Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT
At a Glance
It's fair to say that the Canon EOS Digital Rebel launched the now burgeoning field of digital single-lens-reflex cameras--mostly due to its breakthough price of under $1000. But since its release a year-and-a-half or so ago, the Digital Rebel has started to seem a little dowdy next to the latest SLRs from Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Minolta. With the new Digital Rebel XT, Canon lost an opportunity to make it more professional-looking than its predecessor, but it did add the necessary internal improvements to put the Rebel XT among the top consumer SLRs.
The first of these enhancements--bumping up the resolution from 6.1 megapixels to 8 megapixels--was a no-brainer. Not because you can make huge enlargements, but because it gives you more latitude for cropping shots and keeping them sharp. I was able to crop an action shot of a rugby match by about 75 percent and still print a pretty sharp 5 by 7.
Both the Rebel and the Rebel XT do a fine job recording images--neck-and-neck in color and exposure accuracy in the shots I took out in the field. Changes in our lab tests preclude direct comparisons between the two cameras, but the Rebel XT earned the highest scores recorded to date for exposure, color accuracy, and overall quality. Its sharpness score put it in a statistical tie with a number of 6-, 7-, and 8-megapixel models.
The most impressive change in the XT is its speed: In burst-shooting mode and using high-speed CompactFlash media, the XT captured up to 20 shots at a steady 3 frames per second before its buffer filled and it slowed down to a little under 2 fps. The original Rebel fired four shots at around 2.4 fps, and then was too slow to make burst shooting truly viable. The two cameras sound differently in burst mode--the XT makes a noise like the well-built motor drives of high-end 35mm SLRs, while the original model clanks in a way that does not inspire confidence in its long-term durability.
Other improvements of note include the XT's capability to record images simultaneously in RAW and JPEG; its ability to adjust the color balance (along with automatic color-balance bracketing); and its size (the XT is considerably less bulky than its forebear--a difference that becomes very noticeable after a full day of shooting).
Canon made very few changes to the layout of the Rebel's controls and menus--they're relatively quick to change and easily interpreted. My minor gripes include the somewhat stiff selector dial and the small size of the text in the menus. I had a really hard time seeing the menu choices in bright sunlight. Call it vanity, but the Rebel XT's smooth plastic-like case (like the original Rebels) looks kind of cheap and fragile when compared to the metallic bodies of almost any other digital SLR. Canon's good call here was to offer a black-body version, which looks a little more professional.
Fast action, compact size, and great imaging makes the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT a top pick among inexpensive digital SLRs.
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT
8.0 megapixels, 3456 by 2304 maximum resolution, 28mm to 88mm focal range (35mm equivalent), f3.5 to f36 maximum aperture range, shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/4000 second, optical and LCD viewfinders, USB connection, CompactFlash slot, rechargeable lithium ion batteries, 17.1 ounces (body only), Adobe Photoshop Elements and Canon EOS Digital Solution utilities. One-year parts and labor warranty, 16-hour weekday, 10-hour Saturday toll-free support.