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DCRP Review: Canon EOS Rebel XS  

Front of the Canon EOS Rebel XS

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: October 2, 2008
Last Updated: December 30, 2011

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The EOS Rebel XS ($699 list price) is the entry-level model in Canon's digital SLR lineup. The camera is essentially a stripped down version of the Rebel XSi: it has fewer pixels, a slower burst rate, and a smaller LCD than its big brother. I put together this chart to show you exactly what's difference:


EOS Rebel XS

EOS Rebel XSi
Street price, with kit lens
(at time of posting)
$600 $670
Resolution 10.1 MP 12.2 MP
LCD size 2.5" 3.0"
LCD resolution 230,000 pixels 230,000 pixels
Viewfinder magnification 0.81x 0.87x
Viewfinder eye sensor No Yes
JPEG burst rate 3.0 fps 3.5 fps
RAW burst rate 1.5 fps 3.5 fps
AF system 7-point 9-point
Spot metering No Yes
Highlight tone priority No Yes
Remote control support Wired Wired, wireless
Battery used LP-E5 LP-E5
Battery life (CIPA standard) 500 shots 500 shots
Dimensions (W x H x D) 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4 in. 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 in.
Weight 450 g 475 g

The differences are pretty clear between the two cameras. Buying the Rebel XSi gets you "bigger and better" in most (but not all) areas. The thing is, it doesn't cost you much to get those things. For $70 more you can get the Rebel XSi, which makes buying the Rebel XS sound a bit foolish. But I digress.

The EOS Rebel XS finds itself in a very competitive category: entry-level D-SLRs. How does it perform in our tests? Find out now in our review!

The Rebel XS is known as the EOS-1000D in some countries. I will be reusing portions from the Rebel XSi review here, since the cameras are nearly identical.

What's in the Box?

The Rebel XS is sold in just one kit (though it comes in two colors). Here's what you'll find in the box:

  • The 10.1 effective Megapixel Rebel XS camera body
  • F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm IS EF-S lens
  • LP-E5 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Shoulder strap
  • Body cap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROMs featuring EOS Digital Solution and software manual
  • 195 page camera manual (printed)

The Rebel XS includes the F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm IS EF-S lens. This is the latest (fourth?) version of the 18-55, and it's a lot better than previous models. The biggest addition, of course, is optical image stabilization. The Rebel XS is compatible with all EF and EF-S lenses, so there are plenty to choose from when you're ready to expand your collection.

Like its big brother, the Rebel XS uses Secure Digital memory cards, instead of CompactFlash like on previous models. You can use SD or higher capacity SDHC memory in the camera, and I'd suggest starting with a 2GB card. Spending a little extra for a high speed card is definitely a good idea.

The Rebel XS uses the same LP-E5 battery as the XSi. This battery packs 8.0 Wh of energy, which is good (but not spectacular) for a D-SLR. Here's how that translates into battery life:

Camera Battery life, live view off
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon EOS Rebel XS * 500 shots LP-E5
Nikon D60 500 shots EN-EL9
Olympus E-420 * 500 shots BLS-1
Pentax K2000D 640 shots 4 x Unknown NiMH AA
Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 * 730 shots NP-FM500H

* Supports live view

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

First off, the Rebel XS has exactly the same battery life as the XSi. In the group as a whole, the Rebel XS is about 15% below average, due mostly to the stellar numbers put out by the Sony A300. By the way, if you're shooting full-time with live view, the battery life number drops to 190 shots/charge.

Like most of the cameras on the above list, the Rebel XS's battery is proprietary. That means that it's pricey (a spare will cost at least $50), 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 XS (actually the 1000D) with the optional battery grip
Image courtesy of Canon

Speaking of the battery grip, above you can see the BG-E5 (priced from $132) in action. The grip holds two LP-E5 or six AA batteries, offering double the battery life. There are also additional 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 XS:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Lenses Varies Varies The XS supports all EF and EF-S mount lenses, with a 1.6X focal length conversion
External flash

430EX II
580EX II

From $123
From $405
You'll get more flash power and less chance of redeye with an external flash. Note that the 430EX is soon to be replaced by the 430EX II.
Macro ring lite MR-14EX From $469 Light up your macro shots
Wired remote control RS-60E3 From $22 Basically a shutter release button on a 2 foot long cable.
Right angle finder Angle finder C From $176 For looking into the optical viewfinder from above
Battery grip BG-E5 From $132 Get double the battery life and a comfortable vertical grip
AC adapter ACK-E5 From $60 Power your camera without draining your batteries
Car battery charger CBC-E5 From $110 You never know when you may need to charge your battery in the car...
Semi-hard case EH19-L From $53 Protect your camera and its attached lens from the elements
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

Not too shabby, eh? Let's move on to software now!

EOS Utility - Main Screen

Canon includes version 18.1 of their EOS Digital Solutions Disk with the Rebel XS. The first application that you'll probably bump into is EOS Utility, which is sort of a gateway to all the other software programs. The "monitor folder" option is for use with the Wireless File Transmitter, which is not supported on the Rebel XS.

EOS Utility - Selecting Photos to Download

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.

Double-click on a JPEG image and you'll bring up the photo in its own window. 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, for those who don't mess with all those controls.

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 (just with a nicer interface). 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 camera control, 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 and manually tweak focus. Photos are saved directly to your computer, though they can be stored on the camera too, if you wish. Most camera manufacturers charge extra for a remote capture feature, but not Canon!

Customizing the My Menu settings with the Remote Capture tool

The EOS Utility tool also lets you set up the My Menu feature on the camera. 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.

Whew, that was exhausting!

Canon includes a thick, printed manual with the Rebel XS. While it's not the easiest read (expect lots of fine print), it is quite detailed, and should answer any question you may have about the camera. Documentation for the software bundle comes in digital format on a separate CD-ROM disc.

Look and Feel

Front the front, you'd be hard-pressed to see the difference between the Rebel XS and the XSi. The most obvious differences can be found on the back. The XS has a smaller LCD and viewfinder than its slightly more expensive sibling. The control layout is virtually identical.

Both cameras are quite small, and I find them uncomfortable to hold, due to the small right hand grip. Unlike its more expensive sibling, the Rebel XS doesn't have a rubberized coating on the grip, which makes it easier to hold on to. There are quite a few buttons on the back of the camera too, which can be a little intimidating to beginners. The camera is made entirely of plastic, but it still feels relatively solid. The only thing that bothered me was the flimsy door over the battery compartment.

Images courtesy of Canon USA

Like all the other cameras in the Rebel series, the XS is available in both silver and black.

Now, here's a look at how the Rebel XS compares to other entry-level D-SLRs in terms of size and weight:

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon EOS Rebel XS 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4 in. 45.6 cu in. 450 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
Pentax K2000 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 in. 46.7 cu in. 524 g
Sony Alpha DSLR-A300 5.1 x 3.9 x 2.9 in. 57.7 cu in. 582 g

I told you back in the introduction to this review that the Rebel XS is a tiny bit smaller and lighter than the Rebel XSi. In this group of entry-level D-SLRs, it's right in the middle of the pack.

Ready to tour the Rebel XS? I certainly am, so let's begin.

Front of the Canon EOS Rebel XS

Here's the front of the Rebel XS, without a lens attached. Like all the cameras in the Rebel series, the XS supports both EF and EF-S lenses, with a 1.6X focal length conversion ratio. Thus, a 50 mm lens will have a field-of-view of 80 mm. The red dot on the lens mount is for EF lenses, and the white one is for EF-S lenses. To release a lens, simply press the button located to the right of the lens mount.

The Rebel XS features the same EOS Integrated Cleaning System as the XSi. This system helps keep dust off the sensor, and thus out of your photos, in two ways. First, the camera shakes dust off the sensor using ultrasonic vibrations. Second, the low-pass filter has an anti-static coating that repels dust. If those things don't work, the Rebel XS lets you create a "dust map", which can be used to remove dust spots in Digital Photography Professional.

Straight above the lens mount is the Rebel's pop-up flash, which is released electronically. The flash has a guide number of 13 meters at ISO 100, which is the same as on the XSi. This is the most powerful flash in the group of entry-level SLRs I've been referring to in this review. Should you want more flash power and less chance of redeye, you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe you'll see in a moment.

The flash doubles as the camera's AF-assist lamp, firing quick bursts of light to help the camera lock focus. This system is quite effective, though the light can be distracting to your subject. If you don't actually want to take a flash picture, you can simply close the flash after focusing is complete.

To the upper-left of the lens mount is the self-timer lamp, which is also used for redeye reduction. Just to the left of that is the shutter release button.

Back of the Canon EOS Rebel XS

The first thing to see on the back of the Rebel XS is its 2.5" LCD display. The screen size is one of the things that differentiates the XS from the XSi, and it feels pretty small in the year 2008. The screen has 230,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp.

The very busy live view screen

Like all of Canon's recent digital SLRs, the Rebel XS supports live view. This allows you to compose photos on the LCD, just like you can on a compact camera. You get to see 100% of the frame, a histogram (that blocks nearly a quarter of the screen), composition grid, and exposure preview are all available. The XS can even use the same contrast detect autofocus system as your point-and-shoot camera, though it's a heck of a lot slower. Do note that live view is not available in any of the automatic shooting modes: you must be in one of the manual modes to use it. Make of that what you will.

The quality of the live view image is very good in most situations. The image is sharp, with fluid motion as you pan the camera around. While outdoor visibility was decent, I found it pretty hard to see anything in low light situations. Seeing how the camera struggles to focus in low light anyway, I'd use the viewfinder in those situations instead.

The first thing to mention about autofocus in live view mode is that it's turned off by default. Once you turn it on, you'll have two focus modes to choose from -- quick mode and live mode -- and both are activated with the "star" button you'll see in a moment. Quick mode requires the mirror to flip down, allowing the camera's AF sensor to do its thing. When focus is locked, the mirror flips back up, and the live view returns. This whole process takes around a second in most situations. Live mode uses contrast detect AF, just like a compact camera, only it's much slower. You'll wait 1-2 seconds (at the very least) for the camera to lock focus using this method. The camera also has a terrible time focusing in low light using this method (the AF-assist lamp is not available, either).

Zoomed-in to check focus in live view

Live view really shines when the camera is on a tripod, and you need to make precise adjustments to the focus. You can throw the camera into manual focus mode, pick an area on the frame that you want to check, and then blow it up by 5X or 10X. I use this feature on my EOS-40D for the photos of cameras that you see in my reviews, and it's really handy.

This info screen is shown on the LCD when you're shooting with the viewfinder

When you're using the viewfinder to compose your photos, the LCD turns into an information display. It shows the camera's most important settings, and while you can't change them directly from this screen, the direct buttons scatted around the camera body make it easy enough.

Not only is the LCD smaller on the Rebel XS (compared to the XSi) -- so is the optical viewfinder. The viewfinder has a magnification of 0.81x (equivalent to 0.51x in 35mm terms), making it one of the smaller ones in its class. The coverage is the same, with the viewfinder on the XS and XSi both showing 95% of the frame. Under the field-of-view is a line of green data showing things like shutter speed, aperture, exposure, ISO, shots remaining, and focus lock.

To the left of the viewfinder are buttons for activating the Menu, and toggling the information shown on the LCD display.

Crossing over to the top-right of the photo, we find buttons for AE/AF lock and focus point selection. The AE/AF lock button is what you'll press to activate autofocus in live view mode. If you're shooting with the viewfinder, the focus point button will let you select one of seven focus points in the frame. To select the focus area in live view mode (with contrast detect AF), you'll use the four-way controller, with the focus point selection button being used for magnifying the frame.

This menu is displayed when you connect to a Mac or PC

Now let's talk about the buttons to the right of the LCD, starting at the top. The first one is used for adjusting the exposure compensation (with the usual -2EV to +2EV range) or the aperture (when in "M" mode). Below that is a direct button for selecting the white balance (choose from auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, white fluorescent, flash, and custom). This same button lights up when the camera is attached to a computer or printer. If you're attached to a PC, you can select the photos to transfer right on the camera. If it's a printer you're using, you'll be able to select which photos to print, and what settings to use.

The next item of note on the back of the Rebel XS is the four-way controller. You'll use this mostly for menu navigation and reviewing photos you've taken. The controller also offers more direct buttons, letting you adjust the following:

  • Up - Metering (Evaluative, partial, center-weighted average)
  • Down - Picture Style (Standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome, user defined 1-3) - I'll talk about these later
  • Left - Drive (Single shooting, continuous shooting, 2 or 10 sec self-timer, continuous self-timer) - see below
  • Right - AF mode (One shot, AI focus, AI servo) - see below
  • Center - Set + Live View on

Let's talk about the continuous shooting mode on the Rebel XS. The advertised speed of 3 frames/second is unchanged from the "old" Rebel XTi. Here's how the camera performed in our tests:

Quality setting Burst rate
RAW+ Large/Fine JPEG 6 shots @ 1.5 fps,
then unlimited @ 1.1 fps
RAW 6 shots @ 1.5 fps,
then unlimited at 1.2 fps
JPEG (Large/Fine) Unlimited @ 3.0 fps

And there you see a difference between the Rebel XS and XSi that Canon has kept pretty quiet. The camera only shoots at half-speed when you're in RAW+JPEG or RAW mode! For shooting JPEGs, the camera is plenty fast, but if you're a RAW shooter, it's definitely worth spending the $70 for the Rebel XSi. While you can compose your photo in live view, as soon as continuous shooting starts, the screen goes blank.

The continuous self-timer feature lets you select how many shots the camera takes (up to ten) after an initial 10 second delay.

What are those three AF modes all about? One shot AF is what most of you are used to: press the shutter release halfway, and the camera locks the focus. AI servo will track a moving subject, even with the shutter release halfway-pressed. The AI focus option will select from either of those, depending on subject movement.

The last two buttons on the back of the XS are self-explanatory: Playback and Delete Photo.

Top of the Canon EOS Rebel XS

The first thing to see on the top of the Rebel XS is the camera's hot shoe. As you'd expect, the camera works best with Canon's EX-series Speedlites, which support the E-TTL II metering system. If you're using a non-Canon flash, you'll most likely have to adjust its settings manually. The XS can sync as fast as 1/200 sec with an non-Canon flash, and at any shutter speed with a compatible Canon Speedlite. The camera does not have built-in support for wireless flashes, though if you attach a high-end Canon Speedlite, it can serve as the controller.

Moving to the right, we find the XS's mode dial, which has the following options:

Option Function
Flash off Disables the flash (including for AF-assist); live view not available
Night portrait These are all scene modes; note that live view is not available in these modes
Full auto mode Point-and-shoot, with many menu options locked up; live view is not available
Program mode Point-and-shoot but with access to all camera options; a Program Shift feature lets you use the command dial to move through various shutter speed/aperture combinations
Shutter priority (Tv) mode You set the shutter speed and the camera selects the appropriate aperture; shutter speed range is 30 - 1/4000 sec
Aperture priority (Av) mode You set the aperture, and the camera selects the appropriate shutter speed; aperture range will vary depending on your choice of lens; for the kit lens, the range is F3.5 - F36
Full manual (M) mode You select both the shutter speed and aperture, with the same ranges as above; a bulb mode is also available, allowing you to take exposures for as long as the shutter release button is held down
Auto depth-of-field (A-Dep) mode All subjects detected by the AF system will be in focus

As you can see, the Rebel XS has both automatic and manual controls. As I mentioned earlier, live view is only available when you're in the "creative" zone, which are the non-automatic modes.

Right underneath the mode dial is the camera's power switch. Just above that is a dedicated ISO adjustment button (with the options being Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600). Continuing upwards, we find the XS's sole command dial (I always prefer having two) and the shutter release button.

Side of the Canon EOS Rebel XS

On this side of the EOS Rebel XS you'll find the flash release and depth-of-field preview buttons, plus the I/O ports. The ports, which are under a rubber cover, are for video output, a wired remote control, and USB.

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

Side of the Canon EOS Rebel XS

On the opposite side you'll find the SD/SDHC memory card slot, which is protected by a plastic door of average quality. The 18 - 55 mm kit lens is at the full telephoto position here.

Bottom of the Canon EOS Rebel XS

We end our tour with a look at the bottom of the Rebel XS. Here you'll find a metal tripod mount, plus the battery compartment. The battery compartment door seems a little flimsy to me, though I'm grateful for its locking mechanism.

The included LP-E5 battery can be seen at right.

Using the Canon EOS Rebel XS

Record Mode

Flip the power switch and the camera is ready to go in a fraction of a second. And yes, that's with the dust reduction system turned on.

Autofocus speeds depend on a variety of factors, including what lens you're using, and whether or not your using live view. When shooting with the viewfinder, focus times were very quick, ranging from 0.2 seconds at wide-angle to around 0.8 seconds in the worst-case scenario telephoto situations. Low light focusing is great, assuming that you're using the flash-based AF-assist lamp.

Live view focusing is a mixed bag. If you're using the "quick" focusing method -- which uses the camera's AF sensor -- expect to wait around a second for focus lock. For contrast detect AF, watch out -- focus times can be 2-3 seconds, or longer, and forget about using it in low light.

Shutter lag isn't a problem if you're shooting with the viewfinder. If you're using live view, there will be a noticeable delay before the photo is taken.

As with all digital SLRs, there's no delay between shots, regardless of image quality or flash use. You can shoot as fast as you can compose the next picture.

You can delete a picture as it's been saved to the memory card by pressing the delete photo button.

Now, here's a look at the various image size and quality choices available on the camera:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 2GB card (optional)
3888 x 2592
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG 13.6 MB 143
RAW 9.8 MB 199
Fine 3.8 MB 514
Normal 2.0 MB 982
2816 x 1880
Fine 2.3 MB 859
Normal 1.2 MB 1630
1936 x 1288
Fine 1.3 MB 1474
Normal 700 KB 2816

As D-SLRs go, that's a pretty short list. Do note that RAW image can only be taken with a Large/Fine JPEG -- no other sizes are available. I told you why RAW is cool earlier in the review.

Images are named IMG_XXXX.JPG (or .RAW), where X = 0001-9999. File numbering is maintained as you swap or erase memory cards.

The Rebel XS's menu system is essentially the same as the one on the XSi. It's divided into several tabs, covering recording, playback, setup, custom, and "My Menu" options. Here's the full list:

Shooting menu
  • Quality (See chart)
  • Redeye reduction (on/off) - whether the redeye reduction lamp is used
  • Beep (on/off)
  • Shoot w/o card (on/off)
  • Review time (Off, 2, 4, 8 sec, hold) - post-shot review
  • Auto exposure bracketing (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments) - see below
  • Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments) - see below
  • Custom white balance - see below
  • WB shift/bracketing - see below
  • Color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB)
  • Picture Style (Standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome, user 1/2/3) - see below
  • Dust Delete Data - creates a dust map for use with the DPP software
Playback menu
  • Protect images
  • Rotate
  • Erase images
  • Print order - tag photos for printing
  • Transfer order - tag photos for auto transfer to your computer
  • Histogram (Brightness, RGB)
  • Auto play - slideshow

Setup menu

  • Auto power off (Off, 30 secs, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15 mins)
  • File numbering (Continuous, auto reset, manual reset)
  • Auto rotate (Camera+PC, PC only, off)
  • Format memory card
  • LCD off/on button (Shutter release, shutter release + display, remains on) - when the LCD info screen turns off
  • Screen color (1-4) - select the foreground and background colors for the record mode info screen
  • LCD brightness (1-7)
  • Date/time
  • Language
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Sensor cleaning (Auto, clean now, clean manually) - this last one flips up the mirror so you can use a blower to remove dust from the sensor
  • Live view function settings
    • Live view shooting (enable/disable)
    • Grid display (on/off)
    • Metering timer (4, 16, 30 secs, 1, 10, 30 mins)
  • Flash control
    • Flash firing (enable/disable)
    • Built-in flash func. setting
      • Shutter sync (1st-curtain, 2nd-curtain)
      • Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV)
      • E-TTL II (Evaluative, average)
    • External flash func. setting - these options will depend on what flash you're using; I used the 430EX II to come up with this list
      • Flash mode (E-TTL II, manual, multi, TTL, auto ext. flash, manual ext. flash)
      • Shutter sync (1st curtain, 2nd curtain, hi-speed)
      • Flash exposure bracketing (-3EV to +3EV)
      • Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV)
      • E-TTL (Evaluative, average)
      • Zoom (Auto, 24, 28, 35, 50, 70, 80, 105
    • External flash custom functions - these also depend on the lens you're using
    • Clear external flash custom settings

Custom menu (technically part of the setup menu)

  • Custom functions
    1. Exposure level increments (1/3, 1/2 stop)
    2. Flash sync speed in Av mode (Auto, 1/200 sec)
    3. Long exposure noise reduction (Off, auto, on)
    4. High ISO noise reduction (on/off)
    5. Auto lighting optimizer (enable/disable) - see below
    6. AF-assist beam firing (Enable, disable, only external flash emits)
    7. AF during live view (Disable, quick, live) - I discussed these earlier
    8. Mirror lockup (enable/disable)
    9. Shutter/AE lock button (AF/AE lock, AE lock/AF, AF/AF lock + no AE lock, AE/AF + no AE lock) - define what these buttons do
    10. Set button when shooting (LCD monitor on/off, quality, flash exposure comp, menu display, disabled) - only matters when live view is off
    11. LCD display when power on (Display, off)
    12. Add original decision data (on/off) - for use with the optional Original Data Security Kit
  • Clear settings (All settings, custom functions)
  • Firmware version

My Menu settings

Up to six of your favorite menu items can go here. You can create this menu on the camera, or on your computer (described back in the software section).

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. If you've got a large memory card, this is a good way to ensure properly exposed photos every time. You can do the same thing with the flash using the flash bracketing feature.

Earlier in the review I mentioned the preset white balance options on the Rebel XS (auto, daylight, cloudy, etc). You can also use a white or gray card with the Custom WB function, to get accurate color under mixed or unusual lighting conditions. If that's still not enough, you can fine-tune and/or bracket for white balance, using the interface you see above. Do note that the Rebel XS doesn't let you select the white balance by color temperature -- you'll need to step all the way up to the EOS-40D for that.

Picture Style menu The parameters you can adjust for a style

Picture Styles are predefined sets of camera parameters that you can select. The parameters include sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone. In the monochrome style, there are also filter (yellow, orange, red, green) and toning (sepia, blue, purple, green) filters available. You can adjust the presets, or create up to three custom Styles (on the camera or the computer).

Auto Lighting Optimizer off

Auto Lighting Optimizer on

The Auto Lighting Optimizer needs little explanation -- it brightens the dark areas of your photos. I picked a real torture test for this feature, and it delivered great results. Everything is a lot brighter with this featured turned on (which is the default, by the way).

Alright! Let's move onto the photo tests now. With the exception of the night shot, all of these were taken with the 18 - 55 mm kit lens.

The Rebel XS did a very nice job with our macro test shot. The colors are nice and saturated, and the image has the "smooth" appearance that Canon D-SLRs are known for. I don't see any signs of noise or noise reduction artifacting here, nor would I expect to.

The minimum focusing distance on the XS depends on what lens your using. For the 18 - 55 mm kit lens, it's 25 cm. If you want to get closer, you may want to consider buying a dedicated macro lens.

I used a really nice lens for our night test scene -- the Canon F4L, 70 - 200 IS. As you'd expect, the result is a very sharp photo with plenty of detail captured. The camera brought in plenty of light, as it should, since I was adjusting the shutter speed manually. There's a bit of highlight clipping here (look at the Ferry Building), but overall, not too bad. Noise wasn't a problem here, and purple fringing was minimal.

I have two ISO tests for you in this review, and the first one uses the night scene you see above. The long exposure noise reduction option was set to "auto", its default setting. Here we go:

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

The first two crops are nice and clean. You start to see a tiny bit of noise creep in at ISO 400, but it shouldn't keep you from making a midsize or large print. Noise and noise reduction become more evident at ISO 800 but, again, the image has plenty of detail left for printing. At ISO 1600, you might want to think about shooting RAW, where you can tweak the noise reduction manually. The JPEG is still usable for small prints, but I think you'll get better output if you shoot a RAW image, which has no noise reduction applied.

We'll check the Rebel's noise performance in good lighting in a moment.

There's a hint of redeye in our flash test, though it's not quite as pronounced as it was on the Rebel XSi. If redeye becomes a significant problem for you (which I don't anticipate), then you might want consider using an external flash.

There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the Rebel XS's 18 - 55 mm kit lens. I didn't find vignetting (dark corners) or corner blurring to be a problem on this lens.

Here's that second ISO test I promised you. This one is taken in our studio, and the results can be compared to those from other cameras I've reviewed. While the crops give you a hint about the noise levels at each ISO setting, I highly recommend viewing the full size images to get the most out of this test. And with that, here are the crops of the above scene:

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

The Rebel XS did a fantastic job with this test. Images are noise free through ISO 800. You'll see a bit of noise and a drop in exposure at ISO 1600, but that shouldn't prevent you from making a midsize or large print at that sensitivity. Color me impressed!

Overall, the photo quality on the Rebel XS was excellent, and with the 18 - 55 mm kit lens performing admirably. Photos were generally well-exposed, though a few could've been brighter in the shadows. Highlight clipping did show up at times, most notably here and here. Colors were accurate and vivid, though not over-the-top, like on some other entry-level D-SLRs. Images have the trademark smooth Canon look, which may be a little soft for some folks. If that's the case, you can increase the in-camera sharpening by using the Picture Styles feature. Noise and noise reduction weren't an issue until around ISO 800 in low light, and ISO 1600 in good light, which is excellent. I did not find purple fringing to be a significant problem with any of the lenses I tested.

Now, I invite you to have a look at our photo gallery. Take a look at the photos, maybe printing a few if you can, and then decide if the Rebel XS's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

A couple of digital SLRs now have movie modes, but the Rebel XS isn't one of them.

Playback Mode

While some entry-level D-SLRs have playback modes with retouching features and fancy slideshows, the Rebel XS sticks to the basics. Its playback features include image protection, DPOF print marking, (simple) slideshows, thumbnail view, and zoom & scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge a photo by as much as 10X and then scroll around the image. This is useful for checking for proper focus, closed eyes, etc.

The only editing tool on the camera is image rotation. There's no way to resize or crop photos on the camera.

"Jumping" through photos by date

The "jump" feature uses the command dial to move through photos 10 or 100 at a time, or by date.

A feature I always appreciate is the ability to delete a selected group of photos (instead of just one or all), and the Rebel XS can do it.

By default, the Rebel XS doesn't tell you much about your photos, but if you press the Display button, you'll see a lot more. Pressing the button again switches the histogram from brightness to RGB.

The camera moves through photos instantly, as you'd expect on a D-SLR.

How Does it Compare?

The Canon EOS Rebel XS (also known as the EOS-1000D) is a very competent entry-level digital SLR. It takes photos of excellent quality, it's responsive, and it offers a host of useful features. It's biggest problem is that its big brother, the Rebel XSi, costs just $70 more. Upgrading to the XSi doesn't buy you better photo quality (you just get large images), but it does get you a larger LCD and viewfinder, faster continuous shooting speeds (especially in RAW mode), spot metering, and more. On it's own, the Rebel XS is a great entry-level camera, easily earning my recommendation. At the same time, it's hard to resist the Rebel XSi for just a little more money.

From most angles, you'd be hard-pressed to see the difference between the Rebel XS and the XSi. They're both compact D-SLRs -- maybe a little too compact for some. My biggest beef with the Rebels has always been the small and slippery right hand grip -- I never feel like I have a secure hold on the camera. The Rebel XS is a plastic camera, though it feels pretty well put together in most respects. It has quite a few buttons scattered around its body, so you may need to read the manual to figure out what does what. The Rebel XS supports both EF and EF-S lenses, with a 1.6 focal length conversion ratio. The 18 - 55 mm, image stabilized kit lens performs quite well, and leagues better than the models that preceded it. Like most SLRs these days, the Rebel has a dust reduction system.

The back of the camera is where you'll see how the XS differs from its more expensive sibling in terms of design: both its LCD and viewfinder are quite a bit smaller. Like on the XSi, you can use the LCD for live view, and it works "okay". It's best used for shooting on a tripod, where speed isn't your top priority. There, you can superimpose a composition grid, a histogram, and you an also zoom in on your subject, to make sure its properly focused. Two focus modes are offered: traditional and contrast detect. The traditional (phase difference) system is pretty fast, though the camera has to flip the mirror down to focus, which turns off the live view for a moment. Contrast detect works like it does on your compact camera, only much slower. Expect focus times of 2-3 seconds in this mode, and forget about it in low light.

The Rebel XS has features for both beginners and more advanced photographers. If you're just starting out, there's an automatic mode, plus several scene modes. Do note that you can't use live view in these shooting modes, which hints at how useful that feature is for everyday shooting. If its manual controls you're after, the Rebel XS has them -- well, except for spot metering. You get the usual exposure controls, plus extensive white balance adjustments, and support for the RAW image format. Canon bundles excellent RAW editing software, and you can even control the camera from your PC. The Rebel also has the same Picture Styles feature found on Canon's more expensive D-SLRs, which allows you to have various sets of shooting parameters (contrast, sharpness, saturation, and more).

Camera performance is very good in most respects. The Rebel XS is ready to shoot as soon as you flip the power switch, and that includes time for its dust reduction system to work. If you're shooting with the viewfinder, focus performance was great, even in low light (and using the flash as an AF-assist lamp really helps in that area). As I mentioned, live view focusing ranges from around a second (with "traditional" AF) to two or three seconds (with contrast AF). Low light focusing with live view / contrast detect AF is quite poor, and the AF-assist lamp can't be used then, either. Shutter lag was not an issue, nor were shot-to-shot times. One of the things that separates the Rebel XS from the XSi is its continuous shooting performance. The Rebel XS shoots JPEGs at 3 frames/second and RAWs at 1.5 frames/second, while the XSi does both at 3.5 fps. Battery life is a bit below average, and if you wish to improve on that, you can pick up the optional battery grip.

Photo quality was superb. The Rebel typically took well-exposed photos, with pleasing, accurate colors. A few photos could've been a little brighter, and I noticed a little highlight clipping, but both were minor issues. Photos have that Canon smooth look to them, which some folks may consider a bit soft. This is easy enough to fix with the Picture Styles feature, though. The Rebel excels at high ISO sensitivities. Shooting at ISO 1600 isn't an issue in normal lighting, though I'd suggest shooting RAW in low light, to counter some of what little noise is visible. There was a bit of redeye in our flash test, but not enough to concern me. Purple fringing wasn't a problem on any of the three lenses I tested with the camera.

All things considered, the Canon EOS Rebel XS is a competent entry-level D-SLR that takes great pictures, and quickly. It's biggest competitor may very well be the Rebel XSi, priced just $70 higher. Thus, it's worth going through the table at the beginning of the review to see upgrading is right for you, or if the money is better put into your "lens fund". Whichever one you choose, you'll end up with a very good digital SLR.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality, with minimal noise
  • Compact body by D-SLR standards (though it's not for everyone)
  • Good kit lens, with image stabilization
  • Dust reduction system
  • Fast performance in most respects
  • Live view with contrast detect AF, magnification, and a histogram (though see issues below)
  • Full manual controls, including lots of white balance options
  • RAW format supported; good editing software included
  • Remote capture software included (usually costs extra)
  • Optional battery grip (that supports AA batteries, too)

What I didn't care for:

  • Rebel XSi only costs a little more
  • Small, slippery right hand grip
  • Very slow contrast detect AF in live view mode; nearly useless in low light
  • Live view not available in all shooting modes
  • LCD and optical viewfinder both on the small side
  • Sluggish RAW format continuous shooting

Some other entry-level D-SLRs to consider include the Canon EOS Rebel XSi (of course), Nikon D60, Olympus E-420, Pentax K2000, and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A300.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the Rebel XS and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

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.