I've considered other, higher priced digital SLRs, such as the Nikon D80 and Canon 30D. However, I decided that I probably won't be using some of the more advanced features offered by those cameras, and would rather spend the money saved on a better lens. In terms of picture quality, all these SLRs are capable of equivalent quality.
With emphasis on portability, Canon's Digital Rebel XTi is designed for first-time DSLR photographers and travel enthusiasts. Measuring 5.0" by 3.7" by 2.6" and weighing 1.1 lbs., it is about as large as the largest point & shoot cameras and one of the smallest DSLR camera bodies on the market. Its size is the source of both popularity and criticisms. If you have large hands or a heavier lens, it may feel too small. An optional battery grip can help, but some will want something more substantial. Visit a store nearby to find out for yourself.
The package includes camera body with a lens cap, battery, charger, manual, catalogs, neck strap, USB and composite video cables, and CD-ROMs. You will need a lens and CompactFlash memory card. There may be some static energy in the packaging, so remove the lens cap in a dust-free environment such as the bathroom to prevent dust entering the sensor. Much promoted sensor cleaning system helps, but it's best not to get any in the first place.
Canon sells 4 versions of XTi: black or silver finish and with or without EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Black or silver is largely a personal preference, but most lenses, most accessories, and all but low-end DSLR camera bodies are black. As for the kit lens, it can be an affordable introduction to DSLR and capable if used exclusively at f/8 or f/11 apertures (soft at other apertures). In other words, the lens is not ideal for shooting under low light. If you don't have to get a zoom lens now, start with Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. It is famous for top-notch performance at very low price. Due to XTi's APS-C image sensor (compositions are multiplied by 1.6x), this lens becomes 35mm-equivalent of 80mm.
If you have the budget for a good zoom lens, at over 100 lenses, Canon has you covered. Some of Canon's popular zoom lenses include EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM, EF 17-40mm f/4L USM, EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM, and EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM. If these are too pricey, third party vendors such as Sigma and Tamron make Canon-compatible lenses for less. Their focus is not as nice as Canon's USM but they generally outperform Canon's lower-end lenses.Tamron's SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 Di II LD Aspherical (IF) and Sigma's 18-50mm f/2.8 EX DC and AF 17-70mm f/2.8-4.5 DC macro are popular among budget-minded photographers.
With 10.1 megapixels image sensor, the XTi can benefit from sharper lenses. Although increasing the resolution over same image sensor area can increase noise, Canon has improved the sensor technology to maintain low noise floor and high dynamic range. Performance wise, there's very little to criticize. Great example of Canon's trademark smooth, high contrast, saturated, and low noise. Noise remains low even at ISO 800. It is said that shooting RAW is equivalent to getting an extra exposure (1.0 EV) and it can help you maintain usable details with acceptable noise at ISO 1600. Low noise gives XTi a bit of an excuse for missing in-body image stabilizer. According to Canon, lens is more effective location for image stabilizer, especially telephoto. That's true but I think the feature would've been nice to have. As a consolation, the XTi has mirror lockup that reduces vibration caused by the mirror movement. My sole performance criticism is the metering mode. It includes only partial and not spot metering mode (very useful when shooting high contrast scenes such as candlelit birthday cake). Perhaps more problematic is the evaluative metering mode, which occasionally underexposes images by 2/3 EV or so.
Some have criticized XTi for "plasticky" build. Except for the metal lens mount, the exterior is largely made of high quality engineering plastic with rubbery paint. If you drop it, it will probably crack or break, but it's sturdy and well made. Flipping on the power lever, it starts up almost immediately ready for use. Much promoted auto sensor cleaning kicks in when powering up and down. As with most DSLRs, there's virtually no shutter lag and it focuses in a split second (especially when using a USM lens). In continuous shooting mode with a fast memory card, it can take 10 RAWs or 27 JPEGs at 3 frames per second. RAW images are 10 MB each, so get a speed 2 GB or larger memory card, such as SanDisk's Ultra II series.
Replacing both 1.8" LCD and info display is 2.5" high resolution LCD with LED backlighting. It displays current camera settings, photos in memory, and menu. Thanks to greater real estate and more refined user interface, XTi is very intuitive and pleasure to use. The minus is 10% lower battery life, which was merely adequate to begin with. XTi has 95% crop 0.8x optical viewfinder tha