Practical Ecommerce

The PeC Review: Canon's Rebel XSi DSLR for Taking Product Images

Canon’s Rebel XSi is a 12.2 megapixel DSLR camera that is both inexpensive and powerful. It features relatively large pixels, a very functional auto focus, and several excellent presets that together make it a very good choice for capturing do-it-yourself product photos.

Canon XSi

There is no doubt that hiring a professional product photographer will often produce better product images for your ecommerce website than trying to take your own product photos, but for the small online merchant, taking product images in-house can be a huge cost savings. If you are going to shoot your own product images, the Canon Rebel XSi is a feature-rich, high-quality camera choice worthy of four out of a possible five stars in this The PeC Review.

Entry Level DSLR

Although it costs about $700, the XSi is considered an entry level DSLR (digital single lens reflex)—the type of camera that most professional photographers use. DSLRs use a series of mirrors to provide photographers with a precise representation of what the lens sees. When you look through the viewfinder of a typical point-and-shoot camera, you see a representation of what the image sensor sees, but with a DSLR, you are looking directly through the lens. This means that what you see when you snap a picture is more likely to be what you see once the image is captured.

Canon EOS Rebel XSi Video

Larger Pixels

Pixels in an image sensor are like little buckets capturing tiny particles of light energy. The larger your bucket, the more light energy that gets captured. Image sensors convert that light energy into digital data which ultimately becomes the picture you take. The more information the sensor collects, the better the resulting picture can be.

Although Canon does not publish that exact size of the pixels it uses in the XSi’s sensor, we can estimate that they are about 5.2 microns-by-5.2 microns or so based on the total resolution, array size, and aspect ratio. If my estimate is accurate, the XSi has 135-percent larger pixels than a point-and-shoot camera using a typical image sensor. All of that extra pixel size makes for a lot better sensitivity, an improve signal-to-noise ratio, and wider dynamic range.

The Canon XSi Earns four out of five stars

Microleneses Concentrate Light

The XSi’s sensor also uses a new technology to capture even more light in each pixel. As light enters a camera lens it is focused on the image sensor, which is good. But photons (particles of electromagnetic radiation or light energy) are extremely small, and they can still enter a pixel at an odd angle and bounce off without providing good data to the sensor. To capture even these wayward photons, the XSi’s designers placed relatively large microlenses over each pixel, focusing the light energy a second time and significantly reducing image noise (the colored specs you sometimes see in photographs).

Auto Focus Makes Taking Product Images a Snap

Focusing can be extremely difficult. If you don’t believe me, break out an old manual film camera and try to get a image in tight focus. Although, the XSi will let you manually focus, it also has a beautifully smooth nine-point auto focus. When I was taking product images, the camera quickly zeroed in on my subjects, making it very easy to get good shoots.

Close Up and Portrait Presets

I started this review by saying a lot of good things about DSLRs in general. But one common problem for amateur photographers is that DSLRs can be very complex. You can adjust ISO (the equivalent of speed in film), exposure, F-stop, white balance (which can remove unrealistic colors from your pictures), and lots of other things that might sound like incomprehensible jargon to some ecommerce merchants. But have no fear, the XSi has two presets that work very well for taking product images. The Close Up helped me capture fantastic details in my product shots, and the Portrait provided better depth of field and made my product pictures seem to pop off of the page.

Canon XSi

Detailed Menus and Image Information

I was also very impressed with the XSi’s features and how easy it was to access them from the menus. You will still need to read the somewhat hefty (196-page) user’s manual, but once you know what you’re looking for, it is easy to find.

Summing Up

The Canon Rebel XSi offers a good balance of image quality and cost. It will far out perform a typical point-and-shoot camera, and help you take much better product photos for your store. All told it earns every one of its four stars in this The PeC Review.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Joshua Greenough April 13, 2009 Reply

    Great tips for shooting products. It is always nice to see when the business opinion and the people’s opinion combine. The Rebel XSi was the Buzzillions Reviewer’s Choice 2008 award winner.