The 8.0 megapixel Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT SLR adds resolution, speed, an extra dollop of creative control and enhanced comfort in the hand, to one of the smallest and lightest digital cameras in its class.
by Laurence Chen Canon's Rebel XT is the company's entry-level digital SLR (DSLR), but with 8 megapixels and the latest Digic II image processing chip, the XT holds its own against the more expensive Canon 20D and other entry-level DSLRs.The Rebel XT has a street price of approximately $800 to $900 in the US and is sold as a camera body only or in kit form with an 18-55mm EF-S lens.
Introduction Canon's new Rebel XT raises the bar yet again for digital performance at consumer prices. In fact, I questioned whether people would find the 20D worth almost twice as much as a new Rebel XT in my earlier review of the Canon 20D.
I used the new XT and the 20D side by side on a recent two-week job, and I concluded that while the 20D is indeed faster and easier to use than the XT, the XT is a very capable camera. If you are not put off by the differences between the two control interfaces (physical and software), the slower continuous shooting speed, and the lack of weatherproofing, you may find the XT to be a suitable main camera or back-up body. Put the money saved into an EF-S lens, and you've got a camera with high price-performance value.
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT / 350D Features
The Rebel XT has most of the features found in its bigger brothers. DIGIC II processing for fast autofocus and low noise, full manual mode, and ETTL-II flash technology are all here. I would venture to say that for all but the most demanding or specific needs (e.g., sports, extreme conditions, frequent heavy use), the XT does not lack features. And, there is one "feature" unique to the XT: the soft sound of its shutter release! I elaborate on the virtues of this in my Canon EOS 20D review.
Compared to the 20D, the XT mainly lacks white-balance setting in specific degrees Kelvin, a PC terminal for use with external lighting, and fast continuous shooting speed. Buy the 20D if you need to regularly set your white balance at specific temperatures. At three frames per second (fps) continuous shooting, the XT is adequate, but you may miss capturing optimum compositions with things like flapping wings, sports action, and so forth. And for external strobes, a PC terminal adapter can be added via the hotshoe mount for $15.
There are other minor differences between the XT and the 20D, such as seven AF points vs. nine AF points, flash sync at 1/200th vs. 1/250th, maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th vs. 1/8000th, and so forth. I work around these smaller differences and, therefore, do not prioritize them.
Autofocus can be chosen from seven points seen in the viewfinder, but I only use the single center point. My technique is a common one: lock focus and then recompose the frame as needed. The center focus point is the most sensitive and therefore the fastest, so I never bother with the multipoint system. I also did not test the follow-focus (AI Focus) modes, so I won't comment on the potential performance of this camera in that department. Rob Galbraith's review ([url]www.robgalbraith.com[/url]) of the Canon 20D is highly favorable toward the AF system, and the XT's system is at least as new as the 20D's DIGIC II technology.
The built-in flash worked well for casual snapshots. Most of the time I preserve the natural ambient light, so when I use flash, I just mix a little in with the existing light. Thus, I set flash exposure compensation to -1 1/3 stop, and this gives me the look I desire. I did not test this with big wide-angle lenses, so if this is an issue for you, I recommend dedicated Canon flashes.
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT / 350D Design
The XT is small, especially for an SLR. With certain lenses, the XT is even smaller than the Olympus C-8080 SLR-style point-and-shoot. People may find that the XT mated with, say, the Canon 17-40mm L feels "lens heavy" because the lens weighs more and appears large relative to the camera body.
The XT shares a new lens mount with the 20D enabling the use of Canon's EF-S lenses built specifically for small digital image sensors. The EF-S lenses are a topic for other reviews, but my experience with the lenses suggests that this is a reasonable means of bringing quality wide-angle lenses back to low-end digital photography.
The Canon EOS Rebel XT next to the Canon EOS 10D
Canon EOS Rebel XT Controls During my test, I found it simple, although admittedly distracting, to shift gears from using the 20D controls to using the XT controls. Control is where the 20D really shines in terms of ease of use. The scroll wheel on the back of the 20D is like using an iPod's scroll wheel. And, settings "stick"-they stay where you set them-without the need to "confirm" the change with an additional press of the SET button. The scroll wheel is simple, fast, and effective. Arrow buttons on the Rebel XT (left) vs. the scroll wheel on the EOS 20D (right)
The XT replaces the wheel with arrow buttons, and the navigation uses groups of features (menus) organized by top-level tabs. This means that when you want to change a feature setting in a group different from the one you are in, you must travel through the menu you are in up to the tabs, then across the tabs, then down the menu to the item you want. This menu navigation system is similar to that found on many point-and-shoots. The Rebel XT menu display (left) and image review with information and histogram on (right)
One reason to choose a DSLR over a point-and-shoot is that SLR cameras, by design, provide very efficient access to camera features. Ironically, the small size of the XT and its menu design make it feel a little like a point-and-shoot camera! Photographers who change settings frequently will dislike this characteristic. But, let me stress that when it comes to actually using the XT, it retains the advantages of the SLR that it is unless you have large hands and fingers.
Camera Experience I compared these two cameras recently while photographing hotels, people (models) interacting at these hotels, and restaurant food for two weeks. From the standpoint of photographic functionality, this job required me to use the camera as if I were carefully setting up landscape compositions and as if I were working fast and light as a photojournalist.
A typical 10- to 12-hour day involved heavy use of the rear LCD to check scene composition and lighting (all lighting was generated by flashes and studio lights set up off camera, all fired via PocketWizard Plus radios and slave-syncs). Also as shoot situations changed from static interior "still-life" settings to live models and back again, I constantly changed the camera's controls for white balance, quality (RAW+JPEG and RAW), shutter drive (continuous, timer), and mirror lock-up (in custom functions). I also edited continuously during the shoot, reviewing focus and histograms and deleting clear losers as I went through the day. Finally, the client and art director looked over my shoulder at the LCD all day long, too. Despite working in this way, the remarkable batteries needed to be recharged only in the evening.
Left: Canon Rebel XT default setting outdoor color sample Right: Same image with author's adjusted color
Left: Canon EOS Rebel XT ISO 100 cropped fly closeup Right: Screenshot of the fly image crop
During my test, the white balance was frequently adjusted using automatic or the preset settings. I find the outdoor balance and electronic flash settings acceptable (but I tend to tweak in post-processing). The indoor tungsten setting can be a bit cool (too blue or pale) for my taste. And using automatic white balance (AWB) for indoor tungsten lighting can be too yellow-red, especially when there is underexposure. I prefer to tweak white balance in post-processing if the JPEG recorded at the same time appears unattractive. Occasionally I used the AWB feature based on a white card shot in the ambient light. In practice, I find this system satisfactory but not always satisfying.
Canon's image quality is among the best in the industry, so using high ISO settings is not a problem. Post-processing software like Noise Ninja from PictureCode also helps. (Keep in mind that what you see onscreen may come out smoother-in a good way-when you make prints; they are in a different medium.)
More Canon EOS Rebel XT samples. Click to see full images.
Conclusion The Rebel XT is a solid performer at a bargain price (for digital photography). Matched with quality EF-S lenses, such as the 17-85mm or the 10-22mm, the XT covers the focal-length gamut and brings true wide angle back within the financial reach of most photographers.
Who Should Buy The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT / 350D
Those who may need a quiet shutter: wedding, wildlife, documentary photographers.
Budget, beginning, and casual photographers who want control and lens selection.
Photographers looking for a small, lightweight camera system to use while traveling/hiking.
Pros who don't like most point-and-shoots (me)!
Why not buy an XT?
Physically too small for large hands.
Menu navigation awkward, inefficient.
Lack of weatherproofing.
Consumer build-quality is high, but not built for rigorous use or extreme environmental conditions.
Slow continuous shooting inadequate for sports.
Small image sensor results in 1.6x focal length multiplier; L-series lenses slightly compromised.
Lack of special-purpose, high-end features such as 45 AF points or flash exposure lock.
About Laurence Chen Laurence Chen is a freelance editorial, commercial, and wedding photographer based in Seattle, Wash. His clients have included Fortune Magazine, Sunset Magazine, and America 24/7. Visit his portfolio at www.Lchenphoto.com and buy his e-book, "Take Control of Buying a Digital Camera", at http://www.takecontrolbooks.com/buying-digicam.html.
Strengths: -super fast shutter speed, great for taking action photos
-compact size fits easily into bag and isn't as bulky as other DSLRs
-very long battery life
-fast start up speed, just a couple seconds
-controls are laid out in a fairly simple way
-overall picture quality is excellent
Weaknesses: -the stock 18-55 mm lens is ok, I feel like I'll need a higher quality one with more zoom soon.
-small LCD - not that big of a deal, but larger LCDs seem to be the standard now
-no live view
This is my first DSLR camera, so I am very new to this. I did a lot of research before buying and found a good deal on a refurbished Rebel XT. I am really enjoying this camera far. Its been a great camera to learn the basics on. It's great to have a quality camera to travel with that simply takes amazing photos. I recommend the Rebel XT to any DSLR beginner.
Excellent control layout and user friendliness
The same sensor as the 20D and 30D and gives the same resolution as a cropped 5D Mark II image!
You get lots of shots on a memory card!
Weaknesses: Compact body can feel strange to big handed people.
I wasn't going to bother reviewing this camera as it is no longer in production. However, I have used it for a few years now and it has been so good I feel compelled to tell people how good it is.
If you are looking for a really good quality used DSLR that is cheap and effective, there is no better camera than this!
TOP TIP!: Very few people know this! Believe it or not, this camera has exactly the same pixel density as the newly released and much more expensive 21 megapixel EOS 5D Mark II. That means if you crop the output from the 5D Mark II to the same format as the images from the 350D, the resolution will be exactly the same! Bear with me here... The 5D is a full frame DSLR so it does not have the same pulling power for telephoto shots as the 350D does. If two people (one with 5D2 and one with 350D) were taking a wildlife photograph of the same subject with the same lens (let's take a 300mm lens as an example) then the 350D would get closer because of its smaller sensor. The 5D2 image would need to be cropped to get the same result. When the 5D image is cropped it will be exactly the same as the 350D image (8 megapixels). So, for long telephoto photography this camera is just what you are looking for! Don't let anyone tell you any different... this is 100% fact. Also remember that the 350D uses the exact same sensor as the more expensive 20D and 30D models.
The image quality from this little fellow is fantastic. I loved every minute with this camera because it just does exactly what it is supposed to do, every time! It is 100% reliable and never lets you down. Images taken at ISO 100-400 are beautiful with very little noise. ISO 800 is useable in many situations and ISO 1600 should really be treated as an emergency only option.
The autofocus is quick, accurate and it's seven AF points are just right. No complaints here at all.
Metering: I found the 350D to slightly overexpose most of the time so I spent much of the time shooting at minus 2/3rds of a stop. I always shoot RAW so it was never an issue for me. Shooting at 2/3rds below protected the highlights and always gave nice reults when processed properly.
After all these years using it, there is only one single criticism I can think of. I have large hands and I found the small size of this camera strange at first. However, it is surprisingly easy to get used to and after a few weeks I didn't really find it a problem any more. Other than that this camera is absolutely perfect. All the controls are perfectly positioned and work beautifully. The build quality is excellent and the camera has a generally "well sorted" feel to it.
I honestly cannot praise this camera enough. It is one of the last basic DSLRs to have a separate LCD screen to show your aperture, shutter speed etc and it is better for it. The newer DSLRs have to fire up that big TFT colour screen to adjust almost any setting which wastes valuable battery power... not so with the 350D. Its battery peformance is outstanding.
So, I'll say it again... if you are looking for a good quality first DSLR that won't break the bank, there is no better option than the 350D. Unlike some reviewers here who review the camera after using it for only a few days, I have used this one for almost 5 years continually. 5 years of hard regular use and it has been truly exceptional. This is by far the best camera I've ever owned.
Unfortunately, my business circumsances dictate that I must upgrade so I now have the 5D Mark II. Believe it or not, I genuinely think that the 350D has better build quality than the 5D Mark II. The battery and CF doors on the 5D2 are appalling for a £2100 camera. The 350D also has a better control layout to the 5D2.
So, if you are upgrading from a film camera, the 350D will amaze you and you will get beautiful prints from it that will exceed the ones you got with 35mm film.
Similar Products Used: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon EOS 20D
Canon EOS 300D
Canon EOS 400D
Canon EOS 1000D
Canon EOS 1D MkII
Canon EOS 1Ds MkII
Canon EOS 3
Canon EOS 50E
Canon EOS 5000
Canon EOS 300
Strengths: Tough Structure
EF and EF-S capable
Weaknesses: Weak performance at higher ISO
Small for people with bigger hands
Rebel XT is a great entry level Dslr. Quite a tough little camera, as i have dropped mine before a couple times and it still works like the day i bought it. Its nice that it accepts the EF and EF-S lenses. Its quite small, and decently light, i found it was a little to small for my larger hands. I think anyone getting into photography that decideds to go with Canon, should pick up at XT. Im quite sure you wont be let down by it!