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DSLR Guide News, September 2006 - The Rebel xTi Rundown
September 26, 2006

The Canon Rebel xTi - Too Much of a Good Thing?

Table of Contents

Intro - Photokina
SLR Q and A - Autofocus points
Photo Recipe - Zoom For Portraits
The Gear - The Rebel xTi
Recent Updates - What's new at the Guide
SLR E-course - 5 online SLR lessons
Learn More - Digital SLR Resources


I'm going to keep this introduction short, since there's a lot of information to tackle in this month's newsletter.

There has been a flurry of activity recently in the world of digital SLR cameras. What's causing it?

One word: photokina.

Photokina is a MAJOR photography trade show held once every two years. All of the major companies make an appearance (about 1,600 of them), and many new showcase products are typically released or announced just prior to the show.

For example, the Canon Rebel xTi was announced for this show (see more below) and now two other digital SLR cameras have made an appearance: the Samsung GX-10 and the Sigma SD14. More information on all of these new digital SLR cameras will be made available on the Digital SLR Guide in the coming months.

Photokina starts today in Cologne Germany and runs to Sunday October 1.

Curious about just how many new products are announced for the show? You can get a feel for it at the letsgodigital web site.

Digital SLR Q&A

Question: How many autofocus point should I look for in a digital SLR?

The more you want to take action photos, the more autofocus points you should get.

There tends to be a direct relationship between the number of autofocus point and the speed of the autofocus system, which helps to track moving targets.

For example, the entry-level Nikon D50 uses a 5-point autofocus system while the semi-pro D200 uses an 11-point autofocus system. Those 11 autofocus points are spread out over almost the entire viewfinder, which means that if your subject is behind one of those points, the camera should be able to focus on it.

With a 3-point or 5-point autofocus system it is possible for the subject to drift out of the autofocus "zone" at which point the camera will track the focus back and forth until it finds something to settle on.

If your preference runs more toward non-moving subjects (landscapes, portraits, still-life) then the number of autofocus points is less relevant. All that you need is a camera that will focus quickly and accurately (and this is true of all digital SLRs).

With static subjects you also have the option to abandon the autofocus altogether and opt for manual focus instead. In manual focus mode, the autofocus points are no longer used, and it's up to you to determine when your photo subject is in focus by looking through the viewfinder.

Photo Recipe

A photo recipe is a simple way of breaking down a photography technique.

September Photo Recipe - Zooming for Portraits
Since last month's photo recipe was on the geeky side (after all, image manipulation was required) this one will be fairly straightforward.

1 digital SLR camera
1 28mm to 50mm lens
1 100mm to 200mm lens
1 willing subject

STEP 1 - Try wide angle
First, we're going to take some portrait shots with a wide angle lens. These sample photos will give you photos that you can use to compare to the ones you'll take in step 2.

Set up your willing subject so that there is a distracting background. Fences, brightly colored plants and anything with a lot of detail or pattern will serve to draw the eyes away from your portrait subject. Make sure that the person you are taking pictures of is not standing right up against the background (if it's a fence or wall). Leave some breathing room in between the subject and background, otherwise you won't get the results that I am about to describe.

Set your camera to aperture priority mode, and select an aperture of f/8.0. This is a good middle-of-the-road aperture so that both your subject and background will be in focus. If you are using a zoom lens, make sure that it is set to a focal length of about 28mm to 50mm. If you are using a prime lens, a 50mm lens is a good starting point.

Take a photo of your portrait subject against the busy background. Feel free to take a variety of shots, but make sure that one of them is far enough away to include both the head and shoulders of your subject.

Example photo at 28mm

STEP 2 - Zoom to telephoto
Now set your zoom lens to 100mm (or longer) or use a prime telephoto lens in the same range. Leave the aperture set to f/8.0.

Take a couple of big steps back from your subject, and take a variety of photos. Again, make sure that at least one of the shots is of the head and shoulders of your subject.

Example photo at 115mm

STEP 3 - Compare the Results
You should notice something interesting about the portrait photos you took with the longer focal length: that busy background doesn't compete as much with your primary subject.

Here's why: longer focal length lenses reduce the depth of field in your photographs. Depth of field is the amount of space in front of and behind your subject that is also in focus.

A short focal length lens at 28mm creates more depth of field than a 200mm lens. This is why both subject and background should appear in focus when you use the short focal length in Step 1. In step 2, you've reduced the depth of field, so now your subject should be clear but the background will be blurry.

Since the background is blurred out, it does not draw attention away from your subject.

When is this technique most useful? Any time that you're taking snapshots of your family at a monument. The most common result of this type of photography is that the photographer uses a wide angle lens (with lots of depth of field) and the monument appears to be sprouting out of someone's head. While using a telephoto lens can help with these types of shots, you can also place your subjects to the side of the monument so there is no chance of it appearing right behind them.

Submit a Request
Want to learn a new camera skill or technique? Curious about how to photograph cars? Bugs? Flowers? Children at play?

Submit a photo recipe request

All requests are welcome, and are kept completely anonymous. I'll just include your photo recipe request in a future issue of the newsletter.

Digital SLR Gear

Last month I pondered what Canon might be up to and why they hadn't released a new digital SLR camera to succeed the popular Rebel XT.

Now they have.

Leading up to photokina, Canon has announced their next digital SLR camera: the Rebel xTi.

The most dominant features on the xTi are its 10.2 megapixel sensor and the addition of a self-cleaning sensor, designed to eliminate dust particles that may attach themselves to the sensor when you're changing the lens.

I'm going to be fairly blunt about this: I'm not really impressed.

Here's why: Canon seems to be stuck with the notion that the public is clamoring for more megapixels. Maybe the public really is demanding more megapixels, but perhaps this is still a response to marketing hype.

Let's remember that a large number of megapixels is good for one thing: making larger prints.

More megapixels do NOT improve the quality of the image, and they come with several drawbacks. 10 megapixel files require larger memory cards (1 GB is about the minimum), they eat up space on your hard drive faster, and they require powerful computers to view and edit. If you want to upload images to an online gallery, it will take a lot more time to upload a 10 megapixel file than a 6 megapixel file, even with a fast DSL connection.

Don't even THINK about e-mailing a 10 megapixel photo to some of your friends.

So what are these 10 megapixels good for? They are good for making 16x20 inch prints. If you can't quite picture how large that is, it's about the size of a standard poster (the ones that you see when you go to the movies).

Unless you are planning to devote a room of your house to a gallery of your large-size prints, having this many megapixels at your disposal is not entirely practical.

To be fair, I must also mention the second benefit of megapixels: the ability to crop and still make large prints. With a 10 megapixel photo, you can crop away HALF of the image and still be able to make a nice 8x10 print of that. However, I would recommend that you just get closer to your subject (if you can) rather than cropping out half of your photo.

There's one final gotcha of the large megapixel cameras that you should be aware of. While the sensor does include more megapixels, it is not PHYSICALLY larger than a sensor with 8 megapixels or 6. Think of it this way: it's the same thing as taking 10 people and cramming them into a phone booth instead of 6.

If you're going to jam 10 people into the same amount of space as 6 people, the 10 people have to be a smaller size than the 6. The same is true of megapixels.

Without going into much more detail than that, it's important to explain the end result: as megapixels get smaller, the amount of noise they generate at high ISO settings INCREASES. This means that a 10 megapixel sensor at ISO 800 will probably add more noise to your images then a 6 megapixel sensor at ISO 800.

While only time and image tests will show how well the Rebel xTi handles this issue, Canon's proud announcement about adding 10 megapixels to the Rebel seems overrated.

Also keep in mind that the Rebel line of cameras is geared for CONSUMERS. My question is this: at which point do the photographic needs of the snapshot photographer outweigh those of a professional or semi-professional who is perfectly happy using the 8-megapixel EOS 30D?

Rather than include features that benefit the amateur photographer (like anti-shake built into the camera) Canon has simply opted to up the number of megapixels and make it seem like you're getting a "pro" camera for less than $1,000.

Given Canon's popularity in the digital SLR marketplace (they are first) I am sure that the xTi is going to sell. But if you're considering a digital SLR purchase in the next couple of months, keep in mind the issues associated with a 10 megapixel camera, and know what you're getting into before you buy.

Recent Updates to The Guide

I have to admit that there have not been a significant number of updates to the Digital SLR Guide lately. I have been quite busy with my new camera reviews (the Nikon D70s and the Sony ALPHA DSLR-A100) that i have not had time for anything else.

I hope to find more time in the coming weeks, since I clearly have a lot of items under the COMING SOON category!


  • Nikon D70s Guide - this one was a long time coming and the result of my digital SLR guide poll, which asked readers of the guide which camera they would most like to see reviewed.

Before I forget, I should also mention that the Digital SLR Guide has a new home page (you may have noticed the change if you frequent the site). This revised home page is designed to be more streamlined than the previous one, so that you can access the content on the site that's most important in less time.

It's also designed to be a more succinct introduction to what the Digital SLR Guide is all about, so that it's clear to everyone who visits that this site is for beginning and intermediate photographers, and not geared toward the pros who are looking for a LOT more detailed information.


  • A Sony DSLR-A100 Guide
  • A Rebel xTi Guide
  • The Panasonic DMC-L1 vs the Sony DSLR-A100
  • The Nikon D80 vs the Sony DSLR-A100
  • The Nikon D80 vs the Rebel xTi
  • The Top Rated Digital SLR Camera (updated)
  • The Most Inexpensive Digital SLR (updated)
  • The Fastest Consumer Digital SLR (updated)
  • Canon Wide-Angle Lenses
  • Nikon SLR Lenses
  • Sony SLR Lenses

For all the latest updates to the Guide, keep an eye on the Digital SLR Weblog.

SLR Guide E-Course

Don't miss great photo opportunities!

Learn how to adjust your camera settings to get the most out of every shot you take with 5 online lessons from the Digital SLR Guide.

It's much easier to leverage all the features of your digital SLR than you might think.

Find Out More

Digital SLR Learning Resources

Each month I will present a new photography book or online resource that will take your photos to the next level, and help you continue to learn about photography (if that's your desire).

September Resource: Photodo
This month's resource is for anyone looking for a lens for a digital SLR camera. Photodo is the of the SLR lens world, providing professional and personal review of hundreds of lenses available for hundreds of cameras.

If you're looking for a really obscure lens, chances are that Photodo won't have that much information about it beyond the basic specifications. But for more popular and common lenses there is a wealth of information at your fingertips, and plenty of real-world user reviews.

It does help to be well-versed in lens terminology before you dive into this site...but that's where the Digital SLR Guide can help! Just read How to Choose the Best Digital SLR Lens before you get started to understand how focal length, maximum aperture and full-time manual focus can impact the digital photos that you take.

Once you have a pretty good idea of the lens you're looking for, then you can take your search to Photodo for more in-depth information.

In Conclusion

With the release of all the new digital SLR cameras this year, it's been a bit of a scramble to keep on top of it all.

Readers of last month's newsletter may recall that I said that there would be a questionnaire associated with this month's newsletter. Well, here we are and that questionnaire isn't quite ready to go.

Let's just say that it will be coming soon, since I always like to hear what the readers of this newsletter are thinking, and what digital SLR camera technology or cameras you'd most like to hear about.

Until the questionnaire is ready to go, you may always feel free to submit your feedback, which I try to incorporate into the site and this newsletter as much as I can.

And now for some breaking news...I've just found out that this digital SLR newsletter has acquired it's 500th subscriber!

To all of the new readers: thanks for signing up - I hope you enjoy this digital SLR newsletter for a long time to come.

For anyone who's been with it all along: thanks for reading and happy picture taking!

--Chris Roberts, Your Digital SLR Guide

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