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Canon EOS 300D Digital Rebel

Canon knocks the bottom out of the Digital SLR market, with an amazingly affordable, full-featured model!

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 09/04/2003

Test Results
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While Canon told me that there could be minor tweaks made to the camera between the unit I was given and the final production models, they felt that any such changes would be minor. Based on the excellent performance turned in by my test unit, I'd have to agree. Still, there's a remote chance that production models may differ, so take all of the following with at least a small grain of salt...

In keeping with my standard test policy, comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the tests, see the Digital Rebel's "Pictures" page. Also, for more "pictorial" sample images, check out the Gallery Page, with a number of shots taken by my son Chris, and our News Editor Mike Tomkins.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the EOS 10D's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Like the EOS-10D before it, the Digital Rebel turned in a nearly flawless performance in terms of color. Its photos were just about spot-on accurate in daylight, and it did very well even under the extreme color cast of the household incandescent lighting of my "Indoor Portrait" test, although that difficult light source required use of the manual white balance option. Colors were hue-accurate, but I felt that the default "Parameter 1" setting left colors just a bit oversaturated in some settings, most noticeable in the Caucasian skin tones of my Outdoor Portrait test. Fortunately, you can easily enough opt for the "Parameter 2" settings, which mimic the color and tonal balance of the 10D. While still within acceptable limits, I also felt that the Auto white balance option of the Digital Rebel wasn't quite as accurate as that of the 10D, as I more frequently found noticeable color casts in subjects that the 10D rendered more accurately, with the Rebel showing a tendency toward warm casts. (It's possible that this was at least partly the result of the boosted color saturation setting on the Rebel, or it could simply be a reflection of the late-model prototype status of the Rebel I was given for testing.) Overall though, very good color all around.

  • Exposure: The Digital Rebel's exposure system was generally accurate, but it showed a marked tendency toward underexposure, particularly with high-key subjects. (That is, subjects with a lot of lightly-colored areas, or with strong highlights in them.) Like the 10D, it was considerably more accurate than most cameras in exposing my high-contrast, high-key Outdoor Portrait subject, but in other tests it required larger than average amounts of positive exposure compensation, or positive exposure compensation for subjects that normally require none. This was a little disconcerting, in that I never knew when it was likely to underexpose a test shot. As a result, I ended up either bracketing a lot more than I would otherwise, or having to check the histogram display after most every shot. The default tone curve of the Rebel is noticeably more contrasty than that of the 10D, but again, simply selecting parameter set 2 on the Record menu brought the tonal response more in line with the 10D's.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Given that they use more or less the same sensor (apparently only minor changes to improve manufacturing yield in the Digital Rebel), it should be no surprise that the Rebel turned in a virtually identical performance to that of the EOS-10D. The boosted sharpness setting in the Rebel's default configuration resulted in a slightly crisper image, but the difference wasn't nearly as pronounced as I expected. (I did feel I saw a few more artifacts in the Rebel's res-target shot though.) Overall, the Rebel performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,400 lines horizontally and 1200 vertically, although there was still meaningful detail beyond that point. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until somewhere around 1,550-1600 lines.

  • Closeups: This wouldn't normally be a category with any meaning for a digital SLR, since macro performance is a direct function of the lens used. Given that a lot of Digital Rebels will be sold wit the 18-55mm EF-S lens attached though, I went ahead and tested that configuration against my standard macro target. I found that the EOS Digital Rebel performed very nicely in the macro category with the 18-55mm EF-S lens, capturing a minimum area of just 2.53 x 1.69 inches (64 x 43 millimeters). Resolution was high, with strong detail in the dollar bill. The coins and brooch are soft due to the very short shooting distance, however. There's quite a bit more softness in the corners of this shot, now evident in all four corners of the frame. The Digital Rebel's pop-up flash throttled down well for the macro area, though the lower portion of the frame is slightly dark, likely shadowed slightly by the lens.

  • Night Shots: The Digital Rebel features full manual exposure control, an adjustable ISO setting up to 1,600, and a maximum exposure time of 30 seconds (plus a Bulb setting for even longer exposures). Thus, the camera performed very well in my low-light testing. At all five ISO settings, the Digital Rebel produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color. I should also note that the camera could most likely capture good images in even darker situations, given the Bulb shutter setting for exposures as long as 2.5 hours (although the resulting image noise from such a shot would likely be overwhelming). The Digital Rebel employs an automatic Noise Reduction system for long exposures, which does a great job of cutting down on image noise. Even at the 1,600 sensitivity setting, image noise was incredibly low and fine-grained. (About my only beef with the camera for low light work is that there's no way to use the AF-assist illuminator function for non-flash photography.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The Digital Rebel is a digital SLR design, meaning it has a true, through-the-lens (TTL) optical viewfinder. In my testing, the viewfinder proved just ever so slightly tight, showing about 97 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and approximately 98 percent at telephoto. (Actually a very good performance, the optical viewfinders of many pro SLRs aren't this accurate, and the Rebel edges out the 10D quite handily in this respect.)

  • Optical Distortion: Again, this is a function of the lens, not the camera body. Still, it deserves noting how well the Canon lenses performed throughout my testing. Lenses are one area where quality really shows...

  • Battery Life: Canon didn't send me one of their AC adapter units with the Digital Rebel, so I couldn't perform my usual in-depth power testing. That said though, Canon claims about the same battery life for the Rebel as for the 10D, which was an excellent performer in this area. (Still, there's no excuse for not purchasing a second battery along with your Digital Rebel - I promise you'll never regret it!)


Conclusion

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The EOS 10D was an immensely popular camera, capitalizing on the EOS name with an excellent feature set and sterling performance. The EOS 300D seeks to surpass its predecessor's popularity, offering very similar functionality at a much lower price point. Although there are a few design adjustments (not to mince words, they're deliberate de-featurings) that will leave more experienced users wanting (such as the inability to select metering and focus modes at will), the EOS 300D is a very capable camera with an excellent feature set. The broad range of exposure control, from pure point & shoot to full manual control should make users of most any experience level feel comfortable. Resolution, color, and tonal range are all very good to excellent, and the newly-introduced 18-55mm EF-S lens that is being offered along with the Digital Rebel is of surprisingly high quality. All in all, a dramatically affordable, true interchangeable-lens digital SLR. I've heard through the grapevine that Canon has plans to produce upwards of 70,000 of these per month for the worldwide market. IMHO, that's still not going to be nearly enough: This is clearly going to be the hottest camera in the history of digital photography, at the $1000 price point. If you have any interest in owning a Digital Rebel before the end of 2003, you'd better get in line promptly.

 

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