Canon started the whole consumer Digital SLR market in the Fall of 2003 when it surprised the world with the announcement of the original $899 Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) or $999 for the kit with a 18-55mm lens. That was the first DSLR to crack the $1000 barrier and it sold by the truckload when it started shipping in late 2003. This 6MP masterpiece of cheap silver-painted plastic and a pentamirror is without doubt one of the most important camera introductions in history. It sold in huge numbers, and most consider that first Rebel revolutionary in its impact on the SLR market. It certainly changed the directions in digital photography forever.

Canon Consumer DSLR Overview
Date Announced Entry Model Sensor Resolution AF Points LCD Screen
August 2003 Digital Rebel
EOS 300D / Kiss Digital
6.3 MP
7 1.8"
February 2005 Digital Rebel XT
EOS 350D / Kiss Digital N
8.0 MP 7 1.8"
August 2006 Digital Rebel XTi
EOS 400D / Kiss Digital X
10.1 MP 9 2.5"
January 2008 Rebel XSi
EOS 450D / Kiss X2
12.2 MP 9 3"

With the introduction of the EOS 450D the Rebel is now in its fourth iteration, and each new Rebel is an event that captures the attention of the photo market. Canon usually has a surprise or two in store with each new Rebel. It has become a tradition. Unlike competing stripped-down entry models, the Rebel series seems to conquer new territory with each new release, and the XSi continues that tradition. In fact in many ways the XSi is a much more exciting new camera than the 40D was when it was introduced just 6 months ago.

The new Canon is the first consumer Canon to feature a 12MP sensor. The Canon 40D, the top prosumer model, has a 10MP sensor. This is almost becoming a Canon tradition as the entry XTi was introduced with Canon's first 10MP sensor. The XSi also pioneers the best implementation of Live View in the entire Canon line, being the first to feature either regular Live View with mirror-flip for focusing, or a new contrast detection focusing that does not require a screen blackout. The XSi is also the first Canon to ship with an economical IS kit lens as standard, and the redesigned 18-55mm IS lens is a much-improved match to the resolution demands of a 12.2MP sensor.

The XSi is known in the rest of the world as the 450D, which should be its rightful name in the US. However, someone in Canon marketing believes US buyers care about the Rebel name, so Canon continues that tradition to this day. Those old ads with Andre Agassi are just that - old ads - and no one cares any more. It's even worse in Asia where they still call the 450D the Kiss.

Canon Prosumer DSLR Overview
Date Announced Prosumer Model Sensor Resolution AF Points LCD Screen
April 2000 D30 3.1 MP (Megapixel) 3 1.8"
February 2002 D60 6.3 MP 3 1.8"
February 2003 10D 6.3 MP 7 1.8"
August 2004 20D 8.2 MP 9 1.8"
February 2006 30D 8.2 MP 9 2.5"
August 2007 40D 10.1 MP 9 3"

It is also interesting to compare the entry Canon DSLRs to the evolution of the prosumer xxD series. Canon has fitted the XSi/450D with their new 12.2MP CMOS sensor, while the more expensive prosumer 40D is using the 10.1MP sensor. This is similar to the last generation XTi at 10.1MP with the 30D at 8.2MP. This will give Canon fans another opportunity to argue that resolution doesn't matter much, but this time around the prosumer Sony A700 and D300 both sport an excellent 12.2MP CMOS sensor with arguably better noise control than the 40D. The competition will make the "resolution doesn't matter" argument a little more difficult in this iteration. There is also the prosumer Pentax K20D with a 14.6MP CMOS sensor that is topping many of the resolution tests.

The new XSi, on the other hand, does compete exceptionally well in the entry DSLR space. The 12.2MP sensor, dual Live View, 9-point autofocus, and 3" LCD make the XSi stand out from the budget SLR crowd. Canon even threw in a Digic III processor with 14-bit A/D conversion for image processing on a par with the 40D. In reality, the XSi needs to be considered the top of the current budget class, and it will compete there with cameras like the Sony A350. The very capable XTi will continue in the Canon line, but it is now positioned as an entry model. The 8MP Canon XT is dropped from the line, making 10MP the new starting point for Canon DSLRs.

XSi compared to XTi
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  • punchkin - Thursday, May 8, 2008 - link

    So the upshot of it is that it is not PRESUMABLY rated at 50,000. You don't know, and pulled a number out of your butt.
  • mikett - Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - link

    Can anyone indicate the relative lifespan rating on the XSi vs the 40D?
    I once recalled that the 40D class ( 20D, 30D ) had a significantly higher rating than the Rebel class and their construction was sturdier but maybe that has changed.
  • mmusterd - Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - link

    In fact in many ways the XSi is a much more exciting new camera than the 40D was when it was introduced just 6 months ago.

    Well, yes. It means the 40D is dropping in price, and op top of that, here in Europe, Canon is giving a substantial cashback om the 40D (of 150 euros). This means that the price difference between the 40D and 450D has practically vanished (at a randomly picked shop the 40D body now comes at 750 euros, whereas the same shop charges 660 euros for a 450d body).

    This means that at about the same price (or at least a small premium) you can get the 40D instead of the 450D. Now tell me the reasons why I should buy the 450D instead.

    For myself, I couldn't think of any, so I bought the 40D. For the article, in light of the very small current price difference, perhaps more thought could be given to the comparison between the two canons.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - link

    You make a very good point. At the same price I would also select the 40D, but that is likely an anomaly due to the fact that the XSi was just introduced and its price is staying stubbornly at a higher price, while the 40D is now more than 6 months old. That pricing is certainly because resellers are having no problem selling the XSi at the higher price.

    We fully expect prices to settle down to a 20% to 40% price premium for the 40D. At that price difference it is easier to justify the XSi instead.

    I do believe the size and weight of the XSi will appeal more to some users. Even with the grip the XSi is smaller and much easier to carry around all day than a 40D. Ergonomics are also the best so far from an entry Canon.
  • n4bby - Wednesday, May 7, 2008 - link

    even with the improved ergonomics of the rebel, there is a huge advantage of the 40D: the scroll wheel control on the back. Canon uses this control on all their pro models as well and i cannot overstate what a huge usability difference this makes when you're shooting... i have the old 10D, and when i tried using a friend's rebel i was constantly frustrated by the tiny little cursor button controls on the back... when you're trying to quickly adjust your exposure on the fly it's hopelessly clumsy compared to the wheel. i seriously would pay $$ for that advantage alone.
  • PokerGuy - Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - link

    Wes, good work on this article. Most AT readers including myself are technically oriented and interested in all sorts of technology. We use cameras like the ones you review but we are not photography pros. Your kind of review is exactly what I like to see, not the ones done at the photo-pro kind of sites, those have a different target audience.

    Keep up the good work.
  • punchkin - Tuesday, May 6, 2008 - link

    ... and I don't mean it's aimed at third graders, either.
  • kiii - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    Thanks for another camera article Wesley, they are getting better and better.

    One thing that you have already touched on, but might want to investigate further are the noise reduction algorithms that different manufacturers use. For out of camera jpegs, Nikon tends to eliminate chrominance noise, while Canon leaves small amounts of chrominance noise. The result are small colored specs on high ISO Canon jpegs, while Nikon jpegs look more like "film grain". On the other hand, Sony seems to implement very aggressive (for DSLRs anyway) noise reduction in the a350, leading to the jagged edges you mentioned. Since this is AnandTech, there are definitely power users here and these users may want to shoot in raw. Perhaps for future DSLR reviews, you can do a raw comparison, using the same raw converter for all cameras. This way, you can bypass the camera's noise reduction and see the sensor's true performance. I know that the majority of first time DSLR users will not shoot in raw, but then again, not everyone overclocks their system either.

    Either way, I did get a chance to play with the XSi myself, and it is quite the camera. I look forward to your XSi comparisons with the K20D and D300.
  • cray85 - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    Your article mentions that the Sony A350 is better then the XSi at higher ISOs. However, your sample image is "too simple". A more challenging image (especially one with more in-focus low-contrast details) would clearly show the excessiveness of the noise-reduction routines employed by the A350. You'd then be able to see some significant smudging of the aforementioned low-contrast details and also some more of the jagged artifacts you mentioned.

    By contrast, the Canon and Nikon cameras employ a much more conservative approach. Noise is less of a problem at smaller print sizes but the detail loss due to heavy-handed noise reduction is an issue at all print sizes.

    Also, while it's not a bad idea to compare the white balance accuracy of different cameras, sensitivity tests should always be performed with manually set white balance so that noise comparisons are consistent.

    Finally, it's a good thing you've begun to stop your test lenses down to F4. However, an even better idea would be to use F8 to further increase the lens resolution and also to bring more details into focus.

    I do understand the need for you to keep things simple for readers. However, this does not imply that cutting corners on crucial tests is acceptable. A beginner might decide to buy a Sony for reasons other then JPEG image quality. However, your testing should make clear the trade-offs he will have to make.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    I did NOT say the A350 was better at high ISO than the XSi. I said the A350 held up better than expected in comparison to the XSi. The A350 noise reduction was set to low in our image tests, and while the A350 is not superior, neither is it trounced by the Canon XSi or Nikon D60.

    At F8 and low ISO in our low-light tungsten setting the shutter speeds would be so low that we would create a new noise issue with long exposures. If we increased light to make F8 work better for the test range we would no longer be testing a typical interior lighting situation with high potential noise. We are not trying to determine noise in a studio lighting environment which would be a next to useless test for a typical XSi user.

    F4 is a reasonable compromise that gets the f1.4 lenses in their best performance range without creating a new set of concerns that would skew the tests. Aperture is at F4 in all test shots.

    I don't know too many amateurs who set manual white balance before shooting indoor available light. Most just leave it on Auto WB, but we know most of the DSLRs do a pretty poor job on Auto WB in Tungsten lighting. Our concession to that reality is to set the WB to Tungsten.

    The user might know enough to set the WB to Tungsten for inside lamps and frankly the Canon is pretty awful in color balance even when we went to the trouble to set Tungsten WB. Nikon and Sony get it right under these conditions so we have to ask why Canon Tungsten WB is so biased to warm red. I think the poor Canon color in indoor Tungsten lighting is important info to provide to readers.

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