As the market leader when it comes to digital SLR cameras, Canon have shown their understanding of photographersí requirements again and again. Itís well worth bearing this in mind when considering the Digital Rebel XS (marketed as the EOS 1000D in Europe), a camera that at first glance seems slightly confused over its position in the DSLR pantheon. Join us for a closer look.
It appears as though Canon has actively set out to create a model that will sit below the almost-professional Rebel XSi, and provide direct competition for Nikonís D60. Whether the company has managed to achieve this goal is another matter; feature-rich in some areas, apparently deliberately crippled in others, and coming in at a price point well above that of the D60, the XS is nonetheless another fantastic camera that offers Canonís trademark stunning image quality alongside simplicity of use, the whole thing in a small, light package that is sure to appeal to the many people who are reluctant to tote around the bulk and weight of a traditional SLR.
Few would suggest that creating an entry-level DSLR camera is easy in todayís market. Quite the opposite, in fact, and Canon has further complicated the issue by setting the bar so high with its previous offerings. If too many features are removed, the company opens itself up to accusations of cynical marketeering. On the other hand, retaining those features runs the risk of insufficient differentiation between the models in the range. Who will buy the prosumer camera if the entry level version has much the same feature set?
Initial reactions to the XS suggest that Canon has probably got the balance about right. It retains many of the key features of the widely respected Rebel XTi that it ostensibly replaces: the same 10.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, 3fps continuous shooting (JPEG only), the 2.5Ē LCD screen, the in-camera picture style settings and the sensor cleaning system all look similar if not identical on paper. However, the screen is an improved, brighter version, and the inclusion of the same DIGIC III processing engine that Canon uses in its professional line alongside a new Live View mode, an improved kit lens and an upgraded battery would appear to mark the XS out as a distinct improvement over the older model.
These new features are to be warmly welcomed, the DIGIC III processor especially giving this supposedly entry-level model capabilities well above its humble position in the catalog. All the stranger, then, that Canon has opted to effectively disable it in so many ways.
Take continuous shooting as an example: the XTi can capture up to 27 JPEG or 10 RAW images at 3 frames per second, its older processor notwithstanding. Bizarrely, the DIGIC III-equipped XS can only manage a decent performance level for JPEGs, the number of which that can be continuously captured being limited only by the installed card capacity. On the other hand, RAW continuous shooting is rated at just 1.5 fps and runs out of steam at five or six images. This limitation is intensely frustrating, RAW being the format of choice among serious photographers.
Similarly, Canon has elected to downgrade the nine point AF system shared by the XTi and XSi to seven points on the new model, as well as omit the useful eye sensors that automatically turn the screen off when the camera is held to the face. Perhaps Canon imagines that XS users will work in Live View most of the time. The IR remote sensor is also missing, as is the high quality rubber covering on the grip and rear thumb pad.
The reason for these design decisions can only be to differentiate the new entry level model from its older sibling, Canon having presumably judged that the missing features will not matter that much to the XSís target market while the included new ones will. Time will tell whether the company has got this right; however, it seems likely that while the XTi remains available, it will retain its appeal for some time to come on the basis of its RAW performance and proven reliability.
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