This “review” or hands-on or whatever you want to call it is a little different than the typical “I give this an 8 out of 10!” Those are silly, useless, and serve no other purpose than to give companies copy for product packaging. Maybe. This is a new, laid back, informal, ”How well does it work?” work of art. I call it a Regular Joe Review. “Regular Joe” is a character one of my favorite comedians came up with. It’s perhaps the worst, most annoying character this side of Borat, but it makes me laugh. Regular Joe keeps things simple, tells it like it is. A meat-and-potatoes kind of man, in other words. That’s the point of this: a jargon-free, easy-to-read overview of whatever comes my way.
Today’s installment looks at both the Nikon D60 and Canon EOS Rebel XSi, both fine digital SLRs (that is, not a point-and-shoot you can keep in your front shirt pocket) for someone looking to get into photography but who doesn’t want to take out a loan for the privilege. Maybe you took a class or two in high school or college, but haven’t done much with your knowledge since then. With either of these cameras, you’ll be taking photos of puddles and pretty flowers like our very own Peter Ha (who Mr. John Biggs, who has really been living up to his surname of late, once described as a “sophomore girl walking around with his camera all the time”) in no time. You’ll be trolling Flickr all day long, making comments like “killer lighting!” and “awesome composition!”
In short, you’ll come to enjoy photography as a pastime, and not merely as something for drunken nights out. (Though a cheap-o point-and-shoot does wonders to jog your memory after a long night of merriment. “Oh yeah, I remember that.” And so on, and so forth.)
So on with it, then.
Both cameras come with similar items. After taking the box home from Best Buy—Regular Joe doesn’t trust online shopping—you’ll find the body of the camera itself, an 18-55mm lens (with vibration reduction, which is handy for people whose hands tend to shake, like mine for some reason), and assorted cables and manuals and chargers (oh my!). Both cameras use SD cards, but neither comes with one. Don’t look silly and come home with a camera without a memory card! You can purchase other lenses—a 55-200mm one is a nice all-around zoom lens, good for most uses—but they’re not exactly cheap. The aforementioned zoom lens costs between $170-$300 for both the Nikon D60 and Canon Rebel XSi.
So great, now you have a box with a camera, a general purpose lens and all the cables you’ll need. Now what?
Let’s look at the cameras separately for a bit. Know that before I write another word, I’ve already said that both are fine, capable cameras.
The Nikon D60 has a 10.2-megapixel sensor, which is fine for everyday uses. Seeing as though most folks that I know merely store there photos in iPhoto (or the Windows equivalent) or post them on Flickr or the like, 10.2-megapixels is more than you’ll ever need. (Yes, like the hilarious Slashdot meme.) There’s a lot more to picture quality than megapixel counts, but Regular Joe cares not for that. Its LCD—remember, these are digital SLRs, so you’re using a viewfinder to take photos (for the most part—more on that a bit later)&mash;is 2.5 inches wide. I would have liked to see it a little bigger.
If you’ve never used a digital SLR before, using the D60 (and any other digital SLR) will take some getting used to. There’s a small dial on the top-right of the camera with a bunch of pre-sets. There’s a full-on auto mode, which literally does everything for you but zoom and take the photo for you. If it’s dark, the flash will pop up. If it’s bright and sunny, it’ll increase the shutter speed and close the aperture so as to prevent overexposure. I can see Regular Joe leaving the D60 on auto mode forever and thinking he’s got the best camera ever. Then there’s a mode for shooting action shots, one for shooting close-up shots of people, and so on.
Shooting is easy. Simply zoom to your liking by adjusting the lens (you’d be surprised the number of times people say “how do you zoom?” when I hand them an SLR), hold the shoot button halfway to focus and then push all the way. Done and done. You now have a photo that will blow away anything you’ve ever taken with a point-and-shoot. The photo then displays on the LCD.
Now, the camera’s settings. This is where the two cameras once again differ. The D60 seems to be a lot more “menu-driven,” whereas the Rebel XSi seems to have a button for every setting. In the D60, you adjust things like white balance, ISO by navigating the camera’s menu. Some settings are in weird sports—I don’t know why I have to click various buttons 13 times merely to change the color mode to Adobe RGB, but here we are—but I doubt Regular Joe will be messing with histograms anytime soon.
Canon Rebel XSi
The Canon Rebel XSi is largely the same as the Nikon D60. In fact, up until a few days ago, both worth the entry-level dSLRs for their respective companies. There are a few differences, however.
First, the body of the camera. The Rebel XSi feels more massive than the D60. Not, like, it weighs a ton, but it feels like if I were to throw it at someone it’d hurt more than throwing a D60. Now there’s a regular explanation! The LCD is also half an inch larger, coming in at a solid 3.0-inches. It’s very spacious, which is something you’ll appreciate. (Though now that the Rebel XS is Canon’s as-yet unreleased entry level digital SLR, that particular comparison may no longer be fair.) As mentioned before, the Rebel XSi has more surface buttons than the D60. There’s a dedicated ISO button which controls how sensitive to light you want camera to be—the brighter the setting, the lower your ISO can be, generally speaking. There’s a dedicated white balance button, which controls the white point of your photos, from which all color processing is based. Again, all in general terms here.
Using the Rebel XSi is nearly identical to using the D60. Point, zoom, focus, shoot, go home and go to bed. The Rebel XSi has more focus points than the D60, which means that there’s more, let’s say, hotspots where you can automatically focus a given photo on.
There’s a $200 price difference between the two, the Rebel XSi being the more expensive one. For two extra bills you get a two extra megapixels, and a slightly larger (3.0 inches) LCD. The XSi also has something called Live View, which you’d use when you’re not able to look through the viewfinder to take photos. Instead, you use the LCD like you would on a point-and-shoot. The Rebel XSi also has more focus points than the D60. Whether or not all that is worth $200 is entirely up to you.
You know, for a Regular Joe Review, this was awful wordy.
Basically, both cameras are great. I’m used to the Nikon menu structure more so than I am the Canon one, so it was the easier of the two for me to use. (I used a D40x for a photography class last year, so I had more than enough time to screw around with it.)
Regular Joe doesn’t like to play favorites, and my hunch is that if you’re just starting out in photography—that’s who these cameras are aimed at—you’re not gonna tell much of a difference between them both. Comes down to how much you’re willing to spend, I suppose.
Nikon D60 [Nikon]
Canon Rebel XSi [Canon]