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DCRP Review: Canon Digital Rebel XTi  

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: October 5, 2006
Last updated: December 29, 2011

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The Digital Rebel XTi is the long-awaited upgrade to Canon's very successful Digital Rebel XT (see our review). Like the XT before it, the Rebel XTi (known as the EOS-400D in some countries) is an entry-level digital SLR, but that doesn't mean that it's "stripped". The camera has nearly all the bells and whistles that you'll find on its more expensive siblings. The Rebel XTi is priced at $799 for the body only kit, and $899 with an 18 - 55 mm lens.

So what's new with the Rebel XTi? Here's the short list:

  • New 10.1 effective Megapixel CMOS sensor (versus 8.0 on the Rebel XT)
  • New dust reduction system (more details on this later)
  • Large 2.5" LCD display (versus 1.8" on the XT)
  • No more LCD info display (the main LCD is used instead)
  • 9-point autofocus system (versus 7-point)
  • Can now take more shots in a row in burst mode (27 vs 14 JPEG, 10 vs 6 RAW)
  • New Picture Styles feature, first seen on the EOS-5D and 30D
  • Battery life is 10% lower than on the XT

Everything else is about the same. You get a very compact body (for an SLR), all the manual controls you could wish for, and support for Canon EF and EF-S lenses.

Is the Rebel XTi the ultimate entry-level digital SLR? Find out now in our review!

Note: the 18 - 55 mm lens shown in some of the product photos is not the same model as the one included with the Rebel XTi.

What's in the Box?

As I mentioned in the introduction, the Rebel XTi comes in two kits: body only, and with an 18-55 EF-S lens. Here's what you'll find in each of those kits:

  • The 10.1 effective Megapixel Digital Rebel XTi camera body
  • 18 - 55 mm F3.5 - 5.6 Mk II EF-S lens [lens kit only]
  • NB-2LH li-ion rechargeable battery pack
  • Battery charger
  • Neck strap
  • Eyecup
  • Body cap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring EOS Digital Solution and software instruction manual
  • 179 page camera manual (printed)

As is the case with all D-SLRs, Canon does not include a memory card with the Rebel XTi, so you'll have to factor that into the total purchase price. Thankfully CompactFlash cards are inexpensive these days, and I'd recommend a 1GB card as a good starter size. The Rebel XTi supports Type I and II cards, including the Microdrive. Buying a high speed CF card (50X or better) is a smart idea.

If you get the lens kit you'll also get Canon's second generation 18 - 55 mm EF-S lens in the box. I used this lens back when I reviewed the Rebel XT, and it's not the greatest -- it tends to get soft at smaller apertures. It's a decent everyday lens, but there are better lenses out there -- there's a reason why this thing costs $100. Otherwise you can use almost any Canon EF or EF-S lens with the camera, with a 1.6X focal length conversion. Thus, your 50 mm prime will have the field-of-view of an 80 mm lens.

The Rebel XTi uses the same NB-2LH lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. This battery packs 5.3 Wh of energy, which right in the middle compared to other proprietary batteries. Battery life is down 10% compared to the Rebel XT, probably due to its greater use of the (larger) LCD display. Battery life numbers for D-SLRs are hard to come by, so here's all I can offer in terms of comparisons:

Camera Battery life, 50% flash use
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon Digital Rebel XT 400 shots NB-2LH
Canon Digital Rebel XTi 360 shots NB-2LH
Canon EOS-30D 750 shots BP-511A
Nikon D50 400 shots * EN-EL3
Nikon D80 600 shots * EN-EL3e
Olympus EVOLT E-330 400 shots ** BLM-1
Olympus EVOLT E-500 400 shots BLM-1
Pentax K100D  300 shots 2500 mAh NiMH
Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 750 shots NP-FM55H

* Not calculated using the CIPA standard
** With live view turned off

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

While I can't say for sure (since I don't have CIPA data for all the cameras), it looks like the Rebel XTi's battery life is a bit below average.

The usual caveats about proprietary batteries like the NB-2LH apply here. For one, they're expensive -- around $50 a pop. Also, if you run out of juice "in the field", you can't just pop in some AAs to finish the day.

Rebel XTi with the Targus Digital battery grip

If you want to use AA batteries on your Rebel XTi then one option is to pick up the battery grip. You can spend almost $150 buying Canon's BG-E3 battery grip, or you can pick up the Targus Rebel XT/XTi battery grip for under $100. I had the opportunity to use the Targus grip, and it feels just as well built as my Canon 20D grip. Whichever grip you buy, both can take two NB-2LH or six AA batteries, which effectively doubles the camera's battery life. You also get some extra buttons and dials, and it makes the camera easier to hold as well.

When it's time to charge the NB-2LH battery, just pop it into the included charger. The charger plugs right into the wall, and 90 minutes later you're fully charged and ready to go.

As with all digital SLRs, there are plenty of accessories available for the Rebel XTi. I already mentioned lenses, so let's talk about flashes now. The camera is compatible with all external flashes, but it works best with the 220EX, 430EX, and 580EX Speedlites. For macro shooting you may want to check out the MR-14EX ring lite or the MT-24EX twin lite.

If you want to power your camera without draining the battery, consider the ACK-DC20 AC adapter kit. To control the camera without actually touching it, you can pick up the RC-1 or RC-5 wireless controllers, or the RS-60E3 remote switch. Last, but not least, we have an eyepiece extender (to keep your nose off the LCD) as well as an angle finder (which lets you shoot from above the camera).

Canon includes several software products with the Rebel XTi, the first being the same ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser applications that come with their PowerShot cameras. ImageBrowser is for the Mac, while ZoomBrowser is for Windows PCs.

The "Browser twins" can be used for downloading images from a camera (via the EOS Utility program), viewing and printing your photos, and editing them as well. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve. There's also an auto adjustment feature available.

RAW editing in ImageBrowser for Mac OS X

ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser can also be used to edit your RAW images. This software isn't crippled at all, with control of all major RAW properties, including exposure, white balance, sharpness, contrast, and color, and color space.

So what's the deal with RAW, anyway? RAW images contain unprocessed image data straight from the camera's image sensor. Since the data isn't processed on the camera you must do it yourself on your computer in order to get it into more usable formats like TIFF or JPEG. Both ImageBrowser and Digital Photo Professional (also included -- see below) can edit all the major RAW properties. Adobe will add support for the Rebel XTi to Photoshop CS2 this fall.

The EOS Utility program isn't just for getting photos into the Browser software -- it also lets you control your Rebel XTi over a USB connection. You can set virtually all settings right on your Mac or PC (you can even choose a Picture Style), then just click a button and the photo is taken. Instead of saving the image to the camera's memory card, the photo is instead saved to your computer's hard drive.

Also included is Digital Photo Professional 2.2 for Mac and Windows. Think of it as a fancy version of the Browser software. I should add that DPP runs natively on Intel Macs, for those who have them.

On the main screen you have your usual thumbnail view, and there are three sizes to choose from. You can also view thumbnails with shooting data and a histogram, if you wish.

From the main screen you can rotate and delete images, and if you're looking at at RAW thumbnail you can quickly adjust its white balance and brightness, as well. DPP also features a "batch" function, which lets you perform various functions on a large number of photos at once.

JPEG image editing in DPP 2.2

The editing window is where you'll spend most of your time in DPP. For regular (non-RAW) images you can adjust the tone curve, luminance, contrast, hue, saturation, and sharpness.

RAW image editing in DPP 2.2

The RAW adjustment options aren't too much different than in ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser. Exposure, white balance, tone curve, and color can all be adjusted here.

Stamp tool (for dust reduction) in DPP 2.2

The "stamp tool" lets you remove dust from your photos. If you use the Dust Delete Data feature that I'll describe later in the review, you can remove the dust by pressing a single button. You can also brush or pencil out dust using the same tool.

Overall, Canon gives you a pretty nice set of software tools. They're not out to sell you more expensive software, something which Nikon is guilty of on their D-SLRs. Everything you need to take advantage of the Rebel XTi is right in the box.

Canon includes a very detailed (albeit not terribly user friendly) manual with the Rebel XTi. You'll get all the details you could ever want, though it's not what I'd call pleasure reading. While there's a Quick Start guide for the bundled software, if you want more information you'll need to read the manual which is in PDF format on a CD-ROM disc.

Look and Feel

When viewed from nearly all angles the Rebel XTi looks exactly like its predecessor. Only when you look at the back of the cameras do you see the difference:

Rebel XT vs Rebel XTi (not to scale); photos courtesy of Canon USA

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the difference between the old and new models. Canon dumped the LCD info display in exchange for a larger LCD. I'll show you how they made up for the loss of the info display later in the review.

Like the Rebel XT, the XTi is a compact digital SLR, which some folks may find to be too small. The right hand grip is on the small side, which makes the camera a little uncomfortable to hold. In terms of build quality, the XTi has more of a "plastic" feel than other entry-level SLRs. Controls are well placed, though the XTi suffers a bit from "button clutter".

Image courtesy of Canon USA

Just like the Rebel XT, the XTi comes in both silver and black. You'll see the black one throughout this review, so above is the silver one, courtesy of Canon. Sorry ladies, no pink model yet!

Now, here's how the Rebel XTi compares with other D-SLRs in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon Digital Rebel XT 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in. 46.3 cu in. 485 g
Canon Digital Rebel XTi 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6 in. 48.1 cu in. 510 g
Canon EOS-30D 5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in. 69.4 cu in. 700 g
Nikon D50 5.2 x 4.0 x 3.0 in. 62.4 cu in. 540 g
Nikon D80 5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in. 64 cu in. 585 g
Olympus EVOLT E-330 5.5 x 3.4 x 2.8 in. 52.4 cu in. 550 g
Olympus EVOLT E-500 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6 in. 48.1 cu in. 435 g
Pentax K100D 5.1 x 3.6 x 2.8 in. 51.4 cu in. 560 g
Pentax K10D 5.6 x 4.0 x 2.8 in. 62.7 cu in. 710 g
Samsung Digimax GX-1S 4.9 x 3.6 x 2.6 in. 45.9 cu in. 505 g
Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 5.3 x 3.8 x 2.9 in. 58.4 cu in. 545 g

The Rebel XTi has put on a little bulk compared to the XT, but it's still one of the smallest D-SLRs out there. I can't stress this enough: try one before you buy, as some people don't care for its size!

With that out of the way we can begin our tour of the camera, starting (as always) with the front.

Here's the front of the camera without a lens attached. As I said in the previous section, the Rebel XTi supports both EF and EF-S lenses, and there's a 1.6X crop factor.

Behind the mirror in the above photo is the Rebel XTi's new 10 Megapixel CMOS sensor. One of the big new features on the camera is a dust reduction system, and it has several layers to it (pun intended). First up, the low pass filter has an anti-static charge applied to it, which helps to repel dust. If some dust manages to find its way onto the filter, then it will be shaken off when you turn the camera on or off. That's because the low pass filter is attached to an ultrasonic vibrating unit, which tries to shake off dust. If that still doesn't work, then you can use the Dust Delete Data feature that I'll talk about later.

Back to our tour now. To the right of the EF lens mount is the lens release button, with the depth-of-field preview button below that (not visible here).

At the top of the photo is the Rebel XTi's pop-up flash, which is raised electronically. The working range of the flash will vary depending on what lens you're using, but for the kit lens it's 1.0 - 3.7 m at wide-angle and 1.0 - 2.3 m at telephoto (both at ISO 100) -- the same as on the Rebel XT. For more flash power you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe that you'll se in a bit.

While that circular lamp to the upper-left of the lens mount looks like an AF-assist lamp, it's not. Instead, it's used as the visual countdown for the self-timer, as well as for redeye reduction. Like most of Canon's D-SLRs the XTi uses the pop-up flash as a focusing aid in low light. If you want the benefits of AF-assist but don't want a flash shot, then just let the camera lock focus and lower the flash -- problem solved.

That dark-colored circle on the grip is the receiver for an optional wireless remote control.

The most noticeable change on the Rebel XTi is its new 2.5" LCD display. If you recall, both the original Digital Rebel and the Rebel XT had 1.8" screens, which looks comically small these days. The LCD has 230,000 pixels, which makes it competitive with the other entry-level D-SLRs out there. As is the case with most D-SLRs, the LCD is only used for reviewing photos and navigating menus -- it's not for composing photos.

The "new" LCD info display

So what did Canon do with the information that was lost when they got rid of the LCD info display? They did the same thing as many other camera manufacturers: they put the information on the LCD (see screenshot above). You can't quickly change settings via the screen, as you can on Olympus' SLRs, and this feature probably drains the battery a lot more than an info display, but you have to take what you can get (I guess). An sensor below the viewfinder turns the info screen off automatically when you put your eye to it.

Speaking of the optical viewfinder: it's above the LCD, and it shows 95% of the frame (with a 0.8X magnification). Below the field-of-view is a line of data, which includes shutter speed, aperture, shots remaining, and focus confirmation. A diopter correction knob on the top-right of the finder will focus what you're looking at.

To the lower-left of the viewfinder is the Print/Share button, which has been on Canon's PowerShot cameras for a few years now. When connected to a photo printer, just press this button and the selected image will be printed. When you connect to a Mac or PC, you can transfer photos (in numerous ways), and even set your computer's desktop background -- right from the camera.

The five buttons on the left side of the LCD display include:

  • Display - turns the info display on/off; also toggles the info shown when reviewing images
  • Menu - enters the menu system
  • Jump - quickly move through photos in playback mode
  • Playback mode
  • Delete photo

Jumping over to the right side of the LCD now. The top-most button adjust the exposure compensation in most of the shooting modes, with the usual -2EV to + 2EV range. In the manual shooting mode you'll use this button to adjust the aperture.

Below that is the drive button, which has these options: Single-shot, continuous shooting, self-timer/remote control. The XTi's continuous shooting mode has been improved a bit over the XT, thanks to a larger buffer. I was able to take 11 RAW or 33 JPEG shots in a row at 2.9 frames/second using a 100X CompactFlash card -- up from 6 RAW and 14 JPEG on the Rebel XT. While the XTi can take more RAW shots in a burst than the Nikon D80, that camera took over 100 JPEGs in a row when I tested it.

Continuing downward, we find the four-way controller. You'll use this for menu navigation, as well as:

  • Up - ISO (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Down - White balance (Auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, white fluorescent, flash, custom)
  • Left - Metering (Evaluative, partial, center-weighted average)
  • Right - Autofocus (One shot, AI focus, AI servo)
  • Center - Picture Styles (Standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome, user defined 1/2/3)

Well it looks like I have some explaining to do. The custom white balance option lets you use a white or gray card for accurate colors, even in the most unusual lighting. If that doesn't do it for you, there are also white balance fine-tuning and bracketing features that I'll discuss later in the review.

And yes, there's no still spot metering on the Rebel XTi -- you'll have to pony up for the EOS-30D for that.

What about the focus modes? The one shot mode locks the focus when you halfway press the shutter release button. AI servo does that, but keeps focusing while the button is halfway-pressed. Finally, the AI focus, which starts out in one shot mode, and automatically switches to AI servo if it detects motion.

The Picture Styles feature was first seen on the EOS-5D, and it's basically a way to have preset values for sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone. You can use the ones Canon came up with, or you can save up to three of your own styles. I'll have a bit more on this later.

The last things to see on the back of the Rebel XTi are the two buttons at the top-right of the photo. These buttons are for AE/AF lock and manual focus point selection. The latter lets you select one of the nine focus points available on the camera. These two buttons are also used for the playback "zoom and scroll" feature that lets you enlarge a photo that you've taken.

The first thing to see on the top of the Rebel XTi is the hot shoe. The camera uses the same E-TTL II flash metering system as the Rebel XT and 30D. As I mentioned in the accessories section of the review, the XTi works best with Canon EX-series Speedlites, which use the E-TTL II flash metering system. You can use a third party flash, but it will probably have to be adjusted manually. The XTi can sync as fast as 1/200 sec with a compact external flash. If you need faster then you'll need to move up to the EOS-30D.

To the right of the hot shoe is the mode dial, which has the power switch below it. The dial has the following options:

Option Function
Flash off Does just as it sounds
Night portrait These are all scene modes
Auto mode Fully automatic, most camera settings locked up
Program mode Automatic shooting, but with access to all menu options. Program Shift lets you scroll through several shutter speed / aperture combinations by using the main dial.
Shutter priority (Tv) mode You choose shutter speed, camera picks aperture. Shutter speed range is 30 - 1/4000 sec
Aperture priority (Av) mode You choose aperture, camera picks appropriate shutter speed. Range depends on lens used. For the kit lens it is F3.5 - F36.
Full manual (M) mode Choose both the shutter speed and aperture yourself; same ranges as above; a bulb mode lets you keep the shutter open for as long as the shutter release is pressed
Auto depth-of-field Makes sure that all of your subjects are in focus; great for group portraits

As you can see, the Rebel XTi has both automatic/scene modes plus full manual exposure controls.

The only other items on the top of the camera are the shutter release button and the command dial (used for adjust exposure compensation and manual controls).

On this side of the camera you'll find the flash release button, the depth-of-field preview button, and the I/O ports.

The I/O ports, which are kept behind a rubber cover, include:

  • Video out
  • Remote control
  • USB

As you'd expect, the Rebel XTi supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard.

Over on the other side, you'll find the CompactFlash slot, which is behind a plastic door of average quality. Let's pop it open now:

Here's the XTi's CompactFlash slot, which holds both Type I and Type II cards. Type II cards include things like the Microdrive, though I've never been terribly thrilled with those.

Our tour ends with a view of the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a metal tripod mount as well as the battery compartment. The cover over the battery compartment is of average quality.

The included NB-2LH battery is shown at the lower-right.

Using the Canon Digital Rebel XTi

Record Mode

Due to its dust reduction system, the Rebel XTi actually starts up slower than its predecessor. It takes about 1.5 seconds for the XTi to start up normally, but you can interrupt the dust off feature by pressing any button on the camera. So, if you can't wait, you can always do that.

Autofocus speeds will vary depending on what lens you're using, but generally the XTi was pretty quick. Generally focus times were between 0.1 - 0.3 seconds, though you may wait a little longer in situations where the subject is hard to focus on. The camera focuses well in low light without using its flash-based AF-assist lamp, and even better with it.

As you'd expect on a D-SLR, shutter lag is minimal, as are shot-to-shot speeds. Just take your photo, point the camera at your next subject, and the camera will be ready and waiting.

After you take a photo, you can hit the delete button to trash the shot you just took.

Now, let's take a look at the image size and quality choices on the Rebel XTi:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 1GB card
3888 x 2592
RAW 9.8 MB 100
3888 x 2592
Fine 3.8 MB 260
Normal 2.0 MB 498
2816 x 1880
Fine 2.3 MB 432
Normal 1.2 MB 820
1936 x 1288
Fine 1.3 MB 752
Normal 700 KB 1418

As you can see, the Rebel XTi supports the RAW image format -- just as you'd expect. You can save a RAW image by itself, or with a Large/Fine quality JPEG. I explained why RAW is cool back in the software discussion.

Images are named using the following convention: IMG_####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. When each "folder" on the memory card is full, another one is created and the numbering starts all over again (until you fill up the 999th folder, that is). The camera maintains the file numbering even if you switch memory cards.

Let's talk about menus now.

The Rebel XTi's menu system has more in common with Canon's PowerShot cameras than their higher end digital SLRs. The menu is divided into five tabs: two for shooting options, one for playback, and two for setup. Here's what you'll find in each of those:

  • Shooting 1 menu
    • Quality (see chart above)
    • Redeye reduction (on/off)
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Shoot without card (on/off)

  • Shooting 2 menu
    • Auto exposure bracketing - see below
    • Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments) - like exposure compensation, but for flash power
    • WB shift/bracketing - see below
    • Custom WB - use a white or gray card to set manual white balance
    • Color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB)
    • Picture style (Standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome, user defined 1/2/3) - For each of those items you can set the following properties:
      • Sharpness (0 to 7)
      • Contrast (-4 to +4)
      • Color Saturation (-4 to +4)
      • Color tone (-4 to +4)
      • Filter effects (None, yellow, orange, red, green) - digital color effects; only available in monochrome mode
      • Toning effect (None, sepia, blue, purple, green) - gives a B&W image a tint; only available in monochrome mode
    • Dust Delete Data - see below

  • Playback menu
    • Protect - prevent images from being deleted
    • Rotate - rotates an image
    • Print order - DPOF print marking
    • Transfer order - pick photos to be transferred to your computer
    • Auto playback - slide show
    • Review time (Off, 2, 4, 8 sec, hold) - post-shot review
    • Histogram (Brightness, RGB)

  • Setup 1 menu
    • Auto power off (Off, 30 sec, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15 mins)
    • Auto rotate (Camera + Computer, camera only, off)
    • LCD brightness (1-7)
    • Date/time (set)
    • File numbering (Continuous, auto reset, manual reset)
    • Format - format memory card

  • Setup menu 2
    • Language (English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, Japanese)
    • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
    • Custom functions - see below
    • Clear settings (Camera settings, custom settings)
    • Auto sensor cleaning (Clean now, auto on/off)
    • Manual cleaning (on/off) - for cleaning your sensor the old fashioned way
    • Firmware version - shows the current firmware version

Before I talk about the custom functions I want to mention some of the items in the record menu above.

The AE bracketing feature takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. The exposure interval can be ±1/3EV, ±2/3EV, or ±1EV. With a large memory card, this is a good way to ensure properly exposed photos every time.

WB Bracketing

WB shift

The XTi has the same white balance bracketing and shift features as the Rebel XTI. WB bracketing will take 3 shots in a row, each with a different WB setting. WB shift lets you use the joystick on the back of the camera to choose the exact color shift you desire. The X-axis covers the blue/amber direction, while the Y-axis is for green and magenta. You can even do WB bracketing and shifting at the same time, if you so desire.

I listed the various things that you can adjust in the Picture Styles menu up in that big list. In addition to sharpness/color/contrast, you can also add digital color filters to photos taken in monochrome (black and white) mode.

The Dust Delete Data feature is another part of the Rebel XTi's dust reduction system. Let's say you have dust on your sensor that just won't go anyway, no matter how many times the camera "shakes" it off -- and even an air blower doesn't help. All you need to do is point the camera at a white wall and take a picture. The camera then creates a "dust map" of where the particles are on the sensor. This information is then embedded into any photos that you take. Once you get the images onto your computer you can use the DPP 2.2 software to remove the dust specs by pressing a single button. Unfortunately my XTi didn't actually collect any dust during my time with it, so I can't say how well any of this stuff works!

Now it's time to look at the custom functions available on the Rebel XTi. It's a fairly long list, though nowhere near as long as on the EOS digital SLRs. Here goes:

01. Set button / cross keys function (Set: Picture Styles, quality, flash exp. compensation; cross keys = AF frame selection)

02. Long exposure noise reduction (Off, auto, on) - for exposures longer than 1 second; the auto mode only uses NR when noise is detected

03. Flash sync speed in Av mode (Auto, 1/200 sec) - fixes the shutter speed for flash shots in aperture priority mode

04. Shutter / AE lock button (AF/AE lock, AE lock/AF, AF/AF lock + no AE lock, AE/AF + no AE lock) - define what these two buttons do

05. AF-assist beam (Emits, does not emit, only external flash emits)

06. Exposure level increments (1/3, 1/2-stop)

07. Mirror lockup (on/off) - enable it when the vibration of the mirror can blur your photos

08. E-TTL II (Evaluative, average) - flash metering

09. Shutter curtain sync (1st, 2nd-curtain)

10. Magnified view (Image playback only, image review and playback) - when the playback zoom feature can be used

11. LCD display when power on (Display, retain power off status) - whether the LCD info screen always turns on by default

I hope most of those items make sense.

Let's move on to our test photos now. Since I don't have the kit lens, I won't be doing the distortion test. I used various lenses for these tests, and I noted which one I used under each test.

I took the macro test shot using the Sigma F2.8, 50 mm macro lens. The resulting image turned out nicely, with accurate colors, and the smooth (some may say soft) look that is a trademark of Canon D-SLRs.

The minimum focus distance will depend on what lens you're using. My Sigma macro lens can get as close at 18 cm -- there are plenty of other options out there as well.

The night shot was taken with the Canon 70 - 200, F4L lens, and it too turned out well. The camera captures an amazing amount of detail -- everything is really clean-looking. Noise levels are very low, though there's some purple fringing here (using a smaller aperture should take care of that).

Below is the first of two ISO tests in this review. I'll use the night scene above to show you what noise levels look like at the various ISO sensitivities on the XTi.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

I actually like the ISO 200 shot better than the ISO 100 one, since it sharpens things up a bit. The ISO 400 image is still very clean, with just a hint of noise in the sky. At ISO 800 details start disappearing, but you can still get a fairly large print out of that shot. Only at ISO 1600 do we see noticeable loss in detail. At this setting the XTi does a little better than the Nikon D80, and leagues better than the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 (in my opinion, of course).

While this shouldn't be a surprise, redeye was not a problem on the Rebel XTi.

Now it's time for the second ISO test in the review. This one is taken in my studio, and it can be compared between cameras that I've reviewed in the last few years. While the crops below give you a quick idea about noise levels, it's always a good idea to view the full size images too. By the way, I used the Canon F1.4, 50 mm lens for this test.

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

"Clean" is the word I'd use to describe the images taken at ISO 100, 200, and 400. The ISO 800 is still excellent, and a large size print will be no problem at that setting. At ISO 1600 your print sizes will drop a bit, but with some noise reduction software I see no reason why you couldn't make a large print at this setting as well.

The comparisons I made to the Nikon D80 and Sony A100 are still accurate here: the XTi beats the D80 by a hair (and some may disagree with this), and the DSLR-A100 by a mile.

Overall, the Rebel XTi's image quality is excellent. The camera generally took well-exposed pictures, with pleasing colors and minimal noise. Purple fringing levels varied depending on what lens I used, but it usually was not a problem. The only real issue I have with regard to image quality may not be an issue to many people. I like my photos a little sharper than what the XTi produces at default settings. Canon D-SLRs produce very smooth-looking images, but they can look a little soft compared to what those of you with point-and-shoot cameras are used to. Thus, I'd probably use the Landscape Picture Style, which has a sharpness setting of four (instead of three). You can also create your own custom Picture Style with with the sharpness setting that you like the best.

Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our extensive photo gallery, and print a few of the photos if possible. Then you should be able to decide if the XTi's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

No digital SLRs have movie modes.

Playback Mode

The XTi's playback menu hasn't changed much since the XT. I've already listed the basic playback features back in the menu section, but here they are again: image protection, thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, image rotation, and slide shows. The "zoom and scroll" feature lets you enlarge a photo by as much as 10 times, and then move around in the enlarged area. This lets you ensure that your subject is properly focused, that their eyes are open, etc.

The jump button lets you move forward or backward by 10 or 100 photos. If you've got a big collection of photos then you'll love that feature.

Deleting photos is easy, as there's a button right on the camera for that purpose. You can delete one or all of the photos on the card. I do wish that there was a way to pick a group of photos to remove, though.

By default the XTi tells you almost nothing about your photos. But press the Display button and you'll get the info screen on the right, which includes your choice of histograms.

The Rebel XTi moves through images at an average clip, taking about one full second between high res images.

How Does it Compare?

While most owners of the Rebel XT probably won't run out to upgrade, the Canon Digital Rebel XTi (EOS-400D) is a most impressive entry-level digital SLR. It offers great photo quality and performance, plenty of features (most notably, a dust reduction system), a large LCD, and plenty of accessories. The main downside is its design: it's pretty small, not terribly easy to hold, and more "plasticky" than other D-SLRs. Despite that, the Rebel XTi earns my recommendation.

From most angles you won't be able to tell the Rebel XT and XTi apart -- the main differences can be found on the back of the camera. Canon has removed the LCD info display from the XT and instead put a larger 2.5" LCD that does double duty as an info display and a regular LCD. Some other design quirks about the XT weren't resolved on the XTi: I still think it's too small and difficult to hold comfortably. It also feels "plastic" compared to other entry-level cameras, especially the D80. Being a digital SLR, the Rebel XTi is expandable, with support for scores of EF and EF-S lenses, plus external flashes, remote controls, and a battery grip (to name just a few things).

The Rebel XTi has all the features you'd expect from a D-SLR, plus a few more. The XTi's resolution has been bumped up to 10 Megapixels, which is actually more than the "superior" EOS-30D -- I imagine a 40D can't be too far away. A more interested addition to the XTi is a dust reduction system, which attacks this annoyance from many angles (described earlier). In terms of shooting modes, you've got several scene modes, plus full manual exposure controls. While it won't let you set the color temperature, the XTi will let you do custom white balance, WB bracketing, and WB shift. Canon bundles a fairly complete software package with the camera, including a capable RAW editor and a remote capture program, both of which are options on the Nikon D80.

Camera performance was excellent in most respects. While the camera doesn't start up as quickly as some, it's due to the dust reduction system, and you can elect to skip this if you need to take a quick shot. The XTi focuses quickly, shutter lag isn't noticeable, and shot-to-shot speeds were snappy. The XTi can take 11 RAW or 33 Fine quality JPEGs in a row at just under 3 frames/second. About the only weak spot performance-wise is battery life, which is a bit below average.

Photo quality was excellent, especially with a decent lens on the camera (and the kit lens isn't one of those). The XTi took well-exposed, colorful images with very low noise levels, even at ISO 800. Like on all of Canon's D-SLRs, images are on the soft side straight out of the camera, and if you agree you can turn up the in-camera sharpening using the Picture Styles feature. Purple fringing levels varied depending on what lens I was using, but generally it wasn't a problem. Same goes for redeye -- there wasn't any to speak of.

There are just a few negatives that didn't fit in elsewhere. Like the other Rebel D-SLRs, there's no spot metering feature on the XTi. There isn't a custom or 2 second self-timer either, which is strange, since Canon's PowerShot cameras all have it. You can, however, use the mirror lockup option in the custom setting menu to accomplish this -- it's just a lot of work to do so.

And that's about it! Despite not being a big fan of its small size, I do like how the Rebel XTi performs, and it gets my highest recommendation.

Stuck between the Rebel XTi and the EOS-30D? If you need spot metering, manual color temperature control, and a better burst mode then you'll probably want to step up to the EOS-30D. If you have a Rebel XT and don't know what to do, I'd only suggest upgrading if you have had problems with dust getting on the sensor.

If you can't decide between the Rebel XTi and the Nikon D80 (and don't already own some of their respective lenses), that's a tougher question to answer. I much prefer the D80's design and build quality, but it is more expensive than the XTi. If you want that nicer body and a real LCD info display, then it may be worth spending more to get the D80. There's also the upcoming Pentax K10D, which offers a sealed, weatherproof body and image stabilization for around the same money. The bottom line is try as many of these cameras as you can, prioritize what features you require, and then make your own decision. I'm just here to help a little!

What I liked:

  • Excellent photo quality (though see issue below)
  • Very low noise, even at high ISOs
  • Dust reduction system
  • Large 2.5" LCD display
  • Full manual controls, including nice white balance controls
  • Robust performance, especially in terms of continuous shooting
  • Flash-based AF-assist lamp; very good low light focusing, even without using it
  • Redeye not a problem
  • Hot shoe for external flash
  • Optional battery grip
  • USB 2.0 High Speed support
  • Capable RAW editor and remote camera control software included

What I didn't care for:

  • Images on the soft side at default settings
  • Small, hard to hold body; feels too "plasticky" in my opinion
  • Below average battery life
  • No spot metering
  • No 2 second or custom self-timer (though mirror lockup is a workaround for the former)

Some other digital SLRs worth looking at include the Canon EOS-30D, Nikon D50 and D80, Olympus EVOLT E-330 and E-500, Pentax K10D and K100D, and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100.

As always, I strongly recommend trying the Rebel XTi and its competitors before you drop the big bucks on a digital SLR!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

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Want another opinion?

You can read another review at CNET.com. There are also previews available at Digital Photography Review and Imaging Resource, which should be full reviews shortly.