Canon EOS 350D / DIWA Awards review
By Matjaz Intihar; translated by: Gregor Borosa
May 15, 2005, 13:30
This year the sale of digital single-lens reflex cameras is estimated to increase by 400%. Not surprisingly, early in the year, Canon has introduced the camera, which will make the largest impact.
In August 2003, Canon launched the EOS 300D. The first DSLR camera that was available for masses for an attractive price. It was compared to the analogue camera Canon AE-1, which was the first camera driven by a processor in which was, 30 years ago, the top selling SLR camera. Canon always knew what the market wants and how to satisfy customers
EOS 300D was the best selling DSLR camera from its launch till March 2005. Its successor, the EOS 350D will even surpass these numbers.
The Canon EOS 350D is the camera, which will set new records. My first question after reading the press release of the new camera was, is EOS 350D really capable of that or is it just a decent successor to EOS 300D.
|The kit lens 18 - 55mm, f/3.5-5.6 is of second generation. There are a few cosmetic changes and it is probably adapted for a higher resolution sensor. Unfortunately it has a plastic mount. Photographers that change lenses often will not be satisfied. You can easily brush a little piece of plastic off with a sharp metal mount on the camera. This particle can then fall on the lens or even in the inside of the camera.|
I've written many articles about EOS 300D on my website e-fotografija.com and I've also added an article with my personal evaluation of the camera Matjaževa ocena, where I've written about things that camera still didn't offer and that many photographers can be disappointed with it if they rush into ordering it without giving it a reasonable thought. The EOS 300D lacked of some functions so it couldn't be the right equipment for advanced photographers.
And then it became clear that the camera had many functions just locked from use. Russian hackers have broken the code and the camera gained some important features (an article from Marjan Zavodnik). However the EOS 300D was always an attractive camera, thanks mostly to its low price. In 2003 there just was no competition. On the other hand the nicknames it got, like plastic-fantastic, told a lot about what camera class are we talking about.
In 2004 came other competitive cameras and prices went down. Even Canon had to do something. At first, they lowered the price of the EOS 300D, and then introduced another camera at the beginning of the year. Technical specifications in press releases promised more features for the same price. Customers started to queue when they didn't even know what the camera will look like. There were some stores which were even collecting pre-orders with no camera on sight yet. This tells a lot about the confidence people have in a company.
|Comparing sizes between the EOS 300D and the EOS 350D.|
|The top side of the camera surprised me with its big control dial for adjusting exposure programs. It reminded me of the one on the Sony 828, which I like a lot, because it is well build and has a nice grip. I didn't get the same impression with the EOS 350D, however at least the markings are nicely visible. It does look better than the dials on EOS 300D or EOS 20D.|
|Height is pretty much the same. The flash pops-up much higher in the EOS 350D.|
|Looking only at the body which is slightly re-designed, we aren't aware that the new camera has a lot more to offer.|
Before the first reviews of the EOS 350D the expectations were very high for me and for customers. When I finally had the camera in my hands, I immediately got the feeling of much greater value than the EOS 300D offered. Small, black matted plastic body suited me a lot more than the silver, clumsy body of the EOS 300D. Well, colour and design are personal matters and tell us nothing about what a camera is capable of. That's why I've written that my first impression of the camera was better.
Canon EOS 350D
When you hold the camera in your hands, you are surprised at how small it is. For Canon, getting cameras small was never an important goal. The body measures 126.5 x 94.2 x 64mm. It is only few millimetres bigger than the smallest DSLR in the world, Pentax *istDs. The handgrip is quite big, but it still takes time to get used to such a small camera. I believe that many travellers will find it a perfect tool for long journeys. It also weighs only 540g with the battery included. *ist Ds weighs 605g.
A closer look reveals more. Thanks to the black matted body (the only one available in Slovenia), the camera looks more professional. From a distance it looks like the EOS 350D can be compared to much more expensive cameras. But take another look and you will see that this camera belongs to the class defined by its price. The design is still rough and traces of fingernails are left on the plastic body. It is still easy to clean though.
|The body measures only 126.5 x 94.2 x 64mm. It is only few millimetres bigger than the smallest DSLR in the world, Pentax *istDs.|
When you unscrew the cap on the front side of the camera, you see a huge opening. The impression is stronger because otherwise the body is very small. The camera is adapted for APS-C (22.2 x 14.8mm) sensors, so the parts inside, especially the mirror, seem very small.
With other buttons and functions at the front side of the camera we are already familiar. On the right is a lens-release button, underneath is depth-of-field preview button and when using external flash, there is a button for extended exposure (2 seconds for checking the motif and shadows). The button above is for manually triggering the flash.
Left from the lens is a small white light. At first I thought this is for focusing in the dark like in some EOS cameras. But this light is only an indicator for the self-timer. On the top of the front side of the handgrip is a piece of red plastic, behind which is the receiver of the IR remote control.
|On the top of the camera is a big control dial for selecting shooting modes.|
The top side was a surprise for me because of the large in very noticeable control dial for selecting shooting modes. It looked very much like the one on the Sony 828, which has a great feel to it. On EOS 350D it offers a nice overview of the modes, but the feeling is somewhat not as attractive. Left from it is an external flash mount and build-in flash underneath it. Right from it is a decent on/off switch. On the top of the handgrip is a dial for setting various functions and a shutter release button. The front and top side of the camera is designed very well and buttons are easily reachable
|The battery is smaller than in the EOS 300D. The power consumption is reduced also, we can make at least 600 shots at normal use.|
|The EOS 350D can use EF-S lenses, which are adapted for smaller APS-C type sensors.|
All other sides of the camera feature the same good design. On the left side there are connections for video out, remote trigger and USB 2.0, hidden behind a rubber cover.
The right side has only the doors for CF memory cards. At the bottom is a button for releasing the cards. If you have troubles reaching the card, just press the button once more and the card will flip out even more.
The bottom side has a metal tripod mount and a battery compartment door. In order to achieve such a small size of the body, the EOS 350D also has a smaller battery than we were used to have in the G series and amateur EOS models (BP-511). This might seem a bit disturbing for some users.
However the camera now consumes a lot less energy, so even the battery we know from S series (NB-2LH) provides a longer up-time than the larger and stronger battery in the EOS 300D.
|The EOS 350D has on the back side the design found in some compact cameras. The EOS 350D is only a linking chain between compact and DSLR cameras.|
The back of the camera is loaded with information and buttons, this feeling is stronger because of the small body, too. Another reason is that the LCD display, which is usually found at the top of the camera, on the 350D is placed above the TFT screen. The camera doesn't have a dial for moving among the settings, instead it has four buttons, left, right, up, down, and confirm button in the middle.
What you first notice is the status LCD display and 1.8'' TFT screen. On the LCD display you can find information about exposure time, aperture, white balance, battery status, custom functions, resolution, compression and focusing mode. On the TFT screen you can preview your photos, check information about each picture and check various settings of the camera via menus.
Left from these displays are five buttons for controlling the menu: menu activation, shooting information, browsing through photos, instant preview and deleting photos. There are eight buttons on the right from the screens. The first is for adjusting aperture in M mode or for exposure compensation. The second is for activating the self-timer or remote control and for burst shooting (3 frames per second). The third button is for back-lighting the LCD display, which is a nice feature when photographing in the dark. It also serves for direct printing DPOF. Then there are four buttons in a circle which are used for navigation and setting ISO, AF mode, white balance and metering.
The middle button is the SET button, used for confirming all the settings. Finally, at the right top corner are thumb buttons for exposure lock, selecting focusing point or for magnifying photos during preview. A magnification of 10x is available, so you can check the sharpness of photos even on the TFT screen.
There is of course a viewfinder and to the right is a button for diopter adjustment.
|Left from these displays are five buttons for controlling the menu: menu activation, shooting information, browsing through photos, instant preview and deleting photos.|
|There are eight buttons on the right from the screens. The first is for adjusting aperture in M mode or for exposure compensation. The second is for activating the self-timer or remote control and for burst shooting (3 frames per second). The third button is for back-lighting the LCD display, which is a nice feature when photographing in the dark. It also serves for direct printing DPOF. Then there are four buttons in a circle which are used for navigation and setting ISO, AF mode, white balance and metering. The middle button is the SET button, used for confirming all the settings.|
Functions and operating
We are familiar with a lot of symbols on the camera back from 1986 and first EOS cameras, 650 and 620. Digital symbols are the same as were on the EOS D30. Many settings and buttons are the same as on the EOS 300D. There are only a few added functions and higher-quality buttons.
The EOS 350D has a new CMOS sensor with the size of 22.2 x 14.8mm and 8.0 million effective pixels. The sensitivity can be selected from 100-1600ISO. There is a DiGIC II AD converter, the same found in professional cameras EOS 1D MkII and EOS 1Ds MkII. The new sensor and DiGIC II processor consume only small amount of energy. The Canon CMOS and the excellent DiGIC II processor produce high quality image even at high ISO values.
For many years Canon is stressing how quality of the final image, power consumption and the speed of processing depend on the processors and algorithms. They also say that the noise is more a result of bad processing than bad sensors. So it is not surprising that Canon is so proud at their DiGIC processor. It makes it possible to offer the highest quality of images in the professional class cameras, but it also offers attractive price/quality ratio in the lower class.
Capturing images on CF (CompactFlash) memory cards is available as JPEG or RAW or both. There are sRGB and Adobe RGB colour spaces to choose from. Sharpness, saturation, contrast and tone can be preset at processing. BW and other filters can be used. It works as you would add different colour filters (yellow, orange, red ...) or as if you would use chemicals that add a certain colour tone (sepia ...).
Light metering can be set to evaluative 35 zones, center-weighted or partial at 9% center. As with all lower class EOS cameras, the EOS 350D doesn't have spot metering. This is a rule of Canon and perhaps quite justifiable, as not many users of these amateur cameras have a need for spot metering. Some compact cameras do have it, but average user of the EOS 350D will presumably rarely need it and if he does, there are other cameras to go for.
The EOS 350D is not and will never be a camera for more demanding users. That is why Canon has skipped some features in lower and middle class cameras. Another important thing is that with cheaper models, the AF and metering system are cheaper too. Metering system is for an experienced user only a tool to help him set his manual values. But hobby photographers often trust these systems completely and evaluative metering also. There is of course bracketing available, so one can shoot three differently exposed pictures in a row and pick the best one out.
|The camera doesn't have a dial for moving among the settings, instead it has four buttons, left, right and up.|
White balance settings in the EOS 350D are standard: auto, tungsten, sunlight, flash etc. There is also custom white balance setting, which can be used by taking a comparative shot and than use it for reference. The EOS 350D has bracketing with three shots in a row, each manually set with exposure compensation. Obviously it is easier to add this software function as it would be to add a true spot metering.
Diopter of the viewfinder can be set from -3 to +1. It has a clear view, as it uses a new focusing screen, but it is darker than we are used with full frame 35mm cameras, since the mirror is quite smaller and because there is mirror instead of a prism. However this also makes it a little lighter. The viewfinder is supposed to cover 95% of the view, which means that the image will be slightly bigger than what we see through the viewfinder. Focusing screen is fixed and cannot be changed. Visible are all settings from EOS 300D, plus FE (flash exposure compensation) and flash sync at short exposure times (above 1/200).
Auto focusing is done by a well known TTL-CT-SIR system with a CMOS sensor (not the one for capturing the image, of course) and with seven focusing points, which can be set manually or automatically. There are three focusing modes: focusing once (One-Shot AF), tracking constantly moving subject (AI Focus) and tracking differently moving subject (AI Servo). Focusing in the dark is done with the help of a short burst flash (4x) from the build-in flash unit.
ISO values can be set form 100 to 1600ISO. Exposure times are from 30s to 1/4000 second, with 1/200sec sync and bulb setting.
Burst shooting is available at 3fps (frames per second) and max 14 JPEG (or 5 RAW+JPEG) photographs in a row, when the internal buffer fills and the camera slows down.
|Buttons which we operate with thumb and forefinger are very well laid out.|
EOS 350D after first tests
The camera surprises with its small size and weight (only 485g without the battery). To some people EOS 350D will even seem too small, but it is still nice to hold it and there is always the possibility to buy optional battery grip, which can be mounted at the bottom of the camera and can hold two batteries.
Most of the buttons on the camera are placed well and appropriately marked. There are some difficulties with the buttons at the back, but you get used to them soon. It can be disturbing that some settings are changed only by pressing the button (shooting mode) and with other you have to use the dial also (compensation, Av) or you have to press one of the five buttons on the left to activate the MENU, then change settings inside and confirm it by pressing the SET button. A bit confusing. However it becomes familiar soon enough and it is also very nice to have all main functions handy, press a button and it's done. Many users of the EOS 350D will never even change the settings. And when they do, the time to activate one function is not as critical as it is to professional photographers. All main data about shooting are clearly displayed on the status LCD display.
Those that will hold a Canon camera for the first time will have to get used to icons on the LCD display. There is an INFO button, which will show all the parameters of taken photos on the TFT screen, e.g. date and time of the shot, exposure compensation, colour space used (sRGB, Adobe RGB), preset parameters (sharpness, tone, contrast and saturation), ISO and free space on your memory card.
The door for CF memory cards open nicely. The card eject button has two positions. When you press it once, the card can be removed. However if you still can’t get it, press the button again and it will slip out even more. The battery compartment door can be opened with your fingernail, but especially women must be careful for their nails not to get stuck in the hole while removing or inserting the NB-2LH battery.
Despite the battery having only 720mAh, I used it for 1065 shots and it still wasn't empty. That's a difference with new batteries. For the first time it was charged for a couple of hours (some manufacturers of Li-Ion batteries suggest the first charging to be 16h), than twice completely emptied and recharged. After about 50 recharges I think it will last less. However 600 shots as is written in the manual should be enough for normal use. Either way, you should always have a spare battery with you. All in all, the EOS 350D consumes much less power than its predecessor, the EOS 300D, thanks to new CMOS sensor with 8.0 mega pixels and the new DiGIC processor. The sensor is not the same as used in the EOS 20D, despite having approximately the same number of effective pixels and is of same size. Still it has very low consumption of power and just maybe this can impact the final image too, but cameras in different price ranges have to differentiate somehow.
|Even in the cheapest DSLR class, Canon still uses CF memory cards.|
The MENU is divided among five windows. When you press the MENU button, all setting on the TFT screen are barely visible, but when you move around with four navigation buttons, selected items become more clear. Majority of functions in the first and second windows can be set using the buttons on the camera. Each change of the settings has to be confirmed with the SET button, which is something that takes time to get used to. Many new users find this completely redundant, but then it becomes a routine and you don't even notice doing it anymore.
In the third window we can set how we will be reviewing photos. There are fewer functions available as are in the compact cameras, but users of DSLR cameras usually transfer all pictures to the computer and edit them with photo-editing software. So additional functions in the camera are not really that important.
The fourth and fifth windows are for setting the camera (on/off and standby times, auto-rotating photos, brightness of the TFT screen, formatting memory cards, custom functions, reset function to default values and sensor cleaning function which exposes the sensor for as long as the battery lasts or we turn the camera off. We need this when cleaning off the dust on the sensor. Less experienced should leave this job to be done by trained service personnel.
Nine custom functions are available, they can be switched on/off or set a value. Most of them will be of use to advanced photographers.
The first custom function is useful for everyone. It can be used to program the SET button, with which we can than change resolution and compression of photos, sharpness, tone, contrast and saturation, quick preview or focus point selection. While selecting focusing points and quick preview can be done with buttons on the camera (right top at the back of the camera and below by the TFT screen), other functions can be handy, especially setting the resolution and compression of photos.
|On the left side are video out, remote control and USB 2.0 connections, covered with a piece of rubber.|
The second setting is noise reduction for long exposures. Another useful function is mirror lockup, where the mirror lifts up when you first press the shutter release button and the shot is made only when you press it again. You can also set flash burst time and mount AF/AE lock to various buttons.
These are the features in which the EOS 350D is far better than the EOS 300D. Some might still miss something, but everyone will have to realize that companies can offer just a limited set of functions in each class range. More advanced cameras cost a lot more. This is something that customers often forget, because cameras change so quickly and the demand is very high.
We will again have to discover that each camera is build for a purpose and has only the functions it needs. The price of the cameras is often neglected and buyers of cheaper models demand all the features that only professional cameras have. In 2003 in the 4th issue of my magazine I have added a subtitle for my EOS D60, EOS 10D and Nikon D100 review, »cameras for those who want more and for poor professionals. « Nowadays many professional photographers laugh at this statement, but in 2003 some took it as an offence, since many couldn't afford to buy extremely expensive PRO DSLR cameras and middle-range cameras were more popular among professional photojournalists. And in the analogue times they wouldn't even touch middle-range cameras, and then they were praising them.
Veljko Jukič, photojournalists for formula 1 was one of them. He wasn't mad at me, but in time he found out himself that for a serious work you mustn't play with inappropriate equipment. He wrote two persuasive articles about it. Today it is no different. As I have written for the EOS 300D, that don't buy it in haste if you really need an advanced camera, this goes for the EOS 350D also as it doesn't match the EOS 20D. The EOS 350D is an excellent camera for all average hobby photographers who know what this camera is capable of.
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