DigitalCameraReview.com
Canon Rebel XSi Review
by David Rasnake -  5/1/2008

With its long-running Rebel series of consumer DSLRs, Canon has earned a reputation for cranking out new models on a consistent timetable that are rarely revolutionary, and yet often set the pace for the entry-level market nonetheless. There is some heavily hyped technology – including live view and a newly developed 12.2 megapixel CMOS sensor – in the new Canon Rebel XSi, but for the most part, the new Rebel looks to be yet again an incremental upgrade to the XTi platform it supplants.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

 

Sitting somewhere between the basic "true entry-level" models and advanced-amateur cameras like Canon's own EOS 40D, the XSi continues to push the resolution envelope, reprises the XTi's well-regarded auto focus system, and at once offers more custom functions and advanced control for the serious photographer and a fairly mature live view implementation aimed to entice shooters to step up from compact point-and-shoots. As one of the clear market leaders, expectations are always high for Canon, but early murmurs of significant refinements to the Rebel formula in addition to class-leading sensor performance served up at the same list price as the previous generation XTi have made the XSi look more and more promising as the new consumer-grade standard bearer in the DSLR world.


FEATURES OVERVIEW

The Canon Rebel XSi (a.k.a. the Canon EOS 450D) is Canon's latest mass-consumer DSLR, moving into the company's lineup one step above the current Rebel XTi. Continuing in the tradition of the Digital Rebel cameras, the XSi features a proprietary CMOS sensor with an effective 12.2 megapixels of resolution, making it Canon's most high-res entry-level offering to date. The XTi's nine-point auto focus system returns with some slight tweaks, and the new Rebel gets an enormous 3-inch LCD.

LCD size is a particularly significant stat for the XSi insofar as the new camera is also the first entry-level Canon to sport a live view system, allowing the screen to be used for shot composition. The XSi's live view implementation moves beyond the basic with the addition of a contrast-detection AF mode that allows the camera to auto focus without interrupting the on-screen preview to do so – a feat not possible in the first generation of live view DSLRs.

The XSi is also the first Rebel to forgo CF memory in favor of the more compact SD/SDHC format. Other upgrades and niceties include a fairly advanced "Picture Style" menu that allows shooters to fine-tune image processing (and includes space for several user-defined custom settings), an impressively fast advertised continuous shooting speed, and the inclusion of Canon's well-regarded DIGIC III processor. The XSi supports Canon's current EF/EF-S lens mount, and comes packaged in kit form with an optically stabilized version of the manufacturer's 18-55mm kit lens.

As with previous Rebel DSLRs, the XSi's shooting modes are divided into two basic groups, which Canon terms the "Basic Zone" and the "Creative Zone." The Basic Zone is made up of the XSi's auto exposure and scene preset options. Basic Zone presets are as follows:

Note that in the Basic Zone, many exposure control and general shooting options (including AF drive mode, metering options, and flash modes) are locked out or limited.

Canon's Creative Zone modes encompass the full range of expected user-controlled exposure options, with a few interesting additions:

Like most DSLRs, playback options are fairly basic with the XSi. The camera does incorporate an orientation sensor that automatically rotates portrait-orientation images during playback. As with Canon's point-and-shoots, it's also easy to scroll through images either 10 or 100 at a time using the control dial.

For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.


FORM, FIT, AND FEEL

The Rebel XSi's aesthetics may not do a lot to win it fans. Though I'll be the first to admit that image quality is infinitely more important than styling in this price class, there's an expectation that a DSLR (even an entry-level one) will come off as a high-end product. While it's a subjective call for sure, the XSi's physical presence is – in my mind, at least – the camera's least impressive area.

Styling and Build Quality

Given the Rebel's popularity, I may well be in the minority, but I find the XSi's body and general layout to be the least appealing of any of the current generation of entry-level cameras from the big players. If the Rebel cameras have proven themselves rugged enough in actual use, they certainly don't look it: while our test unit didn't exhibit any rattles or creaking when torqued, the camera is encased in cheap looking and feeling smooth-finish plastic that seems less refined, for whatever reason, than a lightly textured finish.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

High-gloss buttons have a slippery, equally unappealing feel that just doesn't convey the kind of quality we've come to associate with Canon generally. If build quality lacks a little bit, though, styling is basic and inoffensive, with a reworking of the rear-deck controls making room for the XSi's nice and large LCD.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

In total, I find the XSi's build quality and general look and feel to be on about the same level as the camera it replaces. I had many of the same gripes with the XTi, and yet the most recent Rebel sold like air conditioners in a heat wave (clearly, not everyone shares my slightly negative perception of the Rebel's appearance and feel). It may be that perceived build quality simply isn't a primary purchasing consideration for consumer-oriented DSLRs. Even so, I'll maintain that Canon is a step behind the likes of Nikon, Olympus, or Pentax in this regard, and for a company with Canon's resources, there's no clear explanation in my view for why the XSi should feel as "built to a price" as it does.

Ergonomics and Interface

A survey of reviews of the XTi on the web suggests that Canon was roundly criticized for the more narrow "bite" of its handgrip on the previous Rebel. Unfortunately, they did very little to correct the rather uncomfortable, slightly unstable hand-hold with the new model.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

If the XSi wasn't so light, the narrow grip would be almost unbearable for day-long use. With the lightweight kit lens, the whole setup doesn't tip the scales far enough to be too uncomfortable, in spite of the grip's shortcomings.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

Exposure controls are primarily navigated with the Rebel's single control dial, positioned just behind the shutter release button.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

The feel of the dial is a little "clicky" for my taste, and I found it hard to simultaneously cover the control dial, the shutter release, and many of the back-panel buttons with my fingers – especially while shooting one-handed.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

In terms of physical interface, the XSi goes in the opposite direction of many recent entry-level offerings, with lots of dedicated buttons providing quick access to white balance, ISO, auto focus settings, and the like. Once you get the slightly complicated layout "under your fingers," so to speak, this aspect of the XSi should appeal to advanced shooters looking for quick settings adjustments and uninterested in wading through menus to find them.

Display/Viewfinder

One of the Rebel XSi's headline technologies is the inclusion of a fairly refined live view system and a crisp, 230,000-pixel 3-inch LCD to complement it. When not in one of the live view modes, the XSi uses its rather sizable LCD in place of a traditional top-deck status display, providing information about selected exposure parameters, battery life, and number of available shots remaining. The basic look and layout of the status display carries over almost unchanged from the XTi – definitely not a bad thing, given the recent Rebel's clear, plain, and logical information arrangement.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

With good color reproduction and only the slightest hint of sluggishness (for which more blame may rest on the live view system itself than on the display), the LCD is up to the task of on-screen composition as well, performing up to the standards of a high-quality compact camera in live view use. Canon states the range of view at an impressively wide 160 degrees, and our testing holds this number up; with this kind of range on a live view monitor, the lack of an articulating screen for over-the-head or foot-level shooting seems like less of an oversight. Similarly, brightness is adjustable across seven levels, easily handling outdoor composition and shot review in all but the brightest situations. (More on live view operation and functionality under the "Auto Focus" heading in the next section.)

Canon is also the latest manufacturer to include a sensor that disables the LCD when the camera is brought to eye-level for through-the-viewfinder shot composition. It's a nice touch that makes using the viewfinder easier – especially in low light, where the screen's gray-background status output could be a little overpowering; the fact that the system seems a little less sensitive and finicky than Nikon's implementation of a similar idea is also a plus.

XT and XTi users will find the new Rebel's viewfinder to be an equally welcomed addition. While coverage with the new model's penta-mirror viewfinder is the same as its predecessor's (95 percent), the new Rebel's field of vision is appreciably brighter and shows a bit more magnification from all appearances. Additionally, Canon has slightly reworked the Rebel's in-viewfinder information to include a full-time ISO display. While there's still no "shots remaining" display in the viewfinder, the XSi retains the XTi's practice of displaying the number of burst shots available as well.

All in all, for an entry-level model especially, the XSi's heads-up display is about as good as it gets, providing users with a straightforward arrangement of useful information and a bright image that makes manual focusing and low-light composition less tiresome than with previous generations of the Rebel.


PERFORMANCE

Technology continues to flow down from Canon's advanced cameras into the Rebel line. The focus this time around has been more on refining what was already perhaps the strongest all-around performer in the entry-level marketplace into something even more reassuring for novice users, while simultaneously opening up access (largely via custom functions) to more advanced processing and control options for shooters seeking more power.

Timings and Shutter Lag

Any other possible flaws aside, it can't be said of Canon that they don't know how to build a fast camera. The XSi derives speed benefits from its quick DIGIC III processor and rapid auto focus system to arrive at numbers that compare favorably with many step-up models.

Shutter lag is a measurable but still very quick .04 seconds, but what impresses more is the speed of the auto focus system: in our standard wide-angle test with the 18-55mm kit lens, the XSi was able to grab focus on our moving target and turn in a press-to-capture time of .2 seconds without pre-focus. Even better yet, I was able to power the camera up, auto focus, and capture a frame in as little as .32 seconds. All of these times are in keeping with the fastest entry-level DSLRs currently available.

Even with a Class 6 card, the XSi wasn't able to maintain a steady continuous shooting frame rate for the advertised 53 full-res, highest-quality JPEGs. While tested frame rate bounced around considerably after a steady initial burst of 16 shots – falling below 2 fps on occasion – I was thoroughly impressed that the camera was able to dash off those first 16 frames in exactly 4 seconds, for a better-than-advertised burst shooting speed of around 4 fps.

All in all, the XSi is blessed with a quick, responsive feel that makes it easy to live with for day to day shooting and proficient enough to serve as a budget primary or back-up body for light- to moderate-duty sports shooting.

Auto Focus

The XTi inherited its nine-point auto focus system from the then-current EOS 30D – a system which was then largely carried over with only slight revisions into the current advanced amateur model, the 40D. The XTi's AF system proved to be fast, reliable, and generally problem-free, handling low light or slower lenses with little complaint. It's hardly surprising, given the successes of this system, that it returns largely unchanged in the XSi.

Unlike the 40D, the slight upgrading of the 30D's AF system for the XSi doesn't include the addition of cross-type sensors at all nine points, with the system relying on single-axis sensors everywhere except the center (and then, if I'm interpreting Canon's literature correctly, only with f/2.8 or faster lenses). While debates rage about dual- versus single-axis sensors, I found the current implementation of Canon's nine-point system for its entry-level cams to be as quick and accurate in normal focusing situations as anything in this price class (including higher-spec AF systems from other manufacturers). With a fast-aperture USM lens, the setup is pure gold. You'll get the expected twitching and shaking with poorly damped consumer glass, but lock is still rock-solid reliable, even when using continuous drive for action shooting.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

The XSi was a bit shady at times when left to choose its own focus points, tending to miss foreground subjects more than I might have liked. AF point is manually selectable from among any of the Rebel's nine areas (which provide, as before, a nice diamond pattern of coverage across a little less than half of the frame). The system for manual point selection, however, requires an additional button press before using the d-pad to select your point, and the selected point isn't illuminated in the viewfinder. All of this means that you have to take your eye away from composing and use the LCD's point display to pick your area: not ideal for on-the-fly AF point changes or fast action sequence shooting.

Partially making up for this irritation are several smart AF options that are unique to Canon DSLRs. With the XSi, the folks at Canon provide the traditional single-shot and continuous (AI Servo in Canon-speak) focus drive options, but also include the "hybrid" AI Focus mode in which the camera automatically switches between single and continuous AF drive (and does a pretty good job of making intelligent decisions, as best I could tell). Similarly, if you're using automatic multi-point AF, Canon's proprietary A-DEP exposure mode will automatically calculate an aperture-priority exposure that ensures enough depth of field to bring all of the selected AF points for a particular shot into sharp focus.

Live view opens up a whole other range of options where auto focus is concerned. The system disables AF in live view altogether by default, but custom function settings allow the XSi to use either traditional focus-sensor AF (in which the mirror must be moved out of the way for the camera to focus, thereby interrupting the on-screen preview for around a second in most cases), or use a slower contrast-detection focusing system like those found on compact cameras (which allows the camera to auto focus without interrupting the on-screen preview, but often takes three to four seconds to lock). In either case, AF in live view must be initiated by pressing and holding the AE-Lock button until the camera beeps to confirm focus lock: a half-press of the shutter button won't do it.

While I like the movable (via the d-pad) bounding box that lets you select your focus point while in live view, Canon's system – though unquestionably more refined than the first generation of live view systems – is still too slow and clunky to be much more than a gimmick unless you shoot static subjects. Because the system doesn't reconfirm focus when the shutter fires, if your subject has moved significantly between the time you acquire AF lock and the time you press the shutter button (which then takes roughly a half a second to initiate the up-and-down mirror motion and fire the shutter), you're simply out of luck and out of focus. Contrast-detection auto focus is helpful insofar as you can track the subject while focusing, but it creeps along compared to the traditional phase detection system and doesn't handle moving subjects or low light very well. With the XSi, Canon's live view technology has improved incrementally, but (in the opinion of a self-described "live view agnostic") it still lacks the speed and refinement necessary to make the system broadly useful across a range of shooting situations.

Of course, you can always manually focus in live view, and Canon has conveniently provided 5x and 10x area magnification options to aid in getting everything sharply locked. Per the XSi's user manual, while AF options are available, "magnifying the image and focusing manually is recommended for precise focusing" when using live view.

Flash

The Rebel XSi's flash appears to be the exact same unit that graced the XTi, with a guide number of 13 meters. Flash output can be compensated up or down up to 2 EV, with coverage out to around 17mm. The XSi was able to recycle a full-power flash discharge in under 3 seconds with a fully charged battery.

Mode options are the four basic ones: auto, forced on, forced off, and red-eye reduction. There are no preset slow sync or rear curtain flash modes, though the XSi automatically employs slow sync in the Night Portrait scene mode.

On-board flash performance was, as before, perfectly acceptable, with spot-on exposure across a range of situations. Red-eye reduction also worked as anticipated, with a pre-flash effectively controlling unusual reflectivity.

With a sync speed of 1/200, the on-board flash was generally useable for daylight fill when working at lower ISOs and/or narrower apertures.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

Though it's perhaps a minor point for casual shooters, the possibilities opened up by a faster sync speed (like Nikon's 1/500 on its entry-level models) would have been a nice small improvement.

For more involved flash work, the XSi is able to control Canon's EX Speedlites using the same E-TTL II metering protocol employed for the pop-up flash.

Image Stabilization

In order to keep pace with rival Nikon as well as the in-body image stabilization crowd, Canon has speced the latest Rebel with a new kit lens, an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S zoom with IS. Image stabilization is selectable via a dedicated switch on the lens, and there are no mode options for IS: rather, the system engages when the shutter release is half-pressed.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

Testing suggests that the stabilization system with the kit lens is good for shutter speeds as slow as around 1/15, after which the results become noticeably more hit or miss. Including IS with the basic kit was almost a necessity for Canon, and it's a particularly nice addition for a budget lens.

My only gripe with the IS system as implemented, in fact, has to do with the noise it makes: whenever IS is enabled and engaged on the kit zoom, the system on our test unit emits a soft but clearly audible high-pitched shrieking noise. While the issue may be traceable to an unusual lens copy, a similar issue was recently reported (an apparently corrected through a firmware update) with the 40D and some lenses, so perhaps a fix is on the way.

Battery

Canon claims that the XSi is capable of taking 600 shots on a single charge of its 1050mAh lithium-ion battery. In shooting this review, I took around 400 images in a week's time without recharging the battery, and the camera was still showing two of three bars on the battery gauge. Admittedly, I used both flash and live view quite sparingly, but it would seem the XSi remains a competent performer where low power consumption is concerned.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

An optional battery grip is available for the new Rebel, allowing the XSi to draw on a pair of lithium-ion packs or (with an adapter) six AA batteries. For shooters with older Rebels looking to upgrade to the XSi, however, note that the battery grip is a different unit than was used previously – the new camera is not compatible with older grips.


IMAGE QUALITY

Superior image quality has been the Rebel's calling card from the introduction of the first-generation model. Others have made strong challenges to Canon's assumed supremacy in this area, but expectations for the latest Rebel with its new 12.2 megapixel sensor to dominate in the image quality arena remain in the minds of many.

A quick look at the Canon's baseline image using default settings suggests that the new model is as competitive as ever, with good sharpness, excellent color reproduction, and the smooth, pleasing look that has become Canon's hallmark.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

If anything, the obvious weak link in initial testing of our full-kit review unit proved to be (not surprisingly) on the optics side of the equation. Canon's previous-generation kit lens was not particularly well liked, offering up average optical quality at best. The addition of IS is a nice, thoughtful improvement, but otherwise the new 18-55mm kit lens can hardly be seen as a step forward, in terms of optics or build quality, over the old one. Even stopped down, the lens is soft and lacks much punch, making landscape shooting somewhat unrewarding.

Canon Rebel XSi
Full-size image, f/11
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
100% crop

Swapping the XSi's basic optics for higher-end glass also opened up the contrast considerably – another reason to think seriously about forgoing the kit lens in favor of something a little more suited to this body's capabilities.

In short, with the right processing tweaks and the right glass, there's little not to like about the Canon's image quality performance.

Exposure, Processing, and Color

Default exposure using the XSi's multi-area evaluative metering was consistent without any noted trouble spots. Slight overexposure with blue sky in the background wasn't uncommon, but this is hardly unusual and smart metering (which includes the general practice of rolling off at least a third of a stop of exposure compensation when using evaluative metering in high contrast situations, especially when shooting outdoors) helps keep blues smooth and vivid and clipping at a minimum.

Advanced shooters will also appreciate the fact that the Rebel line finally includes a four percent spot metering mode in addition to the requisite partial-area and center-weighted average modes.

Like most DSLRs hitting the market these days, the XSi includes a general dynamic range function, though control is buried in the list of custom functions. The basic d-range function, Canon's Auto Lighting Optimizer, performs straightforward highlight/shadow balancing and is on by default in all shooting modes (though it can be disabled for the Creative Zone modes if desired, and isn't applied in manual exposure mode).

Unlike most DSLRs, the XSi also includes a d-range adjustment option ("Highlight Tone Priority") that exclusively targets highlights, providing expanded dynamic range from 18 percent gray on up and theoretically limiting clipping. I found the function, which has to be enabled via the custom functions menu, subtle but useful for landscape and general outdoor shooting, especially.

Canon Digital Rebel XSi
Highlight Tone Priority enabled (view large image)

Though it's a nuanced distinction and thus hard to say for sure, images from the new sensor did look a touch harsh on the highlight side to my eye, with more hard-edged transitions than I remember from the XTi. Part of this, though, seems to return again to the kit lens, which didn't always do a good job of transmitting low-contrast detail in lighter-toned areas. In general, when the exposure hits correctly, the XSi remains capable of some very nice transitions to white and impressive dynamic range.

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

The Rebel also has arguably the most sophisticated JPEG processing controls at the entry level. Quick access via the Picture Style function button on the d-pad, the XSi's presets provide a nice range of color and sharpness options.

Canon Rebel XSi
Standard
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
Landscape
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
Portrait
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
Neutral
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
Faithful
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
Monochrome
(view large image)

In real world shooting, the changes in processing across presets prove to be fairly aggressive, with the Landscape setting, for instance, providing significantly more contrast and punch than the XSi exhibits by default.

Canon Rebel XSi
Landscape Picture Style (view large image)

Likewise, the Portrait mode skews warm, with a hue adjustment obviously tailored for vibrant portraiture. Overall, given that the Canon's default processing is a little soft and watery – ideal for post-processing, but not great for printing directly from the camera – the range of meaningful adjustments here is excellent for those who want to set up print-ready processing in camera.

In addition to the contrast, sharpness, and saturation fine-tuning options for the processing presets, three user-defined styles also allow more flexibility than we've come to expect from a basic DSLR, with the Canon rivaled only by a handful of other entry-level cameras in terms of customizable processing. Sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone (essentially a hue setting) can all be adjusted on scales range from 0 to 7 for sharpness (3 is default), and -4 to +4 for all other parameters (0 is default). Although the Canon's standard processing didn't exactly do it for me, the range of adjustments here, and the clear distinctions in image appearance from one level of adjustment to the next, made it simple enough to get an image look that I was happy with without having to process RAW files as a general rule.

Of course, the XSi can output RAW files (or RAWs+JPEGs) in any of the Creative Zone shooting modes. In terms of sharpness and detail rendering, however, I found the difference between in-camera JPEGs and processed RAW files to be miniscule at most.

White Balance

The XSi's automatic white balance setting struggled a bit under incandescent light, especially, though it appears to make some threshold improvements over its predecessor. Still, mixed lighting caused some anomalous behaviors that had me reaching for the user-set option, and shaded tungsten light was still rendered with a fair bit of yellow.

Canon Rebel XSi
Auto White Balance (view large image)
Canon Rebel XSi
Tungsten Preset (view large image)

Equally, extremely cool late evening tones seemed to tax the AWB setting, pushing blues toward green under the day's last light sooner and more pronouncedly than many cameras. More so than under artificial light, even, this is where being able to set a white point becomes indispensable.

Sensitivity and Noise

Early buzz around the XSi has focused heavily on impressive high-sensitivity performance and the camera's sophisticated noise reduction algorithm.

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 100
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 100, 100% crop

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 200
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 200, 100% crop

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 400
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 400, 100% crop

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 800
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 800, 100% crop

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 1600
(view large image)

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 1600, 100% crop

Sporting one of the cleanest ISO 1600 settings I've seen in awhile, the latest Rebel has raised the bar. The look beyond ISO 400 is what we've come to associate with Canon's CMOS sensors: slightly grainy, but finely textured and generally more film-like that the blotchy chroma noise seen from many competitive cameras and sensors.

The XSi's high-ISO noise reduction function was enabled for the studio shots taken above, and what impresses most is how little detail is lost to the camera's noise reduction algorithm. In-camera NR seems to have a broader effect on chroma than luminance noise, though even without noise reduction switched on, performance at ISO 1600 is still impressive:

Canon Rebel XSi
(view large image)

Note that engaging noise reduction does greatly reduce the number of shots that can be taken in burst mode – down to a mere two shots regardless of capture size or quality.

While the improvements are subtle in normal prints, comparing ISO 1600 crops from the XSi (again, with NR engaged) with the other contenders in the entry-level space shows usually slight but clear advantages in terms of detail rendering and dark-area noise, especially.

Canon Rebel XSi
Canon Rebel XSi

Nikon D60
Nikon D60

Pentax K200D
Pentax K200D

Olympus E-420
Olympus E-420

CORRECTION: When this article was originally posted, the crop from the XSi show in block above was, incorrectly, an ISO 100 shot. The correct ISO 1600 shot has been substituted. Apologies for the error, and thanks to everyone who emailed about the correction. - Ed.

Again, at normal print sizes it was hard to see much difference between the XSi and the D60, for instance, and it took close analysis of pretty sizable enlargements to really pull out the distinctions. Still, in terms of objective analysis, the XSi is clearly a step ahead of the competition in this area, with excellent smoothness, good detail, and the lack of overt color flattening at high ISOs expanding the usable, "no reservations" range up to at least ISO 800 – even for big prints.

Canon Rebel XSi
ISO 800 (view large image)

Additional Sample Images

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

CONCLUSIONS

Expectations for the XSi were admittedly high, and hence the opportunities for Canon to come up short in the court of public opinion were numerous. In spite of this high bar, the XSi will unquestionably win converts to Canon with its (still) excellent AF system, super-smooth CMOS sensor with very impressive high ISO performance, and (for some users, at least) reasonably functional live view system. Default image processing is perhaps a little bland, though the opportunities to fine tune it are among the best found on an entry-level DSLR. Great lens and flash selections, an interface that works well for those who like dedicated controls for nearly every function, and plenty of opportunities for customization will further entice serious shooters looking for a lot of power on the cheap.

For more mainstream photographers, however, sub-par kit lenses, average build quality and ergonomics, and a total use experience that takes some getting used to may all be turn offs. As a general photographic tool in auto mode using only the default settings, the XSi is just fine, but so is most every DSLR out there: with kit lens sharpness that simply can't keep up with what the XSi is capable of and some harshness where highlights are concerned, users who never think to upgrade their lens and stay on the auto mode of the dial may (sadly) never move beyond shooting images that come up short of the XSi's impressive potential.

When given an opportunity – and the glass – to stretch its photographic legs, the XSi is a powerful tool that continues to iron out minor annoyances with previous-generation Rebels. Typical for Canon, it's a fairly conservative upgrade on the whole that carries over the vast majority of its technology from its predecessor. This, combined with strong competition, means that the XSi isn't the technologically dominant camera in its space, but the capabilities of its new sensor, especially, will likely be recognized as the standard by which all other sub-$1,000 DSLRs are judged.

Pros:

Cons:

 

Canon Rebel XSi Specifications:

Sensor 12.2 megapixel, 22.2x14.8mm CMOS
Lens/Zoom Canon EF/EF-S mount
LCD/Viewfinder 3.0", 230K-pixel TFT LCD with live view; Pentamirror optical viewfinder with diopter adjustment
Sensitivity ISO 100-1600
Shutter Speed 30-1/4000 seconds
Shooting Modes Auto, Program, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Scene, Manual
Scene Presets Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports, Night Portrait, Flash Off
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom
Metering Modes Evaluative, Partial, Center-Weighted, Spot
Focus Modes AI Focus, AI Servo, One Shot, Manual
Drive Modes Single, Continuous, Self Timer, Self Timer Continuous
Flash Modes Auto, Forced On, Force Off, Red-Eye Reduction
Self Timer Settings
10 seconds, 2 seconds, Off
Memory Formats SD, SDHC
Internal Memory
None
File Formats JPEG, RAW
Max. Image Size 4272 x 2848
Max. Video Size
N/A
Zoom During Video N/A
Battery Rechargeable 1050 mAh lithium-ion
Connections USB 2.0, AV output, remote control in
Additional Features Live View, DIGIC III Processor, Auto Lighting Optimizer, 9-Point AF System