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Canon EOS 10D Review

First Primetime DSLR

Peter Kun Frary


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Canon's consumer DSLR (digital SLR) legacy began with the 3 megapixel EOS D30 in 2001. Although a price and performance breakthrough, the D30 was crippled by a feeble 3-sensor AF array borrowed from the Rebel G. Moreover, low light AF performance left much to be desired. The second generation D60 was a step-up in terms of resolution (6.3MP), but offered little AF improvement. However, the third generation EOS 10D is the best performing, most feature packed and refined design of the series.

4th of July • EOS 10D & EF 28-135 3.5-5.6 IS USM • F11 & 15 seconds

Major Features & Specifications

Features from past EOS film and digital cameras have been refined and incorporated in the EOS 10D. The EOS 10D is basically a digital Elan 7 on steroids: AF, metering and controls are ripped straight off the Elan 7; the imaging chip comes from the D60; construction is closely akin to pro EOS bodies; and enhanced algorithms and CPU reduce noise and improve image accuracy.

Canon EOS 10D • Looks, feels, operates and smells like an EOS.

Seven-Point Wide Area Auto Focus borrowed from the Elan 7. It retains the cool flashing AF rectangles but lacks eye-controlled focus (ECF). The omission of ECF is a major failing for Canon and makes AF selection slower and less convenient than the Elan 7E (you gotta press a button and spin two wheels, sheesh!). AF sensitivity (Ev .5 to 18) is not only much better than the D30/60, but is more responsive than the Elan 7 in low light.

Near Silent Operation. Mirror slap is surprisingly soft, softer than any EOS camera other than the EOS IX. Of course, there is no film advance drive. With a USM lens, this is an extremely quiet camera. The EOS 20D and 30D are loud in comparison.

Burst Mode. AI servo and continuous single frames clock at 3 FPS for a total of 9 frames.

Shutter Speeds. 1/4000 to 30 seconds in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments. Bulb and self timer ability. 1/200 flash sync.

Three Metering Patters: 35-zone evaluative, center weighted and partial (9% of frame). No spot meter. Unlike the Elan 7, partial metering can't be linked to the active AF sensor.

ISO 100 to 3200 are available at the touch of a button and spin of a dial. ISO 100 is amazingly noise free (grain free). Noise increases with both ISO speed and temperature. Living in the tropics, I've found fast ISO settings too noisy for normal use, especially during hot muggy days. Photographers in cooler climates report excellent results with ISO 800 and 1600.

Multitude of Exposure Modes: programmed "PIC" modes (sports, night, portrait, etc.), programmed AE, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual and depth of field (A-DEP). Moreover, you may override P, Av and TV modes with -2 to +2 of exposure compensation or auto bracketing.

Sunset at RoundtopEOS 10D, EF 17-40 4L USM: 40mm, F4

E-TTL Flash. The popup E-TTL flash sports 43 GN (feet at ISO 100) and 18 mm coverage. You'll need the 420 EX or 550 EX external flash for High-Speed Sync (FP) and wireless multiple Speedlites with ratio control. Flash Exposure Lock (FE), AE flash compensation function and 2nd curtain sync are available with the popup flash. Older flashes A-TTL/TTL (430EZ, 540EZ, etc.) won't work with this camera except in manual flash mode.

Dioptric Adjustment (-3.0 to + 1.0) is built into the eyepiece. You won't care about this if you have 20/20 vision, but a sharp viewfinder for the rest of us makes for better shooting.

17 Custom Functions let you customize controls and/or features in 61 possible combinations. For example, you may move AF activation to the AE/FE Lock button or disable the AF assist light.

Depth of Field Preview is available via a small button on the front of the camera. This button also doubles as a modeling light when used with the 420EX or 550EX flash in wireless mode.

Mirror Lockup is enabled by setting a custom function. Locking up the mirror helps avoid vibration during high magnification photography or slow shutter speeds. It's a pain to set a CF when you need this feature, not to mention disabling it afterwards.

6.5 Megapixel CMOS Sensor (6.3MP effective). The 10D produces 3072 x 2048 pixel images (smaller sizes available). Raw, JPEG and Raw with embedded JPEG are the available file formats.

1.8 Inch LCD. TFT color LCD with 118,000 pixels and 5 levels of brightness. While not a wonder screen, I found it clear under most conditions except sunlight. Brightness and contrast varies according to viewing angle. It sure is tiny!

1.6x Cropping or Magnification Factor. The CMOS sensor is 22.7 x 15.1 mm, about 40% smaller than 35 mm film (36 x 24 mm), resulting in a cropping factor of 1.6x. For example, a 100 mm lenses has the equivalent coverage of a 160 mm lens in 35 mm format. This cropping factor is great for telephoto shooters but bad news for wide angle junkies.

Magnesium Body. The metal body shell gives the EOS 10D heft and an extremely solid feel. In the hand, it feels more like an EOS 1V than an Elan 7. The metal makes it cool to the touch.

Computer Interface. The direct USB 1.1 connection to a computer is painfully S-L -O -W. Too bad it doesn't have Firewire. Surely it wouldn't have cost much more. You'll want to use a Firewire compact flash card reader to upload images to your computer.

North Shore Boys • EOS 10D & EF 24-85 3.5-4.5 USM • P mode

Included Accessories

File Viewer Utility, ImageBrowser, PhotoStitch, RemoteCapture and Photoshop Elements 2.0 are included in the software package. These early versions of Canon's software are slow, chunky and unstable. Once installed, go to Canon's website and update to the latest software, e.g. Digital Photo Professional. The newest versions are greatly improved and stable under Mac OS 10.6x (not sure about Windows). The 10D even works with Pictures Styles if you shoot RAW. Tip: to get the lastest software updates, search under later models such as 50D or 7D.

A single-well battery charger, BP-511 lithium ion battery, neck strap with Canon Digital emblazoned across it, manuals, USB cable and video cable are in the box too. A compact flash card is not included. Thus, you'll need to purchase a couple 256MB or larger compact flash cards.

©Copyright 2003-2012 by Peter Kun Frary • All Rights Reserved

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