Make sure you hold this one before you buy

Jan 14, 2009 (Updated Jan 30, 2009)
Review by  
Rated a Helpful Review

Pros:Affordable, light, live view, 10MP, ISO button/settings in viewfinder

Cons:Warbly, milk carton lid-like dial control, Digic 3 - not 4

The Bottom Line:

Great product for an entry level DSLR user on a tight budget. Maybe not the best for somebody looking to upgrade.

(The Digic 3 camera functions discussed here also apply to the Canon XSi:)

An Introduction Into the DSLR World- Buying Strategy

Something that I've done that's worked well is to put the emphasis on reusability. The strength behind deciding on a DSLR is that it's a system of components. The most important component is the lens(es) that you buy. No matter how expensive your camera, it will only be as good as the lens you put in front of it - above and beyond improvements in the Digic processors. So, if you have an "X" amount of money to spend, you should be trying to put the brunt of it on the lens - not the camera. If you have just enough to buy an introductory level camera and a cheap lens, that's fine. Just try to upgrade the lens as your next priority down the road. I sold my starter lens on eBay and used the money to help me get one that made my pictures improve overnight. The great thing about lenses is that they maintain their value really well. Just take good care of it. Keep the lens covers on when not in use!

Something that might help you buy a nicer lens at the get-go is to save money on the camera and consider buying a "Canon manufacturer refurbished" digital camera. Gasp! I know... it sounds scary doesn't it? At the time of this writing, a Canon-manufacturer refurbished Rebel XS (body only) sells for $350 (new price $450). That's completely mindblowing. From all the posts on people buying refurbished digital cameras, however, it's definitely well worth considering. Customer satisfaction is very high from those who have bought earlier Canon refurbs and who are posting on the internet to tell about it. A refurb also makes sense from the standpoint that when you resell it on eBay, you're retrieving a higher percentage of your original money than if you buy new. Digital cameras have an amazingly high resell rate. Even the ones that have sticky shutter buttons! But please don't let that be an excuse to smear your peanut butter fingers into the cracks... of course, you want to take care of your investment.

Now, onto the subject of an Introductory Level DSLR Canon digital camera:

The XS/XSi Digic 3 vs. Digic 4 camera 'brain' comparison :
What is the most important thing about a camera? The way it looks? The resolution? Is a 10MP camera from a less known company better than an 8MP camera from a major manufacturer? How about how fast it shoots? Or the size of the lcd screen? No, no, no and no. The most important thing about a camera is the picture that you receive from it when you bring it in to print. And what is the most important piece in the camera which separates it from lesser cameras? Well, it's the processor, or the camera's 'brain', and all the programming included in it by the hardworking programmers at the camera manufacturer to make your image look the best it can be. A 10MP camera from an unknown manufacturer will most likely not have good programming included in the processor, resulting in a lessor image than an 8MP camera from a well-established manufacturer - in general.

The Digic 3 processor found in the Rebel XS is now the older processor of the current Canon digital cameras currently found on the camera store shelves (as of 1/19/09). Even still, it does have improvements over the Digic 2 processor in the Canon Digital Rebel XT that are worth pointing out. The Digic 3 is able to weed out some higher (800 and 1600) ISO noise - grains which show up in your final print - that the Rebel XT is not able to do. You must go to the Custom Settings Functions in the XS and enable the Filter High ISO noise option. It's not a feature that is defaulted to be on when you buy the camera, so you must know to navigate into the custom function menu to turn it on. Some of the sample pictures of ISO 1600 with the ISO Filter on look similar to my Rebel XT pictures at ISO 400! Wow! The newer DSLR models coming out, namely the Canon 50D and the Canon 5D Mark 2, are actually using the Digic 4 processor which was introduced in middle/late 2008 which does an even better job with noise. If you want to know one of the major things you'd be missing out on if you go with the Digic 3 processor instead of the Digic 4, start by visiting this link and check out the photo of the huge spider:

This is an improvement that Canon made to help cut down on areas of your picture being blown out (a light blue sky showing up as white instead of light blue) while still capturing your subject at the correct exposure. The name of the feature is called 'i-Contrast' and it's another optional setting that you have to know about it and turn it on. 

'i-Contrast' is a pretty significant feature that Canon has included in the Digic 4. If you have time to wait until Canon adds the new Digic 4 processor to their introductory level DSLR's such as this Canon XS, you may opt to wait before you buy, and depending on how much you like that upgraded feature, actually look at some compact Canon cameras that have Digic 4. Just be aware that you'd be giving up the ability to swap out lenses and you'd be receiving a noisier image sensor at higher ISO settings. It's a balancing act, isn't it?

The Canon XS bad:
The dial for the settings (A,S,P,M, etc), sadly enough, is rubberized plastic - kind of like the feel you get with the plastic round cap found on plastic milk cartons. It kind of 'warbles' from setting to setting; not like the solid-feeling metal dials on the Rebel XT or on the Canon 40D. 

The Canon XS good:
Something that I did like about the Canon XS was that Canon moved the ISO button from the lower button area to the right index finger area and included the ISO setting in the viewfinder - so you don't have to move your eyes away from your shot if you see that you're not getting a fast enough shutterspeed. You can just click the button, dial up higher ISO, then take your shot. It could mean the difference between getting a nice candid moment of your child or not at the right exposure. Good move!

Overall, I think I'll put up with the high ISO noise for just a little longer until Canon releases another low to middle intermediate DSLR with Digic 4 processing. I'd hate to have that control peel off while I'm shooting someday. It'd be pretty difficult to sell it on eBay 2-3 years down the road when I'm ready for my next upgrade!

My point is, be sure to hold this one before you buy. Because on paper, it's definitely a winner.

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