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Canon EOS-D30 Review

October 2000 | By Phil Askey

Review based on a production EOS-D30, Firmware Version 1.00

Long awaited. Canon first revealed the EOS-D30 at PMA this year (with a "tentative launch of Fall 2000"), they then later made it official and published full specifications and we got our first hands on with the D30, though at that stage Canon weren't comfortable enough with the image quality to allow samples to be published. In August we published an exclusive preview article with the first large set of samples available on the web.

So why is the D30 so special? Lots of reasons, it's Canon's first "home grown" digital SLR, built from the ground up to be a digital SLR, their previous forays into the digital SLR world, the EOS-D2000 and EOS-D6000 were joint ventures with Kodak (Canon bodies with Kodak internals), these cameras are also known as the DCS520 and DCS560.

The D30 comes fully loaded, filled with features and functionality you'd expect of a camera teetering on the edge of wearing a "Pro" badge (and probably more deserving than some of those that do), add to this the fact that Canon threw a curved ball by using the first ever multi-megapixel CMOS sensor to be seen in a production camera and you can see why the EOS-D30 is significant.

The other thing that makes the EOS-D30 special is that it (like the Fujifilm S1 Pro) is helping to open up the "prosumer digital SLR" market, the retail $3,000 may not be considered cheap, but there are considerable numbers of non professionals who can afford (and no doubt will buy) the EOS-D30.

What's the competition? Well, there's Nikon's D1, though Canon have been careful to distance the D30 from the D1, the D1 was designed as a professional tool, as such it's faster and better built than the D30, but with it being "Nikons digital SLR" there are bound to be comparisons. The other camera in the digital SLR market is Fujifilm's S1 Pro, based on a Nikon F60 (N60) 35mm body featuring Fujifilm's 3.2 megapixel SuperCCD (generating a 6 megapixel image file) and Fujifilm's own digital electronics in the "back".

For Canon EOS owners the D30 must surely be a very attractive way into the digital realm, Canon have been very careful, they know that many long term customers will buy D30's, and that's why although beta cameras have been around for a while there's been a long delay for full production units to appear. It's got to be just right.

CMOS you say?

The EOS-D30 features a 3 megapixel APS sized CMOS sensor developed by Canon. Interesting? Indeed... When I had that news broken to me I had to spend a few minutes soaking up just what the implications are.

CMOS has for a long time been seen as the future of imager devices, however until now they've been very low resolution, had poor image quality and have been difficult to manufacture. Somehow Canon have managed to produce a CMOS sensor which not only has the pixel count but is big enough (APS sized) to be used practically in an SLR. Below is a shot of the sensor (taken by setting a long exposure) and a scale diagram of the effective imager sizes for different formats.

Sensor / Camera Effective pixels
Effective ** resolution Imager size (mm) Pixel (unit) size
Sony 1/1.8" CCD *
3.12 2,048 x 1,536 5.52 x 4.14 3.45
Nikon D1 CCD 2.62 2,000 x 1,312 23.6 x 15.5 11.8
Canon EOS-D30 CMOS 3.11 2,160 x 1,440 22.0 x 14.9 10.1
APS negative (C type) n/a n/a 30.2 x 16.7 n/a
35mm negative n/a n/a 35.0 x 23.3 n/a

* As used in Nikon Coolpix 990, Sony DSC-S70, Olympus C-3030Z etc.
** Effective meaning pixels used to produce final image

As you can see by the data in this table the CMOS sensor in the EOS-D30 is almost identical in size to the CCD found in the D1 (big by digital camera standards), pixel size is slightly smaller and thus pixel count is higher.


Obviously when you buy a digital SLR you've also got to consider lenses (unless you already own a small armory of Canon kit ;) Canon are pushing their EF 24 - 85 mm (equiv. 3.8 x zoom) as the ideal "startup" partner lens for the D30, because of the D30's focal length multiplier this lens works out at 35 - 136 mm, a useful range of focal lengths. However quite a few people are also considering the more expensive "L" lenses. Canon were kind enough to loan me a good range of lenses, two consumer lenses: 24 - 85 mm and 28 - 135 mm IS as well as three professional "L" lenses: the 17 - 35 mm L, 28 - 70 mm L and 100 - 400 mm L IS (white!).

Left to right:
28 - 135 mm F3.5 - 5.6 (45 - 216 mm equiv.) *IS
24 - 85 mm F3.5 - 4.5 (38 - 136 mm equiv.)

Left to right:
28 - 70 mm L F2.8 (45 - 112 mm equiv.)
100 - 400 mm L F4.5 - 5.6 (160 - 640 mm equiv.) *IS
17 - 35 mm L F2.8 (27 - 56 mm equiv.)

*IS lens has optical image stablisation

For the majority of image quality / resolution chart samples I'll be using the EF 28 - 70 mm L, although there will be a comparison of the resolution chart using different lenses.

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this review (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Photographs of the camera were taken with a Nikon D1, images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (normally 1024 x 768 or smaller if cropped) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

This review is Copyright 2000 Phil Askey and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey.

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