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A review of the Canon XTi 10.1 megapixel DSLR

Posted by Jeff Seivert   11/20/2006 08:00AM

I got into photography about 12 years ago with a Minolta 5xi and a couple of lenses that covered the 24-300mm range very well. I really enjoyed that camera and got a lot of use out of it. I did lots of scenery shooting while living in Alaska and even got some really nice shots of the northern lights.

The digital age hit and I started out with a Sony 1.3mp then upped to a 3.1mp. Both Cybershot models which are point and shoot only.

I’ve found that my Minolta camera has sat on a shelf unused for several years now and I finally resolved to sell that one and buy a nice DSLR.

The competition narrowed to the Nikon D70 and various models of 6-8mp Canon cameras. The Olympus E-volt fell by the wayside rather quickly.

I ended up purchasing the Canon Rebel XTi (400D) and a standard issue 18-55mm EF-S lens. I think the 10 megapixels along with all of the options pulled me in the direction of Canon. The camera was purchased new in the box (from an individual), and the lens from a local dealer for a total of about $740.

Out of the box my first impressions were:

Light & Small: A little lighter than what I’ve been used to, and a little smaller too. I actually like this while I hear that others find heavier to give a more solid feel. The camera does not feel flimsy and even though it’s a little smaller, all of the buttons are easily manipulated. The other benefit to it’s size is that it’s generally accompanied by a diaper bag and other junk the family takes along. Smaller is better for me.

Cool charger: I don’t know why we need 6ft of cord, a power brick, then 6 more feet of cord to charge our batteries. The XTi comes with a very small charger that plugs straight into the wall…no cords. Even the prongs are foldable so the charger can slip easily into a bag. It’s about the size of a small cell phone. Love it!

Documentation: Easy to read, full manual in English and a separate one for Spanish. Quick reference up front makes it easy to find the features I was looking for. There’s also a pocket guide that I’ll read once and then it’ll be lost quickly.

After charging the battery and reading the manual completely (yea, right) I dig into taking snapshots.

All of the buttons are clearly marked and, after a few trips to the manual, the icons are understandable. I wish they’d use Sp for Shutter priority instead of Tv and Ap for Aperature priority instead of Av. I’ll get over it.

Another of the quirks that I didn’t like were that some buttons you could push repeatedly to toggle through two or more settings, others you have to push the button, then use the L/R buttons to make the selection.

A few things I really liked were the fast multi-point focusing, and no noticeable delay on the shutter release. This makes taking quick snapshots a breeze in full auto mode. No worries about startup time (.2 sec), focus, flash charging up, etc. Just turn it on, point and shoot. The one thing that surprised me was that the pop up flash comes out with a little bit of umph behind it. It actually jiggles the camera a little if you’re not expecting it.

This is a very configurable camera. From the length of picture display after a shot to all of the nuts and bolts of taking pictures. There are a few user defined presets too if you use the same custom setup a lot. You can even assign your own functions to some of the buttons putting your personal “often changed” settings at you’re fingertips.

Color and brightness balances are very nice on indoor night shots. Neither of the previous Sony models could balance the subject and the background. Flash covered sections were much brighter than backgrounds. The XTi gives very good results using a higher ISO but you do have to go into Program mode, which is essentially full auto but you can override a particular setting if you really want to. Outdoor shots under a high overcast sky are beautiful.

The 18-55mm zoom is the basic kit zoom. Quick to focus, not very noisy at all. Nice and smooth on the action. Respectable wide angle and just barely enough zoom. I really can’t complain about it at all. Although I can already hear myself thinking that I might want the 17-85mm down the road for just a little more distance on the telephoto end. That lens is only available (that I’ve seen) in the Image Stabilizer model which makes it more expensive. We’ll see how that goes.

After only a few days with the camera I can tell I’ll have it a long time. It does everything I need it to do and many things I’d like to do down the road in the realm of astro-photography. Mirror lockup – Check…Dark Frame subtraction – Check. Don’t know what that is or how to use it, but I know it’s there for later.

I guess the only thing that leaves me scratching my head is that there is no live preview in the 2 ½” LCD window. There’s a really nice, bright, high quality RE-view of pictures taken but no live PRE-view of the frame. Why not? Who knows. It makes you look through the view finder for each and every shot. Maybe it’s so we won’t look like all the other goofballs in the world holding their cameras 1 foot from our heads.

Click here for more about Canon digital cameras. -Ed.