Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) Review

Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) Review: Canon EOS 400D with 10.1 Megapixels and integrated dust protection 

Canon has just officially introduced the Canon Rebel XTi (name for the US and EOS 400D in the rest of the world). As is now to be expected from the industry leader, initial information about the camera had been leaked on the Internet. The leak this time was at Canon China, and those who were already looking for new information about Canon’s USA novelties in relevant forums yesterday were able to learn, among other things, that the EOS-350D successor has a 10.1 megapixel sensor and an integrated dust cover.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • simultaneous RAW and JPEG recording (in separate image files)
  • PictureStyles for ready-to-use and individually created image parameter sets
  • fast response times (AF, tripping delay, switch-on time, etc.)
  • E-TTL-II flash metering and control
  • extensive white balance settings (including diagram controls)
  • enormous choice of lenses
  • far-reaching dust control measures
  • remarkable compactness, significantly improved operating concept
  • “ready to use” pictures (beginner-orientated coordination of the picture preparation)
  • excellent noise performance
  • reasonable price

Cons

  • Image loss if the memory card compartment is opened prematurely
  • low standard monitor brightness, no automatic brightening
  • Selective metering less accurate than true spot metering
  • DEP depth of field program not available (only A-DEP)
  • no horizontal cursor control for PictureStyle settings
  • no camera-internal RAW conversion possible
  • Flash and picture quality settings not directly accessible (only by reprogramming the Set button)
  • various settings and special functions (e.g. colour balance, red-eye retouching, shadow or face brightening) can only be called up in direct print mode with different printers
  • built-in flash cannot be used as a control flash (in wireless E-TTL flash mode)
  • AF auxiliary light via flash salvo
  • only one dial
  • inaccurate automatic white balance in incandescent light
  • frequent overexposure in bright light
  • inefficiently tuned sharpening
  • z. T. Visible image defects, unnaturally high colour saturation
  • no sensitivity indication in the viewfinder
  • limited viewfinder comfort

 

Of course, the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) is once again positioned very aggressively in price. Canon has set the housing price of its latest digital SLR camera at just under EUR 800, undercutting the prices of the other two 10-megapixel cameras, the Nikon D80 (RRP: EUR 970) and Sony Alpha 100 (RRP: EUR 900). With its 7-point autofocus, the EOS 350D was a little behind these competitors; Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) now offers 9 AF points.

With the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D), Canon is now introducing a development that was started by Olympus and recently picked up by Sony: the built-in sensor dust cover. While the dust problem was played down by some brand fetishists in various Canon-heavy forums for a long time, their favourite brand now admits to the dust problem itself. The Integrated Cleaning System of the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) has some similarities with the Anti Dust System of the Sony Alpha 100. Like this one, it tries to prevent dust from being deposited on the image sensor (or more precisely on the low-pass filter in front of the CMOS sensor) by using antistatic materials, and if dust does get onto the sensor, it is practically “shaken off” – with the only difference that the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) does not shake the entire sensor, but only the low-pass filter. Therefore the Rebel XTi has also no built-in image stabilization system in contrast to the Alpha 100; here one must fall back furthermore to the lenses of the IS series (Image Stabilization) which integrate an optical image stabilizer. But the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) also wants to take care of the dust problem “prophylactically”. According to Canon, the material properties of the inner camera parts should be selected in such a way that the formation of dust caused by natural abrasion is reduced to a minimum. Among other things, the case cover has been constructed to be abrasion-resistant – obviously Canon has thought it through to the smallest detail. If, despite all these measures, dust particles still remain on the sensor, the camera electronics or the so-called Dust-Delete-Data-System tries to locate them and record their position. The Digital-Photo-Professional-Software provided can then calculate the corresponding image errors from the image afterwards (on the computer).

Otherwise, not much has changed in terms of technology and functionality. The Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) – contrary to first rumours – did not get a new signal processor (it remains with the DiGIC II), and the full format sensors (i.e. CMOS chips in 35mm film size) remain for the time being reserved for the semi-professional and professional EOS models. Exposure is still measured over 35 metering fields, and instead of using spot metering, one must still use selective metering (metering circle: 9% of the field of view). There is also no faster shutter on the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) (the shortest shutter speed is still 1/4,000 s without flash and 1/200 s with flash), no E-TTL III technology or similar, no higher light sensitivity levels (it remains at max. ISO 1,600), no more powerful battery (on the Rebel XTi you meet the well-known NB-2LH battery and the optional battery grip BG-E3 from the EOS 350D again) and no better or bigger and brighter viewfinder. Fans of CompactFlash cards (Type I+II incl. miniature hard disks) do not need to worry about changing to another memory card format, and there is no need for a new lens system.

One finds a few further differences to the EOS 350D however already. For example, the EOS 400D’s monochrome status display disappears to make room for a colour screen (2.5″ TFT LCD with 230,000 pixels and a viewing angle of 160°) that has grown to a screen diagonal of 6.3 cm. The camera settings are now summarized on the large LCD screen (similar to other DSLRs without a status display); so that you can see them immediately when you take your eye off the viewfinder and look at the LCD, there are two eye sensors under the eyepiece. Whether the memory management was optimized or perhaps even the buffer memory was increased, is not clear, but the Rebel XTi can take clearly longer picture series in the continuous shooting mode than the EOS 350D. The frame rate remains unchanged at 3 frames per second, but up to 27 JPEG images and up to 10 RAW/CR2 shots can now be taken in succession. The capacity of the virtual image folders (9,999 images per folder), the number of personalization options (11 individual functions with 29 settings) and the range of settings for the PictBridge direct print function have also been increased; the EOS 400D now also offers the PictureStyles (= image parameter presets for different shooting situations) familiar from the EOS-1D Mark II N, EOS 5D and EOS 30D.

Like all Canon-branded digital SLR cameras, the Rebel XTi is compatible with all EOS system accessories (EF and EF-S lenses, EX series Speedlite flashes, power and storage solutions, etc.) with a few camera-specific exceptions. In principle, the Rebel XTi is ready for operation in 0.2 s after switching on; if the switch-on process is extended by about 1 second because of the sensor cleaning process, it can be cancelled prematurely by pressing the shutter release button so that no important subject is missed.

 

 

Ergonomics And Workmanship

Even if the Rebel XTi looks like the EOS 350D to the mistake with the fleeting look, one notices numerous differences with closer examination. For example, the grained plastic structure of the housing has become lighter or leather-like in some areas and – according to Canon – more scratch-resistant. The slightly larger Canon logo on the viewfinder box is probably only important for dealers and brand fetishists; whether one likes the ribbing of the EOS 350D or the notches of the Rebel XTi optically and haptically better is a matter of personal taste. In comparison to the EOS 350D the Rebel XTi is a little more handy. At the front, the handle is slightly wider (1 mm), while the bar at the back of the camera has become narrower and longer. In addition, there is a non-slip surface for the thumb in the rear grip recess; the Rebel XTi now handles itself in such a way that it is no longer so easy to press the continuous shooting or self-timer button by mistake.

With the Rebel XTi – available in silver or black – the same material mix prevails as with the EOS 350D. Steel inserts reinforce the case from the inside and partially dissipate the heat generated by the electronics; the rest of the case is made of plastic (glass fibre reinforced plastic for the mirror box, conductive fibre reinforced polycarbonate resins for all parts of the case that are intended to provide electromagnetic shielding, ABS and polycarbonate resins for other parts of the case). The Rebel XTi weighs a good 800 grams when ready for use, i.e. with memory card, battery, lens (without lens cap) and shoulder strap. The number of individual components (electronic components, mechanical components, optical parts, etc.) has increased from a total of 1,319 to no less than 1,508 parts (including screws and other small parts) compared to the EOS 350D, partly due to the arrival of new components such as the dust cover unit and the eye sensor. According to Canon, the production costs for the EOS 400D are supposed to be higher than for the EOS 350D – but this apparently does not have a major impact on the final price, as the Rebel XTi with an RRP of around 800 EUR once again undercuts its competitors (Nikon D80, Sony Alpha 100, Pentax K10D etc.) at least in price.

The most radical change compared to the EOS 350D concerns the operating concept. All camera control is now directly from the 6.3cm colour screen (2.5″ TFT LCD with 230,000 pixels), which looks simply huge compared to the EOS 350D’s 1.8″ colour LCD, and to which the 350D’s small monochrome liquid crystal display above the monitor fell victim. For this the monitor of the Rebel XTi must take over now, however, also the function of the status display. For example, after the camera is turned on, the screen initially remains permanently on and displays the most important camera settings and information such as the estimated remaining number of images, the image quality (resolution/compression) set, any exposure corrections entered, the exposure values (shutter speed and aperture), etc., some of which were shown on the status display for the EOS 350D. The display of the settings and information is nicely sized and clearly arranged in black letters on a grey-white background, which looks a bit dull, but is hard to beat in terms of legibility. At all the LC screen of the Rebel XTi is trimmed on good readability. The viewing angle (160° h/v) is twice as wide as the LCD of the EOS 350D, and according to Canon, the brightness is up to 40% higher than the LCD of the EOS-1D Mark II N, EOS 5D and EOS 30D. However, as too high a screen brightness can distort the image in playback mode, Canon advises to adjust the brightness accordingly. The Rebel XTi now offers 7 brightness levels and a grey wedge makes it easier to adjust the screen brightness optimally.

Very practical and also battery-saving is the automatic on and off switch of the LC display of the Rebel XTi . Similar to the eye-start system of (Konica-)Minolta or Sony, there is a kind of infrared “light barrier” under the eyepiece (recognizable by the two small rectangular windows between the viewfinder and the LCD screen), which registers the approach of the eye to the viewfinder and switches off the screen when looking through the viewfinder. If you take your eye away from the viewfinder again, e.g. to check and/or change the camera settings, the screen switches on again immediately so that you have all relevant information directly in view. However, there are also cases where this system can be annoying (e.g. when the camera is dangling freely on the shoulder strap) or does not work properly (e.g. when wearing sunglasses or in the immediate vicinity of the voltage regulators of some neon lights). In such cases, the eye sensor can be turned off or the entire screen can be turned off in the camera menu (the small green LED above the power switch on the top of the camera can be used to confirm whether only the screen or the entire camera is off) by pressing the DISP. button or, for a permanent off, by activating the corresponding individual function (C.Fn 11). The Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) (like its predecessors already) has a parameterizable automatic switch-off of course also.

There are no major changes in the arrangement of the controls and the layout of the menus. The set button in the center of the controller panel can be used to access the picture-style settings (see “Miscellaneous/Special Functions”), and the print/share button has been moved to the left rear of the camera where it joins the function buttons for image playback and the DISP. menu buttons. In this way, all recording relevant function buttons on the opposite side of the screen are better separated from the remaining function buttons and form a “closed society”. Settings no longer need to be confirmed with the set button (which can be personalized using the custom function C.Fn.01); when the dispense button (formerly the info button) is pressed at the menu level, the camera displays a summary of the most important menu settings.

Thanks to the large LC screen, the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) can display some new information that the EOS 350D did not display at all or only at the touch of a button. The camera will now continuously inform you which light sensitivity level (ISO value) has been set, which AF metering area has been activated, which white balance setting has been selected and whether some special functions (auto white balance bracketing, acoustic warning signal, pre-flash function against red eyes, flash exposure correction with internal or external flash) have been switched on. When flash compensation is set, the compensation value is displayed next to the appropriate icon; when normal exposure compensation is set, the corresponding scale changes color to alert the user to an unwanted correction in exposure. Also in the optical viewfinder of the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) there is some new additional information. Where the set shutter speed is normally displayed, an “FEL” (for “Flash Exposure Lock”) will appear when the AE lock button is pressed in the flash mode, and if a white balance fine adjustment has been made, it will also be displayed in the viewfinder. The viewfinder characteristics themselves (diopter adjustment from -3 to +1 dpt., 95 percent viewfinder image coverage, 0.8x magnification, exit pupil of 21 mm, dark phase of 170 ms, roof mirror construction) do not change, however; whether you find the viewfinder comfortable or not, everyone (whether you wear glasses or have an eagle eye) must decide for themselves.

Optics

Finding a suitable lens for the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) should not be too difficult. If you don’t want to continue using lenses from your previous cameras and don’t want to buy your 400D in a set with one or more lenses (both Canon itself as well as various dealers offer complete packages with original lenses or third-party products), you will find a wide range of compatible lenses for every purpose, every demand and every budget at Canon and at common third-party manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron or Tokina (to name only the best known). Basically, any lens that is marked as an EF or Canon AF lens can be considered. If you don’t know exactly which lens you want to buy, you should seek advice from an expert salesperson or seek the help of other Canon users in one of the numerous Internet forums. However, the following applies in principle: Lenses with a small image circle (i.e. those which are tailored to the sensor size of the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) and other EOS cameras and which can be recognized by the abbreviations EF-S for Canon, DC for Sigma, Di-II for Tamron or ATX-Pro-DX for Tokina in the product name) are inexpensive and compact, but they do not fit on the old 35mm EOS and when upgraded they do not fit on a Canon DSLR with a larger sensor (e.g. B. EOS 5D or 1D/1Ds series); also the focal length specification on the lens (no matter whether with small or large image circle) no longer refers to 35mm film (24x36mm or 35mm format), but must be converted or multiplied by a factor of 1.6 for comparison.

Other decision criteria when purchasing a suitable lens may include the quality class (e.g. Canon’s L-series), the presence or absence of a built-in optical image stabilizer to combat blur (Canon IS and Sigma OS), specialization in a particular application (e.g. Macro lenses for close-up photography, high-intensity lenses for low-light and classic portrait photography, compact Canon DO lenses, tilt/shift or shift lenses to correct perspective distortion and/or for direct control of the extension of focus) or finally the type of AF drive. The focusing mechanism of EF or Canon AF lenses is basically driven by a micro motor integrated in the lens. Conventional electric motors are used almost exclusively in third-party products and in Canon lenses from the lowest price range; lenses with a fast and whisper-quiet ultrasonic motor and sometimes with direct manual intervention in the focusing process can be found at Sigma under the designation HSM (Hyper-Sonic Motor) and in various versions at Canon (Micro-USM, Micro-USM II and Ring-USM).

A fast AF motor is all the more important with the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D), as it uses the same AF module as its big sister, the EOS 30D. This means that the autofocus of the 400D, with its 9 AF points in a diamond-shaped arrangement, not only has a wider field of view than the EOS 350D (7 AF points), but is also faster and more precise. This is especially true for the middle AF field. As with the EOS 350D (and other EOS models), its position coincides with a cross-shaped sensor that, due to its special shape (the remaining AF sensors are simple bar-shaped line sensors), can detect both horizontal and vertical structures with increased efficiency. With the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) the horizontal part of the cross sensor is now twice as long as with the EOS 350D. The detection width of the horizontal part of the sensor is thus better adapted to the wide light beam incidence of fast lenses – which results in up to three times higher focusing accuracy, especially when using lenses with a speed of F2.8. But even when using low-light lenses, the autofocus of the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) works better than that of the EOS 350D. Thanks to a double-row and zigzag sensor structure, the vertical part of the cross sensor already works with apertures as small as F5.6; in general, the autofocus now responds from -0.5EV, working better in low light conditions than the EOS 350D (AF from +0.5EV).

Although the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) has more AF points to “manage” than the EOS 350D, the AF speed is said to have remained the same in the predictive focus tracking mode (AI Servo). Using the EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM professional telephoto lens, Canon says the EOS 400D can continue to track the movements of an object or subject travelling at approximately 50km/h down to a distance of 10 metres – without slowing down the frame rate (3 fps) in continuous shooting mode. The EOS 30D’s fast 32-bit RISC processor (a microprocessor with simple command structures for the fastest possible operation) and revised focus tracking algorithms are intended to compensate for the higher computational effort required to manage the additional AF points; in some places Canon even writes that the EOS 400D is on a par with its big sister EOS 30D in terms of AF speed. So much for the theory and the promises of Canon. In practice, the autofocus of the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) feels a lot more “jagged” and unerring than the EOS 350D; compared to the EOS 30D there are no noticeable differences in speed and precision.

As with most EOS cameras, you can leave the choice of AF mode (one-shot or single-frame focus and AI servo or predictive focus tracking) in AI focus mode to the camera’s automatic focus system. In full-auto mode and scene mode programs, you don’t need to worry about choosing the AF mode anyway. The same applies to the measuring field selection, which, depending on the setting, is either automatic or manual (after pressing the measuring field selection button either with the control dial directly behind the shutter release or with the arrow keys of the control field). The selected or activated AF area is then displayed in the viewfinder (via a red light marker) and, more recently, on the LCD screen. Unfortunately, the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) still uses the built-in miniature flash as AF auxiliary light. Although the flash burst lasting only 250 milliseconds (with a range of 3.5 to 4 meters depending on the AF target) can be switched off via an individual function (C.Fn-5) or remains inactive in some subject programs anyway, it would be desirable if the good old “red light” of earlier EOS cameras were to find its way back into the digital cameras of the EOS series. However, the discrete red AF auxiliary light can still be purchased by purchasing an external system flash unit of the Speedlite series; the metering pattern emitted by the flash unit’s red light emitter only covers all 9 AF metering fields of the camera with the flash models 580EX, 430EX and 420EX.

Flash

There is nothing new to report in the category flash technology. Like all newer EOS cameras (including the EOS 350D), the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) uses second-generation E-TTL technology. We do not want to go back in detail to the exact mode of operation and the advantages of E-TTL-II flash metering and control (interested readers will find a detailed description in the digitalkamera.de test of the EOS 350D). But in summary, E-TTL II technology is so powerful that the camera will trigger a measuring flash, which is not visible to the naked eye, in virtually real time or immediately before the flash is fired and released, and the flash and ambient light are measured in one go or via the same metering cell (via the individual function C.Fn 08 either with center-weighted integral metering or with multi-field metering), evaluates the distance data transmitted by the lens and – when using an external Speedlite-EX series flash unit – also takes into account the color temperature of the flash light transmitted by the flash electronics during white balance. All of this information is collected within milliseconds and leads to more natural-looking flash shots (where the flash effect does not “kill” the existing scene).

Both the built-in flash unit and external flash units benefit from the advantages of the new technology. The on-board flash of the Canon Rebel XTi (EOS 400D) has a decent performance (LZ 13 at ISO 100), charges up quite fast (approx. 3 s), covers the field of view of lenses with a focal length of 17 or the equivalent of 27 millimetres from the angle of illumination (although in practice there is a slight drop in light in the corners of the image), jumps up high enough to considerably reduce the risk of red eyes or in order not to be shadowed by normally sized lenses, has a flash exposure correction function (+/- 2 EV in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV), fires either at the beginning or end of the exposure (so-called synchronization to the 1st or 2nd shutter curtain) and jumps out of the viewfinder box in an exemplary manner – depending on the camera setting – either automatically (but also only when the lighting conditions require it) or at the push of a button. However, there are also a few areas where Canon should take an example from other manufacturers’ digital SLR cameras when it comes to flash. With the Rebel XTi, for example, flash settings (mainly flash exposure correction) cannot be called up directly or only after the corresponding reprogramming of the set button, electronic red-eye detection and retouching can only be used in direct print mode (and not with any PictBridge-compatible printer), and while some cameras, such as the EOS 400D, are capable of flash exposure correction, the EOS 400D can only be used in direct print mode. B. the Sony Alpha 100 or the Nikon D80, the built-in flash unit in the wireless TTL flash mode can also serve as a control flash, one must fall back with the EOS 400D to expensive accessories (ST-E2 transmitter or controllable Speedlite-model). In addition, the joint mechanism of the on-board flash still makes the same irritating rattling noises for the unsuspecting 400D user as the previous models EOS 300D and EOS 350D.

As with all other Canon DSLRs with E-TTL or E-TTL-II technology, the EOS 400D (as well as all other Canon DSLRs with E-TTL or E-TTL-II technology) can use all flash models of the Speedlite-EX series and compatible third-party flash units (e.g. from Metz, Sigma or Cullmann) as external flash units. The older Speedlites of the EZ-series of Canon only work in a limited way (i.e. with an unregulated power output) or not at all (480EZ, 300EZ, 200E); in the case of old universal products with a self-automatic function, one has to adjust numerous adjustments manually. Basically one can say that the higher the compatibility of the flash units, the more comfortable it is to work with. Depending on the flash unit used, you can flash at slightly reduced flash output with ultra-short shutter speeds (beyond the normal flash sync speed of max. 1/200s to 1/4,000s), flash wirelessly while retaining all automatic functions (the wireless E-TTL or E-TTL-II flash control even enables the formation of entire flash groups and power distribution, but requires a so-called “master” flash unit or a so-called “transmitter” as a control unit for the other flash units), automatic flash bracketing, use of the AE lock button even in flash mode (FEL function), visualization of the flash effect before the shot is taken (pilot light function) – and much more. In any case, the EOS 400D can do in flash mode everything that the EOS 350D already could or can do, and if you use a modern flash device, there are countless possibilities to discover when working with the flash.

Image quality

If you go a little “genealogy mode”, you’ll notice that the Rebel XTi represents the third generation of a camera line that has jumped two megapixels with every generation change. For example, the sensor resolution of Canon’s entry-level DSLRs has risen from 6 to now 10.1 megapixels over the years, although the pixel size has also fallen continuously. Thus the individual pixels of the EOS-300D sensor still had an edge length of 7.4 µm; with the EOS 350D it was only 6.4 µm. With the Rebel XTi, we have now arrived at 5.7 µm, and even though the relatively large sensors of digital SLR cameras are not quite as susceptible to noise as the tiny (sometimes smaller than a fingernail) CCDs of digital compact cameras, Canon too had to once again reach into the technological or manufacturing “bag of tricks” in order to keep image noise as low as possible.

By looking at the noise values and/or the respective graphics in our test with the measurement software, Canon has impressively succeeded in this. Software objectively attests the Rebel XTi an excellent noise correction and very low noise values for this pixel number. This was made possible – according to Canon – by several measures. First of all, Canon has apparently succeeded in reducing the distance between the light-focusing micro-lenses on the sensor by half again. Because already with the EOS 350D the microlens distance had been shortened compared to the EOS 300D. This requires extremely precise manufacturing methods, and Canon is also proud to announce that the entire production of CMOS sensors is done in-house with largely in-house machinery (Canon, for example, produces so-called “steppers” for microchip production in addition to Nikon). Canon has also managed to increase the light-sensitive area of the individual pixel elements. Probably again by reducing the size of the control electronics (typical CMOS on pixel level) and the signal paths. This is also supported by the fact that Canon claims to have “optimized” the output amplifiers. However, something has also changed in the depths of the CMOS sensor: The circuits for reducing random noise and for the complete elimination of the so-called “fixed pattern noise” are – according to Canon – going into the second generation in the image converter of the Rebel XTi and should help to maintain a high signal-to-noise ratio and a good dynamic range despite narrower pixels.

In practice the Rebel XTi convinces once again (the noise level of Canon DSLRs is extremely high) with extremely low image noise. If at all, you will only notice the noise on larger prints (e.g. 30x40cm posters or larger) – and then only in the image areas of medium brightness. The very “neutral” (i.e. very evenly distributed and rather inconspicuous) noise occurs almost exclusively in the form of colorless brightness noise, and the very strong attenuation of the image noise in the dark image areas has a positive effect on the input dynamics. The EOS 400D, for example, can distinguish no less than 9.2 f-stops (the Nikon D80 and Sony Alpha 100 only tolerate 8.8 f-stops in comparison) at a sensitivity of ISO 100. The fact that the Rebel XTi can not only “plug in” but also “give out” well is shown by the output dynamics, which with 254 (of 256 possible) brightness levels is also better than the above mentioned competition. But that does not mean that the EOS 400D reproduces contrasts exactly as found at the place of the admission. Instead, the camera processes the tonal values in such a way that the mid-tones (i.e. the image areas of medium brightness) are reproduced with a particularly high contrast; the highlights and shadows, on the other hand, are rather low in contrast. Canon has just trimmed the Rebel XTi to a rather pleasant tonal value reproduction (the high contrasts in the mid tones increase the impression of sharpness), and there you shouldn’t insist on a neutral and/or image processing friendly result, but simply want “crisp” images..

The Rebel XTi is anything but restrained when it comes to displaying fine image details. On the pictures taken with the camera, one can see every tiny texture and structure – but only or to a large extent thanks to the active support of the camera electronics. Fine image details are very strongly processed, and in some cases (depending on the lens used) this unfortunately also leads to a distorted reproduction of some details and/or to image disturbances. With the set lens (Canon EF-S 18-55 mm 1:3.5-5.6), for example, strong brightness moirés (= mostly wave-shaped interference) appear on inclined fine structures of almost any orientation, and especially on diagonal structures, aliasing (= step or sawtooth-shaped lines) also occurs. Colour moiré, on the other hand, is only slightly visible – even on horizontal structures. The Rebel XTi owes the latter mainly to its thin low pass filter. Actually a whole filter system is used with the CMOS sensor of the Rebel XTi, as it is already used in similar architecture and function with the EOSD 350D (and other EOS-D models). Thus, the image to be created continues to be successively filtered or, through a complex sequence of infrared blocking/filtering, light polarization (in a certain sense, a reorientation of the light waves) and partial separation (slightly offset partial images are created, so to speak), practically rid of everything that is “too much of a good thing” and could cause image disturbances. If the whole thing works quite effectively against color moirés, it is obviously not effective enough against brightness moirés and the electronic image processing subsequently generates other image disturbances that again affect the precise reproduction of fine image details.

However, the strong electronic processing of fine image details partly compensates the weaknesses of the set lens and leads to a good to very good efficiency in the short focal length as well as a good efficiency in the medium and long focal length. How the electronics partially conceal the “small imperfections” of the EF-S 18-55 mm 1:3.5-5.6 can be seen, for example, in the resolution measurement, where there is a slight increase in resolution at half image height in the medium focal length (i.e. at approx. 35 mm). In the short focal length or in wide-angle position, however, the resolution decreases as expected from the center of the image (where the resolution values are excellent), continuously (and also noticeably) to the edges of the image. In the long focal length or at the telephoto end, the resolution values for their part are outstandingly constant over the entire field of view. Further optical weaknesses at the edge of the image are indicated by the increased to clearly increased directional dependence of the resolution (the resolution increases or decreases depending on the orientation of some image parts) in the short and medium focal length; in the long focal length, the directional dependence of the resolution is medium strong.

The EF-S 18-55 mm 1:3.5-5.6 does not make a particularly good or only a very average figure, also in the distortion and vignetting values. The lens, specially designed for the smaller sensor size of such cameras as the Rebel XTi, shows in the short focal length even at the aperture a strong to very strong residual vignetting of almost 1.5 f-stops. Because of the Rebel XTi’s somewhat unnatural contrast reproduction, the effect is even more noticeable to the naked eye, and you don’t need an expert eye to notice the slightly darker corners of the image, especially on images with bright, uniform surfaces (such as a white wall or blue sky). In the medium focal length, the edge darkening effect with a residual vignetting of almost 1 f-stop is still possibly slightly visible and only in the long focal length with a good 0.5 f-stop light loss towards the edges of the picture is average, but no longer disturbing/visible for most people. At least the brightness does not drop too abruptly (the progression is relatively even in all focal lengths); despite only average results, a limitation of the image circle is not recognizable. The distortion values can be described as “correct” at best (considering the very tightly calculated price of the set lens). Especially in the wide-angle position, the image is very strongly distorted by barrel distortion. At the other end of the zoom, a slight pincushion distortion is visible, and you have to move to the medium focal length to get the distortion values to be neutral.

Back to the Rebel XTi itself. The camera is very unusual when it comes to adjusting its sharpness. Overall, the sharpness is low to very low and is therefore aimed at the demanding image editor. It is not a typical Canon peculiarity that image areas are sharpened differently depending on their brightness, but with the Rebel XTi the distribution of the sharpening is very unfavorable, because it is strongest in the highlights or brightest parts of the image and so overdrive effects (so-called clipping) occur, which make some edges look very unnatural or unsightly. For example, the dark side of some edges shows clear ghost lines, while diagonally running edges are reproduced very “soft” or low in contrast. This limited edge symmetry and the overall unbalanced adjustment of the sharpness of the image is to the disadvantage of a neutral and even image reproduction; Canon still has to work on the sharpness of the Rebel XTi.

If the Rebel XTi is tuned like a typical entry-level camera in many respects (i.e. to produce a visually appealing but not necessarily post-processing-friendly result), the same applies to compression and colour reproduction. The Rebel XTi apparently wants as many pictures as possible to fit on the memory card, and so it was decided to use a medium compression, which shouldn’t cause too much loss of quality. Nevertheless, even at the best quality setting, slight JPEG artifacts (in the form of block-like structures) appear on the images; however, the overall level of compression artifacts is significantly lower than on other cameras with comparable compression rates. The Rebel XTi also produces slightly reddish images with very rich colors. That “pepples” the pictures up a little, and the light red cast “warms up” the colours a little bit, but the very flattering image reproduction unmasks the Rebel XTi as a typical beginner’s camera.

Apparently, the Canon engineers didn’t pay much attention to white balance and exposure. The Rebel XTi, for example, still tends to overexpose in bright light, and the automatic white balance system still has its problems with incandescent light – even though both problems have been known since the EOS 300D (the overexposure phenomenon even goes back to the analog EOS 50/50E) and have been returning to a more or less pronounced degree ever since. Fortunately, the Rebel XTi offers countless tools or functions for controlling, influencing and/or correcting white balance, exposure and other image parameters (selective metering that can be linked to an active AF target, various bracketing automatics, general image parameter settings, so-called Picture Styles, graphic white balance fine correction, RAW/CR2 raw image data storage, etc.), so that the photographically experienced 400D owner will know what to do. The beginner (for whom the Rebel XTi is actually intended) will have to take the pictures however, as they are – and there even with the Rebel XTi the one or other admission can go sometimes beside it.

Other Functions

With the Rebel XTi various innovations find their way into the entry-level class of Canon or into the EOS series in general. For example, the multi-stage protection of the sensor against dust contamination is completely new. So first of all, they try to prevent dust from forming in the first place. For this purpose, the lamellae of the closure unit and the housing cover have been designed in such a way that microparticles originating from natural abrasion are avoided as far as possible. In the second instance, a special antistatic coating on the low-pass filter (in contrast to Sony and Pentax, Canon does not give any further details about the type of coating) is supposed to prevent everything that then penetrates the sensor in dust and particles from settling on it. Only then the so-called Integrated Cleaning System of the Rebel XTi comes into play. In the Rebel XTi, the low-pass filter is held in front of the CMOS sensor by a piezo electric element that vibrates the filter by means of high-frequency shaking movements (Canon talks about ultrasonic vibrations); it should only be mentioned here that piezo elements can expand and contract very quickly when exposed to an alternating voltage. This should now practically “shake off” dust on the sensor. This occurs for approximately one second each time the camera is turned on and off and is indicated by a corresponding icon on the LCD screen. But since the “dusting” of the sensor also extends the switch-on time of the camera and thus could possibly make a spontaneous snapshot impossible, it can be stopped immediately after the actual switch-on process (which according to Canon should only take 0.2 s) by pressing the shutter release. Of course, the dedusting of the sensor can also be activated in the middle of camera operation by selecting the corresponding menu item; however, to prevent the piezo element from overheating, it cannot be activated again in the following 3 seconds and, if it is used too intensively (5 consecutive shaking processes within 10 seconds), it takes a forced pause of 10 seconds. The “vibrator counter” cannot be reset by turning the camera off and on; the counter will not reset until after 60 seconds of cleaning inactivity. According to Canon, the Integrated Cleaning System of the Rebel XTi should need very little power and should not affect the image quality as much as the dust protection systems of some other manufacturers (probably the SSWF system of Olympus); but if it works as effective as these and the mentioned impairment of the image quality really plays a role, is another question..

If, in spite of all these and other measures (including a special rubber seal at the middle level to prevent further dust penetration and a collection device to ensure that the shaken-off dust remains “trapped”), dust particles still remain on the sensor, the user has two options to eliminate the dust. The “radical” method is to enter manual sensor cleaning in the camera’s settings menu, leaving the shutter open and the mirror up for the duration of the cleaning process. The sensor or low-pass filter surface can then be carefully cleaned with suitable “cleaning tools”; special cleaning kits are available from accessories stores. If you are not confident that this cleaning process, which is not entirely risk-free (in the worst case, the low-pass filter can scratch if handled improperly), can also solve the problem using software. For this purpose, a kind of “reference image” of the dust is taken (preferably by photographing a white, uniform surface at a focal length of at least 50 mm, a distance of 20 to 30 cm and the focus set to infinity), which is systematically attached to all subsequent photographs. The respective file is only a few kilobytes big and thus, it is barely noticeable; the digital-photo-professional software that is included in the scope of delivery can then calculate the image errors caused by the dust (most of the times, black dots or grey spots on the images) afterwards on the computer from the images.

With the so-called PictureStyles the EOS 400D offers now also the picture parameter presettings known from the EOS-1D Mark II N, EOS 5D and EOS 30D. Sharpness, colour saturation, contrast, hue and other parameters are adjusted to suit different shooting situations (e.g. portrait, landscape, b/w); three memory locations allow user-defined image parameter settings to be made, and Canon’s ready-to-use PictureStyles can be downloaded from the Internet and loaded into the camera. By the way, the PictureStyle settings can be recalled directly via the Set button in the middle of the navigation field (which can also be assigned differently), but strangely enough you can only jump from one setting to the next. Unlike other settings (such as when selecting the light sensitivity level), you can’t move the cursor horizontally, and even if that’s a detail, you can only hope that Canon will fix this at some point in the future when they update their firmware.

Other functions and features that the Rebel XTi partially adopts from other EOS cameras include two histogram display options (either as a brightness histogram or split into the three color channels), the magnifying glass function that now also works in instant playback (via the custom function C.Fn.10-1), a third option for noise reduction during long exposures (via the custom function C.Fn.02 you can now select “Auto” in addition to “On” and “Off”), three settings for the automatic image alignment (no image rotation, image rotation only on the computer, image rotation on the computer and on the camera screen), the possibility for up to 9,999 images per folder and a few additional individual functions (in total, there are now 11 individual functions with 29 settings to choose from) and the battery level indicator that has been increased from three to four levels. In addition, there is no longer a need to confirm selections with the set button, when the camera is connected to the computer after selecting the EOS utility software in the connection dialog box, all you need to do is press the set or print/share button to automatically start the image transfer process, and the direct print settings have been expanded to include numerous items (including automatic red-eye detection and retouching, automatic lightening of faces, paper type). The EOS 400D also has a mirror lock-up function (via the individual function C.Fn.7) with a 2-second delay and a depth-of-field preview button for an optical depth-of-field control; we still miss the manual option M-DEP of previous EOS cameras in the electronic depth-of-field automatic (A-DEP).

Like the EOS 350D, the Rebel XTi is equipped with a PictBridge-compatible USB 2.0 high-speed interface, an RS-60E3 electric cable remote shutter release socket (the 400D can also be triggered wirelessly via the RC-1/5 infrared remote control) and a PAL/NTSC video output. The type of battery used is also the same (NB-2LH with 720 mAh at 7.4 V), although the EOS 400D can shoot a few frames less than its predecessor (360-500 shots on the 400D vs. 400-600 shots on the 350D) with a full charge of the lithium-ion battery. That the power consumption – despite higher resolution, larger LC display, dust protection unit and other factors – did not turn out higher, the Rebel XTi owes among other things to the DiGIC II signal processor, but also – and this particularly in the serial picture mode – to the adaptation of the electronics. For example, the power consumption of the output amplifier has been reduced; for long exposure shots the amplifier is even switched off completely. This electronic component is particularly stressed in the case of serial images, because the signals of the CMOS sensor are read out at high speed via two channels and with increased clock frequency in the case of fast image sequences. Other measures, such as the separate control of the drive electronics for the shutter and mirror mechanism, the high-speed processing of image data by the DiGIC II processor, the use of SDDR-RAM as buffer memory, and intelligent buffer memory management, ensure that the Rebel XTi has the same frame rate (3 fps) as the EOS 350D in continuous shooting mode. Depending on the recording format, up to 27 JPEG images and up to 10 RAW/CR2 images can be taken in succession at the highest quality; the information provided by Canon on the image frequency and maximum number of image sequences is to be taken as a guideline and may be slightly higher or lower depending on the memory card used, the set shutter speed or the lighting conditions found, the selected light sensitivity level and other factors.

Conclusion

With the Rebel XTi, Canon could do the “hat trick” and score a goal or land a bestseller for the third time in a row, but the competition will make it harder than ever for the new player in the EOS D team to do so. Although the Nikon D80, Olympus E-400 and especially the Pentax K10D have not yet been tested, they have already spontaneously triggered the “aha effect” when they were introduced to many an enthusiast, while the Rebel XTi is more likely to be perceived as a mainstream mass product. The EOS 400D will once again score points due to its aggressive price, its image quality trimmed for visual appeal and the popularity of the Canon brand, and it can be expected that Canon will retain its market leadership. But whether these are characteristics that make a true “star” is ultimately decided by the customer..

Brief assessment

Pros

  • simultaneous RAW and JPEG recording (in separate image files)
  • PictureStyles for ready-to-use and individually created image parameter sets
  • fast response times (AF, tripping delay, switch-on time, etc.)
  • E-TTL-II flash metering and control
  • extensive white balance settings (including diagram controls)
  • enormous choice of lenses
  • far-reaching dust control measures
  • remarkable compactness, significantly improved operating concept
  • “ready to use” pictures (beginner-orientated coordination of the picture preparation)
  • excellent noise performance
  • reasonable price

Cons

  • Image loss if the memory card compartment is opened prematurely
  • low standard monitor brightness, no automatic brightening
  • Selective measurement less accurate than true spot measurement
  • DEP depth of field program not available (only A-DEP)
  • no horizontal cursor control for PictureStyle settings
  • no camera-internal RAW conversion possible
  • Flash and picture quality settings not directly accessible (only by reprogramming the Set button)
  • various settings and special functions (e.g. colour balance, red-eye retouching, shadow or face brightening) can only be called up in direct print mode with different printers
  • built-in flash cannot be used as a control flash (in wireless E-TTL flash mode)
  • AF auxiliary light via flash salvo
  • only one dial
  • inaccurate automatic white balance in incandescent light
  • frequent overexposure in bright light
  • inefficiently tuned sharpening
  • z. T. Visible image defects, unnaturally high colour saturation
  • no sensitivity indication in the viewfinder
  • limited viewfinder comfort

Canon Rebel XTi – EOS 400D data sheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor APS-C 22.5 x 15.0 mm (crop factor 1.6
)10.5 megapixels (physical) and 10.1 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 5.8 µm
Photo resolution
3.888 x 2.592 pixels (3:2)
2.816 x 1.880 pixels (3:2)
1.936 x 1.288 pixels (3:2)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard

Lens

Lens mount
Canon EF-S

Focus

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 9 sensors
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Sharpness control Depth-of-field control, depth-of-field button

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder Reflex viewfinder (mirror viewfinder) (95 % image coverage), 21 mm eye relief, dioptre compensation (-3.0 to +1.0 dpt), replaceable focusing screens
Monitor 2.5″ TFT LCD monitor with 230,000 pixels

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 35 fields
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (Automatic
) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, step size from 1/3 to 1/2 EV
Exposure Compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 400 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 1,600 (manual)
Remote access Remote triggering
Scene modes various scene modes, landscape, night portrait, close-up, portrait, sports/action, full auto, 1 additional scene mode
Picture effects B/W filter in yellow/orange/red/green, B/W tinting effects in blue/violet/green
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sun, White balance bracket, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent, Tungsten, Kelvin input, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting 3.0 fps at highest resolution, or 10 RAW images in sequence
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Recording functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (flip up
)Flash shoe: Canon, standard center contact
Flash code Guide number 13 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, fill-in flash, flash on, flash off, high-speed sync, long-term sync, red-eye reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
CF (Type I, Type II)
Microdrive
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Canon NB-2LH (Lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 720 mAh)
Playback functions Playback histogram, image index
Special functions Orientation sensor
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods Canon Direct Print, PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous built-in low-pass filter with dust protection functionDIGIC-II signal processing processor Simultaneous

JPEG and RAW recording possible9-point autofocus
with automatically or individually selectable spot sizesAF working range
from -0,

5

to 18 EVSingle autofocus
and/or predictive focus (ONE SHOT/AI FOCUS/AI SERVO)
PTP supportAdjustable
image parameters (6 Picture Style presets 3 custom settings)
AE Metering memoryDisplay of
shooting information in playback mode with highlighting of highlightsPlayback zoom
(1.5x to 10x magnification)
Orientation sensor for automatic image orientation11
Personalization function with 29 settings

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 126 x 94 x 65 mm
Weight 510 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Canon NB-2LH Special BatteryCanon
RF-3 (Body Cover)
CB-2LT ChargerVideo Connection CableUSB-Connector CableBayonet CapBeltCamera SoftwareDigital Photo ProfessionalCameraSoftwareEOS Utility / Remote CaptureCamera Software
Photo StitchTwain
Driver (98/2000)
Image Viewing and Management Software Zoom Browser EX (PC) or Image Browser (Mac)
WIA Driver for Windows ME
additional accessories Canon ACK-700 AC AdapterCanon
BG-E3 Battery/Battery GripCanon
EH18-L Camera BagCable Remote Control
RS-60E3Canon
EF Interchangeable Lens SystemCanon
Speedlite EX System Flashes
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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.