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DSLR showdown: Canon Rebel XSi vs Sony Alpha A350 vs. Nikon D60 vs. Olympus E-420 [UPDATED]

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Gizmodo, you’ve read my mind. As someone shopping for a new DSLR this year there are a few different models I’ve been keeping tabs on and Gizmodo has put all four of them together into a showdown.

The contenders:

  • Canon EOS Rebel XSi
  • Sony Alpha A350
  • Nikon D60
  • Olympus E-420

Each under $1,000 and able to do the job, so let’s take a look at their stats and see how they stack up on paper:

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After putting each camera through its paces here are how they stacked up in the end:

FIRST PLACE: CANON EOS REBEL XSI

The Good:

“It’s an all around decent camera, much lighter in weight than the Sony but with most of the same performance. The cheap starter lens, which you may scoff at, gives it an added weight bonus, making it lighter than all but the Olympus.”

The Bad:

“Live View is limited, or you might even say crippled. You can’t preview autofocus—I’m not even sure the autofocus works very well in this mode. In the manual, Canon concedes that this is really for shooting still life shooting and other limited applications. Also, for being $150 to $170 more than the Nikon, it’s more or less the same class of camera, especially for manual shooting.”

SECOND PLACE: SONY ALPHA A350

The Good:

“All around intuitive camera with impressive automatic modes, a Live View that can demonstrate a lot, and solid control for people who know more. It’s got the teaching ability of the Olympus with the picture reliability of the Canon. Although the a350 with 14-megapixel sensor is not as good a buy as the Canon at the same price, I think the nearly identical $700 a300 kit might be the best value of all right now.”

The Bad:

“The thing is giant, especially with the 16-80mm lens I tested. (The a300 is the same size and weight, by the way.) In Live View, I noticed from time to time that white balance on preview was different than what came out in the shot, which was annoying. The worst attribute, though, is the exceptional processing delay after you take each shot.”

THIRD PLACE: NIKON D60

The Good:

“There’s a keep-it-simple design here that works: not many hidden frills, but many nice clear options. I think for the money, this is the best idea for knowledgable, confident shooters, though it’s not the best bet for beginners. I like one rare random perk in particular, the stop-motion video maker.”

The Bad:

“Simple means no frills like Live View previewing that the other models have. Though it’s very handy when done right, like on the Olympus, it can also be done badly. Judging from Canon’s execution, I can see why Nikon didn’t bother. I have two particular pet peeves with the Nikon: Low-light autofocus triggers a very bright AF lamp, which makes pets and children go all squinty, and the auto white balance makes things too yellow indoors, and can’t be overridden when in automatic modes.”

FOURTH PLACE: OLYMPUS E-420

The Good:

“Besides the remarkably low price, I think this camera has the capacity to teach you a lot about manual settings because of the Live View. Like the Sony, this shows you the effects of your WB, exposure, f-stop and shutter settings in a live preview as you make them. Oly has this down, and was the one that started it all.”

The Bad:

“The lightweight camera is missing a lot of strong tech: the ISO 1600 is noisy, autofocus doesn’t respond nearly quick enough, and shooting in automatic modes turns up blurry and unfortunate shots.”

UPDATE: As someone shopping for a new DSLR, all four of these models were ones I’ve been researching. I’m an amateur for sure but I want more than a point and shoot camera can give me so that’s why I’m looking at DSLRs.

With that in mind I set out to spend some time with three of the four models mentioned here and here’s what I thought:

Sony Alpha A350: Nice camera, very easy to use menus for the most part (some things are super easy to find while others take some digging), and the folding LCD is a nice in theory.

The A350 has a great, very fast Live View which you’ll be using most of the time with this camera because the viewfinder is small and not really easy to line your eye up with because it feels recessed into the camera body because of how the LCD sits out away from the body even when snapped into normal position–it sticks out noticeably further than the LCD on other cameras.

When I tried to use the viewfinder I would feel the LCD against my cheek pushing me away from the camera which is why the viewfinder feels smaller–it’s not mounted further back to compensate for the LCD position.

Nice camera, but I would find the LCD and viewfinder frustrating before long so I would not buy this camera.

Nikon D60: This camera is very similar feature wise to the Nikon D40x, a beefed up version of the entry level D40.

The D60 felt really great in the hand–best of the bunch in my opinion.

The viewfinder was great and I really liked the menu.  The Sony’s was the easiest but this was still pretty easy to figure out.

Two things did it in for me: no Live View and no auto bracketing feature. This was a contender to the very end, but I would not buy this camera. Sure felt great to hold and to use, though.

Canon Rebel XSi: The XSi is a beefed up, higher megapixel version of the Rebel XTi (which you can find for really good prices now since the XSi is out).

It’s fast, responsive, feels nice in the hand, the menus are easy to use, and I like having the option for Live View (though I understand its difficult see outdoors).

It just feels right. Plus, the big 3-inch LCD is great.

With support for auto bracketing and relatively inexpensive lenses (compared to Nikon) this is the one that I did buy and so far I don’t regret it a bit.

[Via Gizmodo]

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