Is the T1i or even the XS worth purchasing or are they "dinosaurs?" I want to purchase a SLR. I currently have a Canon G10 but it has a focusing problem. Rather than spend the $200 to repair what I have, I'm considering a low end SLR.
I have not much money to spend. The T2i is out of my price range. The XS is comfortable and the T1i is a bit of a reach, but doable.
Are either of these a waste of money/time? Would I be better off, not purchasing anything at this time and trying to save enough for a T2i or even a 50D or 60D?
The Canon Rebel XS was released in 2008 (which is a relatively long time in DSLR-years) and was, at that time, based on previous generation technology. The XS also left out a number of features in order to cut costs and produce Canon's least expensive DSLR model (hence "budget" model). The focusing system, for example, is less sophisticated being the same one that was used on the previous generation Canon Rebel XT budget model.
As I said, the XS is fine for casual photography. It can produce excellent images under the right conditions. In more extreme conditions and when making more demands on the camera - e.g., shooting fast action, shooting in low light conditions, when requiring very precise focusing, etc. - the camera can fall a bit short. In practical terms, that means you may get more "keepers" with little better camera. It also means that you may possibly - if you catch the photography bug - outgrow this camera faster.
When I went from film to digital, I picked up the Rebel XT as my first DSLR. I had started getting into a little portraiture at the time using the inexpensive Canon 50mm f1.8 lens but keep noticing my digital shots weren't quite as good as when I was using film. It turned out the focusing system of the XT - the same one as the XS - just wasn't as precise with the 50mm lens as my film camera or the next higher Rebel model. I might focus on my subject's eye but their eye might not actually turn out to be the sharpest area in the photo. I quickly upgraded to the next higher model of Rebel and was MUCH happier.
So, what I'm saying is that you MIGHT be perfectly happy with the XS for the kind of photograpy you want to do and it may serve your purposes well. BUT there's also the possibility that you may outgrow it faster than a better model.
Can you elaborate on why you wouldn't recommend the Cannon XS for a beginning photographer? I am just getting started with digital photography and don't know how advanced I will get, but I definitely don't want to spend money on a DSLR just for casual travel and event photos. Would my photos eventually suffer if trying to get more focused on detail and creativity?
And what do you mean when you say it is a "stripped down budget model?"
The XS is getting old and will soon be replaced by the new T3 entry-level budget model. The T3 looks to be a much better camera. While the T1i is also getting a little old, it still offers a good feature set and relatively good performance. Canon will also be introducing the new T3i which is essentially the T2i with some new features like an articulating screen. While the T3i is probably out of your price range, its introduction may bring the price of the T2i down. I can't see Canon offering four entry-level models at the same time so I wonder if Canon won't also discontinue the T1i and have the T2i take its place.
There is some wisdom to getting a cheaper camera and spending the difference on lenses. Though, unless you're a casual photographer, I would not recommend the XS since its an older stripped down budget model. The new T3 will likely be a much better camera.
There are a numbe of ways you can save some money on a DSLR and lenses. You can wait until the Canon Spring Rebates. You can look at refurbished models at places like Adorama.com and BandHPhoto.com. And Canon has a "Loyalty Program" which allows you to trade-in any broken Canon camera for a discount on a refurbished camera. Here's some information on the program: http://photography-on-the.net/forum/showthread.php?t=948785