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Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi

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Canon pretty much created the entry-level Digital SLR market in 2003 with the release of the Canon EOS 300D, otherwise known as the Digital Rebel (   ). Since then, Canon has upgraded the Rebel to the Rebel XT (   ), a smaller, faster, higher-resolution camera. The new EOS Digital Rebel XTi is a mostly XT-like camera that offers a 10.1-megapixel sensor, a larger LCD screen, and a smattering of new features.

Priced at $899, including an 18-55mm lens, the XTi is right in line with its chief competitors, the Sony Alpha DSLR A100K (   ) and the Nikon D80 (   ). At first glance, it may be difficult to notice a difference between the XTi and the XT. The camera’s body has undergone a lot of subtle molding changes, and you may or may not think that these make a difference in the feel and handling of the camera. Like the XT, you’ll either find the XTi extremely comfortable to hold, or extremely unbalanced and cramped—depending on the size of your hands.

Cosmetic changes

A look at the back of the camera reveals the most significant cosmetic changes over the XT. Canon has increased the size of the camera’s LCD screen to 2.5 inches and eliminated the dedicated status LCD. The main LCD is now used as the status display, just as it is on the Sony Alpha A100K and the Pentax K100D (   ). Normally, I would find this very annoying, but, as on the Sony Alpha, the XTi includes a proximity detector near the viewfinder, which automatically activates and deactivates the LCD screen as you move your eye up to and away from the viewfinder. Still, I much prefer the dedicated status display of the XT as opposed to the XTi’s offering.

Looking through the camera’s viewfinder reveals a few other changes. The XTi now shows flash exposure lock and white balance adjustment in the viewfinder’s status bar--both welcome additions.

Overall, the control and interface on the XTi is identical to the XT’s. All critical shooting functions are easily reachable through the four-way buttons and LCD screen on the back of the camera. Exposure compensation, program shift, drive mode, exposure lock, and focus point selection all have dedicated buttons. In this market, only the Nikon D80 offers an equivalent level of dedicated controls on the camera body.

The XTi’s menu system has been improved over the XT’s, offering simpler menus and easier navigation. Pulling a feature from its EOS 30D (   ) and its EOS 5D, Canon has added Picture Styles to the XTi, which offer predefined image parameter sets for shooting in particular situations. For example, you might choose the Portrait style, which provides custom contrast and saturation settings that are well suited to reproducing skin tones.

Enhanced XT features

The XTi retains several features from previous versions of the Digital Rebel, but they have been enhanced and updated. For example, you can choose to view the histogram display in monochrome, RGB, or luminance (brightness); there are new long-exposure noise reduction options; and there are improvements in the Auto Rotate During Playback mode. In the image review that appears immediately on-screen after you shoot, you can now magnify and pan around the image.

Under the hood, the camera now has a new 10.1-megapixel sensor. While this is not a huge boost over the XT’s eight megapixels, it does put this new version in line with the competition, so it is a welcome change. Canon has also implemented a three-tiered sensor cleaning system. First, the sensor is coated with an anti-static, dust-repelling coating. Second, a clear element in front of the sensor vibrates whenever you turn the camera on or off to shake loose any dust. And finally, you can create a dust reference shot that can be used to digitally remove dust spots later.

The vibrating cleaning cycle occurs both when you power on and off, but Canon has wisely made the power-on cleaning cycle interruptible. A half-press of the shutter stops the cleaning cycle so you can shoot immediately. Dust is a problem for any SLR, so these changes are valuable.

As with the XT, the XTi yields excellent image quality, with very little noise up through ISO 400, and minimal noise at ISO 800 through 1,600, the maximum speed available. An increase in resolution can sometimes result in noisy photos, but Canon has managed to increase the resolution on the XTi’s sensor without increasing the noise. As such, the extra two megapixels are welcome, and provide much more output and cropping flexibility.


Image Quality Superior
Battery Life Superior

Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor


Resolution 10.1
Zoom/Focal Length (35mm equivalent) 28.8-88mm
Battery Type Rechargeable Lithium Ion
Media Slots CompactFlash (1)
Size (wxhxd) 5 x 3.7 x 2.6
Weight, body only (oz.) 18 oz

The image-quality rating of the camera is based upon a panel of judges’ opinions in five categories: exposure, color, sharpness, distortion, and overall. Battery life testers follow a precise script, including shots with and without flash, until the battery dies.—Tested in conjunction with the PC World Test Center

Macworld’s buying advice

You need to get your hands on the Digital Rebel XTi before you can make an evaluation as to whether it’s right for you. If you like its size and feel, then you’ll find it to be a full-featured camera that yields excellent image quality at a very reasonable price.

[ Ben Long is the author of Complete Digital Photography, 3rd Edition (Charles River Books, 2004). ]

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
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