Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $700
By vrf
Expert (4 Recommendations and 2 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
September 23, 2008 Updated: September 25, 2008
Overview

So you’re looking for a premium camera that is the perfect travel companion. Well, a great place to start is the Canon Digital Rebel XSI (EOS 450D). With stunning image quality in a variety of lighting conditions, 3 frames-per-second continuous shooting, and fast “I-need-this-picture-now” performance, the Rebel XSI and its bundled 18-55mm lens earn my recommendation for best travel camera under $700.

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My Best In Class Pick
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens)

The Canon Rebel XSI is a powerful, feature-packed DSLR that gives users more bang per buck than other cameras in its class. It is the successor to the very popular Rebel XTI (EOS 400D), offering the predictable upgrades in resolution and rear LCD size. But Canon has also packed in some great features that turn the XSI into more of an upscale camera that will still appeal to budget-conscious shoppers. So feature-packed is this entry-level camera, that Canon saw fit to introduce an even more entry-level model in the Rebel XS. In some ways, this fits the template that Nikon set forth with their D60 model. It offered enough high-end features to free up room for a more basic, entry-level D40. Really, all four cameras are excellent contenders for best entry-level travel SLR, and that’s not even mentioning Sony’s excellent A350. But the XSI still wins me over, for a couple of reasons:

Image quality: Image quality can be subjective at times, and the differences among SLR cameras in this class is not something everyone will notice at first glance. Still, the clarity of pictures, and especially the low-noise high ISO shots, give the Canon Rebel XSI the image-quality edge. Shooting in low-light is where the XSI really shines, and you’ll simply not see the graininess at high ISOs that other DSLRs give you (particularly the Sony A350). For travel photography, the camera really shines at low-light, indoor shots, offering clear pictures and accurate colors.

The lens: The 18-55mm IS lens is actually the third version of Canon’s 18-55mm camera kit lens. The first two editions of the lens were roundly criticized on the Internet for poor sharpness at the corners, distortion, and somewhat shoddy build quality. It really seems that Canon, faced with the poor reputation of their kit lens, set out to trump all their earlier kit lens, and the competition’s kit lenses as well. The 18-55 IS has been compared to the classic 50 1.8 that Canon sells for less than $100. Low-cost, but excellent image quality. The lens is very sharp across the entire image, even at the wide-open aperture settings. It focuses quickly and accurately. Canon also built in image stabilization, probably because the competition was building IS into their camera bodies. The IS works very well for low-light settings where camera shake might be a problem, although the IS (obviously) won’t freeze moving subjects.

There are, of course, a host of other features packed into the XSI, features that bring the camera closer to its upscale siblings. Live View is pretty cool, although it is more limited than Sony’s implementation. The nine-point auto focus system helps shooters nail those fast moving subjects, and the near 3fps continuous shooting is nice, helping users grab several action shots so they can pick the best one later. All in all, a great camera for capturing the special moments of life, and all the memories of your next vacation.

The DSLR market is getting increasingly crowded; the competition is heating up. But Canon’s Rebel XSI still gets my pick for best budget DSLR for travel photography.

Comparison with Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 (Body Only)

I chose the Rebel XSI over the Sony A350 for a couple of reasons. First up, the image quality from the Canon sensors is just plain better than anything on the market, certainly better than the grainier low-light images from the A350. Secondly, the speed and performance of the Rebel XSI cannot be overstated. It really makes the A350 feel sluggish and less like a professional tool. Also, the Canon lens has the image quality edge in sharpness and color accuracy. The Sony does have some nice features, like a very cool Live View implementation and built-in Image Stabilization, but, in the end, Canon’s experience in SLR design takes the crown.

Pros
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    Fabulous image quality
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    Great low-light performance
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    High-quality kit lens
Cons
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    IS not built into body
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    Live view more limited than competition
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens) is the Best Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $700
Where to buy
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens)
  • Best Price: $689
    Amazon See It »
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Resolution: 12.2MP
  • Size: 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 in.
  • Battery Life: 500 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi (with 18-55mm IS Lens)
2
Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 (Body Only)
Customer Rating
Price $689.00 $999.00
2
Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 (Body Only)

Wow, the Sony A350 is a small DSLR! You’ll certainly not feel this is a burden on those long vacation day trips.The Sony SLR also has a very interesting live view implementation; it’s very much a integral part of the camera, behaving in some ways like a point-and-shoot digicam, although still offering through-the-lens SLR functionality. The A350 should certainly be on everyone’s short list when looking for a SLR for travel photography.

Pros
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    Compact, lightweight design
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    Very nice live view integration
Cons
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    Overall slow performance
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    Image quality not as good as Rebel XSI
Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 (Body Only) is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $700
Where to buy
Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 (Body Only)
  • Best Price: $999
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Sony DT 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 Aspherical ED Standard Zoom Lens for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Camera
    $249.99 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Resolution: 14.2MP
  • Size: 5.2 x 3.9 x 2.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 730 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Very Good by CNET.com

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