Abstract: Canon EOS 10D or Canon Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - which one to chose?

Photography - Canon EOS, digital, nature


Canon EOS 10D vs. Canon Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) - which one to chose?

A question I often hear asked is "Should I buy an EOS 10D for $1500 (actually now down to under $1300), or save $600 and get a digital Rebel (EOS 300D) for $900 (which is now down to under $900 with the 18-55 lens included)? What's the difference?" I hope this article will go part way to answering that question and give you a basis for making a rational decision.

Overall the 10D is a more professional camera, with features lacking on the digital Rebel (EOS 300D). Both use the same 6.3 megapixel size sensor, in fact they both probably use the same sensor, so assuming you use the same lens and the same exposure on both bodies, you should get images of equal quality. But of course you can say exactly the same thing about the Rebel and EOS 1v film bodies and there aren't too many people torn for choice between those two! Overall, as in most things, it comes down to price.

The 10D costs 67% more than the Digital Rebel. Note however that the Elan 7 costs 115% more than a Rebel GII. Of course in one case the difference is $600, with in the other it's $160, but significant differences in price between the "Rebel" line and the rest of the Canon line is pretty much expected.


So what are the differences?

  • The 10D has a rear control dial (QCD) which can be used to set functions such as exposure compensation or shutter speed/aperture in manual mode, in conjunction with the main command dial. This means you can make these adjustments quickly, with the camera still up to your eye. With the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) there is only one command dial and are buttons you have to press to access functions controlled by the rear QCD on the 10D. You can get used to this, but if you're used to shooting with a body with a rear QCD (anything except a film Rebel), you may miss it.

  • The 10D has more control over both autofocus and metering pattern. The digital Rebel (EOS 300D) sets what it think is the best mode for autofocus and metering depending on various factors, such as whether it thinks the subject is moving and which shooting mode the camera is in. The 10D allows the user to manually select exactly which autofocus mode and metering mode is desired. Options are AI Focus AF, One shot AF and AI Servo AF for focusing and Evaluative 35-zone, 9% Partial and Center-weighted average for metering. The Rebel chooses from these options for you. I suppose if you're an absolute beginner it may be safer to let the camera chose (and in fact the 10D can also do this if you want it to), but it does remove some creative control from the photographer.

  • With the Digital Rebel, the only way to get partial (9%) metering is to use the exposure lock button in one the creative zones - which of course also locks exposure With the 10D it can be selected at any time.

  • The 10D can take 9 frames at 3 frames/sec, while the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) is limited to 4 frames at 2.5 frames/second. For an action photographer this may be a very important difference. If you're a landscape photographer it may not be a difference you'll ever notice.

  • The 10D has mirror lock up, very useful for reducing vibration when doing macro or extreme telephoto work. The digital Rebel (EOS 300D) lacks this feature. Again it's something some photographers would regard as essential, while other's would never miss it. If you're not doing macro or telephoto work, you may never need it. I did some tests using a 500/4.5L lens with 2x multiplier. With both the 10D and Digital Rebel there was noticeable degradation of resolution due to mirror induced vibrations between about 1/30s and 1/4s, with 1/15s being the worst. Using Mirror Lock Up (MLU) on the 10D, there was no image degradation, even at 1/15s, the worst speed. Now if you don't use a 1000mm lens, maybe you don't need MLU. MLU is also useful for high magnification macro work, so if that's part of your plans, maybe MLU will be useful to you.
  • With the 10D you can control flash exposure compensation and you can also turn off automatic fill flash reduction. The digital Rebel (EOS 300D) has neither of these features. If you don't use flash, no big deal. If you do, these are features you may need. The 10D also has a flash connector (PC) for triggering external strobes, the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) doesn't. You can buy a hot shoe adapter, but having it built into the body is convenient. To get flash exposure compensation on a Rebel you need an external flash that has flash exposure compensation built into and settable on the flash itself. For example the Canon 550EX allows this.

  • The 10D has the ability to enable 2nd curtain flash sync, the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) doesn't. 2nd curtain sync is used to give a more natural look to moving objects when slow sync flash is used (i.e. low light exposure based on both ambient and flash lighting, rather than just flash).

  • The 10D has an option for shooting at ISO 3200, while the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) is limited to ISO 1600. Noise at 3200 is significant, but when you need it, you need it and the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) doesn't have it.

  • The 10D is based on a metal (magnesium alloy) frame, while the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) is plastic. Many cameras are plastic of course and plastic is fine, but metal is stronger and more dimensionally stable. You pay your money and you take your choice on this one.

  • The 10D is black and the button functions are labeled in white and light blue. The Digital Rebel (300D) has a silver body with black and light blue button labels. Under some lighting conditions it can be hard to read the labels on the 300D since light blue on silver isn't very high contrast.

  • The camera settings display screen on the Digital Rebel is on the back of the camera, above the LCD screen, whereas it's on the top of the camera on the 10D. I prefer the top of the camera display on the 10D (and it's probably no coincidence that all professional SLRs and DSLRs put there too). I'm usually looking down on the camera when I'm making changes to things like shutter speed, aperture, ISO setting, shooting mode, white balance etc., With the 10D I can see what I'm doing more easily, especially when the camera is mounted on a tripod below eye level.

  • The 10D has a glass pentaprism while the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) has a pentamirror. Normally the pentaprism gives a brighter viewfinder, the difference isn't huge but it's noticeable. The viewfinder display is also larger on the 10D. One of the first things I noticed when picking up a Digital Rebel was that the viewfinder display looked small. Of course if you switch from an EOS-3 to a 10D, you have exactly the same experience. The 10D display is smaller than that of film based EOS bodies, but the Digital Rebel takes it an extra step over the 10D. After a while (or if you have no basis for comparison), you'll probably get used to the slightly smaller, slightly dimmer view and it won't bother you.

  • The Autofocus assist strobe is always active when the flash is up on the digital Rebel (EOS 300D), while it can be turned off on the 10D.

  • The exposure steps on the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) are fixed at 1/3 stop. The 10D allows the user to chose between 1/3 stop and 1/2 stop steps.

  • The 10D shutter is quieter and seems better damped than the digital Rebel shutter. However in actual image tests I couldn't see any difference due to mirror induced vibration between the 10D and 300D.

  • The 10D has an option for safety shift in aperture or shutter priority modes. This means that if you can't get the right exposure using the aperture or shutter speed you have selected, the camera will change them. There is no such option on the digital Rebel (EOS 300D). Under such circumstances the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) will not give a correctly exposed image.

  • The 10D has an option to prevent you taking pictures if you don't have a CF (memory) card in the camera. With the digital Rebel (EOS 300D), if you forget to insert a memory card, you can shoot away as normal and unless you look at the frame counter, you'll never know you're loosing all your shots! This may sound trivial, but as someone who once shot away with an EOS D30 for 10 minutes with no CF card in the camera, believe me, it's not!

  • The digital Rebel (EOS 300D) lacks the ability to set white balance based on a color temperature. On the 10D you can dial in a color temperature (e.g. 6000K) for white balance. Of course if you shoot RAW, you can apply a color temperature correction during RAW conversion.

  • On the digital Rebel (EOS 300D), flash sync mode in aperture priority mode is always slow sync. On the 10D this is a selectable function.

  • The 10D has 17 custom functions which allow you to do many things, such as shift around the functions of some of the controls on the camera to "customize" it for the photographer's shooting style. For example in manual mode the main dial can control either shutter speed or aperture. You can also move AF start from the shutter release to one of the buttons on the back of the camera - something many photographers do when they want to separate AF from shutter release. On the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) there are no custom functions. The camera works the way it works, the buttons and dials do what Canon thinks they should, and the photographer has to live with the Canon defaults.

Does the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) have any advantages over the 10D?

Yes, it does have a few. Among them are:

  • It's slightly smaller, lighter and $600 cheaper.

  • It can  use the RC-1 infrared wireless remote, which is nice and it uses a slightly cheaper wired remote cable.

  • It can take EF-S mount lenses, of which there is currently one - the EF-S 18-55/3.5-5.6, a $100 plastic body and mount lens but it is the lowest cost route to a wide-angle lens.

  • It has a PictBridge interface, meaning it can connect directly to any PictBridge capable printer.

  • The built in flash on the Digital Rebel raises up  higher ( further from the optical axis of the lens) than the built in flash of the 10D. This could result in less red-eye and less blockage of the flash by large lenses.

  • It's $600 cheaper. I know I said that before, but it's really THE major advantage so it's worth mentioning twice and the only real reason for picking the Digital Rebel.

The Bottom Line

It all comes down to $$$. There's no doubt the 10D is the better camera, but is it $600 better? Well, is a Hummer H2 $30,000 better than a Toyota RAV4? Some people think so. Is a BMW 3 series $15,000 better than a Ford Focus? They all have 4 wheels, carry 4 people, use the same fuel and get you from NYC to Boston in 3-4 hours on the same road. Is a Rolex $2500 better than a TAG Heuer or $3000 better than a Casio watch? They all tell the same time. Is a Leica rangefinder $1500 better than a Bessa? They both use the same film (and even the same lenses). Your $$$. your choice.

So which camera would you chose? Clearly the 10D is the more capable camera, allowing the photographer more control and more shooting options. It's very much a personal decision as to whether these are worth $600 and it depends a lot on both your budget and your shooting style. If you just want a very advanced and capable "point and shoot" SLR - but still with a good amount of manual control - the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) is ideal. If you're the sort of photographer who wants to be able to control absolutely every aspect of the camera, the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) could leave you frustrated at times.

Both are good cameras, aimed at different market segments, and both can yield equally good digital images, just like the the EOS 1v and the Rebel GII can yield equally good images on film

If you're moving to digital from an EOS Rebel, the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) will probably be enough camera for you. If you're coming from an EOS-3, I'd suggest that the 10D may be the better choice. If you're coming from an Elan 7, you're in the middle, but probably leaning towards the 10D side! If cost is a major issue, the $600 you save by buying the digital rebel will buy you several excellent lenses.

I bought an EOS 10D before the digital Rebel (EOS 300D) was released, but if I had to make the choice today, though the Digital Rebel is an excellent camera, for my needs I'd go with the 10D. I also would not sell my 10D for $1250 tomorrow (which I probably could do), then go out and buy a Digital Rebel and pocket the extra $350.

If you go with the Digital Rebel, I'd suggest going with the kit and getting the EF18-55 lens for an extra $100. It may not be the best lens in the world, though it's pretty decent and excellent value for $100. If you don't have a lens this wide (and remember 18mm on a 10D or digital rebel gives you the same field of view as a 29mm lens on a film SLR), you'll probably want one and all the alternatives will cost you more (sometimes a LOT more) than $100!

Rebel + 18-55 Rebel Body EOS 10D

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