canon rebel xt series camera

Basic Setup

The Canon Rebel camera is a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, which means it uses a mirror inside the camera body to reflect the image up through a prism into the viewfinder where your eye can see it.

This also means that there is no "live preview" of the image on the back LCD screen. You will only see the image after you take the picture.

The lens of the camera is removable, and can be switched out with other Canon EOS lenses that are compatible with this camera. There is also a switch on the lens itself allowing the user to switch between auto-focus (AF) and manual focus (MF). Most users will want to always use auto-focus unless a particular situation makes it hard for the sensors to properly achieve focus.

Canon Rebel lens switch

Make sure the switch on the barrel of the lens is set to AF.

Underneath the camera is the battery compartment. Use the switch lever to open the battery door. It's important to install the battery with the metal contacts facing inward and to never force a battery if it does not fit.

Battery door for the Canon Rebel

The side of the camera slides open to reveal a door where you can insert a compact flash memory card. It is important to insert the memory card with the label facing toward the back of the camera. Inserting the card the wrong way will damage the camera and will result in needed repair. As with all electronic equipment, never force something if it doesn't seem to fit correctly.

Picture of inserting a CF card into a Rebel camera

On the top of the camera, there are several switches and dials. Next to the primary mode dial is the on and off switch. It is important to turn off the camera when you are not using it to preserve battery life and to prevent accidental pictures.

Main mode dial on Canon Rebel camera

The main mode dial also specifies which mode the camera is using to take pictures. Note that the GREEN RECTANGLE is automatic mode, and will take care of all of the settings for you, so all you have to do is point the camera and press the shutter button to take a picture. This SLR essentially becomes a pseudo point-and-shoot camera.

Modes above the green rectangle are considered advanced modes. They include the Program (P) mode, Time Value (Tv) mode, Aperture Value (Av) mode, Manual (M) mode and Auto Depth-of-Field bracketing (A-DEP) mode. Most beginners should not use these modes until they fully understand the fundamentals of photography, and how the exposure values combines shutter speeds and aperture values.

The modes below the green rectangle are basic automatic modes. Each of these settings is a preset that allows you to shoot photos for a certain environment without having to manually adjust the camera yourself. To use one of the modes, simply move the dial over to the desired mode, and take a picture.

Portrait mode icon

Portrait mode is specified by an icon of a woman's head. This mode will automatically adjust the camera for portraits by using larger aperture to throw the background out of focus. Good portraits generally do not have the background in focus in order to make the main subject, who is in focus, stand out more.

Scenic mode icon

Scenic mode is specified by an icon of a mountain range. This mode automatically adjusts the camera for shooting pictures of landscapes, or wide shots of an entire scene. It uses small aperture openings in attempt to make everything – objects both near and far – in focus. The flash will also not activate when in scenic mode.

Macro mode icon

Macro mode is specified by an icon of a flower. This mode is designed for adjusting the camera to take pictures of objects at close range. The auto-focus will have better responsiveness to objects that are closer, and the camera will attempt to use settings in preparation for pictures where the camera is physically close to the subject.

Action mode icon

Action mode is specified by an icon of a person running. This mode will use faster shutter speeds in an attempt to stop action. Use this mode if you are photographing sports in bright sunlight, or any action scenes where the lighting is good.

Night shot mode

Night shot mode is specified by an icon of a person in front of a star. This mode is unusual in that it's intended for a very specific scenario. Use this mode when you are photographing people at night in front of lit objects. However, you will need to use a stabilization device, like a tripod, to prevent blurring. This mode will keep the shutter open longer after the flash has burst, in order to bring up the brightness of lit objects in the background. Good examples of night mode include people in front of Christmas lights, subjects in front of lighted buildings at night, or situations where there is little movement, but it is still necessary to use a flash.

No-Flash mode is the last mode on the dial. (not pictured) The no-flash mode is identical to the green rectangle except that the flash will not automatically pop up. Use the no-flash mode in situations where flash photography is not allowed or would be a disturbance to the subjects involved.