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Testing / Performance
We test cameras' color accuracy by photographing an industry-standard GretagMacbeth color chart, and analyzing the result with Imatest software, which is the leading tool for testing digital cameras. The chart is made up of 24 squares of color. In our tests, we reward color accuracy – the closer a camera comes to reproducing the chart's color exactly, the better it does. Many manufacturers boost saturation and flesh tones, sacrificing accuracy for splashy, flattering color.
We show two Imatest charts to illustrate each camera's color performance. The first is a modified version of the camera's image of the chart. Imatest superimposes a smaller square inside each patch, showing the ideal color adjusted for luminance, and a vertical rectangle of the ideal color.
The second chart shows a color space. Each small square plots the point on the chart where one of the GretagMacbeth patches ought to appear. The square is linked by a line to a circle, showing the point representing the XTi's color rendition. The length of the line indicates the amount of error in the Rebel's color. The middle of the chart is completely unsaturated – that's where the white, gray and black patches belong. The colors are progressively more saturated toward the edges of the chart. So, if the circle is closer to the middle than the square, the XTi undersaturated the color. If the circle is on a line clockwise or counter-clockwise from the square, the hue is wrong.
We tested the Canon Rebel XTi in its "Faithful" picture style, and we set color balance manually. Canon says the Faithful style optimizes color accuracy, and the XTi's performance is excellent. Its saturation score is 100.3 percent – very close to perfect. Its 5.45 mean color error is better than the more-expensive Canon EOS 30D. It's rare for a camera to do as well as the XTi on this test.
Still Life Scene
Click on the image above to view the full res. file
We test resolution and sharpness by shooting an ISO resolution chart designed for digital cameras, and running the images through Imatest software. We shoot at a variety of focal lengths and apertures, looking for the camera's best performance. The Canon Rebel XTi did best at f/10 and 22.28mm and did well compared to the competition.
Click on the chart above to view the full resolution image
Imatest reports resolution in line-widths per picture height (lw/ph), a measure that's independent of the camera's sensor size, and therefore comparable from camera to camera. The Canon Rebel XTi resolved 1531 lw/ph horizontally with 18.6 percent undersharpening, and 1662 lw/ph vertically, with 17 percent undersharpening. With optimal sharpening, done in post processing, or in-camera, its results ought to be very crisp.
Noise – Auto ISO(4.2)
Our test for noise at the auto ISO setting is run just the way our manual ISO test is done. To an extent, it depends on the camera's metering system, because the meter reading influences the algorithm used to set ISO automatically. Because the Canon Rebel XTi lacks a spot metering mode, the camera set the ISO high when we shot the chart against a black background. The auto noise result is roughly equivalent to the XTi's performance at ISO 600. That's a high ISO for this test, but because the camera does well on noise even at high ISOs, the final result isn't that bad.
Noise – Manual ISO(11.49)
Image noise is the electronic equivalent of grain in film or static in a radio signal – it's simply stuff that interferes with the real data. Noise increases as ISO rises on any camera, but the XTi's noise starts relatively low and increases relatively slowly. It has a noise reduction setting, which shows a good effect above ISO 800. Imatest generates our test results by analyzing our shots of the GretagMacbeth chart.
We shot our low light tests with the Canon Rebel XTi set to ISO 400, and adjusted the shutter speed for exposures at 60 lux which is just enough to be comfortable for reading; 30 lux, which is like a gloomy basement; 15 lux, which is like the light from a few candles; and 5 lux, which is very dim.
Low light images were shot at ISO 400, adjusting just the shutter speed to see how the Canon Rebel XTi handles long exposures. As with any camera, we see increasing noise with longer exposure, and decreasing saturation, but the XTi does very well, compared to other cameras. First, it controls noise better than many DSLRs. Second, it maintains color better than others. Even at 5 lux, its colors , though muted, look accurate. The XTi doesn't suffer big color shifts in long exposures, which is a common problem.
Our dynamic range test measures a camera's ability to render detail over a range of subject luminosity. Digital images have a limited range of brightness, but the visible world has an effectively unlimited range, from the dark side of a coal scuttle to the surface of the sun. We test cameras by photographing a Stouffer test chart, which is a calibrated series of patches of gray, reproduced on film and lit from behind. Imatest software analyzes the images, yielding ranges in EV. The high-quality range has a noise level up to 0.1 EV, and the low-quality range has noise up to 1 EV. The low-quality range is important because it indicates whether there will be texture in the brightest highlights and darkest shadows.
The Canon Rebel XTi performs very well in our test. Both high and low quality are excellent at ISO 100. They drop significantly at 200, but both are still good scores. At 400 through 1600, the XTi retains excellent range.
Speed / Timing
Start-up to First Shot (9.46)
The Rebel XTi started up and took a shot in an average of 0.54 second. That's much quicker than most compact cameras, but not outlandishly fast for a DSLR. Still, most users won't be cramped by waiting less than half a second for the Rebel XTi to start up.
Shot to Shot Time (9.62)
The Canon Rebel XTi shot 2.7 frames per second for 69 shots. Though its rate isn't unusual, the length of the burst is remarkable, considering that it shoots 10-megapixel files. This speed may well open up new shooting opportunities for many users – particularly the opportunity to buy large enough Compact Flash cards to hold multiple bursts of 10-megapixel files.
Shutter to Shot Time (8.64)
The Rebel XTi took 0.18 second from the time we hit the shutter until the exposure was made. Focusing accounts for most of the delay, so users can do better by pre-focusing when possible.
**The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi appears very similar to its predecessor, the Rebel XT. Our "silver" sample has a dark plastic grip that is just slightly resilient, and textured like very fine sandpaper. The self-timer light is flush with the front of the grip, under the shutter release. The autofocus assist light is a small, round window between the grip and the lens mount, which is a narrow area, and perhaps too cramped for large or long fingers. The EOS lens mount is large and wide – which is necessary for some of the great lenses Canon makes, but not for the flimsy and dim kit lens. On the right side of the mount – positioned at about 3 o'clock - is a large and prominent lens release button. At about the 1:30 position, there is a small, nearly flush-mounted flash activation button. Below those, at about the 4 o'clock position, is a small depth-of-field preview button. The built-in flash overhangs the lens mount, and is part of the viewfinder assembly.
**The black rubber eyecup at the top of the Rebel XTi is much larger than the viewfinder. The viewfinder is small compared to the more advanced Canons. A diopter control dial peeks out from the upper right of the eyecup. It's small and stiff, so it would be hard to accidentally change the setting, although intentionally setting it is convenient. The "Display Off" sensor is a long, rectangular window below the eyecup. When the sensor is covered – typically by the user's face – the LCD display turns off. The 2.5-inch LCD shows shooting data, menus or images for review, replacing both the small monochrome display and the 1.8-inch LCD on the earlier Rebel XT.
The button layout resembles the XT and other Canons. A column of buttons runs along the left side of the LCD. They are labeled Display, Menu, Jump, (Review) and (Trash) - the last two buttons are labeled with icons. The direct print/download button is just above the column and to the right. The exposure compensation button is at the upper right corner of the LCD. The burst mode/self-timer button is below that, and the 4-way controller is below that. The 4-way controller is made up of five buttons, set widely apart. Each has a separate function. Clockwise from the top, they are ISO, autofocus, white balance and metering pattern. The "Set" button is in the middle. The exposure value lock and autofocus point selector buttons are in the upper right corner of the back, just as they are on other Canon DSLRs.
There's a bulge running down the right side of the back, tapering from wide and deep at the top to narrow and shallow at the bottom. Along with a large patch of rubber above the 4-way controller, it forms an effective thumb grip.
All together, the features will be familiar to Digital Rebel and Rebel XT users, and to Canon shooters in general. The grip is more comfortable than previous Rebels, and the display is better, but the Rebel XTi still lacks the control refinements of Canon's higher-priced cameras.
**Left Side (7.0)
**The ports for corded control and data exchange are under a rubberized door on the left side of the Rebel XTi. The door presses snugly into a dark plastic panel that is made of the same textured plastic on the hand grip. An indent makes it easy to get even a closely-clipped fingernail under the door to open it. The door appears to offer a good seal against dirt and moisture. The strap lug is a wide piece of stamped metal set in an indentation at the top of the left side. It's both rugged and out-of-the-way.
**Right Side (6.5)
**The memory card door takes up a large part of the Rebel XTi's right side. Two rows of small bumps form a grip to slide it open and closed – after it slides back, it swings open on a wide hinge. A large, flat spring holds the door closed when it is snapped shut. The door does not seal well against dust or water. The strap lug is like the one on the left side of the camera and is just as well-situated. It's not in the way of any controls or hands when properly holding the camera. A small, gray tab of rubber near the bottom edge of the side can be bent out of the way to admit a DC power cord into the battery compartment on the bottom of the camera.
**The Rebel XTi's hot shoe sits on top of the viewfinder hump, and is compatible with Canon's EX series of dedicated flashes. The pop-up flash housing makes up most of the rest of the hump. A focal-plane indicator is to the left of the hump. The Rebel XTi's mode dial is to the right. The dial turns about 270 degrees, allowing the camera to be set to full auto mode, 6 scene modes or 5 manual modes. The large power switch is next to the mode dial. The control dial – Canon calls it the "Main Dial," even though there isn't another control dial – is set vertically, and pokes up between the mode dial and the shutter release. The shutter release is chrome and doesn't protrude much above the surface of the camera.
**The Rebel XTi has a sturdy-looking metal tripod socket set directly under the lens axis, which tends to make it more convenient to line the camera up on a tripod or other mount. There is a small hole to the left that probably fits an alignment pin on the accessory battery grip. The battery compartment door is on the right. It can be completely removed to make way for the accessory grip. The door is not well-sealed, and the sliding latch is less secure than the memory card door.
Components**Viewfinder (6.75) **The Rebel XTi's optical viewfinder is small. It shows the whole image easily, even for glasses-wearers. The 9 autofocus sites are marked with rectangles surrounding dots. Each dot lights up momentarily when the Rebel XTi achieves focus on it. More than one spot will light up if they focus simultaneously. The spots look slightly smudged, and the light glows in an irregularly shaped halo. The effect is odd, but doesn't detract from the camera's functionality. Beneath the image, the viewfinder shows text information, including exposure data, exposure compensation, flash ready, flash exposure compensation, bracketing for flash or ambient exposure, white balance compensation, focus confirmation, the maximum burst of images possible, and a variety of error messages. The data is readable, and the display brightness is well-matched with the image brightness. **LCD Screen (8.0) **The 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD screen on the Rebel XTi is a big improvement over the 1.8-inch display on the Rebel XT. The XTi's is sharp and has good color and brightness. It stays visible over a wide angle of view – our impression is that the angle isn't as good as the D-series Canon DSLRs, but still, a very good horizontal range, and a reasonable vertical range. The image dimmed when viewed off-axis, but we noticed relatively little solarization (reversal of light and dark), except when we viewed from off-axis diagonally – from below and to the right, for instance. The LCD offers more shooting status data than the viewfinder, and shows it in large block text, with exposure data and ISO at the top of the screen and in the largest type. It also shows shooting mode, a plus/minus 2 EV exposure scale to indicate exposure error, exposure compensation or bracketing. There's an indicator for flash exposure compensation as well. Below that, it shows white balance, metering pattern, focus mode and burst mode. The next line shows custom function, white balance compensation, the autofocus point, monochrome shooting, whether the beeper is on, and red-eye reduction. The bottom row shows the size and quality setting, battery status and shots remaining. If the self-timer is running, the display shows a countdown.
**The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi's flash reaches about 15 to 20 feet at ISO 400 with the kit lens – not as far at telephoto. The flash casts even light for a small unit. We noticed some uneven bands along the edges of the frame with the kit lens set to wide angle, but in most uses, they won't be noticeable. The Rebel XTi controls flash exposure with the E-TTL system, making the camera compatible with the full line of Canon EX flashes.
The Rebel XTi flash pops up automatically in full auto and in some scene modes. It's clearly spring-loaded, but a motor seems to be involved – it goes up with a loud sound somewhere between a zip and a whistle.
Lens and Lens Mount (8.5)
****Many users defend the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S lens that's provided in a host of Canon EOS kits, noting that it is sharp and covers a convenient range of focal lengths. Alas, we aren't persuaded. We noticed significant barrel distortion and color fringing at wide angle. We find f/5.6 a very limiting maximum aperture at telephoto. Worst of all, the mechanics of the lens are flimsy. By rocking the manual focus ring, it's possible to shift the image up and down or side to side. In fact, it's impossible to manually focus the lens without shifting the image – touching the ring will move the image. When the lens is shaken, it rattles. Canon adds $100 to the price of the Rebel XTi when the lens is included, and it's obvious that the company makes money on the deal – there's not a lot of value in the lens. Those willing to shell out a lot more cash will find an extensive selection of EF and EF-S lenses available, but even for $100, the kit lens doesn't seem to be much of a bargain.
Design / Layout
**Model Design / Appearance (6.75)
**Canon's other DSLRs – the 30D through the 1D series – have a very streamlined, smooth look. The 1Ds Mark II and the look-alike 1D Mark II n both show the most design discipline – it's as if all the corners and edges were sandblasted off. The 5D is just about the same. The 30D has a few extra bumps and edges, notably to accommodate its integral flash, but it's clearly in the same family. Unfortunately, the Rebel XTi designers fell off the wagon. Though it's curvy, it has a jumble of extra edges, lines and surfaces that detract from the smooth style that's very appealing on the other Canons.
Front comparison: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (left) and EOS 30D (right)
Our sample had some fit-and-finish issues that detracted from its appearance. The seams between the pieces that make up the top and sides of the body didn't fit together consistently, so there were gaps between them, and the gaps varied in width. In some places, it was easy to slip a piece of paper between the parts, and in other spots, it wasn’t possible. The Rebel XTi is a plastic camera, and it is not well-sealed against dust and moisture. We don't take cameras apart, so we can't say if the gaps guarantee that the XTi won't last. We shook the XTi, and noticed it rattled even without the lens attached. That's unusual for a DSLR.
Based on what we can see (and hear), it is much less sturdy than the more expensive Canons, and less sturdy than the entry-level DSLRs from Nikon or Olympus.
**Size / Portability (8.0)
**At 5 x 3.7 x 2.6 inches and 18 ounces, the Rebel XTi body is small among DSLRs. Most of the super-zoom compacts are smaller than the XTi including its lens. But users who switch from a compact to a DSLR will notice a big difference in portability when they add accessories, and start to carry them along as well. A second lens or an external flash – either of which would make a huge difference in the kind and quality of pictures possible with the Rebel XTi – might double the size and weight of the user's gear.
*Side comparison: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (left) and EOS 30D (right) *
**Handling Ability (7.25)
**The Rebel XTi is comfortable to hold, though it would probably be cramped for someone with very large hands. The grip surfaces aren't slippery at all. The displays are big and laid out clearly. The "Display Off" sensor, that shuts the LCD off when the camera is at eye level, is an excellent handling feature particularly because it automatically turns the display back on when the user pulls the camera away from the face.
Users who appreciate every option to gain sharpness will be disappointed to see another Canon camera that buries mirror lockup in the custom settings menu.
The Rebel XTi's handling limitations are concentrated in its controls, which we review in the next section.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size (6.75)
The Rebel XTi's controls are a disappointment. Canon obviously cut corners on them. The 4-way controller is a set of five buttons, rather than a single concave disk (as it is on many current cameras) or the small button on the 30D. The five buttons are set in a wide circle, and are slower to use for navigation than the single control selectors. The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi also lacks the Quick Controller, a large dial set flat on the back of Canon's more expensive models. Without it, the Rebel XTi's "Main" control dial has to serve multiple functions, which slows down operation and means that the user has to hold down a button while turning the dial to make some adjustments.
The control dial and the mode dial both wobble and turn stiffly. It's too bad that the mode dial only turns 270 degrees rather than a full 360. In addition, the buttons are lightweight. Wobbling the exposure lock button also makes the AF point button move, indicating that they share a single mechanism. The shutter is better than the others, and has a clear half-way point for activating focus along its short travel. It's set directly in the surface of the body, though, with no ring or bezel around it. When it's pressed all the way down, the edge of the hole is exposed and it feels unfinished.
**The Rebel XTi's menus are clear and simple. The menus follow the same pattern as those on other Canon cameras, but given the simplicity of the camera, they are shorter than those on other DSLRs. Even some of Canon's compacts have longer menus. The menu appears with 5 tabs in its interface. It isn't necessary to scroll down to see all the entries on any tab. Customization options are a sub-menu under Set-up. Shooting options and Set-up options are each split into two tabs.
Below is a list of the XTi's Custom settings menu.
A separate menu comes up in Playback mode.
**Ease of Use (7.5)
**The Rebel XTi is not a complicated DSLR. Features are where experienced users will expect them. Users of other Canon cameras will find it particularly easy. That said, the limitations of the mechanical controls are frustrating. We don't like that a button-plus-dial combination is required to adjust aperture in manual mode. The Nikon D50 also has the same problem. Some of the control drawbacks are clearly matters of economics – Canon's Quick Control dial, present on its other DSLRs, is clearly a more expensive item than any of the Rebel XTi's controls.
Other problems are just baffling: it's easier to set the Rebel XTi to shoot without a CF card than it is to lock up the mirror. Does Canon expect more XTi users will want to click its shutter without taking a picture, than will want to get the most out of the camera on a tripod?
Auto Mode (8.0)
The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi's fully automatic mode is really, truly fully automatic. It sets aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, meter pattern (evaluative), burst mode (single shot), and autofocus mode. It also activates the flash when needed. The advanced features of the shooting menu disappear, leaving the user with choices for file size (though shooting RAW is not available), red-eye reduction, whether the camera beeps, and finally, the choice of whether or not to shoot with a memory card.
Custom Image Presets(7.5)
The Rebel XTi has 6 custom image presets, which are automatic modes that set the camera about the same way an experienced photographer would. In addition to setting exposure and shooting modes, the XTi presets also invoke the camera's picture styles. The settings are similar to those on most compact cameras. The XTi only has 6 of them, probably on the logic that most DSLR users will switch to manual modes to shoot the more ambitious types of shots covered by compact camera scene modes, such as documents or starry skies.
**Drive / Burst Mode (5.75)
**The Rebel XTi can be set to single shot, continuous or self-timer modes. In large, high-quality JPEG mode, it shoots 2.7 frames per second for 69 frames. About 3 frames per second is typical for entry-level DSLRs, although the Rebel XTi's number of shots in a burst is impressive. While 2.7 fps isn't ideal for sports or wildlife, it's a useful speed that should open up new options for users stepping up from compact cameras.
The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi has a self-timer with a 10-second delay. In mirror-lockup mode, the self-timer has a 2-second delay.
**Playback Mode (7.5)
**The Rebel XTi's playback options include a 9-image index view, magnified views up to 10x, shooting data display options, and a slide show. The Jump button allows the user to skip through large numbers of images on the Compact Flash card. The 9-image index view is useful, but many cameras with 2.5-inch LCDs offer 20- or 25-image index views as well, which could speed up image search. The 10x magnification is substantial, but the Rebel XTi would need a bit more magnification to show the full resolution of its files.
The Jump button offers three options: jump 10 images, jump 100 images, or jump to a different shooting date. Users can jump either forward or back. Jumping "wraps," so if users jump back from the oldest image on the card, they land 10 images away from the newest image on the card.
The Rebel XTi's slideshow function displays all the images on the memory card, in order, for about 4 seconds each. Canon calls the function "Auto Play," perhaps because it does not offer the options for choosing images, setting transitions and intervals, et cetera, that many cameras' slide show functions have. The images can be viewed on the LCD or on a television, via the analog video out jack.
**Movie Mode (0.0)
**The Rebel XTi does not offer a movie mode. No current DSLR does, though theoretically, the live-preview DSLRs from Olympus, Panasonic, and Leica could.
**Manual Control Options **
The Rebel XTi offers full manual control of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, focus and a range of image parameters. Its manual functions are as complete as its automatic ones.
***Auto Focus (7.5)
*The Rebel XTi's autofocus system is quick and accurate, and reasonably good in low light. Its 9 sites are arrayed in a diamond pattern that stretches about halfway out from the middle to the edges of the frame. The Canon XTi can be set to One-shot AF, which focuses once when the shutter is depressed halfway; AI Focus AF, which focuses once, but refocuses if it detects subject movement; or AI Servo AF, which continuously adjusts focus.
If there were a single feature we could compare directly between the Rebel XT and the Rebel XTi, it would be autofocus. The XTi seems to work significantly better.
*Manual Focus (7.5)
*It's hard to leave the frustrations of the kit lens aside for a discussion of manual focus because every time we move the focus ring, the image jiggles. Still, that's clearly a limitation of the cheap lens. The viewfinder screen is bright and contrasty. If the user presses the shutter partially, the autofocus system will confirm focus if detected by lighting up the site in focus and the focus confirmation dot below the image. Because of the relatively low magnification of the viewfinder image, the Rebel XTi is not as easy to focus as the more sophisticated Canon EOS digital cameras.
**The Rebel XTi has 5 manual exposure modes: full manual, program, time-value (shutter priority), Aperture-value (aperture priority), and A-DEP, also known as automatic depth-of-field auto exposure. All the non-exposure settings on the camera can be manually controlled in the manual exposure modes.
Full manual works just as expected, with a meter indicator showing over and underexposure in the viewfinder and on the LCD. The only glitch is that the control dial does double-duty - used alone, it changes shutter speed; in combination with the AE compensation button, it controls aperture. The button must be held down while the dial is turned to change the aperture. Program sets both aperture and shutter speed automatically. In program, the control dial shifts the aperture and shutter combination without changing the exposure value, or, if the AE compensation button is pressed, it adjusts the exposure. In aperture value, users set the aperture with the control dial, and the Rebel XTi sets the shutter speed. With the AE compensation button pressed, the control dial changes the shutter speed to vary the exposure. In time value, the control dial varies the shutter speed, and the camera sets the aperture. With the AE compensation button pressed, the dial changes the exposure value by varying the aperture.
The depth-of-field exposure mode controls both shutter speed and aperture, but it does so with input from the autofocus system. The camera calculates the aperture required to get all of the autofocus points sharp simultaneously, sets that aperture, and then sets the shutter speed to match. The system worked well in our test, using the kit lens.
Some users have moaned for years about how Canons don't have spot meters. The company listened, and put one on the EOS 30D earlier this year. Apparently, that was just a token effort – the Rebel XTi doesn't have one. It has evaluative, center-weighted averaging, and "partial" metering, which measures a sharply-defined circular area with a diameter from the top-center autofocus point to the bottom-center one.
The evaluative system takes several readings across the field of view, compares them, and arrives at an exposure. It should be able to detect backlighting and other tricky lighting. Center-weighted takes a single reading in the whole frame, but is more sensitive at the center of the frame. In practice, the Rebel XTi's evaluative and center-weighted modes gave us very similar, dark results with a backlit subject in the center of the frame, and partial metering performed much better. With a backlit subject to the side, center-weighted and partial both gave unacceptable, underexposed results, and evaluative was much better. It was still not as good as the centered backlit subject in partial mode. Evaluative modes compromised to some extent – it darkened the off-center subject while trying to retain detail in the background.
**White Balance (8.0)
**The Rebel XTi's presets are Sun, Shade, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent and Flash. It also has an Auto setting. The Rebel XTi's custom white balance setting is like other Canon cameras'. Users must take a shot of something white in the lighting they want a custom balance for, and then have the camera analyze it. The system works well, but it's cumbersome – though it's possible to set the camera to the old custom balance without hitting the menu button, it's not possible to make a new one without the menu. It's a multistep process, and it should be faster.
**ISOs from 100 to 1600 are available on the Rebel XTi, in full-EV increments. The camera performs well at high ISO. Still, it would be useful to have 1/3-EV increments in the ISO range. In most cases, it's best to use the minimum ISO necessary, and a full-stop jump isn't always needed.
**Shutter Speed (7.75)
**The Rebel XTi offers shutter speeds from 1/4000 to 30 seconds with an electronically controlled focal plane shutter. The fastest normal flash sync is 1/200, and the shutter can be set in either ½ or 1/3-EV increments. The XTi also offers a bulb setting for exposures over 30 seconds. The shutter offers every setting a Rebel XTi user needs – there isn't a need for speeds faster than 1/4000, and shooting exposures over 30 seconds with a stopwatch and remote control is accurate enough.
**The Rebel XTi can control aperture settings in 1/2 or 1/3-stop increments, and communicates electronically with EF and EF-S mount lenses. This section presents yet another occasion to note that the kit lens, the 18-55mm, f/3.5-5.6, isn't bright enough at the telephoto end.
**Picture Quality / Size Options (8.5)
**The Rebel XTi's 10-megapixel sensor delivers a native pixel dimension of 3888 x 2592 pixels. It records JPEGs at two quality levels – Fine and Normal - as well as RAW files. Its Large JPEGs are at full resolution, and Normal files are a bit more than half the size of Fine files. Medium size JPEGs are 2816 x 1880 pixels, and can be shot Normal or Fine. Small JPEGs are 1936 x 1288 pixels, and can be shot at Normal or Fine. RAW files are shot only at full resolution. The Rebel XTi can be set to record RAW and Large-Fine JPEGs simultaneously.
**Picture Effects Mode (9.0)
**Picture Style is a Canon initiative to make the look of their images consistent from camera model to model, and to create grouped combinations of image parameters for various types of shooting. The Rebel XTi has the same styles that more expensive Canon DSLRs have: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, and Monochrome. The user can tweak these for Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation and Color Tone, and can create custom styles using the same parameters.
Standard boosts sharpness and saturation. Portrait sharpens less and saturates less overall, but warms skin tones selectively. Landscape boosts sharpness and saturation, and selectively boosts blues and greens. Neutral doesn't sharpen or increase saturation, and is meant for users who plan to edit their images on a computer. Faithful is similar, but it's calibrated to match the subject when shooting in 5200K lighting.
Standard, Portrait and Landscape styles are meant for users who don't post-process their images. The styles are supposed to make post-processing unnecessary. They also make post-processing of JPEGs problematic – they boost saturation and sharpness, which decreases the amount of detail in the image. Sharpening a JPEG twice tends to create blotchy artifacts. Adjusting color twice causes similar problems.
RAW files show the effects of picture styles, but in a way that prevents data loss. Of course, with a RAW file, post-processing can accomplish everything that the styles can with much more flexibility.
Connectivity / Extras
*Canon's EOS Digital Solutions software allows a wide range of organizing, editing and printing options, including RAW conversion and dust removal for images that have dust removal data included. The dust removal data function has to be set up before the images are shot. The software can then use the data as a sort of "map" to remove the unwanted dust.
*Jacks, Ports, Plugs (7.5)
*The Rebel XTi has a USB 2.0 port for printing and data transfer. It has an analog video out port for connection to either PAL or NTSC video devices. It accepts an optional external DC power source. There is a jack for an optional corded remote control and an infrared cordless remote control – though Canon cautions that some fluorescent lights can interfere with the cordless units. The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi also accepts Canon's E-TTL flashes on its hot shoe. Other hot shoe flashes can sync through the shoe, without dedicated exposure. Among the XTi's connectivity options, its capacity to interoperate with E-TTL flashes is the most distinctive advantage.
*Direct Print Options (9.0)
*The XTi can create DPOF print orders for printing at commercial kiosks or photo labs. It can also print directly to PictBridge inkjet printers, or Canon's CP Direct or Bubble Jet printers.
DPOF orders can specify printing index sheets, date and file number imprinting, as well as printing multiple copies of images, and combinations of index prints and single images.
The Canon Digital Rebel XTi is designed to enable users to avoid post-processing for printing directly to PictBridge compatible printers when desired. The camera has all kinds of effects and editing features that make it easier for users to bypass the computer. Canon’s Bubble Jet and CP printers also add some incentive to print directly. They allow specifying index prints with or without shooting data, bordered or borderless prints, date and filename imprinting, printing multiple copies of an image on a single sheet, cropping, paper size, paper type, and a range of printer effects. The printer effects include Vivid for increased saturation, black and white, cool- or warm-tone black and white, neutral and neutral with modifications. Modifications include brightness, contrast, saturation, color tone and color balance. The Rebel XTi can also be set to brighten faces in printing and to correct red-eye.
*Canon's NB-2LH battery powers the Rebel XTi. The lithium ion battery lasted a long time in our testing. At 1.3 x 0.6 x 1.8 inches and 1.5 ounces, it's smaller and lighter than the quartet of AA cells that power comparable cameras. The XTi also has a CR2016 button battery, probably to maintain settings in memory when the main battery is out of the camera and in the charger.
*The Rebel XTi takes CompactFlash memory, the most common media for DSLRs. CompactFlash is available in a range of sizes, and has one of the lower per-megabyte costs among memory formats. Other Canon DSLRs accept CompactFlash, so users who add another camera body will be able to interchange memory between their cameras. The XTi has no built-in memory for image storage.
**Other Features (7.5)
***Auto Dust Reduction -* The Rebel XTi has a vibrating dust removal system that is supposed to shake dust off a filter covering the sensor. We didn't test the system too strenuously – such as changing lenses in a henhouse – so we don't have definite performance data. The system seems similar to Olympus' with the significant advantage that the user can choose when the system operates, so that it doesn't have to delay starting up the camera.
*Dust Delete Data - *The Rebel XTi can create a record of dust stuck to the sensor, and append it to image files so that the dust can be removed digitally in post-production software. The data is attached to both JPEGs and RAW files.
Pilot Light - A bright green LCD glows next to the power switch while the Rebel XTi is on and active. It winks out when the camera goes to sleep, so it essentially is on when the LCD is on, and off when the LCD is off. It's redundant, and in low light, distracting.
*Nikon D80 -*The Nikon D80 is a 10.2-megapixel DSLR that lists for $999 - $400 more than the Rebel XTi. The D80 replaces the D70, a 6-megapixel DSLR, the more full-featured of Nikon's entry-level cameras. It has more refined controls than the Rebel XTi, with two control dials and a 4-way controller that’s a single disk. The D70 is better-built than the Rebel XT; And though we haven't tested a D80, we expect it to resemble the D70 in build quality and construction. In that case, it is expected to be much more solid than the Canon Rebel XTi. The Nikon D80 lacks dust control, but it has the same autofocus mechanism as the Nikon D200, an 11-sensor unit that beats out even the improved sensor in the Rebel XTi. Like the Rebel XTi, the D80 includes extensive in-camera controls for optimized printing.
*Sony α Alpha A100 -*The Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 is a 10.2-megapixel DSLR that lists for $899 for the body only, or about $300 more than the Rebel XTi. Like the XTi, the Alpha has a dust reduction system that vibrates. In a big step ahead, the Alpha offers in-camera image stabilization. Canon offers individual lenses with stabilization, but they're all expensive compared to the kit lens and rival the price of the XTi camera body. Both cameras have sensors to note when the camera is held at eye level; the Alpha starts up its autofocus, while the Rebel XTi merely shuts off its LCD display. Shoppers will want to compare the XTi and the Alpha closely.
*Olympus EVOLT E-330 -*The Olympus EVOLT E-330 lists for $1100, and has a 7.5-megapixel sensor. Unlike the Rebel XTi, it has a live preview. The live preview allows the E-330 to act something like a compact camera, which may appeal to some users transitioning from point-and-shoot models. The most useful aspect of the live preview is for enlarged manual focus, a slow process. It's best for macro photography of still subjects. The E-330 has a dust reduction system, much like the one in the Rebel XTi. Olympus introduced the vibrating plate system long ago.
**The Canon Rebel XTi's predecessor, the Rebel XT, seemed like an overwhelming value proposition – for its time, a quick, full-featured 8-megapixel DSLR for under $1000. The original Digital Rebel was slow and clunky, and the Rebel series matured with the XT.
The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi offers a significant increase in pixel count, and a better interface, but other manufacturers have caught up in the entry-level DSLR race. The XTi is good, but it's very clear how Canon kept the price down: it's not sturdy, it has only one control dial, and its fit and finish aren't up to the standard of other Canon DSLRs. The Rebel XTi's price is justified, but users who can spend more might want to pay for a more durable camera.
**Who It’s For
***Point-and-Shooters -* The Rebel XTi is made for point-and-shooters who are hungry for a DSLR. The XTi is good for snapshots, and provides room to grow.
*Budget Consumers - *The Rebel XTi is an inexpensive DSLR, and an inexpensive entry into the Canon line. It's a strong contender for photographers who plan to grow, but who are on a budget.
*Gadget Freaks - *We don't see geek appeal in the Canon XTi. The dust reduction system has been done before, although the LCD-off sensor is useful.
Manual Control Freaks - We'd rather have two control wheels when shooting manual, so the Rebel XTi isn't the perfect choice for this group, though it's otherwise capable.
Pros/Serious Amateurs - The Rebel XTi just doesn't seem sturdy enough for this group. Even as a backup camera, it feels flimsy.
**Plenty of users will enjoy the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi. In automatic modes, it's easy to use, and snapshooters will be pleased with its quality. If they don't make enlargements, though, users won't see a difference between shots from the 10-megapixel XTi and ones from lower-resolution cameras.
DSLRs should have complete manual controls, and the Rebel XTi scores well on that account. However, it should have been more convenient to control and the dials and buttons should have been better designed, better finished, and more extensive.
Finally, we don't think anyone is going to buy a Rebel XTi with the thought that it's a disposable camera. Canon customers will expect years of service. Unfortunately, it doesn't feel as though the XTi is built for the long haul. Its parts should fit together better, and it should be better sealed against dust and dirt. However, the camera's redeeming attribute is its CMOS sensor, which has historically performed well in low light and surpassed the competition at higher ISO settings.
Specs / Ratings
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