iXBT Labs - Computer Hardware in Detail







April 3, 2001

The CANON EOS D30 digital camera which we are dealing with today was displayed nearly a year ago. A revolutionary idea consists in a matrix based on the CMOS technology and in a price. Earlier such matrices were never used in professional cameras. Although the price is quite high, the camera is still the cheapest digital reflex camera with removable lenses.

A film prototype of the camera costs $600, a digital 3-Mpixel camera is also about at $600. What are $2000 more for? Well, let's estimate whether the removable optical system costs this sum of money.

The camera is shipped without a lens: the company gives a base, and you can assemble what you want to see. For example, a camera shown above is equipped with a cheap Industar 50-2 lens. As such a range of possibilities can be covered in one article we are turning to a soap opera, hoping to publish 2-3 articles a month.

Despite the fact that the camera can be hardly called a mass product, many things described hereinafter may refer to other cameras with removable lenses. And on the other hand, ideas realized here can be successfully used in mass cameras in the nearest future. It's like with a Formula 1 car - only a few are driving, and millions are interested.

Surface examination

The first article is devoted to those who have already worked with CANON EOS cameras and want to understand to what degree his ot her forecasts and expectations coincide with reality.

The EOS system is first of all a bayonet for autofocus lenses of the EF type: many lenses fit here, including lenses with a M42 thread attached with an adapter. The matrix is, though, 22X14.9 mm what is less than a standard 36X24 frame by a factor of 1.6, and, therefore, all lenses become long-focus.

For comparison, the table shows matrix sizes of other digital cameras.

Camera Matrix size Frame size An effective number of sensors (Mpixels)
Canon EOS-D30 CMOS
22.0 x 14.9
2160 x 1440
Nikon D1 CCD
23.6 x 15.5
2000 x 1312
FujiFilm FinePix S1 Pro
23.3 x 15.6
3040 x 2016
Sony ICX252AQ
7.2 x 5.35
2048 x 1536

In order to define the data more precisely I went to http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/canond30/ and noted that a frame format is specified as 35.0 x 23.3, whereas according to my measurements it is still 24X36. And as for a matrix size, my measurement shows that it is a whole matrix size, while a working surface is a bit smaller.

A big matrix lowers requirements to a lens resolution, and as you can see, the Industar is not worse than proprietary lenses.

The Casio with its small matrix looks a bit worse. Apparently, higher requirements to the lens and a noise elimination system in the Canon D30 have told upon here.

The system is so effective that there is no a hint at noise on a black head of the bird, as well as at eyes :)

The shot is made through the PENTACON 135 MM lens with a TK2 tele converter. In all, 135X2X1.6 = 432 mm in 35 mm equivalent.

As for lenses of the L series, the digital cameras are not released yet. A situation with wide-angle lenses is not so rosy, but it will be a subject for the next article.

The second component of the system is operative buttons. The first impression of a photographer working with EOS cameras is that every button is right next to a finger. It seems that only a rear panel with an LCD display indicates that the camera belongs to a digital devices class. Buttons of digital mode control have not too much effect on a shooting style since a display is intended for viewing and analyzing of the newly captured stills.

But similarity doesn't mean a complete coincidence. Just look at the top and you will see that it's not the EOS30 - a right mode-choice wheel is replaced by buttons. A power supply switch has migrated to the rear panel.

RS-80N3 and TC 80N3 remote controllers are identical to those of the EOS3 and EOS 1V cameras; with the EOS30, like in case of the EOS50, the RC-1 and RS-60E3 are used. There is no anymore an IR remote controller: a 3-pin connector for a remote controller to be connected to EOS cameras appeared on the scene. Note that a 3-pin T3 -> 3-pin N3 adapter costs $43!

A vertical feeding pistol grip of the D30-BG-ED3 accommodates two BP-511 accumulators, the 30–BP-300 can house 4 AA batteries. It means that there are no more cheap and capacious NiMH rechargeable batteries. Only a Li-Ion BP-511 battery with 1100 mA*hour capacity costs minimum $70. The capacity is not striking, though it is enough to fill up with shots an IBM microdrive, since the camera spends energy neither for an LCD display nor for a microdrive to change a focal length.

Now up a focusing issue. Till recently digital cameras lacked for a good and customary manual focusing. A possibility of a manual focusing for EOS cameras is important since Canon produces for this system not only auto focus lenses: there are advanced systems such as TS-E. The company has understood that it is not auto focusing that attracts customers in digital cameras, and therefore, they have simplified an auto focusing system as compared with model 30. The latter has 7 focusing points, including an auto focusing point which is indicated on a focusing screen. And the D30 has only three focusing points and an active one is marked in the lower line what is less convenient: you should notice what point is working now (right, left or central), and then shift your gaze to a mark on the screen. As for a focusing screen, I wish there were a screen which would suit better for manual focusing. Taking into account removable screens for the EOS1, the one installed in the D30 looks like a screen with laser matting (Ec-CII). In our opinion, they'd better use screens with Ec-A microprisms or with a Ec-B wedge device.

On the side panels of the camera there are connectors for a computer, TV, an exotic connector for a remote controller and a synchronizer for an unmatched flash. There is again a trouble with a flash. Unlike mechanical cameras, in electronic ones polarity of a signal matters much. The first flash which we tried to connect refused to work. So we had to take a soldering iron and match cables. Everything worked perfect, but the next flash turned to be with another polarity.... A connector for a PC has 12 pairs of pins, for 4 USB cables. The camera can be controlled from a PC, however, it is not a universal device for reading memory cards. You can work only with photos.

Apparently, the camera can be connected also via a serial port, like a S20 which is equipped with a similar connector, however we failed to find a cable or any mention in the manual.

In our opinion, the software should have been better. A key feature of the camera is a possibility to work with RAW format, but the majority of programs necessary for 12-bit color are not free. And demo versions have a very short lifetime: a week, 20 turn-ons etc. On the whole, it is not simpler to extract an uncompressed image from this camera than to read a shot in TIFF format in the Casio QV3000.

In conclusion, briefly on what you can see in the following articles:

  • A detailed description of modes and a menu of the camera.
  • A comparison with photos taken with a EOS50 camera through the same lenses; comparison will be made both for scanned print-outs and for negatives.
  • Noise comparison of CMOS and CCD matrices.
  • Sensitometric characteristics with a different exposure index. In this camera a record sensitivity (1600 ISO) can be set.
  • The RAW format will be taken a closer look at, as well as programs for it.
  • And of course, a countless number of attachments. On the photo there is only a small part of what we are going to use.

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