Since the original 6-megapixel Digital Rebel became available in September
2003, this EOS series has been the best selling D-SLR line in the world. The
second model, the 8-megapixel Rebel XT, introduced in February 2005, benefited
from major improvements in image quality, speed, versatility, and convenience
of operation. While the XT is still a fine camera, it was due for an upgrade
because 10-megapixel resolution was quickly becoming the norm. Hence, we have
the third-generation Digital Rebel, the XTi, with several advantages that keep
Canon highly competitive with Nikon, Sony, Pentax, and Samsung in terms of features
and performance, as well as price.
New Features And Technology
At a glance, the new model looks nearly identical to the XT except for the much
larger--2.5" vs. 1.8"--LCD monitor and a slight revision
of the layout of controls on the camera back. Because all shooting information
is now provided on that screen--in a larger font for better visibility--the
secondary data panel has been eliminated. The XTi is virtually identical in
size to the previous model, ideal for anyone who appreciates a really compact
D-SLR. (If you prefer an oversized body, add the optional ($149) Battery Grip
BG-E3 with its secondary shutter release button for convenient operation in
a vertical orientation.) Actually, holding ease has been improved slightly with
a different grip shape, a 1mm increase in thickness, and a new rubber slip guard
for the thumb area.
But the primary advantages over the XT are internal. The most significant is
the entirely new autofocus system, employing a nine (not seven) point focus
detection sensor borrowed from the EOS 30D. The central AF point is cross-hatched,
capable of focusing on virtually any type of pattern; it's particularly
effective with f/2.8 or brighter lenses but provides some benefit with any EF
or EF-S lens. Other AF enhancements include superior low-light sensitivity and
greater speed in automatic focus point selection, thanks to a high-speed microcomputer
and new algorithms.
The EOS Digital Rebel XTi produced very pleasing JPEGs in its Standard
(default) Picture Style mode but it's worth experimenting
with the other options, such as Landscape Picture Style used for
this image. When that option is selected, the camera boosts sharpness,
contrast, and color saturation, producing a very rich, striking
effect that's suitable for most outdoor, nature, and travel
photography. (Auto White Balance; ISO 400; Evaluative metering with
+2/3 EV compensation; f/8 in AV mode; EF 24-105mm zoom.)
All Photos © 2006, Peter K. Burian, All Rights Reserved
This is also the first Canon camera with an Integrated Self Cleaning Sensor
Unit, employing ultrasonic vibration to shake dust from the low-pass filter
that covers the CMOS sensor. (The dust is then collected by sticky adhesives
located on all four sides of the sensor module.) This process is activated whenever
the XTi is turned on and off but can be disabled using a Custom Function; it
can also be stopped after camera start up by touching the shutter release button.
Manually activated sensor cleaning can also be selected when desired. Other
features include an antistatic coating on the low-pass filter, superior sensor
module sealing, and a shutter mechanism that creates less dust. Should all of
that fail to prevent dust specks in your images, you can create "reference
frames" in camera to identify the blemishes; these can then be removed
using the new/improved DPP (Digital Photo Professional) Version 2.2 software.
The Digital Rebel XT was already a full-featured camera but the XTi gains additional
capabilities, including Picture Styles already available with the EOS 30D. Select
Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, or Faithful and the camera will produce
a different effect, varying the color rendition, sharpness, and contrast level.
(User-selectable color saturation, tone, contrast, and sharpness levels are
available, too.) There's one other Picture Style option, too, Monochrome.
When that's selected, you can also choose from an array of Filters and
Tones to modify the entire look of the black and white images.
Other enhancements include more Noise Reduction and Auto Rotate options, two
extra Custom Functions, improved Direct Print features, an RGB histogram (in
addition to a Luminance histogram) in Playback, and a few extra Autofocus mode
selection options. Burst depth has also been improved. Although the XTi generates
larger image files than the XT, a larger buffer (temporary storage bank) and
faster processing allows for shooting a full 27 Large/Fine JPEGs or 10 raw frames--vs.
14 and 5 frames--in a single sequence. That's useful particularly
in action photography, using the 3 fps (frames per second) Continuous Drive
Field Testing The Digital Rebel XTi
During a tour of Germany's Rhine and Bavaria regions after the photokina
trade show, and while shooting events closer to home, I made nearly 1000 images
with this new EOS camera. Based on my experiences, and the resulting images,
I can provide the following assessments about the XTi's handling and performance.
The new Digital Photo Professional Version 2.2 raw converter software
is more versatile (and faster) than previous versions, providing
more options for producing just the right effect in a raw format
photo whether in color or monochrome. While some photographers prefer
after-market converter programs such as Adobe's Camera Raw,
only the Canon software supports the Picture Styles feature.
The new camera is lightning fast in all respects except start up speed because
of the extra second required for sensor cleaning; that's easy to override
when you're in a hurry, as mentioned earlier. Because of the improved
buffer and processor, the camera was almost always ready to take another few
photos, even while it was recording a very long series of images. The AF system
was fast and reliable even in night photography in medieval villages; only in
total darkness did I need to use the focus assist amenity provided by the flash
unit. Continuous autofocus was equally successful, great for tracking moving
subjects such as motorcycles and horses. The system maintained focus even when
the subject was very close to the camera.