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Canon EOS 350D Digital SLR Review

Canon EOS 350D Digital SLR Review - Canon EOS 350D Digital SLR Review

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Canon EOS 350D
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The EOS 300D from Canon was the first true entry-level digital SLR. It brought high quality digital SLR photography within reach of consumers. Its successor, the 350D, has more pixels and is smaller, lighter, quicker and cheaper. In this review Gary Wolstenholme will discover whether the king of entry-level digital SLRs has been usurped.

Canon  EOS 350D Specification

  • 8.0 Megapixel CMOS sensor
  • 3 frames-per-second continuous shooting
  • Max. 14 large JPEG images in a single burst
  • Super responsive DIGIC II performance and superb image quality
  • 7-point wide area AF
  • E-TTL II distance-linked precision flash system
  • USB Hi-Speed and Video out interface
  • Digital Photo Professional RAW image processing software
  • Simultaneous RAW and JPEG recording
  • Compact and lightweight body
  • Compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses, and Speedlite EX flashes
  • Print direct without PC to PictBridge compatible photo printers
  • Shutter speeds from 1/4000 to 30 seconds
Build and handling
The first thing that strikes me about the EOS 350D is just how small it is, measuring just 9.5cm tall, 12.5cm wide and 13.5cm deep, with the lens it really is tiny for an SLR camera. In fact, some people may find the camera too small. I found the tiny finger grip comfortable, even though there is only room for two of  my fingers, leaving my little finger with nothing to grab hold of. When the camera has the standard 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S lens attached, the camera is well balanced. This is not the case with heavier lenses from Canon's extensive EF lens range. A battery grip is available which helps give a bit more camera to grab hold of.

Display screens and viewfinder
Canon  EOS 350D On the rear of the camera, there are two LCD display screens. The top one is a monochrome display for exposure information, white balance modes and quality settings, and the bottom screen displays the images taken, along with menu features not dealt with by the other screen. The colour LCD screen is bright, sharp and fairly easy to see in daylight, I just found it a little too small to be really useful for checking sharpness and composition, especially when I took vertically orientated pictures. The camera rotates these images automatically making them too small to see without zooming in to them.

The viewfinder is not bad for an entry-level digital SLR camera, it's small and the viewfinder image looks a fair distance away, but despite this it is bright and the focus selection points are very clear and easy to locate. Exposure information is displayed underneath the viewfinder window in green LEDs in a clear and well-ordered fashion.

Menu and controls
Canon  EOS 350D Located on the top of the camera is the exposure mode dial and the power switch. The camera is ready to shoot as soon as you flip the power switch. The exposure mode dial provides access to the various pre-set scene modes and the manual exposure modes. All the usual suspects are included such as, portrait, landscape, macro, sports, night portrait and fully automatic.  Manual exposure modes including aperture-priority, shutter-priority and full manual are also located on this dial.

A unique feature of Canon cameras is the automatic depth-of-field mode. This allows you to select the closest and furthest points in your image you wish to be in focus. Once the points are determined, the camera sets the appropriate exposure to gain the necessary depth-of-field automatically.

The buttons to gain access to the various menus and photographic controls are all clearly laid out on the back of the camera. Located down the left hand side of the camera is the button for the menu, and an information button. Also there's the button for accessing the playback mode and the button to erase pictures. The camera settings menu is displayed as a list, separated by tabs along the top. The first menu contains commonly used settings, such as the metering mode, ISO sensitivity and autofocus mode. The second of these tabs reveals less commonly adjusted photographic settings, such as flash exposure compensation, white balance bracketing and colour space settings.The playback tab reveals options to rotate your images or set the print order when used in conjunction with a PictBridge compatible printer. The two settings tabs contain options to deal with file numbering and other more advanced options like what firmware version the camera is running on.

Canon  EOS 350D The directional pad on the back of the camera not only allows you to navigate the menus, they also allow quick access to some of the most commonly used settings such as ISO sensitivity, metering modes, white balance settings, and the autofocus mode being used. This feature greatly enhances the usability of the camera, saving you from dipping into the menu every time you want to change one of these settings.

Located directly below the viewfinder are the exposure compensation control and the self-timer or continuous shooting selector. The placement of these controls could cause problems for those who use their left eye to look through the viewfinder as they then become difficult to reach. When I tried it, I kept pressing the exposure compensation button with my nose.

Battery
One NB-2LH lithium-ion rechargeable battery provides power for the Canon EOS 350D. This battery is much smaller than the lithium-ion batteries found in competing digital SLRs although the battery-life does not seem to have suffered as a result. The CMOS sensor employed in this camera uses less power than a CCD chip does, so it makes sense why Canon have chosen to use a smaller battery to keep the size to a minimum.

Lens system
The Canon EOS 350D is compatible with the entire range of Canon EF and EF-S autofocus lenses. Lenses for every purpose are available, from cheaper zooms, through to lenses for specialist applications.
Canon ditched their manual focus FD lens mount in the 1980's in favour of the EF lens mount. This means that older FD lenses are not compatible with this camera.

Canon  EOS 350D

Flash system

E-TTL II is Canon's new flash system which uses distance information provided by the lens to ensure the exposure is accurate, even close-up. The small built-in pop-up flash is great for providing a bit of fill-in light outdoors, or as a last resort when light levels fall. When the flash fires, a couple of rapid pre-flashes are used to aid accurate metering.
A comprehensive range of Canon EX Speedlites are available to attach to the hot-shoe when the built in flash isn't adequate. These range from the tiny Speedlite 220EX through to the powerful 580EX. Older EZ flashguns do not support E-TTL, and are not compatible with this camera.
The camera doesn't have a PC sync socket for use with studio flash. Adaptors are available that attach to the camera's hot-shoe.
Canon  EOS 350D
A white wall shot using the on-board flash at 18mm, adjusted in levels to illustrate flash coverage. Fall-off gradually increases towards the corners, but is smooth and barely noticeable in normal circumstances.

Memory card
Compact Flash cards are used for storage in the Canon EOS 350D. These cards are currently available in capacities up to 8GB, providing ample storage for most photographers needs.

Shooting

Autofocus performance is very good for a camera of this level, I found it fast and accurate. The different autofocus points can be selected by holding the AF selector button on the back and turning the dial. I would prefer a separate control for AF point selection as I found that having to use the same dial to select a focus point and to control exposure meant I could not do both at the same time. It 's only a minor problem, the system will be more than satisfactory for many photographers.

Three metering modes are available for selection - evaluative, centre-weighted and partial. The evaluative mode is described as, 'suited for most subjects even under backlit conditions.' Evaluative metering is very good in normal situations, tending to error on the side of underexposure. In backlit conditions partial metering performs much better than the evaluative mode which invariably underexposed the subject. I was disappointed by the lack of a spot meter and even more disappointed by the fact that the partial metering option is fixed to the centre of the frame. This means that the meter reading has to be taken, then the shot recomposed and taken if you wish to meter off a subject away from the centre of the frame. This can make gaining the correct exposure difficult in rapidly changing light.

Image Quality
All images for this review were taken at maximum resolution using the fine JPEG compression setting, and using the Canon EF-S lens which is bundled as standard. There are several different compression levels and resolution settings including RAW to choose from allowing you to select the setting most appropriate for your needs.

The colours produced by this camera are accurate, but quite muted. Images often appear quite soft and benefit from a little extra sharpening being applied afterwards.
Canon  EOS 350D

Digital noise
The following series of images illustrate the amount of digital noise apparent at each ISO setting and how it affects image detail.
Each square is cropped from the full image to the right. The left column of images are cropped from the area marked with the blue square on the image. The column to the right contains images cropped from the area marked by the red square on the picture, these illustrate how each ISO setting affects the detail and sharpness of the image.
Canon  EOS 350D

ISO100 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
ISO200 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
ISO400 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
IS0800 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
ISO1600 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
The EOS350D performs very well at high ISO settings with very little difference all the way up to ISO400. At ISO800 and ISO1600 there is a little more noise but the results are still very usable.

Compared to the Olympus E-330
Using 100% crops from images taken of the same scene with both cameras, this series provides a point of comparison between noise levels apparent in images produced by these similarly priced cameras.

  Canon EOS 350D Olympus E-330
ISO100 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
ISO200 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
ISO400 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
ISO800 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
ISO1600 Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D
     
This comparison shows just how well the EOS 350D handles noise at higher ISO settings. The results are noticeably better than the Olympus at ISO800 and above. This could be due to the larger sensor, which has more surface area to react to light, or to more aggressive noise reduction.

Detail comparison
Again comparing the EOS 350D to the Olympus E-330, both shots were taken of the same scene using a tripod and self-timer to release the shutter. Both images are crops from the centre of a full resolution image, displayed at 100%.
Canon EOS 350D set at ISO100 using the 18-55mm EF-S lens set at 18mm and f/16 Olympus E-330 set at ISO100 using the Zuiko 14-45mm lens set at 14mm and f/16
Canon  EOS 350D Canon  EOS 350D

The image from the Canon is a lot softer than that produced by the Olympus, sharpening in Photoshop afterwards can help matters, but, nothing can really retrieve the detail lost by the 18-55mm EF-S lens bundled with the camera. If this was my camera, I think I would be looking for another lens right away.

Verdict
The Canon EOS 350D is a very capable camera providing all the common features needed to get started photographing with a digital SLR. The 18-55mm EF-S lens bundled with it is the biggest disappointment, a better lens is needed to really get the most out of this camera.
Images taken at high ISO sensitivities display low amounts of noise, and the autofocus is quick, accurate and easy to use.

This camera is ideal for a beginner looking for a high quality digital camera that allows plenty of scope for more advanced techniques as their ability grows.

In summary the positive points of the Canon EOS 300D are:
Canon  EOS 350DExcellent image quality at all ISO settings.
Canon  EOS 350DAutofocus performs well.
Canon  EOS 350DLight weight.

The negative points:
Canon  EOS 350DThe bundled 18-55mm EF-S lens is not the best of its type.
Canon  EOS 350DCompact design may prove too small for some.

Click here to see photos taken by ePHOTOzine members with this camera.

Discuss this review and other digital SLRs here.

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