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Color reproduction

Here you can see a generated GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, place your mouse over any of the labels below it to see the color reproduction in that mode. Select a camera/setting combination from the 'Compared to' drop-down to comparative boxes inside each patch.

Once again Canon's 450D delivers color that is, to all intents and purposes, identical to every other SLR in its current range across the various Picture Styles, which is useful for anyone moving from one model to another. As we've seen in other reviews the standard hues are also very similar to most other SLRs in this class, with minor saturation and brightness differences nut essentially the same color response.

Canon EOS 450D Compare to:  
PortraitMonochromeAdobe RGB

Artificial light White Balance

It's getting a bit tiresome to have to say this in every Canon SLR review but the facts are pretty obvious, the EOS 450D doesn't do automatic white balance in artificial light, full stop. If you want white whites and you're indoors or in any mixed light situation, you will almost definitely need to take a manual preset or use the Kelvin temperature option. The whole 'we believe photographers want a representation of the light color in the scene' argument falls down when you consider that your eye doesn't see the light anywhere near as yellow as the camera captures it (and in any case if that's the intention then give the photographer the choice of 'Accurate white AWB' or 'Representative AWB' modes).

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 11.5%, Blue: -15.2%, Poor
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red: 7.8%, Blue: -11.8%, Average
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: 5.2%, Blue: -7.5%, Average
Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red: 3.9%, Blue: -5.5%, Average


No complaints about the EOS 450D's built-in flash at all; color and exposure are excellent, and in the fully automatic modes ambient light and flash exposures are usually perfectly balanced (auto fill flash works well too).

Highlight tone priority

The new 'Highlight tone priority' (HTP) function (seen on the EOS 40D and other high end models) has now found its way onto Canon's entry-level model. Activated by C.Fn II-5, it (according to the 450D user manual) "Improves the highlight detail. The dynamic range is expanded from the standard 18% gray to bright highlights. The gradation between the grays and highlights becomes smoother." it goes on to warn "noise in the shadow areas may be slightly more than usual." With HTP turned on the minimum ISO setting increases to 200. We've looked at this feature in previous reviews and in the dynamic range section of this review, but the examples below give an impression of what it does.

In the first example we've used ACR's highlight clipping warning to show how HTP can hang on to a little of the detail in an pale sky, though as you can see the effect is far from dramatic. The second example, deliberately over-exposed shows the subtle improvement in highlight retention offered by HTP.

Ultimately in situations such as those shown below it's worth turning HTP on, but it's fair to say that the difference it makes in most shots isn't huge. Although it can save a shot that's been inadvertently over exposed you're far better off shooting raw and pulling back the exposure later.

As an aside, we spent several hours attempting to test Canon's new 'Auto Lighting Optimizer', a JPEG-only in-camera processing system designed to sort out underexposed shots or those with backlighting issues. To be honest we simply couldn't produce any results (on/off comparisons) worth showing here, so whilst we'd hesistate to describe it as a non-feature, on this evidence it doesn't seem to be a panacea for all exposure problems.

Highlight tone priority OFF Highlight tone priority ON
ISO 200, 1/320 sec, F6.3 (+0.33 EV AE-C) ISO 200, 1/320 sec, F6.3 (+0.33 EV AE-C)
Clipping Clipping
Highlight tone priority OFF Highlight tone priority ON
ISO 200, 1/200 sec, F5.0 (+1.33 EV AE-C) ISO 200, 1/200 sec, F5.0 (+1.33 EV AE-C)
100% crop 100% crop

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

No great surprises (of the nice or the nasty kind) when it comes to real world image quality, which is almost uniformly impressive. The EOS 450D is the most 'pixel dense' APS-C sensor camera Canon has ever launched, and we were slightly concerned that this would either bring no benefit at all or - even worse - could represent a step backwards from the EOS 400D. Fortunately our fears in this respect were unfounded; the new sensor and DIGIC III processor manage to improve a little on the EOS 400D's output, particularly when it comes to resolution, which (with a good enough lens) is excellent.

What is interesting is that the increased pixel density and high resolution sensor (thanks to what appears to be, for Canon, a fairly light anti-aliasing filter) means that, more than any consumer grade EOS before it, the 450D demands the very best lenses to really show what it can do. It is - if you look too closely - able to show the limitations of Canon's entry-level lenses, and having looked at the results alongside the high quality primes we use for testing it's obvious that the affordable kit zooms (such as the 18-55mm and the 55-250mm EF-S) are the limiting factors here, not the camera. This certainly isn't a problem unique to Canon, but it's an indication of the challenge that faces manufacturers as entry-level SLRs start to creep into double-digit megapixel territory.

The sensor might be a winner but there are a few nits to pick: the JPEG output is still a little 'over processed' - the combination of NR smoothing and sharpening produce results that look too 'digital' for our tastes. And, while there are in-camera options that allow you to fine-tune the output, the only way to bypass Canon's 'take no prisoners' approach to luminance noise is to shoot raw. Shooting raw (particularly at high ISO settings) provides the option to allow a little luminance noise to remain in the image and invariably produces crisper and more naturalistic results.

There's a second reason I'd recommend sticking to RAW+JPEG mode: my experience shooting with the EOS 450D in very bright conditions was that its metering was far from 100% reliable, and whereas its predecessor had a tendency to underexpose, the 450D commits the far greater sin of tending to over expose very contrasty scenes, resulting in clipping of highlights (not helped by the rather contrasty and vivid default Picture Style). There's enough headroom in raw files to pull back any shots like this, but if you're shooting JPEG you'd better be careful to check your exposures with every shot once the conditions get challenging (I had one day of shooting where every single exposure was at -0.7 to -1.3 EV).

We had very occasional focus issues (mainly when using automatic focus point selection) including one or two 'false positives' (where the camera insists it's in focus and obviously isn't), but out of 2000 test shots this occurred in only a handful, so can't be considered to be a major problem.

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