Right now you can get the XSi with the 18-55mm kit lens and the 55-250mm lens for just under $800 through Amazon. Both lenses are image stabilized and I have heard good things about the 55-250, which give great range on a cropped sensored body such as the XSi. Amazon doesn't list these items together but if you add them both to your cart (make sure Amazon is the seller on both) you will save $100 over buying them seperately. This price isn't shown until you get the order confirmation screen. This is the best price I have seen on this camera and don't expect to see a much better deal any time soon. The $100 off is an instant rebate promotion that Canon is offering through it's authorized retailers and it lasts until the middle of January. I would also recommend SanDisk's Extreme III class 6 memory cards in order to fully optimize the speed of the camera. I hope this helps.
I found the Canon Rebel XSi a fairly easy to use. Of course I had used this type camera before so it was not very difficult for me to immediately pick up and use. The lens that comes as standard with it should be adequate; however lens are interchangeable and a different focal lens may in line to adapt for different occasions. I think just off the shelf the camera will suffice. This Rebel is one tough one for every use with the proper lens.
The number of highly positive reviews vastly outnumber the negative reviews mentioning "auto-focus problems" here at Amazon. And you don't see this "problem" ever mentioned in professional reviews of the camera.
I strongly suspect the "auto-focus problems" you're referring to are actually caused by a very common beginner's mistake. The Xsi has 9 independent auto-focus points available. The full auto mode which beginners are likely to start out with will use all 9 points at the same time. What this means is that the camera will end up picking the auto-focus point or points which present the camera with the best contrast for determining correct focus. The focus points the camera selects, however, aren't necessarily the best ones for the photographer because the camera doesn't really know what part of the scene is the subject and what parts are the background.
The proper technique is to not use FULL auto mode but one of the other modes - P, Av, Tv or M - and to manually (pre)select ONE auto-focus point. Generally, you'll pick either the center point or the one focus point closest to your actual subject in the frame. Many photographers will use a "focus and recompose" method where they auto-focus on the subject using just the center focus point and, while still half pressing the shutter release button, reframe the scene as desired. This works very well in most cases (although there are exceptions where recomposing can cause the focus to shift too much in some fairly specific cases but this is a matter of geometry and not camera design).
I believe with the proper techniques, you'll find the Xsi can focus VERY accurately and give you quite professional looking results.
P.S. - Shooting active preschoolers can be a bit of a challenge in itself but I'll leave that discussion for another day. :)
As in most things in life, the answer depends on who you ask (says the old Kung-Fu matser as he strokes his long, white beard)
The argument in favor of in-body image stabilization sounds very convincing on the surface: Pay for the extra cost just once, save on all existing lenses, or new lenses that follow.
If you already have some good lenses from Pentax, Olympus or Minolta, then choosing a corresponding dSLR body with built-in image stabilization makes perfect sense. If not, then consider the following counter-arguments:
1. Good lenses (with or without IS) are often more expensive than a digital camera body, and have longer lifespan. Your digital camera body will most likely be obsolete in 4-5 years, but good lenses may serve you for 10 years or longer. So it makes less sense to pay extra for dSLR body with built-in IS.
2. Image stabilization is needed most at longer focus length, but in-body IS (mechanical moving the sensor) is only effective at shorter focus length. Let's assume that the sensor can travel up to 1mm in any direction. When focus length=50mm, this 1mm travel corresponse to 1.1 degree of angular rotation (correction for camera shake). But to achieve the same 1.1 degree correction at 300mm, the sensor needs to travel by 6mm! Even if this kind of travel were possible, the inertia of sensor unit will make the response very slow. With optical IS this is not a problem - because light has no inertia.
3. Optical IS gives you a stable image when you look through the optical view finder, so you know exectly how well it is working. Mechanical IS cannot give you a stable image through the optical view finder.
All the Rebels and mid-level Canons have pop-up flashes. You don't NEED to buy a flash... but you may want to at some point to avoid that washed-out living-dead look.
You don't NEED to buy anything except an SD memory card to get started. I would suggest at least a 4GB card class 4 or 6. I would also recommend having more than one card.
Suggested accessories include a memory card reader for your computer (this is much faster than trying to download photos through the camera), a spare battery (see SterlingTek.com for very good generic batteries) and a case. That's about it... for starters, at least.
M. Medina, so sorry to hear of your xsi having an error 99. It is my understanding that error 99 is a fatal error with multiple causes. One suggestion I have read was to take the battery out for at least 5 mins and the restart the camera. If this doesn't reboot the camera then it is probably a fatal error. In my personal experience my error 99 was because of my shutter leaflets getting out of alignment. To see if this is your issue take your Lens off and VERY gently lift the mirror-DO NOT FORCE IT UP IF IT WONT MOVE - once u lift the mirror U will see the shutter leafs, they should be layered and lying flat. If they are not flat and even that is the cause of your Error 99. U MAY be able to flick them back into alignment, but be Very Very gentle as not to bend then. If your shutter is bad good luck in getting it proffessionally fixed. I was unable to fix mine for a reasonable price. I am purchasing a new camera as you read this. I hope this helps and I wish you the best if luck.
Helen- I have been into the store. They have very knowledgeable personnel and have been in business a long time. I am an amateur and sometimes feel a bit intimidated. They cater to professionals and high end buyers primarily. I have found them honest, reliable and helpful.
I'm not sure what your flash needs are but it sounds like you use flash pretty often so a decent one might be a good idea.
I recently replaced a Sigma 500 Super that I appear to have worn out with a a 430EX II. Nice flash - good feature set, powerful enough for all but the largest venues, not too big, recharged VERY fast and silently and tilts AND swivels so you can always use ceiling bounce no matter what orientation you're shooting in plus, if you ever upgrade to a 580EX, you can use the 480EX as an ETTL slave. AND, starting April 3rd, Canon will be offering the following INSTANT rebates:
SPEEDLITE 580EX II - $50
SPEEDLITE 430EX II - $30
SPEEDLITE 220EX - $30
That will put the 430EX II around $240 or $250.