A Professional Digital SLR Camera, at a consumer friendly price-point.
Written: May 3, 2003 (Updated Dec 1, 2003)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Take a look at more pictures of this camera, on my profile page.
Welcome to my world. My journey in the world of photography began 20 years ago in India. My brother in law came to visit us from the US and brought me a Yashica Electro-35, 35mm camera. I remember my dad struggling with his business so I relied on part time work to pay for my budding hobby. I would volunteer my services at the local photo studio in return for free batteries/film supplies and developing costs. Its amazing how resourceful you can be in the absence of coinage. I still have that camera and many of those photographs. Ive digitized them since. When I came to the US, my first major personal purchase (after a Casio watch) was a Pentax P3 SLR with a 50mm lens. After a few years I started getting tired of all the manual focusing, aperture, exposure and film advance functions. So I saved up and purchased my most used 35mm SLR, the Minolta 3000i. I spent more money on lenses flashes and other accessories, than I had on the camera itself. But all the automatic functions really made my hobby more enjoyable and rewarding. I was starting to make some real pocket change, which helped me to practice and develop my skills more often. Five years later, I enter the wondrous world of instant digital gratification. And I have never left. I started with the lowest resolution camera I have owned, a Casio 640x480. For my main camera, my philosophy has been to only upgrade when I can afford a camera that has at least twice the resolution of my current camera. So I ended up buying a slew of other cameras along the way including the 5MP Sony for my wife, but always longing for an SLR. One that could fill the shoes of my old 35mm cameras that had brought me so much joy. For my personal use, my last camera was the Canon S230.
My selection process.
For some time I had been eying digital SLR cameras such as the Canon D30, D60, 1D, IDS, Nikon D100 and the Kodak DCS Pro 14n, as the manufacturers introduced them. I decided to visit my friend who owns a small electronics store in mid-town Manhattan. I knew from past experience that he had access to various suppliers, running from the gray to dark gray variety. And if any one could help me decide on my next camera, it would be him. So in his typical shrewd business like manner, he tries to figure out my spending limit, which I did not want to disclose to him. I told him I wanted the best possible d-SLR camera, at the best possible price. Knowing what little he knows about me, he pulled out a Canon 1Ds and a Kodak DCS-Pro 14n. He had custom ordered the 1Ds for an art gallery owner, and the Kodak was for himself. But at $8000 for the Canon and $5000 for the Kodak, I told him to go fly a kite. Besides from the early reviews I had read, I knew that both models were having firmware issues among other problems, which have now been resolved. But still, where resolution and image quality were concerned, I concede that they are the gold standard in digital SLR cameras. The only other choices in this super high resolution wonderland, are the digital backs made for medium format professional cameras. They range in the 15-16 megapixel range and run around 15-25 thousand dollars. FUHGEDDABOUDIT. So after much discussion and debate, I finally talked him into letting me borrow the Kodak DCS Pro 14n for the afternoon, for evaluation purposes. After handing him my drivers license, credit card and a signed personal gimp agreement, I walked out with a brand new 14n, and a 50mm lens. I spent the afternoon walking around midtown Manhattan, taking pictures of the streets, crossings, buildings and other people. People were casting long glances at the funny looking brown not quite Japanese looking tourist. I saw one cop looking at me sideways and talking on his radio. I bet he thought he was reporting the next big terrorism related arrest! Post 9-11, for the first time I understood how Brotherman felt when the store clerks followed him around. (It demeans you as a person) But I couldnt care less. I had a 14 megapixel super doodad in my hand and my inner gadget geek was having a non-stop orgasm. After 2 hours, I returned the camera to my friend and took my CF card to the office to evaluate the images. The images were gorgeous even at extreme zoom ins. The color fidelity was just a shade off, but acceptable. The problem was that at 45-50MB each, the full resolution uncompressed TIFF files were literally unmanageable on my PC. It took forever to open and edit them. And this was on a P4 2gHz PC with 512MB RAM. Also I reached the realization that I would never need more than a good 6MP resolution image for any of my shooting or photo printing needs. The following week I visited my friend again and this time he suggested the new Canon 10D. At $1500 it was well within what I had anticipated, had the best features and improvements over its predecessor model (D60), the Nikon D100 and he had it available. I took the same 2-hour test drive and upon returning, I told him to charge my card for the camera and a Canon 50mm EF lens. I was stuck on the 10D, and the 10D was stuck on me.
Superb Image Quality.
The camera has a 6.5mp CMOS sensor which roughly measures 0.9 x 0.7. This creates an effective RAW image file of 9MB or 6.3 megapixels. At the largest size (3072x2048) and the lowest compression, the Jpeg file size is between 2.7MB and 3.2MB. This obviously varies with the complexity of the object or scenery that you are shooting. Last Saturday, I took the camera with me to the farmers market on Union Square. It was a nice bright day and I wanted to test the color fidelity and flesh tones. Although new Yorkers are notorious for wearing dark colored clothes, they dont do the same on bright warm Saturdays. As usual the market was bustling with activity, which made frame composition a little challenging. But I found a perch in the adjoining park and started shooting. I chose to use a 50mm lens because I wanted to compare the image quality against a 35mm camera with a 50mm lens. In order to minimize print/developing and monitor irregularities / variances, I decided to use Shutterfly.com. I ordered 8x10 prints of all comparison shots, 16x20 of selected higher-detail shots, and one 20x30 print of my most detailed money shot. I needed to mail Shutterfly my undeveloped roll and upload my digital pictures to their site for processing. After getting the developed roll back, I started to compare the results of the paired images.
The first obvious thing I noticed was the zoomed in or cropped effect on the Canon. The CMOS sensor used in the 10D is smaller than the size of a full frame 35mm film. Hence the same 50mm lens narrows the field of vision. In effect the 50mm lens acts like an 80mm lens. This results in the appearance of the image as zoomed in by 1.6x magnification. (In hindsight, I should have used a 1.5x teleconverter on the 35mm camera, to get similarly composed frames.) Other than that both the digital and 35mm prints looked equally sharp and clear. The colors were well defined and retained fidelity. On the 16x20 images, the details were a lot clearer on both and helped to make a true pixels to grains comparison. Under a jewelers loupe, the 35mm prints were flawless. The digital images just barely hinted at pixelation. But Im not sure if that was due to the digital image or due to the printing technique. But under normal viewing, they both looked spectacular. The digital prints had a slight almost unnoticeable tonal shift to red. But it did not compromise the image quality in the least. I took one shot of the length of the farmers market. Some call it the farmers alley. This is where there is a lot of inherent detail created by people and the vendor stalls. I printed this image in 20x30 format. This has to be the sharpest 20x30 digital print I have ever seen. Under a magnifying glass, I can actually count the number of sourdough loaves in the bread guys stall window. The same image showed slightly more detail on a computer screen while zoomed in. The depth of focus was outstanding as well. In one image where I specifically focused on a stall counter, the employees behind and the customers in front were all sharply in focus. Now I can convincingly claim that the 10D has amply replaced my old 35mm SLR cameras. I had not been able to say that about any digital camera I have owned pre10D.
Since EOS is such a popular line of 35mm cameras, you have access to a wide range of EOS compatible lenses. Canon as well as third party manufacturers like Tamron, Sigma and Phoenix make these lenses. To compensate for the 1.6x magnification, my friend suggested I buy a wider-angle lens to shoot scenery and wide-angle shots. With a fixed 50mm lens I found that I needed to move farther back than usual, while shooting a group of people. A 28mm lens would help considerably, but I suggest buying a super wide-angle lens such as a 20mm or even a 14mm fish eye for special shots. I ended up buying a do-it-all Sigma 28-200mm lens. This is what I usually use because it eliminates the need to carry along a bagful of lenses. It is not professional quality but sufficient for mostly everything I do. The more expensive professional quality lenses are only needed for precision in-studio shooting. Sometime back I had purchased a super telephoto zoom lens 650-1300mm for rare long range shots. I called the manufacturer and sure enough, they had an EOS compatible T-mount. Now I can even use that lens with the 10d.
Design and Layout.
The camera has a steel frame with an all magnesium alloy metal body. This gives the camera a rigid and sturdy feel. The rounded corners and smooth frame styling, coupled with a user-friendly button layout result in great ergonomics. You can comfortably shoot with one or two hands. If you do a lot of portrait shots, I suggest buying the optional BG-ED3 battery grip. The camera has a built in orientation sensor which automatically senses if the camera is in portrait or landscape mode and automatically realigns the image for viewing purposes. There are two multifunctional dials on the camera. Just next to the shutter release is the main dial which can be accessed with the index finger. It controls AutoFocus, Metering and Drive modes. The quick control dial is located in the rear and controls White Balance, Flash compensation and ISO modes. This dial can be quickly accessed with the thumb. All playback function buttons are marked in blue icons and letters. All the rest are in white and self-explanatory. Similarly, the on-screen menu selections are colored red for record mode and blue for playback mode functions.
Separate LCD Monitor and Status Panel.
The main 1.8" TFT LCD monitor is capable of displaying 118,000 pixels at 5 brightness levels. The images can be displayed one at a time, slide show or 9 image thumbnails. Each individual image displayed, can be zoomed in up to 10x magnification during playback. This monitor also displays all the onscreen menus and functions. The main LCD monitor CANNOT be used as a viewfinder. However this problem is inherent to the design of all SLR cameras. There is a monochromatic backlit status panel located on the top just right of the pop-up flash. This displays various photographic data such as shutter speed, white balance, exposure, ISO, auto focus, aperture, etc. It also displays digital data such as image size and quality, metering, 17 custom functions, etc. At first this window looks very busy and complicated. But after some time it is easy to quickly look at your settings and make changes if needed.
Quick Access Exposure Mode Knob.
This one feature has significantly improved my personal enjoyment of photography. It is conveniently located on top just left of the pop-up flash. It quickly allows you to choose your shooting mode. The twelve mode choices are: Fully Auto Exposure, Landscape, Portrait, Sports or High Speed, Macro for close-ups, Night time low light, Flash Off, Programmed Auto Exposure, Auto Depth of field, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Fully Manual. I most commonly use the fully auto, macro, sports and landscape modes. I took one shot at late evening with fading light. I set the knob to night mode. The resultant image had absolutely no digital noise. From past experience I have known CMOS sensors to be very light needy. But Canon has taken their CMOS sensors to the next level. They claim that their superior manufacturing process results in significant higher performance compared to their older models like the D60. I now DO believe them.
The twelve mode choices are as follows:
Fully Auto. In this mode, all the camera functions are set automatically with very little input from you. All you have to do is half press the shutter release, confirm focus lock and release the shutter. You cannot however select the focus point because the camera does it automatically. One little quirk was that I had to half press the shutter release a few times to ensure that the camera was focusing on the correct object in the frame.
(Preset Auto Modes)
Landscape. This mode is great for capturing scenery and wide angle shots. The depth of field is longer, which means that many objects in the foreground and background of the subject, will be in relatively good focus.
Portrait. In this mode, the camera has a very short depth of field. What this enables is for you to have a sharp focus on the subject being photographed, while keeping the background out of focus or blurred. This technique highlights the person in the frame, with great detail. I took some pictures of my wife in this mode. Upon zooming in on the image on a PC, I could see a lot of detail where it came to the eyes, hair, lips, etc.
Sports or High Speed. Here the camera maintains a very high shutter speed to capture moving objects. The perfect use for this mode is at sports events, little league games, children playing, etc. In this mode you can also do continuous shooting, or 3 shots per second. (You can capture little Johnny sliding into home base.) I strongly suggest using a tripod in this mode.
Macro for close-up shots. This mode is great for taking extreme close up images. However you will get the best results if you use a wider angle lens such as a 18-20mm. This is due to the 1.6X magnification effect of the smaller sensor. I used a 28mm lens and that produced OK results. It should be fine for shooting for-sale-on-eBay items.
Night time low light. In this mode the camera is capable of very slow shutter speeds. This enables longer exposures to capture more details in low light situations. You can also use the flash to illuminate objects in the foreground. For example, you could take a sharp image of a person with a sunset behind them. Again, the use of a tripod or a stable support is recommended.
Flash Off. This is perfect to take night time shots of scenery. The flash is disabled so as to prevent any non-essential light from entering the lens. The shutter speeds are very slow and the exposures are extended. Thus you again have the need to use a tripod.
(Fully customizable manual or creative modes)
Programmed Auto Exposure. (P) In this mode, you can select one of the preprogrammed exposure settings. Everything else can be manually adjusted.
Auto Depth of field. (A-dep) This is another great setting for taking sharp images of scenery and complex frames. When there are a lot of objects in the frame that are both near and far from the lens, the camera increases the depth of field automatically to keep most of them in relatively sharp focus.
Aperture Priority. (Av) In this mode the camera will automatically select the shutter speed while allowing you to custom set the aperture. This allows you to control the amount of light entering thru the lens. This mode should primarily be used to control the depth of focus (DOF). When shooting landscapes or groups of people, keep the aperture small so as to keep most of the frame in focus. When shooting an individual or a macro shot, you could use a larger aperture to narrow the focus on your subject, while blurring the background.
Shutter Priority. (Tv) In this mode the camera will automatically select the aperture and allow you to custom set the shutter speeds. This mode should be used to capture objects in motion. The slower shutter speeds are great for low light special effect shots.
Fully Manual. (M) In this mode you can custom set every conceivable adjustment on the camera.
The last three modes Av, Tv and M are great for creating special in-camera light effects. Intermediate to advanced hobbyists will find these modes invaluable. Personally, I really found the preset auto modes very helpful and convenient, for almost all my shooting needs. Its good to know that I do have the manual settings available, if and when I graduate to the advanced level.
Wide ISO Range.
The camera can be set to fully auto, or you can manually choose between 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 ISO speeds. These are equivalent to 35mm film speeds. The advantage of quickly controlling ISO settings is that you can adjust the light sensitivity from shot to shot, (depending on shooting conditions and desired end result) without changing the aperture and shutter settings. This is great for creating some special effects shots. I was a little surprised however that there were no settings below 100 ISO. No big deal! I dont think I have ever needed anything below 100 ISO anyway.
High Speed 7 point auto focus.
There are five horizontal and 3 vertical focus areas in the viewfinder. In auto mode, the camera selects one or more of these areas as the main focus for the frame. In the manual and creative exposure modes, you can independently select which areas you want to lock focus on. The focus point on the frame can be set automatically by the camera, or manually selected with the main and quick control dials. In AI servo mode, the camera can automatically track a moving object, even during 3fps continuous shooting mode. If you keep the shutter half pressed while tracking a moving subject thru the viewfinder, the camera automatically keeps adjusting and locking focus. Very cool! One additional benefit of having the seven point focus areas in the viewfinder, is that the grid helps you align the frame to the object being captured. For example you can use these focus points to align to the horizon while capturing a sunset, or to a skyscraper while capturing a city skyline. This helps tremendously in frame composition and locking the focus on the object being photographed. Warning! The camera has shutter priority over focus lock. This means that after the viewfinder identifies the focus points, sometimes it's possible to capture the image without having focus lock. To prevent this, there is a green light at the bottom right corner of the viewfinder that lights up when the focus is locked.
Continuous Shoot mode.
The camera can take quick 3 frames per second, nine shots bursts. This is great if you are at a ball game, or want to capture your wife making funny faces. The camera has buffer memory, which is used to store the image until it is written to the CF card. As soon as you release the shutter button, the image gets purged from the buffer to the CF card. This allows for the camera to be very responsive and some very rapid nine shot bursts.
Orientation Sensor. This sensor automatically senses if you are holding the camera in landscape or portrait mode. It then automatically rotates the image right side up, when played back on the LCD monitor. When you download the images to a PC, they will be rotated right side up. Occasionally, the camera sends an image to the PC without reorienting it. This is not a major issue, but it happens often enough to be somewhat annoying. My older PowerShot S230 never had this issue.
Compact Flash Memory Slot.
As I have written in other reviews, CF card memory is my preferred format of removable flash memory. I use CF cards for my MP3 player as well as for my iPaq Pda. They are readily available in all capacities and have the lowest $$/MB ratio compared to other formats like SmartMedia, SD, MMC, MemoryStick, etc. The largest capacity I have seen is a 3 GB CF Card. Many companies are also producing them with high-speed transfer rates. My favorite brand is Lexar Media. I purchased a 1GB flash card that is rated at 32x high speed, for the EOS 10D. There are six different compressed JPEG image modes and one RAW uncompressed image mode. At the highest resolution (3072x2048) the average image file sizes are as follows:
RAW = 7-8MB each
JPEG Fine = 2.7MB to 3.5MB each
JPEG Normal = 1.5MB to 2.5MB each.
With my Lexar Media 1GB Compact Flash card, the camera registers enough space to take 161 RAW and 360 JPEG Large (Fine) images. Obviously the higher resolution and lowest compression yield the best images. And inversely, the lower resolution and higher compression settings allow for more quantity of lower quality images. But even at the lowest resolution/highest compression settings, the images are spectacular.
Internal pop-up flash, with a hotshoe.
As and when the auto exposure control needs it, the camera will automatically pop the flash up. It flashes just a fraction of a second before the photoflash. This is called TTL exposure metering. It controls the amount of exposure needed to shoot the scene with the flash. The camera also has a hot-shoe on top. It accepts any brand EOS compatible flash units. However you do lose some advanced features with non-Canon flash units.
-If you have an external flash mounted on the hotshoe, and try to take a picture with the flash OFF, the camera flashes the error message "Err 99". You have to turn the camera OFF and ON to reset.
-When using a lens hood along with the built-in pop-up flash, the hood casts a shadow on the lower portion of the image. This usually occurs when the object is less than 5 feet from the lens. Removing the lens hood helps minimize this problem, but doesn't eliminate it. If you find this is happening way too often due to your shooting habits, I suggest using a StroboFrame (or similar) flash bracket with an external flash unit.
-Because the built-in flash is so close to the body of the camera, it tends to produce red-eye. To avoid this, use an external flash such as the 420EX or the 550EX.
Lithium Ion Batteries.
The camera uses one BP511 or BP512 Lithium Ion rechargeable battery. These are the same batteries used in some of Canons PowerShot G-series cameras. It also takes one CR2025 button cell. This maintains the user settings and the date/time, while the main battery is removed. I spent a total of three hours at Union Square, doing on and off shooting, mostly with the image review feature on. The battery did not run out of juice. I have not been able to accurately test the maximum battery time because of my varied shooting habits. I very rarely get the opportunity to do continuous shooting over an extended period of time. I however purchased a generic brand rechargeable battery as backup, on eBay for only $10. The original Canon batteries retail for between $40-$60 each. Each battery is designed to last for approximately 350-600 shots. Obviously the more you use the flash and the LCD monitor playback, the batteries will discharge quicker. But with all the bells and whistles on, the camera should easily give you 300 odd shots. If you find your shooting habits include extended periods of shooting, or if you extensively use the flash and LCD monitor playback, you might consider buying the optional battery grip. (BG-ED3) It sells for around $169, but it vastly improves the ergonomics. It also has slots for two batteries, thus doubling total use time. It also has its own shutter release and control wheel for identical usage during portrait or landscape mode. It will however make the camera a lot bigger and heavier.
Canon has included some very useful software, some of which I have used since my S100 days. They all work in conjunction with a USB connection between the PC and the 10D. Here is whats included:
Canon Zoom Browser. This is a comprehensive package that does it all. Image transfers, editing images, managing/cataloging numerous folders filled with image files and converting image formats. It has a visually appealing GUI that makes all the above task very accessible and simple to perform. There are various modes for viewing the images from individual files to a variable scale thumbnails screen. It puts Windows explorer image browsing to shame. However it does take up a lot of hard drive space.
Canon File viewer utility. This program is a specialized RAW image converter. RAW images are also known as digital negatives because they are the original untouched and unmodified images captured by the CMOS sensor. This program allows you to make numerous adjustments such as contrast, sharpness, white balance, color saturation/tone and exposure, to the RAW image file. It also allows you to convert the file and save as RAW, JPEG or TIFF format files.
Canon Remote Capture. While connected to a PC with the PC Sync cable, this program allows you to control the camera directly from the PC. You can even release the shutter to capture images. This is a feature that usually finds a home only in precision studio photography. Consumers will be hard pressed to find a real use for it.
Canon PhotoStitch. This program allows you to take multiple consecutive frames of a scene, and automatically stitch them together to create a super wide panoramic shot. Ill give you an example. I set the camera up on a tripod, facing the NYC night skyline. I then started taking photographs from left to right, leaving enough overlap between images. I then loaded the images onto the PC and accessed them thru the PhotoStitch utility. I selected which images I wanted to use, and clicked the auto stitch button. And right in front of my eyes, within seconds, the software aligns adjacent images by recognizing distinct overlaps, and combines them all into one large super wide-angle shot. These can then be saved in any format, even as a Quicktime movie file.
Whats NOT? (This part was difficult.)
The size and weight.
Consumers, who have gotten used to the sleek & slim point-and-shoot cameras available today, will not appreciate such a big and clunky SLR. Photography enthusiasts however will very much appreciate the access to a reasonably priced professional quality digital SLR. The advantages of an SLR over a point-and-shoot are obvious. Bigger and interchangeable lenses, better optics, advanced picture controls and a larger selection of accessories, all contribute to a more rewarding photography experience. And yes, better image quality to boot. The dimensions are 5.9x4.2x3 inches, and the weight is 1.7lbs without the battery or the CF card.
The Cost of an addiction.
This camera is not cheap compared to almost any point-and-shoot camera. The best point-and-shoot cameras start peaking in price at around $800 to $1200. This camera will cost you $1500 for the body alone, $200 to $300 dollars on a decent 3rd party lens (Sigma 28-200), more for the original Canon lenses, a decent Canon flash unit for about $100 to $150. Add a carry case for all your gear and that puts you well over $2000. But compared to other more expensive plastic body digital SLRs available today, this metal body EOS is still quite a bargain. The way I see it, it cost me about what I paid for my notebook PC. But it gives me ten fold the amount of enjoyment. So I'll squeeze another year out of my old PC. I'm sure Grove and Gates won't mind.
The main LCD screen cannot be used as a viewfinder. On most P&S cameras you have the option to use the optical viewfinder and / or the LCD display as the viewfinder to help compose frames. I find that when shooting at odd angles and attitudes, the LCD viewfinder is very convenient. This limitation is common to SLR cameras as they have a mirror that directs the image to the viewfinder instead of the sensor. (From what I hear, one manufacturers R&D department already has a prototype SLR with such a capability. A second smaller sensor is used to generate the image for the LCD screen.)
RAW file format. This format is also sometimes referred to as a digital negative, because it is unprocessed original data coming off the CMOS sensor. This compressed file format is only available in the 5 creative / manual modes. It is not available in the fully auto or the 6 Auto Preset modes. It doesn't make any sense for Canon to place such a meaningless restriction on the auto mode settings.
- Canon EOS-10D Digital SLR body
- BP-511 Lithium-Ion battery pack
- CB-5L Battery charger
- USB Cable
- Video Cable
- CD-ROMs: Adobe Photoshop Elements & Canon Digital Camera Solutions
- Instruction Manual
- Neck strap
The Bottom Line:
This is a professional quality fully featured digital SLR camera at an incredible consumer level price-point. It is suitable for advanced hobbyists, professionals and high-end consumers. However this camera would be overkill for almost 90% of average consumer use. Professionals will find it's customizable functions convenient, and a bargain compared to alternative digitalback solutions.
You don't have to take my word for it. Read what a professional photographer has to say about the EOS 10D.
Read my reviews on other related products:
Canon EF 20-35mm wide-angle lens.
Canon EF50mm f1.8 II lens
Sigma 28-200mm Macro lens
Samyang 650-1300mm Super Telephoto lens
Canon BG-ED3 battery grip.
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Amount Paid (US$): 1500.00
This Camera is a Good Choice if You Want Something... Solid Enough for a Professional