I bought a camera! An actual DSLR camera, like a grown up might have. I decided on the Canon Rebel XSi (known to the rest of the world as the Canon EOS 450D). I had been wanting a new camera for a while but couldn’t really justify the purchase until last week, when my point and shoot camera just stopped working. Poor little thing.
Previously I’d been looking at the recently released Canon XS, which is their entry level DSLR. Despite getting good expert reviews it doesn’t seem to have generated much excitement, as you can see from the very few user reviews at Amazon. Many places suggesting the XSi (which is the slightly older brother than the XS and came out in January of 2008) is worth the money for the few slightly better features. So I took a look and discovered that Amazon was selling the XSi for only slightly more than the XS.
update: from the time I started writing this the XS price has gone from $640 to $600, and the XSi price dropped from $660 to $655. A lot of the research I did suggested the price for the XS would drop even further in coming months, and if I didn’t need a camera now I would have waited it out to see how low the XS price might get.
I did a lot of research and what I turned up is that the XS is very much the same camera as the XSi but with a few features that aren’t quite as good. I can say with some confidence that in moving up from a point and shoot I never would have noticed the difference in the features except for one thing, the LCD screen in the XSi is 3 inches whereas it’s 2.5 inches in the XS. I don’t even consider that a deal breaker but while the price difference was so small I went for the XSi. I found two articles that compare the models in a helpfully concise way: Gizmodo and Digicamhelp. The other thing my reading turn up is that when compared to the older entry level model XTi it appears both the XS and the XSi are well-worth-it steps up.
Annoyingly specific notes and a few of my first pictures follow.
A few notes:
- Display-Off sensor: This is a little sensor that automatically shuts off the LCD screen when the camera is raised to your eye to peer through the viewfinder. The light from the LCD might make it a little harder to see what is going on in the viewfinder. This is not available for the XS, and was the other feature that influenced my purchase of the XSi model instead. It’s awfully nice to have. With the XS you can hit the Display button to turn off the display while your holding the camera up to your eye, but it would be a little fiddly if you found yourself doing it all the time.
- Live View: The Live View feature in my Canon won’t work as a replacement for a point and shoot. The auto focus doesn’t work in Live View mode, and in general it just isn’t as convenient to use as someone who loves composing pictures in the LCD might hope for. I didn’t find the switch to peering through the view finder painful, even though my point and shoot had one of those insanely useful swivel screens (similar to this model).
- Image Stabilization: aka shake reduction. Canon only offers in-lens image stabilization in their DSLRs, which ultimately means when I buy lenses in the future they will be more expensive if I get ones with IS. A few other brands have in-camera image stabilization, which I considered quite seriously but in the end decided to go with Canon. I don’t plan on buying many lenses in the future so it wasn’t as important a consideration for me.
- Choosing Your Brand: This thread at Ask Metafilter offers a good way of looking at this, you are buying into a brand of camera and considering the quality of lenses is as important than the camera body. In the future if you want to upgrade your camera it will be a lot easier if you are able to just buy a new body that will work with your lenses. Now, I realize this advice isn’t so helpful to the newbies like me who know very little about SLR lenses. A newer DSLR question at Ask Metafilter suggests that with lenses in mind you want to focus on Canon and Nikon.
Thing you’ll need:
- Memory Card: The XSi does not come with a memory card. When sorting through all the options I found this Transcend 8GB card with USB card reader, and it turns out to have been a really good purchase. The camera comes with a USB cord to transfer pictures to your computer, but it is much faster when you pop the card out of your camera and use this card reader to transfer instead. The reader itself is small enough to fit into back of my very crowded desktop computer, not to mention nice and compact for travel. I feel smart for buying this one.
Things I wish I’d bought:
- UV filter: It’s inexpensive and I keep reading it will help protect your lens from scratches. (update: I have been advised by Eliza Truitt, who knows what she is talking about, that UV filters distort images unless you use a very good one. So, UV filter with care.)
- Screen Film: The LCD on my camera is really quite large and I’m scared of scratching it with my bumbling, I think this one will be the right size.
- Camera Bag: The camera feels sturdy, and I have a friend who just totes it around in her purse, but I’m still afraid of traveling without a nice padded bag. This Crumpler 3 Million Dollar Home bag is made for SLRs but doesn’t look like a camera bag. (Thanks so much for those who left comments recommending Crumpler bags!) I also like look of this backpack style bag.
- Telephoto Zoom Lens: I’d really like to have this for capturing pictures of Scott when he’s playing on stage. (Eliza has some good advice for this as well, she recommends renting a far better (and way more expensive) lens from a Seattle camera shop as an alternative to buying this lens, which is only ok.)
On to the pictures. I’m slowly learning how to use the camera, but here are a few images that turned out well while I was fumbling. Recently I’ve been covering some not so attractive things in my house with woodgrain contact paper, the box below is an Electrasol tin: