Canon XTi Review

 
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Canon Rebel XTi Flash

The Rebel XTi'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 Canon Rebel XTi 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 Rebel XTi also uses E-TTL II control for both the built-in and compatible external flashes (according to Canon this includes the older 550EX flash, as well as the newer 580EX; though the 580EX offers even more), 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 Canon Rebel XTi, 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 Canon Rebel XTi 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 XTi:

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 and 580EX speedlights is quite useful. With a F550EX or F580EX connected to the XTi, 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 Canon Rebel XTi is 1/200-second. (This is the maximum shutter speed that can be used on the Rebel XTi 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 XTi. For example, the AF assist beam on the 550EX is rated as good to about 50 feet, versus the roughly 13 feet of the pulse flash on the Canon Rebel XTi 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.)

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 XTi 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.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Average flash exposure compensation required. Pretty good range though.

18mm equivalent 55mm equivalent
Normal Flash +1.0 EV Slow-Sync Flash +1.3 EV

Flash coverage was very uneven at wide angle and telephoto, with strong falloff in the corners and edges of the frame. Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Canon Rebel XTi's flash underexposed our subject quite a bit at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode required a little more positive compensation at +1.3 EV, though overall coverage is more even. However, the longer shutter speed results in a stronger orange cast from the background lighting.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see XTIFL06W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL07W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL08W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL09W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL10W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL11W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see XTIFL12W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL13W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL14W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL15W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL16W.JPG
0.5 sec
f3.6
ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
Click to see XTIFL06T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL07T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL08T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL09T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL10T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL11T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
Click to see XTIFL12T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL13T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL14T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL15T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL16T.JPG
0.5 sec
f5.7
ISO 100

The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi's built-in flash was bright and powerful, with good intensity all the way to 16 feet at ISO 100, with the lens at 18mm. At 55mm, intensity remained bright to about 8 feet. We're not sure of the reason, but the 16 foot distance is beyond the rated range of the flash, yet still resulted in a good exposure. The falloff at telephoto for distances greater than ~8 feet does agree with Canon's own rating, however.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see XTIFL_MFR123WM0100.JPG
12.3 feet
ISO 100
Click to see XTIFL_MFR077TM0100.JPG
7.7 feet
ISO 100

Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We also capture two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims. In the shots above, the Rebel XTi performs as Canon says it will, producing good exposures at the rated distances.

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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