Thursday, November 24, 2005

Canon EOS-350D (Digital Rebel XT) Digital SLR camera: first impressions

Skip towards the bottom to see the photos I've taken with the camera, and ignore all the camera-speak if that's your thing.. :-)

I recently picked up a Canon EOS-350D digital SLR from Plaza Cameras in the city. So far it's looking pretty good, although I'm pretty sure my photography skills still need some work :-)

To start with, I'll run over some of the camera's basic specs. In other parts of the word (USA and Japan) it's called the "Digital Rebel XT" or "Kiss 'n' Digital" for some reason unbeknownst to me, but I'll call it by the name everyone else uses, the EOS-350D. EOS ("electro-optical system") is the prefix Canon affixes to its digital SLRs. For those of you who don't know what that is, you may want to check out the Wikipedia articles on SLR photography and digital SLRs. A full review of the EOS-350D was linked above, and is available on dpreview.com. You can see a picture of the camera here.

The camera features a 8 megapixel CMOS sensor and I purchased it with the "kit lens" which is the Canon EF-S 18-55mm lens.

I have some minor problems with the camera... but then again there are a lot of great features it has that I'm pleased with. I'll get the bad things out of the way first.. to start with, the method of downloading your photos to your PC pisses me off. Instead of using the USB mass storage device class it uses some sort of shitty other standard that I don't quite understand, and you either have to use external software or WIA (Windows Image Acquisition) to get the images. I guess I'll be picking up a card reader soon, because this kinda sucks. Also, I keep losing my USB cables so if I get a card reader that should simplify things somewhat :D

Another thing that annoys me is that in my opinion, the automatic modes (ie. where the camera decides how to take the photo for you) are too simplistic. I can understand where Canon are coming from - they assume that since this is an entry-level DSLR, you buy it to get into photography, and when you're starting off or someone who is not familiar with your camera is trying to take a photo, you don't want to be confused by additional options, when the camera should be taking care of it for you.
However, even though I'm starting to get a feel for what works well in manual mode, I still like to use the basic modes as backup - just in case I screw up the manual ones. The problem here is that the camera doesn't just set the options for you - it hides them. So I can't manually change the ISO speed for example, which even the most basic photographer could understand in a second. What really annoys me most about this though, is that you can't shoot in RAW or manually disable/enable the flash. There is a 'no-flash' mode, but if the camera deems it necessary, the flash will pop up and the camera shoots with it if you're in any other mode. And no-flash mode is the same as the full-auto mode, what if you're trying to take a portrait or landscape shot? I'd like more control over the flash, which is the main reason I started using the manual mode so quickly (ie. full control over it).

Finally, and apparently this is a gripe all 350D owners share, you don't see the ISO speed in the LCD screen or viewfinder. Let me explain. Canon have moved all the key information about your shot (shutter speed, lightmeter, shot mode, aperture etc.) on to a black-and-white LCD above the "main" LCD, although some of this info is still available when looking through the viewfinder. This LCD is backlit when you press a button, and obviously consumes a lot less power than the full colour LCD (which is only activated when looking at the advanced menu or reviewing your shots). I think this is a great idea, since it's often difficult to read a colour LCD in the sunlight. However, for some reason, they neglected to put the ISO speed on this readout. What the hell?

As for the good side, the camera performs as you would expect it to, which doesn't sound like much, but it really is. The sensor gives you excellent detail with almost no noise even at ISO 1600. If I had any complaints they would relate to the flash and lens - but I'm using the standard flash (inbuilt) and lens, so I really can't expect the absolute best quality from them compared to professional photos. Also, these problems are easily fixed by throwing money at the camera and buying a Speedlite (for fill and bounce flashing) and a good lens.

As soon as I have enough money I'll be buying myself a new lens, probably a decent telephoto lens (for those used to point-and-shoot digital cameras, a "zoom lens", although technically this refers to any lens that can zoom in and out, even if it is from wide-angle to 55mm like mine - which means the closest it can zoom is basically the same as your regular eyesight). The lens I have my eye on (haha, optics pun) is the EF 100-400mm USM IS "super-telephoto" lens, but I'm really not seriously considering it; seeing as it costs more than double the cost of the camera's body (around $2 500 AU as far as I can recall). ;-) Also this has Canon's Image Stabilizing technology as well as USM AF (ultrasonic motor auto-focus) which in a nutshell, means really clear and bright images and extremely quiet and fast focussing without a flash.

Anyway, for those of you who I'm sure would rather see some of the photos I've taken than read endless camera-speak, here are some photos I've taken. Click the thumbnails to enlarge them. The only post-processing I've done is resizing/encoding (from 3.5MB JPGs) and on a few, cropping or rotating. (I'll be updating more photos on my deviantART page as I take them..)

picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d
picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d
picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d
picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d
picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d picture taken with canon eos-350d
Damn, that took a long time. Thanks to ImageShack for the free image hosting.

4 comments:

Ben said...

:o jealousy... i so want a digital SLR... that canon 16 megapixel should suit me just fine :P

Anonymous said...

omg rtfm and stop bitching about auto mode. if you use the p setting the camera automatically sets apeture and shutter speed relating to your exposure comp, whilst allowing you to shoot in raw, choose iso/metering mode/autofocus method and have complete control over the flash. on a more pleasant note nice pics and i agree bout the iso thing, but u get used to it. also u need a faster shutter speed for fountains imho

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