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Canon EOS D30 Digital SLR Camera
- E-TTL flash system delivers nearly foolproof flash exposures.
- Compact, lightweight EOS style digital single-lens reflex camera, designed and built by Canon.
- Uses any & all Canon EF compatible lenses, including Canon's image stabilization models.
- 3.25 megapixel CMOS image sensor, with a maximum resolution of 2160 x 1440 pixels.
- Rugged, well-built, solid construction.
- Outstanding battery life... Shoot all day without running out of power.
- Great feel & handling.
- Focal length multiplier factor 1.6
- Uses CompactFlash Type I or II memory cards, also compatible with the IBM MicroDrive.
- Recording formats: JPEG or RAW format.
- Built-in popup flash or accessory Canon EX speedlights both make use of Canon's E-TTL automatic light output adjustment system.
- Accessory BG-ED3 vertical grip doubles battery capacity, adds that "pro class" look.
- Bright, fast, and exceptionally clear 1.8 inch TFT LCD screen with one-touch histogram display.
- Selectable ISO sensitivities of 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600.
- Built-in NTSC/PAL video output for direct television playback display anywhere in the world.
- "Shooting Priority" instantly returns the camera to a ready-to-shoot state from any mode by simply half-pressing the shutter button.
- Continuous shooting burst rate of up to three frames per second.
- Built-in USB interface port for image and data transfer.
Camera package includes a 16 MB memory card, neckstrap, one rechargeable battery, dual battery charger, USB cable, video cable, AC power adapter and cords, and (printed) paperback operators manuals for the camera and camera software.
Canon debuted it's first "all Canon" EOS Digital SLR (single-lens reflex) camera to the world at the February 2000 PMA trade show in San Francisco. Secured in a sealed glass showcase, it was referred to only as a "new product under development", with the following disclosures:Type: Autofocusing Single-Lens Reflex Digital Camera
Lens Mount: Canon EF Mount
Lenses Used: Canon EF Lenses
Digital Resolution: Over 3 Million Pixels
Launch Date: Fall 2000 (Tentative)
At that point, the name "D30" was a secret. The display model at the show had a piece of black tape hiding the nameplate. And no one was allowed to handle the new camera. How mysterious...
Fuji's new S1 Pro was also on display at the February PMA show, and looked strikingly similar to the new Canon digital. About the same size, both had popup flashes, white focus assist lights, multiple program shooting mode dials, similar LCD screens, etc. And because of the S1 Pro's advertised "6 Megapixel Resolution" and Nikon lens mount system, I gave very little thought to the new Canon digital. After all, I had extensive Nikon camera experience, all those Nikon lenses, flash accessories, camera bags, neckstraps, and more. And the new Fuji looked really interesting. "Wow!" I thought. "How can Fuji do all that for $4,000 when a Nikon D1 is selling for $5,000?" No price was estimated for the upcoming Canon... for all I knew, it might be more than a D1.
Besides that, Fuji indicated a June ship date, and Canon was talking about "Fall" for its new camera. The last Canon I seriously considered, the Pro 70, also had a Fall promise (1998), but ended up being delayed for several months beyond that. I was concerned that the same kind of delay would likely happen with the new Canon. So, I simply clicked on the "sorry, not interested" button in my head.
Canon's official D30 press release came on May 17th, along with links to a couple of corporate websites filled with detailed information and product photos. O.K., I thought - maybe I'm a little interested. But the press release also brought more doubts I read that it had a revolutionary new CMOS image sensor instead of the proven, traditional CCD system. (Hmm-m-m-m.) Pricing was announced at a suggested retail of $3,500. (Certainly a pleasant surprise, but not enough price difference with the $4,000 Fuji to seriously sway my attention.) And by that time, enough sample pictures from the upcoming Fuji were available to keep me zeroed in on the S1 Pro. The S1 Pro samples looked "dazzling" to me.
The first Canon D30 sample pictures were displayed on a couple of Japanese sites in early August. Very nice, I thought. (But in my opinion, not all that great.) It looked to me like the camera tended to produce slightly cyan skin tones and occasional blown out whites perhaps an overly critical perception on my part, but common throughout the samples on both sites. To me, they were similar to what my Nikon D1 produced. Perhaps a little better... but not worth jumping ship for.
October 2000 - On time, Canon shipped limited numbers of the first D30's to its USA dealers. I was pleasantly surprised.
By that time, I'd already traded out of my Nikon D1 into a Fuji S1 Pro, and was extremely pleased with its picture quality. Great skin tones, clean whites, rich & accurate color reproduction right out of the camera. And S1 Pro pictures required minimal (often zero) post-processing.
But I did miss the sleek pro-like look & feel of the D1. And too often, I felt seriously restricted by some of the limitations of the S1 Pro's Nikon N60 based camera body. The lack of compatibility with electronic focus motor lenses and the lack of an interactive zoom interface with my Nikon SB-28 flash did disappoint me. My beloved Sigma 50-500mm hypersonic zoom lens was downgraded to manual focus only. My expensive flash had to be manually zoomed to match the lens angle for an accurate flash pattern. (What a shame.)
And I found myself whimsically wishing that someday, somehow, someone would put a Fuji "Super CCD" in a Nikon D1 camera body.
Online reviews by Rob Galbraith, DPReview.com, Steve's Digicams, Imaging-Resource, DC Resource, and the Luminous Landscape slowly turned my interest towards the D30. I downloaded scores of sample pictures and seriously analyzed them, looking for trends, traits, and overall image characteristics. Yes, the cyan cast and occasional blown-out white problem was still there, but it wasn't all that serious. And overall, (I must admit) I was impressed with the newest sample pictures.
Maybe I should try the Canon D30, I thought to myself...
Early November brought a D30 opportunity my way. I also picked up a Canon BG-ED3 dual battery & vertical grip package with an extra battery, a couple of Canon 550EX speedlights, a Canon EF 17-35mm Wide Angle "L" series lens, a Canon EF 28-135mm Image Stabilized lens, and a Canon EF 100-400mm "L" series Image Stabilized lens with the new camera.
I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it right.
Compared to the Competition
Before I got my own D30, I surmised that it would fit in somewhere between the Fuji S1 Pro and the Nikon D1. It appeared that the camera itself was going to be a close match to the Nikon D1 for features and operation, and a close match to the Fuji S1 Pro for image quality.
Many consider the Nikon D1 to be the ultimate digital. And the benchmark for comparisons of build quality and features.
- Yes, I too really like the way the Nikon D1 handles and operates. I especially enjoy the 4.5 frame per second, 21 image continuous shooting buffer.
- No, the D30 doesn't have the 4.5 frames per second, 21 shot buffer of the Nikon D1, but 3 frames per second with an 8 or 9 shot buffer before the camera pauses to catch up will do the trick most of the time.
- The Nikon D1 is built "commercial quality" tough and rugged.
- Although not as rugged as the D1, the D30 is an extremely well-built camera.
And I actually like the way the D30 does some things better than the D1:
- Shooting priority: No matter what you're doing with the camera, such as viewing images in the playback mode, simply touch the shutter button and it's instantly ready to shoot. No fumbling for a switch, no lag, waiting for the mode to change, like you experience with the D1. I like to review my pictures after I shoot a few, and often see another picture opportunity come up as I look through what I've just shot. The D30 lets me instantly stop what I'm doing so I can quickly take another shot.
- Lightning fast image playbacks: Scroll through the images with virtually no waiting as you look for a particular shot to review. And instantly pop up the histogram to check exposure balance with a simple one stroke push of a button.
- Canon's E-TTL flash system works better than the Nikon D1 & Nikon SB-28DX flash combination. The D30 gives me the best flash pictures I've ever taken.
- Battery life: Every other "top quality" digital camera I've used, including the Nikon D1, has been good for around 150-200 shots (at best) on a charge. I frequently review the pictures I take during the course of a picture outing, and to get that mileage, I have to turn the camera off when I'm not shooting or reviewing my pictures. The D30 is good for around 500 pictures per charged battery, and with the dual battery accessory grip, the D30 is good for around a thousand shots, including frequent image playbacks.
The Fuji S1 Pro is considered by many to be the benchmark for premium digital photo quality. How does the D30 compare to the S1 Pro?
- In my opinion, the D30 doesn't quite match the Fuji S1 Pro for "people pictures", especially closeups. The S1 Pro really understands the essence of skin tones, regardless of race, color, or creed.
- Also, the D30 can't match the Fuji S1 Pro (or the Kodak Pro DCS 620x) for ISO 800 or 1600 shooting quality. If frequent high ISO shooting is a must, the S1 Pro and the 620x are the best.
- Other than those areas, the D30 takes generally better pictures than any digital I've ever used. That includes the Fuji S1 Pro, the Nikon D1, and a wide range of Kodak Pro cameras.
Logical lens mount
This may seem like a silly "favorite feature", but as a long time Nikon user I couldn't pass up mentioning it.
Canon lenses mount clockwise. You screw them in and take them off in the same direction as you would the lid to a jar, the way folks are accustomed to doing things. And, Canon lenses have their lens insertion alignment marks at the very top center of the opening (12:00 high position) as you insert the lens into the mount. A quick glance at the lens for the red alignment mark, insert it straight up, twist it to the right... Simple, fast, & logical.
Nikon lenses, on the other hand, mount counterclockwise. (huh?) The lens alignment marks are set at around 45o to the right prior to insertion, and end up at the top center. Even after mounting / dismounting hundreds of Nikon lenses, I still have to look closely before inserting the lens in the opening.
Power to spare
With the optional BG-ED3 battery grip package, the camera holds two rechargeable lithium batteries. This gives the camera enough power to shoot approximately one thousand pictures in the Jpeg Fine / Large mode.
The installation of the BG-ED3 dual battery / vertical grip challenged me a bit. (A somewhat vague instruction sheet and diagram took me a few minutes to figure out.) You have to remove the original battery compartment door to mount the grip, I can see how being impatient could break the door off the camera trying to remove it. (Be careful!) The old door fits neatly in a compartment on the new vertical grip. (Good idea, Canon.) And the batteries themselves slide & snap into the grip simply, securely, and easily.
With this much reserve power, I don't even concern myself with the batteries. (What a great non-worry.) I leave my camera set to a 15 minute timeout, and leave it on all the time while I'm in the shooting mood. That way, the camera is ready instantly, whenever I want to snap a picture. I've yet to see the power indicator bar on the camera dip below the full zone. The CMOS imager, the LCD screen, and the camera's operating system are obviously real power misers. When necessary, battery charging is a breeze. The charger included with the camera holds two batteries - it charges one, finishes it, then automatically switches to the other. Completely dead batteries are fully recharged in around 90 minutes.
Once the grip is installed, the camera takes on an entirely new look and feel, much like the top of the line pro cameras from Canon, Minolta, or Nikon.
The power switch to the vertical controls is shown circled in the picture at right.
I leave my grip switch on all the time. The switch doesn't actually turn the camera on, it only activates the vertical controls.
The best flash system I've used on any digital camera.
The camera fires a mini pre-flash microseconds before the actual picture is taken, signaling the camera's onboard metering system to analyze the pre-flash feedback from the camera's focus point. The camera then computes and predetermines the correct level of flash output for the actual shot.
Nikon had the idea first with the SB28-DX flash system on the D1, but it looks like Canon did a better job of making the concept work right.
The pre-flash E-TTL* system works with either the built in popup flash or a Canon 220EX, 420EX, or 550EX external speedlight.
*E-TTL stands for "evaluative-through the lens".
Canon's little-known flash bonus...
Everyone knows that the Canon D30's maximum flash synch speed is 1/200th of a second, right? After all, that's what it says in all the reviews, and that's what it says in the camera's specifications.
Wait! If you read deep into the camera's manual in the flash section, you'll see a short section about "high speed flash synch" using Canon's top of the line 550EX flash unit. The manual notes that the camera can flash-synch a 550EX all the way up to the camera's 1/4,000th of a second maximum shutter speed!
Unique to the EX series Canon speedlights, high speed flash synch works (only) with certain Canon EOS cameras, including the D30.
For times when you need that extra shutter speed AND a flash, the D30 & a 220EX, 420EX or a 550EX combination is just the ticket. (The D30's built-in flash won't do high speed synch.) Sports action, moving subjects (like the hummingbird shown below), wiggly pets & kids... you get the picture. Fast shutter speed is sometimes the only solution, and now you can use your flash too!
High Speed Synch flash photo
Canon D30 High Speed Synch daylight flash photo.
ISO 400, Manual Exposure, Jpeg Fine/Large
Shutter @ 1/800th second, Aperture f8
Lens: Canon 100-400mm IS @ 400 mm position.
Flash: Dual Canon 550EX's (Slaved)
Flash settings: E-TTL & High Speed Synch.
Flash Exposure Lock
Part of the E-TTL system, the FE Lock computes the correct flash exposure for a specific subject. By pre-focusing the camera on the prime subject and then pressing one of the AE/FE lock buttons (shown at left on both the main camera body and the vertical grip), the camera manually fires an E-TTL mini pre-flash and stores the computed flash output in memory. When the picture is actually taken, the camera applies the flash setting from memory, regardless of the subject's current location in the camera's field of view.
For example, I always use the FE Lock when the prime subject (such as a person's face) might not be at the center of the picture. The prime subject will have the correct flash exposure, regardless of where it's located in the picture.... at the top, at the bottom, to the side, wherever.
Top LCD screen & controls
Well laid out & easy to use. If you haven't used an Canon EOS camera before, be sure to read the manual first... some of the buttons are uniquely Canon.
The screen doesn't have a backlight. This is a real problem when shooting in low light.
Back LCD screen - Lots of options,
lightning fast picture review scrolling speed.
The "INFO" button is a real winner. It serves two functions:
- When in the review (playback) mode, it displays the picture's histogram and capture information along with a thumbnail of the picture. Toggle it back and forth between a full screen picture and the information / picture screen. Excellent (and quick) for instant in-depth evaluation of your shots.
- When in the shooting mode, it instantly brings up a recap of the camera's current setup - ISO, parameter settings (contrast, sharpening, saturation), custom function deviations from default, drive mode, power-off timing, review setting and timing, flash and exposure compensation, image size / quality, and memory card capacity in megabytes and estimated pictures remaining.
A lifesaver for me - I tend to forget that I left the camera on a high ISO number, or exposure compensation deviation, or an experimental parameter setting for a particular picture. (Whoops.) Which can (and does) ruin a photographer's day by taking pictures with the camera set up completely different than what you planned on. A quick punch of the info button will keep you out of trouble.
The "JUMP" button is used during playback, it jumps the display forward or backwards 10 pictures at a time, cutting the time required to find & display a particular picture. Very useful when reviewing pictures captured on a high capacity memory card, where there might be hundreds of images to look through.
Special note on the LCD picture playback -
The D30 plays back pictures faster than any camera I've seen. Scroll through the pictures by rolling the Quick Control Dial nearly as fast as you can turn the dial... It's like flipping through channels on the dial of an old television set - the display speed is amazingly fast.
Multiple shooting modes
Automatic (the green box symbol, where all exposure functions are determined by the camera), P (programmed automatic exposure with rolling aperture and shutter combinations available by turning the main control dial), TV (shutter priority), Av (aperture priority), M (manually set shutter and aperture), A-DEP (automatic depth of field aperture setting calculated by analyzing three focus points), or one of five special program modes (Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, & Night Scene.)
Having trouble with Canon D30 colors?
Typical D30 pictures tend to be a little "off" on certain colors, especially Blues & Greens. In most cases, the casual observer won't even notice it. But it can drive perfectionists (and D30 critics) crazy. The same color problems continued with Canon's next DSLR, the EOS D60.
Here's a way to "dial in" the colors using a simple Adobe PhotoShop technique.
Some users struggle with getting a good focus lock.
The D30 is equipped with three horizontally arranged focus points. (As shown in the first diagram below.) The photographer has the choice of either letting the camera choose what it considers to be the best focus point among the three (called automatic selection AF), or manually choosing only one of the three points in advance (called manual selection AF).
Above: The D30's three focusing points as seen through the camera's viewfinder.
Above: Focus sensor axis layouts. The center sensor has a dual-axis, the outer sensors are single-axis only.
The center sensor recognizes both horizontal and vertical contrast angles.
When the camera is held horizontally, the two outer sensors recognize only horizontal contrast angles.
Conversely, if the camera is held vertically, the outer points recognize only vertical contrast angles.
Automatic selection AF: The camera always uses all three focus points while in Automatic, A-DEP, or any of the preprogrammed modes (Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, & Night Scene). According to Canon, "the camera selects the focusing point automatically according to conditions." What that really means is that the camera can focus using any of the three focus points.
Problem: The focusing sensors hunt for contrast points... the first / best point the camera finds gets the nod. The camera may struggle with getting a good focus lock, or at certain times may not want to focus at all. When it does lock on something, it might be on one of the outer points if it senses a better contrast point than at the center point, and your prime subject might not be in focus. Then, the finished picture will will appear that the camera didn't focus properly.
Manual selection AF: Available in (P) programmed, (Tv) shutter priority, (Av) aperture Priority, and (M) manual modes.
Recommendation: When a positive focus lock on the prime subject is a must, choose manual selection AF on your D30 and pick the left, center, or right focus point. You'll need to be in in Programmed Automatic Exposure, Aperture or Shutter Priority, or Manual Exposure modes. The center sensor will be the most reliable, because there are twice as many potential contrast angles to lock in on (as shown in the second diagram). That's why I leave my camera set on the center point all the time.
If you feel the need for the automatic selection AF feature, dial in one of the preprogrammed or automatic shooting modes. Even if you have manually selected just one focus point, the camera will switch itself to the automatic selection (three point) system. When you return to (P), (Tv), (Av), or (M) mode, it switches back to manual selection (one point).
All original pictures taken with the camera set at "Jpeg Fine / Large" image size & quality unless otherwise noted. Click on any preview below for an enlarged view.
1200 x 875 pixels, 689 KB
Outdoor fill flash in the shade, ISO 200
1200 x 800 pixels, 430 KB
High Speed 400mm Telephoto, ISO 400
Original image: RAW format
1200 x 1800 pixels, 778 KB
Two second exposure, ISO 400
1200 x 1800 pixels, 756 KB
Indoor Flash, ISO 200
1000 x 667 pixels, 259 KB
Outdoor Telephoto, ISO 100
1000 x 667 pixels, 155 KB
Outdoor flash macro, ISO 100
1200 x 1800 pixels, 847 KB
Programmed AE, ISO 200
1000 x 1800 pixels, 907 KB
550EX outdoor fill flash, ISO 200
1200 x 1200 pixels, 709 KB
Nightime Outdoor Flash, ISO 200
1200 x 1200 pixels, 585 KB
Late Afternoon 400mm Telephoto, ISO 400
Actual sized 400 x 400 pixel crop out of a D30 photo taken with a Canon 100-400mm IS lens at its maximum 400mm telephoto position.
The picture was taken using the "mirror up" option and a Canon LC-4 wireless transmitter to eliminate all possibilities of camera vibration.
More Canon D30 sample pictures in Lonestardigital's site at: