[This review is from a Group Test in which we reviewed DSLRs and hybrid cameras, published in the February 2011 issue of PC & Tech Authority. We've republished the article here.]
At first glance, the 1000D doesn't look terribly cut down compared to the more expensive 550D. The screen on the back is half an inch smaller and the grip less chunky, but that's about it. You still get a dedicated ISO button on the top, and roughly the same number of buttons on the back to control settings, which makes the 1000D very easy to use. It also comes with the same mediocre kit lens, which is less exciting.
Most of the changes are internal. Where the 550D has an 18-megapixel sensor, the 1000D has a 10.1-megapixel unit producing 3,888 x 2,592-pixel images. The burst speed is slower, at 3fps instead of 3.7fps. The 1000D lacks any video mode, but you do get a live view mode.
The ISO range is narrower too, down from 12800 on the 550D to just 1600 - the most constrained in the group. Cynicism suggests the restriction is artificial, but our image tests showed that the ability to push the ISO higher would result in unusable images. Where the 550D produced workable images at ISO 3200, the 1000D's efforts at ISO 1600 were disappointing, with heavy amounts of speckling.
Taking the 1000D outside produced better results, and if you're looking for a camera that shoots high-quality images in good weather it won't disappoint; images were as sharp as the 18-55mm kit lens would permit.
The 1000D is worth a look as a beginner's camera: it's affordable, yet doesn't lack any major features. Bracketing, manual white balance, exposure compensation and other manual modes are available, and the 1000D is compatible with Canon's vast range of pro-level lenses and flashes, giving reasonable room for growth.
Its greatest competition is the Pentax K-x, which is more expensive, but comes with a larger screen and has a 720p HD video mode. If you're not bothered by your camera platform and aren't keen on being weighed down with accessories, the Pentax is the way to go.