The Canon EOS 450D / Rebel Xsi Digital SLRWe'll, not so little compared to my previous camera, the Sony CyberShot T-9, but fairly compact for a dSLR. And I've bonded with my Xsi in a way that I never did with the T9.
So your dad has an excuse for lusting after this new toy to add to his collection. He wants to use it to get better pictures of his grandchildren as they grow up, even if they did break his new Super-cool, super-fast Thermapen last week. Oh, and if he can just happen to also get much better food shoots because of the better sensor technology and faster shutter speeds available in the many different lenses he can choose from, well that's just an "unexpected" bonus.
Alright, so we've established that digital SLR (dSLR) technology is the bomb digity, but what makes the Canon Rebel Xsi 450D so special? Why not the Nikon D60, the Sony Alpha 350, or the Olympus E-520? Or for that matter, why not the older Canon Rebel Xti 400D? For me it came down to a couple of things.
Lens Selection: I didn't want to buy a camera and then be limited when it came to buying lenses. It's kind of a PC vs Mac thing. Sure Macs are great, but when you have 10 times the amount of software to choose from on a PC, why cripple yourself from the beginning. With that in mind, I narrowed my choices down to Canon and Nikon.
Low Light Performance: Whether it's taking pictures of a squab risotto in a dimly lit restaurant or a smiling child sitting on the floor at home, I often like to take pictures using nothing more than the natural available light; that means no flash, so your camera better be sensitive enough to pick out the difference between black and gray with what you give it. Canon has a strong reputation in this area, often getting applauded for the low noise at high sensitivities (AKA high ISO ratings).
User Friendliness: In the epic ongoing battle between Nikon and Canon, two truths seem to hold true. The Nikons have a slight edge in picture quality and the Canons have a slight edge in usability. For me, the picture quality of the Canon EOS line was more than sufficient for me, so I went with the ease of use. I put the Canon's self-cleaning sensor under that umbrella as well.
Autofocus (AF): Coming from a P&S world, I was looking for something that would make my transition easy. The Canon Rebel had a fast AF system that performed well. That's good. The Nikon D40 (which was the most direct competitor at the time) lacked an internal focus drive motor. That sounded bad. And it was. It meant that you were limited on which lenses you could buy if you wanted AF capabilities.
EOS 40D, their next model up the chain from the 400D Xti.
Here's a list of just some of the features they added:
12 vs. 10 megapixel
Smaller SD/SDHC vs. CF Card
Live view (to preview your shot on LCD)
High ISO noise reduction
14-bit A/D converter
Improved 9-point AF system
Larger, higher capacity, battery
My main decision to buy the 450D Xsi over the 400D Xti was the Live View. Again, coming from the P&S cameras, I was used to seeing what I was shooting on an LCD before I took the shot. The thought of not having that LCD terrified me a bit. It turns out I didn't really need it and the Live View implementation by Canon sucks. It's the most disappointing thing about this camera. It will not show you what the resulting picture will be when you press the shutter, so really, what's the point.
The other shiny new features, however, are the bees knees. Sure pixels aren't everything, but when you want to crop a photo and print an 8x10 from that crop, they're nice to have. The 14-bit processor, high ISO sensitivity and new AF system helps in that department too. The large view finder, mongo LCD and amazing battery life allows me to shoot comfortably for days on end (at 3.5 fps). And using SDHC cards just allows them to cram all those goodies into the camera body.
What you might need the manual for, is to figure out what to do with the Live View. I know it has a purpose, it's just not immediately apparent to me, so it tops my nag list. Followed similarly by the Depth-Of-Field preview button. It's supposed to show you - through the view finder - what will be in and out of focus before you snap a picture; Instead, it just makes everything darker. The final item under the predictability motif is the autofocus(AF) point selector.
When you have multiple objects in frame at different depths, the camera's AF system will, at times, pick the wrong object to focus on. This happens more frequently than I deem acceptable, so I often leave the focus at the center of the frame and manually select a different focal point when I want a different composition. You won't always have time to do that, so you'll either miss some shots or have to compromise on how the shot looks. If you always shoot with your subject front and center, this is not an issue.
Finally, it would be un-American of me to not complain about the cost of something that's cheaper than it should be but more expensive than it could be. The Canon Xsi is not cheap, but honestly, if you really think about it, it's not very expensive and should probably cost a lot more. I'll leave it at that.
Though I still love my Canon Rebel Xsi, there's a new bad boy on the market.
- Record 1080p HD Video! (However, mono-sound and 20
- 15 megapixel CMOS sensor like the professional 50D
- Digic 4 processor
- Auto Lighting Optimizer (Not sure what this is, but it sounds cool)
- Extended ISO range to ISO 3200
- Better High ISO noise reduction
- Face detection in Live View (cool, but I wish it wasn't just in Live View)