Canon EOS D30

specificationsA true digital SLR with 3.25 megapixel CMOS sensor, 1.3x multiplier, interchangeable lenses (EF), battery grip, very low noise photos, Linear RAW fileformat. (text by P.S.) I started my digital camera hobby with Olympus 2000Z. While it was nice technology at that time, it was clear after some time that especially the noise, lack of manual mode and missing flash logic made it a very restrictive tool. I did not take many photos after the initial enthusiasm, until I started reading reviews and found Canon Powershot G1 to be really good value and low noise (ISO 50) was something new in those consumer level cameras.

I was a very active photographer with G1, and when I had some decent photos on my hard disk I built a gallery of the best shots. The gallery became quite popular and drove me to learn more and make my goals higher. I noticed that although G1 produced nice quality, it's low sensitivity and small choice of focal lenghts was not adequate for learning all aspects of photography - only an SLR camera would be suitable for what I was hoping to do. I read the internet forums for a while and made my decision after inspecting the test photos, read people praise and longing to have yet lower noise level and smoother colour reproduction: Canon D30 was the only logical step forward for me.

So, now I have the D30, no regrets, a thin wallet and a smile on my face.

So what's so good about this camera, then?

If you look at the photos, you'll probably notice great colors, and low noise. The low noise is something which is for me very important - it gives photos a touch of realism and color smoothness which is what you see in the world. I have not shot much film, so I'm not 'used' to noise as being a factor which makes photos look more 'photographic'.

D30 has been blamed to have a 'soft' image. When using quality lenses (primes, L-series stuff), this is not so. Because D30 images are more 'negatives' than final prints the D30 photos might need some additional on Photoshop, as a film negative needs some work in a darkroom. As a matter of fact one of the strenghts of D30 is that in-camera sharpening can be essentially turned off and it lets you decide what's best for the target media and for the photo's style. The better you handle this darkroom technique and all post-processing desicions, the better your photos will look in the end. You can get unbelievable amount of detail and crispness from D30 if you use high quality lenses and remember that the old rule '1/focal length is with D30 '1/(focal length * 1.6)'. I've got A3 size photo prints from my photos which look incredible.

It's a shame that megapixels and initial image sharpness has become the only area of interest in consumer camera market (to which D30 officially belongs to). First of all, doubling megapixels does not matter as much as you would think (i.e. doubling megapixels does not double x and y resolution!), and applications which really need such a pixel mass are few, and with 5-6 megapixels you can't anyway compete with glossy fashion magazines who use large format film cameras. Normally people say that you need more pixels because you get good quality prints after cropping - my opinion is that if that is your reason for upgrading a camera then it's cheaper and more productive to spend more time thinking about composition.

Other thing which is very different to fixed lens cameras like Olympus E-10 and Canon G1, is the DoF, depth of field. The D30 is quite close to film cameras in its DoF, and so you can learn handling it so that you don't have to unlearn it all with the next camera you get. You can do all those artistic shots you see in all those photography books and apply things you learn in photography lessons.

Lens choice is immerse, and you can define you own way of doing your photography by getting lenses which support your style and vision. It's matter of personal choices - like building a high end stereo system. If you shoot birds, you can choose from several zooms and prime lenses, up to 1200mm. If you do photojournalism, you can choose low light wide angles, of general zooms, or a set of primes. You choose what's best for you.

The one aspect of digital cameras which is mostly ignored in all this technical babble about megapixels, is sensitivity and it's relation to noise. This simply means: Check a camera model and see in what kind of situations you can take photos (at all) and are the results usable. D30 beats all consumer models by having ISO 100-1600, where ISO 100 and 200 are virtually noiseless, and 400 has some faint noise, and 800 is very usable. You can even use 1600 if you use noise reduction actions available for Photoshop (Fred Miranda sells one set here, and jes has one good free action here). Combined to sensitive lenses, this gives you a freedom to use available light most of the time. It's a relief after using a cameras with only usable ISO 50 or 100. It means you don't have to carry a tripod, and you can stop movement in dim scenes. You get what you see. You can change ISO by a small movement of your thumb and adapt immediately to new lighting situations.

I noticed and interesting thing about D30 'propack' (vertical grip with 2 batteries and vertical controls). More and more of my photos are now vertical. It feels so natural to change between vertical and horizontal grip, that you decide orientation by composition, not by how comfortable holding is.