera, and zoomed out to four or nine thumbnails with the button just to the left. Pressing the display button alters the amount of information shown during playback, and can show just the image, image with number of photos, histogram with file information or four histograms and limited file information. This final option shows the histograms for RGB as well as brightness.
Custom Image Presets*(4.48)*
Most SLRs don’t feature extensive image presets, and the XS is no exception. It offers six custom image presets: Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait and No Flash. While this list is slim, it still covers the majority of situations. Sadly, however, when shooting in these modes you can alter almost no settings, preventing you from slightly tweaking the picture.
Manual Control Options
The XS offers a strong array of manual controls, as is befitting an SLR. The control is not quite on par with what you would see with a higher level, more expensive SLR, but is in line with expectations for an entry-level camera.
Auto Focus (5.75)
The auto focus on the XS works well, especially in proper light. It focuses quickly and accurately with a nine-point AF system arranged as a cross. In darker situations the camera fires off a stutter of light from the flash, providing enough illumination to let the autofocus do its magic. While this is an effective solution, it is also extremely bright and distracting for your subjects, and makes candid photography almost impossible.
While shooting in Live View mode, the Rebel XS can auto focus, though Canon recommends against it. Quick AF Mode lowers the mirror to focus as it would when shooting using the viewfinder. While this method is quick to focus, it interrupts the image on the LCD screen. The alternative is Live Mode auto focus, which uses information from the sensor to attempt to focus. Using Live Mode is slow, and it often doesn’t focus correctly.
The XS, as with the XSi and Nikon’s entry-level SLRs, houses the auto focus motor in the lens. While this means that the body of the camera is slightly cheaper, it also makes lenses more expensive and means you can’t use auto focus with older lenses.
Manual Focus (5.50)
Manual focus is activated via a switch on the lens. The kit lens included with the XS feels cheap and a little loose when manually focusing. When using Live View mode, you can zoom in to check the focus, which helps with achieving precise results.
The ISO range is about what you’d expect from an SLR at this price point. It offers ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and Auto. While ISO 3200 is desirable and increasingly available in inexpensive SLRs, and even some point-and-shoots, the range provided here will function well enough for most situations.
The camera also offers High ISO noise reduction, which helps to offset some of the static produced when shooting in low light. Unfortunately, this option is buried in the Custom Functions menu, which makes it an out-of-the-way feature to activate.
To see the noise levels produced at each ISO, go to out performance section.
White Balance (6.75)
The Rebel XS has six levels of preset White Balance, as well as automatic and manual modes. Presets include Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, White Fluorescent and Flash. In white balance testing the camera scored relatively well, though it struggled in Auto mode in the shade and under tungsten light.
Custom white balance works in a roundabout fashion compared to many other SLRs. With most cameras, you aim at a white or gray sheet and sample directly from that to create an appropriate custom white balance setting. With the XS, you have to manually focus on the white object, take a photo, go into the menu system, select Custom White Balance and then select the image you just took. It’s an overly slow procedure, and one that would prove infuriating if in a situation with changing lighting conditions. It is handy if you will be returning to an identical lighting scenario later, though, since you can use the stored white image at a later time to make sure you have an identical white balance setting.
The XS scored above average in our tests assessing white balance.
There are four manual exposure modes on the XS: Manual (M), Shutter Priority (Tv, or Time Value), Aperture Priority (Av, or Aperture Value) and Aperture Depth of Field (A-DEP). This last mode attempts to set the aperture to maintain sharpness for as many the focal points as possible.
The XS, as with most entry-level SLRs, has only one control dial, which is used to adjust shutter speed and aperture size in Tv and Av modes respectively. When shooting in manual mode, the dial defaults to controlling the shutter speed, and the Exposure Compensation button needs to be held down to adjust the aperture. Other brands of camera allow you to switch between controlling the two by pressing the button once, rather than holding it down, which is decidedly less awkward.
One of the notable losses from the XSi to the XS is Spot Metering. It’s one of the few significant features to fall by the wayside with the cheaper camera, leaving only Evaluative Metering, Partial Metering and Center Weighted Average. Evaluative Metering measures brightness from the entire scene, and works best in evenly lit situations. Partial is the closest you will find to Spot Metering, but it meters for approximately the center 1/3 of the image, making it a poor substitute. Center Weighted Average meters for the entire scene, but weights the metering towards the middle of the image.
Shutter Speed (10.00)
The XS has an impressive range of shutter speeds, from 1/4000th of a second to 30 seconds and is adjustable in 51 steps. There is also Bulb mode, which will keep the shutter open as long as the shutter control button is depressed. Bulb is only usable while shooting in Manual Mode, and has the nice added feature of showing an on-screen timer so you know exactly how long your exposure lasts. A remote control can be plugged into the appropriate port on the left side of the camera to help stability.
The XSi can adjust aperture in 1/2 or 1/3 stops, as supported by the lens. The bundled lens can handle f/3.5-f/22 wide and f/5.6 to f/36 tele.
The camera has a dedicated Depth of Field (DOF) Preview button near the lens attachment. DOF Preview stops down the lens to the actual setting that will be used to take the photo, providing a better indication of the areas that will be in focus at the cost of brightness through the viewfinder.
Picture Quality / Size Options (8.83*)*
The Rebel XS shoots at Large, Medium or Small image size, normal or high quality JPEGs, and can also shoot RAW and RAW+large JPEG, for a total of eight options.
The images are all 3:2 size format, and at highest resolution will print as an 8" x 12" at 300ppi quality.
Picture Effects Mode*(*1.00)
There are almost no editing controls on the XS. You can rotate or delete your images, which will have to be enough to slake your creative thirsts until you can get them on a computer for editing.
When shooting with the camera, there are six presets as well as three user-defined Picture Styles that can alter sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone. Filter and tone effects can also be layered on top of this to create colored effects over the image. These modes can provide you with some visual flair if you don’t feel like tinkering on a computer. However, to get any of the more colorful effects, they have to be manually configured, as the default options (Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful and Monochrome) mostly just alter sharpness.
Connectivity / Extras
The Rebel XS comes bundled with Canon’s EOS Digital Solution version 18.1, which offers software for both Windows and Mac. There are image browsers, editors and a photo stitcher for creating panoramas from multiple images. The applications are adequate, if not fantastic, for most functions. However, they’re no replacement for more advanced editing software.
Jacks, ports, plugs (3.00)
The XS has three ports on the left side of the body, tucked under a protective rubber cap. There’s video output, a remote control socket and a USB port, all of which feel well guarded by the robust rubber plug.
The only video output is composite, which is low resolution, and won’t look particularly good on a high-definition screen. However, it’s perfectly acceptable on a standard-def set.
It is good that Canon has decided to stick with industry standard cables, rather than using proprietary formats that other companies, such as Olympus, have adopted. It means that the cables are cheap, and easy to find if you should ever lose one.
Direct Print Options*(5.00)*
The Rebel XS can use both of the standard direct print technologies: PictBridge and DPOF. The former allows you to connect the camera directly to compatible printers via USB, do some minor edits, and then print, without using a computer. The other option is Digital Print Order Form (DPOF), which lets you to set the number of prints you want of each image and whether you want an index print, and then hand your memory card directly to a printing professional who will output them according to those settings. DPOF also supports print size control, but the Canon XS doesn’t implement this feature.
The XS uses a 7.4V, 1080 mAh lithium ion battery that impressed us with its longevity. It lasted through our full gamut of testing with only a single recharge. Shooting in Live View mode will drain the batter considerably faster. *Memory**(4.00)*
Canon has adopted SD cards over the CompactFlash of earlier-generation SLRs. The XS takes both SD and the newer, higher-capacity SDHC cards. SDHC is currently available at up to 32GB, and even larger sizes are possible.
*The XS shoots using SD and SDHC cards, a departure from CompactFlash, which
was used in some older Canons*
Other features (2.00)
Dust Reduction: The XS has an ultrasonic dust reduction system designed to shake loose any particles adhering to the image sensor. In addition, the XS offers a Dust Delete Data feature, which notes where any lingering dust is positioned, and can delete it from the final image using Canon’s ImageBrowser software.
The Canon Rebel XS with an included lens retails for the same amount as just the body of a Rebel XSi. The question that arises is if the XSi’s extra two megapixels and slight performance advantage justify the price difference. The XS enters an already heavily saturated market of entry level SLRs without adding any major new features. For an extra $50 you can get a slightly better Canon with the same lens, or you could save $200 and get the Sony Alpha 200, which received lower scores in our lab tests, but still takes perfectly good pictures. Regardless, the Canon XS is a decent camera for a decent list price of $699 with lens.
**Canon EOS Rebel XSi – **It’s very tempting to look at the XS and just call it a cheaper XSi with a slightly lower resolution. If you look at our tests, however, the XS and XSi scored differently in a number of sections. The XSi performed better in terms of color accuracy, white balance and resolution, while the XS did better in low light and dynamic range tests. However, retailing for $700 without a lens, it’s probably worth spending slightly more to get the XSi, if you can manage it.
**Sony Alpha 200 – **If you want to get the least expensive SLR that still shoots decent pictures, then you may lean towards the Sony Alpha 200. It’s $200 cheaper, is missing Live View, and scored worse on every lab test except white balance and resolution. But considering that you can pick it up for under $500 with a lens, it’s a bargain.
Nikon D60**–**The Nikon D60 is currently available for about $600. It offers the same resolution as the XS, and provides a similar feature set, with the exception of Live View. If you’re already sworn allegiance to Canon in the Canon/Nikon war, then choosing the D60 over the XS doesn’t make much sense, but if you aren’t allied with either faction, both are good cameras. The XS performed better in terms of color accuracy and low light performance, but the Nikon had lower noise levels overall.
Olympus E-520**–**The E-520 retails at the same price as the XS, but scored significantly better in only one area, the color test. One advantage to the E-520, though, is that autofocus and image stabilization systems are housed in the body of the camera rather than the lens, which makes lenses cheaper than those of Canon. The body is also significantly more solid, and feels like it could survive rougher treatment. The Olympus has a far superior Live View system and more image presets, making it a smaller step for people moving from a point-and-shoor to an SLR. However, in terms of pure image quality, the Canon wins, hands down.
Who It’s For ***
Point-and-Shooters* – The XS makes an excellent first SLR for people more used to point-and-shoot cameras. It has automatic settings that performed well, along with Live View, which is a definite draw for the new-to-SLRs crowd, even if the auto focus system is less than ideal.
Budget Consumers – Shoppers heavily concerned with the bottom line are more than likely to be attracted to the Sony Alpha 200 over the Rebel XS. The Alpha is significantly cheaper, and still scored well.
Gadget Freaks – The XS isn’t bleeding-edge, with no standout new functions or innovations. It’s just a solid, entry-level camera, and holds little attraction for the gadget crowd.
Manual Control Freaks – As one would expect from an SLR, the manual controls on the XS are extensive. However, the limited ISO range and lack of truly in-depth control probably won’t satisfy this crowd.
Pros / Serious Hobbyists – There’s not a lot here for the professional or serious hobbyist. It might work as a backup camera, especially if they already have Canon lenses, but it’s certainly not aimed at them.
The Canon EOS Rebel XS is a decently priced, entry-level SLR that scored well across our entire panel of tests, especially with regards to low light and dynamic range. It has Live View mode to help ease point-and-shoot users into the more advanced world of SLRs, with optical image stabilization included in the kit lens.
The problem is, that it’s barely less expensive than the Rebel XSi, which offers higher resolution and a bigger screen. If you really care about saving money, the Nikon D60 outperformed the XS in most tests, and is slightly cheaper, while the Sony Alpha 200 is $200 cheaper, saving you a significant amount. The Olympus E-520 is easier for new users to handle, thanks to its superior Live View system and greater array of image presets. Considering the price of the XS, and the length of time you’re likely to own your camera, the XS simply isn't worth it, and we’d recommend paying a little more for an XSi, or choosing a different camera entirely.
Click on any of the images below to view the full-sized original image. However, please note that some of the files are extremely large (up to several megabytes) and could take a long time to download. **
You can browse photos taken with the Rebel XS at the following photo hosting sites.****
Specs / Ratings
Get Reviewed email alerts.
Sign up for our newsletter to get real advice from real experts.