Not Martha

Canon Rebel XSi

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:

· comments [59] · 10-1-2008 · categories:shopping · technology ·

59 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lee // Oct 4, 2008 at 4:26 am

    Wow- excellent comments- really informative!
    I’ve had my Rebel XTi for a year now and we’re still attached at the hip. I’ve just agonised over what additional lens to buy and I found Flickr groups really helped lot. (I got the 50mm f1.8)Just search the specs of the lens in Canon groups and you’ll find plenty of lively debates, advice and lots of pics to compare. Another great site I must pimp is the forum called Digital Photography School. An excellent place to learn the ropes and great for the creative juices.
    Enjoy your camera!
    PS- Great blog btw. ;-P

  • 2 Lerren // Oct 4, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Okay. I use a Nikon, because I like it and it felt better in my hand, but I’ve used nearly every major brand of camera in the past, and hold no grudges.

    As far as bags go, I really love my crumpler “sinking barge” backpack – REALLY flexible as far as usages, and the camera is stored in a “bucket” that can be taken out and put in another bag if needs be (I made one.)

  • 3 Holly // Oct 11, 2008 at 6:52 pm

    Just wanted to add a few things… I’ve used 4 Rebels extensively over the past few years and they are great cameras. I have had secondary mirror failure, which is a common problem with the Rebels.

    If you’re prone to accidents, or have the sort of life that is just prone to stuff messing with you, a UV filter could really be a saving grace (I speak from experience). While I would forgo it on, say, an $85 lens (and by the way, the 80mm is a great lil’ lens!) if you invest in any expensive glass it would be a shame to not protect it everyway you can. I sincerely doubt you’ll notice any reduction in your image quality… and even the really expensive UV filters aren’t that expensive all things considered. Consider the splurge on a polarizer, since these can be gems for landscape and harsh light.

    My Lowepro slingshot has gone through South American jungles, mountain ranges, and kids’ birthday parties (that last one being far the most dangerous) with two cameras, several lenses, flash and accessories. Love it, love it.

    Happy shooting — enjoy your wonderful new camera!

  • 4 Nicole // Nov 24, 2008 at 6:00 am

    Hi Megan, I have been considering getting the XSi since two of my friends have it, but wonder if you know the differences between it and the XS, step-down version. I can’t seem to find enough info online to compare the two. I would appreciate you sharing any knowledge you may have on these two items.

    THANKS so much and have a blessed Thanksgiving! Nicole

  • 5 megan // Nov 24, 2008 at 8:48 am

    Nicole – The biggest upgrade from the XS to the XSi is the display off sensor. This is a proximity sensor that turns off the LCD screen when you raise the camera to your eye (or when anything gets close). This means the light from the screen won’t affect what you can see through the viewfinder. In the XS you can pretty easily shut off the screen with a button but it’s up to you to decide how annoying that would get.

    The only other significant difference that I read about was the autofocus system, it’s much better in the XSi. If you want to capture people in motion people on digital photography boards recommend the XSi.

    Here are three links that compare, I hope they help give some ideas: one, two, three.

    When the price difference between the cameras was small it was easy for me to choose the XSi, but the price for the XS has gone down quite a bit since then.

    I really, really love having the auto-off screen proximity sensor and am very glad I got the XSi for that feature.

  • 6 Nicole // Nov 28, 2008 at 4:44 am

    Thank you, Megan. Staples has the camera on sale today, $150.00 off! So, I am thinkin’ I might just have to treat myself to an early Christmas present!

    I appreciate the links, too, I am headed there now.

    Happy Holidays!

  • 7 Nicole // Nov 28, 2008 at 4:58 am

    Man, I am glad that I checked those comparisons. I was about to get snowed at Staples with the price. You can almost get the XSi at any other place for what Staples is selling the XS at, and even on sale.

    Thank YOU for the reviews!

  • 8 kenozorro // Mar 10, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Your website was very helpfull to me, thank you very much!!! so full of information. You are a smart buyer.


  • 9 365 :: april 20, 2010 « the card catalog // Apr 24, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    […] 20, 2010. i got a DSLR camera last friday. after much research and a few tips from friends and favorite blogs, i decided on the canon rebel xsi. even though my weekend was hectic and i literally didn’t […]

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