Canon and Nikon offer image stabilization in accessory lenses instead, which start at $500 and go up into the thousands. The lenses have internal gyros that counteract the camera shake.
But with so many more lenses and accessories to choose from in the Canon and Nikon family, I'd be hard-pressed to pass on their systems for the respectable but not awesome promise of the Alpha. Here's a quick take on both:
*Canon Digital Rebel XTi. The old Rebel is a hundred dollars cheaper, at $799, but trust me, if you're choosing between the old Rebel and the new one, get the XTi. The 3-inch LCD screen is worth the extra $100. You also get add-ons such as an automatic anti-dust feature that cleans the inside of the camera at the flick of a button. You also get a camera that shoots at 10 megapixels instead of eight.
Otherwise, the Rebel is the same, easy-to-use camera that consumers have fallen in love with. Highly recommended.
*Nikon D80. Nikon's revamp of the D70 has three main selling points: a smaller, lighter body; larger LCD preview screen (2.5 inches); and greater resolution at 10.2 megapixels, from 6.1.
Additionally, you now get a lens with wider range: An 18mm to 135mm zoom comes standard with the D80, compared with the D70's 18-70mm. That means you have stronger telephoto action to get even closer to soccer games, school plays and the like.
Compared with the Rebel XTi, the D80 is more in line with Canon's step-up "prosumer" $1,499 30D than it is with the Rebel. The 30D has more features and a sturdier feel.
Bottom line: The D70 was a great camera, and the D80 makes it better. The size of the body makes it easier to handle and is a major plus.
Sony Alpha DSLR-A100
Decent SLR with nice size and feel, but no breakthrough. Best feature: in-camera shake-reduction software, which helps those with shaky hands produce sharp shots. Price: $999
Sequel to the D70 offers a better camera -- a smaller, lighter body, more resolution and larger LCD preview screen. More expensive than competitors. Price: $1,299
Canon EOS Digital Rebel Xti
Terrific revamp of the best-selling SLR, with a greatly improved, larger LCD preview screen and better resolution. Skip the old Rebel XT for this one. Price: $899
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