Pros: excellent image quality, good array of Canon lenses, solid build quality
Cons: price, bulky size compared to a point and shoot.
About 3 years back, I finally got my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot A540. The Powershot was a very good camera capable of producing beautiful outdoor images with a good range of automatic settings and a manual mode, as well. As I got more interested in photography I decided to look at buying an SLR in the early part of 2008.
Obviously since I had a Canon and enjoyed the features and good image quality, my first preference was a Canon SLR. In addition, I looked at the Nikon line-up of cameras and talked to a couple of photographers my parents knew. One of them put it best, "Canons have superior image quality, Nikon has better lenses and slightly better image processors for weird situations." So, the difference between a Canon and a Nikon was hardly any, more a matter of preference.
I originally looked at the aging Canon Rebel XTi series, but thought it was a good camera, but it only took CF cards. The Nikon D80 was a really good camera, but I had heard that the Canon Rebel XSi a massive update to the XTi was going to be released in two months, so I waited.
The buying process:
I went to several photography stores (Mikes Camera and Wolf Camera) and played around with the D80 and the Rebel XSi once it came out. The new Canon SLR defintely had a much better image sensor combined with more mega pixels it produced some terrific images in store and was better than the D80, but the D80 came with a better lens.
Knowing that camera stores are generally overpriced for accessories, we decided to buy the camera from Best Buy. I bought the camera and the kit lens (18-55 mm IS) for $950 and a Lowepro camera bag for $35 (edit 140). The total bill was over $1,000, yikes! Photography is an expensive hobby.
What you get in the box and the Setup:
So, basically in the box you get:
The Canon Rebel XSi body (12.2 megapixels)
An EF-S 18-55 mm IS lens (a slightly reduced version of Canon's popular EF-S 18-55 mm IS lens with USM)
A neck strap
a usb cable
a battery pack and charger
Camera body was made in Japan, kit lens was made in Thailand
Camera dimensions (WxHxD): 5.1" x 3.8" x 2.1" weight: 16.8 oz/450 g
Lens dimensions: (Diameter x L): 2.7" x 2.8" weight: 200g
Memory card: This camera accepts SD/SDHC cards, I bought a 4GB SDHC card for about $25.
Once I got home, I really wanted to play around with the camera, so I decided to set it up immediately. It was fairly easy, as you unscrew the cap to the sensor body and the lens and align the white EF-S mounts on the sensor and the lens together and turn.
The rest was a basic setup procedure, enter the date, format the SD Card, etc. Canon's menus were easy to navigate.
For those of us who have always used a point and shoot camera, using an SLR will feel kind of strange for the first time. Instead, of using the LCD screen, you use a viewfinder to take your photos. With the viewfinder, if you lightly push down on the capture button you will see a bunch of information on the bottom in green. This information tells you the shutter speed, focal length, and ISO of the camera. Lightly pushing down on the capture button will also allow the camera to autofocus properly and make your images as sharp a they can be. In addition, with a SLR there no handy zoom knob, you have to manually adjust the lens ring to get the right zoom.
Viewing images is pretty much the same as a point and shoot. The screen is exteremly crisp and clear and you can use the zoom buttons to zoom in on photos.
Feel, build quality, layout of buttons:
The body of the XSi was quite compact compared to previous generation SLRs, but was huge and bulky compared to my previous point and shoot. Overall the camera looks pretty sleek and is made out of good quality plastic, which hasn't been scratched or broken in nearly 2 years of use.
The layout of the buttons was the familiar Canon setup, with the ISO button, the capture button, and the mode wheel on top right side. The camera had an excellent 3" screen and to the right you had the zoom buttons, the AV button, the white balance button, and a menu scrool wheel. the menu button and the display button were on top of the screen. Overall, the buttons are large and very well laid out with the most important buttons needed for shooting the photos in the easiest locations. However, I really don't like the location of the ISO button, for such an important button during a manual shot the location is far away from the AV and WB buttons.
Layout rating: 9/10
The memory card slot is the right side of the camera and it's pretty easy just to pop the memory card in, the battery slot is on the bottom and the locking mechanism is easy enough to use.
The Canon Rebel XSi is a fully equipped camera with several different modes. The modes include full auto, portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, night protrait, flash off, AV (aperature priority), TV (shutter-speed priority), and full manual mode.
Auto: Does basically what it says, you turn on the camera manually ajust the zoom on the lens and the camera does the rest figuring out focal length, shutter speed, ISO speed.
Landscape: A slightly different Auto mode, basically better for shooting wide angle shots, such as nature shots, as this setting produces sharper images and more natural color than the Auto mode.
Portrait: Portraits can be difficult shots to take, so Canon made the Portrait mode, which helps tinker the settings to make the best portratis possible.
Sports: Shooting sporting events is incredribly difficult, as players move around and can change angles even faster, so the sports mode sets a fast shutter speed and changes focal lengths rapidly automatically. This is an extremely useful mode for shooting moving pets or children as well.
Night: Night shots are one of the most difficult to accomplish because thre's little to no lighting and the camera generally must be set at ISO 1600 to take these shots. Thankfully, in this mode the camera does most of the work and allows the user to focus on what types of shot he/she wants.
Night Portrait: Portraits taken against sky drops or cityscapes at night are extremely difficult to get perfectly, so Canon's mode helps focus the person while giving a reasonably sharp background.
The Canon Rebel XSi can shoot up to resoloutions of 4272 x 2848 pixels. One nice feature about this camera is that the user can choose if they want the absoloute best photo quality or slightly smaller images if they have small memory card.
Here are the options:
Large/fine: 4272x2848 resoloution, 4.5 mb pictures
Large/normal: 4272 x 2848 resoloution, 2.8 mb pictures
Medium/Fine : Approx. 2.5MB (3088 x 2056 pixels)
Medium/Normal: Approx. 1.3MB (3088 x 2056 pixels)
Small/Fine : Approx. 1.6MB (2256 x 1504 pixels)
Small/Normal : Approx. 0.8MB (2256 x 1504 pixels)
RAW : Approx. 15.3 MB (4272 x 2848 pixels)
Since, I had a large memory card, I just set the camera to Large/fine to get the best images. The larger the photo size, the easier it is post-process the photo in a computer program.
The Rebel XSi has a 12.2 megapixel camera and the quality definitely shows. For this camera, Canon upped it's image processor to the Digic III processor. My old Canon Powershot had the Digic Processor II and I was highly impressed by the new image processor. The images are of excellent quality, liittle to no vinagretting. Even on a computer screen you see little to no grain in most images. Very impressive!
Image Quality on Auto Modes:
As soon as I got the camera working, I tried out a few test images and was amazed by the image quality of this camera. Pictures came out looking ultra-sharp.
Some of the types of shots I tried:
Some of my first shots were taken of my backyard and taken from an upstairs window to do a neighborhood overview shot. I was amazed by the sharpness in the photos, even the minute details such as tree branches came out ultra-sharp. Even more impressive was that in most of my photos little to no vingretting was present in the sky. Modes used: full auto, landscape
I decided to take my camera and try some shots of downtown Denver to see how the image quality would compare. For these shots, I used only the landscape mode. Surprisingly, even with the small zoom range of the kit lens, I was able to get some very good shots. All of the buildings were sharp and even the background buildings were pretty sharp as well. All of the buildings came out crisp and even on rapid shots, I was stil able to get good image quality.
My dog likes to move around very quickly and rarely sit in one place for more than 5-10 seconds. So, shooting pets can be extremely difficult and the full auto mode, photos can be slightly blurry. So, I decided to use the sports mode and was very surprised that the images all came out in excellent quality. The amount of detail on the pet photos was very impressive even from 6-8 feet away, I could see the wet nose on my dog, even the whiskers on her mussle.
For family photos, we basically just used the auto mode, one thing I found annoying was that if the camera didn't use the flash indoors it produced a very noisy image (my guess is that the auto mode upped the ISO to ISO 1600), with flash the image quality was excellent.
Airplanes are one of the things that interest me, so I brought my camera to the airport to see how it would do. Shooting airport shots can be difficult as many airport glasses are tinted. A good shooting tip, is to get the camera lens as close to the window as possible to readuce window glare. I was able to get some very crisp photos of taxiing planes and a few excellent photos of our BA 777 that would later take me to LHR. In one photo of the airplane, the sun was setting and behind the plane there was a thunderstorm approaching. Thus, the white paint of the plane was shinning and it provided a great contrast against the dark sky, surprisingly the camera captured this effect perfectly.
Here's the photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rohank4284/3439501163/
Please remember that I own the copyright to all of those images.
Often times in auto mode getting the full color of a sunset is very difficult on most cameras. On the Rebel XSi the photo quality was pretty good and for the most part if you had a pretty sunset, you would get a pretty good sunset photo. At times though it seems like Canon's attempt to produce richer colors by very slightly accenuating blues and reds (you rarely see this on other photos) could make the colors appear a little off. However, once I later learned manual mode I was able to get past that problem through modifying the settings.
Canon uses a powerful pop-up flash for the Rebel XSi and for the most part it works very well. Unfortunately, the flash on this camera can't always be turned off during the automatic modes. In the semi-automatic and manual modes you simply just press the flash button on the left side of the camera and the flash pops up.
One thing I don't like about Canon's flash is that it produces a strobe effect before taking the photo in order to help the camera's autofocus. This means that sometimes people or pets will shut their eyes before the photo is taken. Nikon uses a small red laser to help the camera's autofocus and makes for better images as users are less likely to close their eyes.
Other than my pet peeve about the camera's flash system, the flash is pretty powerful. The flash gets a good range and images taken with the flash are very sharp and detailed.
Canon also offers several more powerful attachable speedlite flashes for the Rebel XSi. These flashes will dramatically improve the range of the flash and is useful for events such as weddings or family reunions.
Learning and shooting in Manual modes:
One of the main advantages of having an SLR is the ability to use the semi-automatic or full manual modes. Think of the auto mode on your camera as an automatic transmission, it does a pretty good job, but it may miss on a few nauances. Here's where the manual modes kick in, once you get good at them, you will be able to produce better images than the auto modes.
The TV mode:
Focal length is one of the hardest things to master, so when I first started trying to learn how to shoot manually, I tried the TV mode, which gives us a shutter speed priority. Bascially it allows the user to set the shutter speed and the camera chooses the focal length. I was amazed after a couple of weeks how the images I took were even better than those that I had taken on the auto and landscape mode. In these modes you get to choose the ISO setting you want as well.
Here's an example of what shutter speeds I used for various settings:
-Very sunny: 1/160-1/320 (in these situations you need a pretty fast shutter speed to prevent the image from being overexposed)
-Party sunny: 1/120-1/250 (similiar to the very sunny settings)
-Cloudy/foggy: 1/60-1/80 (with less lighting you going to need to a slower shutter speed to avoid underexposed images)
-Fast moving objects: If lighting is good, use about 1/60-1/80 to allow for sharper images, if not slow down the shutter speed.
-Low light/nighttime shots: you're going to have to up the ISO settings (we'll talk about that later), but 1/40-1/80 is pretty decent. At night you may be going as low as 1/10-1/5 for shots.
How the heck do I choose the corerct ISO setting???
ISO a measure of a camera's/film's sensitivity to light. A camera with less sensitivity to light will require a greater exposure to produce the smae image. For instance, if you're using an ISO 200 speed you'll probably need a lower shutter speed than if you were using ISO 800 in the same conditions.
So going for higher ISO's is better because you can use higher shutter speeds and get much clearer images, right? WRONG As you increase ISO speeds the camera loses quality dramatically (the photos become more grainy). This is why ISO 1600 is only recommended for extremely low light conditions, such as night shots.
ISO 100-200 is recommended for most shots, as it will allow you to produce very sharp and crisp looking images. If you want an indoor shot without flash you can go up to ISO 800, but the grain in the photo will be noticeable. If you can try not to go above ISO 400 for most shots, using the flash will allow to you stay at ISO 100-200.
For nightime shots you're going to have to use ISO 1600 or the photos won't turn out. On ISO 1600 images are noticeably more grainy, but you can still get some decent night shots on this camera.
The AV mode:
The AV mode allows the user to alter the focal length and have the camera choose the shutter speed. This was the second semi-automatic mode I learned to use with my camera. In photography the focal length determines the degree of magnification of distant objects. Overall, I liked this mode, but I prefered the shutter speed priority mode.
The Full manual mode:
Finally, after several months of practice on the semi-automatic modes, I decided to try the full manual mode, where the user controls both the focal length and the shutter speed.
Manual mode is great because during sunsets/sunrises it allows you play around with the setting to get the type of photo you want. For instance, you can use a higher shutter speed if you want to accentuate the sky or a lower one if you want the other objects in the photo to be visible. This allows you to get around the slightly strange (and by slight, I really do mean that) colors produced by the auto modes.
In addition, I love the manual mode for shooting pets and landscape shots as you can prevent underexposure or overexposure more easily. Yes, it's true the auto modes have a huge advantage in terms of rapid shots because fine tuning the camera can take about 30-60 seconds.
Canon uses a small, but powerful lithium ion battery. Canon claims that a full charge will last you about 600 images, sometimes I have even gotten more than that, but most of the time I average about 450-525 images off a full charge. The AC battery charger is provided by Canon and it takes about 6 hours to fully charge the battery.
Canon sells many accessories, including an attachable 6AA battery pack for users who need more battery power, say for a full day of shooting.
The Canon Kit lens:
As much as kit lenses take a beating among photographers, the Canon Rebel's really is that bad. It's a bit cheapened down version of the Canon EF-S 18-55 mm lens with USM normally found on the market for around $150. Canon basically removed the ultra-sonic motor, so the camera can be a little loud when trying to focus, although it's not too bad and is slightly less sharp than the actual market lens.
I kind of wish that Canon would have been like Nikon and just given the actual lens with USM in the kit and Nikon generally gives an 18-75 VR lens. The 18-55 mm range makes the kit lens a decent walk around lens, for 80% of photos this is the range you need.
Even with USM the image quaity of the lens is pretty good, images appear crisp, detailed, and there is very little vingaretting in photos.
Overal Rating: 8 out of 10 (a good lens, but could be better)
The Canon EF 70-300 mm lens:
After about a year of using the kit lens I realized that I wanted a longer lens with a large range for those shots that are out of the range of the kit lens. I originally looked at the Canon EF 55-200 mm lens. However, I had reports that several of these lenses were defective and even with refurbishment many produce a purple vinagretting in most photos. I had a friend lend me his EF 55-200, his original one had problems and Canon replaced it. Overall I thought the lens was pretty good, but I hated the cheap plastic mount, for a lens that costs $400-500, Canon should be able to give you a decent mount.
The next lens I looked at was Canon's new EF-S 18-200 mm lens, it had a good range and could be used as a walkaround lens. However, after about 160mm the quality of the photos went down dramatically.
My price range was only about $500-600, so I looked at the Canon EF 70-300 mm lens. The feautres looked impressive, a USM motor, a large range, and a metal mount for about $540. I went to a Wolf Camera and tried out the lens, the image quality was excellent and the quieter focuisng motor was a nice addition. So, I ended buying this lens from amazon.com.
Canon also sell a DO, standing for differential optics, 70-300 mm lens. DO lenses have the advantage because they're smaller in size so they produce a slightly sharper image, however, the DO version sells for about $840! Don't buy the Canon 75-300 mm lens if you can find a EF 70-300 mm lens. This is because the 75-300 mm lens had good image quality, but the newer 70-300 mm lens produces far sharper images.
If I don't want the kit lens, but want good lenses in a similiar zoom range what are my choices:
Canon's kit lens is pretty good, but if you're an experienced photographer there are many better Canon lenses on the market and you will save $100 if you don't buy just the body not the kit lens.
For instance, the EF-S 17-85 mm lens is an excellent choice as it provides a similiar range to a 28-135 mm lens for about $429 and has USM.
In addition, you can try the Canon 18-135 mm lens, one of Canon's best consumer grade lenses for about $450. This lens provides an excellent zoom range, combined with excellent image quality. However, it doesn't have USM, but uses a similiar, but more advanced, focusing system found on the kit lens. The motor is slightly louder than the USM lenses, but quieter than the kit lens and the excellent image quality makes this one worth it.
EF vs. EF-S:
Canon's orignal lens lineup was only EF lenses. Starting with the digital Rebel bodies, the 20D, the 30D, and the 50D Canon uses a smaller sensor than originally found on film cameras and their first DSLR's. To allow Digital Rebel users to use EF lenses the sensor has a multiplier of 1.6x, which often extends the range of telephoto lenses, but kind of makes wide angle shots stink because 16mm on a EF lens corresponds to a 26mm shot on a digital rebel.
The Canon Rebel XSi has both an EF mount and EF-S mount on the body, the EF mount is red and the EF-S mount is white. Whichever, lens you're using you just align the mount and trun the lens to lock. I have used the EF 70-300 mm lens without any problems on my Canon Rebel XSi. Though I wish that Canon wouldn't have made such a confusing naminig system.
Quality of Canon lenses and should use a bargain brand:
Most of Canon's lenses are of good to very good quality. Unfortunately, some lenses in the same price ranger differ hugely in quality. As you saw, the Canon EF 70-300 vs. Canon EF-S 55-200. Canon offers a huge range of lenses in all sizes and zoom ranges. I appreciate that 95% of Canon's lenses have been extremely reliable and most of them are made in Japan.
Canon's L series lenses the one's professional photographers use, haven't been beat, yet. They produce excellent image quality and are some of the finest glass on the market. However, these lens can easily cost near $1,000-2,000.
Sigma and Tamaron both make lenses for the Canon Rebel XSi and they can be much cheaper than the Canon's lenses. Many times Sigma and Tamaron lens are slightly lower in quality, but still produce decent to even very good images, combined with the huge price difference and you can see why these two companies lenses are so popular. If you can afford the Canon lens, I would go for the Canon lens because you'll get the best pictures from that lens, but if you can't and want to upgrade your lens collection,a Sigma or Tamaron lens might be a good choice.
I certainly can't afford the L series lenses right now and yes Canon's $500 lenses can be expensive, but I would say they're worth the price tag, due to their relability and good image quality. Just do some reseach on which lens you're buying because some lenses in the same price range aren't of comparable quality.
Competing cameras and how they compare:
There are several competing cameras with the Canon Rebel XSi. Here's my opinion on how the Rebel XSi.
After a lot of comparison between the Nikon D80, I felt the Rebel XSi produced superior images.
However,the Nikon D90 is a different story. The Nikon D90 is one of the newest cameras released by Nikon. One of the main advantages it has is its new video mode. The image quality of the Nikon D90 relies on major upgrade to the Nikon image processor and it produces some truly beautiful images and some very true to life colors and the new Nikon image processor helps users handle awkward lighting situations with ease. The Nikon D90 is a superior camera to the Canon Rebel XSi, but you must remember the huge price difference: Nikon D90 runs for $1050, Rebel XSi runs for $600.
The Nikon D5000 is a slightly reduced version of the Nikon D90 and shares many of the very impressive features of its bigger brother. Overall, it's a superior camera to the Rebel XSi and a little bit better than the new Canon's new Rebel T1i. However, watch the market because the superiority of each sequential generations can vary. Cost of the D5000: $700
The Sony Alpha A200 DSLR:
With Sony's Alpha series Nikon and Canon have some serious competition. The Alpha produces very good quallity images and has a nice lineup of decent lenses. Overall, I would say the Rebel XSi is still a superior quality camera and runs for about $700.
Would I recommend the Canon Rebel XSi and final thoughts:
I would definitely recommend the Canon Rebel XSi, as it's a great consumer level SLR and is now going for about $600-700. Canon has released a new 15.1 mp SLR known as the Canon Rebel T1i, which looks like a nice upgrade to the Canon Rebel XSi. Canon also has the Rebel XS, which is about $100 cheaper than the XSi and is a 10.1 mp camera.
If you're a professional photographer, this isn't the camera for you. I would look at the lineup of Canon's professional series of SLRs, such as the Canon 50D.
I get this question all of the time, "If I can purchase a 12.1 megapixel point and shoot for $300-400, what makes you think I'm going to spend $700 plus $1,000 for the lenses on an SLR." This is a horribly misguided statement. Megapixels are only as good as the camera's sensor. SLRs have much more powerful sensors, therefore, the quality achieved by a 12.1 mp SLR would blow a 12.1 mp point and shoot out of the water.
I hope that you have enjoyed this review, ratings and comments are greatly appreciated! :-)
Copyright 2009 by Rohank4284 and epinions.com