read this before pulling the trigger http://www.iwsti.com/forums/pictures...otography.html
as far as the camera, I love Canons, especially the Xt/ Xti's, they are a great value for the money.
I had an Xti as my first dslr and then I sold it to get a Xsi or a Nikon D60, but I ended up getting another Xti instead.. In the process, I checked out the Nikon D60, compared it to an Xsi and also the Sony a300. I Liked the D60 but it was too small and didnt really feel good in my hands. To be honest, the Nikon did feel a little more rugged than the Xsi (maybe it was because of the finish). I did not find the Sony s200 to be that great and didn't like how the IS was inside the camera body instead of the lens.. (some may not agree but I found this could be an issue in the long run if the IS crapped out, youd need a whole new camera, where as for the Nikon and Canon, you can just replace the lens... this only applies to beginner and moderate level lenses, for they are about the same price as the camera, and you can probably find it for cheaper used on craigslist or something). Anyways, I ended up narrowing it down the the D60 and the Xsi, but like i mentioned earlier, I made up my mind to get the Xsi because the D60 felt too tiny.. (thats how close those too were, although I am still a beginner photographer, and I may not be able to tell all of the difference between the two, I can tell which one feels better in my hands, and that is really important that you are comfortable when your shooting, esp if you are out walking around with it in your hand for hours.. That being said, I researched some more on the Xsi and its differences between the Xti, and just decided to save the extra cash and get another Xti. Then after about a month or so, I came across a really good deal and was able to get a 40D, and I can't emphasize how important
it is (to me at least) to have a camera that feels good in your hands.
fyi, I have one for sale if you are interested.