Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi SLR Review

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi

Steve's Conclusion

The Rebel XSi is the latest edition of Canon's entry-level dSLR. If you were expecting refinement and improvements in this new model, you will not be disappointed. Canon has upped the resolution to 12.2-megapixels, added Live View capability, included the EOS Integrated Cleaning System, and topped it off with a larger, 3.0" LCD. It gets better however, since the XSi includes the latest DIGIC III Image Processor and greater battery capacity.

Using the XSi is a pleasure due to the thoughtful design and advanced ergonomics evident in every aspect of this camera. There is a comfortable rubberized grip on the front and a textured thumb rest on the back. It retains the XTi's small size - even with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens and battery in, the XSi was lightweight and well balanced. The control layout is similar to the XTi's also, except some of the controls on the back of the have been moved to accommodate the larger 3" LCD. And that new LCD is very bright - 30% brighter than the XTi and prefect to showcase the Live View function.

Canon has incorporated some of advanced technology from their professional models and the most obvious are the 12.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and the latest-generation DIGIC III Image Processor. The entire electronic system has been redesigned, giving the XSi greater shooting speed and improved image quality. There is a new Auto Optimization capability, available in all shooting modes and digital noise has been reduced in shadow areas. Signal conversion is handled by a 14-bit processor, which generates smooth transitions with reduced color banding. There is also a Highlight Tone Priority option, which allows you to increase the level of detail in bright areas of a scene up to one stop, without affecting the overall exposure.

The Rebel XSi has an improved, high magnification viewfinder that provides a larger overall view, and increased brightness and clarity. Viewfinder quality is one of the distinct advantages a dSLR has over high-end point-n-shoot cameras with electronic viewfinders. The XSi's presents 95% of the field of view and is not subject to the blanking effect of electronic viewfinders. I liked the Display-Off sensor that automatically turns the LCD monitor off whenever the camera is brought up to eye-level. Relevant shooting information is displayed in the viewfinder so you can easily review settings without moving the camera away from your eye. There is a built in -3.0 - +1.0 diopter adjustment and a soft rubber eyecup that fits comfortably against your face.

This is one speedy entry-level dSLR. From power-on until capture of the first image took 2/10 of a second - better than most of it's competitors. Shutter lag, the time delay between depressing the shutter and capturing an image, was good at less than 4/10 of a second when pre-focused. Autofocus shutter lag was 6/10 of a second - average for it's class. In single-shot mode, the camera was able to capture images at 4/10 of a second intervals without flash, and 7/10 second intervals with flash, which I think is very respectable. Continuous capture mode allowed me to shot 16 JPEG images in 4.8 seconds before the buffer filled using Large mode and 6 images in 2 seconds using RAW mode. These tests were obtained using a Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS zoom lens, shooting Large/Fine JPEG images, Program mode, image preview On, ISO set to 100, with a Kingston Elite Pro 50x 2GB SD memory card. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

Thank you Canon for the EOS Integrated Cleaning System. The Self Cleaning Sensor unit uses a low-pass filter at the front of the sensor to shake off dust automatically with ultrasonic vibrations, removing dust from the sensor assembly. The EOS Rebel XSi also has a new coating on the front surface of the low-pass filter, to increase its resistance to dust sticking to the sensor. However, any dust that sneaks through can be eliminated using the Dust Delete Data Detection feature in the included Digital Photo Professional software (DPP ver. 3.3). During my shooting I did change lenses several times outdoors in dusty conditions and found no evidence of dust in the sample images.

The XSi's image quality is excellent, and has improved at high ISO settings over the former model. Images were consistently well exposed with natural color saturation and accurate white balance. When shooting portrait style photos, skin tones were also very pleasant. Noise is absent from test images shot at ISO 100 and ISO 200, barely detectable in shadow areas at ISO 400 and 800, and noticeable in shadow areas at ISO 1600, but these images are still very usable. Image quality, of course, is dependent on the optical qualities of your lens and our Canon EF- S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens was amazingly lightweight and well constructed. It's designed exclusively for the EOS Digital Rebel and EOS 20D SLR cameras and has an equivalent focal length of 28-90mm on a 35mm camera. It boasts an impressive close-focusing ability of 0.9 ft (0.28m).

Bottom line - The Canon EOS Rebel XSi is whole lot of camera for an entry-level model. It's stellar performance and superb image quality offer a lot to the first-time dSLR user. The 12-megapixel sensor means you can print gorgeous 11 x 17 enlargements on a color printer, like Canon's PIXMA Pro9500. We were happy the XSi now uses the popular SD and SDHC memory cards, and thankful for the addition of the EOS Integrated Cleaning System. Plus, the included software suite allows you to manage or even change the look of your digital photographs with the enhanced Picture Style technology. With a street price of US$799 or less for the camera body, Canon's Rebel XSi offers an outstanding value for the impressive level of technology incorporated into this camera.

4/23/2009 - Canon has announced an updated firmware for the Rebel XSi

Details - Rebel XSi Firmware Update Version 1.1.0

This firmware update incorporates the following improvements and fixes:

  • 1. Supports the AF assist beam features of the new flash, Speedlite 270 EX, which is scheduled to be released in April 2009.

To download either of these new updates, visit Canon's Japan Support site.

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