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|| News Item: Posted 2000-08-28

Here Comes Canon Finally!
A "touchy-feely" look at the new digital D30"

By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Photo by
I had the opportunity to play around at the recent Democratic National Convention with Canon's as-yet unavailable D30 digital SLR.

My first impressions were recently posted on Rob Galbraith's Digi-News web site, but I will go into a bit more details for Sports Shooter.

As previously reported, the D30 is a marvel ... fast and responsive, with the ability to shoot long bursts, it's small and light and easy to use.

So what's not to like?

While the physical feel of the camera body is a bit more substantive than I would have thought (given it's built on an amateur-line body), it does not have the rock-solid feel of Nikon's top-of-the-line D1, for which everything now is compared to.

One thing I did not mention in my earlier musings on the D30 is that I HIGHLY recommend getting the Battery Grip BG-30. This not only provides for a more "pro" feel, but also extends the battery life with the dual cell slots.

The BG-30 also provides a comfortable vertical release and both "back buttons."

After a closer look at files shot at the DNC (which I wasn't able to do until today) the images shot under bad lighting conditions at extremely high ASA are a bit rough. Images shot under flat conditions looked very nice, even at 1600. But images shot at 800 and 1600 under contrasty conditions showed a distinct muddy pattern in the deep shadow areas.

Photo by Tim Dillon/USA Today

Photo by Tim Dillon/USA Today
A blow up of these darker areas of the images show what I call the "JPEG Jaggies" hard, boxy pixels that ordinarily would be expected of images compressed at a high setting.

HOWEVER, I think the images would have been useable for the paper and certainly looked much better than DCS520 files shot at 800 - 12500 under similar muddy lighting conditions.

The quality of the images is very nice at ASA 800 and 400.The "jaggies" don't seem to show up at theses ASAs.

Over exposed highlights tend to be pasty, as noted by Mr. Galbraith, but certainly manageable. The meter in the pre-production D30 I used seemed to run a little hot, with exposes consistently 1/2 - 2/3 over.

The D30 uses a 3.25.mega-pixel CMOS sensor and in the JPEG Large settings produced a 10 meg file. (The pre-production model I used did not have the ability to shoot in the "Raw" file format.)

In the "JPEG Large/Fine" setting files came in at 1.2 - 1.3 megs. In the "JPEG Large/Normal" setting files were around 550k - 700k.

The larger files at JPEG "Large/Fine" compression were not a problem with our workflow at the DNC...we were on a 2 T-1 lines to our network back in Virginia. But under normal situations we'd be transmitting from the field on an analog line, so I wanted to see the quality of the files under that kind of condition, which would be saved at the "Large Normal" setting.

The D30 uses Type I and Type II CompactFlash cards as well as the popular IBM MicroDrives.

Photo by Tim Dillon/USA Today

Photo by Tim Dillon/USA Today
Another feature I liked was the lower ASA range begins at 100 rather than 200 (like the DCS520/ and 620). For photographers taking the D30 in the studio or shooting in bright- sunny conditions, ASA 100 is a welcome feature. There are four quality settings... I shot some in Large Fine, but mostly in Large Normal. The files on the best quality setting are about 1.4 - 1.5 megs.

To me, however, the reason I LOVED the camera was because it was VERY responsive and displayed no obvious shutter lag.

It's hard to say for sure not having shot football or basketball with the D30, but I felt very sure that when I pressed the shutter release, the image I saw was what was captured.

Another feature I loved is the ability to shoot fairly long bursts. Picking the camera up for the first time, I was able to shoot a continuous burst of 24 frames. Wow!

I repeat: Wow!

And after filling the buffer with one long continuos burst of 24 frames, I was able to start shooting again after 4 seconds and was able to shoot another burst of 4.

While shooting Jesse Jackson addressing the DNC I didn't feel I had to pace myself when the usually animated speaker started in on a rant.

On the flip side, I was cursing my DSC520 when I nearly missed Ted Kennedy hugging his niece Carolyn after firing off 12 frames during another evening at the DNC.

The D30 is a tad slower in the motor drive department than the DCS 520, but not by much. Personally I don't think DCS 520 is 3.5 frames a second as advertised, but that's just a "feel" kind of thing.

My New York colleague Bob Deutsch and I conducted a totally unscientific test, timing 10 frames shot on each camera (D30 and DCS520) with a stopwatch. The results: they tied, 3.4 seconds (give or take a tick).

If you're used to a Canon 1v, Nikon D1 or heck, even an EOS 1n (film) body, the D30 is a slow poke. But it is not significantly slower than the DCS 520/D2000 ...if it is at all. And the lack of a significant shutter delay certainly makes up a speed difference.

The camera is incredibly quiet compared to the clunky DCS 520 and is very light. However it has a nice feel and doesn't feel real "plastic-y" like an A2 or Rebel.

Photo by
This would be an ideal camera for documentary - news work where long lenses (like 300 2.8-400-600mm) are not needed. I've always been very careful about my camera's mount dimensions and I suspect using long glass would not be good on the mount and front chassis of the body.

However as a second or third camera body ... something to use around the neck or over the shoulder with a 17-35, 28-70, 14mm, et al ... the D30 could be the BOMB! I also think as a remote camera (for hoops, track & field, etc.) the D30 would be great.

The viewfinder appears large and not as confining as the DCS520 or 620. The angle of view and focal length is magnified 1.6x (like the DCS520), a feature I've always liked.

For all of you "chimping" aficionados, the 1.8-inch LCD monitor on the back of the D30 is crisp, sharp and bright.

The controls and settings are straightforward and intuitive. I was able to use the camera at the DNC without a manual and only a brief run-through with the folks at CPS.

You really need the battery pack/grip on the D30 to get the right "feel" for the body The grip/battery pack also has a vertical release that has both "back buttons" and a wheel to change shutter speeds or apertures.

I got a very brief rundown of the D30 by CPS and the controls and settings are very easy to figure out and use. They claim the batteries in the grip (2 lithium-ions) will power the D30 for over 1,000 frames (That's what CPS claims!). The charger sports dual slots.

We used the current version of PhotoMechanic to edit and caption images shot with the D30 and it worked fine. At the DNC, Canon did not have their editing/browsing software available and recommended GraphicConverter for Mac users and ACDSee for PC users.

(Canon's literature says the D30 will be bundled with a USB Twain driver for the PC and an Adobe PhotoShop plug in.)

All in all as I said, it shows a lot of promise. Tim Dillon, USA TODAY's Washington, DC-based photographer (who covers mostly news and politics) said after using the D30 for just 45 minutes, "Hey, get me two!"

For photographers like Tim, who don't have to use long glass often, this camera could certainly work well. The size and weight make it very useable for most newspaper and magazine work.

Auto-focus, TTL flash (with EX series strobes), white-balance functions and metering are similar to the DCS520/D2000. One added function of note (that I didn't have the opportunity to try) is the internal noise reduction, which Canon says is good for long exposures.

Tim shot a few speakers from the center camera platform at the Democratic National Convention with a 400 and 300 and said the AF was pretty fast and he didn't notice much of a difference from the DCS520. He also said the lack of a shutter delay was very noticeable.

I've received a lot of inquiries from both freelancers and newspaper staffers wondering if the D30 is something they should buy when it becomes available in September. The answer is maybe.

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today

Photo by Robert Hanashiro/USA Today
For the freelance photographer (who has to pay for equipment out of his own pocket) $3,500 - 3,600 is a relatively small price to pay to "go digital".

(Note: the price is an estimate and includes the cost of the Battery Grip BG-ED3, which I highly recommend getting.)

Compared to the Nikon D1 (admittedly a heavier-duty body) and its $5k price tag, the D1 is cheap-cheap-cheap!

(Remember when the DSC 520 and 620 first came out at a "healthy" price of $14, 000? That wasn't that long ago my friends.)

But as I said, there is a price to pay and that's durability. Will the D30 take the rigors of a college football and NFL season? If you're careful with your equipment (and definitely don't pick it up by the body with a 300 or 400 attached!) and avoid the jarring and shock gear sustains when transported, the D30 should hold up.

But what photographer do you know who is that careful all of the time?

I admit, I loved the D30.

It eliminates the three biggest complaints I've had about digital I've ranted about for years shutter lag, small buffer and shutter lag.

If you're a Canon shooter and in the market for a new digital camera NOW (meaning you can't wait for the as yet unannounced pro digital camera or have budget to spend in the next 6-8 months), then the D30 is your only option.

These are just my initial impressions of the D30 after using it for two days, but I have been digital for over 5 years.

Canon seems to be heading in the right direction...

(Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter founder and editor, has a day job as a staff photographer for USA TODAY.)

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