Can you still be called a Rebel after you snag a pile of assets from your well-to-do siblings? Canon obviously thinks so, given that its new EOS Digital Rebel XTi has been loaded up with power and features taken from its EOS 30D and 5D cameras -- plus one advanced system seen on no other Canon digital SLR.
The XTi ($799, estimated street, body only; $899 with 18 - 55mm f/3.5 - 5.6 II EF-S lens) most notably captures 10.1-megapixel images -- leapfrogging it ahead of the higher-priced 8MP Canon 30D and putting it squarely in competition with the Sony Alpha 100 and the new Nikon D80. The Reb XTi also gains a dust-reduction system that uses both hardware and software suppression of dust -- a first for Canon DSLRs. Upgrades to autofocusing, image processing, burst rates, and the LCD monitor round out a package clearly designed to compete aggressively in the higher end of the increasingly oxymoronic "entry-level" class.
The new XTi is still svelte, virtually the same size as the XT, and with a weight gain of just under an ounce. The addition of a rubbery bump as a thumb hold improves its grip considerably. On the back, a big 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD with a 160-degree viewing angle replaces the relatively tiny 1.8-incher of the XT.
The XTi also eliminates the top LCD control panel, instead using the rear LCD. Given the big, readable type, we found this much more convenient for adjusting controls. The LCD also shuts off automatically when you bring the camera to your eye and turns back on when you lower the camera. Otherwise, the body construction and control layout remain largely the same.
Considerable effort went into reducing the chances of dust marring your images. The low-pass filter in front of the CMOS sensor vibrates when the camera is turned on or off (or can be triggered manually) to shake dust free. The filter is treated to repel dust electrostatically, and it's farther from the imager to keep any leftover dust outside the depth of focus. Should any dust still remain in the image path, the XTi can map it for software to subtract from the picture later. This function, called Dust Delete Data, is engaged by a menu command; the dust-map data is appended to the image file. It can then be applied postproduction with Canon Digital Photo Professional software (version 2.2 or higher).
While similar technologies are already in use by other camera makers -- ultrasonic imagers in Olympus E-1 and Evolt cameras, and dust mapping in the Nikon D2x and D2h -- the XTi is the first DSLR to use both hardware and software to remove dust. But applying the map data on a computer is slower than doing it in-camera.