Canon Digital Rebel SLR
Review

On December 16, 2003, in Camera, Review, by Jeffrey McPheeters

Canon Digital Rebel SLR
Company: Canon, Inc.
Price: $899 (US) Body only
http://www.canoneos.com/

I strongly considered an alternate title to this review: “Chris, Here’s the perfect Mate to your GL2!” in honor of Chris Seibold’s expansion into the realm of semiprofessional videography with the Canon GL2. Chris, I know you were hoping I would talk you out of spending so much money for a digital camera, and when I didn’t, and you bought it, you probably wondered if I really knew what I was talking about. I probably didn’t, as usual, but you don’t regret it, now that you’ve had the chance to explore the capabilities! So, when you’re ready to get creative with still photography, this camera could be the answer! And I’m sorry if I’m the responsible party for destroying your savings account, Chris!

Seriously, for the avid photographer finding themselves short of the $2000-plus it takes to get into the 35 mm digital SLR , the recently released Digital Rebel is a tremendous value. It’s introduction at a price below $1000 has been likened to “the shot heard round the world” in it’s significance to the future of digital photography. That may be a little overstated, as few will argue the importance of digital photography in the consumer space. But it is significant that a serious consumer, dubbed a pro-sumer in marketing-speak, could enter the realm of professional photography for less than what last year’s high-end fixed lens digital cameras were going for.

To give a detailed review of this kind of camera, I would be overstepping my status as an amateur photographer. There are excellent performance reviews available at the dedicated photography sites. If you’ve ever shopped for a digital camera, you already know where to search for detailed comparisons. For a comprehensive list of resources, you can check here, and my favorite resource .

The focus of this review is to convey to our readers that now would be an opportune time to move from film to digital in a 35 mm SLR format, thanks in no small part to Canon’s lowering the bar, cost-wise, to enter the realm of professional digital SLRs. Many of you have experience with 35 mm film SLRs and, for various reasons, have been somewhat frustrated and stilted by 1) the lack of creative flexibility missing in today’s fixed lens digital cameras, 2) the high cost of ownership with a fixed lens camera which will basically be worth a fraction of it’s original price in a short while with very little to carry forward to an upgrade; perhaps the batteries or the digital film medium …maybe, and 3) the incredible cost of entry with camera bodies costing hundreds or even thousands more than what you have reluctantly paying for high-end fixed lens digicams, such as the

Last year, Canon introduced the D10, a significant upgrade to the D60, and one that serious photographers on a budget would see as a must-have piece of equipment. But that wasn’t enough for Canon, and late this summer they introduced the Digital Rebel, also called the EOS 300, in some circles. For experienced SLR fans, the EOS system from Canon needs no introduction. The choices in lenses and accessories is not only large, but considered by an overwhelming majority of professional photographers to be the pinnacle of quality and value. While less expensive 3rd party lenses abound, the Canon lenses hold their own against the likes of Nikkor and Leica. Indeed, it’s not uncommon for hard-core Nikon SLR addicts to have Canon lenses mounted to fit their f-series bodies. A significant advantage to becoming a Canon SLR user is that the lenses and attachments can migrate with you from one body to the next. Canon is very conscientious about making their new cameras backward compatible with the older lenses. If you have an older manual lens which you really like and which mounts to a Canon, such as a favorite of mine — the incredible TamronSP 90 mm 2.5 macro — it will work fine with the Digital Rebel.

I’ve been shooting with the Digital Rebel for a couple of months, now, and it’s been like “coming home” after being away too long. Four years ago, when three megapixel cameras dipped below the $800 mark, I finally bought my first digicam. The convenience and overall simplicity of using digicams has progressed at a rapid pace, and yet, there was a constant tug-of-war as to when to bring along the digital camera and when to lug the 35 mm film camera along with assorted lenses to get the ultimate quality. More often than not, I’d elect to go digital. The ease of use, ability to review shots as I took them, instant gratification, low cost and ease of acquiring standard prints, not to mention the environmental impact of film development, tended to sway me toward sacrificing some quality (and weight) and go digital.

Not any more! The images captured with the current crop of 6.3+ megapixel SLRs would rival, indeed dramatically surpass, any 35 mm NON-SLR. Comparing some recent work I did with autumn scenes and outdoor portraits, it became very apparent that the Digital Rebel was meeting or exceeding similar shots I was taking with an Olympus OM-2n mated to a Tamron 90 mm f2.8 Macro (one heck of a lens, let me tell you!) It’s just amazing to me that I have all the benefits of ready access that digital cameras give while enjoying the rich creative capabilities found only in the best film cameras until recently.

It’s not just the fact that the Digital Rebel can match or exceed the shots with a similar non-digital Canon EOS, it’s the amazing versatility that comes with these digital cameras when using large flash memory cards to gather scores or hundreds of photos, multiple ISO and white balance settings from shot to shot and the ability to program custom color spaces and then print directly from the camera to many modern printers.

For the digital enthusiast, there are innumerable advantages to this camera compared to any other fixed lens digicam. For one thing, the action is responsive; nearly instantaneous. It takes about 3 seconds after turning on the camera for it to be ready; but then you can take a shot when you want it. When you release the shutter you get the shot instantly. The camera writes to disk quickly so you can take shot after shot. It seems to go forever on a battery; but if you really think you will need more battery power, the battery grip option (holds two batteries) is a great add-on. I have one, and my favorite aspect is how it eases the acquiring of vertical shots with it’s added set of controls on the grip.

http://www.canoneos.com/digitalrebel/total/feature2.html

The most common package at retailers such as Best Buy or Sears or online suppliers like Small Dog is the camera plus EF-S 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens and usually priced at $999, although you may find some better deals this holiday season that will bring the price down. I’d also check around for the best deal on an extended warranty. I found Best Buy’s 4-year warranty for $99 to be appealing.

This particular zoom lens is an excellent value, although it will only mate with this body. It won’t work with other Canon bodies. The built-in flash will work for small groups and subjects within 5 – 20 feet but it’s nothing to write home about. Also, the lens can obstruct the light when shooting macro. The standard lens will focus on a subject just a short six inches away. I’m a huge fan of the 550 EX flash. I love its advanced features, and it works great with the camera’s built in hot shoe. I also purchased a 28 mm-200 mm EF 3.5-5.6 Zoom, which is very practical for all around shooting. I’m saving up for the 100-400 mm IS Zoom (image stabilizer built in)! My Lowe Pro bag, 2nd 512 MB CF card, and hardware to move the flash off the camera should arrive this week! I was able to obtain quite a few extras at bargain prices through eBay deals.

The plastic body is a distraction for some; but it shouldn’t be. It’s very solid and feels substantial. The software that comes with the camera includes Photoshop Elements 2, and some great capture software for Mac OS 9 or X, including an application to control the camera remotely!

I’d recommend this camera to anyone who seriously enjoys getting creative with photography, has some SLR experience, likes the digital hub experience offered by today’s Macs and PCs, and would like to invest in a system that will go forward with them for years to come. The Canon Digital Rebel offers the best features of digital photography without giving up any of the advantages previously reserved for professional film cameras. Canon didn’t just hit a home run with this model; they hit a game-ending grand slam!

MacMice Rating: 5 out of 5

 

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