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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Canon EOS Digital Rebel

Canon Digital Cameras

   


Canon EOS Digital Rebel Review

Review Date: Nov 24, 2003

Category: Serious to Advanced Amateur

Canon EOS Digital Rebel

 

User's Experience

Tuesday, Nov 11, 2003 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • EOS Digital Rebel (with eyecup, body cap and lithium backup battery for the date and time)
  • EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (with lens cap and dust cap)
  • Neck Strap (with eyepiece cover)
  • Battery Pack (with protective cover)
  • Battery Charger and Power Cord
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • English and French Instruction Manuals: Pocket Guide; Instruction Manual; Installing the Software Correctly; Battery Pack Instructions
  • Software CDs: Digital Solution 6.0; Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0

For many of you reading this review, I am assuming that you have only used consumer digital cameras so far, SLRs are new to you, and you are wondering if upgrading to the EOS Digital Rebel is a good move. I am also assuming that you are at least a serious amateur photographer who is perhaps feeling some of the limitations of current consumer (and even prosumer) digital cameras and are tempted by the professional level image quality the large image sensor of the EOS Digital Rebel makes possible.

First of all, there are a number of differences you need to be aware of:

  • The lens is interchangeable. With the EF-S 18-55mm lens, manual focus is achieved using a thin ring at the very tip of the lens, while the wide ring on the lens is for the zoom. Both rings are smooth, fast and precise. You may also purchase a good selection of quality lenses that tremendously expands your picture-taking horizon.
  • The LCD cannot be used as a viewfinder to shoot; it only displays the image after you have taken it. On the other hand, you now have a true, quality viewfinder, with dioptric adjustment (if that still does not give you a clear image, there are 10 optional dioptric adjustment lenses you can try).
  • The camera is bigger than the compact and ultra-compact you may have been used to so far (but is quite light since its body is made up of a composite of magnesium alloy and plastic). On the plus side, the handling is superb, and if you have large hands, you will appreciate the comfortable grip.
  • Depth of field (DOF) is now something you must be aware of. This is really a good thing and provides more flexibility to be creative with composition. Take the time to learn about DOF, and how to control it.
  • Low-light photography is at last possible! Yeah, little to no noise when using high ISOs; virtually no shutter lag, permitting candid shots indoors; and, if desired, the use of a powerful external flash.
  • White Balance is more sensitive and that's another thing you need to pay attention to. Setting the white balance to match the actual existing lighting condition often produces more accurate colors.

The very first thing you need to be aware of is that the EOS Digital Rebel takes interchangeable lenses, and if you have purchased it with the optional lens kit (which we hope you did, simply because it's so cheap), you have to 'bayonet' it on. Before you do that, we recommend that you read the Instructional Manual to ensure you do it correctly.

Note also that since the lens can be removed from the body, there is now ample opportunity for dust to enter either, so use the dust covers whenever the lens is off the body.

OK, before we do anything, let's charge up the battery. The battery charger has a blinking red light which indicates how far along the battery is charged: it blinks once per second when the battery is between 0-50% charged, twice per second when it's between 50-75% charged, three times per second when it's between 75-90% charged, and stays on when it is 90% or higher charged. After the red light stays on, you still need to charge it for another hour. In all, it takes about 90 minutes to recharge a fully depleted battery.

The EOS Digital Rebel comes with a separate date/time lithium battery that goes in just beside where the main battery goes (at the bottom of the camera, under the handgrip). This date/time battery lasts about 5 years, so you shouldn't have to worry about it with a brand new camera.

While the battery is charging, let's install the lens. Twist off the dust cover from the lens and the body. Align the lens with the body using the white square on both. Then, holding the lens at the back, give the lens a clockwise twist until it clicks into place. (Note: the red dot is to be used for alignment when attaching lenses other than an EF-S lens.) To detach the lens, depress the lens release button and twist the lens anti-clockwise until the white squares align, then remove. Ensure you follow this alignment procedure carefully so as not to damage the contacts on the lens and body. Now, switch to Auto-Focus by sliding the focus mode switch to AF. Slide it to MF if you want to manually focus using the focus ring.

Install the supplied software: Digital Solution 6.0 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.

Being here in Canada, all documentation comes in both English and French versions.

The User Guide is well written and illustrated, but the small format means small prints.

I take the time to set the EOS DR to the way I would like to use it. This is accomplished through the MENU button, and various other dedicated buttons:

MENU (Shooting):

  • Quality = Large Fine (3072 x 2048 pixels)
  • Red-eye = ON
  • AEB = 0
  • WB-BKT = 0
  • Beep = ON
  • Parameters = Parameter 1

MENU (Playback):

  • Review = ON
  • Review time = Hold (a half-press on the shutter release button instantly reverts the camera back to Shooting mode)

MENU (Set-up 1):

  • Auto power off = 4 min.
  • Auto rotate = ON
  • LCD Brightness = 4
  • Date/Time = today

Dedicated Buttons :

  • Drive Mode = Single
  • Exposure Compensation = 0
  • ISO = 100
  • White Balance = Auto

Usually I don't like to use the Auto power off feature because I find it very inconvenient. But with the EOS Digital Rebel, I find that I easily forget to turn off the camera, so it's probably a good idea here to set the Auto power off feature to some amount of time so as not to risk running out of battery power uselessly.

Keeping Focus

One important thing to learn is how to select an AF point. There are seven (7) AF points and by default the camera will automatically select one or more of these AF points, probably based on the most contrasty subject at the AF points. This may or may not work for some situations, resulting in out-of-focus pictures when the camera selects an AF point other than the one pointing at your main subject. I generally use single-focus at the center AF point. Fortunately, by dedicating a button to it, Canon has made it easy to select your preferred AF point, as well as to quickly switch to any one of the other AF points for spot on focus accuracy.

To select single-focus at the center AF point as your default focus setting, simply press the AF point selector button (top rightmost on the back of the camera), then rotate the Main dial until the center AF point lights up. The camera will remember that setting and uses it as the default from then on. [Note: selecting AF point is possible only in P, Tv, Av and M modes.] If you do choose a different AF point for a certain shot, you need to remember to redial in your preferred AF point.

A neat feature is A-DEP, or Automatic Depth-of-field, that you select from the Mode dial. This uses the 7 AF points to determine the nearest and farthest subjects to keep in focus. This should be especially effective for group shots, ensuring everyone in the picture is in focus. This is the theory. In practice, since the AF still works on finding the most contrasty subjects, it will only find the nearest contrasty subject and the farthest contrasty subject.

So far, we have been talking about One Shot AF where the camera achieves focus and locks it. There is another type of focus that tracks a moving subject: Predictive AI Servo AF.

For sports and wildlife photographers, selecting Sports mode on the Mode dial also switches on the Predictive AI Servo AF, which will track a moving subject right up until the time of exposure. This increases your chance of getting spot on sharp images of moving subjects.

Now comes the part that is a bit controversial for some people: AI Focus AF. In Auto, P, Tv, Av and M modes, the EOS Digital Rebel will automatically switch from One Shot AF to Predictive AI Servo AF, if necessary. This is a good or bad thing, depending on which side of the camp you're on. I guess it all depends on intent: whether you intend the moving subject to be in focus or not. If it is the former case, i.e. you are tracking your main subject which is moving, it's fantastic! If it is the latter case, and your main subject is not moving but somebody or something else is, the result may not be what you intended.

I say 'may' because AI Servo AF kicks in only under certain conditions: i.e. if it detects movement at the locked focus point and distance. For example, if you are using single-focus at the center AF, lock the focus and recompose, and somebody (not your main subject, who is now at the side) walks towards you and crosses the locked focus point, AI Servo AF kicks in and starts tracking the moving subject -- your main subject is now, unfortunately, out of focus. How often you encounter this kind of situation is a question that you only can answer, depending on the type of photography you take.

It would have been ideal for Canon to have given us the choice to enable this automatic switch from One Shot AF to AI Servo AF, though I personally don't find this to be the big issue some make it to be.

Metering Modes

A second controversial feature Canon equipped the EOS Digital Rebel with is the default Evaluative metering. Usually the photographer can choose among Evaluative, Center-weighted average and Spot metering, even in cheaper consumer digital cameras. That Canon defaulted the EOS Digital Rebel to Evaluative metering speaks volume as to its positioning as a simple to use, fun camera.

Though you cannot specify your preferred metering mode in the MENU, you can still switch to Partial metering ('Spot' at 9% of center area of screen) by pressing the AE Lock button in the Creative Zone modes (P, Tv, Av, M, A-Dep). In Manual mode, the default metering is Center-weighted average and switches to Partial when you press the AE Lock button.

It would have been ideal if Canon did give us the option to default to one of the three metering modes in the MENU, as well as being able to switch among them with each subsequent press of the AE Lock button.

But the control is still there -- and truth is, it's not a bad idea at all, and I personally like the quick switch from Evaluative to Partial with a simple button press without having to resort going into the MENU to do so. As far as I am concerned, this is again not the huge issue some make it to be.

The Green Box (aka Full Auto)

Initially I set the EOS Digital Rebel in the Beginner Amateur Photographer category. I have now revised and set it in the Serious to Advanced Amateur category.

I am slightly amused when I hear people argue that a $900 dSLR should allow them to obtain beautifully exposed images in Full Auto mode (Green Box on the Mode dial). The EOS Digital Rebel is not for Point-and-Shoot photographers or Beginner Amateur photographers who are not willing to invest some time to learn the camera as well as photography in general.

The fact that there is a "Green Box" on the Mode dial (i.e. Full Auto mode) does not imply you can just point-and-shoot and expect to obtain beautiful, perfectly exposed pictures. Think about it! If that were the case, why would anyone ever bother with all the other modes?...

But, why does my cheapo point-and-shoot digicam on Full Auto give better pictures?

It's a bit like driving a car and a tractor trailer truck. Just because you have automatic transmission on both, it does not mean if you can drive an auto transmission car, you can therefore drive an auto transmission tractor trailer truck. They are two different beasts, have different operating criteria and require different licenses to operate.

If you are a point-and-shoot photographer and are tempted by the superb image quality of the EOS Digital Rebel, I would suggest giving it a try for a couple of weeks using Program AE mode and ISO 400. These two settings in combination will probably cover all the focusing and exposure situations you could encounter. Check out our image samples.

Gingerbread Man Cookies: 1/60 sec., F5 and ISO 100 with Flash
Gingerbread Man Cookies:
41 mm, Program AE, Evaluative, Parameter 1
1/60 sec., F5.0 and ISO 100 with Flash

First impressions:

The EOS Digital Rebel is definitely a worthy digital version of the Rebel line. It is easy to use for those coming over from the Rebel line. However, for those who have never used a SLR before, the EOS Digital Rebel (as any SLR, for that matter) may seem a bit overwhelming at first. My recommendation is to take the time to get to know the camera (good advice for any new camera), and to take test shots (seeing that digital 'film' is free) until you are familiar with how to use the EOS Digital Rebel.

The features or functions that you really need to understand are:

  • Selecting an AF point; using manual focus;
  • When to use Evaluative metering and when to switch to Partial metering;
  • Exposure compensation; exposure bracketing;
  • When to use Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE; making the most of Program AE Shift;
  • White Balance;
  • ISO

If you think there are just too many things for you to learn, don't despair. The good folks at Canon seem to have anticipated that eventuality and have set up a special EOS Digital Rebel Learning Center on the Web just for that purpose:

Visit the Canon Tutorials

The Canon EOS Digital Rebel brings the power and image quality of expensive dSLRs to amateur photographers at an attractive and affordable price point. Currently, no consumer or prosumer digital camera can compare to it, especially in the image quality department. You would simply have to upgrade to the professional dSLRs to obtain virtually noise-free images at high ISOs and long shutter speeds.

The two features that seem to keep some from embracing the EOS Digital Rebel are the AI Focus AF and the default Evaluative metering. As I explained above, AI Focus AF is really single-focus with an easy "select your own AF point" using a dedicated button and the Main dial; only in certain situations does the AI Servo AF kick in, and this can be a good or bad thing, depending on your style of photography.

As for the default Evaluative metering, unless you prefer some other metering as default, Canon has in fact provided an elegant way to switch to Partial metering with a simple dedicated button push instead of having to go into the MENU to do so.

Without a LCD monitor to see the image before you capture it, you have to use the viewfinder. Fortunately, the latter is both large and clear. The shutter release button is wonderful to use, with just the right pressure needed.

The EOS Digital Rebel simply bests the best of the prosumer digital cameras with its excellent resolution, virtually noise-free images at high ISOs, low-light capability, virtually no shutter lag for fast response times, excellent AF, easy to use dedicated buttons for less reliance of the MENU, at an affordable price. It should appeal to serious amateur photographers who are willing to put forth the effort to learn and master its capabilities, as well as to advanced amateur photographers who appreciate its image quality and fast response times.

Expect to see the competition heat up soon as other major camera manufacturers rush out their own models to compete with the EOS Digital Rebel at its low price point. Until that happens, the EOS Digital Rebel stands heads and shoulders unchallenged and combines quality, affordability and ease of use in a category it has carved up all its own.

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