Tried a 350D today (impressions and info)

Started Feb 23, 2005 | Discussions thread
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Petteri Sulonen Forum Pro • Posts: 24,585
Tried a 350D today (impressions and info)

My favorite camera store in Helsinki (TeMaFoto) happened to have a Canon engineer drop in today with a 350D. I played around with it for an hour or so, and chinwagged with the guy about it and Canon cameras in general. There were a bunch of other cameras there too, like my unrequited love, the Pentax *ist DS, so I got to compare a bit.

First off, the 350D is one small SLR. It gives an impression of being even smaller than the diminutive Pentax. A good part of the shrinkage comes from the grip side, which contains the smaller battery. If you have small hands (ladies, take note!) this is very good news -- but if you have bigger ones, not so good. I found the grip to be too skinny -- there was a lot of air between the flat of my hand and the camera, which made for a pretty strained grip. The Pentax fit my hand much better, which shows that the size alone isn't to blame.

OTOH, the big knurled mode dial is a major improvement -- very easy to nudge into different modes, yet tight enough not to flop there accidentally.

Build-wise, the camera struck me as a distinct downgrade from the 300D -- it felt lighter and flimsier, and the omission of the rubber from the grip and body don't help. It's still by no means shoddy; everything fit together very well -- but it was definitely lightweight, rather close in feel to some of the lower-end film EOS's in fact.

The camera looks good. The lines are clean and compact, the embossed logo is a nice touch, and it has a generally attractive, somehow feminine look to it. The embossed logo is a nice touch, although somewhat spoiled when the flash pops up -- underneath it looks pretty industrial.

The viewfinder was a positive surprise -- while it's small, it's very clear and quite bright. Definitely nothing to be ashamed of, although of course the one on the 20D (and the Pentax) are noticeably better. It's pretty finely ground, though; manual focusing on it isn't easy. I guess Canon feels that this market segment prefers smooth, bright, and pretty over rough and easy to focus. Good thing they made a different decision on the 20D.

The shutter sound has changed from the 300D. It sounds like something out of CSI -- almost like they're playing back a sound effect. Very nice, much more pleasant than the whip-crack of the 20D, or even the kiss of the 10D.

In use, the camera was very fast and responsive -- instant on, almost instant chimp, very responsive menu controls. AF seemed unchanged from the 300D.

The (optional) battery grip was a bit weird: it felt like it comes from a different assembly line. The grip is much chunkier and better to hold, the rubber is stickier, and it feels heavier and more "professional" -- unfortunately, it makes the camera feel all the lighter. It almost feels like you're sticking the camera on the grip and not the other way around. I haven't used a portrait grip, so I can't comment much on how this compares to others, other than that it does work. On the whole, the grip felt a bit like an afterthought -- the combo looked vaguely odd, not like the quite professional-looking package the 20D with grip makes.

Some tidbits of info from the engineer:

(1) The shutter mechanism is new, but still rated at 50,000 cycles (like the 300D).

(2) The sensor has more dynamic range than the 300D, and produces less contrasty, more neutral, and more "neg-like" images: IOW, if you want punchy pictures out of the box, dial in more contrast and saturation. This behaviour is intentionally in line with the 20D and 1D II, and in terms of image quality, the 350D and 20D are as good as identical, give or take a couple of hundred thousand pixels.

(3) Battery life is around 500-600 frames, even with the smaller, lower capacity battery. He said he tried it yesterday.

In summary, I was very positively impressed by the 350D. It's an excellent entry-level dSLR that gives the impression of being as good as they could make it at the price point. I wouldn't hesitate at all to recommend it to anyone looking to buy their first dSLR, transitioning to digital from Canon film SLR's, or even looking for a "travel camera" to accompany a heavier-duty body.

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