As I mentioned a few months ago, I was contacted by Canon Australia and offered the chance to “play” with their new DSLR camera, the EOS1000D, for a while as part of Canon’s Blogger Product Review Program. This is probably a good time to repeat my disclaimer that I’m not being paid anything by Canon; my agreement with them states that I have to disclose the fact that I’ve been approached by them and that I’m using a camera they provided me with, but it does not dictate what, if anything, I should write about it.
Well, now it’s been almost three months since I’ve started using that camera, and it’s time both to return it to Canon and to post my thoughts about the experience. In short, I like it — but not as much as I like the Sony A200. Do read on.
My first impressions of the EOS1000D, it turns out, were quite accurate: one of the most striking features of this camera is how light it is. It makes a lot of difference when you are carrying it around the whole day (hanging from your neck or in a shoulder bag), and it makes it very comfortable to use. The impression of fragility goes away after you get used to the camera, and it doesn’t seem to be any more fragile than any other model (I managed not to break it, at least, which is always a good sign).
I have changed my mind about the user interface, though: with a bit of practice, it becomes very easy to use, to the point where I was a bit confused when going back to my own camera. For many functions, you need to push fewer buttons in the Canon than in the Sony, and the sequence of steps makes sense for more complex operations.
However, I did not change my mind about some limitations of this camera. I still find it a bit odd that it won’t shoot RAW images (or even JPEGs at the highest available resolution) in any of its more automatic modes (the so-called “basic modes”), including full auto. Granted, this forces you to think a bit more about what you’re doing, but it seems very much an artificial limitation; is there a technical reason for this behaviour?
Another of its distinctive features (for an entry-level DSLR) is the “live view” mode, which allows you to use the LCD screen instead of the viewfinder to frame images when shooting. I may not be the best person to talk about this feature, as I found out that I don’t actually like doing that — it seemed to me to make things harder rather than easier. It might be more useful if the LCD screen could be tilted, but that’s not the case (the screen is also not bright enough to be used in direct sun light, but that’s the case with any camera I’ve ever used). In the end, it’s probably a matter of habit — I tend to use the viewfinder even in point-and-shoot cameras.
The easy-to-use interface makes it very easy to play with the settings until you get your desired result, as shown in the series below: this is the same water feature taken with different exposure times in the “shutter priority” (Tv) mode (click images to enlarge).
1/8s, F/32, ISO 200
1/40s, F/14, ISO 200
1/1000s, F/5, ISO 640
The automatic white balance did not like some types of lighting, though, as the pictures below show. The first one is the picture as recorded by the camera, and the second shows the result after I adjusted the white balance manually using the desktop utilities that come with the camera (which, I might say, are very good); the picture was taken under regular residential halogen lights, with automatic white balance turned on (RAW, exposure of 1/8s, f/5.7, ISO 800), and the images below were cropped and resized.
After adjusting WB
To sum things up: in general, I’ve been very happy with this camera and it will be a pity to send it away. Image quality is consistently good, automatic exposure levels work well and the automatic focus is very fast. Or, I should say, the camera is remarkably fast as a whole; it turns itself on very quickly, and the shutter is instantaneous. Also, the image stabilisation deals very well with long(ish) exposures without a tripod (in low light and no flash; say, up to half a second or so). It has an excellent performance at high ISO levels, by the way, and the battery seems to last forever (I used the flash very sparingly).
Why do I still like the A200 better, then? Well, that issue with the image quality limitations annoys me quite a bit, to be honest. I also like (very much) the finer-grained information on battery charge provided by the Sony (even if that does mean that batteries for it cost a bit more), and it is much easier to transfer photos to a PC with the Sony than the Canon — if I were to keep the Canon, I’d consider getting a card reader ASAP. By the way, with the introduction of the A300, you can find the A200 around for very good prices — cheaper than the EOS1000D, probably.
Speaking of which… despite this being marketed as an entry-level DSLR camera, when it first came out a few months ago it was a bit too expensive, hovering around $1200. This price has gone down significantly since then, and it is in a much more competitive range now: you can find the standard kit (the one I was using, with the Canon EFS 18-55mm Zoom lens) for less than $850, and in the lead up to Christmas you can probably get an even better deal with a twin-lens kit — I’ve seen it for under $900. At this price, it is a very good camera for someone being introduced to DSLRs, and will give good results even to beginners. Also, it is a Canon, and that is something that should not be overlooked; you will find the enormous array of accessories (made both by Canon and third parties), software, literature, discussion boards etc. etc. that should be expected from a leading brand.