Superb 8.2-megapixel digital SLR

For those who measure progress in megapixels, the Canon EOS 30D digital SLR, successor to the 20D, might be a disappointment. The 30D represents more of a refinement than a breakthrough; however, the new features add up and make the 30D a professional-quality dSLR worth buying, especially if you haven’t yet made the move to digital.

At first glance the 30D’s solid black magnesium body looks identical to the 20D; however, closer scrutiny reveals smoother edges and, although they weigh the same, the 30D is slightly bigger. The 20D and 30D share the same 8.2-megapixel CMOS Sensor and DIGIC II Image Processor, the same focal length multiplication factor of 1.6, and 9-point AF system. The 30D continues to use Type I and II CF memory cards. I hoped that Canon would have added a second slot to support SD memory cards. Shooting at similar ISO settings, the image quality is the same as the 20D with smooth gradations, detailed shadow information, and virtually noiseless images, especially when shooting between 100–400 ISO.

The new, larger 2.5″ rear LCD nearly doubles the screen resolution and makes viewing menu items and image detail much easier, especially if you wear reading glasses. Image thumbnails and information now share the screen without appearing cluttered. Canon added a three-color-channel histogram, allowing visual isolation of clipping to individual channels. I question the need for the new Print/Share button located above and to the left of the LCD: A professional photographer is better served being able to have a quick access button for mirror lock up or auto exposure bracketing than direct printing. Interestingly, Canon published the shutter durability of the 30D at a comforting 100,000 exposures with matching flash performance. However, since they never published this information for the 20D I can’t say if this is an improvement. It’s a basis for future comparison.

The 30D is very responsive. For all practical purposes start up and autofocus are instantaneous, with minimal shutter lag even at continuous burst speeds with the new choice of either 3 or 5 frames per second. The buffer is larger: the 30D now holds 11 RAW or 30 large JPEGs—up from 6 and 23 respectively on the 20D—a plus for photographers capturing action. The camera ISO settings can now be seen in the viewfinder and adjusted in finer increments of 1/3 stops from 100–1600. Canon added a spot metering mode covering 3.5% of the picture area. It appears as a circle in the center of the viewfinder and works well with backlit subjects or for checking the brightness range in a scene. In addition to the usual priority and manual modes, Canon has added Picture Styles containing six preset modes that are comparable to choosing different films (Kodachrome, Ektachrome, Fujichrome, etc.) to create different moods. You can adjust each preset style to your liking.

The 30D is available as a kit with an EF-S 18–55 f:3.5–5.6 zoom lens for an additional $100. The quality of the lens is poor and consequently that will be the quality of your prints. This camera deserves one of the many quality lenses produced by Canon.

The RAW software that Canon includes is slow with only a modest set of image correction features; however, Adobe recently released Camera Raw 3.4, which adds support for the 30D. The 30D is a superb camera: it’s a performer that has notable new features and is a great value.—Steve Baczewski

PRICE $1,399 (body only)
PHONE 800-652-2666
FOR Mac and Windows

HOT Excellent battery life
NOT Print/Share button