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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
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:
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:
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:
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: