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Which Canon Digital Rebel Is the Best?

Updated on September 12, 2014

Canon Digital Rebels - XSi or Rebel T1i

It's been a few years now, but I remember making the decision to buy my first DSLR. It was an agonizing time as I studied the camera forums to decide whether it would be Canon or Nikon. Don't ask me why I didn't go for an Olympus. My first point and shoot digital was an Olympus, but I had decided that since the Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras were so popular, I would buy one of them.

If you go to a Canon forum, guess what the folks there will recommend? You guessed it. They would throw flames at visiting Nikon enthusiasts. And the same was true on the other side. It was kind of like the Hatfields and the McCoys. No one could say anything kind about the other. Actually, I exaggerate. There were a few sane folk, but they were almost invisible due to the ranting of the outspoken self promoters.

Anyway, I finally decided upon a Canon Rebel 300D. It was the first of the Digital Rebel line. I actually ordered a 350D, which was about to be released, but when I discovered I may not get it in time for my upcoming trip, I quickly switched the order to get the camera that was in production.

That was also a tough decision. Were the upgrades worth the wait for the newer model? Being the impulsive person I am, I did not wait. The good news is that I was never sorry about buying the Canon Digital Rebel 300D. It gave me a ton of satisfaction and many great pictures.

Now, once again, there are two Canon Digital Rebels on the market. Which one should you choose? Should you get the Canon Digital Rebel XSi (aka 450D), or should you get the Canon Digital Rebel T1i (aka 500D)?

Differences Between the XSi and T1i

Let's start out with what's not so different.

Image quality: both Canon Rebels have excellent image quality. One of my favorite camera test sites is dpreview.com, and the Canon Rebel line has always ranked very high in image quality.

Sensor size: Even though there is a difference in sensor size of about 3 megapixels, with the Rebel T1i having the most pixels, this is not enough of a difference to warrant discounting one or the other. In fact, in a recent upgrade of the Canon G10, the manufacturer actually reduced the number of megapixels in the sensor. You see, it ain't the megapixels that make image quality. It's the sensor type and the physical size of the sensor along with the camera technology. It's a complicated concept, but just know that 3 megapixels is not a factor here.

LCD: nope, both have nice 3" LCD panels.


So What IS the Difference Between the XSi and T1i?

Glad you asked. There are a couple of differences.

Let's start with price. If you buy a Canon Digital Rebel XSi rather than a Canon Digital Rebel T1i, you will pay about $150 less. There are reasons for that, so continue to read.

Image sensor: The T1i has a DIGIC IV sensor and the XSi has a DIGIC III sensor. The newer DIGIC IV sensor is quite a bit better in terms of speed so that it can handle the video which was added to the T1i. It can also handle a higher number of shots when taken in a single burst.

Video: As mentioned, the T1i has video capablilty while the XSi does not. If you are moving up from a point and shoot model to a DSLR, this may be the deciding factor. You will already be used to video in your still photography camera. For some, video is not an issue. The quality of video offered in the T1i is 720p, which is not the largest video output, but it is quite respectable. One of the main complaints about the video is the sound part of the video recording. There is no mic jack on the camera, and the sound is mono not stereo.

Creative Auto: With the Canon Digital Rebel T1i, they added "creative auto". This is where you can program the camera to add effects to the photos to make them more creative (hence, creative auto). If you are again moving up from a good point and shoot camera, you may already be familiar with this type of technology. If, however, you are buying your DSLR so that you, the photographer, can have more control over your camera settings, Creative Auto may not be an issue at all.


Sooo.. Which Should You Choose?

My own personal preference is the Canon Digital Rebel XSi for the simple reason that I like to save $$$, and I want to be a good photographer. I am not so much interested in having some camera technology do my thinking for me.

I would (and did) use the money I saved by not purchasing the T1i to buy a better lens or an extra lens. If money is not an issue for you, go ahead and buy a Canon 7D :-).

One more thing that I didn't mention about Creative Auto. If you want the very best quality pixels in your image. you will be shooting in something called Camera RAW. The RAW images will not be as sharp or contrasty as the JPEG images you would get otherwise.

The HUGE difference here is in pixel information. You see, each pixel has it's own set of properties, and without going into the technology involved, when you choose JPEG output, you are actually having the camera delete some of that information. However, when you choose to shoot in RAW, every byte of information is preserved until you get to the editing process. For people like me, this is a desirable thing. I would rather have more picture information and do my own Creative editing in my computer software (Photoshop).

Taken with a Digital Rebel using a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens (better than a kit lens)
Taken with a Digital Rebel using a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens (better than a kit lens)

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