Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution, matches EOS 10D
  • Good color, more contrasty tonal response thanks to default parameter set
  • Noise free 'silky smooth' images at ISO 100, 200 and 400
  • Very low noise levels even at ISO 1600, virtually unnoticeable below this
  • Bundled EF-S 18 - 55 mm is surprisingly good considering its price and weight
  • Excellent seven point AF system, fast, good in low light and reliable
  • Pop-up flash rises higher than EOS 10D, less lens shadowing, less red-eye
  • Very clever 'smart buffering' means you can almost always take the next shot
  • Good metering, although no direct control of metering mode
  • Good manual preset white balance, average automatic white balance
  • Much less of a 'dust problem' than other competitive cameras (special filter?)
  • In-camera programmable 'parameter sets' to control image processing algorithms
  • Adobe RGB parameter, although it's a shame you can't combine with other parameters
  • RAW mode provides the 'digital negative', about 1 stop of latitude in over exposed images
  • Remote capture software included for computer controlled shooting
  • Despite the plastic body the camera still feels solid and able to take the knocks
  • Easy to use, integrated digital / photographic controls and displays
  • Playback magnification up to 10x (perfect for checking focus)
  • Orientation sensor for automatic image rotation
  • Higher resolution and bright LCD monitor (although no anti-reflective coating)
  • Fully Canon EF lens compatible (plus EF-S lenses)
  • Good selection of exposure modes although some settings have been reduced
  • Excellent battery life, light weight and small batteries
  • Excellent supplied software suite
  • Unbelievably good value for money, groundbreaking

Conclusion - Cons

  • Opening the CF compartment door shuts camera down, loses any buffered images
  • Still a very average automatic white balance performance, we expected more
  • 'Dumbed down' feature set (forced AI Focus, forced Evaluative metering, etc.)
  • Plastic finish will not be everyone's taste, lightweight compartment doors
  • Louder shutter sound than EOS 10D, more physical 'slap' from the mirror
  • Occasionaly 'strange dot' artifacts on fine detail in images
  • No flash exposure compensation
  • No Kelvin white balance selection in-camera
  • AF area red dot indicator isn't ideal and has a slight halo
  • Reduced continuous shooting rate and buffer size (2.5 fps for max 4 images)
  • Viewfinder view slightly darker than EOS 10D
  • Five levels of parameter adjustment is welcome, but why stop there?
  • No parameter adjustment with Adobe RGB color space selected
  • White balance not fine-tunable
  • Lots of features lost due to removal of custom functions
  • ISO sensitivity not displayed on viewfinder status bar while being changed
  • Slow RAW conversion (with supplied FileViewerUtility)

Overall conclusion

The EOS 300D is a formidable camera, not from a feature set point of view. Not from a body finish point of view (which is actually better than I'm sure you're thinking). Not from how its feature set compares to other digital SLR's (although it can certainly hold its own), but rather for what it offers, for its value for money. And for what this camera could mean for the future of digital SLR's and the entire prosumer digital camera market. There's no doubt that there is an important place for cameras such as Sony's DSC-F828 and Minolta's DiMAGE A1, but you would have to be wearing blinkers not to realize that anyone considering spending over $1000 on an all-in-one camera such as that will now put the EOS 300D Kit high on their list.

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Clearly Canon realized that they had the advantage, they designed and make the superb six megapixel CMOS sensor which has now made its way into its third digital SLR body (although we understand they have refined and reduced the cost of production). They had the DiGiC processor which is proven and used in a wide range of cameras. They had well known product names (EOS-300, Rebel and Kiss) and bodies to match which new entrants to digital will find comfortable, and they have a large range of lenses to offer, which of course are the real money makers. So what was the logical step? A sub $1,000 digital SLR which included a useful but moderately limited lens (a 28 - 90 mm is considered fairly standard on newbie SLR kits). Enter the EOS 300D. The only surprise? I think perhaps Canon took the competition a little unawares in regards to timing, I would make an educated guess that most of the manufacturers were expecting the EOS 300D at PMA 2004.

What's the EOS 300D's weakness? Feature set. Canon are caught in a dilemma, they had to have a camera with a reduced feature set otherwise nobody would consider the EOS 10D (or any camera which replaces it). Almost laughably the majority of the EOS 300D's limitations are 'programmed in', that is they are simply software features which have been disabled. Obviously reducing the feature set leaves the EOS 300D weaker in some respects than many similarly priced prosumer digital cameras. Canon are clearly hoping that the speed, AF, lens choice and low noise high ISO trade-offs will be worth it for a considerable number of people, who will buy into EF lenses and work their way up to an EOS 10D priced digital SLR in the future. Canon made a shrewd move with the EOS 300D, who knows if they're making a profit on it but it hardly seems to matter, it will guarantee their continued dominance of the digital SLR market, and their take-over of much of the high end prosumer market.

Highly Recommended

UPDATE: February 2004: Having re-tested with a final production EOS 300D we find that the original test results are virtually identical, the late pre-production camera we had for the first revision of this review differing very little from final production. Canon's only concern now should be the Nikon D70 which has appeared since we first published this review.

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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