This is not a technical review.
I'm probably the person they built this camera for. Although I have a great deal of past experience shooting and processing film, my interests led me away from photography for many years. I was content to shoot snapshots on an Olympus 3040 that replaced my Nikon F2 and Rolleiflex kits when it became clear some years ago that I needed at least a basic digital camera. In fact, if I recall, the Olympus cost almost what I paid for the XSi, which shows how far things have come in the last few years. I lived with the frustrations of that camera (how? I suffer in silence) until I began writing a regular column for a magazine about a year ago. I illustrate it with my own pictures and the slow response of the Olympus finally became too much to endure. It took pictures, so it wasn't all bad.
I come to this as newbie in respect to digital photography, but with an instant requirement for a reasonably professional brief. What ruled my decision was remembering what it was like to tote three or four lenses, all the crap that goes with that and the Nikon body. I reckoned I'd appreciate a small, competent compact camera that I would always have with me. For me, it has to be about getting the picture, and I can't get it with a camera that I don't have with me.
My first impression after unboxing the camera was "Man, does this thing feel cheap" And the kit lens was worse! But I thought, what the hell, just use it. And I have been doing that for about six weeks.
Frankly, for my purposes the kit lens works well enough although it is embarrassing to me to take it off the camera and hold it in my hand.
But it takes pictures, and I don't compare them to what an L lens will take, I just send them to my publisher and see them in the magazine later. Least I be considered a ludite, integrity demands that I say that I have already purchased a 50mm f1.4 (which also feels cheap) and is a bit disappointing, although I have yet to fully explore it. Outdoors, where I do the body of my work, the kit lens seems (casually considered) to be more useful to me. I bought the camera with the 55-250 and it too, is just fine for my purposes as a lightweight piece of equipment for those times when I am walking around and don't want to tote weight. OK. I also bought a 70-200mm f4 IS because I wanted more than need a good telephoto zoom, and I am eager to get going with that, but haven't had an opportunity to use it yet. It's a refinement that isn't really necessary for my work, but what the hell, when weight isn't an object I'll have a good medium distance lens for taking snappier shots. My rig is set up to operate in two aspects. Very lightweight, medium wide to medium telephoto for my working life, and an available light lens for when needed. The 70-200mm thing is just for me.
I'm very much learning this camera, but the curve has been fast. I've made some goofy beginner mistakes that cost me some really nice shots, but what I've found is that if I let the camera do the job and concentrate on getting the picture, the XSi is a terrific tool, and I think it will do just fine. I think I'm done with the EF-S lenses for now, as any second body I might get will have a bigger sensor.
So I can't say that this is abetter camera than the D80, or 40D, but for what I need, it is just fine. Cheap build? I don't know, it works great. It's just light. It's as good or bad as I am. I expect it won't be so many years before I buy my next camera again, but unless things change dramatically, I don't see myself getting rid of the Reb. Having shot large, heavy film cameras all my life, I have come to really appreciate small, light machines that take great pictures. Actually capturing them is my job, which, if I can do half as well as the camera does, I will be doing fine.
Oh, if I were to have gone for a bigger heavier camera, it would have been the D300 and their 18-200. It was the "cheap" build that won me over. After that, it was my thinking that the Nikon package has, at this moment, eclipsed Canon's offering for the one lens photographer. But hey! I like lenses!