DigitalCameraReview.com
Canon Rebel XSi First Thoughts
by David Rasnake -  4/6/2008

For better or worse, this is it: the standard by which this year's entry-level DSLRs will be judged. Owing more than a little to its prevalence in electronics and discount stores (but also, in fairness, to extremely consistent performance from previous generations), Canon's Digital Rebel models have been at the center of the consumer-grade DSLR explosion of the last few years. For this reason, while there may have been more flashy or exciting releases this spring, the Canon Rebel XSi has been for many the most anticipated new model of the year.

Canon Rebel XSi
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The physical interface on the XSi (a.k.a EOS 450D) has been reworked compared to previous Rebels, consolidating more of the controls on one side of the screen (and thus allowing for a larger 3-inch display without expanding the body).

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

If not quite as small as Olympus or Nikon's entry-level offerings, the XSi is still very light and nicely balanced. Copious use of smooth semi-gloss plastics continues to leave the latest Rebel feeling a bit more "consumerish" and arguably less well-built than some of its competitors, though I have no reason to believe that the XSi isn't ruggedly constructed; admittedly, this kind of criticism is highly subjective.

As with previous Rebels, where the XSi will likely leave no doubt is in the image quality department. Though the weather wasn't always cooperative for an initial shooting excursion with the new model, the XSi's 12.2 megapixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC III processor have lived up to expectations thus far – producing images that are smooth, richly textured, and appropriately vibrant.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)
Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

In early testing, I've also been favorably impressed with the XSi's high-ISO capabilities.

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 1600
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Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 1600, 100% Crop

Though only more rigorous analysis will tell, it seems quite possible that some of the minor gripes with the XTi's increased noise over its predecessor may have been remedied.

On the lens side, an IS version of the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is now standard fare for the latest Rebel, keeping Canon's latest offering competitive with Nikon's VR-kit D60 as well as the in-body image stabilization crowd.

Canon Rebel XSi
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The new kit lens has a reasonably solid feel for an entry-level, plastic bodied lens – a marked improvement over previous iterations. I still find the rotating front element (which makes using certain kinds of common filters difficult) almost inexcusable, and rotation when manually focusing is only about 25 degrees (making precise adjustments difficult).

Canon Rebel XSi
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The IS system on our test unit, at least, is also a bit noisy, making an unpleasant high-frequency "squeal" when engaged. On balance, though, the new lens is easy to live with and should do just find for users stepping up from a point-and-shoot – more advanced shooters are likely to replace it quickly for something faster anyway.

Like many new entries in this segment, the XSi packs in a live view system as well, allowing users to compose shots on the camera's LCD. Optional contrast detection AF allows the XSi to focus the camera in real-time with live view running – something conventional live view systems can't do. While we'll save further analysis of the live view system for the full review, I was a bit disappointed that enabling live view wasn't a little more intuitive, requiring several multi-level menu adjustments to get the system up and running (once it's configured, however, switching between live view and the viewfinder only takes a single button press).

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

In short, after a few days I'm just starting to really dig into the Rebel XSi's performance, though early impressions of AF performance, processing, and high-ISO abilities are all favorable. Assuming these impressions hold, the XSi is on par to do very well indeed.

Check back soon for our full review of the Canon Rebel XSi.