Canon of love
December 18, 2008 5:32 AM   Subscribe

So a while ago I was wondering whether to get a Canon 1000D (Digital Rebel XTi) or the 450D (Digital Rebel XT). Now, thanks to a Christmas bonus, my choice has widened - 450d or 40d?

It's going to be my first DSLR and I want something I can learn on. I've looked at specs for both on and as I have only used a compact (Powershot A710IS) so far I'm finding it a bit overwhelming. I'd like to know people's experiences on both. FYI, I'll be buying the body only as I'm going to be given a kit lens to start off with; the price difference is £450 (450d) vs £550 (40d) on, although this isn't enough of a difference to be a serious factor. And I'd rather take a new body than a used one.
posted by mippy to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The Rebel's a great camera, with plenty of oomph to learn on. Unless you *need* something in the 40D, or you try them both out and find you hugely prefer the slightly larger grip of the 40D, buy the 450. If you have money to spend on camera stuff, spend it on glass, not bodies. The 450's all the camera you'll need for a long, long time. Why not pick up a 50mm f/1.8 - the Plastic Fantastic - on top of your kit, to see how you like working with a real aperture (here you can imagine me waving my hand dismissively at the kit lens), and save the rest of the money for later? Maybe you'll want a prime like the 28 to be a fast normal; maybe you'll want to get a really good zoom... or maybe an on-camera flash for bounce; maybe something else entirely. Regardless, photography is about sending light through lenses into some kind of lightproof box - the light matters, the lens matters, the lightproof box is relatively unimportant. Don't waste your money on a more expensive body at the beginning; you'll get nothing out of it except having less money for glass.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:48 AM on December 18, 2008

The most important thing is to consider what you want the camera to do. But here are some key differences

Compared to the 1000D/450D the 40D has:
longer battery life
larger and brighter viewfinder
metal alloy shell
faster autofocus
top LCD screen (saves battery)
better ergonomics for experienced users

It also shoots much faster in continuous shooting mode (get the 40D if you want to take photos of faster moving things or if you need to capture instances which last for a split second).

The downsides are price, weight and the interface design is initially more daunting to come to terms with.

450D vs 1000D:
450D has slightly bigger/brighter viewfinder
spot metering
larger LCD screen
more focus points (11 compared to 3 if i remember correctly).

The 450D also has an extra 2 megapixels and shoots slightly faster albeit these improvements are pretty much irrelevant.

My advice is to get the 40D so long as you don't object to the extra price and weight. The longer battery life, better viewfinder and professional style control layout will appeal to a budding enthusiast photographer. Prices for new 40D bodies are actually pretty good because the updated EOS 50D has been released.

On the other hand, if you intend to use your DSLR for general family snapshots, often with the camera set to auto or a preset scene mode then I would recommend the 1000D. Getting that will save you money, energy lugging the camera around and also the effort of learning to use a semiprofessional camera.

I should also add that the new Canon image stabilised kit lenses are fairly sharp but still limited in terms of their ability to deal with low light levels and distortion. They won't give you as much depth of field control as other lenses and the build quality is rather shocking. The old Canon kit lenses sans image stabilisation are all that minus the decent sharpness.

I would definitely recommend getting the image stabilised kit lenses if possible, even if you only want to use the DSLR as a snapshot camera. If you find within yourself a deeper interest in taking photos you will eventually need to look at getting better lenses.
posted by quosimosaur at 6:23 AM on December 18, 2008

Go hold them is the best advice I can give you. When I was looking for my SLR I went with the 20D because the Rebel line just didn't fit in my hand comfortably. There were other reasons as well, but that was my primary motivation for my choice. (The same was true for my Canon vs Nikon choice when I bought my Elan7.)
posted by Morydd at 6:37 AM on December 18, 2008

I would go with the 40D. I've been using my XTi for about a year and I really, really want to pick up a cheap 40D. You can learn the same on both cameras, but you can outgrow one of them fairly soon.
posted by sanka at 6:46 AM on December 18, 2008

I would second spending the extra money on better lenses, not a more expensive body.
posted by Nonce at 7:06 AM on December 18, 2008

Thirding lenses, and especially the 50mm/1.8.

Freeing yourself from the on-camera flash while shooting indoors will change your entire outlook on photography.
posted by davey_darling at 7:35 AM on December 18, 2008

Response by poster: I never use the flash on my compact, because it tends to make everything look awful. Using natural light where possible has been a good education - as did having a PC that wasn't capable of running any image-editing software when I got my first digital cam...taught me how to get my composition down as I knew I couldn't crop/rotate later./
posted by mippy at 7:47 AM on December 18, 2008

Sanka, what do you feel you can outgrow on the Rebel line that you won't outgrow on the 20/30/40D line?

I would take whatever extra money you have and spend in on a lens. Buy the Canon 28mm f/1.8 USM. The plastic fantastic 50mm 1/.8 is nice, but the build is cheap and it ends up being a telephoto lens on crop body cameras, making it much less useful for shooting indoors. It's a good portrait lens, but it's really not that useful outside of that. And being cheap isn't the only reason one should buy a lens. The 28mm on a crop body is closer to the normal 50mm focal length. It's a much more useful lens.
posted by chunking express at 8:01 AM on December 18, 2008 [2 favorites]

I would say get the cheap body to learn on and spend the remainder on extra lenses. Play with it for a year, trying to take a good photo every day, then upgrade next year and sell the old one.
posted by mathowie at 8:02 AM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I would also go with the 40D:
The price difference between the XSi (450D) and the 40D is less than $200. Assuming you are not going to buy a lens, less than $200 won't get you much more than a kit lens anyway.

On the 40D, you get a sturdier body, a much nicer viewfinder, a twice as fast max shutter speed, a higher frame rate, better high iso performance and a much more comfortable grip.

Bodies lose value much more quickly than lenses (lenses lose almost no value), so it is not as easy to sell a body, recoup value and upgrade as it is to do the same with lenses.
posted by miscbuff at 8:18 AM on December 18, 2008

If you were planning on upgrading from an XT, I suspect the camera you would dream of would be at 5D, not the midrange models. So paying the extra 200$ now in anticipation of the savings to be had when you decide to upgrade later seem moot. (I really don't think the extra features in the 40D are worth the money. Many seem suited for people into sports photography.)
posted by chunking express at 8:45 AM on December 18, 2008

Response by poster: Play with it for a year, trying to take a good photo every day, then upgrade next year and sell the old one.

I'm really not looking to upgrade after a year - not if I'm buying lenses at the same time for sure. So I'm looking at something that will last me for a bit.
posted by mippy at 8:57 AM on December 18, 2008

Having used both the Canon Rebel line (450D) and the x0D line (20D), I have to say the thing I like most about the x0D line is the wheel on the back of the camera (seen here, to the right of the LCD.) It makes it so much easier to change camera settings on the x0D cameras instead of using all the fiddly little buttons on the Rebels.

Other than that, I'll Nth the suggestion to buy the cheapest body you think will fit your needs, and spend the rest on good lenses. Ultimately it's the lens on a dSLR that determines the sharpness, shutter speed and aperture of your photos. FWIW, I've spent more on my 3 (non-kit) lenses than I've spent on my two dSLR bodies combined.

(Keep in mind that it's relatively easy to upgrade to a new Canon body even after you purchase the lenses. Canon EF-S lenses will work with both the Rebel line (450D) and the x0D (40D) line. Canon EF lenses, like the L lenses, will work on any Canon dSLR.)
posted by geeky at 10:15 AM on December 18, 2008

I upgraded this year from the 400D to the 40D...and can genuinely say that I would have gotten on fine for several more years with the 400. Don't get me wrong, the 40D is a great camera and I like it, but that damn thing is HEAVY. Definitely a noticeable difference when I'm packing my gear around all day. The 450 is a great update and I think if I had it to do all over again, I would have gone with it instead.
posted by kattyann at 10:48 AM on December 18, 2008

mippy, I've had my XT for years now. I'd upgrade to a 5D at this point, to be full frame, but not to the midrange line. I'll probably keep using my XT till it breaks. You actually might want to consider tracking down one of the older rebel models, since they are cheaper now, and spend the rest on nicer glass.
posted by chunking express at 10:52 AM on December 18, 2008

I never use the flash on my compact, because it tends to make everything look awful.
Yep. Though well-used external bounce flash is going to make things look wonderful, so don't write the whole area off because of your experience with on-body compact flashes
posted by bonaldi at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2008

I've had a Rebel XT for a few years. I've never really understood the complaints about the sturdyness & quality of the body, complaints which people still seem to make about the 450D. Yeah, it could have a little more meat to hold on to, and yeah, the fit and finish could be a little nicer, but it's good enough, and it does the job.

The last thing that really tempted me about the xOd line was the larger viewfinder, but the 450D has made progress on that front. The better controls are nice too. But really, the cheaper camera does a good job at pretty much anything you are likely to do, and it leaves some money in your pocket towards another lens or something. The higher end camera *might* allow you to get shots you wouldn't be able to get with the 450, or it might not. You won't really know what's holding you back and tripping you up until you've used them for a while, and it is likely that the solution is a new lens, rather than a new body.
posted by Good Brain at 1:19 PM on December 18, 2008

I'm really not looking to upgrade after a year - not if I'm buying lenses at the same time for sure. So I'm looking at something that will last me for a bit.

I think a year would be too soon to upgrade anyway. I'd recommend going with the 450D and spending the rest of your budget on good lenses. Sure, all other things being equal, the 40D is probably preferable to the 450D. But a 450D with some good lenses is preferable to the 40D with just the kit lens. Any camera you buy will be obsolete in a few years, but the lenses you buy should last you a long time (as long as you stick with Canon). By the time you need more camera than the 450D, the 40D will be obsolete, so you'll most likely be wanting to upgrade then anyway. But you'll be able to keep using the lenses when you upgrade, so that's what you want to be spending your money on.
posted by klausness at 4:26 PM on December 18, 2008

Not knowing your budget, I'd highly recommend either the 450D or the 40D - both are very good and almost equal except for better ergonomics and a slightly better viewfinder on the 40D.

Glass is where you should be spending your money. In pure money > quality terms, a prime lens will always be better than a zoom. The only zoom lens I'd recommend under $1000(ish) is the excellent Tamron 17-50 2.8 lens. It's fantastic for the price (about £250) and is used by a bunch of pros, including David Hobby (aka The Strobist, a site you should definitely start checking out.)

If you don't care about zooming with your feet, then be like me and rock a 28mm f1.8 (although mine's on a 400D). It's a wide angle lens on a full-frame camera like the 5D, but on a crop-sensor camera like the 450D or 40D, it becomes about 46mm, which is pretty close to the archetypal 50mm normal lens. It's called "normal" because it's (sorta) close to the human field of vision. It's a similar price range as the Tamron I mentioned above, but I managed to pick one up very cheap second-hand. I'd also recommend the 50mm 1.8. It's cheap (£60-£70) and has frankly superb image quality. Together, those two lenses will cover a very useful image range.

Eventually you'll want to go wider or tighter, but you can make that decision based on your own shooting needs.

Anyway, I hope you have fun, and let us know what you end up doing! Feel free to message me with any questions, I've been doing this a while and I love helping out people.
posted by Magnakai at 5:08 PM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just sold my Xti after loving it for the past 2 years in favor of trading up to a used 5d. The xti/xsi is a great camera and just don't think that the 40Dhas enough benefits over the xti to justify the expense (which you would be better off putting towards a lens.) When it comes down to it, if you're going to feel like upgrading down the line, I think it makes more sense to upgrade to a full frame like the 5d than it would to upgrade to on of the x0d line cameras.
posted by nerdcore at 6:46 PM on December 18, 2008

Good advice here. Save your money for your lenses. (Also, don't forget about the 50mm) (Also also: Your camera doesn't matter.)
posted by ColdChef at 7:55 AM on December 20, 2008

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