Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


 

Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (350D) Experience Report

A review diary by Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller

 

 
 
This review will be written again in the form of a diary. Most recent findings last.
 
 

Diary Index

 
 

Note on image processing:

As usual we work only with raw files and use RawShooter essentials 1.1.1.

All images are also sharpened using EasyS Sharpening Toolkit.

 
3/12/2005 Diary Start: Bought a Canon Rebel XT/350D
 

These days cameras are available in the stores before reviewers like us even get a sample. In cases like the new Rebel XT/350D we just go forward to buy one as we need the camera for reference anyway (we actually own the Nikon D1, D1x, D100, D70, Canon 10D, Rebel, 1D Mk. II, 1dS and 1Ds Mk. II as we never sell the cameras in time :-) ) . When we got the Rebel (300D) we wrote a little essay and think it is even more true than ever. These cameras are really good and the photographer is the main limiting factor. Yes there are better and more expensive cameras but in most cases the reason that you got a good photo is not related to the fact you used better equipment.

 

The Canon camera family for $700-$1500


The Canon entry level cameras as of 3/2005

As of now Canon offers 3 different models in the $700-$1500 price range:

  • Canon Digital Rebel 6MP (aka 300D) about $700 without lens (our review)
  • Canon 20D 8.3MP about $1500 without lens (our review)
  • Canon Digital Rebel XT 8MK (aka 350D) about $900 without lens

Clearly the 300D maybe attractive for people on a budget but otherwise it would be worth to spend $200 more for the new 350D. Not really because the XT has more megapixels but because the XT is a newer design and is also more reactive.

This leaves many photographers with the decision 20D or 350D. The key difference between these two cameras is the size and weight. The XT is a very small DSLR (only tiny bit larger than the Pentax *ist) and the 20D looks rather big compared to it.

20D

Pro

  • larger viewfinder image
  • more rugged built
  • better match to larger lenses

    Con

  • higher price
  • bigger and more weight

350D

Pro

  • Lower price
  • way smaller and also less weight

    Con

  • Not a good match to longer/heavy lenses (also a camera at $900 does hardly invite to buy lenses that cost over $1K)
  • Maybe to small for some hands
  • Looks well built but not like the 20D
  • Viewfinder with some sort of "tunnel view". We think we can live with it though

The main criteria are probably size/weight and cost. Here you have to find out what you want to do. A camera that stays always home because you find it too big is not of great help. We will probably use the XT as our travel snapshot camera. This is not meant negative at all as we think you can create very good work using the Rebel or Rebel XT.

Rebel XT and lenses

We cannot stress enough how important a good lens is. We have never found a lens that was too good but many lenses are not really that good.

Unlike Nikon, Canon has not standardized on a single multiplier for its digital cameras. This means the high end is defined by film compatible lenses for the 1D Mk. II (1.3x) and the 1Ds Mk. (1.0x). This is not a real incentive for Canon to build excellent smaller lenses at a good price for the 1.6x multiplier cameras. Yes, there are a few lenses out but we would like to see more of them.

HWe had published an overview of all the Canon lenses we own. Some of them would be a fine match with the XT:

  • 50mm Macro (80mm equivalent on the XT)
  • 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8
  • 28-135 IS (nice travel lens if you are not so much into capturing wide angle and except that this lens gets soft in the longer range)
  • 17-40mm (medium wide angle to normal)
  • 70-200mm f/4 not cheap but good value
  • 10-22mm if you want to go wide (not cheap though)
  • check also some 3rd party lenses

What about the Rebel XT and the Nikon D70?


Canon Rebel XT and Nikon D70

If you look at the street prices these two cameras are not that far off eachother now. In reality the D70 (our review) compares more to the Canon 20D because it is about the same size/weight. Don't let yourself get fooled by the 6MP to 8MP difference, this should not be your main criterion for buying any of these cameras.

First impressions (random order)

  • We never liked the silver body of the Rebel and bought a black body XT (we know very subjective here)
  • We miss a second dial for aperture if we work in manual mode (90% of the time actually)
  • Shutter noise way lower than 20D
  • Instant review is as fast as 20D, D70, 1Ds Mk. II
  • Shutter lag no problem (we don't measure it though)
  • The XT features mirror lockup (Canon really listened)

Some Los Gatos test shots

Since over 5 years we only use RAW for all our cameras if feasible and the 350D work great in RAW (buffer for 5 RAW files and clears also pretty fast)


Ristorante @ISO 100


Crop @100% magnification

We used for this test the kit lens EF-S 17-55 f/3.5-5.6. Don't expect this to be a great lens at $100. It keeps the camera light, is cheap and can make a nice travel lens. The slight softness is probably more due to the lens than the camera.


Antique store @ ISO 200


@ 100% magnification

Shadow noise at ISO 200 is very good (again we used the kit lens).

ISO Test

We converted with RawShooter 1.1.1 (noise removal to zero) and then sharpened with the same level of EasyS.


Bear Coffee Shop

Canon Rebel XT (350D)
 

ISO 100
ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

Up to ISO 400 very low noise. At ISO 800 very acceptable and even ISO 1600 can create useable images.

As usual we provide raw files for your own inspection (of course you need a raw converter, Canon DPP is in the box and not yet available for download, probably RawShooter 1.1.1 will be published soon). All raw files are our copyright and may not be published without our permission.

Here are some bonus raw files not covered in this review:

Note: Remember that the service we provide is financed by selling our ebooks and PS tools.

 
 
3/13/2005 With 70-200mm f/4 + 1.4x
 

Tonight we used our Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens and the 1.4x converter on the Rebel XT. This is a very fine combination.

Canon, please make this lens image stabilized! All photos were taken at ISO 400 and freehand (was even quite a bit of wind).


100% magnification


California Poppy

Poppies are very hard to photograph as you have to underexpose quite a lot because otherwise the red channel will be clipped (read about histograms here).


100% magnification

With the 70-200mm f/4 lens and a 1.4x converter you get an effective focal length of (157-448mm) and this is even quite attractive for many animals and some not too small birds. The only thing we really miss is the image stabilization.

 
 
 
3/14/2005 XT with 50mm lenses
 

Actually many potential buyers may think which zoom to use on the Rebel XT. In the end this maybe a great camera to use with light, cheap and still top prime lenses. Today was 50mm day:

  • Canon 50mm f/2.5 Macro
  • Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM

Both lenses (quite reasonable priced) are top rated by photodo.com and our results second their findings. With the 50mm f/1.4 the Rebel XT becomes a very fine camera for street photography (add the moderate sound of the shutter and that the XT is responding fine). For some the 50mm (80mm equivalent angle of view) may not be the right choice. They could either use the 35mm f/2 or the 17-40mm zoom.


350D + Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM

Honestly we get excited about this little camera. With the right lenses the XT is a very, very serious player.

We recently published a small portfolio "B/W or Color #1" using the Canon 1Ds Mk. II and the 50mm Macro lens. That day we also used a big soft box with a strong Lumedyne flash unit. Today we also used flash but a way more moderate/portable setup.


XT, Stroboframe, 550EX and Westcott Micro Apollo

We have to say this is a great combination. We really consider using flash in more circumstances. Here are some snaps from today.


Colorized version (50mm Macro)


100% crop


50mm f/1.4


100% crop


Colorized 50mm f/1.4


100% magnification


50mm f/1.4


50mm f/1.4

We first thought it maybe difficult to make a good selection of lenses that we will use with the Rebel XT. Was not that hard actually:

2 lens kit

  • 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4 and/or 50mm Macro (depends on what your main focus is)
  • 70-200mm f/4 (see entry for 3/13/2004)

3 lens kit

  • 50mm f/1.4 and/or 50mm Macro (depends on what your main focus is)
  • 70-200mm f/4 (see entry for 3/13/2004)
  • 17-40mm f/4
  • optional: 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 if you want strong wide angle

If you feel the Rebel XT may be a good fit for you then get the right lenses, open your eyes, take pictures and forget all the techno discussion.

 
 
3/14/2005 One time glitch or what?
 

Today we had some major incident. We wanted to check the last image taken. The image did not display and neither did the menu show up (the top LCD showed fine though, also battery seems to do fine). We removed flash, turned camera on/off and even removed the battery. Nothing helped! Then we just tried to take a new picture. That worked, the display was back and the camera seems ok right now.

We will follow up on this. Let us know when you encounter something similar and use our method to solve the problem. We also informed Canon USA just in case it may happen to other users too.

 
 
 
3/15/2005 Santa Cruz Pier
 

Today we took some snaps at the Santa Cruz pier. Unfortunately we had beautiful but unforgiving harsh sun light.


with 70-200 f/4 + 1.4x @250mm (about 400mm angle of view)

The next 2 shots were made with the 50mm Macro and Canon 550EX flash with Apollo soft box.


House decoration


100% magnification


"Hippie Crabs" (*)

(*) This title needs some explaination. My friend Jim Collum looked at the pictures and replied: ahh crabs. Meaning that we photographed gain crabs. I replied that these crabe are now from Santa Cruz while the other crabs were from Monterey. His funny reply: hippie Crabs.

 
 
3/17/2005 Monterey Piers
 

We love to photography at the Monterey Fishermen's Wharf and especially the commercial pier.


Commercial Pier
70-200mm f/4 + 1.4x freehand (about 450mm angle of view for 35mm)


100% magnification


Fish Carts with 17-40mm f/4 (we love these carts)


Fish Carts with 17-40mm f/4

We do not understand why the XT does not provide the info about the current ISO setting somewhere on the displays because each exposure is a compromise between:

  • Shutter speed (shake or movement of the object are main factors)
  • f-stop (targeted depth of field)
  • ISO (the lower the better the noise behavior)

We added some more shots from Monterey to our 350D gallery.

 
 
3/16/2005 DPP 1.6
 
The 350D comes with a version of the Canon DPP raw converter. You can download a free copy of our DOP2000 add on for DPP (about 3MB). We personally prefer other raw converters but the results from DPP can be very good. We keep you posted when RSE 1.1.1 becomes available.
 
 
3/16/2005 LCD dimming weirdness
 
As Michael Reichmann stressed in his review the dim look of the 350D menus (if only the top navigation is selected) is a clear design flaw. It makes the search for features at normal light more than just hard. The designers probably thought too much about saving power and not about the poor users photographing.
 
 
3/16/2005 Canon Rebel XT (350D) Gallery
 
We opened our new Rebel XT gallery and hope to add many more pictures soon.
 
 
 
 
3/18/2005 Raw Converter support
 

350D is now supported by:

 
 
 
3/27/2004 Our Rebel XT Equipment Set
 

After 2 weeks and about 800 pictures we have now decided to use the Rebel XT as our lighter travel set. This includes:

3 lens kit

  • 50mm f/2.5 Macro


Canon 50mm f/2.5 Macro

The 50mm Macro is the cheapest lens in the set and still the very best of our selected lenses. The 50mm Macro is on par with Canon's top lenses.

  • 70-200mm f/4 (optional 1.4x tele extender)


70-200mm f/4 + 1.4x @228mm

The 70-200mm f/4 is a top tele zoom and hard to beat for a zoom. You need higher shutter speeds as the lens does not have any IS support.

  • 17-40mm f/4


17-40mm f/4 @24mm


17-40mm f/4 @40mm

The 17-40mm is clearly not in the same class as the other two lenses. It seems to be complicated to build good wide angle zooms. Be prepared to deal with quite strong CA (chromatic aberrations) at high contrast edges. You should also use PTLens to remove the lens distortions. Still we like the 17-40mm f/4 as our 3rd lens in the bag and got some really nice results from that lens. Unfortunately the 17-40mm f/4 is not really cheap either.

External flash and soft box

We will often use this equipment on some of our trips (actually two in this week). In the end we can produce very good results from the 350D and these lenses.

 

 

 
 
3/29/2005 Canon Rebel XT (350D) Gallery expanded
 
We just added some new photos to our 350D gallery.
 
 
4/12/2005 Note on the Kit Lens
 

We used the old kit lens from the 300D. There are some indications that the new kit lens for the 350D maybe different (not necessarily better). One thing is for sure: the kit lenses will not get you the best out of the 350D. But also good lenses are expensive. The best quality/price ration provide using prime lenses. Check out our overview on Canon lenses.

9/1/2005 New e-book from Peter iNova (with parts by Uwe Steinmueller) on the Canon 350D is out
 

Peter and Uwe put a lot of work into this book to help you to get the most out of your Canon 350D (Rebel XT).

 
 

Other reviews

 
Review methodology (or lack of :-)) here.
 
 
 
 

 

For Comments post in our News Group

2000-2007 Digital Outback Photo