Canon EOS Rebel XSi
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The EOS Rebel XSi ($799) is one of two entry-level cameras in Canon's lineup (the other being the recently announced Rebel XS -- a stripped down version of the XSi). The Rebel XSi (also known as the EOS-450D) is the replacement to the extremely popular Rebel XTi, offering these new features:
So what hasn't changed? The Rebel XSi retains the compact design, dust reduction system, EF/EF-S lens support, and snappy performance of its predecessor. Is the photo quality just as good? Find out now -- our review starts right now!
What's in the Box?
The Rebel XSi is available in two "kits". One includes the body only ($799), while the second the body plus an F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm IS lens ($849). Here's what you'll find in the box for both of those:
The lens kit features Canon's brand new stabilized 18 - 55 mm lens. If I'm not mistaken, this is the fourth iteration of the 18 - 55 EF-S lens, and it's arguably the best one yet. It has better corner-to-corner sharpness, less purple fringing, and of course, image stabilization.
One of the big changes on the Rebel XSi is the switch from CompactFlash to Secure Digital flash memory. The only surprise here is that it took so long to happen. Canon doesn't include a card with the camera, so it's up to you to supply one. The camera supports both SD and SDHC cards, and I'd suggest a 2GB card to start with. It's definitely worth spending the extra bucks for a "high speed" card.
The XSi uses an all-new battery known as the LP-E5. With 8.0 Wh of energy inside its plastic shell, this battery is 50% more powerful than the one on the Rebel XTi. Here's how that translates into battery life:
As you can see, there's a dramatic improvement in battery life from the Rebel XTi to the Rebel XSi. In the group as a whole, the XSi's numbers are a bit below average, due to the extraordinary battery life on the Sony A300.
Like most of the cameras on the above list, the Rebel XSi's battery is proprietary. That means that it's pricey (a spare will cost at least $54), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when the proprietary one runs out of juice. You're not completely out of luck, though. The optional battery grip (pictured below) includes an adapter that lets you use six AA batteries to power the camera!
The XSi with the optional battery grip
Image courtesy of Canon USA
Speaking of the battery grip, above you can see the BG-E5 (priced from $135) in action. The grip holds two LP-E5 or six AA batteries, offering double the battery life. There are also addition buttons on the grip for shooting in the portrait orientation.
When it's time to charge the LP-E5 battery, just pop it into the included charger. It takes around two hours to fully charge the battery. This is my favorite type of charger, too -- it plugs directly into the wall.
Digital SLRs support a ton of accessories, and the table below covers just a selection of those available for the Rebel XSi:
As long as that list may be, that's not the full list of accessories for the Rebel XSi. The manual has a system map showing all of the optional extras you spend your cash on.
Let's move onto the XSi's software bundle now!
Canon includes version 17.1 of their EOS Digital Solutions Disk with the Rebel XSi. The first application that you'll probably bump into is EOS Utility, which is sort of a gateway to all the other software programs.
EOS Utility in Mac OS X
If you choose to select and download images to your computer, you'll get the screen you see above. Once photos are transferred to your computer, you have two ways of viewing and editing them.
ImageBrowser in Mac OS X
The "consumer-friendly" option for image viewing is ImageBrowser (for Mac) and ZoomBrowser (for Windows). On the main screen, you get the usual thumbnail view, with quick access to image e-mailing, printing, editing, and slideshows.
The JPEG viewing/editing window in ImageBrowser
Double-click on a JPEG image and you'll bring up the edit window you see above. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve.
RAW editing in ImageBrowser
The Browser software also includes a nice RAW editor, which is reminiscent of the DPP software that I'll describe in a moment. Here you can adjust exposure compensation, white balance, picture style, sharpness, and contrast.
Digital Photo Professional in Mac OS X
For slightly more powerful RAW editing, plus a batch image conversion tool, you'll want to fire up Digital Photo Professional. The main screen isn't too different from Image/ZoomBrowser, with your choice of three thumbnail sizes, plus a thumbnail w/shooting data screen. The batch processing tool lets you quickly resize and rename a large number of photos.
RAW editing in DPP
The RAW editing tools in DPP are a little more robust than those in the Browser "twins". In addition to adjusting the basics that I described above, DPP also lets you tweak color tone, saturation, the tone curve, both luminance and chrominance noise, and lens aberration (such as distortion and purple fringing).
I've been talking about RAW for several paragraphs without explaining what it is. RAW images contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's sensor. Thus, you can adjust settings like white balance and exposure without damaging the original image, so it's almost like taking the photo again. The downside is the large file size (compared to JPEG), fewer shots in continuous shooting mode, and the need to post-process each image on your computer before you can turn it into a more common format like JPEG.
Remote shooting in EOS Utility, complete with live view
Jumping back to EOS Utility again, I want to mention a really nice feature -- Remote Capture. This lets you control the camera right from your computer, with access to most camera settings. The live view feature is fully supported, complete with a histogram, composition grid, and the ability to enlarge the frame. Photos are saved directly to your computer, though they can be stored on the camera too, if you wish.
Customizing the My Menu settings in EOS Utility
The Remote Capture tool also lets you set up the My Menu feature on the camera (click on the "star" icon in the remote shooting window). You can select up to six items to be in your custom menu. I'll have more on this feature later in the review.
Picture Style Editor in Mac OS X
The last tool in Canon's software suite is the Picture Styles editor. To use this, you must first open up a RAW image. You can then tweak the tone curve, color settings, contrast, and sharpness, and then save a new Picture Style, which can be used both on the camera and in the Digital Photo Professional software.
Canon includes a thick, detailed manual with the Rebel XSi. It's not what I'd consider "user friendly", but any question you may have about the camera will be answered by flipping open the book.
Look and Feel
The EOS Rebel XSi looks more-or-less like its predecessor. The most notable change is the larger LCD on the XSi, though the right hand grip and a few buttons have been tweaked as well. And, of course, the memory card slot takes up a lot less real estate than it did before!
The XSi remains one of the smallest D-SLRs money can buy. It has a very small right hand grip, which some folks (myself included) may not find comfortable, so be sure to try one out before you buy. Canon has added a "stickier" rubberized coating to the grip, so you'll have more confidence when holding the camera. While the most important controls are easy to reach, the XSi does have a few more buttons that I would've liked.
|Images courtesy of Canon USA|
While the Rebel XSi is a pretty "plasticky" camera, overall the build quality is good. Like past Rebels, the XSi is available in silver and black.
Now, here's a look at how the Rebel XSi compares to other D-SLRs in terms of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
Canon Digital Rebel XTi
5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6 in.
48.1 cu in.
510 g Canon EOS Rebel XS
5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4 in.
45.6 cu in.
450 g Canon EOS Rebel XSi
5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 in.
46.5 cu in.
475 g Nikon D60
5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
46.3 cu in.
495 g Olympus E-420
5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in.
38.6 cu in.
380 g Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10
5.3 x 3.8 x 3.1 in.
62.4 cu in.
480 g Pentax K200D
5.2 x 3.7 x 2.9 in.
55.8 cu in.
630 g Sony Alpha DSLR-A300
5.1 x 3.9 x 2.9 in.
57.7 cu in.