The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT continues the trend of increasing zippiness in consumer-grade dSLR models. Particularly impressive is its nearly instantaneous start-up time. In our tests, we fired up the camera and took a shot in only 0.2 second. The shutter lag was a miniscule 0.2 second at its slowest--this is a very responsive camera. We clocked a shot-to-shot time of just 0.4 second when shooting raw files and slightly less when shooting only high-resolution, low-compression JPEGs.
Less impressive was the camera's continuous-shooting speed, which in our tests for JPEGs scored a little less than the 3 frames per second (fps) claimed by Canon, for only 10 frames, compared with Canon's claim of 14. Interestingly enough, the rate was closer to 4fps when shooting raw files, but the buffer filled after only 5 shots. This is one key area in which Canon obviously seeks to maintain distance between the capabilities of the consumer Rebel XT and those of the semipro EOS 20D, which retails for approximately $600 more.
The XT's viewfinder provides 95 percent coverage, which is typical for its class, and it's sufficiently clear and bright. Its 1.8-inch LCD is also sharp and bright, though it can still be challenging to read in open sunlight.
The Rebel XT runs on Canon's diminutive NB-2LH lithium-ion battery pack, which is the same one used by point-and-shoots such as the PowerShot S60. That explains, in part, the XT's smaller, lighter form factor (the previous Digital Rebel used the larger BP-511A battery). It also speaks to the power efficiencies of the Digic II processor. The XT was good for more than 1,100 frames of real-world shooting with moderate flash use before the low-battery indicator appeared.
The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT makes gloriously detailed 8-megapixel images and offers unsurpassed image quality for a consumer dSLR. That said, a comparison of output shot with the EF-S 18mm-to-55mm f/3.5-to-f/5.6 zoom lens included with the kit and Canon's fantastic EF 24mm-to-70mm f/2.8 zoom (which retails for more than the XT itself) reveals the limitations of the kit lens. The former's output was prone to softness at telephoto settings, slight barrel distortion at the 18mm end, and fringing around backlit borders. While these flaws were relatively minor, the output of the big-money lens revealed just what the Rebel XT is capable of: tack-sharp images with a superior tonal range and extraordinary detail from shadows to highlights. For those reasons, we'd recommend buying the XT body without the kit lens and investing in even moderately better glass; the XT is capable of so much more.
But even with the shortcomings of the kit lens, image quality is impressive. Colors are saturated and generally natural, although the automatic white balance tends toward warm and yellowish in some situations. We recommend shooting raw files for the best quality and so that you can make white-balance adjustments after shooting if necessary. Noise levels are remarkably low and barely noticeable at ISO settings less than 1,600. Even at 1,600, we found the noise to be very manageable. If you shoot long exposures, you can also turn on Canon's noise-reduction filter through the custom settings.