The Rebel XS and the 20D

Heron in Dow's Lake, Ottawa

Unfortunately, my year-old Canon Rebel XS suffered some kind of failure on Saturday: constantly reading ‘busy’ in the heads-up display and being unable to take photos. Henry’s is sending it back to Canon for repair, and estimate it will be away 4-6 weeks. Quite kindly, when they heard that I was planning to take photos for the Fill the Hill event, they lent me a 20D for the weekend.

The 20D is an older camera positioned at a higher level than the Rebel XS. It is larger and sturdier, and feels more substantial. It also feels more balanced with heavy lenses like my 70-200. Two things I really like about it are the shutter release sound (which seems a lot more pleasing and professional than the Rebel XS) and the intangible sense that this camera is always eager to take photos. Pressing the shutter feels like allowing it to follow through with a restrained urge. Part of that feeling may come from the absurdly fast burst shooting speed.

I do have some complaints about the 20D. Some of the controls are very confusing. For instance, the on-off switch has three positions. In one ‘on’ mode, you can use the rear control wheel for exposure correction, once you have half-depressed the shutter button. Nobody would ever guess that, and I spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out how to undo the -1/3 correction I accidentally applied (I eventually got it back to 0 by switching from 1/3 stop increments to 1/2 stop). The screen is much smaller and less useful than the one on the Rebel XS, so it isn’t really all that useful for reviewing images in the field. Also, the processor is slower, meaning that photos take longer to download.

All told, I now have a better understanding of why people buy Canon’s $1000ish cameras, when their features are mostly the same as those in their $500ish cameras. The 20D certainly looks and feels more professional than the Rebel XS. That being said, I think I will stick with my plan of saving up and eventually buying a dSLR in the much more costly category of those with full-frame sensors.

P.S. With my Rebel XS away, it may be tough to produce nice photos of the day for the next month or so. I went out and took a heap of fall photos today, to try to see me through the dry spell. If I do end up going to a family reunion in Vermont in November, I will probably rent a dSLR (and maybe the 24-70 f/2.8L lens) for the duration.

P.P.S. One other lesson from all this is that megapixels really don’t matter. Which has more, the Rebel XS or the 20D? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter in the slightest.

[Update: 14 November 2009] The Rebel XS came back from Canon with a new flaw introduced.

[Update: 14 June 2010] Recently, the electrical system on the Rebel XS failed again. Rather than get a replacement under the Henry’s service plan, I got credit towards a 5D Mark II.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

12 thoughts on “The Rebel XS and the 20D”

  1. I’m glad henry’s was so good about giving you a loaner. What possible reason could you have for missing your family reunion that is within automobiling distance?

  2. My father will be in Toronto from November 14th to 17th and is driving to Vermont, picking up Sasha and (possibly) me.

    I am not sure exactly when he is planning to drive from Montreal to Vermont, but if it is on Thursday or Friday I can probably manage to get the time off work to go along with them. If not, I could take the bus to Albany on Friday night or Saturday morning and have someone come collect me.

    The thought of going to Albany is a nice reminder of our Vermont/New York adventure. When you are back in Toronto, we will have to make another NYC trek.

  3. That would be fun.

    And we can stay in the hostel with the teenage kid running it. You know, the one wearing a duct taped plastic bag over one hand, who negotiates prices in a musty basement occupied by hanging ceiling lightbulbs and collapsing couches.

  4. Regarding cameras:

    I considered buying a used 20D at Henry’s, using it for the 4-6 weeks, and then selling it back to them.

    Unfortunately, while they sell the 20D for $550 in “as new” condition, they only pay $200 for them. $250 may well be less than the cost of renting a camera for that duration, but it is still more than I think I should spend.

    Vistek rents out the Rebel T1i for $225.00 a week. The 50D is $375.00 a week, and the 5D is $525 for both the original and the Mark II.

  5. My Rebel XS is back from Canon and ready for pickup: a mere two weeks and six days after I dropped it off at Henry’s for repair.

    It will be lovely to have it back, though I do not have three rolls of Fuji Superia to shoot on my Elan 7N. Maybe at the Vermont family reunion…

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