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For an entry level DSLR, the Canon Rebel XSi runs on all cylinders

July 3rd, 2008 by James in Photography

Canon XSi

As a kid, I remember my brother always working on his hot rod. He wasn’t a racer, per se. In fact, he had just gotten into the sport. But he wanted to look the part, feel the part, and even get some results on the weekend drag strip. And as such, he spent a lot of time at the local “speed shop” getting the parts he needed to trick out his rod. My other brother was the opposite. He hated working on cars in his spare time because as a mechanic, he did it for a living. As such, he went with a fast car that came that way straight off the showroom floor. The Canon Digital Rebel XSi is like that all in one solution. Packs a punch where it counts, has just enough features to get you into the game, and can grow with you.

Sure, there’s a few complaints – like it only has a maximum ISO of 1600, or that the center weighted spot metering is a huge area instead of being more precise. But let’s face it. If you’re just getting serious about photography as a hobby, you want something that can be very forgiving. Something that will take your picture taking to the next level but doesn’t break the bank or is too much to handle. That’s where the XSi shines. Much like its predecessor the XTi did before it. The model I tested came with a single 18-55mm lens with optical image stabilization on board. This is the standard kit configuration and for about 80% of picture taking, the focal length works. But that other twenty percent will definitely leave you longing for a longer zoom.

The heart of the camera is it’s 12-megapixel APS-C size CMOS sensor. Another switch is it uses SDHC cards instead of compact flash, which Canon has used almost since the beginning. But again, for the beginner who is looking to slide gently into the shallow end of the DSLR pool, this is a nice option since they can use their existing cards right away. It has a very strong flash for strobes outside the portrait and small group range, and considering it employs a power sucking 3.0” LCD screen, the battery life on the XSi is darn near impressive. This is largely due to a great infra red beam feature which turns off the LCD while you have it against your check eyeing the viewfinder. So, holding it with a thumb over the IR Sensor comfortably turns off the LCD until you need it. Button positioning is standard for an EOS, which uses the jog wheel and at a press of a button outside of automatic, one can adjust the ISO settings on the fly.

Focusing is fast and fairly precise thanks to it’s 9 point selectable autofocus system, and the XSi does it’s own sensor cleaning every few cycles to keep the CMOS nice and tidy. Burst mode is quick in sports mode, but it works best outside in bright ambient light.

But where the XSi really excels is in photo quality. The pictures are downright gorgeous. And after all, no matter how a camera gets you there, that’s what really counts. For the beginner who likes some whistles and bells right off the showroom floor, the XSi is a definite hot rod.

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