Abstract: Canon EOS 10D Digital SLR Review

Photography - Canon EOS, digital, nature, Canon EOS 20D

The Canon EOS 10D Digital SLR

The 10D is a well built camera with a solid feel. This isn't surprising since it's based on a metal frame. It's not that different from the earlier Canon DSLRs(D30 and D60) in size and weight but it's performance is significantly better

  • The AF now actually works well! AF is fast and positive even in relatively dim indoor light without any AF assist light. D30 and D60 AF was weak. Adequate in decent light, but clearly a weak point. That's not the case with the 10D.
  • 7 AF points with screen illumination to show you the selected point(s).
  • The LCD display screen is significantly better and brighter, with 5 levels of brightness available.
  • There's now up to 10x zoom on reviewed images which let's you actually see if your shot is sharp or not.
  • High ISO noise levels are much lower. The range now covers 100-3200 and even the 3200 setting is quite usable!
  • The shutter seem a little quieter, but I have no measurements to prove that.
  • There's a Custom Function which can be set to prevent shutter release if there is no memory card present. Having once taken a series of shots with a D30 only to find I'd left my CF memory card at home, I like this!
  • The amber LCD backlight is more readable then the blue backlight found on other EOS models (e.g. EOS-3)
  • Overall camera response is faster. It turns on faster and has less shutter lag. Image buffering is also better. The camera is almost always "ready to shoot".
  • The viewfinder now has a counter to tell you how many shots you have left in the buffer (9 to 0), plus the number of shots remaining when you get to to less than 9 ([9] to [0])
  • Auto white balance seems better, though custom white balance using a white reference target is still best.
  • Exposure seems accurate. Though I've read some complaints that there's a tendency to overexpose slightly, so far I haven't seen that..
  • Supplied software has been improved in terms of interface, features and performance
  • You get PhotoShop Elements II instead of PhotoShop LE 5.0, which is an improvement.
  • There is now auto ISO selection (100-200-400)  in some auto modes. I don't use auto modes much, but it's a nice feature if you do.
  • White balance bracketing is available (for JPEG storage). Each shot is saved with 3 different white balance settings. Useful if you're not sure which WB setting to use and need to get some quick shots.
  • Horizontal/Vertical orientation sensor. Not a big deal, but nice.

Is it perfect? Well of course not. I'd have liked to see:

  • AF at f8 like the EOS-3 and EOS-1 so I could AF with a 300/4 + 2x TC. I don't expect it at this price, but I'd like it!
  • ISO readout in viewfinder. It's rather easy to forget what ISO speed you are shooting at.
  • A narrow spot meter, though the partial metering mode (9% "fat spot") can often be used instead
  • White balance mode in viewfinder. Again it's easy to change and forget
  • Dual charger and AC adapter as standard. They are available as accessories. I'm sure if they had been supplied as standard (as they were with the D30/D60) the price would have been at least $100 higher though, which wouldn't have been good.
  • A 1x or 1.3x sensor instead of the 1.6x, but again that would have pushed the price up by several thousand dollars, so I'm happy with the 1.6x and (relatively) lower price.
  • A price under $1000, but now I'm just getting greedy!

Other reviews have called the 10D a "mini EOS 1D" and that may be an reasonable description. A number of 1D functions have been incorporated in the 10D (for example the ability to embed a JPEG of any size and compression in the RAW file). It doesn't have the 1.3x sensor size and it can't shoot at 8 fps, but that's why it's a mini version!

The Wide Angle Issue

The 10D has a sensor smaller than the regular 35mm frame (22.7 x 15.1 mm vs. 36 x 24 mm). This results in the image being cropped with respect to what you would see on 35mm film. The result of this is that the angle of view of the lens is reduced and the effect is the same as using a lens with a focal length 1.6x longer. Thus a 50mm lens on the 10D gives you the same view that an 80mm lens would on a 35mm film body. If you are a wildlife photographer and you have a 300mm lens, on a 10D you get the same view as you would with a 480mm lens on a 35mm body. This will probably make you happy!

However if you are addicted to wide angle lens use, you have a problem. The 20-35 zoom you have been using will have the view of a 32-56 zoom when you put it on your 10D. Even your expensive 16-35 zoom becomes a 26-56 zoom. Even your ultraexpensive 14mm lens (the widest you can buy for an EOS) turns into a 22mm lens.

Actual Focal length  35mm format "Effective focal length" on EOS 10D
14mm 22.4mm
16mm 25.6mm
17mm 27.2mm
18mm 28.8mm
19mm 30.4mm
20mm 32mm
24mm 38.4mm
28mm 44.8mm
35mm 56mm
50mm 80mm

So what can you do? Well these are your options:

  • Buy a very wide angle zoom and live with the results.
  • Buy a 14mm prime and get an effective 22mm lens on your 10D
  • Shoot with a fisheye lens and digitally correct perspective. A 16mm fisheye image corrects to something like a 20mm rectilinear image, but edge and corner quality suffers.
  • Shoot with a fisheye lens and don't correct perspective. If you are careful about composition the "distortion" may not be problem unless you are shooting architecture or graph paper!
  • Carry a 35mm film body for when you need really wide angle images or real fisheye images.
  • Hope Canon eventually release a 12-24mm zoom (19-38mm equivalent in 35mm terms). If they don't you can buy a 12-24 or 15-30mm zoom from Sigma!
  • Take multiple images and digitally stitch them together. Fine for still life subjects that don't move, not so good otherwise.
  • Pay $8000 for a 1Ds and get a full frame sensor

You basically have to analyze what you shoot and see if you can live with this. If the only lens you ever use on your EOS-1v is a 20/2.8, you're not going to be happy with a 10D. If you normally shoot at 300mm, you're going to be pretty pleased with the effective 1.6x multiplication factor that you get with a 10D. If you normally shoot with lenses from 35mm to 135mm, it's not going to be much of an issue for you since a fairly inexpensive zoom like a 20-35 will give you coverage from 32mm and up.

Bottom line

I've been a regular film shooter for a long time. Longer than I care to remember. I've played with digital for a while now, from the original Nikon Coolpix 900 to the EOS D30. The D30 was good, but not quite there and way too expensive at $3000+ when introduced. I've never used a D60 since it was more or less just a D30 with a higher pixel count. I didn't think it was "quite there" either, though it was (and is) obviously capable of excellent results. Again, at $2200 (and multi-month waiting lists) it was still too expensive when new.

I've bought a 10D. I think it's the first really usable Canon EOS DSLR and the price $1500, while still high, is low enough to make the move. Think of it this way. If you bought a new D30 two years ago and wanted to sell it today, you'd lose maybe $2300. If you bought a new D60 last year and wanted to sell it now, you've lost around $1100. With the 10D I don't know what it will be worth in a year's time (that depends on what else Canon introduce), but I doubt you could lose more than $500. $500 is 50 rolls of film.

With any cutting edge technology you can always do better by waiting, but of course if you wait you don't have the use of the camera. Sure you can stick with film and use a scanner, lots of people will. It's certainly an alternative. For me it's clear that digital is the way things are going - and I'm going with them! I'll still keep a film body for when I want to shoot slides or when I want a true wide-angle shot that the 1.6x "multiplier" on the 10D prevents, but my guess is that I'll be shooting much more digital than film from now on.

If the 10D is too expensive at $1500, well there's the Digital Rebel (EOS 300D). It's quite a bit cheaper ($900) and you can get it with an 18-55 lens for under $1000. The image sensor is the same 6.3 MP unit as in the 10D, but the body has less bells and whistles - and lacks some pretty useful functions. You can find a comparison of the two in another article on this website:
Comparision of the EOS 10D and EOS 300D (Digital Rebel).

See also the new Canon EOS 20D Review

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