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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  • pinto4402 - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    Your observation about Canon's overly warm/red WB in tungsten lighting is shared by many camera reviewers/users. It's a "problem" that has been noted for a long time. Some people actually prefer the overly warm colors, though. I'm sure this is the reason why Canon has never fixed their WB.

  • Deadtrees - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    "Working range AF specifications are the same EV range of -0.5EV to 18EV. However, the 40D adds an additional diagonal cross-type sensor with greater precision for f2.8 lenses, providing better support for fast Canon L lenses."

    - Not trying to be picky or anything but that is somewhat misleading as not all L lenses have aperture values faster than f/2.8.


    "Overall, the Sony A350 actually does better against the Canon XSi than we really expected and acquits itself quite well for a higher resolution sensor that should be showing greater noise than the Canon XSi. Resolution and noise control to ISO 1600 on the Sony holds its own against a sensor maker than has been the low-noise standard since DSLRs began."

    - Keep in mind that A350 utilizes quite agressive noise deduction algorithms resulting smudged water color like images. If you think less noise is good no matter what, I guess it's not so bad. But, what about details that are lost? Do you really want over 10mp dslr images to show details as cell phone cameras? Hell, in that case, even point-and-shoot panasonic cameras that are known for crazy noise reduction algorithm can compete head to head with Nikon D3.

    BTW, I really suggest you to change the test subject. It's glossy coated hardboard papers which makes it virtually impossible to see the loss of details caused by insance noise reduction algorithms.

  • Lord 666 - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link


    If you are comparing the XTi vs. XSi vs. 40D, why not include the D300 as well to compare against?
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    We will include the D300 results in Part 2 of our Digital Sensor article. We will be comparing resolution and noise in different sensor categories, such as 14 megapixel, 12 megapixel, and 10 megapixel.

    I did toy with the idea of including the D300 in comparisons in this review, but I figured Canon to past Canon XTi to top Canon prosumer 40D was a bit more logical than a $800 body to a $1800 body. I'll leave that comparison for the digital sensor article.
  • complectus - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    Is that a Frank Lloyd Wright house in 2 of the Sample Images?
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    Yes it is Frank Lloyd Wright. I am fortunate that a real Wright house is in my neighborhood. The furniture was also custom built for the rooms in th eWright house, as was typical of many of his home designs.

    It was built in the early 1900's and is contemporary to the other homes in the photographs. I figured someone would catch it.
  • pinto4402 - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    For about five minutes, I was interested in the Xsi as a lightweight backup camera body for event photography. However, the lack of a CF card slot completely nixes this idea. It doesn't make any sense for Canon to switch from CF to SD, other than to attract P&S owners who want to migrate to a DSLR. By doing so, however, Canon effectively excluded us existing DSLR owners who already have many of their lenses and who would be more likely to purchase. I can tolerate the Xsi's plastic body, but I'm not going to invest in new storage media just to use this camera.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    You can buy a 16GB class 6 hi-speed SD card for $55, a 4GB Class 6 for about $20, or an 8GB for around $30. I can't believe that small expense would keep you from buying and using the XSi if you really wanted to.

    Nikon uses SD on the D80 and D60, Pentax uses it on the K20D and K200D. Sony still uses CF, but new Sony lenses cost a lot more than today's cheap SD and CF memory.
  • RDaneel - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    I have no problem with AT doing camera reviews, I think it's a valuable perspective for hobbyists and prosumers. Obviously AT isn't going to review $1500 lenses...

    That being said, this review reads more like Canon ad copy than a real comparative review. There isn't any serious examination of the image quality, and it feels like more effort is spent in comparing the number of AF points and megapixels than really looking at the camera as a DSLR system or really talking about IQ. Just kind of a disappointment, normally the objectivity on AT is a bit better. Did the author get to keep the free press sample? ;)
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, May 5, 2008 - link

    There was no Press sample - not even a loaner. We had to buy the XSi that was reviewed. The same goes for the Nikon D60 and Sony A350 that were compared to the XSi. Since we bought them all we owe nothing to any manufacturer.

    The XSi won't replace my D300 or my Pentax K20D, but it is a really superb entry camera.

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