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While total sales of 35mm SLRs may be slowly declining-probably due to increasing digital camera incursions-the number of actual 35mm SLR purchases remains very high and we intend to continue leading the pack.”

So spoke the Canon executive as he handed me an early production sample oof what we had been expecting for a year, the successor to the Canon EOS Rebel 2000, namely the Rebel Ti, which Canon has labeled the “new-generation, world standard camera designed to fend off rival models.”

Cosmetically it bears no resemblance to any previous Rebel or any other camera. It’s not black and it’s not chrome either. The polycarbonate body is finished in silver (except for a gray top plate inset and the black bottom plate). A matching silver-finished 28-90mm f/4-5.6 Canon EF is included in the kit, one of the ways the Ti will be sold. Camera and lens make a striking cosmetic concoction. Gone are the traditional Rebel straight edges. Contours have been rounded and sculpted. The shutter release has been moved considerably upward where it’s more convenient to press. The right hand grip is much deeper, making the camera easier to hold even without any rough gripping surfaces.

Unlike its rivals who seem to be playing an “anything you can make, I can make smaller and lighter” game, the Rebel Ti body at 12 ounces is a fraction of an ounce heavier than the Rebel 2000. Still, its weight is within an ounce of its ri

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| Top-notch improvements: Rebel Ti (top) reverses command dial position of Rebel 2000 (bottom), provides shorter camera body. Silver 28-90mm f/4-5.6 Canon lens matches body, is available only in kit.| The Ti’s seven-sensor CMOS autofocus system operates in precisely the same manner as the Rebel 2000’s. But while the pattern on the viewfinder screen has a central cross sensor and six linear sensors in exactly the same pattern as in the Rebel 2000, the sensor rectangles showing correct focus now have central red dot LEDs to show when they’ve been activated.

Why not have lighted rectangles? I suspect that the CR2 lithium batteries may not supply sufficient lasting power and that cost was also a factor. Are the dots sufficiently visible? Only a field test of a full-production camera under various light conditions will give us the answer.

The Rebel Ti viewfinder, unlike that of the Rebel 2000, has a diopter-correction slide switch control beneath the removable rubberized eyepiece. The finder uses a mirror prism like the Rebel 2000.

AF speed and predictive focus have been improved, according to Canon. The Rebel Ti’s AF speed is now equal to that in the EOS Elan 7 and predictive focus “is on a par” with that in the Canon EOS-1N. Single focus is usually set, but continuous focus is available in the PIC action mode.

The 35-zone evaluative exposure metering is the same as in the Rebel 2000, but Canon says a new algorithm has made metering more precise and stable. Evaluative metering is standard except in the manual mode, when centerweighted averaging is set, and in the creative zone modes when partial metering operates if the AE lock is used.

Compared to the Rebel 2000, the Rebel Ti’s shutter time lag (between pressing the shutter release and the shutter operating) has been cut considerably as has viewfinder blackout time. Continuous maximum frame-per-second advance has increased from 1.5 to 2.5 fps. Like the Rebel 2000, the Rebel Ti prewinds film to the end of the roll when the camera is loaded, and then takes pictures as the film rewinds into the film cartridge. This, of course, prevents shots already taken from being accidentally ruined by someone prematurely opening the camera back.

A stainless steel lensmount replaces the Rebel 2000’s polycarbonate one. As in the Rebel 2000, exposure modes include full auto, manual shiftable program, shutter- and aperture-priority autoexposure, metered manual exposure, plus portrait, scenic, night, closeup, and action picture modes, as well as Canon’s automatic depth-of-field calculating mode. Flash-off is in a new setting, which primarily allows the novice using the full auto mode (green rectangle on the command dial) to shoot by existing light. Shutter speeds remain 30-1/2000 sec with X-sync at 1/90 sec.

Like the Rebel 2000,

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| More power to you: EOS Rebel Ti’s 300V battery pack (street price, about $35) has vertical shutter release and loads with four AA alkaline energizers or rechargeable nickel-hydride batteries. (You can’t use AA lithiums, darn it!)| Flash control remains as it was in the Rebel 2000 with the built-in pop-up using three-zone TTL flash metering around the center AFpoint. With an Ex-series Canon Speedlite, E-TTL metering centers on the bright areas of the 35-zone metering sensor.

At a kit street price (including lens) of about $350, Canon hopes the attraction of the 28-90mm lens (instead of the 28-80mm lens on rival kits) will continue to drive consumers Rebelwards. But the Rebel Ti will still have a very attractive, low-priced, feature-laden group of pack rivals nipping at its heels, with Nikon and Minolta kits costing $50 and $75 less than the Rebel Ti, but with 28-80mm lenses.

The Ti will be available body only, for about $240. A date quartz back model will be about $260.

Other versions of the Ti are in the planning stages for the future, and at least one kit with the 28-90mm USM lens in place of the current EF lens.

While a critical comparison of the Rebel Ti and other-brand rivals would be fun for me to write (and I promise I shall do it), such will take time, but the time was now to give you a quickie report on the early production Rebel Ti.

In the meantime, my admiration for the Rebel Ti’s beauty is great. Time and tests will tell whether beauty is only skin deep.