The AWB (Auto White Balance) system worked well in daylight but was unable to
correct for the color of various types of artificial light indoors or in night
photography; frankly, very few AWB systems provide better results in such circumstances.
My only real complaint was about the effectiveness of the sophisticated Evaluative
metering system: underexposure was common with light-toned subjects in daylight
and with most scenes in night photography. That was easy to solve by setting
a +2/3 compensation level when necessary.
Some of the competing 10-megapixel D-SLRs incorporate an Anti-Shake
device that compensates for camera shake with any lens, the EOS
Digital Rebel XTi does not offer this feature. Instead, Canon has
decided that an Image Stabilizer system is more suitable in lenses
and offers an increasing number of lenses with this amenity. (Image
made handheld with EF 300mm f/4L IS USM lens, a 480mm equivalent,
with the Stabilizer active; at 1/250 sec; Hoya polarizing filter.)
As expected, each of the Picture Style modes produced a different effect with
color images. (They're unnecessary in raw capture of course, because all
image parameters can be adjusted in the converter software.) Standard Picture
Style worked well for most subjects, delivering JPEGs with clean, accurate colors
with vivid reds, greens, and blues. In other Picture Styles, color rendition
ranged from unusually vibrant, warm, sharp, and contrasty (Landscape) to somewhat
dull (Faithful) to flat and lifeless (Neutral). For colorful street scenes,
I preferred the effect produced by Landscape mode but for people pictures, the
Faithful Picture Style was the most suitable for more natural hues and skin
tones. These options were designed for simplicity but the advanced photographer
will want to exert greater control in JPEG capture, setting just the appropriate
level of color saturation, tone, contrast, and sharpness for each type of subject.
While shooting the unpredictable actions of competitors during equestrian
events, I found the EOS Digital Rebel XTi to be an ideal camera
in terms of reliability and speed. Thanks to the instant response,
fast framing rate, and effective autofocus system, I never missed
a shot. (At ISO 200; 1/250 sec at f/8; EF 24-105mm lens; Hoya polarizing
It's also worth noting that automatic sensor cleaning works very well.
While I was changing lenses on a windy day some dust did get into the XTi, leaving
two speck marks on my subsequent 20 images. But photos made after turning the
camera Off and On do not exhibit those blemishes, confirming the effectiveness
of the ultrasonic cleaning system.
Image Quality Evaluation
In spite of its entry-level price, the 10-megapixel EOS Digital Rebel XTi produces
images of incredibly high quality in both raw and JPEG Large/Fine capture. Images
made in Standard Picture Style--without any user-selected overrides, except
exposure compensation--are impressive. They're sharp with exceptional
clarity, rich color saturation, and remarkable definition of fine detail. A
wide tonal range helps to hold detail in both shadow and highlight areas. While
the difference between 10-megapixel and 8-megapixel resolution is not dramatic,
the superior definition of intricate detail is visible under close scrutiny
in 11x16.5" and larger prints.
In spite of the smaller pixel size when compared to the XT, the
EOS Digital Rebel XTi produces comparable image quality at high
ISO levels. Avoid underexposing ISO 1600 images and you'll
find that they are relatively "clean" and that fine
details are well defined as confirmed by the small portion of this
image, lightened in Photoshop to make the noise pattern more visible.
(ISO 1600; JPEG Large/Fine capture at default settings.)
Because Canon needed to cram a full 10 million pixels on the XTi's sensor,
the physical size of each light-sensitive point is smaller when compared to
the 8-megapixel XT sensor. While that would suggest less light-gathering ability,
and more prominent digital noise, the XTi performs every bit as well as the
XT in this respect. According to a Canon rep, that's because the XTi benefits
from a variety of complex new sensor technologies that provide greater light-gathering
ability and a higher "signal to noise" ratio. In addition to producing
clean images, this technology is said to produce a great "dynamic"
Low ISO images are extremely clean and silky smooth. Digital noise is barely
noticeable at ISO 400, making this a useful level for all-purpose use; my best
images made for excellent 13x19" prints. By ISO 800 a fine, tight grain
pattern is visible but fine details are well maintained. (For the "cleanest"
images at any ISO, it's important to avoid underexposure, as with any
digital camera.) It's only at ISO 1600 where the mottled color specks
are problematic; there's also some softening and loss of intricate detail
due to automatic noise reduction processing. Still, my best ISO 1600 photos
are suitable for making good 8x10" prints.
The ISO 800 level produced such "clean" images that
I found it to be an ideal choice for low-light photography. (ISO
800 plus an Image Stabilizer lens often precluded the need for a
tripod.) After some judicious sharpening in Adobe's Photoshop
(to avoid emphasizing the fine noise pattern) I was able to make
excellent 11x16.5" prints from the ISO 800 images. (Evaluative
metering and +2/3 exposure compensation; EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
Although JPEG is the standard shooting mode, Raw capture is also available.
Image quality is very slightly higher in a raw photo than in the largest/finest
JPEG, so it's the "adjustability" of the raw data files that
is the primary advantage. Many image parameters can be changed using the DPP
software, before actual processing, in order to maintain optimal quality. Anyone
who appreciates black and white photos should shoot in Raw capture and then
use the Monochrome conversion feature in DPP. Be sure to experiment with the
various Monochrome Filter and Tone options available in this software; they're
great for experimenting quickly with a variety of black and white effects. The
new DPP Version 2.2 program is more versatile and faster than previous editions,
making raw file adjustment and conversion a more rewarding process.
The Bottom Line
When compared to the more expensive 8-megapixel EOS 30D, the EOS Digital Rebel
XTi is quite competitive. It's equipped with most of the same amenities
but provides higher resolution, a larger LCD screen plus the anti-dust features.
Even so, the larger, heavier 30D may be preferred by serious photographers.
That prosumer-grade camera provides extra amenities that some will definitely
appreciate: a larger/brighter viewfinder with higher magnification, more rugged
construction, faster 5 fps Drive mode, white balance selection in degrees Kelvin,
spot metering, and a PC cord socket for studio flash systems.
The EOS Digital Rebel XTi targets the experienced photo enthusiast
with its multitude of advanced capabilities, high resolution, and
great speed. And yet, this model would also be a fine choice for
digital novices and for families who want a compact, lightweight,
affordable D-SLR with many automatic features that provide great
simplicity and very good snapshots. (Portrait Program and Landscape
Picture Style; slight underexposure corrected in Adobe's Photoshop
On the other hand, the Digital Rebel XTi competes in the "under-$1000"
range where it's a strong contender among the various brands. Because
of its impressive performance, comprehensive feature set, and superb image quality,
this model offers exceptional value at the $799 list price. While owners of
the 8-megapixel XT may not find a compelling need to upgrade to the XTi, the
newer Digital Rebel would be an ideal choice for photo enthusiasts still using
an older camera. And it would be just as suitable for families shopping for
a first D-SLR because of its modest price/ size/weight and full complement of
automatic, semiautomatic, and manual features. Based on my experience Canon
has another winner on their hands and this latest Rebel model will remain the
"one to beat" in the entry-level category.
For more information, contact Canon U.S.A., Inc., One Canon Plaza, Lake Success,
NY 11042; (800) 652-2666, (516) 328-5000; www.canonusa.com.
A long-time "Shutterbug" contributor, stock photographer Peter K.
is the author of several books, including the new "Magic Lantern Guide
to the Sony Alpha A100" (Lark Books) and "Mastering Digital Photography
and Imaging" (Sybex). He is also a digital photography course instructor
For a full list of Technical Specifications, visit the Instant Links section
of our website at: www.shutterbug.com/currentissuelinks/