As promised, I’m going to finally review my Canon Rebel XT, aka Canon EOS 350D, aka Canon Kiss n Digital (of which, was advertised in Japan with a family painted like KISS, the band). This camera is Canon’s entry level professional DSLR, in their long line of SLR cameras; replacing the original Canon Rebel/EOS 300D. I am not going to review any software that came with the camera, as I exclusively use Adobe Photoshop.
Caution: This review contains technical terms, and often gets off topic and rants a bit. It also gets into the merits of professional photography, which directly effects the usage of an advanced camera such as the Rebel XT.
- 8 megapixel CMOS sensor with near unparalleled quality. 3456×2304 of low noise pixels, I don’t think I’ve seen a better quality image on any camera, short of stepping up to the 20D, a camera that costs at least $500 more with little other benefit.
- Bright pop-up flash that almost negates the need for a secondary flash, even though it has the plug on top for it. The camera supports E-TTL 2 flashes, but from what I’ve been told, the pop-up flash is brighter than every single external flash Canon makes except for their highest end model, the Speedlite 580EX.
- Multiple flash triggering so you can use an external flash in conjunction with the pop-up flash, for cases such as remote flash units, or just using the above mentioned 580EX and pop-up together for even brighter flashes.
- CompactFlash slot that writes at around 4 megabytes/sec, and supports cards over 2 gigabytes in size. CompactFlash cards are also the cheapest for their storage size, and come in sizes bigger than competing standards. SecureDigital (SD) cards cost about 50% more, and the largest ones on the market are 1 gigabyte, where there are 2 and 4 gigabyte CF cards available, and even larger Microdrives in CF format.
- Bright, high res, 1.8″ LCD display that accurately reproduces colors and can be viewed in bright sunlight. It is high res enough to display lots of detail, and the camera features standard functionality to be able to zoom into pictures to see detail up close.
- Decent kit lens, the EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 II, is a pretty good lens to start out with. It has 3x zoom, and is pretty sharp, and beats the pants off of even the best point and shoot’s lens quality. It cannot be purchased separately, but I’ve figured out that its roughly $100 of the kit’s purchase price.
- Light weight and small size, this camera is not much bigger than most “full sized” point and shoots (without lens attached, of course); with lens, it weighs less than my previous camera, a Kodak DC215.
- Adjustable everything, and I do mean almost everything. Every little bit of functionality in this camera can be configured to suite your tastes.
- Multiple environment modes to optimize the camera for different environments, easily changed with the twist of a knob.
6 Month Review
So, as you can see, I do like this camera. Paired with my Canon i9900 photo printer, I’ve been printing out perfectly saturated, sharp, amazingly looking photos. Even at 13×19″ (the printer’s maximum size), photos look just as sharp as they do at 4×6″.
During the past six months, I’ve taken 1562 pictures, and have seen everything it can possibly do. The camera, as much as I love it, is not perfect. It shouldn’t be, either, otherwise how would Canon sell the 20D, a camera that costs almost $500 more; plus all the other higher end models. But any flaws can be easily corrected.
Typically, I shoot in IS0 1600 only. The camera has settings from 100 to 1600, and I’ve found that lower ISO settings, not just on this camera but on any camera, although increasing brightness in dark scenes, causes blurry photos. The only way to negate that, of course, is exclusively use ISO 1600 and use a brighter exposure level (I’ve been using +1/3rd). You get bright, sharp, low noise pictures; and any unwanted noise can be cleaned up in Photoshop.
Of course, being able to configure ISO, auto-exposure, and using a custom exposure level setting (cameras usually use a 1/2 f-stop scale, not 1/3rd, and the Rebel XT defaults to 1/2), is a testament to it’s configurability. I also use raw picture output instead of the default standard JPEG compression, to get the full 12-bit precision out of the sensor, and to prevent typical JPEG artifacts. I also use the AdobeRGB colorspace instead of the default sRGB (which monitors use) because it closer reflects the sensor’s output.
Typically, changing ISO, increasing auto-exposure, using raw output, and using a colorspace that better reflects the camera is what most professionals do automatically. They want the get the best picture out of the camera to begin with. I’m also using a post processing profile in the camera that disables any post processing (Parameters 2 in the parameters menu; its on the Camera 2 page).
“But Patrick, doesn’t that mean you’re basically using an entirely different camera than what’s out of the box?”
No. The camera is setup by default to be easy to use, and to give users images that look good without any additional mucking with. And that it does. It has multiple settings, that all you do is twist the mode knob on the top of the camera, and get what you want. Want to take a picture of a mountain? Use the outdoors mode. Want to take a picture at night? Use the night mode. Want to take pictures of fast moving objects? Use the sports mode.
However, it has additional modes that disable automatic features. The least automatic mode (and the most advanced) is a photography enthusiast’s wet dream, and allows you to do pretty much anything you can think of. If you want to be a professional photographer, you use one of the advanced modes, not one of the basic ones.
That said, being able to configure the camera to basically work totally different than what’s out of the box is a good thing. The ability to configure this camera to fit my workflow instead of the one Canon set by default is one of the largest strengths. No point and shoot gives me this level of configurability.
However, if you want the camera to do everything for you, and take great pictures, it will. I was using basic modes for the first 500 pictures or so, and they’re quite amazing looking; they still beat the pants of off higher end point and shoots, and still look sharp, low noise, and saturated with color.
I recommend as your first purchases for anyone that owns a Rebel XT, or any Canon DSLR, is a clear UV lens filter, and a stable three axis tripod. The UV lens filter (I use a Sigma EX Multi-coated UV Filter, 58mm) will prevent scratches and dust on the lens. If you irreparably scratch the UV filter, just go buy another one. If you irreparably scratch the lens, you’re out hundreds of dollars. The UV filter also increases the quality of “blue sky” shots, and also reduces haze in hazy environments.
As for the tripod, I suggest you get one that does all three axes1 (rotation, pitch, and yaw), and is stable enough to hold your camera. Good ones for beginners cost $30 and up, but it is well worth the investment.
Also, to go with your tripod, I suggest a wired remote trigger. The Rebel XT has a little 2.5mm stereo plug on the side to plug a wired trigger in, that works exactly like the one on the camera itself: half-press to focus, fully press to take a picture. The one that goes with the Rebel XT is the Canon Remote Switch E3. I’d avoid the wireless ones because you have to be in front of the camera to use them.
Last, but not least, eventually you’ll want a better lens. Sure, the kit lens is great, but you’ll eventually out grow it. Buying a new lens is on my to-do list, and I’ve decided to replace it with Canon’s EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, a lens that is amazingly sharp, silent when focusing (due to the Ultra-sonic Motor (USM)), and increases sharpness when holding the camera due to Image Stabilization (IS). The zoom range is larger than the kit lens’, and is overall well worth the $425 or so.
Of course, now I’m going to go have to buy a new UV filter… that lens uses 72 mm filters.
I have to say the Canon Rebel XT is well worth the $950 I paid for it, and this camera is probably going to stick around for the next four or five years because of how well made, and featureful it is.
: Axes is the plural of axis, pronounced “axe ease”.