My First DSLR: Why I chose the Canon XSi

Jennifer Wilson

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June 17, 2009

canon-rebel-xsi

I‘m not a camera expert. Like with most of my geeky pursuits, I’m self-taught in the basics of photography. And I mean the basics – my knowledge is fairly surficial at this point. It would be easy to say I bought the Canon XSi because it was the most popular DSLR on Amazon.com – and it would be partly true. However, I spent several months doing my homework. Here’s what I learned:

1. Size only sorta matters: We’re talking megapixels here. Anything 6 and above would be better than my 3MP point & shoot. But really, anything over 10 is overkill for the average home photographer. I learned to choose features over megapixels. At 12.2 MP, I got a bonus with the Canon XSi – but those RAW files are HUGE! Make sure to pair an appropriately sized memory card with your purchase!

2. Brand is important: I quickly narrowed my choices to Canon and Nikon. Not because they’re the “hot” brands, but because brands with a large user base means more support, tutorials and tips on the web. Not being an expert, I wanted to know I could always find one. I always fancied myself a Nikon girl, but after reading about some of the limitations of the D40 and D60, I didn’t feel Nikon was really paying attention to my demographic.

3. Know your needs: I built my search around one particular need – taking indoor photos of squirmy children and pets. My old P&S took amazing outdoor photos, as I imagine many can. However, much of our daily life is within the confines of home. I wanted to capture those moments the best way possible. When reading reviews of cameras and lenses, I paid particular attention to comments on this issue. In particular I looked for low light performance and auto-focusing ability. It’s all to easy to convince yourself you need more camera than you really do or can really afford. Find the best camera for your budget and your needs.

4. Make a wishlist, but be flexible: I had originally been looking at the Canon XTi. However, no local stores carried it anymore. I wanted to hold my prospective new camera in hand. In the end, the larger LCR, having an Image Stabilized kit lens and Live View features sent me to the XTi. However, I didn’t realize how easy it would be to transition to using the view finder, even while wearing glasses. As many have said, Live View should definitely NOT be an important factor in your DSLR purchase. This feature is not for casual users, but I am looking forward to being able to shoot from my laptop!

5. Understand your skills: I’ve never had a manual film camera, so I have no experience getting a crisp manual focus. Plus, my eyesight is not so dandy. While I’m getting adept at using the view finder with glasses, I would not want to manually focus with it. On top of all this, manual focus is not always the right solution for snapping the ever changing emotions of kids. My point here is that I chose Canon over Nikon due to the lower-end Nikons lacking AF ability with many of the moderately priced lenses. I knew I wanted a 50mm prime AND auto-focus, but I was not willing to shell out $400-500 for it.

6. Look long term: I had my FujiFilm S5000 for 6 years – and paid ~$600 for it back then. I knew this DSLR would be a very long term investment. For this reason, I chose to go with a newer model that I could grow into, one with some of the latest features that I may not yet appreciate.

If you’re a DSLR owner, what factors were important in your purchase? If you’re still researching, why features are important to you?

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15 Comments

  1. Kathy Moore

    Hey, Jennifer, great post! Can I just suggest putting a 50mm f1.8 lens on your wishlist? I have the first generation Digital Rebel and I absolutely LOVE that lens for indoor and other low light photos. It makes a huge difference and often negates the need for a flash, which I HATE to use. It’s less than $100 and well worth the investment. Here’s a link to a forum post with lots of praise for it and some sample photos: http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?p=8007917 . Enjoy your camera! I’ve taken 15,000 shots with mine with only a $40 repair…pretty good return on my investment!

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      I knew I wanted that lens long before I ever chose a camera. Knowing that the Nikkor version of the “nifty fifty” would not let me autofocus with a D40 or a D60 was an important factor in my purchase of the Canon.

      I ordered the lens at the same time and have been playing around. Here’s my set of test shots. The first half (up til DH doing dishes) were taken with the kit lens.. the ones after that (starting with more kitty head shots) use the 50mm f1.8.

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/starxlr8/sets/72157619537955225/

      Reply
  2. Robin

    I got my first DSLR about a month ago. It’s an Olympus. I chose it because of a great deal on QVC. I know, not the best way to choose a camera, but it did have good reviews and all DSLR’s work basically the same way. I love it! It is easy to use and I have taken some great photos with it. I’m so glad I moved up to a DSLR.

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      You have a great point Robin – while there may be bells and whistles – most DSLRs will take great pics compared w/ P&S due to larger sensor.

      Reply
  3. amymom24

    A year ago, I won a $500 GC to a local electronics store, and so I got my very own dSLR. I had not planned on owning one for a couple more years, and having this land in my lap was an unexpected (and very exciting!) event. I had an hour to decide which camera I wanted to get (there was no question about what I was going to spend it on – poor DH didn’t have a chance with his wii suggestion LOL). It just so happened that the Sony a200 was on sale for $499.99, and so I bought that one. It was a decision based primarily on price, but I love this camera. Another bonus is that I came to discover that old Minolta lenses fit on my camera, of which there are an abundance of used ones to be had online. I couldn’t be happier with my quick decision:)

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      What a great story Amy! From a green perspective, I love the idea of using lenses from film cameras.

      I did some googling and found out that any Canon or third party brand lenses for their 35mm EOS Rebels should work on my DSLR EOS Rebel! Yay!

      I quickly realized that having a telephoto lens will be necessary – wondering how resale price of an older 35mm Rebel lens would compare to $250-300 for Canon EF-S 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 IS Telephoto Zoom Lens?

      Reply
  4. Kiki Halbert

    Hi Jennifer. Congrats on the new camera. I chose a Canon XS instead of the XSi because the added features it had over the XS are things I wouldn’t use, and the megapixel boost was overkill for me. I have a Canon P&S that has 8MP and pretty good quality features, but I wanted to start shooting RAW.

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      I definitely think the XS is under-rated. It doesn’t get a lot of talk and I’ve never seen it in a store, but it can certainly offer almost every feature you’d want at a smaller price point.

      Reply
  5. Cass

    Great choice, I went for the Nikon and could not be happier, it really is a personal choice.

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      You’re so right – its all about what you want in a camera. That’s why I made this post about all of my considerations and now why I think my camera is better than the alternatives. Everyone has different needs!

      Reply
  6. A Canuck

    I moved up after a year or so from my Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot to a `bridge camera’ – the Panasonic Lumic DMC-FZ18. Advantages of the Lumix: 2) wide angle all the way up to 500 mm equivalent, with no need to change lenses, and 2) option to shoot in RAW. Disadvantages: 1) only partial manual control; and 2) very noisy in low light/high ISO situations. Nevertheless, I continued to use this camera as my primary one for 18 months or so. It even (mostly) survived a drop to the pavement a few months ago, and it’s a great camera for our hikes in the mountains or local river valley.

    But when my other half offered to buy me a D-SLR for my birthday, I jumped at the opportunity. After some research, I went for the Canon T1i, because of the higher MP (15) and the HD video capability. Great crisp shots! I also bought the cheaper 50 mm f/1.8 II lens, and used it recently to take great sweet 16 portraits of my niece. Now I’m pondering the purchase of an IS telephoto lens like you mention, or an all-purpose lens for traveling (wide angle up to about 250 mm or so). We’re going to Vancouver in October and I’d rather not pack along my whole camera bag on the plane šŸ™‚

    Reply
    • Jennifer

      I’m been using the 50mm f/1.8 almost exclusively and plan to take it to Montana for my vacation. I’ve got a telephoto and a wide angle lens for my 10x option zoon P&S… so we’ll be bringing that along to supplement.

      Reply
      • A Canuck

        Good idea – maybe my other half would carry my Lumix for me? šŸ™‚

        I hope you’re getting to Glacier National Park, and then make it over the line to its Canadian counterpart: Waterton Lakes National Park. That’s one of my favourite stomping grounds. Unfortunately, passports are now necessary šŸ™

        Reply
        • Jennifer

          That’s the plan – we’re staying in a cabin near Eureka, MT. And the day after we get home, I get to head back to Vancouver myself (was there in June too). I’m getting the Canadian experience this year.

          Reply
    • Lori

      Check out the Sigma 18-250 lens for your Canon Rebels!! It is an awesome lens and very versatile. I haven’t taken it off my rebel for daily useage at all. I orginally bought it so I could stand in the middle of the soccer field (sidelines) and shoot both sides without having to run from one side to the other. It works great for basketball games too! The only other lens I have is a 300- 500 for shooting animals close up

      Reply

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