The XSi has most of the standard white balance modes found on other EOS cameras, namely Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, White Fluorescent Light, Flash and Custom. It doesn't allow color temperature to be set as is possible with the EOS 40D/50D. As is the typical case for Canon DSLRs, Auto white balance doesn't do great under tungsten lighting, giving a distinctly yellow image. In tungsten white balance mode the color balance under domestic tungsten lighting is closer to neutral, but still noticeably warm. For the most neutral color rendition under tungsten light use the custom WB mode. In custom WB mode you first shoot an image of a Neutral tone (white or gray) card under the lighting conditions you will be using. The camera can them use this as a reference for subsequent shots and will provide a neutral color balance.
The XSi has a 3" (diagonal) LCD screen, an improvemnt over the smaller 2.5" screen of the XTi. It seems to be the same screen as used on the EOS 40D, with 230,000 pixels, 100% image coverage and LCD brightness control with 7 levels. The new EOS 50D also has a 3" screen, but with 920,000 pixels. The XSi has the option of 4 different color schemes for data display - black on white, white on black, light blue on dark blue and dark brown on light brown.
The Canon DIgital Rebel XSi is the first camera in the Digital Rebel series to offer Live View. Live View provides a real time image on the LCD screen, just like a P&S digicam. In order to be able to do this the reflex mirror has to be locked up and the AF sub mirror has to be lowered, and of course in that position the camera can't use its normal AF sensors. The XSi has two different methods of autofocusing in LiveView mode. The first method is the same as that used on all EOS cameras using conventional AF. Pressing the "*" button on the back of the camera drops the main mirror down, raises the AF sub mirror and enables normal AF operation. Obviously the image on the LCD blanks out during this process since no light is falling on the sensor (it's being reflected up into the viewfinder).. When the "*" button is released, the mirror flips back up and the LCD displays the image in real time again. Although this sounds complex, it happens quite fast and Canon call this the "Quick" AF mode.
There's also a second focus mode on the Digital Rebel XSi, which Canon call the "Live" mode. In this mode the image is continuously displayed on the LCD and the camera uses that image to find focus via a contrast sensing algorithm. One problem with contrast detection AF is that it can be slow (focus may take several seconds) and it may not be as sensitive or accurate as the normal "Quick" AF (phase detection AF) mode using the dedicated AF sensors. The EOS 40D doesn't offer contrast detection AF, but the new EOS 50D does.
It's also possible to use manual focus of course, and the LCD image can be magnified by 5x or 10x to assist in optimizing focus.
Though it's not possible to edit the images in the camera once you have taken them, you can apply some editing effects to existing images when printing them directly from the camera. These include a "Vivid" mode which increases saturation for more vivid greens and blues, a noise reduction mode to lower image noise and three black and white modes (neutral, warm and cool).
The Digital Rebel XSi does, of course, have an extensive set of editing options, which can be selected before an image is taken and which affect the resulting JPEG image (though they don't change the RAW image if you save that). There are preset picture styles (Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful and Monochrome) - all of which can be edited and modified for sharpness, saturation, contrast and color, as well as monochrome color filtering simulation (yellow, orange, red and green). You can also create 3 custom picture styles based on modified existing styles and you can create entirely new styles with the provided Picture Styles Editor software.
If you choose to shoot in RAW mode, you can apply any picture style to any image during the RAW conversion process with Canon's DPP (Digital Photo Pro) software.
The Digital Rebel XSi has a retractable pop-up flash with a Guide number of 13/43 (ISO 100 meters/ft). This means, for example, that at ISO 400 and a lens set to f4, the flash range is around 6.5m (21.5ft). The flash covers the frame seen by a 17mm (or longer) lens mounted on the XSi, so it's fine with the EF-S 18-55 kit lens or the EF 17-85/3.5-5.6IS. Recycle time is around 3 seconds.
The Digital Rebel XSi also has a standard Canon hotshoe and is compatible with all of Canon's EX series speedlites (the current models are the Canon Speedlite 220EX Flash, $125, Canon Speedlite 430EX II Flash, $300 and Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash, $420). There's no PC connector for external studio flash, though of course hotshoe to PC adapters are available. The maximum sync voltage is 250v and the maximum sync speed with a hotshe mounted flash is 1/200s.
The Digital Rebel XSi is the first Digital Rebel to use SD/SDHC memory cards. Previous models have all used Compact Flash (CF) cards. Today there's little difference between SD and CF cards in terms of capacity, price and availability. The fastest CF cards are still a bit faster than the fastest SD cards, but in a Digital Rebel the camera can't write fast enough to make use of the extra speed of the fastest cards anyway. One advantage of SD/SDHC cards is that the sliding contact system is somewhat more robust then the pins and sockets used by CF cards. It's possible (though rare) to damage the pins in a CF card socket by trying to force a CF card into it if there's some sort of obstruction. With the SD/SDHC sliding contacts, this can't happen.
The only real issue related to whether you prefer SD/SDHC to CF cards might be compatibility with what you already own. Today, most digital P&S cameras use SD cards, so if you carry a P&S digicam and an XSi you'll only need to carry one type of card.
The XSi uses a unique battery, the Canon Battery Pack LP-E5. The XTi uses a type NB-2LH battery pack. The new LP-E5 has higher capacity, but a different form factor so the two types of battery are not interchangeable. AC power can be supplied to the XSi via AC Adapter Kit ACK-E5. A Battery Grip BG-E5 is also available, which can use 6 AA batteries or two LP-E5 batteries (but the LP-E5 batteries are preferred). In addition it has a second shutter relese button and control dial along with AE/FE Lock, exposure compensation and AF point selection buttons in a vertical orientation.
The Digital Rebel XSi is very similar in size and shape to the XTi. The edges and corners may be slightly more rounded and the rubberized patches on the back and grip sections of the camera are slightly rougher and "stickier", which makes the camera a little easier to hold with one hand.
Like the XTi, the XSi has a high strength plastic mirror box mounted in a stainless steel chassis. The outer panels of the XSi are made from a durable plastic and the camera is available in a silver of black finish (I prefer the black one!).