Today’s review is on the Canon Digital Rebel, Another expensive gadget I own that I couldn’t live without.

I’ve been into photography since I was about 15. I really started with it because of digital cameras, even in the beginning when they didn’t have very good resolution I still loved using them. My first digital camera was a Kodak DC20 in 1998. It was really really bad and had enough room for about 8 pictures in it’s fixed internal memory, which were transferred by serial cable. Then I got their DC40, which was an older camera, but was more professional (at the time). That had a whopping 4MB of fixed, internal ram, and took about 40 shots in normal quality (which was 768×512 resolution – not exactly great).

As time passed I upgraded digital cameras every year or two. I think the order went something like Kodak DC220, Olympus D600L (a professional SLR), Olympus C2000, Olympus C3000, then I switched to canon for the Canon G5, Canon PowerShot ELPH 230, 400 and 500. Around July 2004 I got this camera.

I think this is most definitely the best digital (or otherwise) camera I’ve ever used. At the time it was really only a choice between this camera and the Nikon D70. I chose this because it was $400 cheaper at the time and everyone I talked to said they loved the Rebel and said the D70 wasn’t worth the extra cost. After using it for the last year-and-a half to take some really dazzling shots, I have to agree with them.

Back to the camera at hand. The Digital Rebel has much more “technical” reviews elsewhere on the net, so I’ll focus mainly on my experiences with how it functions. The Rebel is a 6.3 megapixel camera, with a then-first-of-it’s-kind CMOS sensor instead of the traditional CCD most cameras use. The native resolution of the rebel’s photos are 3072×2048 – which is larger than my 21” LCD by quite a bit. Even at 50% size the pictures barely fit on the screen which makes them excellent for printing, the more pixels the better.

The camera itself comes with a Canon EF-S 18-55mm SLR lens, which is only F3.5 at wide angle, and F5.6 at telephoto. It’s a pretty “slow” lens, and in low light you may notice the shutter speed dropping to unacceptable levels often. Luckily the Rebel has ISO ratings from 100-1600, and can be set to up to 800 without seeing any really bad noise. It still takes pictures that are usable at ISO 1600, but they are generally pretty noisy. I rarely take my camera off ISO 100, unless the light requires it. At ISO 100 the images are quite beautiful and very crisp. Excellent color in almost any light (as long as there’s a decent amount of it).

Another great feature about the Lens is the ability to take it off. The lens barrel of the Rebel is completely removable, and any electronic grade Canon EOS compatible lens can be used on the rebel. This opens up thousands of lens opportunities since the EOS line has been around forever in non-digital form. There are also many lenses on eBay that work for this camera as well. I purchased a cheap 100-300mm Telephoto lens for this unit for about $80. It takes great wildlife and distant shots for what I paid for it, and it was definitely worth the money to pick one up even for occasional use.

The camera comes with it’s own Canon-branded rechargeable battery, like many other Canon cameras, it uses a proprietary battery. Luckily the 3rd-party knock-offs of this battery are available very cheap on eBay. The Canon-branded ones are several times more expensive and I don’t notice it has any better battery life using the Canon battery over my generic Li-ion battery I got from eBay. The Rebel is extremely efficient with battery, as it does not use the screen for many things. You can take close to 500 pictures without needing to recharge. It’s definitely the best battery life I’ve seen in a digital yet.

As far as memory cards – the Rebel comes with a very small card (32 or 64MB I believe) I use a 512MB CompactFlash card with my Rebel, which is more than adequate for over 200 photos in most cases. The Rebel takes surprisingly small-sized pictures for a camera with that megapixel size. I recommend getting a large card, as you’ll definitely need it.

Modes. This camera has so many of them. There’s a few preset ones that favor shutter speed, or aperture, and there’s also an all-manual mode for the purist photographer. The lenses can be set to auto-focus or manual focus to allow even more flexibility.

The unit itself has a very nice feature, and is the first consumer-level camera that I’m aware of that has it. It can take shots in “burst” mode. You can take up to 3 images in rapid-fire succession, and the camera will allow you to press the shutter while it holds the last-taken picture in a buffer to be written to the memory card. This allows the camera to also have no shutter lag at all. The moment you click the shutter is the moment the picture gets taken.

The start-up time of the Rebel from power-on is a subject of criticism I’ve read. I agree that it is pretty slow (in the neighborhood of 4-5 seconds). The later model of this camera, the Rebel XT, has improved on this quite a bit, but I don’t feel as though it’s price tag is justified over the original Rebel.

One small downside to SLR cameras in general (and cameras of this size) is that the Rebel is definitely not the most portable camera in town. You can’t get the kind of shots with this camera that you could if you had one of the extremely small ELPH series cameras. Those just slip into a pocket and can be whipped out at a moment’s notice to capture whatever it is you’re seeing. I should know, I had a few of them.

Additionally, there is no movie mode on the Rebel, unlike most of Canon’s line.

The Rebel forces you to focus on photographs, and really think about the composition, framing, and depth of field in a shot – It’s not a camera for impromptu pictures of you and your friends hanging out… I sometimes miss that freedom, but at the same time I wouldn’t give this camera up for any other one right now. It’s just too good.

I may decide to pick the XT up and write a comparative review at some point, but I see no real reason to upgrade to that camera right now, and I wouldn’t recommend buying it over this one. This can be picked up several hundred dollars cheaper than the Rebel XT, and you can spend that money on a really large memory card or microdrive, or a few lenses instead.

I guess I do not have much else to say about this camera other than it’s the best one I’ve ever owned, and if you have the means, you should pick one up. It is so choice.

I have a site, located here, where I’ve put up many of the photos I’ve taken with this camera. Many people email me and say they’re using my pictures as desktop patterns. It blows my mind to think I even take good photos. I don’t really try that hard – I feel like the Rebel is what’s taking the good photos, but that can’t entirely be possible, can it? 

Pros:

+ Extremely long battery life
+ Crisp, huge, amazing picture quality (6.3 megapixels!)
+ Lens expandability
+ Manual focusing
+ Relatively affordable for a professional-grade camera
+ All-manual mode available, several control methods

Cons:

– Size (this can be a negative or positive depending on how you view it)
– Start-up time (close to 4 seconds)
– Low-light performance with stock lens leaves a bit to be desired unless using a tripod or steady hands.

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