RIP: Canon Rebel XS


Do not go gently in to that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the…. Camera.*

[*Yes, I’ve been watching Interstellar lately…]

I am so upset, right now. My wonderful camera’s body remains, but its soul has passed on and Canon does not have replacement camera souls. For this model, anyway.

I have a Canon Rebel XL EOS that I got used from eBay either shortly before or shortly after Olin was born. He’s almost seven and it was used, then. It’s sixteen megapixels, though, so figure that one out… It takes glorious photos (although it does help the outcome  quite a little when you “try”) and is relatively intuitive to use. Tim and I had no idea how to take care of it when we got it, and we scratched the original lens beyond repair. Last year sometime, I replaced the lens with an 18-55mm image stabilizer/auto-focus lens very similar to the one we had destroyed in our ignorance. Shortly thereafter, though, it started being temperamental.

I did a little bit of research online, and then took it to Best Buy to the Geek Squad, who looked at it, turned it on, looked through the lens, and said “It looks fine to me.” Very helpful, thank you. Of course, it wasn’t giving the error message at that time.

I replaced the SD card and the battery, and took it out for a ‘shoot’. It seemed to be working fine, but when I came home to look at the photos, only one had written to the SD card.

Today, I was trying to take some photos of the model I just finished, and it was cooperating about as much as Seraphine does when you try to convince her to stand up on her feet and it wasn’t her idea originally: it wasn’t happening. It acted all agreeable for awhile, but when I got done with my “shoot” and came in to check out the results, I found one shot had written to the SD card. (It didn’t have anything in the onboard memory – if there is any.)

I pulled everything out again and re-did the shoot, compulsively checking the camera to “make sure” it saved the images, and it would occasionally give me an error or a “busy”, and occasionally it shut down spontaneously, and every once in awhile it just balked. It seemed like I should have something on the card, though.


So rather than get the model all packed up and then have to take it out again, I took a few shots with the Canon and then a few with my Fujifilm Finepix XP50. (Click for full resolution.)

fujishot canonshot
These are taken straight off the card – I didn’t retouch or color adjust either and they were taken within minutes of each other. Obviously the angle is slightly different, but you can tell the quality difference right away. The photo on the left is from the Finepix, the right is from the Rebel.

By this time, I was irritated enough with my “good” camera failing me when I really wanted it that I decided to do something about it. The closest place I could find that specifically claimed Canon DSLR repairs was University Camera in Iowa City (where I happen to need to go in the next couple of weeks). I called to check on the situation and ended up speaking with an extremely friendly, helpful guy by the name of Roger who sent me directly to their camera repair service, since I’d have to ship the thing anyway.

I called the camera service and talked to another extremely friendly, helpful guy by the name of Eric, who had some very disappointing news: Apparently, Canon Rebel XS are known for their motherboard issues – so much so that rather than fixing the problem, Canon just released a new version (the XSi). There are a few replacement motherboards available, but there is at least a 6 month wait for one, and Canon releases them one at a time.

Eric said he had two camera bodies sitting on his shelf already waiting for motherboards and he would be happy to add mine to the pile, but I’d be without a camera in the meantime.

I said I was without a camera anyway, so it was no difference to me whether it sat on my shelf or his.

He also pointed out that even if I did wait that long, it was a known issue with the model and was likely to happen again in 2 or 3 years, or if I dropped the camera. “I’d love to do business with you,” he said, “but you’re really probably better off buying a new camera.” He gave me a few recommendations and referred me back to Roger.

After thinking about it and trolling the troubleshooting forums a little more, I think I should listen to the guy who repairs them for a living, and upgrade. Of course, since there’s no resale value in a broken camera body, I’ll have to start from scratch on funding it. It could be awhile.

And so, I’m sad. And my photos will suffer until I find its successor. On that note: do you have a Canon DSLR recommendation?

An addendum about the Fujiilm Finepix X50:

There is nothing at all “wrong” with this camera. It’s a really great, really, really durable waterproof, shock-proof, dust-proof, freeze-proof, goo-proof point-and-shoot camera. It has lots of settings, you can fiddle with it and usually get some pretty decent results. But…. It’s a point-and-shoot. It will never have the capacity to capture the same richness, depth of field, focus or detail of a DSLR. It’s simply not meant to. When comparing a goldfish and a gazelle, the gazelle will always win a race. That doesn’t mean the goldfish doesn’t have its uses. You can take it in the pool with four small children, for instance. Or throw it in your purse. (Actually, I wouldn’t recommend throwing a goldfish in your purse, but I think you get the idea…)


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