Interestingly, the new Canon EOS Rebel XS reuses a name that was chosen way back in 1993 for one of the company's early EOS film cameras. The Rebel XS film camera of yesteryear was an impressive achievement for its time, being the world's smallest and lightest 35mm AF SLR. Today's new Canon Rebel XS digital SLR (known overseas as the EOS 1000D [Europe] / EOS Kiss F [Japan]) looks to be quite capable as well, including many features from the company's flagship Rebel-series model, the EOS Rebel XSi (alternately known in some markets as the EOS 450D or EOS Kiss X2).
The XSi was announced just a little over four months ago at the annual Photo Marketing Association tradeshow, and the decision to develop a lower-cost sibling alongside that model marks a departure from Canon's past DSLR strategy. Previously, each time Canon announced a new flagship for the Rebel DSLR line, the predecessor was retained in the lineup as a lower-cost model. Indicating how important and competitive the entry-level DSLR segment is becoming, Canon has now chosen to develop and release two Rebel models near-simultaneously, with the Rebel XS largely being a clone of the Rebel XSi. Discussions with the company's representatives prior to launch suggest that this approach is likely to continue in the future.
This change of approach really shows how far the digital SLR market has come, as did a couple of figures mentioned by Canon reps during our introduction to the Rebel XS. The all-time peak for film SLR sales occurred in 1984, with global sales of some 8 million units worldwide. Last year, the digital SLR market came close to matching this with sales of some 7 million units. Projections are that this year will see digital SLR sales surpass those of film SLRs at their peak, with an expected 9 to 10 million DSLRs shipping around the world in 2008 - and the market still showing signs of growing!
Canon's EOS Rebel XS has a 10.1 megapixel image sensor that is almost identical to that used in the Rebel XTi, with the same photosite size and only slight changes to the overall packaging. This compares to a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels for the existing XSi digital SLR. Other areas where the Rebel XS' specification has been pared down somewhat from the XSi to control cost and provide product differentiation include the LCD (2.5" diagonal instead of 3.0"), autofocus system (7-point using the same sensor from the Rebel XT, vs. 9-point in the XSi), viewfinder (81% coverage vs. 87%), image processing (12-bit vs. 14-bit), metering (the spot mode found in the XSi has been dropped), and remote control functionality (wired only, vs. wired and wireless).
A couple of other differences relate to the change in bit depth. The highlight tone priority function found on the XSi relies on 14-bit imaging and has hence been dropped from the 12-bit Canon XS, while the RAW file format is likewise 12-bit rather than 14-bit on the newer camera. In JPEG shooting, Canon says that its new DSLR is impressively capable of shooting at a steady three frames per second up to the available flash card capacity (assuming there's enough available battery life, of course). RAW shooters may be disappointed to find that RAW shooting on the XS is much slower than its sibling though. Where the higher-res XSi could shoot 3.5 frames per second for 6 frames. the Canon Rebel XS can only manage 1.5 frames per second when shooting in RAW mode. Burst depth is unchanged in RAW shooting even though the pace is so much slower - just 6 frames.
As compared to the Rebel XTi which it effectively replaces, the Canon EOS XS has some very important differences that could make it a worthwhile upgrade. Most notably, as with the Rebel XSi alongside which it was developed, the Canon Rebel XS has a live view mode with contrast-detection autofocusing. There's also Canon's DIGIC III image processor where the XTi was based on the older DIGIC II processor; the newer type should offer better performance and image quality. Battery life should be increased by around 50% as compared to the XTi, with the Rebel XS using the same LP-E5 battery from the XSi, rather than the lower-capacity NP-2LH of the XTi.
The viewfinder coverage is just slightly different, with 81% coverage on the XS versus 80% on the XTi, and thankfully the Rebel XS does include an indication of ISO sensitivity in the viewfinder. There's also a better kit lens, as the Canon XS includes the same image stabilized 18-55mm lens that ships in the XSi kit. The Canon Rebel XS is some 2.5 ounces lighter than the XTi, andhas no limit on burst depth in JPEG shooting as mentioned previously. One other difference could make the Rebel XS a lot more attractive in some applications than the XTi. Where the previous model wasn't compatible with Canon's OSK-E3 data security kit, the Rebel XS is - and that could mean quite a savings for companies who need this functionality and plan to buy a significant number of camera bodies, given that they won't necessarily need to shell out for the flagship Rebel XSi.
Although pricing and availability haven't been announced at this time, we understand that the Canon EOS Rebel XS should ship later this summer. Early indications are that pricing will be around that of the current XTi model, or in other words around $200 below prices for the Rebel XSi. Two versions will be available, the difference being the body color - black or silver.
Alongside its new digital SLR, Canon has also announced a new flash strobe. The Canon Speedlite 430EX II is almost identical to the existing Speedlite 430EX. Changes include a metal hotshoe mount with clip lock (similar to that used in the 580EX II), the ability to set manual flash exposure in 1/3EV steps, and the ability to control the flash remotely from the camera body on DIGIC III DSLRs. Pricing is expected to be in the same region as the previous model, which retails for $299.