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Canon Rebel XSI 450D Field Guide
The Rebel XSI is a wonderful camera. At the price tag of just under
The Rebel XSI has a huge LCD screen. It is the first Canon Camera of its kind that features Live View. Live View is showing the picture on your LCD for composition. Until recently this was not available in SLR cameras, as the Mirror (or Prism) got in the way. When you enable Live View, the mirror inside the camera flips up, exposing the sensor. I am convinced that this will come in handy in crowds or when shooting high or low.
The XSi also has a RGB histogram! This is a great value, as a combined histogram (as my 20D has) sometimes makes it hard to judge over exposure. Since blue skies show up mostly on the blue channel, it will show a much brighter exposure for some outside shots. The combined (brightness) histogram would always under estimate the over exposure if it was mostly confined to a single channel.
Having a full RGB histogram in a camera in this price range is fantastic.
I have the feeling that the Rebel XSI has more trouble focusing than my 20D. Especially with my ultra wide Tokina lens at the 12mm wide end the Rebel seems to have some problems. It should not come as a surprise for two reasons. At 12mm, the depth of field will be extremely large, so the focus sensors may have difficulties finding a maximum sharpness, as it does not vary much throughout the focus range. Even my 20D sometimes will not focus this lens correctly. This is not a big deal, because of the large depth of field.
Secondly, the xxD series is built to a higher standard and has more accurate focusing.
I also noticed that I can acquire focus on an object some distance away and when I re-acquire focus, it will be at a slightly different focus distance than before, even though I did not move. The variation is not great and the shots are probably going to turn out good, but since I got curious, I will investigate this a little more.
One of the biggest selling points to me is the 14-bit dynamic range of the sensor. This means that the 450D has much finer steps between the different brightness levels.
In theory, this should come in handy for sunsets, which used to lead to posterization effects or for local contrast enhancements.
I tried the contrast enhancement on a picture I shot last week in Portland Oregon. Since I am also evaluating a new RAW converter I may have gone a little overboard on the effect, but it shows nicely what you can do with the XSI.
I pulled the skyline of Portland and Mt. Hood together with the long focal length of my 70-200mm lens. Since Mt. Hood was many miles away, it seemed somewhat washed out by the haze of the late afternoon smog and the bad weather. I boosted the contrast around the highlights for the mountain and was able to do so without any adverse effects. Despite the very strong local contrast enhancements, I could not make out any posterization. That is a huge plus for the Rebel XSI.
Unfortunately the 450D does not use the same battery type that the previous models used. This is usually not a big deal, but when I am on a trip with Dani, we always had a stock of charged batteries that we could both use. Every evening we used to charge those from a single charger. That kept travel weight down. Unfortunately we now have to carry two chargers and we each have to have our own battery stock.
Feeling the Camera
The Camera feels great. I am having a really good time with it. The shutter sounds smooth and not as loud as on the 20D which is a huge advantage when shooting people. The missing thumb wheel of the xxD series is not a big deal. Although I got used to it a lot on my 20D, it turns out I can live well without it.
Unfortunately the 450D uses SD and SDHC. At first I didn't notice that SD cards of 4GB or more are actually a different standard (SD-High Capacity or SDHC). My old Digital Partner Image tank does not support it and I also had to buy a new card reader.
One of the biggest selling ponit of Nikon was their Auto ISO function. Finally Canon also has an Auto ISO on their SLR cameras (at least on the 450D). This means that you can work comfortably in those changing light conditions without worrying about ISO.
Long Exposure Noise
I love taking photographs at night. The colors are vivid and since our eyes don't see colors as well during the night, we usually perceive those pictures as more vivid than they are. I feel that the 450D generates more noise in the shadows during long exposures (worst case) than my 20D did. This is not surprising, considering that the pixel sites get smaller with incrased resolution. Even at ISO 100 some post processing is necessary. I have gotten extremely good results taking several shots and stacking them for noise reduction.
At first the small size was somewhat odd to me, as I was used larger cameras, but over time I adapted quite favorably to the smaller size of the camera. Now it feels just right.
The sound is much more silent than the violent snap of the 20D. Its great if you are shooting wildlife or shooting people, but it also means its slower and a bit more flimsy.
So far I have taken almost 3000 photographs with the 450D. Its working great and I love the automatic sensor cleaning feature. I haven't had to brush my sensor (yet) to keep dust particles from showing up in the picture (this was an issue with previous cameras).
Because the camera is so cheap, it paid for itself very quickly. Thats great, since I can put the extra money towards traveling expenses and better lenses.
Some images I shot with the 450D:
Also check out the Canon 7D Field Guide