Canon has lowered the bar for digital SLR (D-SLR) cameras — the price bar, that is. The least-expensive digital SLRs cost $1,499 until last August, when Canon introduced the Digital Rebel, at $899 for only the body or $999 for the body plus an 18mm–55mm lens. D-SLRs offer top-notch performance, photo quality, and expandability, and the Digital Rebel is a welcome change from expensive, and often slow, fixed-lens cameras.
How did Canon knock $600 off the price of its previous low-end D-SLR, the EOS 10D? First, it used an all-plastic body, which doesn’t feel nearly as nice as other D-SLRs but doesn’t feel cheap, either. Second, the company made internal changes to the camera, allowing for a new, low-cost EF-S lens mount. The 18mm–55mm lens in the $999 kit is an EF-S lens that works only on the Digital Rebel. It’s very impressive, especially since you get it for only $100 more. Other EF lenses work fine on the Digital Rebel, too. (Note that with the 1.6x focal-length conversion ratio, the 18mm–55mm lens is really 28.8mm–88mm.) Third, Canon reduced the firmware’s capabilities, in both features (for example, narrowing the ISO range) and performance (giving it a slower, lower-capacity burst mode). If you want more shooting control, look closely at the differences in this area (check out the comparison chart at www.dcresource.com), though the firmware issues probably won’t bother the average person upgrading from a traditional digital camera.
The Digital Rebel supports CompactFlash Type I and II cards, including the Microdrive. And it supports the FAT32 disk format, so it can read memory cards larger than 2GB. Its rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the same one several other Canon cameras use, delivers about 600 shots per charge without the flash and 400 with it. You can add nearly any accessory imaginable, from lenses to flashes to remote controls. Unlike other Canon D-SLRs, the Rebel doesn’t support a flash attached via a PC sync port — it does have a hot-shoe, though.
The Digital Rebel performs superbly; it focuses quickly and accurately (accuracy was sometimes a problem for the EOS 10D), and it allows you to shoot as fast as you can compose your next shot. The camera uses the flash as an AF illuminator, which allows for great low-light focusing. The downside is that you’re then required to take a flash picture.
The Rebel offers automatic and manual shooting modes. Manual shutter-speed selection ranges from 30 seconds to 1/4,000 of a second, and a bulb mode lets you keep the shutter open for as long as 2.5 hours. Unlike the EOS 10D, the Digital Rebel doesn’t let you select metering and focus modes. Canon also stripped out the custom functions found on the 10D, skewing the Rebel toward the amateur audience.
But the company didn’t skimp on photo quality. Compared with the average digital camera, the Digital Rebel takes excellent photos with good color and exposure, very low noise, and incredible detail. To better please its target audience, Canon has boosted the sharpness, contrast, and saturation at the default settings. It also made the menus much easier to navigate — the Digital Rebel feels more like a consumer camera than a pro SLR.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
If you’re tired of sluggish performance from digital cameras, or if you have a collection of Canon lenses you want to keep using, then the Digital Rebel is a real bargain. It lacks some features of Canon’s previous low-end digital SLR, the EOS 10D, but the average shooter probably won’t miss them. The Digital Rebel is an excellent camera if you’re ready to dive deeper into digital photography.