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DCRP Review: Canon
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: March 30, 2003
Last Updated: April 2, 2003
Nothing is more frustrating than watching your newly-purchased consumer electronics product get replaced a month after you bought it. That happened to me a month ago, when Canon announced the new EOS-10D Digital SLR ($1499 street price), which replaced the EOS-D60 that I had just bought for more money. Beside the lower price, there are several other significant differences between the 10D and D60, namely:
One thing that has not changed is the 6.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor -- it's the same on both cameras.
Is the EOS-10D as nice as the specs make it sound? Should D60 owners run out and upgrade? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The bundle on the EOS-10D has changed since the D60, as you'll see below. There is no longer a body-only option available either. Inside the box, you'll find:
The biggest changes in the bundle are in the power department. No longer do you get the cool dual battery charger -- now it's just a single battery model. The AC adapter is now optional as well, and buying that will set you back $85. I guess that's one way to get the price down.
Speaking of power, the 10D uses the same BP-511/512 batteries as the D60 and several other Canon cameras. This 7.4V, 1100mAh battery has a total power rating of 8.1 Watt/hours (Wh). Canon has improved the battery life on the 10D. Now you can take about 650 shots per charge if you don't use the flash (up from 620 on the D60), or 500 shots if you use the flash 50% of the time (up from 490). One thing to note about proprietary batteries like this -- they're expensive! Also, if you run out of juice "in the field", you can't just pop in some AAs to finish the day.
When it's time to recharge, pop the battery into the included CB-5L charger. It takes 90 minutes to fully charge the battery.
Digital SLRs do not include a lens or memory card. It's up to you to buy them.
The 10D supports the IBM Microdrive, and I've been happily using one with both my 10D and D60. Do note that Microdrives are power hungry, and will drain the batteries faster than a standard CompactFlash card.
As far as accessories go, if you can name any one accessory, it exists. Want a different eyecup? Done. Flashes? Take your pick. Filters, flashes, carrying cases, and more are all available. And don't forget to buy a lens!
The Canon EOS Digital Solution Disk includes the usual software: ImageBrowser/ZoomBroswer (Mac/PC), PhotoStitch, Remote Capture, and the File Viewer Utility. There are also TWAIN and WIA drivers for Windows. All of the main programs are now Mac OS X native. The camera does NOT mount on your desktop like some others -- you'll need to use Canon's software or a card reader to get your photos off the camera in OS X.
ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser is a simple photo for viewing and performing basic editing tasks on your photos. It's one of the better programs of its kind. PhotoStitch is my favorite program for creating panoramic shots. RemoteCapture lets you control your EOS-10D on your computer, via the USB cable.
File Viewer Utility (the images shown were taken with my D60, not the 10D)
The File Viewer Utility does just that... it lets you view images on your camera and local disks. You can also use it to convert files in RAW format to standard formats like TIFF.
Photoshop Elements 2.0
The final piece of the software bundle is Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0. This is an excellent program for beginners and enthusiasts alike, and I'd recommend it even if you don't buy the 10D. It may just sound like a stripped down version of Photoshop (it is missing some of the advanced features of the full version), but it also has many tools for photo enthusiasts not found in Photoshop. This includes numerous "recipes" for repairing photos, one-touch image enhancement, panorama creation, special effects, and more.
The 10D's manual isn't as user-friendly as their PowerShot manuals, but it sure is complete. Everything you ever wanted to know about your camera is here (and then some).
Look and Feel
There are quite a few changes between the D60 and 10D in terms of the body. One of the biggest is the new magnesium alloy body. It feels a heck of a lot more solid, and the D60 was well-built to begin with.
Some controls have been moved around as well. Rather than list them all here, I'll show some side-by-side pictures now, and will discuss the changes in detail as we go through this section.
Can you spot several differences in these photos. Some of them are good, some aren't. But more on that later.
The official dimensions of the camera, sans lens, are 5.9 x 4.2 x 3.0 inches (WxHxD), the same as the D60. Despite the new metal body, the EOS-10D weighs just 10 g more than the D60, at 790 g.
Okay, let's get our tour of the 10D underway, starting with the front.
Here's a look at the Canon EF lens mount. Practically any Canon EF lenses that you own will work (not all, as I've learned -- I tried one 50mm lens that didn't work). One thing to keep in mind is that you must multiply the lens focal length by 1.6 to find the "effective" focal length on the 10D. For example, a 50mm lens is really an 80mm lens on the 10D.
Just to the right of the lens mount is the lens release button.
Above the lens mount, you can see the built-in flash. The working range of this flash depends on many things, including the ISO setting and what lens you're using. At ISO 100 on a 24 - 85 mm lens, the range is 1.0 - 3.7 m at wide-angle, and 1.0 - 2.9 m at telephoto. This is an improvement over the D60.
If the built-in flash doesn't do it for you, the camera has a hot shoe as well. More on that later.
Over to the upper-left of the lens mount is the redeye reduction lamp, which doubles as the self-timer countdown lamp.
If you looked carefully at the comparison pictures above, you're probably wondering what happened to the AF-assist lamp that was on the D60. On the 10D, Canon uses the built-in flash for the same effect. However, you must have the flash popped up to use it, and when you do that, the camera automatically takes a flash picture as well.
So what do you do when you want to use the AF-assist lamp on a non-flash picture? The easiest way is to change custom function #05, which I'll describe later in the review. Another way is to use a Speedlite or Speedlite wireless transmitter, which have an AF-assist system that doesn't require you to take a flash picture.
The back of the cameras has been refined in a very positive way. The 1.8" LCD is higher resolution, and it really shows. It's also quite a bit brighter.
In case you're new to D-SLRs, you cannot preview an image on the LCD before it is taken. It is used solely for reviewing pictures and operating the menu system.
One thing that can happen with the LCD is nose smudges. Buying a larger eyecup would probably take care of that problem. The eyecups come right off, and there are several other types available from Canon.
The optical viewfinder is huge, and covers 95% of the frame. There is an information line at the bottom, which shows exposure info and settings. Also, there are seven boxes in the viewfinder that show the points that the camera is focusing on. A diopter correction wheel (on the top-right corner of the viewfinder) will help out those with less than perfect vision.
There are five buttons to the left of the LCD:
The button below the LCD is for deleting photos -- one at a time, or all of them. The next button over is the main power switch.
To the upper-right of that is what Canon calls the Quick Control dial. You use this to navigate through the menu system, as well as for adjusting some manual controls. You can disable this dial by using the switch adjacent to it, so you don't accidentally change your settings.
There are three buttons at the upper-right of the back of the camera, and two of them are multi-function. From left to right, they are:
|Button||Record Mode||Playback Mode|
|Left||Assist button - used to quickly get back to your saved focus point||-|
|Center||AE/FE lock - auto exposure and flash exposure locking||Thumbnail mode / Reduce|
AF point selector - AF point selection allows you to use the command dial to move between 7 focus points on the viewfinder
Okay, now it's time for the top of the camera.
There's plenty to see here, so I'll work my way from left to right.
Over on the left side is the mode wheel, which has many choices. There are task-specific modes ("scene modes") and general shooting modes. Here goes:
What are all those for? If you're buying the 10D, you probably already know, but just in case, here's my explanation.
Auto depth-of-field mode will attempt to put all subjects, even at varying distances, in focus. For example, you may want this mode if you're taking a picture of a group of people where everyone is in different places in the frame.
Program mode will let the camera pick the best shutter speed and aperture, while giving you control over all the other settings. This is in contrast with Auto mode, which is basically a point-and-shoot mode.
For control over the aperture, use aperture priority mode, where you'll pick the aperture, and the camera chooses the shutter speed. The aperture range will vary according to your lens.
Shutter priority mode is the exact opposite of aperture priority mode. You will have a choice of shutter speeds ranging from 30 - 1/4000 seconds, and the camera will pick the aperture. There is also a bulb mode, where the shutter is kept open for as long as the shutter release button is pressed. This feature works best with a remote shutter release (of which there are many available).
Full manual mode lets you choose both the shutter speed and aperture.
The new "flash off" item on the mode wheel disables both the built-in flash, as well as any Speedlite you may have attached. And no, this isn't the way to get the camera to use the AF-assist feature without taking a flash picture.
The other items on the mode wheel are "scene modes", where the camera picks the best settings for each situation.
Continuing with our tour, the next item on the top of the camera is the hot shoe. The 10D is fully compatible with Canon's EX-series Speedlites. If you want to use a non-Canon flash, you're doing so at your own risk. It may or may not work correctly. The camera can sync with compact, non-Canon flashes at 1/200 sec or slower, or 1/60 sec of slower for large studio flashes.
Continuing towards the right, we reach the LCD info display, and more buttons. First, the buttons. To change an option with one of these buttons, you press it and then have six seconds to use either the main or quick control dials to choose a setting. The buttons have the following function (from left to right):
|Button||Main Dial Function||Quick Control Dial Function|
|1 (Left)||LCD backlight - turns on orange backlight on the LCD info display (no need to use dials for this one)|
|2||Focus mode (One shot, AI servo)||White balance (Auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, flash, custom, °K)|
Drive (Single-frame, continuous shooting, self-timer)
|ISO (100, 200, 400, 800, 1600) - if ISO expansion is turned on, you can do 3200 as well|
|4 (Right)||Metering (Evaluative, partial, center-weighted average)||Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)|
The EOS-10D received a nice new feature that was once only found on their EOS-1D and -1Ds. That's the ability to set the white balance by color temperature. You can choose a temperature between 2800 - 10000 °K, in increments of 100 °K.
The other features are the same as on the D60. The one shot AF mode is the one you'll use for everyday shooting. AI servo is for action shots, when objects are constantly in motion.
Continuous shooting mode will take up to 9 photos at 3 frames/second. This is a slight improvement over the D60.
Below all those buttons is the LCD info display, as I mentioned. It displays a plethora of information, which doesn't require listing here (that's why Canon includes that thick manual). It's also backlit, which sure comes in handy when you're taking night scenes.
At the top-right of the photo, you'll see the main dial, as well as the shutter release button.
On this side of the camera, there are a couple of things to notice. Just to the right of the lens mount, there are two buttons (three if you count the lens release). The top one will pop-up the flash (it's an electronic, not mechanical release), while the bottom one is used to preview the depth of field.
Over to the right, under a rubber cover, you'll find all the I/O ports on the EOS-10D. Let's take a closer look.
The bottom two ports are for external flash sync (left) and remote shutter release (right). Above that you'll find USB and video out ports. The USB connector has changed since the D60, so your old cable won't work here.
Unlike the more expensive digital SLRs out there, the EOS-10D does not have FireWire (neither did the D60). It's USB only.
Over on the other side, you'll find the CompactFlash slot, which is behind a reinforced plastic door. This is a Type II slot, so the IBM Microdrive is fully supported.
Opening the door while the camera is on will shut it off. If it's still recording images to the CF card, it will stop doing that as well.
On the bottom of the camera, you'll find a metal tripod mount as well as the battery compartment. There's an additional compartment for a watch battery that stores your camera's settings.
The tripod mount is inline with the lens.
Using the Canon EOS-10D
The EOS-10D starts up even faster than the D60. It takes a little over two seconds before you can begin taking photos. This number will vary a bit depending on what kind of memory card you are using.
Autofocus speeds will also depend somewhat on your choice of lens, but it's still blazing fast. It takes well under a second for the camera to lock focus when you half-press the shutter release button. If the AF-assist lamp is used, it will take slightly longer. In low light, the camera focused decently without the lamp, and very well with it.
One area in which the 10D really stands out over its predecessor is with regard to shutter lag. I've owned the D60 for several months, and immediately noticed the improvement when I picked up the 10D. The lag is unnoticeable, even at slower shutter speeds. I'm impressed.
The shot-to-shot speed is also impressive, as it was on the D60. This is one of those cameras where you can really shoot as fast as you can compose (or at least until the buffer fills up).
After you take a photo, you can hit the delete button to review and/or delete the shot just taken.
Now, let's take a look at the many image size and quality choices on the EOS-10D:
|Resolution||Quality||Approx. file size||# Images on 128MB card|
3072 x 2048
2048 x 1360
1536 x 1024
File sizes have gotten a little smaller since the D60. Another change is how the 10D handles the RAW image format. Now, every time you take a RAW image, a JPEG is recorded at the same time (it was optional before).
In case you're not familiar with it, the lossless and uncompressed RAW format's big advantage is the file size: it's at least a third of the size of a TIFF. Another advantage is the fact that you can "fool around" with the image in software since it's the raw CCD data.
RAW images are always saved at 3072 x 2048. You can, however, choose the size of the JPEG that is saved along with it. Here's a continuation of my chart above for the RAW format:
|Quality||Approx. file size (total)||# Images on 128MB card|
|RAW + Large/Fine||8.0 MB||14|
|RAW + Large/Normal||6.7 MB||17|
|RAW + Medium/Fine||6.8 MB||16|
|RAW + Medium/Normal||6.2 MB||18|
|RAW + Small/Fine||6.4 MB||18|
|RAW + Small/Normal||6.0 MB||19|
Images are named using the following convention: IMG_####.JPG, where # = 0001 - 9999. File numbering is maintained as you erase and switch memory cards.
Enough of that, let's move onto menus now.
The 10D has just one menu which contains options for recording, playback, and setup. Each is designated with a color: red, blue, and yellow, respectively. You maneuver through the menus using the Quick Control dial on the back of the camera. The menu choices are:
Ok, how about those custom functions now? These let you get down and dirty with your camera. They are numbered from 01 to 17. And here they are:
01. SET button function when shooting (none, change quality, change parameter set, menu display, image replay)
02. Shutter release w/o CF card (possible, not possible)
03. Flash sync speed in Av mode (Auto, 1/200 sec)
04. Shutter button/AE lock button (AF/AE lock, AE lock/AF, AF/AF lock + no AE lock, AE/AF + no AE lock) - define what these two buttons do
05. AF-assist beam/Flash firing (Emits/Fires, Does not emit/Fires, Only ext. flash/Fires, Emits/Does not fire) - okay, here's the magic function for those who want to use the AF-assist lamp without a flash picture being taken as well.
06. Exposure level increments (1/2, 1/3-stop) - the setting increment for shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation
07. AF point registration (Center AF point, bottom, right, extreme right, automatic selection, extreme left, left, top) - pick a favorite AF point for easy retrieval
08. RAW+JPEG rec. (RAW+Small/Normal, RAW+Small/Fine, RAW+Medium/Normal, RAW+Medium/Fine, RAW+Large/Normal, RAW+Large/Fine) - choose what size JPEG is saved along with the RAW image
09. Bracket sequence/Auto cancel (0/-/+/Enable, 0/-/+/Disable, -/0/+/Enable, -/0/+/Disable) - Choose the order in which exposure and WB bracketing photos are taken, and if it is cancelled when you power off the camera, switch lenses, etc.
10. Superimposed display (on/off) - whether the AF point is shown in the optical viewfinder
11. Menu button display position (Previous [top if powered off] menu, previous menu, top menu) - where the cursor starts when you invoke the menu system
12. Mirror lockup (on/off) - enable it when the vibration of the mirror can blur your photos
13. Assist button function (Normal, select home position, select home position while holding down button, Av ± [select aperture and exposure compensation while holding this down and using the dials], FE lock)
14. Auto reduction of fill flash (on/off) - When turned on, the camera will reduce the flash power for good daylight fill-flash shots
15. Shutter curtain sync (1st, 2nd-curtain)
16. Safety shift in Av or Tv (on/off) - if the subject's brightness changes suddenly, the camera can shift the shutter speed or aperture to obtain a proper exposure
17. Lens AF stop button (AF stop, AF start, AE lock while metering, AF point: M-->Auto/Auto-->Center [for changing the focus point], One Shot <--> AI servo, IS start) - this button is only found on super telephoto lenses
Some of those are pretty confusing, so be sure to consult the camera manual before you change any of the custom functions.
Well, I'm tired of all this menu talk, so let's talk about photo quality now.
This night test shot is interesting for many reasons. It was taken from a different spot than usual, as Twin Peaks is closed during these "orange alerts". You can see helicopters in the sky that were keeping an eye on the anti-war protesters below. You can also see the new Asian Art Museum, the brightly lit building to the right of City Hall.
With the trivia out of the way, I can comment on this 4 second exposure. It's clear, but soft. What I mean by clear is that the resolution is so good that you can identify the billboards miles away. At the same time, this "softness" gives it a kind of blurry look. But more on this later.
Aside from that, everything looks good. No noise to speak of, and the full manual controls give you a ton of flexibility in situations like this.
The macro test isn't really necessary here, because a lot of it depends on the lens you're using. Still, it's a good test of color and sharpness. I took this one (and the night shot above) using my personal Canon 24-85mm lens. Like with the night shot, the 10D produced a very good, but soft image. Colors are perfect.
With built-in flash
With 550EX Speedlite
If you've read my other reviews, you know about how the placement of the flash affects redeye. The closer to the lens the flash is, the worse the redeye will be (generally). I took two redeye shots for this test, one with the 10D's built-in flash, and the other with the Canon 550EX Speedlite. The difference is obvious, as you can see. I was pretty surprised at how bad the redeye was using the built-in flash.
These next two sections are more detailed than in my typical review, as D-SLR buyers request. First, I'm going to talk about the image softness I have referred to thus far.
Canon cameras of late have a soft, "smooth" look to them. Canon applies very little in-camera sharpening to their images (at default settings), leaving it to the photographer to deal with later on their PC. And a lot of people like it that way. I prefer a little sharper image straight out of the camera myself. Here's a little comparison about the effect of in-camera sharpness settings on photo quality.
Normal Sharpness (0)
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
I'm hoping you can spot the differences there. Be sure to pull up the full size images and take a closer look. Cranking up the sharpness helps for sure, especially at the maximum (+2) setting.
|Section below added 4/2/03|
There has been much discussion on the Internet about focus and image softness issues with the 10D. One of the things brought up was about resetting the camera settings. Some folks, myself included, got much better results after resetting the camera. That fix doesn't always work though.
A related problem (covered in DP Review's article about the 10D) is front/back focusing problems. That means that the camera doesn't focus where it's supposed to -- either a little in front, or a little in back of where it should be. Here are crops from two photos that I took at the exact same settings and fancy "L" series lens, with a tripod and remote shutter cable. The ONLY difference was the focus mode used:
See the difference? My point is that it's not clear what the cause of the image quality issues I've raised is -- but something is definitely strange.
The other image quality topic I wanted to bring up is one that I'm sure many people want answered: how does the 10D's photo quality compare with that of the D60? Well, I've compiled three photos will hopefully will help you answer that question yourself. All three were taken with the exact same lens and same default camera settings at the same time. Again, be sure to view the full size images when comparing these.
Some of my observations about these: I'd say the 10D did a better job of exposing the first two, though photo #2 may be up for some debate, as the D60 metered the shot differently, producing a brighter hallway at the expense of blown-out highlights on the right side. Photo #3 looks very close, but the 10D seems a little clearer... look at the street sign and stained glass. The differences aren't dramatic, but they are there. And please, don't take my word for it -- have a look and draw your own conclusions.
In conclusion, I'd say that the EOS-10D produces very well-exposed images with superb color and good detail. The downside is that images are too soft (in this reviewer's opinion) at the default sharpness setting. You have two ways around this: either crank up the in-camera sharpening, or leave it as is, and do the sharpening in Photoshop instead. In the 10D's defense, the D60 also produces soft images, and in my own usage, I've cranked up the sharpness a notch.
I have created an extensive photo gallery for you to check out. Have a look, and decide if the 10D is right for you!
No digital SLRs have movie modes.
Playback ModeThe playback mode on the D60 was kind of embarrassing. Even $200 cameras did it better. That's not the case anymore, as Canon has updated the playback features considerably on the EOS-10D.
I've already listed the basic playback features back in the menu section, but here they are again: image protection, thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, and slide shows. There's also an image rotation feature.
The thing that's really been improved is what I call "zoom and scroll". This lets you zoom in as much as 10X into your photo, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. This is a great way to check the focus on a photo.
Zoom and scroll
On the D60, you had to repeatedly press a button just to get into this mode, and then you had one zoom level to work with. Now you have several zoom ratios from 1.5X to 10X, and the whole process is much easier. Kudos to Canon for improving this.
You can use the jump button to quickly move ahead 10 images (or 9 in thumbnail mode), which is handy when you've got lots of pictures on the memory card.
Deleting photos is easy, as there's a button right on the camera for that purpose. You can delete one or all of the photos on the card. I would've liked a way to select a group of photos to delete, but most cameras don't offer that option.
As you'd expect, the camera tells you plenty about the photos you've taken. A histogram is also shown. The camera moves through images fairly quickly, showing a low-res version instantly, with a high-res version about two seconds later.
How Does it Compare?
The Canon EOS-10D is the best deal out there for a digital SLR camera. It's hard to believe, but the 10D sells for $500 less than the Olympus E-10 I bought just a few years ago. It's a heck of a lot more capable, too. The 10D offers all the benefits of a D-SLR, namely interchangeable lenses, support for external flashes, full manual controls, and robust performance. The 10D improves upon the already excellent EOS-D60 with its faster processing, more solid metal body, higher resolution LCD, improved playback mode, and all the other items that I've mentioned above.
Image quality is excellent, though I find it to be too soft at the default settings (I've already mentioned two ways around that). I'm also not a huge fan of the new AF-assist lamp system, which uses the flash instead of a separate lamp. That's fine if you want to take a flash picture, but if you don't, it requires a lengthy trip to the custom settings menu.
As an owner of an EOS-D60, I'm able to notice and appreciate the improvements Canon made in the 10D. At the same time, I am not planning on trading up for the latest and greatest -- the changes aren't significant enough for me.
But, for someone who wants a D-SLR, the EOS-10D is a great buy, especially with a street price of $1499. I would imagine that it's only a matter of time before the other manufacturers start cutting prices as well.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other D-SLRs to consider include the Canon EOS-D60 (nearing the end of its life), Fuji's S2 Pro, the Nikon D100, and the upcoming Pentax *ist D.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the 10D and its competitors before you buy!
I've got tons of photos in our gallery!
Want a second opinion?Check out other opinions about this camera at Steve's Digicams, Imaging Resource, and DP Review.
Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.
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