Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution, lots of detail, not a leap from eight megapixels, but certainly from six
  • Good color with selectable PictureStyles for different subject types
  • Good dynamic range (more than peers) with soft roll-off of highlights
  • 'Integrated Cleaning System' designed to keep dust at bay
  • Widest range of image parameter adjustments among its peers
  • Low noise throughout the sensitivity range, noise reduction maintains detail well
  • Good in-camera image processing, resolution advantage shooting RAW is slight
  • Larger, brighter and more detailed LCD monitor
  • Re-designed user interface a great improvement over the EOS 350D
  • On-screen setting adjustment (ISO, WB, etc.) surprisingly quick and easy to use
  • Updated nine point AF system, proved fast, accurate and still good in low light
  • Very fast off to shot time (virtually instant), slightly slower if you want to read screen
  • Numerous small bug fixes improve usability
  • Magnification available in record review (although requires two button press)
  • Small and light but hand grip is still too small, can be uncomfortable for large hands
  • Excellent supplied software bundle, two RAW conversion options
  • Remote capture software included for computer controlled shooting
  • Unique JUMP mode in playback (by date, 10 or 100 images)
  • Value for money

Conclusion - Cons

  • Kit lens disappointing, better to buy body only and spend more on a good lens
  • Sporadic continuous shooting once buffer is full
  • Occasional under-exposure issue with Evaluative metering
  • Average automatic white balance performance, still very poor under incandescent light
  • ISO, WB, Metering mode etc. not displayed on viewfinder status bar during change
  • Flash must be raised for AF assist
  • No Kelvin white balance selection in-camera
  • No spot metering
  • No mass storage device USB driver, poor WIA transfer rates (and awkward to use)
  • Opening the CF compartment door shuts camera down, loses any buffered images
  • Small viewfinder view

Overall conclusion

Canon changed the entire digital camera market when they revealed the EOS 300D. Launched in a huge way, they clearly expected it to be a big success. The ripples of that day forced prices lower and removed an entire category of camera (the 'prosumer' all-in-one compact). Canon put digital SLRs into the hands of people who would otherwise never had considered one. For better or worse the sub-$1000 digital SLR had arrived. Of course the EOS 300D was a huge commercial success, as too was its successor, the EOS 350D, which followed eighteen months later.

The EOS 400D (Rebel XTi) turned out to be everything we expected it to be; a progressive upgrade to the already hugely successful EOS 350D (Rebel XT). Image quality was just as good, with plenty of detail, low noise and sophisticated noise reduction at higher sensitivities an well balanced, and thanks to PictureStyles predictable, color and tone. It also has a significantly improved user interface, dust reduction system, 9 point auto-focus, larger LCD monitor and combined status display / setting change system. All this in a camera which is just as small and light as the camera it replaces.

With all that in mind it's a pity we could so easily have predicted the 400D; with the commercial success of the 350D in their minds Canon clearly didn't want to take any risks with the 'winning formula'. This, however, is perhaps the EOS 400D's achilles heel; that it was so predictable. So predictable in fact that Nikon clearly saw it coming and went one better with the D80; they also managed to close the image quality gap to a degree where the differences are as good as irrelevant.

There were several areas of the EOS 400D which I thought I would not like but in use were actually perfectly usable. The use of the main LCD monitor for status display worked well; Canon's choice of a white background making a quick glance all you need to know how the camera is configured. Changing settings on the screen also worked well; thank goodness Canon addressed the 'must press SET button' issue we raised with the EOS 350D. Indeed changing some settings turned out to be easier on-screen than on other cameras which require a hold+turn combination.

Where does the EOS 400D come up short? For me, the camera isn't as comfortable to use as the Nikon or Sony. This may sound petty but I do feel that Canon's tiny grip is a mistake of form over function. Nor does it have the D80's large and bright pentaprism viewfinder, nor can it match the 'eye on the scene' feel you get from the short viewfinder black-out time. The D80 also gives you the surprisingly useful configurable automatic ISO, spot metering, a wider range of customization, wireless flash control, advanced battery information and in-camera retouching. The A100's trump card is it's in-camera CCD-shift Anti-Shake, and we haven't even started to consider Pentax's recently announced K10D which at least on paper is looking like a very strong competitor.

Thanks to its blood line and low price the EOS 400D will no doubt be a huge success for Canon. However unlike the EOS 350D, for me it's no longer the first or obvious choice, so before jumping on the bandwagon make sure you've weighed up the competition.

Detail (D-SLR) Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.0
Features 8.5
Image quality 8.5
Performance (speed) 8.0
Value 9.0

Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended

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