Canon EOS 300D Digital RebelCanon knocks the bottom out of the Digital SLR market, with an amazingly affordable, full-featured model!
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Page 2:Executive OverviewReview First Posted: 09/04/2003
Canon's EOS D60 digital SLR was arguably one of the most in-demand digital cameras throughout all of 2002, and the subsequent EOS 10D update was even more so in 2003. Both cameras blew past all sales projections, and the 10D continues to be very hard to lay hands on at retail, despite Canon's dramatic increase of production capacity for the 10D. Now, their latest release of the EOS "Digital Rebel" promises to dwarf the popularity of even the 10D. In typical Canon fashion, they've dramatically pared cost from the 10D design, while retaining most of the same features, and (apparently) all the same image quality. The net result is a camera with performance only a slight notch down from that of the EOS-10D, but at a precedent-shattering price of only $899 for the body alone, or $999 for a kit that includes Canon's new 18-35mm EF-S lens. (This lens is compatible only with the Digital Rebel, as its image circle is sized to match the smaller dimension of the Rebel's sensor, rather than the 35mm film frame covered by all other Canon lenses.)
The biggest concession in the design of the Digital Rebel seems to be a much more extensive use of plastic in its body construction than we've seen in any previous Canon D-SLR. This is one of the few aspects of the camera that I personally disliked, as I felt that it gave it a rather cheap, "plasticky" feel in the hand. This is very much a personal reaction though - In talking to other reviewers who've had hands on the early prototype samples, none of them seemed to object to the "feel" of the case as much as I did. - Prospective buyers will just have to judge this aspect for themselves. The case is also all-silver, another departure for Canon's D-SLRs, but a design that calls to mind the film-based Rebel Ti.
Internally, the camera's 6.3-megapixel CMOS sensor captures the same maximum resolution of 3,072 x 2,048 pixels as we saw on the 10D, with two JPEG compression levels and a RAW format. Exposure control is very similar to the 10D as well, although minus a few features, and the EOS 300D continues to operate and feel much like its 35mm EOS cousins. As mentioned above, one of the more interesting points on the 300D is that, while the camera features the standard Canon EF lens mount, Canon also designed a lens specifically for the 300D. With an updated optical design created specifically for the digital format, the new 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S lens is lighter and more compact than the rest of the EF lens series. Based on my testing, it appears that the reduced backfocus distance and smaller image circle of the EF-S design has allowed Canon to achieve an unusually high level of optical quality in an inexpensive lens.
Because the 300D hosts the full range of Canon EF lenses, aperture and focal length ranges will vary with the lens in use. Like the 10D, the 300D has an autofocus system that uses a seven-point array for more accurate focus with off-center subjects. Seven AF points are laid out in a cross pattern in the viewfinder display, and the camera assesses all seven points to determine the proximity of the subject and consequently the best point to use in determining focus. The same One-Shot and AI Servo AF modes are available, the latter adjusting focus continuously for moving subjects, though the 300D doesn't allow the user to select AF modes manually. Instead, the camera automatically selects between One Shot and AI Servo modes, depending on the exposure mode chosen. An AI Focus AF mode switches back and forth between One Shot and AI Servo AF modes, depending on whether or not the subject is moving. This again is automatically enabled, however, depending on the exposure mode selected. (Basically, you only get AiAF when shooting in the "Sports" scene mode. In normal shooting modes though, you do have the ability to manually select one of the seven AF points as the controlling focus point, or leave the area selection under automatic control.) Like the EOS 10D before it, the Digital Rebel 300D offers what Canon terms "Predictive AF," which basically tracks the rate at which a subject is approaching or receding from the camera, and accurately focuses based on the subject's predicted position. (A features that sports photographers will no doubt appreciate.) The EOS 300D offers a TTL optical viewfinder, which displays an impressive amount of exposure information. The 1.8-inch, rear-panel, color LCD monitor is for image review and menu display only. The EOS 300D also features a small status display readout on its rear panel, which reports a large number of camera settings as well.
Exposure control on the EOS 300D is very good, offering almost exactly the same level of control as that provided by the 10D. Basic exposure modes include full Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and Auto Depth of Field modes. Auto Depth of Field mode is quite useful, in that it intelligently uses the seven AF points to determine the nearest and most distant points of the subject. It combines that information with the current lens focal length setting to determine the aperture to shoot at that will provide sufficient depth of field while using the fastest shutter speed possible. (Very slick!) Within what Canon calls the "Image Zone," are a handful of preset scene modes, including Portrait, Landscape, Close-up (Macro), Sports, Night Portrait, and Flash Off. Combined with its full-auto option, these scene modes make the 300D approachable for even complete novices. Shutter speeds on the EOS 300D range from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds, with a Bulb mode available in Manual mode that allows shutter times as long as 2.5 hours(!). Metering modes include Evaluative, Partial (close to a spot-metering option), and Center-Weighted, but their selection automatically controlled based the exposure mode chosen. (However, pressing the AE Lock button temporarily switches to Partial mode.) The camera's Exposure Compensation function increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. The EOS 300D also features Auto Exposure Bracketing, ISO values from 100 to 1,600, and AE/FE (auto exposure/flash exposure) lock. White balance options include six presets, an Auto setting, and a Custom setting (manual adjustment). You can also bracket white balance through an LCD menu option. Color space options include sRGB and Adobe RGB, and the Parameters setting lets you adjust contrast, saturation, sharpness, and color tone. A new addition here are two preset Parameter modes, one setting up the camera like the previous 10D, and the other (the default) increasing sharpness, contrast, and saturation slightly, for snappier-looking prints when going directly to a photo printer.
The EOS 300D has a Self-Timer mode, which provides a (fixed) 10-second delay after the Shutter button is pressed before the shutter actually opens. You can also trip the shutter remotely with the optional wired remote control, which plugs directly into the camera body, or a wireless IR remote that communicates with a sensor on the front of the camera's handgrip. A Continuous Shooting mode captures a maximum of four frames at approximately 2.5 frames per second, while the Shutter button is held down. In addition to the top-mounted external flash hot shoe, the EOS 300D has a built-in, pop-up flash with Redeye Reduction and Slow Sync settings.
Images are stored on CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards, and the EOS 300D is compatible with the IBM MicroDrives. (The 300D also supports FAT 32 directory structures, allowing it to use memory cards more than 2GB in size.) The camera doesn't come with a memory card, so I highly recommend picking up at least a 128MB card for starters. (Really though, plan on a 512MB, given the camera's high resolution and handy RAW+JPEG file format.) A USB cable connects the camera to a computer, and accompanying software CDs feature Canon's EOS DIGITAL Solution Disk software and a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements. The Canon software is required for processing the camera's RAW files, including those saved with an embedded JPEG image. The EOS 300D also features a Video Out jack, and comes with a cable for connecting to a television set. For power, the EOS 300D uses a Canon BP-511 battery pack, and comes with one battery and a charger. (I highly recommend picking up a spare and keeping it charged and ready.)