"Declaring the glory of God
through photography of His created world"
copyright 2008 by Joseph LaQuiere
December 11, 2007
A recent look at three entry level DSLR cameras from Nikon, Olympus and Canon The Entry Point for a DSLR
The Canon XTI is the third in the Digital Rebel series that started with the release of the price and performance breaking first Digital Rebel 300D, released in August 2003. This latest in the series, the XTI, also known as the 400D remains perhaps the best selling DSLR in the world. This camera was announced in August of 2006 and I am sure is due for another update soon. The XTI has been reviewed extensively around the web and has a well deserved reputation. No look at current entry level DSLR's would be possible without inclusion of Canon's XTI. I am writing this short review of the XTI as part of a look at three of the most popular Entry Level DSLR cameras. The Nikon D40X, Canon XTI and the Olympus E-410.
Since this camera has been so well covered and is now more than a year and a half old I will just offer a few comments and my personal observations since I have had a XTI since late 2006. The main body of this trio of reviews is on the Nikon D40X page which should be read together with the XTI and E-410 pages.
What I Like About The XTI
First off, the XTI is fast responsive and a great image maker. It is compatible with all the current AF Canon lenses and, unlike Canon's first iteration, is not missing any features from Depth of field preview to mirror lockup. All major adjustments that can be made to exposure and camera parameters are accessible via buttons on the rear of the camera. Of course it has an updated 3" LCD. Current entry level DSLR's all use the rear LCD to not only display the image but the current camera settings as well. The LCD shooting information is displayed on a bright and well laid out no nonsense display.
A great feature that was first seen on the Minolta 5D (now Sony) is a eye sensor that automatically shuts off the rear LCD as soon as your eye is put up to the view finder. This eliminates the annoying cycling on and off of the LCD while your eye is up to the viewfinder that happens with both the Nikon and the Olympus. These cameras only turn off the LCD when you have the shutter button pressed but if you release the shutter while your eye is still on the viewfinder the LCD will turn back on.
The XTI also has exceptional low noise at all ISO settings which is up to 1600. The camera also features a sonic type of sensor cleaning where the camera shakes the sensor with ultrasonic frequency which knocks loose dust from the sensor.
What I Don't Like
Seldom is there a device that works just the way YOU would design it and the XTI is no exception, there are certainly things that I do not like about it. The first is probably the physical feel of the camera. It has a small hand grip in part necessitated by the size of the camera body but the front of the grip is not very deep making it feel rather uncomfortable in the hand and my hand is small I can only imagine that it would be significantly worse for a larger hand.
XTI Shooting Information LCD Screen
I would also like to see a larger and brighter viewfinder. Of the three cameras the XTI is about in the middle as far as the view finder. The Nikon is larger brighter and generally more pleasant to look through while the Olympus is dark and tunnel like. I also am disappointed that there is no "Auto Mode" for ISO. ISO on a DSLR becomes on of the most used variable settings and it would be nice if the camera would automatically adjust it to the lowest or highest settings based on user preference for the lowest noise or highest shutter speed as the case may be.
In use and comparing images I have concluded that the Canon metering is not as good as Nikon's and the XTI tends toward over exposure however that can easily be compensated for with the exposure compensation setting.
Even with my dislikes the XTI is a difficult camera to top, it is full featured, still the best sensor in the industry and compatible with all the Canon AF lenses. Canon has done a good job in putting real operational upgrades in the XTI over the previous models and there is little that is lacking. Perhaps the biggest deficiency is in the Kit lenses where I think that Nikon has the advantage. If Nikon had not crippled the D40X it would perhaps be a closer call. As I said, in the Nikon review, the image quality difference between the two cameras is very minor however I do think that in absolute terms the Image Quality Award may need to go to the Nikon; especially when considering the Kit lenses. But then again if you start to consider IQ at ISO 400 and above that would swing it back toward Canon. For me I still would place the Canon XTI as the overall best entry level DSLR all things considered. Easy to use, no confusing menus great lens options available both used and new, excellent high ISO performance and priced well below $1000.