Canon's 450D: The Canon Digital Rebel XSi
The Canon Digital Rebel line is long and illustrious, earning high marks with its blend of high-end photographic power with a casual, user-friendly approachability. It's no surprise then that the Canon Digital Rebel XSi (also known as the 450D) was one of the most hotly anticipated new releases this year, and even less of a surprise that it's an extraordinary camera that lives up to the Digital Rebel name.
Many of the features present on the Digital Rebel XSi have been appropriated from Canon's premier pro-SLR, the Canon 40D, like the 3.0-inch Live View LCD display. Still, the XSi also forges its own path with some fancy features of its own, besting the 40D with its 12.2 megapixel CMOS sensor and abandoning the traditional CompactFlash memory card for Secure Digital.
The Canon Digital Rebel XSi is exceptionally light, replacing the heavy magnesium alloy body of the 40D with plastic. Despite this, the XSi still feels quite sturdy and the rubberized hand grip provides a comfortable place to grasp the body and keep it steady. The button layout is logical, and each function is easy to access with the sweeping thumb of the right hand.
The large, 3.0-inch LCD screen dominates the back of the camera, and provides all the vital information about the shooter's current mode and settings in vivid color. Canon has made excellent use of the large screen, displaying information in clear, easy-to-read text, both on the status screen and on the camera's menus.
Though the XSi touts Live View functionality, which allows users to preview their shots on the LCD screen, it's not the amazing feature that some make it out to be. It provides a good representation of the scene, but seems inadequate when contrasted with the XSi's excellent optical viewfinder. Live View is nice to have as an option, but the viewfinder works so well that it'd be hard to bypass it in favor of the LCD.
We used a Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens with the XSi, and out of the box noticed something quite amusing. When the image stabilization switch on the lens was turned on, the camera would emit a high-pitched whine that only the younger people in our office could hear. Older colleagues could not detect the sound.
For those who could hear it, it was somewhat irritating, and when the camera was pointed directly at their heads, the sound quickly became unbearable. It was less of an issue for the person taking the photo. Turning the IS switch to off eliminated the problem.
In our tests, we found it difficult to take a bad photo with the XSi. We do a lot of testing with low-end, budget, and consumer digital cameras and it's often extremely difficult to coax a decent looking photograph out of them. The difference between such cameras and a well-made digital SLR is apparent. The XSi captured excellent, highly-detailed photos that never disappointed.
The XSi has a number of helpful modes that configure the camera's settings to the unique needs of a scene. The first set of modes is called the "basic zone," and this includes standard scene settings such as portrait, sports, macro, and night scene, as well as the camera's automatic mode. The second set of modes is called the "creative zone," and includes modes that allow for greater manual control and adjustments: program auto, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, automatic depth-of-field, and manual exposure.
Take a look at our sample photos to get an idea of what the Digital Rebel XSi is capable of.
Conclusion: An SLR Superstar
The Canon Digital Rebel XSi would make an excellent high-end introductory camera for an aspiring photographer or ambitious novice. Though it's far removed from the typical consumer point-and-shoot digital camera, Canon has taken great pains to uncomplicated what could be a very complicated gadget. The XSi is a worthy addition to the Digital Rebel line and should be strongly considered by any consumer interested in taking their photography seriously.