Canon EOS 400D review (Digital Rebel XTi)
Canon has stuck to its guns, and maintained its allegiance to CMOS, continuing to be the only manufacturer to use this type of sensor in a consumer camera. And Nikon is now using CMOS in its high-end cameras, leading us to the conclusion that this may well be the way forward for image quality and fast processing. It would be interesting to see how many cameras have CCDs in the next few years.
As before, Canon has also placed its DIGIC II processor inside the camera, so the image quality and processing speed will continue to maintain the quality that Canon users have grown to love.
Canon has finally addressed one of the big concerns of DSLR users, that of dust on the sensor. This is not new – Olympus has its Supersonic Wave; Sony and Pentax shake the CCD; and Sony also has anti-static coatings. Sigma, meanwhile, has always placed a wipe-clean filter between the lens and sensor.
This is the first time Canon has supplied a solution, and has taken a three-pronged attack. First the low-pass filter now vibrates to shake off any debris, using a piezo element. Second, the sensor has an anti-static coating to repel dust in the first place. Finally – and this is the most innovative – the camera features a sensor mapping feature. Essentially, this is achieved by taking a picture of something like a white wall, and activating the mapping feature. The camera can then see where the dust is on the sensor, and then the Canon software can remove the offending articles automatically in subsequent shots. Simply put, it’s like an automatic Clone tool.
Cleanliness isn’t the EOS 400D’s only virtue. Canon has also added a new single 2.5inch LCD, which has replaced the dual LCD system of the 350D. Instead of the camera and exposure information being shown on the small grey LCD of old, the large LCD displays this information. A proximity sensor beneath the viewfinder detects when the camera is at your eye and the LCD shuts down when you’re shooting. Take the camera away from your eye and it lights up again. Obviously this information is also hidden when you’re in menu or preview modes.
This is a good system, and one we’ve admired since Konica Minolta used it on the Dynax 7D, and Olympus on the E300. Unlike the Konica Minolta or Sony models though, the text doesn’t rotate when the camera is in portrait mode, which is a shame, but it’s still a nice system.
Nine-Point AF System
Another big addition to the camera is a new AF system. The EOS 400D now has nine individually selectable AF points across the frame, to make focusing faster and more accurate. The centre point is enhanced with f/2.8 sensitivity on compatible lenses for better focusing in low light. As is often the case, the technology for this new AF comes from a higher source, in this case the Canon 30D.
One of the bugbears of the older model was its limited burst mode, especially in comparison to cameras such as the Nikon D70. Faster processing and an improved buffer have improved the situation. The new model offers 27 JPEGs or 10 Raws at 3fps; and this is all the more impressive when you consider the extra processing speed that is needed for the larger file sizes.
Like other recent EOS models, Canon has added its Picture Style feature to the 400D. This adds a set of preset ‘looks’ to the images using a combination of colour, tone and sharpness, which can be added in camera or on the PC via the Picture Style software. There’s a choice of Standard, Landscape, Portrait, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome or three user-defined curves, which you either can make yourself or download additional options from the Canon website and add to the camera via the supplied software. Of course, as this is an ‘entry level’ camera, there are also scene modes covering the usual Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Action and Night portrait.
Other exposure options include Auto, Program, Aperture and Shutter Priority AE modes and Manual, as well as Canon’s own A-Dep mode, which automatically sets the correct aperture for maximum depth of field when subjects are in different planes of focus – for example, group photos. This is nothing new, by the way: Canon has had this since the bygone days of film. It does come in useful sometimes, though. For the histogram addicts among us the EOS 400D now offers not only a brightness histogram but also an RGB histogram display in preview mode.
For the less PC minded, there are more PictBridge options – including in-camera redeye removal, face brightening and dual contact sheet printing options (20 or 36 images per page) – so users will find this the easiest Canon SLR yet from which to make direct prints without a PC.