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Canon EOS D30 Digital SLR Camera

The review of Canon EOS D30 has been long in the waiting. Why? Because the D30 is a marvelous machine, thus there are so many things to write about. I have constantly put off writing it in favor or other shorter, faster, and easier to write articles.

Every once in a while, I will get an e-mail asking me to write about this, write about that. Well, I got one last week, from a friendly fellow named Jonathan, in regards to the Canon EOS D30. Inspired, I decided to start writing.

This time, I am going to try a different format. Generally, to balance between real work, family, chores, hobbies, I will have to spend days to weeks just to compose a small size article. To keep the information flowing, I will write the Canon EOS D30 review article in a series of mini-reviews. And publish each one, as individual sections, as soon as I am done writing it.

Mini-Review: Command Dial

Canon EOS D30 broke the tradition of the EOS Command dial by eliminating the "Lock" mode. On the traditional EOS film SLR cameras, the camera is powered off by turning the command dial to the "Lock" mode. This mode sits between the automatic and creative zone. Instead of this "Lock" mode, Canon EOS D30 sets a new tradition of a separate power switch.

I missed the old command dial. The command dial allowed the photographer to concentrate on the subject rather than the equipment. With the old dial, the photographer looks at the dial and determines whether the camera is on and what mode it is in with one glance. The new dial required the photographer to determine the state with a two step process: 1) Look at the power switch on the back of the camera to see if it is on; 2) Look at the command dial on top of the camera to determine its mode.

After using the D30 for the past three years, I still want the old command dial back. Whenever I'm doing a photo shoot for my articles, I always glance at the modes, then actuating the shutter button. When the camera still doesn't respond after a few seconds, I have to look at the power switch to realize that the camera was turned off, rather than auto-powered off.

It doesn't seem like Canon wants to go back to the traditional command dial anytime soon. All of Canon's EOS digital SLR line-up has the independent command dial and power switch. At least on the Digital Rebel, they placed the power switch and the command dial at the same location. Thus, allowing you to see both with one glance.

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Mini-Review: Weight

The Canon EOS D30 is a hefty piece of machinery. That was the first thing I thought about when I took the camera body out of the box. I complained about the weight when I stepped up from a Canon Rebel G to a Canon Elan IIe. Now that I have moved up from the Elan IIe to the D30, I am complaining about the weight again. Can't manufacturer make a digital SLR camera as light as the Rebel G?

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Mini-Review: ISO Range

The Canon EOS D30 digital SLR camera supports five ISO settings: 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. The 800 and 1600 settings are impressive features at the time of the release, as the industry was still mostly based on film. It was at a time when Kodak MAX 800 and FujiFilm Superia 800 color films were huge advancements for photographers. ISO 1600 and 3200 films were only available in black and white and produced results with high grain.

High ISO settings on the Canon EOS D30 changed the playing field. And it was relatively easy to shoot low-light candid photography in one instance and switch immediately to shoot low-speed outdoor shot in the next instance. All without having to rewind the film first, play with the film leader retriever, wind the film to the right frame.

The ISO 1600 setting is an astonishing achievement on Canon's part. Although it is slightly noisier than ISO 100, it is far smoother than many counterparts that I seen. For example, D30's ISO 1600 images looks like silk compared to the amount of grain in ISO 1600 and 3200 film. Not that there are anything wrong with grain; I have always love the artistic feel to the mood created by grain. But there are times where you want to get a silky smooth image in a low-light situation. Canon EOS D30 gives you that silky feel at ISO 1600, allowing you to add grain in post-processing.

Custom function #12 on the Canon EOS D30 allows you to change the function of the �SET� button when shooting. You can set it to: 1) no function; 2) Change quality; 3) Change ISO speed; 4) Change parameters. I always configure my D30 to change the ISO speed with the �SET� button. Configuring the D30 in this manner allows you to adjust the ISO speed quickly and conveniently while you move back and forth between indoor and outdoor situations. Taking advantage of this button, you can change the ISO speed without even moving my eyes from the viewfinder. All you have to do is push the �SET� button and rotate the main dial.

I was somewhat disappointed when Canon traded ISO 1600 for ISO 1000 on the EOS D60. But I am glad they brought it back for the Digital Rebel. And I am poisoned with jealousy that Canon not only brought back ISO 1600 on the 10D and 20D, it introduced ISO 3200 as well.

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Mini-Review: Auto-Focus

The D30 auto-focus doesn't impress me at all. In fact, I was quite disappointed with it out of the box. The 3-point AF was worse compared to the Rebel G's 3-point AF. And the Rebel G was a bottom of the line SLR camera. The D30 3-point auto-focus was slow, inconsistent, and, many times, could not lock onto high-contrast subjects. The only way to alleviate these issues is to set the auto-focus to the center AF-point only. This workaround made the camera AF a lot faster. And the center AF-sensor is a lot more consistent and locks easily onto high-contrast objects. So I have been using the center sensor exclusively for the past three years.

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Mini-Review: Auto-Power Off and Power-On Delay

Unlike the EOS film cameras, the D30 has an auto-power off feature. You can set the interval to 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, 30 min, and off. However, the D30 engineers designed a wonderful feature: any button push on the D30 automatically turns it back on!

There is one catch to the D30 power-on technology. The catch is that when the D30 is turned on, it must go through an initialization routine. This initialization routine takes about 2 seconds to execute. During that time the D30 is inoperable. Two seconds are a long time to bear when a photographer is ready to shoot pictures. To reduce the number of times I have to wait for the camera to power up, I set the auto-power off interval to 30 minutes. And whenever I'm walking around with the camera I tend to keep it awake by pressing the shutter button halfway. It's a compulsive behavior that I do anyway, even with my old film camera.

Another great idea is that when the camera is in any other mode, such as when it is in the picture review mode, pushing the shutter button puts the camera back into the shooting mode! This means that you will have a better chance of capturing the once-in-a-lifetime photo even while reviewing your pictures.

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