Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
These buttons are easily distinguishable by feel, but they're a bit too shallow to press comfortably.
If you use a 35mm film SLR, you'll immediately feel at home with the EOS Digital Rebel. At 1 pound, 14 ounces, it's significantly heavier than its film siblings, but it has the identical solid-feeling, two-tone plastic body and accepts all the same Canon and third-party EF-mount lenses.
The rubberized grip lets you hold the camera firmly enough for single-handed shooting, though we don't recommend it, and most of the large buttons and dials deliver a nice tactile feedback. The two exceptions are the drive-mode and navigation keys; they sit nearly flush with the body, so pressing them takes more effort than we'd like.
|Though the power switch seems awkwardly placed, we never accidentally turned off the EOS Digital Rebel while working with the mode dial.||With buttons on the upper-right corner of the camera body, you can choose a drive or metering mode, lock exposure, or select an autofocus point.|
The control layout is efficient, as well, and the status LCD on the back reports all the key current settings. We wish the image-quality and autobracketing adjustments were accessible via buttons on the body, but navigating the four-tab LCD menu system is easy enough. Some of the options could be clearer, though. Parameters, for example, offers such mysterious choices as Parameter 1 and Parameter 2. In fact, these refer to saved settings for sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tones.
The EOS Digital Rebel supports high-capacity CompactFlash cards. We recommend using those with accelerated write speeds.
Like the 10D, the EOS Digital Rebel provides six basic scene modes in addition to programmed and fully automatic exposure options: Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, and Flash Off. An automatic depth-of-field mode provides a useful transition tool between fully automatic and aperture- and shutter-priority operation. You can choose any of the seven autofocus points on the fly or rely on Canon's hit-or-miss AiAF. In addition to exposure and white-balance bracketing, the camera supplies pattern, center-weighted, and partial (9 percent) metering schemes. As with the EOS 10D, however, we really miss spot metering. If you don't have the luxury of adjusting the parameters of RAW files after shooting, you can adjust contrast, sharpness, saturation, and color tone in-camera, as well as select between sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces.
How did Canon make the EOS Digital Rebel's feature set nearly identical to the EOS 10D's? The company decreased the extent to which you can fiddle with any given feature. The ironic result is that in some ways, lower-end models such as Canon's own PowerShot G5 and Olympus's C-5050 Zoom offer enthusiasts more flexibility.
For instance, those cameras allow you to select metering modes like a grown-up, whereas the EOS Digital Rebel limits your options, as do its film siblings. In full manual mode, the Rebel uses center-weighted metering, which isn't an option in the other modes. For those, you automatically get evaluative (pattern) metering. If you're shooting in any of the nonautomatic modes, you push the exposure-lock button to switch to partial metering. Similarly, the EOS Digital Rebel decides whether to use the AI Servo or One-shot focus method. Furthermore, though you can save sets of image-adjustment parameters, you can't save custom combinations of settings for file format, shooting mode, ISO, white balance, and drive mode.
And of course, the EOS Digital Rebel entirely forgoes some of the capabilities of the 10D and other more expensive models, but we doubt potential users will miss them. For example, the camera doesn't support the TIFF format; ISO speed settings top off at 1,600 instead of 3,200; and you can't tweak white balance in degrees Kelvin, assign functions to buttons and dials, or change behaviors such as shot order and increments for exposure bracketing.
Even after we'd taken more than 1,000 shots (50 percent of them with the flash) the EOS Digital Rebel's battery was still going strong.
By all measures, the EOS Digital Rebel is quite zippy for a consumer camera; we have few complaints about its performance. It's ready for its first picture within 3 seconds of powering on. Shutter lag is negligible: usually about 0.2 second and 0.5 second at most. Shot-to-shot time runs 0.6 second for standard photos, and it tops out at a mere tick longer than 1 second even when you use the flash and RAW modes. Continuous shooting of RAW images approaches 4 frames per second, and although saving the entire buffer takes 30 seconds (23 seconds with a fast CompactFlash card), you can start snapping again about 2 seconds into the save. We do wish the continuous-shooting mode could capture more than 4 frames, however.
You can see only 95 percent of the scene through the viewfinder, but it's bright enough. That's fortunate because you can't change the focusing screen. The viewfinder also lights up a focusing point within each of the seven focus-selection areas. Though the playback LCD doesn't wash out in bright sunlight, you'll probably still want to do your in-camera image pruning in the shade. The f/3.5-to-f/5.6, 18mm-to-55mm EF-S lens that ships with the EOS Digital Rebel kit is relatively slow and feels a bit cheap. It doesn't zoom as smoothly as the standard consumer Canon EF lenses, but as far as we could tell from our limited lens testing, it delivers similar image quality. The Canon EOS Digital Rebel's image quality impressed us on almost all counts--once we'd ascertained the correct settings for our scenes. Under uncontrolled lighting, the default pattern metering more often than not produced results slightly more under- or overexposed than we'd expected, and we had to reshoot using partial metering. Furthermore, when we enabled red-eye reduction, flash shots looked overexposed. Turning off red-eye reduction yielded a better exposure, though the flash was still a bit strong for nearby subjects.
|Though this scene came out well with the partial metering (left), we got worse results than expected from the default evaluative metering (right).|
At its best, though, the EOS Digital Rebel really shines. Pictures look sharp and display accurate colors. Dynamic range is excellent through the midtones and the shadows, though highlights can be somewhat clipped. The default in-camera processing produces photos more like the Powershot G5's than the EOS 10D's, but at its other setting, the Rebel mimics the 10D. The manual white balance delivers extremely neutral colors, but using the automatic white balance under tungsten lights generates the sickly red-orange we've come to expect from Canon's digital cameras.
|Test photos from the EOS Digital Rebel show excellent dynamic range and very accurate color reproduction.|
We were most surprised and pleased by the EOS Digital Rebel's noise profile. Noise was minimal or nonexistent at settings as high as ISO 400, and it remained at an acceptable level at ISO 800. No artifacts appeared when we boosted the in-camera sharpening to maximum or compressed highest-quality JPEG images. Even the purple fringing that plagues digital cameras was less pervasive than usual.
|In image sharpness and detail, the EOS Digital Rebel holds its own against pricier cameras such as the EOS 10D.|