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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 8:Operation & User Interface

Review First Posted: 09/04/2003

User Interface
The 300D's user interface is similar to that of a traditional 35mm SLR film camera, though slightly different from that of the 10D. Current users of Canon EOS SLRs should immediately feel at home, however, as the 300D has the same overall look and feel. I generally comment on whether or not a camera's controls permit single-handed operation, but in the case of SLR cameras like the 300D, this is much less of a consideration, since the cameras' bulk and typical shooting scenarios generally demand the use of two hands anyway. I really appreciated the fact that the basic exposure controls are adjustable through the external camera control buttons and dials, greatly reducing your dependence on the rear-panel LCD menu system. When you do venture into the menu system, all of the camera's playback and setup options are available in all shooting modes, although the erase, index display, image information, and playback zoom functions are only available in Playback mode. Overall, I found the 300D's user interface straightforward and efficient, although the number of options controlled by a relatively small number of buttons does require some study to become familiar with.

Power Switch: Located beneath the Mode dial on top of the camera, this switch turns the camera on or off.

Mode Dial
: Positioned on the right side of the camera's top panel, this dial sets the exposure mode. Exposure modes are divided into three zones, the Image, Basic, and Creative zones. The Image Zone encompasses the Flash Off, Night Portrait, Sports, Close-Up (macro), Landscape, and Portrait exposure modes, while the Basic zone includes all of the same plus the Full Automatic mode. Finally, the Creative Zone refers to the Program AE, Shutter Speed Priority AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual, and Auto Depth of Field Priority AE exposure modes.

Shutter Button: Located on top of the right hand grip, this button fires the shutter when fully pressed, and sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed in Automatic exposure mode.

Lens Release Button: Located on the front of the camera, this rectangular button located just to the right (as viewed from the front) of the lens mount unlocks the lens from the mount when pressed. The lens can then be removed by rotating it about 45 degrees to disengage the bayonet mounting flanges.

Flash Button: Located on the left side of the prism housing, above the lens release button and just below the pop-up flash compartment, this button releases the pop-up flash into its operating position when the camera is on. (The popup flash cannot be raised when the camera is turned off.)

Depth of Field Preview Button: Positioned on the side of the lens mount housing, just beneath the lens release button, this button lets you preview the depth of field by stopping down the lens aperture to the current setting in any of the Creative Zone exposure modes. (Like most modern SLRs, the 300D normally focuses and meters with the lens wide open, stopping down to the selected aperture just as the picture is being taken.)

Main Dial: Resting on top of the camera on the right side (as viewed from the back), this ridged wheel adjusts some of the camera's basic settings. In Aperture-Priority and Shutter-Priority modes, this dial sets the lens aperture or shutter speed. In Manual mode, the dial sets the shutter speed. In Program AE mode, turning this dial selects between a range of equivalent exposure settings. When turned while pressing a control button (such as the Drive Mode or Exposure Compensation buttons), this dial adjusts the selected setting.

Drive Button: Located to the left of the Exposure Mode dial, this button controls the camera's drive mode when pressed while turning the Main dial, cycling through Single Shooting, Continuous Shooting, and Self-Timer drive modes.

Diopter Adjustment Dial: Located outside the top right corner of the viewfinder eyepiece, this dial adjusts the optical viewfinder's focus to accommodate eyeglass wearers, across an unusually wide range of -3 to +1 diopter.

AV/Exposure Compensation Button
: Next to the top right corner of the status display panel, this button lets you adjust the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments when pressed while turning the Main dial. In Manual exposure mode, pressing this button and turning the Main dial adjusts the aperture setting.

AE / FE / Index/ Reduce Button: In the top right corner of the rear panel, marked with an asterisk, this button locks the exposure until the Shutter button is pressed. When pressed while the flash is activated, this button locks the flash exposure, which signals the camera to fire a small pre-flash to measure the exposure before locking it. (This decoupling of exposure lock from autofocusing is a very useful "pro" feature seldom seen on lower-end cameras.)

In Playback mode, this button calls up a nine-image index display of the captured images on the memory card. If a captured image has been enlarged, this button "zooms" back out from the enlarged view.

Focus Area Selector/Magnify Button: Just beside the AE / FE button, this button allows you to choose the focus area manually or automatically in Program AE, Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE, or Manual Exposure modes. Pressing the button and rotating the Main dial cycles through an automatic setting, or your choice of seven manually-selected focus areas. The automatic setting selects the active focus point(s) based on the position of the subject within the frame, and its proximity to the seven focusing points (shown as seven small boxes arranged in a cross pattern in the viewfinder).

In Playback mode, pressing this button magnifies the captured image from 1.5 to 10x.

LCD Status Panel Illuminator Button
: Adjacent to the lower right corner of the status display panel, this button illuminates the status display window with an orange backlight for a few seconds.

Menu Button: Topping a column of buttons along the left side of the LCD monitor, this button accesses the 300D's LCD-based operating menu in all modes. Pressing the Menu button a second time cancels the menu display. (This button also backs out of menu changes.)

Info Button: Just below the Menu button, this button displays the current exposure settings on the LCD screen when pressed. In Playback mode, pressing this button brings up an information screen that reports the exposure settings that the picture was taken with, and also displays a small histogram, which shows the number of pixels having each possible brightness value.

Jump Button: Directly below the Info button, this button allows you to jump 10 frames forward or backward when viewing images in Playback mode. Once pressed, a jump bar appears in the LCD screen, and jumping is controlled by pressing the right or left arrow keys. The Jump button is active only in Playback mode.

Play Button: Next in line beneath the Jump button, this button puts the camera into Playback mode, regardless of the Mode dial setting. (Pressing the right and left arrow keys in this mode scrolls through captured images.) Playback mode can be canceled by hitting the Play button again, or by touching the Shutter button. (The 300D is a "shooting priority" camera. It's always ready to shoot a picture, regardless of its current mode. Simply pressing the Shutter button returns it immediately to capture mode.)

Erase Button: The final button in the series lining the left side of the LCD monitor, this button accesses the Erase menu, which allows you to erase the current image or all images on the card (except for protected ones). There is also an option to cancel. The Erase function works in Playback mode and the quick review mode only.

Four-Way Arrow Pad: To the right of the LCD monitor on the camera's back panel, this four-button keypad features arrows in each main direction. As the camera's main navigational tool, the keypad selects various camera settings and menu options while in an LCD menu screen.

In Record mode, the up arrow key adjusts the ISO setting (when pressed while turning the Main dial), while the down arrow key selects the white balance mode.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images on the memory card. If an image has been enlarged, all four arrow keys pan the view of the enlarged image.

Set Button: Located in the center of the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button confirms menu selections and camera settings when using the LCD menu system. (One thing I find a bit annoying about the Rebel's user interface was that you can't enter a menu item by pressing the right-arrow key. Rather, have to press the Set button to activate a menu item, then again to confirm your selection. It seems to me that it would be much more efficient and make for faster navigation if you could simply right-arrow over into a menu item once you'd scrolled down to it.)


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