Over the past six months I’ve reviewed nearly all of the current range of entry and mid-level digital SLRs, including the Sony Alpha A100, Canon EOS 30D, Nikon D200, Pentax *ist DL2, Nikon D80, Olympus E-400, Samsung GX 1L and Pentax K100D. This week it’s the long-awaited turn of the Canon EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi in the USA). The camera was launched in August last year, and I’m somewhat disappointed that it’s taken this long for Canon to make a review sample available to me, so my apologies to the many readers who have been asking for this review for several months. I hope it’s been worth the wait.
Although Nikon might disagree, it is Canon that is credited with having started the current market for consumer-priced digital SLRs with the launch of the EOS 300D in August 2003. It was the first DSLR to break the £1,000 barrier, and despite criticism about its build quality and lack of features it was a massive success. It was followed a year and a half later by the EOS 350D, which increased the megapixel count from 6.3 to 8.0, improved performance and build quality and added some of those missing features. Needless to say it was another resounding success, offering consumers an affordable entry into Canon’s massive system of lenses and accessories.
When the 400D was launched it had an RRP of £719.99 in a kit with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, or body only for £649.99. Just six months later the kit price is down to £475, while you can get one body only for around £440. Compared to the other 10MP DSLR cameras that are currently available it is slightly more expensive than the Sony Alpha A100 (£477 with 18-70mm, £433 body only), but a bit cheaper than the Olympus E-400 (£499 with 14-42mm), and quite a bit cheaper than either the Nikon D80 (£699 with 18-70mm, £532 body only) or the new Pentax K10D (£669 with 18-55mm, £582 body only).
The EOS 400D is up against some very accomplished competition, but it gets off to a running start by being a third-generation product, with a design that has evolved over several years. Physically it is very similar to the 350D, with a lightweight and compact body made of tough polycarbonate plastic over a stainless steel chassis, although it is in fact a completely new body. Build quality is very good, with none of the cheap and flimsy feeling of the 300D. The battery and card hatches have metal hinges, and although the port cover is a rubber plug it fits well and will keep dust at bay.