XTsi Mike Lipphardt's Review of the XTsi

First Impressions

Even as we speak, I have one here in front of me. I'm impressed! Most ways, anyhow.

It is tiny. Very tiny. Compared to my 800si with VC700, it may as well be a Vectis S-1 or something. Kind of a funky silver/black color scheme. Looks a little cheesy, and it remains to be seen how durable the finish is.

Uses 2 CR2 batteries instead of 1 2CR5. Supposedly there is a AA pack available for it, but B&H didn't have one. There are no contacts on the bottom, so there can't be a vertical grip. I suppose that's OK for a camera like this.

It is remarkably full featured. There are a number of things I really like;

  1. Release priority is available (!)
  2. 3 AF zones - individually selectable via an AF button on the back when you set the custom function. The central sensor is a cross-hair. I was under the impression that the center one was the only one. Not so. AF zones are shown to you on the display panel - not overlaid on the finder.
  3. Minoltas' standard 14 segment metering, with spot and AEL/slow sync. The spot/AEL button can be set to toggle on and off, rather than just on while depressed.
  4. You can leave the leader out on rewind.
  5. High speed sync. No wireless flash though.
  6. Grip sensor/eye start, which can be completely defeated.
  7. Most functions available through a control dial Nice way to save space but keep functions.
The flash pops up when required, but you can set the camera to pop it up ONLY when you press the flash button. The flash also acts as an AF illuminator - shades of the 600si. You can turn that off too. There is a red window on the front of the camera which made me think it had a real AF illuminator, but no. It's just a self timer indicator.

AF speed is OK, if not spectacular. Sort of noisy in comparison to my 800si.

No depth of field preview. Oh well.

Program mode is not shiftable. No big deal for me since I tend to use aperture priority anyway.

Came with a date back. I'll have to keep an eye on that thing...

All controls have a very solid, positive feel.


  1. The aforementioned AF Illuminator.
  2. Auto-bracket. 3 frames, 1/2 stop. Come on - what's the point? It may as well not be there.
  3. No way to set flash and ambient exposure compensation separately. Exposure compensation is overall.
  4. No way to preselect AF modes (A/C/M).
I don't cares;
  1. Built-in switchable panorama gate. Ho-hum.
Summary - it looks like a good, competent camera. Amazingly good for it's price point; I paid $350US for it.

User Review

Well, I just got back from vacation - one week in Washington, DC - and I brought along my spanking new XTsi. Instead of a once over like the last time, I can actually tell you what it's like to use.

Tip - if it's 96 degrees F and 100% RH, don't carry a camera unless it's a point and shoot :). Day one was like that, and my Minolta stayed at the motel. Fortunately, my Olympus Stylus is an excellent camera and gave good results in daytime photography.

The camera is nice to carry, but I found that with the 28-105 mounted (my usual lens) most of the size advantage over my 800si - the reason I bought it in the first place - disappeared. With the 50mm f1.7 mounted though, it wasn't much more of a problem to carry than my Olympus Stylus Zoom.

Noise - the camera is noisier than the 800si or 650si. Quite a bit noisier. There is a disturbing amount of shutter noise, as well as motor drive noise. You can actually feel the camera vibrate through its' cycle, although I can't find any evidence that this hurt my pictures. Rewind isn't too bad though.

AF - despite the promise of better AF through cross sensors, I found that AF wasn't materially better than my 800si. Slower to drive the lens, and no more accurate. We are back to the camera picking AF modes though. Oh well.

Film handling - the camera rewound after about 7 frames on the second roll of film. The other 9 rolls (yes, I shoot a lot :) went OK, although it was troublesome to load once in a while. By that I mean the camera didn't pick up the film leader like it should have. And I'm no neophyte when ti comes to loading a camera either :(.

Exposure - as far as I could see, it was spot on. Looking at the negs (not optimal I know, but I can judge a neg pretty well - although not as well as a slide) everything went OK. But I expected that, since it uses Minoltas' excellent 14 segment meter. Unfortunately, Minolta omitted center-weighted metering. You have spot and 14 segment only.

IRRITATION!!! - I don't know if this applies to just my sample, but when I set the camera to manual focus, it won't stay there. It seems to be in manual for one shot only. Yes, you press the AF button and focus, take your shot, and now the camera is back in AF. Grrrr. Fortunately AF was pretty good, even in bad light.

The custom functions were nice to have. The camera is now set up like my 800si, with the leader out on rewind and set to release priority. I was also glad to be able to disable the automatic flash popup and AF illuminator.

The only "Pic" mode (subject program) I used was the night shot with flash (night portrait mode). Results were abysmal. The foreground subjects (my wife and daughter) were overexposed and the background (the Washington Monument) was underexposed. Fortunately I took the shot twice using the subject mode and manually, so the shot wasn't lost.

I mostly used it in aperture priority mode - my usual. The spot meter was useful at night, allowing me to set the exposure correctly for shadow areas. Unfortunately in manual exposure the meter does not indicate how far off exposure you are, so I had to meter the shadows and use exposure compensation - which you CAN see - to correct exposure.

Incidentally, the Capitol is spectacular at night. Your tax dollars at work I suppose, but if you like to shoot at night as much as I do, it's loaded with opportunities.

As an aside - once again I find that my multi-thousand dollar investment in lenses is wasted :). My best shots came not from my $400 zoom, but from my $50 50mm f1.7. Composing and framing by walking around is THE way to go, unless you have no choice.

For the price, the camera is worthwhile. Execution could have been better in some areas. Maybe I'm spoiled by my 800si. But then, the 800si was twice the price, so I'm not complaining. Well, yes I am :). The XTsi seems to be a weird mixture of advanced capabilities and no-brainer functions. Again, see the AF mode non-selection and lack of a real metering index. On the other hand, there's a lot of things to like - see the custom functions.

Mike Lipphardt, (email: liphardt@harborcom.net ), 27/8/98
HTML: Chris Valentine

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