Canon Digital Rebel XT

The problem with buying a Canon Digital Rebel XT is that, once you own one, you can't blame the camera anymore for shots that don't come out right.

Did you miss your kid sliding into third base? With most digital cameras you can pin the blame on shutter lag, the infamous pause between the instant you hit the shutter and the moment the photo is taken. With the Rebel that excuse is gone. Not only does the camera fire instantly when you press the shutter, it can reel off three frames in a second. Another high mark in the speed department: the Rebel takes just two-tenths of a second from the time you turn on the power to the moment you take a picture.

Did you miss the shot because you didn't have a long enough telephoto lens, or a wide enough field of view? As a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, the Rebel XT uses interchangeable lenses (the same ones that work with Canon 35mm film cameras), so swapping to the right gear for the job is always an option, versus the one-size-fits-all lens on standard digital cameras.

Shot too dark? The Rebel's built-in flash pops up above the camera body for impressive coverage on its own, plus there's a hot shoe connector (a rarity on compact digitals) for connecting an external flash unit.

You can't blame fuzzy images on the camera anymore either. The Digital Rebel XT produces tack-sharp photos at 8-megapixel resolution—enough for gallery-size prints of your photographic masterpieces—and small sections of the frame can be enlarged into full-size images. Autofocus and automatic exposure respond quickly and produce reliable results, but if you're an advanced amateur with the urge to tinker, it's hard to find a setting you can't adjust to suit your personal vision.

For some people, the Rebel may be too much camera. While nice and compact for an SLR, it's still much larger than a pocket-size digital model, and even at its extraordinarily low sub-$1,000 price, it is easily trumped by $300 digitals if all you want are snapshots. But for those who care about photographic performance, flexibility and picture quality, this is an extraordinary camera. Furthermore, in the great tradition of 35mm SLRs that you buy once and use for years, if not decades, it's going to be a good long time before you feel the need to upgrade from the Rebel XT.