Canon Rebel XSi DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (OLD MODEL)
Used & New from: $250.00
Canon Rebel XSI auto focus problems I was all set to order the xsi until I read the reviews about the auto focus problems. The whole reason I want a new camera is because I'm sick of the blurry pictures I'm getting with my current point and shoot camera. I will be taking most of my pictures on auto focus. (Most of the pictures I take are of active preschoolers). What should I do?
asked by new mom on October 11, 2008
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Showing 1-10 of 192 answers
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new mom-

The number of highly positive reviews vastly outnumber the negative reviews mentioning "auto-focus problems" here at Amazon. And you don't see this "problem" ever mentioned in professional reviews of the camera.

I strongly suspect the "auto-focus problems" you're referring to are actually caused by a very common beginner's mistake. The Xsi has 9 independent auto-focus points available. The full auto mode which beginners are likely to start out with will use all 9 points at the same time. What this means is that the camera will end up picking the auto-focus point or points which present the camera with the best contrast for determining correct focus. The focus points the camera selects, however, aren't necessarily the best ones for the photographer because the camera doesn't really know what part of the scene is the subject and what parts are the background.

The proper technique is to not use FULL auto mode but one of the other modes - P, Av, Tv or M - and to manually (pre)select ONE auto-focus point. Generally, you'll pick either the center point or the one focus point closest to your actual subject in the frame. Many photographers will use a "focus and recompose" method where they auto-focus on the subject using just the center focus point and, while still half pressing the shutter release button, reframe the scene as desired. This works very well in most cases (although there are exceptions where recomposing can cause the focus to shift too much in some fairly specific cases but this is a matter of geometry and not camera design).

I believe with the proper techniques, you'll find the Xsi can focus VERY accurately and give you quite professional looking results.

P.S. - Shooting active preschoolers can be a bit of a challenge in itself but I'll leave that discussion for another day. :)
Technology Guy answered on October 11, 2008

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STOP! Do NOT order your camera from Sonic Cameras!

Read the thread "Any experience with online shop Sonic Cameras?" (under "digital camera" forum) for horror stories.

Personally, I only trust my camera orders either directly from Amazon.com or from B&H Photo Video.
NLee the Engineer answered on October 11, 2008

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I have been in Photography for nearly 30 years and I can tell you that there is DEFINITELY a problem with the XSi's auto focus. I have shot over a thousand test shots with this camera and although most of them turned out looking pretty good I noticed a CONSISTENT problem with the auto-focus feature. One thong is that even if you set it to focus only on the center spot it will still occassionally focus on the area closer to you than the focus spot. Actually it is not just occasionally, but nearly every time. I have got so teed off with this persistent problem that I shoot everything that is important to me in manual focus!
PhotoFreak answered on November 12, 2008

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I think you are right here. I don't believe it is a lens problem as I have see this problem across a couple of lens. I did two things that seem to make a different, the first was I completely reset all the camera setting and second thing I did was up grade the camera fireware from version 1.0. 4. to version 1.0. 9. This seems to have made a difference.
Jelly Dude answered on November 12, 2008

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I've read your response in regard to the XSi Auto focus issue with the other members. I'd just like to say that I really believe that there's an issue with the Auto Focus. Although many other reputable periodicals have reviewed the XSi and gave it high marks, I think that they're not correct in their assessment. I personally don't believe that the reviewers are conspiring to make us buy the XSi, but I believe they may not be giving the camera a thorough enough test.

I have personally owned two and have returned them shortly after purchase. They just couldn't hold up a consistent sharp landscape shot. The images always came out soft at long distances and much manipulation had to be done in order pull out a decent image. I'm not questioning that you haven't done a thorough job on testing the XSi out, but rather wondering if a certain number of XSi copies have had a defects during the manufacturing process, which the one you tested didn't have. It's hard to think that so many people can be written off as bumbling amateurs behind a lens. I don't consider myself to be a professional photographer, but been around enough to know when a product isn't working correctly - and the XSi has some issues that need to be worked out.

Let me counter your argument to the beginner issue. If the XSi was as goods as the reviewers say, wouldn't it be reasonable that if the camera was put in Fully Automatic Shooting with the IS and AF switched on (with the AF point to Auto) that the shots should be acceptable to the beginner shooter? I think the beginner should have enough consistent shots that would be acceptable. When I tested the camera in this mode I expect that my captures should be in the average to good category. The results of my test provided inconsistent results, which is what I believe a percentage of the beginners are seeing. However, I have to concede that there will be beginner issues and with time those folks will learn the error of their ways. The numbers of Auto Focus issues reported, I believe, are out of proportion to the standard failure bell curve.

I my case I had faith in the Canon product, even after the disappointment of the XSi. I migrated to the Canon 40d and have never looked back. The images are 10 times better, with very few issues in either the basic or creative modes and I'm proud to say that I just published my first Canon 40d image, which tells me that Canon is not a bad Camera company, but one who has a quality issue with a certain product line.
M. Marfell answered on January 30, 2009

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AVOID SonicCameras.com at all costs!!! They are a total scam operation and got a 0.94 out of 10.0 rating on resellerratings.com (they probably got that high of a rating by submitting their own reviews). ALWAYS check resellerratings.com before sending anyone your money. Cameras in general and Canon stuff in particular are RARELY heavily discounted and you won't typically see a huge variation in price from any legitimate seller. Besides, you want to make sure to purchase your equipment from an authorized Canon dealer to avoid any possible warranty problems. Your best bets are Amazon itself (not 3rd party sellers though), Adorama and B&H and a few others. Note that Dell has recently had some special discounts on the Xsi -- check the forums on the deal site SlickDeals.com to see if they have something going at the moment (they did a few days ago but it might have expired by now).

Back to cameras. There's a bit of a steep learning curve involved in learning photography with any SLR but this just requires some reading and lots of practice and patience. Mistakes are an integral part of the learning process so don't worry too much when some things don't turn out right, just try and have fun while you go and try different things. And, unlike the old days when we had to wait days to see the results, you'll get immediate feedback seeing how your shots turned out on the LCD screen. Having fun is THE most important thing! :)
Technology Guy answered on October 11, 2008

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C. Densmore-
Sure, I can be a bit pedantic and my wife will be the first to tell you that I'm not perfect by any means. Still, I like to think I've been of some small help now and then to the photographic community.

I never claimed nor meant to imply in any way that your particular focusing problem was a "newbie issue" or that the camera can't be the cause of focusing problems. I make no apologies, however, in approaching this issue with a healthy dose of skepticism particularly in regard as to whether there is a widespread problem with the camera itself which should be of concern.

You feel I'm doing others an injustice by not immediately assuming that their focusing issue are all caused by the camera but it would be a mistake to assume that everyone reporting such an issue has gone through a logical and methodical process of elimination to reach such a conclusion. Or even that everyone has the exact same focusing issue. Its not an insult to not take every statement of fact at face value. You may have methodically eliminated all the various possibilities and come to the conclusion that it can only be your camera at fault but why would you conclude from that that all Xsi users with issues have the very same problem as you? Its not that I don't trust you, its just that I want to know how you or anyone else reached these conclusions with details. If you want to say that all Xsi have auto-focus issues, then I would certainly like to see all the evidence.

I once spent 9 months trying to get Canon to fix a front-focusing issue with a Rebel XT so I understand the frustration involved very well, believe me. The very first thing I did was look for others with the same exact problem. Disappointingly, while there appeared to be many others with focusing issues on that particular camera, they all turned out to be very different issues upon closer examination. Next, I ran through issues of technique and then again after I contacted Canon. After much more research, more communications with Canon and a lengthy process of elimination, I determined the problem was definitely with my particular camera. That process alone took quite some time and effort and, while you may have already gone through a similar process with your focus issue, not everyone who mentions a focusing issue has. And that means for these others there are a large number of other possibilities to exclude before reaching any conclusion about the camera itself.

At great risk of sounding even more pedantic (and maddeningly irritating), I'm curious if you've tried shooting a focus chart (see http://focustestchart.com/chart.html) and eliminated the lens as being a possible cause and sent the camera and lens to Canon factory service?
Technology Guy answered on January 31, 2009

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"If the XSi was as goods as the reviewers say, wouldn't it be reasonable that if the camera was put in Fully Automatic Shooting with the IS and AF switched on (with the AF point to Auto) that the shots should be acceptable to the beginner shooter?"

Not necessarily, no, because dSLRs are complicated pieces of equipment which, unlike point and shoot cameras, are designed more for experienced users than beginners. The auto modes on point and shoot cameras will give you MUCH better results than the auto modes on dSLRs because that is THE primrary selling point of point and shoot cameras -- simplicity of use. The primary selling point of dSLRs is image quality. Camera makers may not advertise it very loudly to beginners, perhaps, but they all realize that to get the image quality they promise on their dSLRs, you will need a high quality lens and some photographic knowledge. You can get better gas mileage driving a stick shift but YMMV, as they say, and a beginner might not see that improvement right away.

The vast majority of focusing issues I've heard about were from complete newbies using full-auto with all auto-focus points active. For whatever reason, Canon set this as the default and it causes beginners all sorts of troubles. I do not see anyone being "written off as bumbling amateurs behind a lens" by simply noting that there are VERY common beginner mistakes that can cause such issues. No one starts out knowing everything. There's nothing demeaning about that whatsoever.

Next in the leading causes of focusing issues is the lens. Even Canon lenses have been known to front- or back-focus leading to soft images. This is easy enough to test and then have the lens recalibrated by Canon Factory Service. Not an uncommon problem, particularly with some third party lenses.

Next is the camera. Cameras can also front- or back-focus. This is rarer than with lenses but it can happen (my old XT strongly front-focused). To have it happen on two brand new cameras in a row, however, +very+ strongly suggests a cause other than the camera -- the odds of getting one defective camera are slim but the odds of getting two are minuscule.

On top of that, there are all sorts of other causes of softness that are not focus related at all. Some of these relate to technique and some depend on understanding what the equipment is designed to do (vs. what you think it should do).

I take it that you are a beginner with a dSLR. We all started out not knowing a thing and have made plenty of mistakes but learned something from them (every bad photograph is a potential learning experience). Believe what you like but, frankly, one possibility was just that the Xsi's kit lens was inadequate for your particular needs or for the technique you were using. Its a very decent general purpose starter lens but its not a high-end pro caliber lens. You can still get great images with the kit lens but learning technique will help you get the most from it. The 40D comes with a completely different mid-level lens which could have easily made a big difference in your images.

Congrats on publishing your image and have fun with your new 40D!
Technology Guy answered on January 30, 2009

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I used a combination of used film photography books back when (the basics still haven't changed since then) but lots and lots of people seem to find the book Understanding Exposure quite helpful. Your local library also probably has a number of books on basic photography.
Technology Guy answered on October 12, 2008

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Ah, yes, that's what I was looking for. Shutter speed seems a bit slow. At 300mm, you'd need a shutter speed of at least 1/500 sec to stop camera shake (assuming no IS). But your blurrier shot was at 1/320sec and the better one at 1/400sec. Plus a slower shutter speed allows more motion blurring. I'd suggest upping the ISO to 200 or 400 and shooting in TV mode for action shots like this.

Also not sure what lens you're using but many of the consumer grade models are much sharper at f8 or f11.
Technology Guy answered on November 12, 2008
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