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Canon EOS 350D Digital Rebel

Canon makes an impressive update to their wildly popular "Digital Rebel."!

Review First Posted: 3/23/2003, updated: 6/4/2005




MSRP $899 US

 

*
Canon Digital SLR designed ground-up to be digital
*
8.0-megapixel CMOS sensor, 3,456 x 2,304 pixel images
*
ISO of 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
*
Impressive image quality, color accuracy, low image noise, resolution
* Compatible with all Canon EOS system lenses and accessories, focal length multiplier of 1.6, plus the new EF-S digital-only design.

 

Overview

The Canon Digital Rebel XT builds on the huge success of the original Digital Rebel, a camera that literally turned the digital camera world on its ear when it was first introduced. A six-megapixel digital SLR that sold with a lens for less than $1,000, the Digital Rebel not only challenged Nikon, Olympus, and Fuji in the D-SLR business, but promised to cut drastically into the all-in-one "prosumer" market. Borrowing its name from their highly popular "Rebel" line of entry-level film SLRs, the Digital Rebel offered many of the same exposure features and improvements as the 10D, but slightly scaled back to keep costs under control and to provide some differentiation between the Rebel and its higher-priced sibling.

Where the original Digital Rebel left off, the Digital Rebel XT now carries on and improves. The Rebel XT boasts an 8.2-megapixel CMOS sensor (yielding 8.0 megapixel images) for even higher resolution images, better manual control over AF and metering modes, an adjustable EV step size, flash exposure compensation, and a Custom Function menu for customizing the camera even further. It's a vast improvement over the preceding model, even though the original Digital Rebel was an excellent camera in its own right. Read on for all of the details!

 

Highlights

 

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Comparison Table

Many of our readers will be familiar with Canon's earlier Digital Rebel and the very popular EOS 20D and Nikon D70 (now the D70s). The table below highlights similarities and differences between these four hot cameras, as well as a range of competing models from other manufacturers. The colored highlights in the Rebel XT's column call attention to differences between the XT and the original Digital Rebel. (Green means the XT surpasses the original model, pink means it's less capable, and yellow means it's different, not necessarily better or worse.(

Canon Digital Rebel XT vs the competition
Manufacturer
Canon
Canon
Canon
Nikon
Nikon
Konica Minolta
Olympus
Pentax
Pentax
Sigma
Model
EOS 350D Digital Rebel XT
EOS 300D Digital Rebel
EOS 20D
D50
D70s
Maxxum 7 Digital
EVOLT E-300
*ist D
*ist Ds
SD10
Imaging
System
Sensor Manufacturer Canon Canon Canon Sony Sony Unknown Kodak Sony Sony National Semiconductor / Foveon
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS CMOS CCD CCD CCD CCD CCD CCD X3 CMOS
Color Filter Array RGB RGB RGB RGB RGB RGB RGB RGB RGB None
Total Megapixels
8.2
6.5
8.25
6.24
6.24
6.3
8.9
6.31
6.31
3.5 x 3 photosensors
Effective Megapixels 8.0 6.3 8.05 6.1 6.1 6.1 8.15 6.1 6.1 3.4 x 3 photosensors
Effective Sensor Size (mm)
22.2 x 14.8
22.7 x 15.1
22.5 x 15.0
23.7 x 15.6
23.7 x 15.6
23.7 x 15.6
17.3 x 13.0
23.7 x 15.6
23.7 x 15.6
20.7 x 13.8
Focal Length Multiplier (approx.)
1.6x
1.6x
1.6x
1.5x
1.5x
1.5x
2.0x
1.5x
1.5x
1.7x
Image Processor
DIGIC II
SLR-DIGIC
DIGIC II
Not stated
Not stated
Not stated
Not stated
Not stated
Not stated
Not stated
Viewfinder
Type
Eye-level pentamirror
Eye-level pentamirror
Eye-level pentaprism
Eye-level pentamirror
Eye-level pentamirror
Eye-level pentaprism
Eye-level Porro Mirror system
Eye-level pentaprism
Eye-level pentaprism
Pentaprism
Coverage
95%
95%
95%
95%
95%
95%
94%
95%
95%
97% vertical, 98% horizontal
Magnification (-1 diopter with 50mm lens at infinity)
0.8x
0.8x
0.9x
0.75x
0.75x
0.9x
1.0x
0.95x
0.95x
0.77x
Eyepoint (mm)
21
21
20
18
18
25
20
Unknown
Unknown
18
Dioptric Adjustment Range (diopters)
-3.0 to +1.0
-3.0 to +1.0
-3.0 to +1.0
-1.6 to +0.5
-1.6 to +1.5
-3.0 to +1.0
-3.0 to +1.0
-2.5 to +1.5
-2.5 to +1.5
-3 to +1
Focusing Screen
Fixed, precision matte screen
Fixed, all-matte screen
Fixed, precision matte screen
B-type BriteView clear matte Mark V, with superimposed focus brackets.
B-type BriteView clear matte screen II, with on-demand grid lines
Spherical Acute Matte (G-type as standard)
Fixed (Matte with AF/Metering marks)
Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen
Interchangeable Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen (AF Frame Matte screen included as standard; AF Split-Image Matte and AF Scale Matte screens available as optional accessories)
Unknown
Viewfinder
Info Display
AF information (AF points, focus confirmation light), exposure information (shutter speed, aperture value, manual exposure, AE lock, exposure level, AEB in progress, exposure warning), flash information (flash ready, red-eye reduction lamp on, high-speed sync, FE lock, flash exposure compensation), maximum burst, CF card information
AF information (AF points, focus confirmation light), exposure information (shutter speed, aperture value, manual exposure, AE lock, exposure level), flash information (flash ready, red-eye reduction lamp on, high-speed sync, FE lock), shots remaining, CF card information
AF (AF points, focus confirmation light), exposure (shutter speed, aperture value, manual exposure, AE lock, exposure compensation amount, AEB level, partial metering area), flash (flash ready, red-eye reduction lamp on, high-speed sync, FE lock, flash exposure compensation amount), warnings (exposure warning, improper FE lock warning, CF card full warning, CF card error warning, no CF card warning, busy), maximum burst for continuous shooting, shots remaining
AF information (AF points, focus confirmation, AF area mode, AE/AF lock indicator), exposure information (shutter speed, aperture value, manual exposure, AE/AF lock indicator, exposure level, flash exposure, exposure compensation indicator, pre-set white balance recording indicator, flash-ready indicator, shots remaining, battery level, PC mode indicator
AF information (AF points, focus confirmation, AF area mode, AE/AF lock indicator), exposure information (shutter speed, aperture value, manual exposure, AE/AF lock indicator, exposure level, flash exposure, exposure compensation indicator), flash-ready indicator, shots remaining, battery level
(sorry, don't have the list for this one)
AF information (AF frame, focus confirmation), aperture value, shutter speed, exposure compensation amount, flash indicator, AE lock, white balance, metering mode, battery check, exposure mode, number of "storable sequential pictures" (not seen on prototype)

Out of image area: Built-in flash status, AF sensor pattern, in-focus, shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation factor, bar graph.

Within image area: AF frame with superimposed AF sensor point, spot AF frame.

Flash information, Picture mode (Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Action, Night scene portrait), In-focus, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Exposure compensation factor, Manual white balance, Manual focus, ISO sensitivity warning, Auto exposure lock signal
(sorry, don't have the list for this one)
Depth of Field Preview
Enabled with depth-of-field preview button
Enabled with depth-of-field preview button
Enabled with depth-of-field preview button
Not available
Enabled with depth-of-field preview button
Enabled with depth-of-field preview button
Enabled with depth-of-field preview button
Enabled with depth-of-field preview position on power switch
Enabled with depth-of-field preview position on power switch
Enabled with depth-of-field preview button
Recording
System
Recording Media / Quantity / Slot Type
Type I or II CF card / Microdrive
Type I or II CF card / Microdrive
Type I or II CF card / Microdrive
Secure Digital card
Type I or II CF card / Microdrive
Type I or II CF card / Microdrive
Type I or II CF card / Microdrive
Type I or II CF card / Microdrive
Secure Digital card
Type I or II CF card / Microdrive
Compatible File System
FAT 16 / FAT 32
FAT 16 / FAT 32
FAT 16 / FAT 32
FAT 16 / FAT 32
FAT 16 / FAT 32
FAT 16 / FAT 32
FAT 16 / FAT 32
FAT 16 / FAT 32
FAT 16 / FAT 32
FAT 16
Recording Formats
RAW (CR2), JPEG
RAW (CRW), JPEG
RAW (CR2), JPEG
RAW (NEF), JPEG
RAW (NEF), JPEG
RAW (MRW), JPEG
RAW (ORF), JPEG, TIFF
RAW (PEF), JPEG, TIFF
RAW (PEF), JPEG, TIFF
RAW (X3F)
Maximum Resolution
3456 x 2304
3072 x 2048
3504 x 2336
3008 x 2000
3008 x 2000
3008 x 2000
3,264 x 2,448
3008 x 2008
3008 x 2008
2268 x 1512
Reduced Resolutions (JPEG only)
2496 x 1664; 1728 x 1152
2048 x 1360; 1356 x 1024
2544 x 1696; 1752 x 1168
2256 x 1496; 1504 x 1000
2240 x 1488; 1504 x 1000
2256 x 1496; 1504 x 1000
3,200 x 2,400, 2,560 x 1,920, 1,600 x 1,200 1,280 x 960 1,024 x 768 640 x 480
2400 x 1600; 1536 x 1024
2400 x 1600; 1536 x 1024
1512 x 1008; 1134 x 756
RAW + JPEG Recording
Yes, any resolution
Yes, Middle Fine JPEG only, embedded in RAW
Yes, selectable JPEG resolution / compression
Yes, basic JPEG only
Yes, basic JPEG only
Yes, selectable JPEG resolution (fine compression only)
Yes, Selectable JPEG resolution / compression
No
No
No
Color Space &
White Balance
User-Selectable Color Space
Yes
sRGB + Adobe RGB
Yes
sRGB + Adobe RGB
Yes
sRGB + Adobe RGB
Yes
sRGB (two variants) + Adobe RGB
Yes
sRGB (two variants) + Adobe RGB
Yes
sRGB (two variants) + Adobe RGB
Yes
sRGB + Adobe RGB
Yes
sRGB + Adobe RGB
Yes
sRGB + Adobe RGB
n/a (color space depends on software)
Processing Parameters
(Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Color Tone) / # of Increments
5
(Same as original Digital Rebel, but with the addition of a Black and White mode that includes tone and contrast adjustments.)
5
(Same as 10D, but new is default sets: one mimics 10D settings and one boosts contrast, saturation, and sharpening for snappier prints. This is the factory default setting)
5
6 options each for sharpness and contrast, 3 options for saturation. 7-step hue adjustment. Digital vari-programs preset various processing parameters as well, and color space III boosts saturation somewhat, particularly in greens.
6 options each for sharpness and contrast, 3 options for saturation. 7-step hue adjustment. Digital vari-programs preset various processing parameters as well, and color space III boosts saturation somewhat, particularly in greens.
5
5 options each for sharpness, saturation, and contrast. Normal/Low/High-key Gradation adjustment
3 options each for contrast, sharpness and saturation
3 options each for contrast, sharpness and saturation
n/a (processing parameters depend on software)
Preset WB settings
6 (Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash)
6 (Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash)
6 (Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash)
6 (Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash)
6 (Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash)
6 (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash)
14 (Auto, Custom, plus 12 Kelvin Temperature settings correlated with common light sources, such as incandescent, various types of fluorescent, etc.)
11 (Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent [white, neutral, or daylight], Tungsten, and three Manual settings)
9 (Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten Light, Fluorescent Light [White, Daylight, Neutral], Manual)
8 (Auto, Sunlight, Shade, Overcast, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom)
Manual Color Temperature Setting Range
None
None
2800 ~ 10000K in 100K increments
(No Kelvin option, but very broad Preset WB range)
(No Kelvin option, but very broad Preset WB range)
2500 ~ 9900K in 100K increments
2,000 ~ 10,000K (16 settings, varying increments)
None
None
None
WB Adjustment Range
±9 steps in 1-step increments
5 mireds per step
±3 steps in 1-step increments
5 mireds per step
±3 steps in 1-step increments
5 mireds per step
Not available
±3 steps in 1-step increments
10 mireds per step
±3 steps in 1-step increments
Arbitrary step size (approx. 10 mireds per step in most modes)
±7 steps in 1-step increments, unknown step size
Not available
Not available
None
Autofocus
System
Type
TTL-CT-SIR with a CMOS sensor
(TTL secondary image registration, phase detection)
TTL-CT-SIR with a CMOS sensor
(TTL secondary image registration, phase detection)
TTL-CT-SIR with a CMOS sensor
(TTL secondary image registration, phase detection)
TTL phase detection by Nikon Multi-CAM900 autofocus module
TTL phase detection by Nikon Multi-CAM900 autofocus module
TTL phase detection with CCD line sensors
TTL phase detection
TTL phase-matching by SAFOX VIII
TTL phase-matching by SAFOX VIII
TTL phase difference detection
# of Focusing Points (Focusing Point Type)
7 points (1 cross-type, 2 horizontal-type, 4 vertical-type)
7 points (1 cross-type, 2 horizontal-type, 4 vertical-type)
9 points, 1 cross type and 8 single-axis
5 points
5 points
9 points, 8 lines with center cross-hair sensor
3 points
11 points
11 points
1 point
Superimposed Focus Point Display Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes n/a
AF Working Range
EV 0.5 ~ 18
EV 0.5 ~ 18 (ISO 100)
EV 0.5 ~ 18
EV -1 ~ 19 (ISO 100)
EV -1 ~ 19 (ISO 100)
EV-1 ~ EV18 (ISO 100)
EV 0 ~ 19
EV0 to EV19 (ISO 200)
EV0 to EV19 (ISO 200)
EV2 to 18 (ISO 100)
AF-assist Beam
Yes, stroboscopic flash (Range: Approx. 4.0m / 13.1ft. at center, approx. 3.5m/11.5ft. off-center) Note: Only available when flash is enabled.
Yes, stroboscopic flash (Range: Approx. 4.0m / 13.1ft. at center, approx. 3.5m/11.5ft. off-center) Note: Only available when flash is enabled.
Yes, stroboscopic flash (Range: Approx. 4.0m / 13.1ft. at center, approx. 3.5m/11.5ft. off-center)
Bright incandescent lamp, (Range approx. 3.0 m, 9.8 ft, depending on lens.) Not dependent on flash setting.
Bright incandescent lamp, (Range approx. 3.0 m, 9.8 ft, depending on lens.) Not dependent on flash setting.
Yes, stroboscopic flash
With built-in flash unit, and on dedicated Olympus external flash units. Note: Only available when flash is enabled.
Yes, stroboscopic flash
Yes, stroboscopic flash
No
One-shot AF
Enabled in Portrait, Landscape, Close-up (Macro), Night Portrait, and A-DEP modes.
Selectable in Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual modes.
Enabled in Portrait, Landscape, Close-up (Macro), Night Portrait, and A-DEP modes.
Enabled in Portrait, Landscape, Close-up (Macro), Night Portrait, and A-DEP modes.
Selectable in Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual modes.
Available in all modes
Available in all modes
Available in all modes
Locked by first position of Shutter Button / OK Button (Customizable)
Available in all modes
Unknown
Unknown
AI Servo (Tracking) AF
Enabled in Sports mode.
Selectable in Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual modes.
Enabled in Sports mode only.
Enabled in Sports mode.
Selectable in Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual modes.
Available in all modes
(D50 adds AF-A mode, for auto selection of one-shot or tracking AF, compared to D70).
Available in all modes (D70s adds all-area search priority function, compared to D70).
Available in all modes
Available in Continuous AF Mode
Available in Continuous AF Mode
Unknown
Unknown
AI Focus AF
Enabled in Full Auto and Flash Off modes.
Selectable in Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual modes.
Enabled in Full Auto, Flash Off, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual modes.
Enabled in Full Auto and Flash Off modes.
Selectable in Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual modes.
Slightly different, but closest-subject focus priority available in all modes
Slightly different, but closest-subject focus priority available in all modes
Available in all modes
Predictive AF for moving subjects, but doesn't appear to track across AF areas.
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Exposure
Control
Shooting Modes
12 - Program AE (Full Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Flash Off, Program), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, depth-of-field AE, manual exposure, ETTL autoflash
12 - Program AE (Full Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Flash Off, Program), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, depth-of-field AE, manual exposure, ETTL autoflash
12 - Program AE (Full Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Flash Off, Program), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, depth-of-field AE, manual exposure, ETTL autoflash
11 - Program, shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, Manual, Auto, Portrait, Landcape, Close up, Sports, Child, Night Portrait.
11 - Program, shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, Manual, Auto, Portrait, Landcape, Close up, Sports, Night Landscape, Night Portrait.
8 - Full Auto, Program, shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, manual, three memory register settings
9 - Program, aperture-priority AE, shutter-priority AE, Manual, Portrait, Landcape, Close up, Sports, Night Landscape, plus:

14 Scene modes (Landscape, Landscape+Portrait, Night Scene, Night+Portrait, Fireworks, Sunset, Portrait, High Key, Macro, Documents, Museum, Sport, Beach & Snow, and Candle)

6 - Auto exposure with Hyper Program, Programmed AE, Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE, Metered Manual, bulb
13 - Auto, Programmed AE, Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE, Metered Manual, Bulb, Normal, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Moving Object, Night Scene Portrait, Flash Off
4 - Programmed AE, Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE, Manual
Metering Zones
35
35
35
420
1,005
14
Not stated
16
16
8
Metering Modes
Evaluative (linked to any AF point), center weighted average, 9% partial
Evaluative (linked to any AF point), center weighted average (set automatically in manual mode), 9% partial
Evaluative (linked to any AF point), center weighted, 9% partial
1) 3D color matrix metering with 420-segment RGB sensor. (2) Center-weighted: Weight of 75% (8mm dia. circle) in center of frame, or weighting based on average of entire frame. (3) Spot: Meters 2.3 mm dia. circle (about one percent of frame) centered on active focus area.
1) 3D color matrix metering with 1,005-pixel RGB sensor(2) Center-weighted: Weight of 75% (8mm dia. circle) given to 6, 8, 10, or 13 mm dia. circle in center of frame, or weighting based on average of entire frame(3) Spot: Meters 2.3 mm dia. circle (about 1% of frame) centered on active focus area
14-segment honeycomb-pattern metering, Center-weighted, Spot
Digital ESP (evaluative), center-weighted, spot
Multi, Center-Weighted, and Spot
Multi, Center-Weighted, and Spot
Evaluative, Center, Center-weighted Average
Metering System Working Range
EV 1 ~ 20
EV 1 ~ 20
EV 1 ~ 20
1) EV 0 ~ 20 (3D color matrix or center-weighted metering)
2) EV 2 ~ 20 (spot metering)
(ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens, 20°C/68°F)
1) EV 0 ~ 20 (3D color matrix or center-weighted metering)
2) EV 2 ~ 20 (spot metering)
(ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens, 20°C/68°F)
1) EV 0 ~ 20 (14-segment honeycomb-pattern or center-weighted metering)
2) EV 3 ~ 20 (spot metering)
(ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens)
1) Digital ESP/Center Weighted Average; EV 1 ~ 20
2) Spot; EV 3 ~ 17 (50mm F2, ISO 100)
1) EV 0 ~ 21 (ISO200)
2) Multi-segment - EV 1 ~ 21.5
EV 1 ~ 21.5
EV 1 ~ 20
ISO Range / Extended
100 ~ 1600 / --
100 ~ 1600 / --
100 ~ 1600 / 3200
200 ~ 1600 / --
200 ~ 1600 / --
100 ~ 1600 / 3200
100 ~ 400 / 1600
200 ~ 1600 / 3200
200 ~ 1600 / 3200
100 ~ 800 / 1600
Exposure Compensation
+/- 2EV in 1/2 or 1/3EV increments
+/- 2EV in 1/3EV increments
+/- 2EV in 1/2 or 1/3EV increments
+/- 5EV in 1/2 or 1/3EV increments
+/- 5EV in 1/2 or 1/3EV increments
+/- 3EV in 1/2EV increments, or +/- 2EV in 1/3EV increments
+/- 5EV in 1, 1/2 or 1/3EV increments
+/- 3EV in 1/2EV increments, or +/- 2EV in 1/3EV increments
±2 EV in 1/2EV or 1/3EV increments
±3 EV in 1/3EV increments
Automatic Exposure Bracketing
+/- 2EV in 1/2 or 1/3EV increments
+/- 2EV in 1/3EV increments
+/- 2EV in 1/2 or 1/3EV increments
3 shots, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV steps
2 or 3 shots, 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 EV steps
+/- 2EV in 1/2 increments
3 shots in +/- 1, 1/2, or 1/3 EV steps
3 shots in +/- 1/2, or 1/3 EV steps
3 shots within range of ±0.5EV, ±1.0EV, ±1.5EV (0.5EV steps) or ±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1.0EV (0.3EV steps)
3 shots within ±3EV in 1/3 EV steps
Shutter Speeds,
Frame Rate, Shutter Lag
Shutter Type
Mechanical, all speeds electronically controlled
Mechanical, all speeds electronically controlled
Mechanical, all speeds electronically controlled
Combined mechanical and CCD electronic shutter
Combined mechanical and CCD electronic shutter
Mechanical (?)
Mechanical Focal Plane, electronically controlled
Mechanical Focal Plane, electronically controlled
Mechanical Focal Plane, electronically controlled
Mechanical Focal Plane, electronically controlled
Shutter Speed Range
1/4000 ~ 30 sec. (1/2 or 1/3EV increments) and bulb
1/4000 ~ 30 sec. (1/3EV increments) and bulb
1/8000 ~ 30 sec. (1/2 or 1/3EV increments) and bulb
1/4000 ~ 30 sec. in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV, bulb
1/8000 ~ 30 sec. in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV, bulb
1/4000 ~ 30 sec. in steps of 1/3 or 1/2 EV, bulb
1/4000 ~ 30 sec. , 1/3, 1/2, 1EV step selectable, bulb
1/4000 ~ 30 sec. (1/2EV increments) and bulb
1/4000 ~ 30 sec. and bulb
1/6000 ~ 30 sec. and bulb (30 sec. max)
Maximum Frames Per Second / Buffer depth
3 fps / 14 frames
2.5 fps / 4 frames
5 fps / 23 frames
(Not tested yet)
(Prototype sample)
(Not tested yet)
2.75 fps / 15 frames
2.58 fps / 4 frames
2.6 fps / 6 frames
2.8 fps / 8 frames (manufacturer spec)
1.9 fps / 6 frames
Shutter lag, full AF (sec.)
0.20-0.24
0.25-0.28
0.16-0.16
0.27
(Prototype sample)
0.29 - 0.32
0.266
0.37
0.23
(Not tested yet)
0.23
Shutter lag, prefocus (sec.)
0.095
0.142
0.077
0.114
(Prototype sample)
0.106
0.117
0.1
0.13
(Not tested yet)
0.11
Startup time (sec.)
0.25
3.09
0.25
~0.25
(Prototype sample)
~0.4
1.4
2.1
0.5
(Not tested yet)
0.6
Flash
Built-in Flash / Guide Number at ISO 100.
Yes (13 meters / 43 feet)
Yes (13 meters / 43 feet)
Yes (13 meters / 43 feet)
Yes (11 meters / 36 feet)
Yes (11 meters / 36 feet)
Yes (12 meters / 39 feet)
Unknown
Yes (11 meters / 36 feet)
Yes (15.6 meters / 51 feet) @ ISO 200
n/a
Max flash x-sync speed. (sec.)
1/200
1/200
1/250
1/500 (!)
1/500 (!)
1/160 (anti-shake off) / 1/125 (anti-shake on)
1/180
1/150
1/180
1/180
Flash Exposure Compensation
+/- 2EV in 1/2 or 1/3EV increments
No
+/- 2EV in 1/2 or 1/3EV increments
-3 to +1 EV, 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
-3 to +1 EV, 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
+/- 2EV in 1/2EV increments
+/- 2 EV in each 1, 1/2, or 1/3 EV steps
-3 to +1 EV, 1/2 EV steps
-2 to +1 EV (1/2 EV steps)
None
Slow-sync flash
1st or 2nd curtain
1st curtain only
1st or 2nd curtain
1st or 2nd curtain
1st or 2nd curtain
1st or 2nd curtain
1st or 2nd curtain
1st or 2nd curtain
Unknown
1st or 2nd curtain
PC Sync Terminal
Hot shoe only
Hot shoe only
Yes
Hot shoe only
Hot shoe only
Hot shoe only
Hot shoe only
Hot shoe only
Hot shoe only
Hot shoe only
Nikon Creative Lighting System support n/a n/a n/a Only with attached SB-800 flash Yes, one channel only, flash on camera doesn't contribute to exposure. n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Playback
System
LCD Size / Pixel Count
1.8 in. LCD / 115,000 pixels
1.8 in. LCD / 118,000 pixels
1.8 in. LCD / 118,000 pixels
2.0 in LCD / 130,000 pixels
2.0 in LCD / 130,000 pixels
2.5 in LCD / 207,000 pixels
1.8 in LCD / 134,000 pixels
1.8 in LCD / 118,000 pixels
2.0 in. LCD / 210,000 pixels
1.8 in LCD / 130,000 pixels
Enlarged Playback / Scroll
1.5~10x in 15 steps / Yes
1.5~10x in 15 steps / Yes
1.5~10x in 15 steps / Yes
1.1 - 4x in 10 steps / Yes
1.1 - 4x in 10 steps / Yes
4.7x max / Yes
2, 3, 4, 10x / Yes
Up to 12x / Yes
12x max. / Yes
4x max. / Yes
LCD Monitor Brightness Adjustment Range
5 steps
5 steps
5 steps
5 steps
5 steps
11 steps
7 steps
15 steps
Unknown
3 steps
Automatic Rotation for Vertical Shots
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
No
Unknown
No
Other Features
Computer Connection
Yes, USB 2.0, PTP-compliant
Yes, PTP-compliant, USB v 1.1
Yes, USB 2.0, PTP-compliant
Yes, PTP-compliant (v2.0 standard, v2.0 speed)
Yes, PTP-compliant (v2.0 standard, v1.1 speed)
Yes, PTP-compliant (v2.0 standard, v2.0 speed)
Yes, PTP-compliant (v2.0 standard, v1.1 max speed)
Yes, USB v1.1
USB 2.0 High Speed (PTP compliance unknown)
Yes, USB v1.1 and IEEE 1394 FireWire
Direct Printing (PictBridge-compliant printers)
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
No
Menu Languages
15 (English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.)
12 (English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and Japanese.)
12 (English, German, French, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and Japanese.)
13 (Japanese, German, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Korean, Italian, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Dutch, Swedish)
11 (Japanese, German, English, Spanish, French, Korean (?), Italian, Simplified Chinese, Dutch, Swedish)
8 (English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Simplified Chinese, and Japanese.)
2 (English, Japanese) - More coming in production models?
6 (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese)
9 (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese)
4 (English, Japanese, German, French)
Camera Default Reset
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Unknown
Yes
Custom Functions (Quantity / Settings)
Yes (9 / 24)
No
Yes (17 / 61)
Yes (6 / 20)
Yes (9 / 25)
Yes (20 / 44)
No
Yes (22 / 53)
Yes (18)
No
Remote Control
Compatible with Remote Switch RS-60E3, Remote Controller RC-5 / RC-1
Optional, Compatible with Remote Switch RS-60E3, Remote Controller RC-5 / RC-1
N3-type remote control
Optional IR
Optional, compatible with MC-DC1 or ML-L3
Optional, compatible with RC-1000S or RC-1000L
Optional IR
Optional IR
Yes, details unknown
Optional RS-21 wireless
Info LCD Panel / Illumination
Yes / Yes (dedicated button)
Yes / Yes (dedicated button)
Yes / Yes (dedicated button)
Yes / Yes (dedicated button)
Yes / Yes (dedicated button)
No / N/A
No / n/a
Yes / Yes
Unknown
Yes / No
Ultrasonic CCD dust-removal function
No
No
No
No
No
No
Yes
No
No
No
Body Structure
Body Cover/Chassis
Largely plastic, aluminum frame
Largely Plastic, aluminum frame
Magnesium Alloy / Stainless Steel
Largely Plastic
Largely Plastic
Magnesium Alloy (front) / Plastic (rear)
Metal Alloy
Largely plastic / Stainless Steel frame
Largely plastic / Stainless Steel frame
Largely plastic
Power System
Battery Compatibility
Main: NB-2LH
Backup: CR2016
Main: BP-511 / BP-512
Backup: CR2016
Main: BP-511 / BP-512
Backup: CR2025
EN-EL3
CR2 pack is an added-cost accessory
EN-EL3,
EN-EL3a
(Ships with EN-EL3a, 1500 mAh vs 1400 mAh for EN-EL3)
CR2 pack is an added-cost accessory
NP-400
BLM-1
2 x CR-V3 or 4 x AA
2 x CR-V3 or 4 x AA
2 x CR-V3 or 4 x AA
Rated Shooting Capacity at 20C/68F
100% AE: 600
50% Flash: 400
100% AE: 600
50% Flash: 400
100% AE: 650
50% Flash: 500
100% AE: 2000
50% Flash: 400
100% AE: 600
50% Flash: 400
Unknown
No flash : 1000
Unknown
Unknown
Dimensions & Weight
Dimensions (WxHxD, mm)
126.5 x 94 x 64
140 x 111 x 72.9
144 x 105.5 x 71.5
133 x 102 x 76
140 x 111 x 78
150 x 106 x 77.5
146 x 85 x 64
129 x 94.5 x 60
125 x 92.5 x 66
152 x 120 x 79
Weight (body only)
485 g / 17.1 oz.
560 g / 19.7 oz.
685g / 24.2 oz.
540 g / 19 oz.
600 g / 21 oz.
760 g / 26.81 oz
580g / 20.5 oz
550 g / 19.4 oz
505 g / 17.8 oz.
785 g / 27.7 oz.
Operational
Environment
Operating Temperature Range
0 ~ 40C / 32 ~ 104F
0 ~ 40C / 32 ~ 104F
0 ~ 40C / 32 ~ 104F
0 ~ 40C / 32 ~ 104F
0 ~ 40C / 32 ~ 104F
0 ~ 40C / 32 ~ 104F
0 ~ 40C / 32 ~ 104F
Not stated
Not stated
Not stated
Operating Humidity Range
85%
85%
85%
85%
85%
Not Stated
30 - 90%
Not stated
Not stated
Not stated
Kit Lens
Focal length/aperture
18-55mm
f/3.5-5.6
(USM II motor)
18-55mm
f/3.5-5.6
-
18-55mm
f/3.5-4.5G
18-70mm
f/3.5-4.5G ED
-
14-45mm
f3.5 - f5.6
-
-

18-50mm
F3.5-5.6 DC only, or 18-50mm
F3.5-5.6 DC and
55-200mm F4-5.6 DC

Lens Compatibility
Lens Mount / Compatibility
EF / All EOS lenses, plus EF-S lenses
EF / All EOS lenses, plus EF-S lenses
EF / All EOS lenses, plus EF-S lenses
  1. DX Nikkor: All functions supported;
  2. Type G- or D-AF Nikkor: All functions supported;
  3. Micro Nikkor 85mm F2.8D: All functions supported except some exposure modes;
  4. Other AF Nikkor (excluding lenses for F3AF): All functions supported except 3D Color Matrix Metering, i-TTL balanced Fill-Flash for digital SLR;
  5. AI-P Nikkor: All functions supported except 3D Color Matrix Metering, i-TTL balanced Fill-Flash for digital SLR and autofocus;
  6. Non-CPU: Can be used in exposure mode M, but exposure meter does not function; electronic range finder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster.
  7. IX Nikkor Lenses cannot be used.
  1. DX Nikkor: All functions supported;
  2. Type G- or D-AF Nikkor: All functions supported;
  3. Micro Nikkor 85mm F2.8D: All functions supported except some exposure modes;
  4. Other AF Nikkor (excluding lenses for F3AF): All functions supported except 3D Color Matrix Metering, i-TTL balanced Fill-Flash for digital SLR;
  5. AI-P Nikkor: All functions supported except 3D Color Matrix Metering, i-TTL balanced Fill-Flash for digital SLR and autofocus;
  6. Non-CPU: Can be used in exposure mode M, but exposure meter does not function; electronic range finder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster.
  7. IX Nikkor Lenses cannot be used.
A-type / All A-type lenses except MD and MC series manual focus lenses. AF Macro 3x - 1x f/1.7-2.8 lens cannot be used with Anti-Shake, nor does Anti-Shake work with any lens with a macro release.
Zuiko Digital, Four Thirds System Lens
KAF / compatible with PENTAX KAF2-, KAF- and KA-mount lenses.
Power zoom function not available.
K-mount lenses usable with restrictions.
S-mount lenses usable with adapter and restrictions.
67/645 lenses usable adapter and restrictions.
KAF / compatible with PENTAX KAF2-, KAF- and KA-mount lenses.
Power zoom function not available.
K-mount lenses usable with restrictions.
S-mount lenses usable with adapter and restrictions.
67/645 lenses usable adapter and restrictions.
SA mount lenses

 

User Report

Retrospective
The launch of the Canon EOS Digital Rebel in 2003 brought the digital SLR within range of consumers. The camera was so popular, Canon had to quickly ramp up production to keep up with demand. It wasn't a perfect camera, but the price was right, at $999.99, and the Digital Rebel hit the target much as did the Canon AE-1 in the late 1970's, offering ease of use in an attractive package. The Digital Rebel met most amateur photographers needs, and many pros were also seen shooting the camera on occasion, as well as scads of intermediate photographers and weekend warriors trying to make a buck with their favorite hobby. Though the camera's case wasn't as professional looking as its predecessor, the EOS 10D, its sensor was actually better than the 10D, and tuned for consumer tastes with its Parameter 1 setting (this setting boosts saturation, sharpening, and contrast to more closely match what amateur photographers expect from digicam and film output).

But there were some important features missing from the Canon Digital Rebel. Many enthusiasts complained that there was no flash compensation possible with the Digital Rebel; and though I pooh-poohed this complaint myself at first, I soon came to agree. Some didn't like the silver painted case, others thought it felt somewhat cheap in its build. The camera rattles slightly when shaken, due to some loose brackets in the pop-up flash mechanism. By far my biggest complaint with the Digital Rebel was its buffer depth. Capturing only four frames before filling the buffer, regardless of resolution or compression settings, this was an impediment that often hampered my portrait and event photography.

Still, there was no disputing the great value of the Canon Digital Rebel. Its image quality was superb, besting even very fine competitors like the Nikon D70 in some aspects. Its high-ISO performance was impressive, and its lens was surprisingly sharp and useful for all manner of photography. The combo was light, easy to use, focused quickly, and kicked out great shot after great shot.

Every great performance demands an encore, and Canon was happy to oblige. The new Canon Digital Rebel XT improves on the original in almost every way. It's smaller, lighter, faster, more versatile, more capable, and takes on nearly every trait of the benchmark EOS 20D. Its 8 megapixel sensor is slightly lower resolution than the 20D, but features like the White Balance correction table, and E-TTL II have been brought over intact. Nothing's perfect, however, and there's a bit of a dust-up here at Imaging Resource about the camera's overall size; and in particular the grip.

Surprising size
You notice it immediately: the Rebel XT is a very small camera. Not compared to most consumer-level digital cameras, mind you, but for an SLR, it easily rivals the Pentax *istD, and comes close to many of the 35mm film-based Rebel SLRs in overall size. They've taken what they claim is the basic guts of the 20D and fit it into a smaller package. The result is an SLR that can be easily concealed in a jacket or sweatshirt pocket. Okay, maybe not "concealed," given the significant bulge, but it nonetheless fits and could ride there for some time without a problem if necessary. Many buyers are going to love the Canon Digital Rebel XT for this reason alone.

But Dave's hackles have been raised by the Rebel XT's design. This doesn't usually happen, especially with cameras that he's seen deliver excellent quality images. All he has to do is pick up the XT, and he's immediately incensed. (And I mean incensed -- I'm filtering his comments on the subject quite a bit here.) The grip is way too small for his hands, and the control arrangement is too confining. My initial response was that, yes, it is smaller, but if you re-think how you hold the camera, you can still fit the pads of your fingertips in a decent position to maintain grip. As I've shot with the camera--though I'm becoming accustomed to the grip--I've begun to agree with Dave on this point. What he doesn't like is that his fingertips cram into the body because the grip isn't big enough. Trying my fingertip method unfortunately leaves your thumb and thumb heel in the wrong position to easily move to and actuate nearby controls. Also, when using the exposure compensation function, the relatively small distance between the two controls leaves my thumb and forefinger bent at awkward angles, and my grip on the camera feels very insecure in the process. The grip just isn't big enough for a medium to large man's hands.

Now, I've placed this camera into the hands of several women, and they all love it. I can see why, as several of the women who have smaller hands have no trouble finding a comfortable home for their thumb, palm, and fingers; just like it was made for them. Even my wife, whose hands aren't that much smaller than mine, really liked the grip, and the Digital Rebel XT's light weight, button arrangement, and overall feel were just right (she was fairly familiar with our Digital Rebel, by the way, so this is an informed opinion).

What I don't like about the grip is the lack of space between the grip and the lens mount, where my fingernails rub up against it. The tip of my index finger pinches in the bulge near the shutter release. If I truly palm the right side of the camera, my thumb rides up way above the Mode dial, popping up above the hot shoe.

My analysis here will probably vindicate the Japanese engineers I've talked to in the past, who have said the reason they don't bring their ultra-small product designs to the US is that Americans tend to like big, crude controls. Perhaps what's most odd to me is that we here at Imaging Resource don't notice this problem when it's a point and shoot camera, even in the case of very tiny cameras like the smaller models in Canon's own ELPH line, or cameras like the Panasonic FZ20, with its biggish lens and small grip. The difference is that the Canon Digital Rebel XT can accept some very heavy lenses, and this grip will be insufficient.

My final word on the grip is that I could easily deal with its size when using the Rebel XT as a family and travel camera. As a portrait photographer, I would only use the Canon Digital Rebel XT with the optional BG-E3 battery grip. The camera's entire character changes with this addition. Since I mostly shoot vertically, the much larger vertical grip gives a better hold. And since the camera itself is so light, the balance is shifted, with much of the weight in the vertical grip. I sampled the combo at PMA. It was more comfortable in my hand, and I could imagine far less strain holding this arrangement for four hours at an event than a similarly-equipped Digital Rebel or 20D.

Adding the battery grip is a fix that only applies to people interested in using the camera with the optional grip, and significantly increases the overall size of the camera over the body and lens. If it fits your hand and is comfortable to hold, it's an excellent choice for you. If it doesn't fit, it's still an excellent camera, but you may not find it comfortable to use day-in and day-out.

The optional battery grip, by the way, now uses either two NB-2LH Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries (the PowerShot S70 uses these), or six AA batteries for greater versatility. This contributes to its lower weight.

Walkaround

Now that the grip is out of the way, we can talk about the rest of the Rebel XT. We received the black body version of the Canon Rebel XT, and are also split on whether we like that or not. Its surface texture is similar to that of the EOS 20D, with a tendency to abrade fingernails, leaving temporary marks on the surface (this is fingernail dust, apparently). I like the look of the black body a lot; it gives the camera much more of a pro appearance. It doesn't offer as much grippable surface area as the former silver body though, feeling almost powdery to the touch. Skin tends to slip right off rather than stick. Also missing is any rubbery texture to the grip area.

There are three controls on the left of the lens: the flash pop-up button, the lens release, and the depth-of-field preview. On the top deck are the shutter, main dial, mode dial, and power switch. I'm glad to see that they moved the drive mode button to the back of the camera, where all the other controls reside, because I always forgot how to enter that mode on my own Rebel until I looked at the top deck.

The buttons on the back have undergone a slight redesign. The five buttons on the left have gotten bigger, with a reverse D shape. On the right, the five way nav cluster is also different, and smaller. Dave has trouble with these buttons as well. They just don't work right for him, not actuating consistently when he used them to navigate around the camera's menus system. I haven't had as much trouble, perhaps because I'm used to dealing with the small buttons on PDA keyboards, where you have to use the tip of your thumb to properly activate them. Compared to the nav buttons on the original Digital Rebel, these buttons are actually raised slightly above the back surface of the camera body, whereas the buttons on the former are deeply recessed. One thing I like about these four arrow buttons is that rather than expect you to look to the status LCD to set something like White Balance, the camera goes straight to the menu screen for White Balance when you press the rear-panel button assigned to that function. The same is true for ISO, Metering Mode, and AF mode. Pressing the Drive mode button still cycles through icons on the status LCD, but the icons appear directly adjacent to the button itself, so it's easy to see what's happening.

Also new, but present on nearly every other digital camera in Canon's lineup, is the illuminated Print/Share button. It's combined with the LCD illumination button, which gives the status LCD an orange glow for about eight seconds.

I'm not sure whether this will only be true of our early review unit, but there's a distinct difference in one factor about the Digital Rebel XT's bottom plate: The words "Made in Japan." Most of the original Digital Rebels were made in Taiwan. Not a big deal, but it appears Canon too may be bringing more manufacturing back to Japan as we've seen other manufacturers do lately, most notably Olympus.

Faster
If smaller didn't make the Rebel XT better for some, faster should do the trick for most. This new little powerhouse now has the same DiGiC II processor that powers the EOS 1Ds Mark II. Its influence shows in the quicker shutter response, improved buffer clearing speed (it writes 3.5 times faster than the original Digital Rebel), and greater frame-per-second throughput. Maxing out at three frames per second, the little Rebel can capture a conservative 13 frames before the buffer is filled. Canon claims 14 frames of buffer depth, but we consistently got 13 frames in our studio with the worst-case color-noise target we use for timing analysis. With varying subjects and a Lexar 80x 2GB card, I've gone on as far as 40 frames. It's far better than the old Digital Rebel's four frames of capacity, to be sure.

As you're winding those shots off, you'll notice a funny little whirring sound, something we first heard on the EOS 1D Mark II. We wondered whether that was necessary, or just added to make for a more impressive motor-drive-like sound. It turns out that this is sound of the motor loading the spring for the shutter, and this sound can vary, from the almost inaudible wind on the Digital Rebel, EOS 20D, and EOS 1D Mark II, to the louder sounds on the Rebel XT and EOS 1Ds Mark II. According to Canon, a camera's X-Sync speed can affect this sound, but ultimately I'm sure it's also a function of the motor chosen to cock the shutter and the strength of the spring it's loading. The upshot is that while the XT seems to have a quieter click, there's a lot more noise generated each time the shutter's released, which adds up to quite a din in continuous mode.

Capable
As I mentioned, many new functions made their way over from the 20D, including a Black and White mode with many options. Look in the gallery for a few variations on this concept. You can add the equivalent of Yellow, Red, Orange, and Green filters, which darken the skies and other colors to varying degrees, and you can add a "toning effect," including Sepia, Blue, Purple, and Green. Contrast and sharpness can also be adjusted.

The EOS 20D's innovative White Balance Shift/Bracketing mode also made it into the Digital Rebel XT. Presented with an XY coordinate graph, you can move the White Balance table around, and set bracketing points along either the X or Y axis.

Also omitted from the original Digital Rebel was the option to set your AF method and metering mode. You'll find that on the Digital Rebel XT, One Shot, AI Focus, and AI Servo methods are all user-selectable, as are Spot, Matrix, and Center weighted metering modes.

Finally, a healthy set of Custom Functions have been brought to the Canon Rebel XT, where there were none on the original. Nine in total, these include Long Exposure noise reduction, Mirror Lockup, and First and Second curtain shutter flash sync.

Shooting
Out in the field, I found the Canon Digital Rebel XT a reliable performer that is faster than I'm used to, and easy to use. Its small size was not a big problem when out shooting gallery shots; all I would need to be happy for casual photography is the optional vertical battery grip, since most of my shots are vertical.

It's great for photographing the family, given its low shutter lag and nearly instant power on time. AF seemed fast too, resulting in far more good shots than throwaways. In low light (which is almost always what you have available when indoors), you'll want to pop up the flash, as this is the only AF assist light that the camera offers. I also suggest setting Digital Rebel XT's AF to the single center point almost all the time for indoor shooting, as this is the most sensitive AF sensor in the camera. You should also feel confident cranking the ISO up to 800, since the XT has impressively low noise. ISO 1600 is also good, but unless it's absolutely necessary, you'll be happier sticking with 800 or below.

Digital SLRs like the Canon Rebel XT offer a smaller depth of field than most people are used to from modern digital cameras, making focus accuracy paramount. In general, you'll do much better using the center AF point for most situations, then recomposing as necessary. Put your kids in contrasty clothes to help the AF a bit when you're shooting indoors. You'll find that the E-TTL II flash exposure performance is excellent, even for close-quarters indoor shots. Though the XT is better with limited lighting than are most point-and-shoot digicams, you should always do your camera a favor and shoot with a light source nearby to help the AF system. Rather than off-the-cuff snapshots, a better approach is to take pictures on purpose and move your subject to a window or other pleasing light source.

There's no question that the Canon Digital Rebel XT is a leap ahead, offering a quality SLR in a very small package. I think it'll be ideally suited for its target market, which is the family shooter who wants to catch the kids at play. It'll give you more of what you need to catch action at sporting events and is a good size for the traditional keeper of family photographs, the mom. Those who think the smaller size will be a problem can still choose the original Digital Rebel, now available in a kit that includes the lens for around $800. You can also buy the new BG-E3 battery grip, which you can load with less expensive AA batteries if you like. Since humans are vertical, shooting vertical is a great way to eliminate clutter in the background, so buying and using this grip by default would immediately improve your people photography. For travelers and anyone else wanting a powerful digital camera with a spectacular imager, and the option of a few different lenses that take up little space, you'll not find a more portable SLR, and certainly not a more capable one anywhere near its size or price range.

 

Design

Following in the mighty footsteps of the previous Canon EOS Digital Rebel (300D), the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (350D) offers the same excellent capabilities as its predecessor, but with increased resolution and more detailed user control. The EOS 350D boasts a large 8.0-megapixel (effective) CMOS sensor, which captures image resolutions as high as 3,456 x 2,304 pixels. Like the original Digital Rebel, the Rebel XT offers the same EF lens mount compatible with the full range of EF and EF-S lenses. The EOS 350D looks a lot like the film-based EOS models with which it shares its name, with just a few design tweaks here and there. Photographers already accustomed to EOS film cameras will find the transition to digital much easier with this model, as the camera's control layout is very similar. With a weight of some 19.7 ounces (552 grams) or so with the battery, flash card, or lens, the EOS 350D is a hair lighter than the 300D. The EOS 350D is also smaller than the 300D, measuring 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 inches (127 x 94 x 64 millimeters).

The front of the camera features the EF and EF-S compatible lens mount. On the outside edge of the lens mount is the red dot for lining up standard EF lenses, as well as a white square, corresponding to the same alignment icon on the new EF-S lenses. There's also the lens release button, a depth of field preview button (on the lower left of the lens mount as viewed from the rear), and the redeye reduction lamp (the frosted window at upper left in the view above). On the front of the hand grip is the sensor for the IR remote. From this view, you can also see the camera's Shutter button, which angles down from the top panel.

The top of the camera features the Shutter button, Mode dial, Main dial, and Power switch. The pop-up flash compartment is just behind the lens. The top of the camera also contains a hot shoe for mounting an external flash unit. The hot shoe has the usual trigger terminal in the center, as well as four other contacts for interfacing to Canon EX Speedlite flash units, and a hole for a locking pin to prevent rotation of the speedlight. Fixed neck strap eyelets are located on both sides of the top panel as well.

On the hand grip side of the camera, toward the rear of the handgrip is a large door which slides back and swings out to reveal the CompactFlash slot (which supports Type-I and Type-II cards, including the IBM MicroDrive, as well as the latest memory cards that use the FAT32 file system). Inside the compartment, underneath the CompactFlash slot is a small, black eject button for removing the card. At the bottom of the panel is a slot for the DC coupler cord (for the optional AC power adapter), beneath a small plastic cover.

The opposite side of the camera features a hinged rubber flap covering the digital (USB), Video Out, and Wired Remote Control sockets. This picture also shows the Depth of Field Preview button (bottom) and Flash Pop-up button (top) on the side of the lens mount a little more clearly.

The rear panel of the EOS 350D is home to the bulk of the camera's controls, as well as the large, bright LCD screen and smaller LCD data readout panel. Lining the left side of the LCD monitor are several buttons related to menus and playback, including the Menu, Info, Jump, Playback, and Erase buttons. To the right of the LCD monitor is the Four-Way Arrow pad and Set button, for navigating through menus. A small LED (labeled "CF") rests below the arrow pad, and illuminates whenever the camera is accessing the CompactFlash card. Just above the Four-Way Arrow pad are the AV/Exposure Compensation, Drive Mode, and LCD Illuminator/DPOF buttons. On the top right corner of the optical viewfinder is the diopter adjustment dial, recessed slightly to minimize accidental changes. Finally, the top right corner of the rear panel features the AE/FE Lock / Index and AF Point / Enlarge buttons. The rear-panel data readout conveys a wealth of information about the current status of the camera and its settings. It has been changed to match some of the new settings, like drive mode options, metering mode options, and Custom Functions.

The very flat bottom of the camera reveals the metal tripod mount, as well as the main NB-2LH Lithium Ion battery chamber cover. The main battery compartment cover is removable, necessary when installing the optional portrait grip on the camera. A small latch lever at the outside edge of the battery chamber cover unlocks it so that it may be opened. Also inside the compartment is the slot for the CR2016 3V battery that keeps the camera settings in memory when the main battery dies. The battery compartment cover is far enough from the tripod socket that you should be able to swap batteries without removing the camera from your tripod mount. The large surface area of the camera's bottom provides a stable mounting surface for use with a tripod, even with fairly large lenses attached.

 

CMOS Versus CCD & What's It All Mean?

Back when the Canon EOS D30 was first introduced, Canon's use of a CMOS image sensor was seen as pretty revolutionary, and it still is to some extent. To my mind, the D30 and its successors' widely noted superb tonality can be traced directly to the CMOS sensor technology Canon used in building them. Accordingly, I think it appropriate to include the following section (copied from our D30 review) here, to give a little background on CMOS vs CCD sensor technology. (Thanks to IR News Editor Mike Tomkins for his work in researching and largely writing this technology briefing.)

To understand what CMOS sensor technology can bring to a digital camera, first of all you need some understanding of how CCD and CMOS sensors work, and what they do differently. CCD, or Charge-Coupled Device image sensors, were invented at the end of the 1960s by scientists at Bell Labs, and were originally conceived not as a method of capturing photographic images, but as a way of storing computer data. Obviously this idea didn't catch on; today we instead have RAM (Random Access Memory) chips in our computers which are, ironically enough, manufactured using the CMOS process.

Where CCDs did catch on, however was recording images — by 1975 CCDs were appearing in television cameras and flatbed scanners. The mid 80s saw CCDs appearing in the first "filmless" still cameras… CCDs rapidly attained great image quality, but they weren't perfect. Perhaps most significantly, CCDs required a manufacturing process which was different to that used for manufacturing other computer chips such as processors and RAM. This means that specialized CCD fabs have to be constructed, and they cannot be used for making other components, making CCDs inherently more expensive.

Interline Transfer CCDs consist of many MOS (Metal Oxide Semiconductor) capacitors arranged in a pattern, usually in a square grid, which can capture and convert light photons to electrical charge, storing this charge before transferring it for processing by supporting chips. To record color information, colored filters are placed over each individual light receptor making it sensitive to only one light color (generally, Red, Green and Blue filters are used, but this is not always the case). This gives a value for one color at each pixel, and the surrounding pixels can provide eight more values, four each of the two remaining colors from which they may be interpolated for our original pixel.

After the exposure is complete, the charge is transferred row by row into a readout register, and from there to an output amplifier, analog/digital converters and on for processing. This row-by-row processing of the CCD's light "data" is where the sensor gets the term "Charge-Coupled" in its name. One row of information is transferred to the readout register, and the rows behind it are each shifted one row closer to the register. After being "read out", the charge is released and the register is empty again for the next charge. Repeat the process a number of times, and eventually you read out the entire contents of the CCD sensor. (Think of a bucket brigade, moving water from point A to point B by pouring it from one bucket into the next...)

A number of disadvantages to this approach to sensor design now become apparent, in addition to the already mentioned cost. For one thing, the entire contents of the CCD must be read out, even if you're only interested in a small part thereof (for example, when using the digital zooms that are all the vogue in digital cameras, you have no interest in a large part of the sensor's data, so why take the time to read it out?) There are also a number of supporting chips required for the CCD sensor, each of which adds to the complexity and size of the camera design, increasing cost and power consumption. CCDs also suffer from blooming (where charge "leaks" from one light receptor into surrounding ones), "fading" (a loss of charge as it is passed along the chain before being read out), and smearing (where the image quality can be adversely affected by light arriving during the readout process, leaving streaks behind bright scene areas).

There's also the issue of speed. The step by step process used in a CCD is not exactly conducive to very high speed, and for just this reason a second type of CCD exists. The Frame Interline Transfer CCD features a readout register as large as the light receptor area is, allowing the entire contents of the CCD to be read out in one pass. This, though, adds significantly to the area of silicon required, and hence to the cost of the CCD.

This is where CMOS image sensors step in. CMOS, or Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor, is actually a generic term for the process used to create these image sensors, along with numerous other semiconductor items such as computer RAM, processors such as those from Intel and other manufacturers, and much more. CMOS image sensors can be made in the same fabs as these other items, with the same equipment. This technology is, of necessity, very advanced with the amount of competition in processor and other markets contributing to new techniques in CMOS fabrication. Add to this that there is a very significant economy of scale, when your fab can make not only CMOS image sensors, but other devices as well, and you find that CMOS image sensors are much cheaper to make than CCDs.

This cost advantage is even more significant when you consider the way a CMOS sensor works. The Active Pixel CMOS image sensors used in digital imaging are very similar to a CCD sensor, but with one major difference — supporting circuitry is actually located alongside each light receptor, allowing noise at each pixel to be canceled out at the site. Further to this, other processes can be integrated right into the CMOS image sensor chip, eliminating the need for extra chips — things such as analog/digital conversion, white balancing, and more can be built into the CMOS sensor. This reduces cost of supporting circuitry required, as well as camera complexity, and also power consumption, as does the fact that CMOS sensors require a significantly lower voltage than CCD sensors. CMOS sensors themselves also claim lower power consumption than CCD sensors, with one manufacturer claiming their CMOS sensors draw some 10x less power than equivalent CCD sensors.

CMOS sensors have other advantages, as well. For one thing, they can be addressed randomly. If you're only interested in a certain area of the image, you can access it directly and don't need to deal with the unwanted data. Blooming and smearing are also less of a problem with CMOS sensors. CMOS sensors are capable of much higher speeds than their CCD rivals, with one CMOS chip we've heard of capable of running at over 500 frames per second at megapixel resolution.

With these advantages, you'd think CMOS would be a shoe-in to replace CCD in digital cameras, but thus far it has really only impacted the lower end of the market, with CMOS rapidly becoming dominant in the entry level digital cameras and tethered cameras. Why hasn't CMOS taken over at the high end? Well, up until now, image quality has not been on a par with CCD… CMOS sensors, with their many amplifiers at each pixel, suffer from so-called "fixed pattern noise". The amplifiers aren't all equal, and this creates a noise pattern across the image. In their CMOS sensors, Canon has tackled this by first taking the image off the sensor in 10 milliseconds, and then reading just the fixed-pattern noise from the sensor in the following 10 milliseconds. Subtract the second image from the first, and you neatly remove the noise.

There's also the fact that CMOS sensors are generally less sensitive than their CCD counterparts. High end "Full Frame" CCD image sensors have a "fill factor" of 100%, because the whole CCD sensor area is being used for light capture — but in a CMOS sensor the fill factor is lower, because the extra circuitry alongside each pixel takes up space. This space can't be used to capture light, and so you lose some of it… Two techniques exist to combat this — firstly reducing the size of this support circuitry, and secondly the microlens. Reducing the size of the support circuitry is the less ideal of the two methods — the smaller you make it, harder the sensor is to manufacture, and the more expensive it becomes. The microlens is considered to be the better answer. Essentially, the support circuitry is covered by an opaque metal layer, and a microscopic lens is placed over the entire area of the light receptor and support circuitry, redirecting the light that would otherwise fall on the support circuitry and focusing it on the light receptor.

The image sensor in the 350D is only ever so slightly smaller than those used in the Digital Rebel and EOS 20D, but significantly larger than the sensors used in consumer cameras, as can be seen in the comparison illustration above, which shows the CCD sensor from Canon's PowerShot G6 digital camera alongside the CMOS sensor from the Rebel XT. The illustration below shows the difference in sizes (to scale) of a consumer CCD, the EOS 20D and Digital Rebel sensors, a Nikon D70 sensor, an APS film frame, and a standard 35mm frame.

Canon has continued to be fairly closed-mouthed about their CMOS sensor technology, but have revealed a few details. As with other Active-Pixel CMOS sensors, theirs does in fact have a signal amplifier located at each pixel site. More intriguing though, is that they also claim to have an A/D (analog to digital) converter at each individual pixel site as well. If this last is true, then it must be a very different sort of A/D than is normally used with CCDs, as those circuits are quite complex and space-consuming. I keep expecting that we'll hear more details as Canon's patent position is solidified, but so far not much information has been forthcoming. It does seem though, that there's been some genuine innovation in Canon's labs. It's unusual these days to see a company moving toward vertical integration, developing component technology in-house rather than farming it out to specialist companies. Canon has been moving strongly in the opposite direction, bringing not only sensor technology in-house, but the processing circuitry as well, with their much-vaunted DIGIC chip. Based on the pricing of the Digital Rebel XT 350D, it does appear that there's been some monetary advantage in this approach.

The Rebel XT employs a new microlens and null mask that allows quite a bit more light to fall on each pixel than past designs by reducing the "Microlens gap." The resulting 6.4 micrometer square pixel size can thus gather more light than past designs.

 

Viewfinder

Virtually identical in design to the 300D's viewfinder, the 350D's optical viewfinder is excellent, providing a wealth of information and good accuracy. The 350D's viewfinder has what Canon calls a "pentamirror" design. (Mirror-based viewfinders trade off viewfinder brightness in favor of considerably reduced expense and weight.) Because the 350D features seven AF points, the viewfinder shows seven focus point boxes arrayed in a cross pattern. When one of the points is selected by the AF system, a bright red dot indicates it in the display. Lining the bottom of the display is a strip of information reporting everything from aperture and shutter speed to flash status and the maximum number of burst shots available. While I don't have a formal test for it, the "eyepoint" of the viewfinder seemed a little low, forcing me to press the lenses of my glasses up against the eyecup to see the full viewfinder area. (This was also the case with the original Rebel, but it was more of an issue for me with the XT.) The good news though, is that the dioptric correction is excellent, covering a broad range from -3 to +1 diopters. The viewfinder display conveys a lot of information about exposure and camera status, as shown in the illustration below. (Courtesy Canon USA, Inc.)

 

For those readers new to digital SLRs, it's important to note in discussing the 350D's viewfinder system that the rear-panel LCD display is not usable as a viewfinder. Instead, the optical viewfinder uses a mirror to intercept the image on the way to the shutter and the sensor. Thus, when the camera isn't actively taking a picture, the light from the lens is directed only to the optical viewfinder, and so isn't available to the sensor to drive a live viewfinder display on the LCD. With the exception of the FujiFilm S3, which has a live monochrome preview mode, all digital SLRs operate in this fashion.

While not strictly a viewfinder function, the capture-mode Info display shown on the rear-panel LCD screen deserves mention here. The optical viewfinder carries quite a bit of information about camera status as shown above, but there's even more available on the rear panel, just by pressing the Info button. Rather than the exposure settings shown in the optical viewfinder, this display shows date/time, autoexposure bracketing amount, white balance bracketing amount, color space, processing parameter setting, image review status, image review time, flash exposure compensation, ISO speed, auto rotate status, auto power off time, and megabytes of remaining memory card capacity. Between this screen, the optical viewfinder display, and the smaller LCD data readout on the rear panel, the 350D does an excellent job of keeping you informed of its status and settings.

Here's what all the numbers and indicators in the information display mean:

In Playback mode, there are a number of options for viewing your captured images via the rear-panel LCD screen. You enter Playback mode by pressing the Play button on the back panel. The default display shows the file number, aperture and shutter speed, the current image's sequence number on the card, and total number of images on the memory card. Pressing the Info button activates an information display, which reports the exposure settings for the image and graphs the exposure values on a small histogram, pressing it again shows just the image itself full-screen, with no information overlay, and pressing it a third time returns you to the initial display. You can also view images in an index display, showing 9 small thumbnail images at a time, and enlarge images up to 10x. The two buttons in the upper right hand corner of the rear panel control zooming in and out of the image, and once zoomed, the arrow keys let you scroll the enlarged viewing window around inside the image as a whole. Zooming out past the initial thumbnail display introduces a "jump bar" at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to jump through the images on the card 10 or 100 at a time, or jump by shot date. (This last being very handy on multi-day excursions.)

 

Optics

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The EOS 350D accepts all standard EF-series Canon lenses, as well as the newer EF-S series, designed specifically for use with the Digital Rebel cameras. EF-S lenses extend further into the camera body and project an image circle closely matching the size of the sensor itself. (Lenses designed for conventional 35mm film cameras must cover a much larger area.) This new design greatly cuts down on the size and weight of the lens, as well as the production cost, according to Canon. The camera's lens mount now features two alignment symbols: the standard red dot for traditional EF lenses, and a small white square for the EF-S lens.

Like most digital SLRs, the sensor in the EOS 350D is smaller than a 35mm film frame. This means that the "effective" focal length of standard EF lenses will be 1.6x their normal values on 35mm cameras. Just to be clear, nothing's changed about the lenses or their behavior, it's just that the CMOS sensor is effectively cropping a smaller area out of the lens' coverage circle. The net result is that shooting really wide angle photography is tough with digital SLRs, the 350D included. At the other end of the scale though, it's like having a 1.6x teleconverter on your lenses with no cost in light loss or sharpness. Thus, a 350mm telephoto has the same "reach" as a 480mm on your 35mm film camera. And of course, a f/2.8 350mm is a lot cheaper than a f/2.8 500mm! The net of it is that a 31mm focal length has the same angular coverage as a 50mm lens on a 35mm SLR, and the common 16-35mm zoom lenses have a range equivalent to 25.6-56mm on film cameras. Taking the 18-55mm EF-S lens as a case in point, its focal length translates into an equivalent of ~29-88 mm. (A slightly wider than average wide-angle to a modest telephoto.)

Autofocus System
Like the 300D, the 350D has an autofocus system with seven sensors, arrayed in a cross pattern in the center of the frame. You can manually select which of these you want the camera to pay attention to (handy for off-center subjects), or you can let the camera decide. When it's operating in automatic AF mode, it will use the sensor corresponding to the part of the subject closest to the camera. The EOS 350D's AF system operates in One Shot, AI Focus, or AI Servo AF modes, and in an excellent improvement over the previous Digital Rebel, the Rebel XT allows you to choose the focus mode in Program AE, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, or Manual modes. AI Focus AF mode automatically flips between One Shot and AI Servo AF modes, depending on the subject. If the subject remains stationary, the camera remains in One Shot AF mode. However, if the subject begins to move, the camera automatically switches over to AI Servo AF and begins tracking the subject as it moves. This is a handy feature, letting you automatically track moving subjects without having to manually adjust the focus mode. When shooting in any of the Basic Zone exposure modes (Automatic or the preset scene selections), the 350D locks the focus mode to One Shot or AI Servo and doesn't switch between the two modes. The AF system's low light limit is EV 0.5, which combined with the AF assist lamp, provides excellent focusing in dim lighting conditions. The Digital Rebel XT 350D also offers what Canon terms "Predictive AF," which basically calculates the rate at which a subject is approaching or receding from the camera, and then accurately focuses based on the subject's predicted position. (A feature that sports photographers will no doubt appreciate.)

Canon rates the performance of their AF systems by the point at which they cease to be able to track an object moving at a constant speed toward the camera, using a given lens. The closer an object gets, the more rapidly the lens mechanism must turn, so whether an AF system will keep up is largely dependent on the lens in use, it's focus speed, and the camera processor's ability to evaluate a changing scene. While I don't have explicit performance numbers for the Digital Rebel XT, Canon tells me that performance is similar--but not equal to--the EOS 20D. Using Canon's EF 350/3.8 IS USM lens as the basis of comparison, the EOS 20D can track an object moving at 30 mph (50 kph) down to a minimum distance of 26.4 feet (8 meters). A Canon white paper on the Digital Rebel XT reports a more impressive-sounding statistic: "With an EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens, it can focus track a subject approaching at 186 mph up to about 66 feet away."

Manual focus is also available with any of the Canon EF and EF-S lenses, simply by sliding the AF/MF switch on the lens barrel.

AF-Assist Illuminator
Like the first Digital Rebel, the Digital Rebel XT uses the built-in flash head as its AF-assist illuminator, rather than a bright light built into the camera's body. This works well (as you'd expect, the flash is quite bright, and probably has a longer range than an on-body illuminator bulb), but the Rebel XT shares the limitation with the original Rebel that the AF-assist option is only available when a flash is in use (whether internal or external). That is, you can't use the AF-assist illuminator and also make an available-light exposure. If you attach a 550EX external flash unit to the 350D, its internal infrared AF-assist illuminator can be used instead of the flash head itself, providing a useful working range of about 50 feet with a less obtrusive light source. This AF-assist is still only available when the flash is enabled though. For non-flash photography, Canon's ST-E2 wireless sync transmitter can also be used for AF assist, a handy trick. The ST-E2's AF-assist light has a useful range of about 25 feet.

 

Sensor Cleaning!

Everyone understands that lenses sometimes get dust on them and need to be cleaned, and there are a lot of lens-cleaning cloths, solutions and other accessories on the market that work well. BUT, what do you do when your sensor gets dusty? Dust specks on the sensor tend to show up when shooting at very small apertures, appearing as dark blobs on your images. They're distracting at best, a terrible nuisance at worst, if you end up having to retouch every image to rid of them.

Most of us are naturally leery about the idea of poking around inside the delicate innards of our d-SLRs to wrestle with recalcitrant dust specks. Gently blowing the sensor surface (actually, the surface of the anti-aliasing filter) with compressed air gets rid of some dust, but there's invariably a lot that just stays stuck, no matter what. So what do you do?

If you've got dust specks on your sensor (and sooner or later you will), you're going to need to clean it. There are a lot of products out there intended to address this need, but a distressing number of them work poorly (if at all), and many are grossly overpriced. Advertising hype is rampant, with bogus pseudo-scientific jargon and absurd product claims run rampant. And prices - Did I mention prices? How about $100 for a simple synthetic-bristle brush?

So how do you know what product to use?

We don't pretend to have used everything currently on the market, but can tell you about one solution that worked very well for us. The "Copper Hill" cleaning method is straightforward and safe, and in our routine usage here at Imaging Resource, highly effective. Better yet, the products sold by Copper Hill Imaging are very reasonably priced. Best of all, Nicholas R (proprietor of Copper Hill) has put together an amazingly detailed tutorial on sensor cleaning, free for all.

Sensor cleaning is one of the last things people think about when buying a d-SLR, but it's vital to capturing the best possible images. Take our advice and order a cleaning kit from Copper Hill right along with your d-SLR, so you'll have it close at hand when you need it: You'll be glad you did!

(Other than a few backlinks on their site, we receive no promotional consideration from Copper Hill. We just think their sensor cleaning products are among the best on the market, and like their way of doing business. - We think you will too. Check them out.)

 

Exposure

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The Digital Rebel XT 350D provides as little or as much exposure control as you could want. Standard exposure modes include the usual Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority, and full Manual modes, as well as some "Image Zone" (scene-based preset) modes, and one of the most unique (and useful) modes I've yet seen, an Automatic Depth-of-Field mode. The "Image Zone" exposure modes include Portrait, Landscape, Close-up (macro), Sports, Night Portrait, and Flash Off modes. These modes preset a variety of camera parameters to make it easier for non-expert photographers to achieve good exposures in a variety of standard shooting situations. The Flash Off mode simply disables the flash and external Speedlite (if attached), and puts the camera under automatic exposure control. The full Auto mode takes over all camera functions, turning the 350D into a very easy to use point and shoot camera, albeit a very capable one.

The Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes work much the same as on any other camera, allowing you to adjust one exposure variable while the camera selects the other for the best exposure. Program mode keeps both variables under automatic control, while Manual mode gives you full control over everything. The Automatic Depth-of-Field mode (A-DEP) uses all seven autofocus zones to determine the depth of field in the active subject area. Once it has determined the range of focusing distances present across the seven zones, it automatically computes the combination of aperture and shutter speed needed to render the nearest and furthest points in sharp focus. This is a remarkably useful feature, even for professional photographers. In many situations, you want to keep several subjects in focus, while at the same time trying for the highest shutter speed (largest aperture) that will permit that. In practice, faced with such situations, I've usually resorted to just picking the smallest aperture feasible and hoping for the best. With the 350D's A-DEP mode, the camera takes the guesswork out of this process and gives you the fastest shutter speed it can manage while still keeping things in focus.

Exposure metering options are similar to the 300D, as the 350D offers Evaluative, Partial, and Center-Weighted options. In another improvement over the previous Digital Rebel 300D, the Rebel XT lets you choose the metering mode in any of the Creative Zone shooting modes. The EOS 350D offers variable light sensitivity, with ISO equivalents of 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,600. For adjusting the exposure, the 350D's Exposure Compensation setting increases or decreases overall exposure from +/-2 EV in one-third or one-half EV increments. (You set the step size through the Custom menu.) An automatic exposure bracketing feature lets you set the total exposure variation (across three shots) at anywhere from +/- one-third or one-half EV all the way up to +/- 2 EV. The nice part is that the automatic variation is centered around whatever level of manual exposure compensation you have dialed in. Thus, you could manually set a positive exposure compensation of 0.7EV, and then have the camera give you a variation of +/- 2/3 EV around that point.

I really like the amount of information the 350D gives you about its exposure, not only in terms of the settings it's using, but in the form of feedback on how pictures you've captured turned out. You can select an "Info" display mode when viewing captured images on the rear-panel LCD screen. Notable here is that you not only can see all the exposure parameters, but you get excellent feedback on the tonal range of the image itself. One form of feedback is the histogram display at upper right, which shows how the tonal values are distributed within the image. Histogram displays are useful for directly seeing how the overall exposure turned out in an image, but I've found them to be of limited usefulness for making critical judgments about highlight exposure.

Digital cameras need to be exposed more or less like slide film, in that you need to zealously protect your highlight detail. Once you've hit the limit of what the sensor can handle, the image "clips" and all detail is lost in the highlight areas. The problem is that it's quite common for critical highlights to occupy only a very small percentage of the overall image area. Because they correspond to such a small percentage of the total image pixels, the peak at 100 percent brightness can be very hard to distinguish in the histogram display. To handle such situations, the Digital Rebel XT blinks any pixels that are 100 percent white on its screen, alternating them between black and white. This makes localized overexposure problems leap out at you, making it very easy to control the critical highlight exposure precisely.

Besides the above mentioned exposure information and feedback, the 350D's playback options include a thumbnail index display, normal full-frame viewing of captured images, and a zoomed view. There's also a "jump" mode, activated via the Jump button on the rear panel of the camera. Jump mode lets you very quickly move through images stored on the memory card, jumping 10 shots at a time. New is the ability to also jump by 100 images at a time, or by image shot date, making the Jump button even more useful than before. The 350D's image playback can be zoomed in very small steps anywhere from 1.5-10x. Once you've zoomed in at any level, you can scroll the zoomed window all around the image area, using the rear-panel arrow keys. Once you've dialed in the magnification and scrolling parameters, you can go to the next or previous image by turning the Main dial next to the Shutter button.

Another feature deserving comment is the 350D's separation of the autoexposure and autofocus lock functions. In consumer-level digital cameras, half-pressing the Shutter button locks exposure and focus simultaneously. You can use this to deal with an off-center subject by pointing the camera at the subject, locking exposure and focus, and then reframing the picture before finally snapping the shutter. The only problem is that you sometimes need to perform a more radical recomposition of the subject in order to determine the proper exposure. For instance, you may want to zoom in on the subject, grab an exposure setting, and then zoom back out before taking the picture. Situations like that require locking the exposure independently of the focusing, and the 350D provides for just such eventualities by way of a separate AE lock button on the back of the camera, right under your right thumb. Through the camera's Custom menu, you can specify the operation of the AE Lock button, as well as the AF/AE locking function of the Shutter button. A very handy feature indeed.

The EOS 350D offers a full range of White Balance settings, including six presets, an Auto setting, and a Custom setting. The six presets include Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Flash. The Custom setting bases color balance on a previous exposure, meaning you can snap an image of a white card and then base the color temperature on that image. A White Balance bracketing option snaps only one image, then writes three successive files from that single image. Bracketing steps are from -/+ 3 stops in whole-stop increments. (Each stop corresponds to five mireds of a color conversion filter, for a total range of +/- 15 mireds. This corresponds to about a +/- 500K shift at a normal daylight color temperature of 5,500K.) The WB Bracketing is set on the same grid as the White Balance correction grid. Fairly sophisticated, the white balance correction tool lets you shift the color balance toward more or less green, amber, magenta, or blue, using a +/-9 step grid format. You move a highlighted square through the grid to adjust the color balance. It's a slightly more advanced interface than I'm used to seeing on digital cameras, but a useful one that greatly extends the camera's color corrective abilities. The EOS 350D also offers a Parameters option through the LCD menu, which lets you select one of two default settings, select a Black and White mode, or configure as many as three custom Parameters setups. Each setup lets you adjust Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, and Color Tone (red/blue hue balance). The two preset parameters are Parameter 1 and Parameter 2. Parameter 1 sets contrast, saturation, and sharpness to +1 for a brighter, sharper image, more akin to what digicam owners expect from their cameras. Parameter 2 sets up the camera to perform much like the EOS 20D at its default settings, with contrast, sharpness, saturation, and color tone controls all at their neutral positions, allowing the more savvy photographer to adjust these parameters in post processing if desired. Finally, you can set the camera's color space to sRGB or Adobe RGB.

 

Metering accuracy and bias
Where the original Digital Rebel frequently underexposed shots relative to what my personal preferences would have been for a given scene, the exposure system in the Rebel XT seemed to be much closer to correct more of the time. What appeared to be going on with the original Rebel was that the camera responded very strongly to high-key subjects and strong highlights in otherwise well-balanced scenes. This was technically the most correct approach to take, and is the one preferred by most professional photographers, but I felt it was poorly suited to the needs and desires of most amateur shooters. The Digital Rebel XT will be more prone to let strong highlights blow out, but the midtone values will be closer to what amateur shooters are expecting to see, more of the time. (For what it's worth, the XT's default tone curve also seems a bit less contrasty than that of the Digital Rebel, so it's somewhat less prone to losing highlight detail in the first place. To my mind, this is a very significant advantage of the Canon Digital Rebel XT over its predecessor. The idea is that it's most important to preserve detail in the highlights of the images, since once detail is lost to overexposure there, it's gone forever. Dark midtones and shadows can always be fixed on a computer after the fact, albeit at the cost of somewhat elevated image noise levels.

Given that Canon is aiming the Digital Rebel XT at a more consumer-oriented audience though, and particularly given that they're pitching direct-from-camera printing as a primary feature, I think they should really reconsider the Digital Rebel XT's exposure system settings. In my experience, the average consumer is much more concerned with how their midtones look, as opposed to detail in the highlights. Even many "enthusiast" shooters prefer images in which the overall level of brightness matches what they saw in the scene, regardless of whether that means losing some detail in the highlights. On the 350D, this problem is exacerbated by Canon's decision to boost the default contrast level relative to that of the 10D. With the resulting steep tone curve, underexposing to save highlight detail results in even darker midtones and shadows than would otherwise be the case.

 

Low Light Capability
When operating the camera in full-manual exposure mode, the EOS 350D offers a Bulb exposure setting for very long exposures. Normally, exposure times are limited to a maximum of 30 seconds in Aperture- or Shutter-Priority modes, but in Manual mode, you can expose for as long as the batteries will last or the Shutter button is pressed by selecting Bulb mode and holding down the Shutter button for as long as you want the shutter to remain open. Obviously, hour-long exposures and more aren't a practical reality, as sensor noise will totally swamp the signal long before that point is reached. Still though, the 350D seems quite able to take very long exposures with very little image noise resulting. Like the 10D and 300D, the 350D employs noise reduction algorithms that automatically reduce excess image noise from long exposures.

A full discussion of image sensor noise is beyond the scope of this review, but the simple story is that the most obvious and objectionable noise you'll see in long digital camera exposures is so-called "fixed pattern" noise, caused by variations in "dark current" between sensor pixels. "Dark current" is just what it sounds like. Current (a signal) appears even when the sensor isn't being exposed to light. When you look at a long time exposure shot with a digital camera, you'll often see very bright pixels, where minor manufacturing defects have resulted in unusually high "dark current" levels. Often called "hot pixels," these flecks of color are very distracting visually.

The normal way to deal with hot pixels is to take an exposure with the camera's shutter closed, immediately after shooting the subject. If this "dark frame" is exposed for the same time as the subject was, you can largely eliminate the hot pixel problem by subtracting the dark frame information from the actual exposure. In practice, this works fairly well, but has the disadvantage that you have to wait for the dark frame exposure to be taken, requiring an appreciable amount of time in the case of long time exposures. (If you shot a one-minute exposure for the photo itself, you'll have to wait another minute for the dark frame exposure to be made.)

While most other high-end digital cameras on the market use a dark frame subtraction method to deal with image noise, the 350D (like Canon's earlier CMOS-based cameras before it) appears to be doing something very different, as there's very little delay between the end of the primary exposure and the writing of the image file to the memory card. There's clearly no "dark frame" exposure involved. I suspect that this advanced noise reduction processing in the 350D is another consequence of the "active pixel" CMOS technology Canon developed internally. Having active circuitry associated with each pixel in the sensor array allows lots of fancy processing that would be impossible otherwise, and it looks like Canon's noise reduction system takes advantage of this. However it's done, the 350D's noise reduction approach appears to be very effective.

As noted earlier in the "Optics" section of this review, the 350D uses its flash head as an autofocus-assist illuminator. This approach provides great working range, but has the unfortunate limitation that its AF-assist isn't usable for available-light photography.

 

Flash

The Rebel XT's built-in flash has a guide number rating of 43 feet (13 meters) at ISO 100, translating to a range of about 15 feet at ISO 100 with an f/2.8 lens. (Reasonably powerful, but not dramatically so.) The new flash pops up 5.5mm higher than the flash on the Digital Rebel, offering more clearance over lenses and also somewhat reducing the likelihood of red-eye at closer ranges. It's also designed to illuminate the area covered by a 17mm lens. Just like the Digital Rebel, which has a similar pop-up mechanism, the new mechanism still rattles noticeably when the camera is moved, something that was quieted on the 20D. The Digital Rebel XT gives you a great deal of control over flash exposure, allowing you to adjust flash and ambient exposure independently of each other, in one-half or one-third EV increments. This makes it very easy to balance flash and ambient lighting for more natural-looking pictures. The XT also uses E-TTL II control for both the built-in and compatible external flashes (according to Canon this includes the current 550EX flash, as well as the new 580EX), a new standard that promises, and seems to deliver better, more balanced exposures. Custom Function 08 turns this mode off and returns to an average metering system. E-TTL II is only available with the built-in flash or when the camera is paired with either the 550EX or the new 580EX flash.

Another nice touch is the Flash Exposure Lock button, which fires the flash under manual control before the actual exposure, to determine the proper exposure setting. This struck me as very handy, akin to the more conventional autoexposure lock function for handling difficult ambient lighting conditions. A Flash Exposure Compensation feature controls the flash exposure +/- 2 stops in 1/2 or 1/3-stop increments.

Several of the more impressive features of the Canon flash system depend on the dedicated 550EX or 580EX speedlight. Among these are true FP (focal plane) flash sync, flash exposure bracketing with external flash units, flash modeling, and E-TTL II exposure control. FP sync requires a flash unit to provide uniform light output for a relatively long period of time, long enough for the focal plane shutter curtain to fully traverse the sensor plane. On the Rebel XT, this requires a flash duration of 1/200-second. Uniform, long-duration flash pulses like this permit use of shutter speeds as high as the 1/4,000-second maximum that the Rebel XT is capable of. This can be invaluable when you want to exclude ambient light from the exposure. (FP sync mode is referred to as "high speed" mode on the Canon 550 and 580 flash units.)

Here's the rundown on Canon Speedlights and their compatibility with the 350D:

Speedlight Model On-Camera Capability E-TTL Wireless
Compatibility
580EX All, E-TTL II Master or Slave
550EX All, E-TTL II Master or Slave
480EG External auto plus manual operation None
540EZ Manual operation only None
430EZ Manual operation only None
420EX All Slave Only
420EZ Manual operation only None
380EX All None
220EX All None
200E Not Compatible None
160E Not Compatible None
MR-14EX Macro Ring All Master Only
MT-24EX All Master Only
ST-E2 transmitter E-TTL, attach to camera Master Only
Non-dedicated shoe-mount units Manual operation only n/a
Studio strobe packs Manual operation only, connect via threaded PC sync socket on camera body n/a

 

You'll note the references to "E-TTL remote" capabilities in the table above. Canon's Speedlight system permits TTL flash metering with multiple remote units, and even allows you to set differential power ratios between the slaved units, over a six-stop flash exposure range.

The "Flash Modeling" feature of the 550EX speedlight is quite useful. With a F550EX connected to the 350D, pressing the camera's Depth of Field Preview button causes the speedlight to fire at 70 flashes per second for about one second. This creates the illusion of a constant light source for your eyes, letting you preview the lighting on your subject when the flash fires. VERY handy, and likely to save lots of shoot/check/reshoot time!

As alluded to above, the "X-sync" speed of the 350D is 1/200-second. (This is the maximum shutter speed that can be used on the 350D when working with a non-dedicated, FP-capable speedlight.) When used with higher-powered studio strobe systems, Canon recommends a maximum shutter speed of 1/60-second or slower, to accommodate the time/intensity profile of such units.

A final benefit of the dedicated Canon speedlights is that they carry powerful autofocus assist illuminators that can extend the range of the built-in AF assist light of the Rebel XT. The AF assist beam on the 550EX is rated as good to about 50 feet, versus the roughly 13 feet of the lamp on the 350D itself. (As mentioned above though, note that the ST-E2 wireless sync transmitter can also be used for AF assist during non-flash photography, a handy trick.)

20D
with E-TTL II
Digital Rebel
without E-TTL II

Canon's E-TTL II flash exposure system also works with certain lenses to include object distance data into its calculations so it can adjust the flash power accordingly. A preflash is fired and the resulting readings compared to the ambient light reading for each of the camera's 35 metering zones from just prior to the flash, to identify and compensate for specular objects (that is, very reflective surfaces). In instances where most cameras would underexpose an image because of a reflective object in the frame, the Rebel XT will ignore the brighter areas and expose the subject correctly in most instances. This is designed to help shooters like event photographers--especially wedding photographers, whose cameras are constantly forced to balance a bright white dress against all manner of reflective materials on the clothing of others, in addition to the usually black tuxedos of the groomsmen. The two shots at right show the action of E-TTL II on the 20D, vs that of the less-sophisticated flash exposure system on the original Digital Rebel. Both shots were captured with the respective camera's default flash exposure settings, the same 550EX flash unit, and the same 18-55mm lens.

 

Continuous Shooting Mode and Self-Timer
The EOS 350D's Continuous Shooting mode is rated by Canon at three frames per second, for a maximum of 14 frames. Do note though, that the number of consecutive shots could be limited by Compact Flash space, if your memory card is nearly full. Our worst case test target captured 13 images before the buffer filled, while less complicated subjects have yielded 40 frames at full JPEG resolution.

The camera's Drive setting also accesses a Self-Timer mode, which opens the shutter 10 seconds after the Shutter button is pressed, giving you time to dash around in front of the camera. A Remote Control mode works with the dedicated and wireless remote units as well.

 

Timing

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time required for the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure both shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times for all cameras I test, using a test system I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT:

Canon EOS-350D Digital Rebel XT Timings
Operation
Time
(secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
0.25
Very quick; difficult to measure. (A huge improvement over the original Rebel.)
Shutdown
0 - 9
First time is simple shutdown, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. Buffer clearing is a little on the slow side, but that time does correspond to emptying either four large/fine 8-megapixel JPEGs or 3 RAW+JPEG images from the buffer. Buffer clearing is significantly faster than on original Rebel.
Play to Record, first shot
~0
Almost immediate; always ready for a shot. Also a dramatic improvement over the original Rebel.
Record to play
1.7 / 0.4
First time is that required to display a large/fine file immediately after capture, second time is that needed to display a large/fine file that has already been processed and stored on the memory card. Quite fast, a good 3x faster than original Rebel.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.24 / 0.20
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. Very good shutter response. (Only slightly faster than the original model.)

Shutter lag, continuous autofocus

0.22
As usual, no reduction in shutter lag for static subjects, but also (happily) no penalty either.
Shutter lag, manual focus
0.168
Reasonably fast, if not startlingly so. Still an improvement over the 0.248 seconds of the original model.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.095
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Very fast. (Original Rebel was 0.142 sec.)
Cycle Time, RAW / RAW + large JPEG

0.38

Times are averages. In RAW mode, shoots 5 frames this fast, slows to about 1.4 seconds per shot, and clears the buffer in 7 seconds. In RAW+JPEG mode, shoots 4 frames this fast, slows to about 2.3 seconds per shot, and clears the buffer in 9 seconds. Pretty fast, decent buffer depth. (Clearing times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.)
Cycle Time, max/min resolution 0.36
(2.8 fps)
Times are averages. Cycle time is 0.36 seconds regardless of resolution. In large/fine mode, shoots 13 frames this fast, then slows to .75 seconds per shot. At lowest resolution, maintains this pace indefinitely. Buffer clears in 6 seconds for large/fine images, almost immediately for lowest resolution. Pretty fast, dramatic improvement in buffer depth relative to the 4 frame capacity of the original Rebel. (Clearing times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.)
Cycle Time, RAW / RAW + large JPEG, continuous mode

0.35
(2.88 fps)

Times are averages. In RAW mode, shoots 5 frames this fast, slows to about 1.4 seconds per shot, and clears the buffer in 6 seconds. In RAW+JPEG mode, shoots 3 frames this fast, slows to about 2.4 seconds per shot, and clears the buffer in 9 seconds. Once again, good speeds, reasonable buffer depth. (Clearing times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.)
Cycle Time, max/min resolution, continuous mode 0.35
(2.89 fps)
Times are averages. Cycle time is 0.35 seconds regardless of resolution. In large/fine mode, shoots 13 frames this fast, then slows to .71 seconds per shot. At lowest resolution, maintains this pace indefinitely. Buffer clears in 6 seconds for large/fine images, 1 second for lowest resolution. Good speed, good buffer depth. (Clearing times measured with Lexar 80x CF card.)

Shooting speed is one area where improvements in the new Canon Digital Rebel XT relative to the original Rebel are most apparent. Autofocus speed is roughly the same, but essentially every other measure of performance shows significant improvement over the prior model. The feature existing Rebel users will most appreciate/envy is the XT's much greater buffer depth, shooting as many as 13 large/fine images before having to wait for the memory card to catch up. Once the buffer is full, the XT also writes to the memory card much faster as well, emptying a full buffer in just nine seconds, compared to about 17 seconds in the earlier model. While the resolution increase in the XT may not be enough to get current Rebel owners to upgrade, the increase in shooting speed very well might.

 

User Interface

The Canon Rebel XT's user interface is similar to that of a traditional 35mm SLR film camera, and very similar to the previous EOS 300D Digital Rebel. Current users of Canon EOS SLRs should immediately feel at home, however, as the 350D has the same overall look and feel. I generally comment on whether or not a camera's controls permit single-handed operation, but in the case of SLR cameras like the Rebel XT, this is much less of a consideration, since the cameras' bulk and typical shooting scenarios generally demand the use of two hands anyway. I really appreciated the fact that the basic exposure controls are adjustable through the external camera control buttons and dials, greatly reducing your dependence on the rear-panel LCD menu system. When you do venture into the menu system, all of the camera's playback and setup options are available in all shooting modes, although the erase, index display, image information, and playback zoom functions are only available in Playback mode. Overall, I found the Canon 350D's user interface straightforward and efficient, although the number of options controlled by a relatively small number of buttons does require some study to become familiar with.


Power Switch
: Located to the right of the Mode dial on top of the camera, this switch turns the camera on or off.


Mode Dial: Positioned on the right side of the camera's top panel, this dial sets the exposure mode. Exposure modes are divided into three zones, the Image, Basic, and Creative zones. The Image Zone encompasses the Flash Off, Night Portrait, Sports, Close-Up (macro), Landscape, and Portrait exposure modes, while the Basic zone includes all of the same plus the Full Automatic mode. Finally, the Creative Zone refers to the Program AE, Shutter Speed Priority AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual, and Auto Depth of Field Priority AE exposure modes.


Shutter Button: Located on top of the right hand grip, this button fires the shutter when fully pressed, and sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed in all but Manual exposure mode. (In Manual exposure mode, it causes the exposure readout to show how much over- or under-exposed the camera thinks the photo would be, based on the aperture and shutter speed settings you've chosen.)


Lens Release Button: Located on the front of the camera, this rectangular button located just to the right (as viewed from the front) of the lens mount unlocks the lens from the mount when pressed. The lens can then be removed by rotating it about 45 degrees to disengage the bayonet mounting flanges.


Flash Button: Located on the left side of the prism housing, above the lens release button and just below the pop-up flash compartment, this button releases the pop-up flash into its operating position when the camera is on. (The popup flash cannot be raised when the camera is turned off.)


Depth of Field Preview Button: Positioned on the side of the lens mount housing, just beneath the lens release button, this button lets you preview the depth of field by stopping down the lens aperture to the current setting in any of the Creative Zone exposure modes. (Like most modern SLRs, the Canon 350D normally focuses and meters with the lens wide open, stopping down to the selected aperture just as the picture is being taken.)


Main Dial: Resting on top of the camera on the right side (as viewed from the back), this ribbed wheel adjusts some of the camera's basic settings. In Aperture-Priority and Shutter-Priority modes, this dial sets the lens aperture or shutter speed. In Manual mode, the dial sets the shutter speed. In Program AE mode, turning this dial selects between a range of equivalent exposure settings. When turned while pressing a control button (such as the Drive Mode or Exposure Compensation buttons), this dial adjusts the selected setting.


Diopter Adjustment Dial
: Located outside the top right corner of the viewfinder eyepiece, this dial adjusts the optical viewfinder's focus to accommodate eyeglass wearers, across an unusually wide range of -3 to +1 diopter.


AV/Exposure Compensation Button
: Next to the top right corner of the status display panel, this button lets you adjust the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV in one-third or one-half-step increments when pressed while turning the Main dial (whether it uses 1/2 or 1/3 is set in Custom Function 06). In Manual exposure mode, pressing this button and turning the Main dial adjusts the aperture setting.


Drive Mode Button
: Just below the AV/Exposure Compensation button, this button cycles through the camera's drive modes when pressed. Options are Single Shooting, Continuous Shooting, and Self-Timer drive modes.


LCD Status Panel Illuminator / Direct Print Button
: Beneath the Drive Mode button, this button illuminates the status display window with an orange backlight for a few seconds. It also accesses the camera's Direct Print feature, for printing images directly from the memory card when the camera is connected to a compatible printer.


AE / FE / Index/ Reduce Button
: In the top right corner of the rear panel, marked with an asterisk, this button locks the exposure until the Shutter button is pressed. (You can customize the locking operation of this button through the Custom menu.) When pressed while the flash is activated, this button locks the flash exposure, signalling the camera to fire a small pre-flash to measure the exposure before locking it. (This decoupling of exposure lock from autofocusing is a very useful "pro" feature seldom seen on lower-end cameras.)

In Playback mode, this button calls up a nine-image index display of the captured images on the memory card. If a captured image has been enlarged, this button "zooms" back out from the enlarged view.

Focus Area Selector/Magnify Button: Just beside the AE / FE button, this button allows you to choose the focus area manually or automatically in Program AE, Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE, or Manual Exposure modes. Pressing the button and rotating the Main dial cycles through an automatic setting, or your choice of seven manually-selected focus areas. The automatic setting selects the active focus point(s) based on the position of the subject within the frame, and its proximity to the seven focusing points (shown as seven small boxes arranged in a cross pattern in the viewfinder).

In Playback mode, pressing this button magnifies the captured image from 1.5 to 10x.


Menu Button: Topping a column of buttons along the left side of the LCD monitor, this button accesses the 350D's LCD-based operating menu in all modes. Pressing the Menu button a second time cancels the menu display. (This button also backs out of menu changes.)


Info Button: Just below the Menu button, this button displays the current exposure settings on the LCD screen when pressed in Record mode. In Playback mode, pressing this button first displays the image's file number on the memory card, together with the aperture and shutter speed it was shot at. Pressing it again brings up an information screen (shown at right) that reports more detailed exposure settings that the displayed picture was taken with, and also displays a small histogram, which shows the number of pixels having each possible brightness value.


Jump Button: Directly below the Info button, this button allows you to jump 10 or 100 frames forward or backward, or by shot date, when viewing images in Playback mode. Once pressed, a jump bar appears in the LCD screen, and jumping is controlled by pressing the right or left arrow keys. The Jump button is active only in Playback mode.


Play Button: Next in line beneath the Jump button, this button puts the camera into Playback mode, regardless of the Mode dial setting. (Pressing the right and left arrow keys in this mode scrolls through captured images.) Playback mode can be canceled by hitting the Play button again, or by touching the Shutter button. (The 350D is a "shooting priority" camera. It's always ready to shoot a picture, regardless of its current mode. Simply pressing the Shutter button returns it immediately to capture mode.)


Erase Button: The final button in the series lining the left side of the LCD monitor, this button accesses the Erase menu, which allows you to erase the current image or all images on the card (except for protected ones). There is also an option to cancel. The Erase function works in Playback mode and Quick Review mode only.


Four-Way Arrow Pad: To the right of the LCD monitor on the camera's back panel, this four-button keypad features arrows in each main direction. As the camera's main navigational tool, the keypad selects various camera settings and menu options while in an LCD menu screen.

In Record mode, the up arrow key brings up the ISO menu item, which can be adjusted by either turning the main dial or using the up and down arrows. The down arrow key opens the white balance menu item, which is adjusted in the same way. In similar fashion, the right arrow controls the AF mode, while the left arrow adjusts the metering mode.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images on the memory card. If an image has been enlarged, all four arrow keys pan the view of the enlarged image.

Set Button: Located in the center of the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button confirms menu selections and camera settings when using the LCD menu system. In most modes, such as the ISO menu discussed above, merely highlighting a setting is not enough: the Set button must be pressed to activate the setting.

 

Camera Modes and Menus


Flash Off Mode
: The first mode in the Image Zone, Flash Off mode disables both the internal flash head and any external flash unit connected. Focus is set to AI Focus mode, drive mode is set to Single, and metering is set to Evaluative. The camera controls ISO and Auto white balance as well.


Night Portrait Mode
: This mode is for taking pictures of people at sunset or at night. The autofocus mode is automatically set to One Shot. Drive mode is set to Single Shot, and metering mode is set to Evaluative. Since slower shutter speeds will be used, a tripod is recommended to prevent movement from the camera. The built-in flash is automatically enabled and synched with the slower shutter speed, so subjects will need to remain still for a few moments after the flash fires to avoid ghost-like after-images. ISO is automatically adjusted by the camera. (For night exposures without the flash, Canon recommends shooting in Landscape mode.)


Sports Mode
: This mode uses a faster shutter speed to capture fast-moving subjects. The autofocus mode is automatically set to AI Servo. Drive mode is set to Continuous Shooting, ISO is set to Auto, and metering mode is set to Evaluative. The onboard flash isn't available in this mode (since it can't cycle fast enough to keep up with the continuous exposure mode).


Close-up Mode (Macro Mode)
: Turning the Mode dial to the macro flower symbol sets the camera for capturing smaller subjects such as flowers, jewelry, and other small details. The autofocus mode is automatically adjusted to One Shot, the drive mode is set to Single Shot, and the metering mode is set to Evaluative. ISO is set to Auto. Close-up mode takes advantage of the current lens' minimum focal distance. However, an EOS dedicated macro lens and the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX are recommended for better close-up photography. - In our own testing, the Rebel XT's flash throttled down quite well for closeup shots, but the position of the flash head produced somewhat uneven lighting. Also, note that unlike the macro mode on most consumer digital cameras, Macro mode on the 350D has no effect on lens focusing range, as that parameter is entirely determined by the lens being used.


Landscape Mode
: Landscape mode combines slower shutter speeds with smaller aperture settings to increase the depth of field when shooting broad vistas and sweeping landscapes. This mode is also good for night scenes without people in them. The built-in flash is automatically disabled, even if it's already raised. Because this mode uses slower shutter speeds, a tripod may be needed in less-bright lighting conditions. Metering is again set to Evaluative and ISO to Auto.


Portrait Mode
: This mode uses a large aperture setting to decrease the depth of field, which blurs the background to emphasize the subject. ISO is set to Auto, metering to Evaluative, and AF mode to One Shot. Drive mode is set to Continuous Shooting.


Full Automatic Mode
: The final mode in the Basic Zone, Full Automatic is indicated on the Mode dial by a green rectangular outline. In this mode, the camera makes all exposure decisions with the exception of image quality. Autofocus mode is set to AI Focus. (AI Focus evaluates subject movement, automatically sets either one-shot AF or AI Servo AF automatically.) Drive mode is set to Single Shot, and the metering mode is set to Evaluative.


Program AE
: This is the first mode in the Creative Zone of the Mode Dial. Program AE works similarly to the Full Automatic exposure mode, but allows more control over the exposure variables. Aperture and shutter speed are automatically selected by the camera, but you can bias the exposure to larger or smaller apertures by turning the Main dial, which will change the combination of aperture and shutter speed so as to maintain the same exposure value, but with a different combination of aperture/shutter speed. (Personally, I find this sort of vari-program mode more useful than the usual shutter- or aperture-priority modes when I'm wanting to adjust the aperture or shutter speed to control depth of field or subject motion blur. The camera won't let you select a combination of exposure parameters that doesn't work, but you retain all the flexibility of shutter- or aperture-priority exposure modes.)


Shutter-Priority AE
: This mode allows you to manually set the shutter speed anywhere from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, while the camera chooses the best corresponding aperture setting. You have control over all other exposure variables, including exposure compensation.


Aperture-Priority AE
: The opposite of Shutter-Priority mode, Aperture-Priority AE allows you to set the lens aperture (with available ranges depending on the lens in use), while the camera selects the most appropriate shutter speed. Again, you have control over all other exposure variables, including exposure compensation.


Manual Exposure
: This mode provides the same range of exposure control as the other Creative Zone exposure modes (except for exposure compensation), but lets you control both shutter speed and lens aperture independently. The shutter speed range is extended to include a Bulb setting, allowing long exposures for as long as you hold the Shutter button down. (The rear display reports the elapsed time, from one to 999 seconds.) A display in the viewfinder reports whether the camera thinks your settings will result in under, over, or correctly exposed photos.


Automatic Depth of Field AE
: This is the final mode in the Creative Zone, and is meant for taking pictures of large groups of people, landscapes with foreground detail, or any subject with elements of interest at varying distances from the camera. This mode puts the camera in control of both the shutter speed and aperture values, but you can adjust the other exposure variables. (This mode cannot be used if the lens focus mode is set to manual.) When shooting in Automatic Depth of Field AE, the camera sets both the exposure and focus distance to achieve a sharp focus over a wide depth of field. It uses the autofocus system to measure the distance to the subjects covered by each of the seven autofocus zones, and then attempts to set the focusing distance and lens aperture so as to render all subject areas in sharp focus.

Playback Mode: This mode is entered by pressing the Play button on the back panel. Playback mode lets you erase images, protect them, or set them up for printing on DPOF compatible devices. You can also view images in an index display, enlarge images to 10x, view a slide show of all captured images, or rotate an image. The Info button activates an information display, which reports the exposure settings for the image and graphs the exposure values on a small histogram.

Operating Menu: This menu is available in all of the camera modes, though a few of the capture-related options are only available in the Creative Zone. Pressing the Menu button calls up the Operating menu, made up of four menu tabs:

 

Camera 1 Menu

Camera 2 Menu




Playback Menu

Setup 1

Setup 2

 

Image Storage and Interface

The Canon EOS 350D utilizes CompactFlash (Type I and II) memory cards as its image storage medium, which should never be removed from the camera while in use. (Removing a card while the camera is still writing to it could cause permanent damage to the card.) The EOS 350D does not ship with a memory card, so you'll want to purchase a large capacity card right away. I'd recommend picking up at least a 128MB card for starters, given the EOS 350D's large, 3,456 x 2,304-pixel maximum resolution. The table below shows card capacities and approximate compression ratios for the various file sizes and types, based on a 256MB memory card. The 350D is fully compatible with IBM MicroDrives and other Type II CompactFlash devices.

The Canon Digital Rebel XT 350D supports the so-called FAT 32 directory structure. The larger address space provided by FAT 32 is necessary for managing high-capacity memory cards of 2GB or greater capacity. This hasn't been an issue until now, but recently announced CF cards with capacities as high as 8GB require FAT 32 support to use them.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
256 MB Memory Card
Fine Normal
RAW
RAW +JPEG
3456 x 2304
Images
(Avg size)
59
4.3 MB
118
2.2 MB
25
10.2 MB
17
14.6 MB
Approx.
Compression
6:1 11:1 ~2:1 - 4:1
2496 x 1664
Images
(Avg size)
103
2.4 MB
209
1.2 MB
 -
Approx.
Compression
5:1 10:1  -
1728 x 1152
Images
(Avg size)
181
1.4 MB
376
681 KB
 -
Approx.
Compression
4:1 9:1  -

 

 

The RAW mode listed above deserves some explanation. This is a format that records all the data from the sensor, exactly as it comes from the A/D conversion process. It is lossless compression, meaning that the file is reduced to a smaller size, but without losing any data in the process. It thus preserves all the original data from the sensor, but is nevertheless much more compact than an equivalent TIFF file. (The effective compression ratio relative to final file size is about 3 to 1,but can vary greatly depending on the image content, as images with large areas of relatively flat tint will compress much more than ones with lots of fine detail.)

The RAW format of some previous Canon digital SLRs included by default an embedded JPEG image, which could be extracted by several of Canon's software packages. Now that RAW+JPEG is a separate, explicit menu option, the medium-quality JPEGs that were previously embedded in the RAW files seem to have been done away with. - This makes good sense, as there's no need to waste the space occupied by the embedded JPEGs unless you need it, in which case the JPEGs are now (much more conveniently) available separately.

One significant gripe I had with the XT has to do with how it handles writing buffered images to the memory card. Opening the card compartment door at any time shuts down the camera. Canon doubtless did this to minimize the likelihood of card damage, caused by removing the card while the camera was still writing to it. The unfortunate consequence though, is that any buffered images being written to the card when the compartment door is opened will be lost.

Lost Images? - Download this image-recovery program so you'll have it when you need it...
Since we're talking about memory and image storage, this would be a good time to mention the following: I get a ton of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. It's tragic when it happens, there are few things more precious than photo memories. Corrupted memory cards can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. "Stuff happens," as they say. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

Video Out

A video cable comes packaged with the Canon EOS 350D, allowing you to connect the camera to your television set for image playback. The video signal can be switched between NTSC and PAL via a menu preference. All menus, etc. appear on the external video monitor, but do note that it won't work as a viewfinder for the same reason that the rear-panel LCD won't. (The SLR optics mean that the sensor is only exposed to light when the shutter is open.)

 

Power

The EOS 350D uses a rechargeable NB-2LH battery pack for power, and comes with a battery charger. You'll need to purchase the AC adapter kit ACK-E2 if you need to run the camera from AC power. Because it uses a non-standard power connector (a "dummy battery"), I couldn't conduct my usual tests of power consumption on it, so we're forced to rely on Canon's published battery-life numbers. Despite its use of a smaller, lower-capacity battery, the power savings from Canon's new Digic-II processor chip are great enough that overall battery life is very similar to that of the original Rebel. Based on the CIPA battery-life standard, Canon rates battery capacity at 600 shots without use of the flash, or 400 shots when the flash is used on roughly half of the shots.

 

Included Software

The 350D ships with a pretty complete complement of software on both Mac and Windows platforms, including Canon's EOS DIGITAL Solution Disk version 10, and a copy of ArcSoft PhotoStudio. PhotoStudio offers creative editing tools for cleaning up and retouching images, as well as a print utility. The EOS DIGITAL Solution Disk enables image downloading and management, as well as the necessary tools to process the camera's RAW files; namely, the Digital Photo Professional 1.6 software provided with pro cameras. The Solution Disk includes ZoomBrowser EX (ImageBrowser for Mac), CameraWindow, PhotoRecord, RAW Image Task, EOS Capture (remote image capture software), and PhotoStitch.

 

In the Box

The Canon EOS 350D comes with the following items in the box:

If you purchase the Canon Digital Rebel XT Kit, the camera also comes with the EF-S 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6 II lens.

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For full details on each of the test images, see the Canon Digital Rebel XT's "pictures" page. You can also find a more detailed commentary on key aspects of the Rebel XT's image quality on the Canon Rebel XT In-Depth Image Analysis page.

For a look at some more pictorial photos from this camera, check out our Canon Digital Rebel XT Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon Digital Rebel XT with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

 

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Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Excellent resolution (but the increase over 6 megapixel models isn't really all that significant)
  • Superb tonal range, excellent shadow detail, with minimal image noise.
  • Really excellent high-ISO performance, excellent noise control
  • Significant speed improvements, dramatic increase in buffer capacity
  • AF and metering modes both now user-selectable
  • Flash exposure compensation added
  • E-TTL II flash exposure metering greatly improves flash exposure accuracy
  • Good low-light autofocus performance
  • Innovative "battleship" white balance adjustment/bracketing control brought over from 20D
  • Smaller hand grip fits female and smaller male hands much better
  • Metering more "natural" than that of original Rebel, isn't as swayed by strong highlights
  • Nice interaction between rear-panel "short-cut" controls and LCD menu system (but see "con" list for the downside)
  • Flexible black & white mode added, with multiple "filter" options
  • Selectable color space, sRGB/Adobe RGB
  • Good-quality "kit" lens, at least at wider apertures
  • Very good battery life
  • Selectable exposure steps (1/3 or 1/2 EV)
  • Customizable "SET" button (image quality, shooting parameter, or playback) is nice interface enhancement
  • Up to 10x playback magnification
  • USB interface has been upgraded to 2.0/High Speed
  • Good software package
  • No spot metering mode
  • Opening CF compartment door turns off power, loses any images still clearing from buffer
  • AF-assist is still only available when the flash is enabled
  • Relatively slow maximum flash sync speed of 1/200
  • Auto white balance performance still very poor under household incandescent lighting (Manual setting does fine though)
  • White balance system lacks a Kelvin option
  • Slightly low viewfinder eyepoint, a little awkward for eyeglass wearers
  • Viewfinder view is on the small side
  • Drive mode and exposure compensation adjustment buttons are very close, it's too easy to hit drive mode when you're trying for the EV adjust
  • "Kit" lens has somewhat limited focal length range
  • "Kit" lens' performance is a little weak at the telephoto end and at small apertures
  • Smaller handgrip can be infuriating for users with larger hands
  • Hand grip has more of a "slippery" feel to it than that of original Rebel, despite rough texture.
  • Textured surface of black model abrades fingernails slightly, leaving white trails of fingernail dust on the surface (not a big deal, just messy)
  • Use of main LCD menu system for ISO, metering, AF mode, and White balance makes it hard to see the settings in bright sunlight

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The original Canon EOS Digital Rebel made waves in the digital SLR marketplace, offering professional-level features and control at a very low price. Now, the new Canon Digital Rebel XT brings dramatic improvements across the board, with better resolution and speed, and myriad improvements in camera operation and user control. In almost every parameter, the Canon Rebel XT offers significant enhancements beyond the original model, while maintaining the same (original) list price. Despite its advanced feature set, the Canon Rebel XT manages to span the full range of user needs, from the pure point & shoot user interested only in "green zone" operation to the professional looking for an inexpensive second body. As such, it's a nearly ideal option for families or other situations in which users of greatly varying experience levels need to share the same camera. My one biggest gripe with the camera will be some users' favorite feature: The small (tiny) hand grip. While I found shooting with the camera an infuriating exercise in frustration and crunched fingertips, women who picked up the camera immediately loved how it felt in their hands. My advice to ham-handed shooters like myself would be to pick up the optional battery grip. While not doing much for horizontal-format shooting, the battery grip makes for a very comfortable experience when shooting vertical-format images, and generally gives the camera a better sense of balance, at least in my experience. All in all, the Canon Digital Rebel XT is a technological tour de force, delivered in a tiny, attractive package, and with a set of user controls that are equally approachable by novices and professional shooters. Highly recommended, and a shoo-in as a Dave's Pick.


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