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Review: Canon Digital Rebel XTi compared to the Nikon D80
Canon EOS Rebel XTi/400D
SLR (19.4 oz body and
SLR-type (23.6 oz body and
10Mp / 3888 x 22592/
10Mp / 3872 x 22592/
3 fps (appr. 50 JPEG or 12
23 fps (appr. 40 JPEG or 7
|2.5 inch (230.000
|2.5 inch (230.000
|As a d-SLR of the latest
generation the Canon EOS Rebel XTi has a compact polycarbonate
body which is molded around a metal frame. The rubber inlays
provide a better grip for the thumb and fingers of the right
hand. For pro's and semipro users and people with big hands the
body may be perceived as rather small and light. For those
familiar with digital compacts the Rebel XTi is a very handy
camera, It feels well balanced in the hand and is easy to carry
either in a camera bag or around the neck.
|The consumer d-SLRs of Nikon are
known to be solid cameras.
The Nikon D80 is no exception to that tradition. Although
it is significantly smaller than the D70s the D80 is bigger than
the EOS Rebel XTi. Despite it's more compact format the D80
remains a very robust, well balanced camera with a professional
look thanks to the texture of the polycarbonate body and rubber
|Despite the compact body sufficient space
remains for the most
essential buttons. At the top you'll find the
Program-dial as well as the wheel to change parameters
like aperture, shutter speed and
exposure compensation. The buttons at the back have been arranged around the large
LCD-screen. The 4-way navigator buttons give easy access to the most important parameters,
such as white balance and ISO. Buttons to pop-up the flash
preview the depth of field are located on the left side of
the lens. As those buttons have not been
sealed you have to be careful in rainy weather. The caps
covering the slot of the memory card (CF) and the
battery are well constructed and access to both card
and battery is easy. The rubber cover hiding the connections for
USB and TV is well
constructed but closing it is not very easy.
Buttons, caps and
|The body of the D80 offers
sufficient space for the available buttons. The buttons have
been placed on every side of the body,
except the bottom. On top it has a status LCD on the right
while the Program dial wheel is located on the left. Under the
shutter release and near the thumb position you find two dials to change the various parameters.
With the 4-way navigator you can quickly navigate through the different menus. All
buttons are well engineered, but just like with
the EOS Rebel XTi, they are not
The covers for battery and memory card are
reasonably solid, but the caps covering the
connections for USB and remote control seem less
suited for everyday usage and are difficult
|The viewfinder of a SLR
camera is known to be very clear and bright and therefore
very suitable for perfect framing and manual
focusing. The XTi viewfinder fits these characteristics, and although it is small, it
has no limitations in practical use. At the bottom of the
viewfinder you find data about aperture, shutter
speed, exposure compensation, flash mode and
flash compensation settings. The viewfinder itself contains 9 focusing points.
The LCD-screen at the back is large (2.5 inch) and
has high resolution (230.000 pixels). It is very
bright and has a good view angle. Its purpose is
not only to view back the pictures and set menus,
but it also functions as the status LCD, which is
normally at the top of a d-SLR. As soon as you put
the camera in front of your eye, the LCD turns off
|The viewfinder of the Nikon D80 is very
bright and clear and larger than the viewfinder
of the EOS Rebel XTi. You can see the
difference when you use the cameras next to each other, but when you use only one of the
cameras, you get used to the viewfinder very
quickly.The D80 viewfinder is able to
show gridlines. Although this is a useful option the image
gets somewhat crowded when used in combination with the 11 focus points
andcenter circle. The
indications for shutter speed and aperture are less
bright and somwaht less readable than with the EOS
The LCD-screen at the back has the same dimensions
and number of pixels as tthe EOS Rebel XTi.
It's bright and has a good viewing angle. The menus
are better readable than those of the EOS Rebel XTi. On
top you find the status LCD in which most image
parameters are displayed (no ISO!). It's well
readable and can be illuminated.
|The obvious characteristic of
a d-SLR is that you can change the lens and
choose the one that best fits your
subject. The Canon EOS Rebel XTi can operate with all lenses
with an EF or EF-s mount (analogue and digital
respectively) of which Canon has a wide
variety available for both consumers (<$1000) and
professionals (>$1000). The number of lenses
is still growing and image stabilization gets
better all the time. The Rebel XTi is also
suited to take lenses of third parties like
Sigma, Tamron and Tokina.
|The Nikon D80 is suited to operate with both
analogue and digital (DX) lenses. Nikon has a
large lens collection though less extensive than Canon.
The number of lenses with image stabilization
(VR) is lower as is the number of contemporary fixed
focus lenses produced with the latest
technologies. There is hardly any difference in
price and performance with Canon lenses. Nikon-mount lenses are also available from
Sigma, Tamron, Tokina and even Zeiss.
|Although the EOS Rebel XTi has
full-auto and several scene exposure modes, in daily
practice you will be able to achieve the best results using the P, A and T
settings. In addition to the full manual-mode (M) you can choose
for the so-called A-dep mode to obtain
maximum control over the depth of field. The
available metering modes are Evaluative (Matrix), Center
weighted and Partial. The Rebel XTi has no real
Spot metering. Depending on the subject the
exposure can be corrected with the exposure
compensation plus or minus 2 Ev with steps of
The ISO range varies from 100 tot 1600, with steps of 1 Ev. It is not possible to set noise reduction for
higher ISO's values. However, noise reduction is offered for exposure
times over 1 second.
|The Exposure programs on the D80
are similar to the EOS Rebel XTi,
although the typical A-dep option is absent. In P-, A-
and S-mode and full manual setting you can choose
for Auto-ISO. If the chosen exposure can't be
achieved at a given ISO, the program chooses
a higher ISO, up to a maximum range which you can set
yourself. This a a great feature, but beware of
unexpected noise. The Exposure compensation
varies from -5 to +5 Ev, with steps of 1/3 Ev.
The Matrix- and Center Weighted metering, is
completed with a real Spot metering. The
diameter if the CW metering can be
The sensitivity of the sensor ranges from ISO 100
to ISO 1600 with steps of 1/3 Ev. In Hi-mode ISO
can be further increased in three steps to ISO 3200. The
camera provides noise reduction in 3 levels for the
higher ISO's as well as a noise reduction for long
exposures. As with the Rebel XTi, some noise reduction
is always applied with every ISO when shooting in
JPEG, even if the setting of the noise reduction is
zero. Strong noise reduction may lead to undesired results.
|Depending on the selected lens and light
conditions, the focusing of the Canon Rebel XTi is
instantaneous and very accurate, even with low
light. The camera uses the internal flash as
focus assist lamp, which can be annoying. With
a switch on the lens, you can switch from auto
to manual focus. In addition the the so called One shot Auto
Focus mode you can select Ai Focus and Ai Servo
for moving objects. The AF follows the object
up to 20 mph. You can choose from 9 AF-points
or alternatively let the camera pick one of these
|The Auto focus of the Nikon D80 is
very fast and accurate and equals the Rebel XTi
at this point. In very low light it uses an AF
assist lamp, but it is so intense that it can
be disturbing. To switch from auto to
manual focus, there is a switch on the body
near the lens mount. The Auto focus has three
modes: Single servo, Continuous servo and AF-A
mode which automatically switches between the Single
and Continuous mode. The D80 has 11 AF points,
which can be selected either manually or
|Digital mirror reflex cameras are
known for their speed. The XTi's start up time and
shutter delay are very short and focusing is
fast, but in addition the camera has a fast continuous
mode. With a fast memory card the EOS Rebel XTi
shoots over 50 images (JPEG, fine) or 12 RAWs
without any interrupt at a speed of 3 frames a second.
After 50 images it clears its buffer within
seconds (you can take a single image) and it is
ready to take off again!
|The D80 is a very responsive
camera and with 40 JPEG/fine or 7 NEF (RAW)
at a speed of 3 frames per second it almost equals the '
motor drive' of the EOS Rebel XTi. After such
a burst the buffer is written to the memory
card. During that time the camera is available for a
single shot. All numbers and speeds mentioned
heavily depend on the transfer speed of the
memory card and the nature of the composition
(file size of the JPEG).
|The EOS Rebel XTi supports two
color spaces: sRGB (internet and consumer
print) and AdobeRGB (professional print). The
colors of JPEG-images can be fine tuned to your
personal taste. Canon has
implemented Picture Styles to achieve this. You can create
several different 'color profiles'. Canon has supplied preset
setting for subjects like Portrait and Landscape.
Picture Styles also contains a very extensive
B&W mode, which lets you control contrast
and color by applying color filters (red,
yellow, green) and tone i.e. Sepia or Blue.
In addition to the automatic white balance and 6 presets
you can set your own white balance. However, you can't
choose a numeric color temperature. The AWB can be
fine tuned to a high degree.
Color and white
|Just like the EOS Rebel XTi the
Nikon D80 has two color spaces: sRGB and
AdobeRGB. The sRGB color space has two
versions: Ia (Portraits) and IIIa (Landscapes). In the personal
setting you can choose yor own values for
sharpening, contrast, color tone and
saturation. Further more there are 5 Presets,
such as Softer and More Vivid. In the B&W
mode you can set contrast and sharpening and
you can use the color filters Red, Orange, Yellow
and Green for different results. No toning such
as Sepia or Blue is available in the record
The D80 has a tunable Automatic White balance, 6
presets WB and a manual WB. You can also set a
color temperature which is ideal for studio photography.
However, it's a pity that it lacks a PC-sync for
studio lighting. This has to be achieved
with a remote trigger.
|Pictures can be saved in JPEG or
RAW format as well as a combination (RAW+JPEG L/M/S,
fine). Resolution can be adjusted from
3888x2592 (L) to 2816x1880 (M) or 1936x1288 (S)
at two quality levels, Fine and Basic.
New on this EOS Rebel XTi is the sensor dust prevention
and the sensor cleaning, which helps to keep images
free of annoying dust spots, even if you
change lenses often. The sensor is cleaned every
time the camera is turned on and off. The cleaning
procedure stops when pushing the shutter release,
so at start up you don't have to miss a moment due
to sensor cleaning. The option can be deactivated.
In the software supplied with the camera (DPP 2.2)
dust can be removed automatically based on a
specific 'dust profile'. All these options do not
only prevent dust, but also keep you from the
trouble of having your camera cleaned or the risk
of cleaning it yourself. The camera still has the
option to lock up the mirror and open the shutter,
so you can look at the sensor for
To reduce all vibrations you can lock up the
mirror in combination with the self timer.
The Canon EOS Rebel XTi has several flash modes: Auto,
On (1st and 2nd curtain), Red eye and Off. Flash
power can be compensated with +/- 2 Ev. The hot
shoe can hold external flashguns and is E-TTL II
when used with the dedicated flashes of Canon. The EOS Rebel
XTi has no PC-sync for connection to studio flash
The D80 can capture JPEG and NEF
(RAW), separate or combined in every
possible setting of resolution (L, M,
S) and quality (Fine, Normal, Basic),
which gives you numerous
There are no arrangements on the D80 to
prevent dust to get to the sensor nor does it
provide an automatic in-camera sensor cleaning.
The only option is to lock up the mirror and
open the shutter and clean the sensor
To prevent unsharp pictures caused by vibration of the
camera it is possible to lock up the mirror and
get pin sharp macro images.
The Nikon D80 has several flash modes: Front and
Rear curtain, Red-Eye, Red-Eye Slow and Slow.
Together with some custom settings the flash
performance is better than with the Rebel XTi.
The hot shoe on top can take third party
flashguns, but with Nikons SB 600 and SB800 you
benefit fully of the integration with the
complex metering of the camera.
The Nikon D80 is able to make multiple
exposures of 2 or 3 images.
|All important controls can be quickly accessed
and changed with the 4-way buttons or the main
dial. ISO, White balance, AF mode en AE mode have a
one-button access. Exposure program and Exposure
compensation are within finger distance.
Instead of a top panel LCD, the EOS Rebel XTi shows
the value of it's parameters on the large LCD on the
back with black characters on a white background,
which is unusual, but very readable.
comprehensive information, you never take pictures
with a wrong ISO setting or Exposure value. The menu in the LCD-screen is nice
to read thanks to the size of the LCD, but not
as clear as with the D80. Navigation through
the menu's is very easy and after leaving the menu
at a certain point, it returns to this
position the next time the menu is activated.
This saves you a lot of navigation.
In addition to parameters for Recording, Playback and
Tools, the EOS Rebel XTi has 11 Personal
settings. With Picture Styles it is possible to '
save' certain settings for Saturation, Contrast
and Sharpening, but you can't save a complete set
of personal settings.
Parameter setting and
|Just as with the EOS Rebel XTi it
is very easy to change capture parameters,
although for WB and ISO you need one hand to
press the button and the other to turn the
dial. With the EOS Rebel XTi this is a one hand
operation. Most parameters are displayed in the
status LCD. The value of ISO isn't present,
which can lead to mistakes.
The LCD screen on the back is perfect to navigate
through the extensive menus. Within no time you find your
way to the desired setting. You can reduce the
number of menu options in a personal menu to make
navigation even easier. However, there is no possibility
to get an overview the most important parameters. If you
want to know what color temperature or color space
you have set in an earlier session, you have to dig
deep in the menu structure to recall the setting.
With this number of parameters you would love to have a
(customizable) one-page info screen to prevent shooting with
completely wrong settings. It is not
possible to save a set of custom settings.
|The EOS Rebel XTi offers three
choices to playback your pictures: full screen clean
image, one with Shutter speed and Aperture and one
with Histogram, Clipping highlights and all
image settings. Zooming in on an image is very
easy and fast. Zooming out you get 9 thumbnails
and with Jump you can move through the images
with steps of 9 thumbnails or 10 full images.
In playback mode images can be rotated, marked
and you can display a slideshow.
|In Playback there are three ways to
view your images: Full image with clipping or
date/time/file number/quality, Full image with
record data in two pages and Small with
histogram. Although all data are available in
these three modes the D80 lacks the option of the Rebel XTi which gives you clipping,
histogram and exposure data in one screen. The Nikon D80
requires a lot of navigation to keep
an overview of all image aspects.
Zooming into an image is a one button action and
you don't have to turn a dial simultaneously as
was the case with the D50 and D70/D70s. You can zoom out to 4 or
9 images, but you can't jump through more images at a
In Playback there are several post-processing
options. In the Retouch menu you find D-lighting,
Red-Eye removal, Trim, Monochrome, Small copy,
Filter effects and Image overlay. However, most users will
prefer to use Photoshop to obtain more
|A d-SLR should be fast and the Canon EOS
Rebel XTi fulfils this requirement. It has almost no
startup time or shutter delay, fast auto
focus and fast data transfer (high continuous
mode). The camera is very responsive and you
don't have to miss any photo
|The Nikon D80 is a lightning fast
camera and never requires a moment of waiting.
Although the continuous mode is a bit slower
than that of the EOS Rebel XTi you don't have
to miss a photo opportunity.
|color and exposure:
The Evaluative mode is very effective and in
90% of the subjects the exposure is correct.
For subjects with high contrast containing a white
element, the Rebel XTi tends to underexpose to keep
the highlight within the histogram. A little over
exposure is needed then.
Colors are very good and with JPEGs pictures can be fine
tuned to your own taste with Picture Styles. The
automatic White balance tends to warm (yellowish)
images, without creating a colorcast.
The 10 billion pixels capture an amazing amount of
detail (RAW and fixed focus lens). The quality of
the zoom lens and the algorithms of JPEG lower this
detail and images need sharpening. The default
in-camera sharpening is very moderate, so in some
cases (Landscape, Macro, Product) you have to
increase the sharpening value. In combination with
noise reduction and JPEG compression this can lead
to pixel errors and therefore quality loss.
The level of vignetting, corner unsharpness,
Chromatic aberration and distortions are lens
related and not a 'problem' of the camera.
Generally fixed focus lenses perform better than
zoom lenses and from an optical perspective most lenses are at their
best at f/8 or f/11.
With 10 billion pixels on a APS-sensor the signal
must be amplified to get the right exposure
which may result in noise (chroma and luminance). This
noise is more evident at higher ISO's. At all ISO's noise reduction is applied for JPEG images, which
decreases the amount of detail and the visual
sharpness. The noise levels of JPEG of the Canon EOS
Rebel XTi are very low, even at ISO 1600 and these
images are very usable for prints at 12"x8".
|color and exposure:
With the Matrix metering setting 90% of the subjects are
well exposed. In high
contrast situations with white elements in the
subject the Nikon D80 needs a bit of underexposure to
'solve' the clipping problem in those
Colors are very natural, but can be fine tuned
with the D80 to the personal taste of the user. The
Auto WB tends to make images cooler (more blue),
without giving a color cast.
Many pixels in combination with a good lens deliver a lot of
detail. Default sharpening of JPEGs is very modest
to keep the influence of noise reduction on image
quality low. In default mode images look a bit too soft
and need a higher level of sharpening in some
circumstances. Still JPEGs are very useful for
prints at 16"x12". For larger prints you have to
See the remarks with the EOS Rebel XTi.
Nikon applies, just as Canon does, noise reduction at all
ISO's. They use very good algorithms and even at ISO 3200 you
get useable pictures for the internet or small prints.
Nevertheless the noise reduction impacts the sharpness of the JPEGs at
all ISO-levels. At ISO 1600 image quality of the
D80 and EOS Rebel XTi are at par.
You will buy and use a d-SLR to
get the best possible combination of
control, flexibility, speed and image
quality. The Canon EOS Rebel XTi and
the Nikon D80 both live up to that
expectation. Even the most demanding
amateur photographer will not be disappointed by
those cameras. Both cameras can
be operated automatically, but offer
full manual control for high levels of accuracy
in exposure, focusing and color. The
Nikon D80 has more features, but the Canon EOS
Rebel XTi is easier to operate. Due to
the exchangeability of lenses all
subjects can be captured with great
ease from super wide angle to super
tele and for special subjects like macro to tilt&shift.
Canon offers a broader line-up of lenses , often
with image stabilization. The speed of
the cameras is almost equal. No noticeable
start up or shutter delay, fast and
accurate AF and a 'motor drive' of 3
frames per second up to 40 or more
JPEGs (about 10 RAWs). Image quality
of these 10 Mp cameras is very high.
Resolution is fabulous and noise
levels are moderate even at ISO 1600.
In RAW format mode with a fixed focus lens you
will get the highest image quality, in which case the EOS Rebel XTi performs a bit
better than the D80. Image quality seems no longer restricted by the
sensor, but by the JPEG-settings and
the applied zoom lens. Every zoom lens
below $750 dollar reduces the 100%
quality of the images. Because of the fact that high
levels of sharpening in combination
with noise reduction and JPEG
compression tend to significantly reduce the image quality, the
default in-camera sharpening of both
camera is very modest and may lead to '
soft' images is some cases. JPEGs are
suitable for high quality prints up to
16x12" and for prints up to 40 to 26
inch RAW is the best image format.
If you want the highest image quality,
user friendly operation and sensor cleaning
the Canon EOS Rebel XTi is your camera.
In addition the price is $200 lower than of
the D80. The EOS Rebel XTi comes standard with good RAW-software, which
is optional for the D80 at extra cost. In case you want a
camera with a robust body, extra features
and better flash performance, the Nikon D80 is a very good choice. But, as said
none of these two cameras will disappoint
If you have a D50, D70 of D70s an upgrade
to the D80 may be an option: more pixels,
higher responsiveness and better image
quality at higher ISO values can give the
photographer more satisfaction. For
the same reasons an upgrade from the EOS
300D to the Rebel XTi may be worth the
investment. Even from the EOS 350D the step
to the Rebel XTi will be interesting.
The answer to the question which camera of those two is
the best, is very simple: 'The camera
with the best lens', because
in this comparison operation, speed and image algorithms
are not the real restrictions in use and
|October 28, 2006|
|In the USA buy the Canon Digital Rebel XTi from:|
|In the UK buy the Canon Digital Rebel XTi from:|
|In the USA buy the Nikon D80 from:|
|In the UK buy the Nikon D80 from:|