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Canon EOS D30 Digital SLR

Canon's first digital SLR packs 3 megapixels of CMOS sensor into a speedy, compact body! (Smallest/lightest digital SLR as of August, 2000)

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Page 12:Video, Power, Software

Review First Posted: 8/27/2000

Video Out

An NTSC video cable comes packaged with US models of the D30 (presumably PAL for European ones), allowing you to connect the camera to your television set for image playback. The video signal can be switched between NTSC and PAL via a menu preference. All menus, etc. appear on the external video monitor, but do note that it won't work as a viewfinder for the same reason that the rear-panel LCD won't. (The SLR optics mean that the sensor is only exposed to light when the shutter is open.)


Power

The EOS D30 uses a new battery form factor developed by Canon to be a standard across multiple product lines (film and digital still cameras, video cameras, etc.) The new batteries are a bit larger than a 2CR5 lithium cell, and look like two of the smaller LiIon batteries now becoming popular in compact digicams glued together. Canon calls the new cell a BP-511 battery pack, and it provides 1100 mAh at 7.4 volts for a fairly hefty wallop of 8.1 watt-hours. A separate charger comes in the box with the D30, as well as one of Canon's standard "dummy battery" pigtails to let the charger power the camera. Going into our power tests, we felt that the CMOS sensor should translate into lower power consumption, and it looks like we were right, as you can see in the table below:

Operating Mode
Power Drain
Capture Mode, w/LCD
n/a
Capture Mode, no LCD
80 mA (!)
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
n/a
Half-pressed w/o LCD
400 mA
Memory Write (transient)
450 mA
Flash Recharge (transient)
(not measured)
Image Playback
370 mA

Particularly notable here is how low the power consumption is when in capture mode but not actively capturing a picture. At only 80 mA, one of the BP-511 cells could keep the D30 powered-up all day (13+ hours, to be precise). When you press the shutter, the camera grabs a gulp of power, but still only about the same amount as a prosumer digicam running with the display off, and we were running a MicroDrive in the D30 when we did took these power measurements. (MicroDrives do take more power than standard CF memory cards.) The LCD panel seems fairly parsimonious in its power usage as well, at only 370 mA in playback mode. These results matched our personal sense of the camera, that it had very good battery life over a couple days of fairly heavy usage in the studio, most of it with a MicroDrive inside it. (Update from the production model: We consistently were amazed at just how long the D30's batteries seemed to last. They just kept going, and going, and going...)


Included Software

The software they didn't include...
(But that you should)
Few people realize just how *much* you can improve your digicam images through clever processing in Photoshop. Greatly (!) increased sharpness, reduced noise, and even ultra-wide dynamic range (light-to-dark range) by combining multiple exposures. Fred Miranda and uber-Photoshop expert Fred Miranda has packaged some of his Photoshop magic in a collection of powerful and affordably priced "actions." Check out his site, the results are pretty amazing!
Camera manuals are (sometimes) fine for knowing which button does what, but where do you go to learn how and when to use the various features? Dennis Curtin's "Shortcourses" books and CDs are the answer. (Cheap for what you get, too.) Order the Shortcourses manual for the camera reviewed in this article.

The big news here is that the included software (ZoomBrowser EX, TWAIN drivers, and a Photoshop plug-in for Mac users) directly support the CCD RAW file format, which captures the full 12-bit data directly from the CCD. This allows post-exposure processing and adjustment with no loss of quality. (Since computers only use 8 bits of information per red, green, and blue color channel, the full 12 bits of data that are originally captured offers about four additional f-stops of range beyond what would be present in an 8 bit file. Not all of this is directly usable, but having access to the original 12 bit data can often get you an additional 2 f-stops of more of exposure latitude with essentially no penalty in image quality.) Kodak professional SLR digicams have been famous for this capability for years, but the Fuji S1 Pro doesn't offer it at all, and Nikon charges an additional $500 for the software required to access this function on the D1. To our minds, having the CCD RAW capability provided in the box is a huge benefit, not to be understated. Any professional should be interested in this capability, contributing an additional $500 cost advantage to the EOS D30 relative to the Nikon D1. (And the Fuji S1 Pro of course, doesn't offer a CCD RAW at all.) Not to get too wrapped up in one feature, this clearly isn't a "must have" function, but it can be tremendously useful in retrieving that one of a kind photo with a blown exposure setting. VERY nice!

All that said though, the ZoomBrowser EX software is far from perfect. The most glaring lack we found in it is that it doesn't support any post-exposure tonal adjustment, which is one of the most useful features of the Kodak software when used with their cameras. Given the dynamic range that should be provided by the 12 bit digitization, post-exposure tonal adjustment ("exposure" adjustment, really) could be highly effective, and "save" many shots that might otherwise be lost.

The changes you can make to the D30's RAW-captured files are quite useful though, in that they constitute reasonable tweaks away from the default values. Both the contrast and color saturation adjustments do exactly what you'd expect them to, without affecting overall exposure or hue values. For some reason, virtually every camera we've tested that has a contrast adjustment option has ended up changing the exposure along with the contrast. Most often, they take the (almost totally useless) approach of fixing the highlight value and adjusting the shadow end of the tonal curve. Thus, a "low contrast" shot with these cameras still has blown-out highlight values, with the difference being that the shadows don't extend quite as far into the black. What we really want to have happen would either be the exact opposite (blown highlights being the exposure error most to be avoided with digicams), or to have both ends of the tonal scale compressed somewhat, darkening the highlights, lightening the shadows, and leaving the midtones alone. This last is exactly what the contrast adjustment on the D30's software does. Better yet, you can load the software's corrections into the camera's firmware, creating custom camera settings that will replicate the software's adjustments on the fly, as the pictures are taken.

ZoomBrowser's color saturation adjustment is likewise both understated and intelligent. Here again, competing cameras with saturation adjustment settings frequently go overboard, producing muddy, unattractive color with the low saturation setting, or neon-bright colors in the high-saturation mode. Canon's color controls are quite understated, mirroring the differences between different film emulsions quite successfully. The low saturation color is duller, but well within what we would consider an acceptable/useful range. Likewise, the high saturation setting produces bright colors akin to some of the more saturated color films currently in vogue (although perhaps not quite as bright as some of the more extreme film emulsions). Overall, the net effect is very usable.

The one adjustment we felt could have used more work was the sharpness control. We felt it covered a bit too narrow a range to be useful, and even in the "high" setting, produced less sharpening than most cameras we've tested in their "normal" settings. Our preference for critical sharpening is always to use an industrial-strength imaging application like Photoshop or Nik Sharpener, but if there's going to be an in-camera option for sharpening, we'd like to see it have a little more range than Canon provides in the ZoomBrowser/Custom Setting option for the D30.

Probably the most significant limitation of ZoomBrowser EX is that it's slow. (!) Our test PC is only a 350 MHz Pentium III, rather sluggish by current standards. Still, it's hard for us to imagine what the software could possibly be doing for the close to two minutes (yes, we said two minutes) it takes to process each image extracted from the RAW format. Worse, there's no way you can conveniently batch-up multiple images needing different settings applied to them. You can select a series of image adjustments and batch-process any number of images with that set, but if you want to apply different settings to multiple batches of images, each batch will require a separate visit to the computer. Unless you commonly need to apply the same set of variations to all your images as a matter of course, using ZoomBrowser is painfully slow. Hard to argue with the price (included free with the camera), but the leisurely pace will have you climbing the walls in short order.

Canon's made a great start on RAW-format processing with ZoomBrowser EX, but we sincerely hope there's a new version in the works for release soon. (Note to the Canon engineers, if any of you happen to read this - Here's our wish list: 1) Post-exposure tonal adjustments - basically the ability to "re-expose" the image from the RAW file. 2) The ability to queue-up images for conversion with different adjustments associated with each. 3) MORE SPEED. 4) Better sharpening control.)

The D30 software also includes the Remote Capture application, which can operate the camera via the USB link. This could be useful in studio work or event photography, but the speed of the USB bus just isn't up to a true interactive environment, in our opinion: In large/fine resolution mode, it takes almost 17 seconds to download each image into the computer after you click the The D30 software also includes the Remote Capture application, which can operate the camera via the USB link. This could be useful in studio work or event photography, but the speed of the USB bus just isn't up to a true interactive environment, in our opinion: In large/fine resolution mode, it takes almost 17 seconds to download each image into the computer after you click the "Release"

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