Camera review: Canon Rebel XTi DSLR

Released on August 24, 2006, the Rebel XTi is Canon’s newest entry-level prosumer DSLR. It’s an update on the popular Rebel XT, and it’s different from it as follows:

  • Slightly thinner body, heavier (2.56in vs. 2.63in and 510g vs. 485g)
  • Newer, re-designed sensor with higher resolution (10 megapixels vs. 8.2 megapixels)
  • Sensor cleaning technology (dust shaken off the sensor with ultrasonic waves)
  • Bigger display (2.5in vs. 1.8in)

I only listed the significant differences above. You’re welcome to compare the detailed specs if you’d like, right on Canon’s website. Go to the More Information section at the end of this post and use the links listed there to get the full specs.

Canon Rebel XTi (front)

In my reviews of other DSLRs, like the Canon 30D, the Olympus E-510, or the Olympus E-500, I criticized the Rebel XTi’s small grip, and I still think I’m right. It’s much too small to be held comfortably in a man’s hand, and that’s unfortunate, because the camera is great in every other aspect.

In spite of the camera’s small grip, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the photos it produced, and I wanted to share my findings with you. I avoided reviewing it until now on purpose — as I said, I was displeased with its body design — but after using it, I’m happy to say I would recommend it.

I made a video review of the XTi, which should help you get a better idea of the its dimensions. I discussed the camera at length in the video, and also did a side-by-side comparison between it and my Canon 5D. You can watch it below, or scroll past it to read the rest of my review. You can also watch it here, or download it if you like.

I should also mention I goofed in the video. I talked about the XTi having the DIGIC III processor, but it turns out it still has the DIGIC II processor. What I said about the differences between it and the 5D and 30D with respect to exposure value settings is still correct, so don’t disregard that. You may or may not be aware that when you do not adjust the EV settings on a 5D or 30D, and you shoot outside in bright light, the processor will overexpose the shot. The quick fix is to dial down the EV by 1/3rd, and that usually does the trick. But that’s not right. Shots shouldn’t be overexposed, and I’m glad to see the XTi doesn’t suffer from that bug. It exposes shots beautifully, and you’ll see what I mean when you look at my sample photographs below.

Even though the overall design of the camera is similar to that of the larger DSLRs that Canon makes, certain differences are there, and they are caused both by the price and size of the camera. For example, being used to the 5D, I missed the small at-a-glance display on top of the camera. On the 5D, it lets me know what my settings are without having to consult the LCD screen. I also missed the large settings dial next to the LCD that’s a staple on every other Canon prosumer and pro DSLR. I love that dial/wheel, and I miss it on every non-Canon camera I use.

The exposure value adjustment button, along with the drive settings button, are located next to the display instead of the top of the camera. There is no jog controller for the focus point selection, either. But you can’t have everything. The Rebel XTi is an entry-level DSLR, so you can’t have features that are normally found on the more expensive DSLRs. Plus, its body size makes it impossible to have the same button arrangement.

Canon Rebel XTi (back)

Despite my gripes, I liked the size of the body, and I liked the feel of the buttons. They had a soft, glossy surface that made it a joy to press them. The small body of the camera makes it possible to hold it very comfortably in the palm of your hand, and that’s a huge plus, because you can stabilize shots a lot better that way.

I really liked the quality of the photos from the XTi. I shot in RAW format, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see how well exposed the photos were, and how accurate the color reproduction was. I’ll show you some photos very shortly where I made no adjustments in post-processing other than adding meta-data, and I think you, too, will find it hard to believe that those were RAW shots straight from the camera.

I can tell you this: the RAW files made by the XTi have better exposure and color, right out of the camera, than the RAW files made by my 5D. It’s a shocker, yes, but it’s true. I suppose that’s to be expected. The 5D uses technology developed in 2005, while the XTi uses technology developed in 2006. But still, I had to see it with my own eyes to believe it, and being a 5D owner who’s shot tens of thousands of photos with the 5D, this was a hard pill to swallow. Having said this, would I give up my 5D for a Rebel XTi? I’m tempted, but no. 🙂

On to the photos. These are two that I took in early afternoon light, which was bright and unforgiving. I shot in RAW and developed the photos in Lightroom. I had to do very little exposure adjustment. Can you believe how well the XTi exposed the photos and reproduced the colors? Can you believe the dynamic range of the sensor? I didn’t expect this from the XTi.

November afternoon

Light and shadow

Here’s another photo that shows off the dynamic range of the camera. I shot this with the wonderful 18-55mm kit lens. If you’re confused by my characterization of that lens, watch the XTi’s video review, and I think you’ll understand.

Go to the mat

Here’s a macro shot I took with the same 18-55mm kit lens. I was pleasantly surprised with the low noise at 800 ISO.

Cone job

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love the colors that I get out of this camera! Have a look at these two photos to see what I mean.

Knobular

Spoon!

I thought I’d put in a dog photo for good measure. This happy pooch posed for me in downtown Alexandria this past summer. I used Keith McCammon‘s XTi for the shot.

Smile for the camera

What else can I say? If I’ve missed anything, let me know in the comments. The Canon Rebel XTi is a great prosumer DSLR. You won’t have to try very hard to get wonderful photos with it, and its affordable price will help make your decision a little easier.

Gilded

Pastels

Buy the XTi

Troglodyte

Bohio’s


World at your feet

Etched in stone

Hand that feeds


10 Thoughts

  1. thanks raoul, i´ll have this in mind, i dont know what ill do, because the money is something thats important for me, theres also the opcion of waiting for the xsi releasse for the decreesee of price of the xti, anyway, despite of what ill do, im sure non of these cameras will disapoint me.

    thanks for the fast answer.

    Like

  2. Matias, both the XTi and the 30D will give you plenty of resolution for prints. The 30D is built sturdier and has a faster frame rate, but for your needs, the XTi will do nicely.

    May I also suggest the XSi, which sits between the XTi and the 40D? It’ll give you an even higher resolution (12 megapixels) and it’s built a little better than the XTi.

    Like

  3. Hello rauol, very nice web and very objective information, im starting in the world of digital photo, and im gonig to buy a canon camera, im between canon xti and 30d, im going to work with it in social events but also photograps for my self.
    A question to help me decide, with witch camera do i get a best image resolution for printing, knowing the fact that one is 10 pixels and the other is 8, but one is closer to be a profesional camera, if you would have to choose from these 2, witch camera would you choose, you can answer to my mail if you want, sorry if i made any spell mistake, Salutes from Argentina.
    Matias

    Like

  4. Thanks Keith, and you’re welcome! Ligia and I enjoyed ourselves during the Alexandria photowalk. We should do another soon, before the really cold weather sets in.

    Like

  5. Nice write-up, Raoul.

    The XTi is my primary camera (my backup is a trusty PowerShot S500), and I’m guessing that I’m around the 10K photo mark myself. A couple of things to add . . .

    Regarding the body size: Pre-purchase, this was about the only thing that gave me pause. It is a bit small. However, as you point out in the video, the small form factor can also be a bonus. Because it’s very easy to fully support the camera (even fixed with mid-range zooms), it’s very easy to shoot for long periods of time. My arms have never tired, even when shooting action, or in close quarters. Overall, it didn’t take long to get used to the grip, and I seldom want for a larger frame.

    Regarding the controls: I also agree that they’re generally well placed and easy to use. There is, however, one control that causes me some grief, and that’s the focus point selector. Because of the XTi’s smaller body size, the focus point selector is difficult to operate without moving the camera away from your eye. I like to explicitly choose my focus point for most shots, and when I try to switch while looking through the viewfinder, I’ll often move a point or two and then have to re-find the selector because my thumb was edged out by my face (there’s probably a joke here).

    Regarding the 50mm f/1.8: Glad to hear that you were pleased with its performance. I picked one up several months ago, and have taken some of my very favorite pictures with that lens. The performance for the price is spectacular, in my opinion. Heck, I’d be pleased with the performance at two or three times the price (although for 3x, I’d want USM).

    Again, really nice review. And thanks for the nod 🙂

    Like

Comments are closed.