Canon EOS D30 Digital SLRCanon's first digital SLR packs 3 megapixels of CMOS sensor into a speedy, compact body! (Smallest/lightest digital SLR as of August, 2000)
<<Reference: Datasheet :(Previous) | (Next): Print-Friendly Review Version>>
EOS D30 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 8/27/2000
|We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated
index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information
on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting,
etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting
the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade
through it! ;)
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why we set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Canon EOS D30 SLR handles the challenge well. We shot with the automatic (1449k), daylight (1435k), and manual (1438k) white balance settings, choosing the manual setting for our main series. The automatic setting produced a slightly cool image, while the daylight setting resulted in a very warm image. Color balance looks great throughout the image, as the blue flowers and pants look nearly dead-accurate (these blues are somewhat difficult for many digicams to reproduce correctly). The red flower also looks good, with a nice level of saturation, and the skin tone is just about right as well. Resolution is very high, with a lot of fine detail visible in the flowers, as well as in the model's face and hair. Though we see a lot of detail in the image, the image appears somewhat soft overall, a characteristic we noted in all the D30 shots we took. We attribute this to a very low level of in-camera sharpening, which is good from the standpoint of pros who want to extract the maximum from their photos, and not lose anything to overaggressive in-camera image processing. Fairly heavy, small-radius unsharp masking in Photoshop brings out exquisite detail, perhaps the best we've seen in a digicam to date. (October, 2000). The low in-camera sharpening does mean though, that you'll want to process most of your shots after the fact, perhaps using a Photoshop "Action" to batch-sharpen all your images. Shadow detail is fantastic, with virtually no sensor noise (we had to look very hard to find any noise pattern at all!). Our main image was taken with no exposure compensation applied, meaning the D30's metering system is unusually accurate on this shot: We almost always have to apply +0.7-1.0 EV of exposure compensation to adjust for the underexposure usually caused by the high-key subject. Overall, a very impressive performance with a difficult subject. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.3 EV.
Exposure Compensation Settings:
The D30 has a "RAW" storage mode that captures all the data exactly as it comes from the CMOS sensor, using lossless compression to pack it into roughly 2.5 megabyte image files. One advantage of these files is that you can use the included ZoomBrowser EX software to process them after the fact, changing contrast, white point, sharpness and color saturation. Each parameter offers only two options besides the default, but we found the degree of the effects produced to be truly useful, in that they corresponded to fairly moderate adjustments of the base image. These adjustments can also be loaded into the camera itself using the included software, so you can alter the camera's basic behavior, and set the preferences you desire.
The series of images in the table below illustrates the effect of the
contrast adjustment. Two things are notable about it: First, as noted
above, the extent of the effect is fairly subtle, which to our mind makes
it much more useful in practice than a more extreme adjustment would be.
Second, the contrast adjustment appears to do exactly what you'd expect
it to, making no change in overall exposure but rather simply increasing
or decreasing the slope of the "S" curve on a hypothetical exposure/density
plot. Overall, a very nice implementation.
The series of images in the table below illustrates the effect of the saturation adjustment. Again, the effect is both subtle, and confined to saturation, not affecting tonal range or overall exposure significantly. Once again, a nice implementation.
The D30 also does an excellent job with this closer, portrait shot. Thanks to the D30's interchangeable lenses, there's no problem with odd distortions of the model's face due to a too-short focal length. (We shot this with the 100mm EF Macro lens.) Continuing with the manual white balance setting, we shot our main image with no exposure compensation adjustment at all. (This close-up shot generally requires less exposure compensation than the wider Outdoor Portrait, although as noted above, the D30 had no problem with the wider shot either.) Resolution and detail look even better with this closer shot, especially in the strands of the model's hair. Even the most minute details of the face are completely visible, although we did notice some artifacts in areas where closely-spaced strands of hair were at roughly a 45 degree angle. Not a big problem, but we mention it as it was one of the only areas in which we could find anything to complain about in the D30's images. Noise remains extremely low in the shadow areas, seemingly a hallmark of the D30's CMOS sensor. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings on the D30, from zero to +1.0 EV.
Exposure Compensation Settings:
Portrait, Flash: (1036k)
The D30's built-in flash does an excellent job of illuminating the subject while maintaining an accurate color balance throughout the image. For our first series, we experimented with the flash intensity settings, which range from -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV increments. Among these, we found the best exposure at the +0.3 EV (999k) flash exposure adjustment. The D30's flash keeps the lighting relatively even, without any color casts or strange highlights. The only color cast we noticed showed up in the normal flash exposure (972k), as a slightly warm cast on the white wall behind the subject. Still, the lighting on the subject remains even, with excellent color balance. Next, we left the white balance in the automatic setting, adjusted the ISO sensitivity to 200, set the flash exposure adjustment to zero, and manually set the exposure to a 1/30 second shutter speed and an f/4.0 lens aperture, which produced this (1036k) slightly warmer, more naturally lit image. By using a slower shutter speed, we allowed more ambient light into the image, much like a Slow Sync flash setting on a consumer camera. Though the shadow areas on the model's shirt now have a slight blue cast, we liked the softer, more natural lighting of this shot, which we used for our main image. (We could easily have eliminated the blue cast by using a warming gel over the flash head, but don't include such lighting modifications in our testing, wanting to show what the cameras are capable of by themselves.) We also snapped an image with the D30's Red-Eye Reduction (983k) flash mode, which effectively eliminates the Red-Eye Effect in the subject's pupils. The table below shows a range of flash exposures from zero to +1.0 EV, all shot using the automatic white balance setting.
Exposure Compensation Settings:
portrait, no flash: (933k)
This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting, and the D30's white balance system does an exceptionally good job, most notably with its manual white-balance option. We tested the automatic (946k), manual (941k), and incandescent (951k) white balance settings, choosing the manual setting for our main series. The automatic setting resulted in a warm, magenta cast throughout the image, while the incandescent setting produced a warmer, more sepia image, with just a hint of magenta. Color balance looks excellent with the manual white balance setting, though the blue flowers are a shade dark. Still, the skin tones and the other flowers appear reasonably accurate, though a little undersaturated. For our main shot, we chose a +0.7 EV adjustment, as anything beyond that became too bright. Shooting with 35mm lenses, the shallower depth of field resulting from the longer focal lengths is quite evident in this shot: The autofocus system zeroed in on the leaves and flowers against the model's blouse, and the wide-open f/2.8 aperture resulted in such shallow depth of field that the flowers and even the front of the model's head was slightly out of focus. Very little noise is present throughout the image, and is mainly noticeable in the shadows of the model's neck. We also tested the camera's variable ISO settings, shooting at the 100 (953k), 200 (1056k), 400 (1192k), 800 (1393k), and 1600 (1662k) ISO equivalents. Exposure stays nearly the same at each ISO level. Noise is very low at the 100 and 200 ISO settings, increasing slightly at the 400 and 800 settings. As you'd expect, the highest noise level occurs with the 1600 ISO setting, although we'd say that the D30's noise at ISO1600 is better than that of some of its competition at ISO 800, and better than that of many of lesser cameras shooting at ISO 400. The table below shows a range of exposure adjustments from zero to +1.7 EV.
Exposure Compensation Settings:
NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution poster than we first used in our tests. Unfortunately, we did not shoot a comparison image of the old house poster wit the D30.
We shot samples of this image with the automatic
(1017k), daylight (1024k),
and manual (1020k) white
balance modes, choosing the automatic setting as the most accurate. We
were surprised that the manual setting produced slightly warm results.
On the other hand, the daylight setting produced a warm, yellowish image,
as is often the case on this shot. (We're suspecting our lights may have
a bump in the red-yellow portion of the spectrum, relative to the ISO-standard
daylight they're supposed to be delivering. We're going to be recalibrating
them at some point with a spectrophotometer...) Color balance in the automatic
setting appears quite accurate, and resolution again looks excellent.
A tremendous amount of fine detail is visible in the tree limbs, shrubbery,
and bricks, even though the entire image again appears a little soft.
(We found that unsharp masking settings in Photoshop of 150% at a 0.3
pixel radius revealed incredible detail without introducing any unwanted
artifacts.) What little noise is present in the shingles is more than
likely present in the actual poster. The in-camera sharpening is barely
detectable, we noticed less than a pixel of the halo effect around the
light and dark edges of the white trim along the roof line. Despite the
slight softness in the image, the D30 does an excellent job with this
target. The table below shows the full range of resolution and quality
settings for the D30.
This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.
We shot this image with the automatic (958k),
daylight (961k), and
manual (959k) white
balance modes, choosing the automatic setting for its more accurate white
value and color balance. The manual setting again produced slightly warm
results, while the daylight setting resulted in a much warmer image. This
shot is a strong test of detail, given the practically infinite range
of fine detail viewable in a natural scene like this. Resolution is again
exceptional, with a great deal of fine detail visible in the pine needles
and tree branches against the sky, as well as in the bricks and shrubbery.
We also judge a camera's dynamic range in this shot, comparing how well
the camera holds detail in both the shadow and highlight areas. The D30
does a reasonably good job here, holding a moderate amount of detail in
the bright bay window area. At the same time, the dark shadow beneath
the cherry tree on the right side of the house shows a lot of detail.
(This shot would be a natural place to use the RAW format and the reduced-contrast
image-import setting.) We did notice a distracting moiré pattern
in the blinds of some of the windows, the first time we've seen that on
this subject. A very moderate amount of noise is visible in the roof shingles,
but really is barely noticeable at all. We also snapped images at the
100 (2003k), 200
(2028k), 400 (2047k),
800 (2150k), and 1600
(1759k) ISO settings. The noise level became much more pronounced
from the 400 setting on, but was still bearable even at ISO 1600. Exposure
was very consistent across all ISO ratings, with the exception of the
ISO 1600 shot, where we unknowingly bumped up against the 1/4000 maximum
shutter speed limit of the D30. The table below shows the full resolution
and quality series in the automatic white balance setting.
||Lens Zoom Range
We've received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. In the case of the D30, zoom range will be entirely a function of the lenses used with it, although the 1.6x focal length multiplier resulting from the size difference between the CMOS image sensor and a 35mm film frame means that very wide angle shots will be hard to achieve, while extreme telephoto shots are readily attainable. In the images below, we show the attainable range with two of the lenses Canon loaned us for testing: The 28-70mm and 100-400mm. Applying the multiplier factor, the effective focal lengths of these lenses became 45-112mm and 160-640mm. (We have to say that an optically-stabilized 160-640mm zoom lens is a godsend for nature or sports photography: We had quite a bit of fun at the kid's soccer game handholding 640mm "big glass" on a digicam with a 3 frame per second motor drive!) The 45mm wide angle shot looks quite crisp, without any visible distortion from the lens. The 112mm telephoto gets somewhat closer, with increased resolution and fine detail, as well as a slightly brighter exposure. Likewise, the 160mm wide angle shot gets even tighter in, and the 640mm telephoto shot picks up a very small area while keeping fine details crisp. The lack of ultra wide-angle lenses on SLR digicams is one of their few limitations: Canon's excellent 17-35mm wide-angle zoom lens works well on the D30 (we had one during our initial testing of the preproduction unit), but even that very wide-angle lens translates to only about a 27mm equivalent: Usefully wide, but nowhere near approaching what you can do with a film-based SLR.
In another note, it's in shots like this that you can really see the
differences between the quality of optics used in "prosumer"
digicams and the true professional-grade optics such as Canon's L-series
lenses: These shots are tack sharp corner to corner, with no hint of coma,
chromatic aberration, or other lens defects that are quite common on the
lower-end digicams. (Perhaps not surprising though, when you consider
that either of these lenses alone are at least twice the price of an entire
"high end" prosumer camera!)
We shot samples of this target using the automatic (834k), daylight (898k), and manual (868k) white balance settings, again choosing the automatic setting as the most accurate overall. The daylight setting produced slightly warm results, while the manual setting resulted in a slightly cool image. (The large amount of blue in the image often tricks digicams into overcompensating, so the D30's automatic white balance does a nice job here.) Color balance looks pretty accurate throughout the image, judging by the skin tones of the models, although there's a bit of a magenta cast overall. The blue of the Oriental model's robe is also almost dead accurate, although maybe just a hint too dark (this is a hard blue for most digicams to reproduce correctly). Resolution is again very good, with most of detail visible in the bird wings and silver threads on the blue robe, including the subtle color gradations on the wings. Likewise, the subtle color variations of the flowers in the Oriental model's hair is visible. Still, as with some of the other targets, the entire image seems a little soft. Very little noise is visible, mainly in the blue background and in some shadows, most of which is probably coming from the poster itself. Below is our standard resolution and quality series.
||Macro Shot (2103k)
Wow! Let's hear it for pro-grade macro lenses! With the 100mm f/2.8 EF-series macro lens attached, the D30 captured a minimum area of only 0.59 x 0.89 inches (15.0 x 22.5 mm). The image is tack-sharp corner to corner, although we did notice just a hint of chromatic aberration in the extreme corners of the image, most noticeable in the upper left.. The long snout of the 100mm lens shadowed the onboard flash badly this close, so we didn't include a shot of this subject taken with flash illumination.
Test Target (984k)
Wow! (Again) Exceptional color handling, not to mention incredible dynamic range! We shot samples of this target using the automatic (472k) and manual (1321k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series. The manual setting produced nearly identical results, so we stuck with the automatic setting. Color balance looks exceptionally good, with pretty good saturation in the normally very difficult primary color blocks (red, green, blue, and the most troublesome cyan, magenta, and yellow). About the only criticisms we can find to make (and they're very minor indeed) are that the yellow block is just a shade dark relative to the others, and the red block just a shade bright. The D30 does a good job distinguishing between the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart, which is a problem area for many digicams. Exposure looks accurate, as the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart are visible up to the "B" range (this is another common problem area for digicams). The tonal gradations of the vertical grayscales are completely visible, though the very last two black bars in the long vertical scale blend together. The shadow area of the briquettes shows an excellent level of detail, with very little noise, as we observed above. The white gauze area also holds a lot of detail. Resolution and sharpness are also as before: Incredible detail, masked somewhat by the softness of the image due to understated image sharpening. We also shot with the 100 (960k), 200 (1112k), 400 (1290k), 800 (1522k), and 1600 (1932k) ISO settings. We noticed that the 200 and 400 settings brightened the exposure while maintaining a relatively low noise level. The 800 setting darkened the exposure somewhat, but raised the noise level a little, and the 1600 setting brightened the image and increased noise a bit more. (We were surprised by the variations in exposure, since our outdoor ISO-variation tests produced very consistent exposure results. The exposure differences are quite minor though.) We also noticed that the brighter exposures decreased the visibility of subtle tonal variations. Below is our standard resolution and quality series.
We shot with the D30's RAW data format and then tweaked the contrast with the accompanying software package. We noticed that as we increased the contrast, sharpness increased slightly as well. The adjustments did a good job of slightly altering the contrast without making too extreme of an adjustment.
We also tried tweaking the color saturation of imported RAW images. As with the contrast adjustments, we found the saturation changes fairly subtle, and therefore (in our opinion) very useful.
Given the exceptionally low noise levels we observed in the D30 in our other tests, we expected excellent low light performance, and the camera certainly delivered! We were able to obtain bright, useable images at light levels as low as 1/16 of a foot candle (0.67 lux), at all the ISO settings. Interestingly, the 400 ISO setting produced a slightly darker image at the 1/16 foot candle level. Noise levels are very low with the 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings, but increase with the 800 and 1600 settings. Though the 800 and 1600 ISO noise levels are much higher, they remain relatively fine grained and tolerable: Better than other cameras we've tested at these light levels, with the D30's ISO 1600 noise looking more like what we're accustomed to seeing at ISO 400 from competing models. Four things about the images stood out: 1) The exceptionally low noise levels; 2) The excellent color balance; 3) The excellent color balance, normally a tough issue for digicams at such low light levels; and 4) The complete absence of "hot pixels", thanks to Canon's proprietary long-exposure noise-reduction system. (This optionally kicks in at exposures longer than 1 second, and shows remarkable ability to reduce noise without disturbing the image information.) To put the D30's low light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot candle. Thus, the D30's capabilities at the 1/16 foot candle light level are outstanding: It can literally see better in the dark than you can! Focusing under pitch-black conditions is also quite good, thanks to the bright autofocus-assist illuminator lamp on the front of the D30's body. The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels, at each of the available ISO settings. Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
||Flash Range Test
With its interchangeable lenses, the D30's flash range will be highly dependent on the lens it's used with. Canon rates the D30's flash at a guide number of 12/39 (meters/feet) at ISO 100. Translating this to the 100mm f/2.8 lens we standardized on for our in-studio testing, the range should be 39 feet/f2.8 = 13.9 feet. This agreed well with our test results for the camera (even perhaps being a bit conservative), which showed good brightness all the way out to the 15 foot limit of our modest studio. The table below shows the flash test results for distances ranging from 8 to 15 feet.
(WG-18) Resolution Test (914k)
As we did with the Nikon D1, we spent quite a bit of time futzing about with the D30's resolution testing, trying different lenses at various apertures. With the D1, we had several inexpensive lenses to play with, which did indeed show poorer performance than the more expensive professional Nikon glass. In the case of the D30, we had only the lenses loaned to us by Canon, which didn't dip down to the very low price range of some of our Nikon lenses. Still, the lenses we had to work with covered a fair price range, which led to us being even more surprised by how well they all performed. (For the record, the lenses tested here are the Canon 100mm f/2.8 EF-series macro, the L-series 28-70mm f/2.8 zoom, and the EF-series 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom.) In fact, we discovered that the less-expensive 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 EF-series zoom lens which Canon seems to be somewhat promoting for use with the D30 in some cases bested the performance of the much more expensive 28-70mm f/2.8 L-series zoom. (!) (Overall, it's performance wide open wasn't as uniform across the frame as was that of the 28-70mm, but away from the extreme corners, it was often superior. Stopped down, performance across the frame improved dramatically, to the point that we felt it was very much the equal of the more costly 28-70mm at smaller apertures.)
Before going any further, we have to say that our mission in life is emphatically not to be lens testers (at least, not yet ;-), so the tests we performed were far from as exhaustive as some readers might desire. For instance, we tested the lenses at maximum aperture, which from a quality standpoint might favor the 24-85mm zoom, since its maximum aperture is quite a bit smaller than the f/2.8 the other two lenses we tested could achieve. A more "fair" test would have been to compare the three lenses at a maximum aperture of f/4.0 or so, but frankly we simply don't have the time for that level of detail. The conclusion that we think can be drawn from our testing though, is that the (relatively) inexpensive 24-85mm lens is indeed a very high-quality piece of optics, and makes an excellent companion for the D30.
For those particularly interested in the performance of the three lenses, we've included sets of images shot with each of them wide open, at a medium aperture of f/8.0, and at a small aperture of f/22. Our main image resolution/quality series was shot with the 100mm fixed focal length macro lens at f/8.0.
As we noted earlier, the D30's images tend to be slightly soft, due to a very restrained use of in-camera image sharpening. The level of resolution and detail is truly exceptional though, actually the highest of any 3 megapixel digicam we've tested to date. (October, 2000) Overall, we "called" the D30's resolution as 850 lines per picture height vertically, and 900 horizontally before aliasing became visible, although detail was clearly visible beyond 1000 lines per picture height in both directions.
The first table below shows our normal resolution/image quality series
shot with the 100mm f/2.8 EF macro lens at f/8.0. The subsequent tables
show the performance of each of the three lenses we tested, at three apertures:
Wide open, f/8.0, and f/22.
Resolution test, Aperture Series, 100mm f/2.8 EF-series macro lens
Overall, we'd call this the "best" performing lens, as it was the most consistently sharp from large to small apertures. It did show more chromatic aberration (although precious little) at wide apertures than either of the two zoom lenses.
Resolution test, Aperture Series, 24-85mm EF-series lens
A surprisingly good performance relative to the more expensive zoom. Wide open, there's a moderate amount of "coma" in the upper left-hand corner, but the image quality is very good otherwise. Stopped down, the coma goes away, rendering very sharp results.
Resolution test, Aperture Series, 28-70mm L-series lens
This lens was more consistent across its aperture range than the less-expensive 24-85mm, showing little distortion wide open, albeit with a softer image. Good if you have the money and really need the wider aperture, but if f/3.5-4.5 is enough, the 24-85mm would be a much better bargain.
Accuracy/Flash Uniformity (416k)
Canon rates the D30's viewfinder as being 95% accurate, which agrees well with our measurement (416k) of 96%. Flash uniformity here was very good, but that's to be expected, as we were shooting with the 100mm lens on the camera. Even the 28mm lens didn't stretch the flash's coverage in the slightest, although again that's not too surprising, given that a 28mm lens on the D30 is only equivalent to a 45mm on a 35mm film camera. (And thus has a relatively narrow field of view.)
We normally report on lens distortion in this part of our analysis, but in the case of the D30, any such distortion will be entirely dependent on the lens used with it. As we noted earlier though, the Canon lenses we tested with the D30 were uniformly of exceptionally high quality.