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Canon EOS Rebel XTi review: Canon EOS Rebel XTi

Canon EOS Rebel XTi  Canon EOS Rebel XTi
Simply metering on the subject's face should have solved this shot's exposure problem, but the partial metering didn't work (left). A spot meter probably would have been able to handle it. Instead, I had to boost the exposure value of the entire scene by jumping to ISO 400 (right).
Though the CMOS imager used by the XTi is the same physical size as the version in the XT, Canon crammed more pixels into the space to bump up the resolution and improved the design of the microlenses that sit atop each photosite--the microlenses gather indirect light and focus it back on the sensor--as well as increases the size of the photosites themselves. While still relatively low for its class, the XTi's measured and visible image noise was significantly worse than that of the CCD-based Nikon D80 for any given ISO speed.

In general, the XTi's measured speed fell short of the D80's as well. My experience bears that out: though it felt as if it were fast and responsive, I frequently found the shot was captured just a fraction of a second too late. Keep in mind that it takes a while to adjust to the pace of a camera and get a feel for its shooting rhythm--and I've been shooting with faster pro models such as the Canon 30D and Olympus E-1--and it's fast enough so that, in time, the number of missed shots would have dropped.

Continuous-shooting performance has been tweaked a bit. Though the speed remains the same as in the XT, Canon rates the XTi to shoot as many as 27 frames of JPEG or 10 frames of raw before the camera hits a bottleneck and slows. It fared slightly better in our testing, though the 7-second lag before you can continue shooting can be a bit frustrating. The XTi uses Canon's Digic II chipset rather than the newer Digic III, and I wonder if the company might have been able to eke out better performance and noise suppression with the latter.

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Time to first shot  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon EOS 30D
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
Sony Alpha DSLR-A100K
Nikon D80
Olympus Evolt E-330

Typical continuous-shooting speed
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi
Nikon D80

I did most of my testing with the kit lens. I love how small and lightweight it is but still find it too slow--the maximum aperture of f/3.5 simply doesn't let in enough light and doesn't allow for a shallow enough depth of field for my purposes. Furthermore, there's far more chromatic aberration--in this case, purple fringing--than I'm used to seeing in a dSLR. Even catchlights in eyes from the add-on flash had fringing. If you have the dough, I'd recommend the EF-S 17mm-to-55mm f/2.8 IS USM instead. I didn't get a chance to try it with the XTi, but it should be lightweight enough to not overpower the body and fast enough to provide more exposure latitude. Plus, it has the advantage of optical image stabilization and a quieter motor.

Despite my few complaints, the Canon EOS Rebel XTi still shoots some very nice photos, with good color rendition, broad dynamic range (when there's sufficient illumination), and accurate automatic white balance. Shots taken at ISO 100 and ISO 200 were very clean, but beyond that, the photos couldn't take much retouching without drawing attention to the noise.

Canon EOS Rebel XTi
Though many of my shots weren't quite as sharply focused as I expected from the XTi's AF system, a few, such as this one, stood up well to 11x16 printing on an Epson Stylus Photo R2400.

Canon is not planning to do away with the Rebel XT, and the presence of a new model doesn't make that great model obsolete. If you don't change lenses that often, don't mind the smaller LCD, don't need the slight bump in continuous-shooting speed, and don't need the higher resolution, then you don't really need to pay extra for the Canon EOS Rebel XTi. Furthermore, if you don't yet have an investment in any particular manufacturer's lens system and want this year's best model for less than $1,000, you might consider the Nikon D80.

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