Like many of my generation, I've known a lot of heavy film SLRs. They offered great performance, true (and often were so solid that they could be used to hammer tent stakes), but heavy cameras and lenses just aren't something I want to deal with anymore. My ideal now is to grab a small pack with a camera and a few lenses and hike more lightly into the field.
Enter the new Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT. At only 4.98x3.71x2.63 inches and barely over a pound in weight (17.1 ounces), it comes close in size to the advanced compact digital cameras that I love. Yet the camera includes an excellent 8-megapixel sensor based on the technologies used in the Canon EOS 20D's sensor, uses all Canon EF and EF-S lenses and includes a full set of automatic and manual controls that outdoor photographers expect. In addition, the camera uses a small-format sensor that will magnify the subject in the frame by a factor of 1.6x compared to a 35mm frame.
While at Great Smoky Mountains National Park earlier this year, I fit the camera with three lenses (a Canon EF 70-300mm DO zoom, a Canon EF-S 60mm macro and a Tamron 11-18mm wide-angle zoom) into a small waist pack. I sacrificed nothing with that package in terms of capabilities, and when I checked my results on the computer, I discovered that I sacrificed nothing in image quality. Image color, contrast and noise are excellent.
I used the RAW+JPEG setting and loved what I got with both formats. The internal DIGIC II processor does a superb job of giving well-processed JPEG files. Anyone who says JPEG has inferior quality compared to RAW has never looked at a JPEG processed by Canon's proprietary DIGIC processor. I easily enlarged these 8-megapixel files to make high-quality 12x18-inch prints (I'd guess they would go bigger, but I don't have a bigger printer).
The EOS Digital Rebel XT is a significant upgrade from the original Digital Rebel. The XT includes built-in flash compensation and choice of AF modes that the original didn't have. The camera also features a high-speed, wide-area autofocus system that can have its seven points selected individually; a minimal 0.2-second startup time; a bright, easily viewed viewfinder; depth-of-field preview; settable shutter speeds from 1/4000 to 30 seconds and more. This may be Canon's newest entry-level digital SLR in terms of price, but it's no basic, minimally controlled camera. Canon shows that it's possible to have both "compact" and "full-featured" work in the same unit.
To get this compact size, Canon uses a battery that's considerably smaller than any other battery used for Canon digital SLRs. This makes carrying extras convenient, but you do worry about capacity at first. Canon says it matches the performance of the larger batteries used in the original Digital Rebel and my experience confirms that. After a few days of shooting in the Smokies, however, I quit worrying about
Contact: Canon, (800) OK-CANON, www.usa.canon.com.
Camera Type: Digital, interchangeable-lens SLR
Lens Mount: Canon EF and EF-S
Resolution: 8 megapixels (3456 x 2304 pixels)
Viewfinder: 95% coverage of sensor, 0.8x magnification, pentamirror
LCD: 1.8-inch TFT
Media Type: CompactFlash
Shooting Modes: Program, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, depth of field, full-auto, manual
Program Modes: Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports, Night Portrait and Flash Off
Exposure Compensation: ±2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-EV steps
Metering System: Evaluative metering, partial (9%), center-weighted
Shutter Speeds: 30 to 1/4000 sec.
ISO Equivalency: 100-1600
Built-In Flash: Pop-up, GN 43 (ISO 100/feet)
Power Source: Proprietary Li-Ion
Size: 4.98x3.71x2.63 inches
Weight: 17.1 ounces
Estimated Street Price: $899.95
|1 With 8 megapixels, it's one of the most compact, lightweight D-SLRs on the market
2 Uses all Canon EF and EF-S mount lenses
3 Multiple automatic modes, but remains full-featured for photographers who want more control