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Canon EOS D30 shows promise  
Thursday, July 27, 2000 | by
Let's dispense with what Canon's EOS D30 is not:
  • It's not a direct competitor to the Nikon D1. It lacks the ruggedized body, weather-resistant seals and 4.5 fps frame rate of Nikon's pro digital SLR.

  • It's not a competitor to the Kodak DCS 620X. It tops out at ISO 1600, well short of the ISO 6400 of the 620X, and will ship with software that overall is not a match for Kodak's acquire plug-in.

  • It's almost certainly not Canon's last word on digital SLRs in the next 6-12 months. Canon is talking openly about a camera to follow the D30 that will be a competitor to the best pro digital SLR cameras built on the Nikon platform. That camera is unlikely to surface before the PMA trade show in Orlando, Florida in February.

The D30 will, however, be a lot of camera when it ships this September in Europe, Asia and North America. In fact, the D30 is shaping up to offer more for your digital photography dollar than any digital SLR since, well, the Nikon D1. If the image quality is as good as Canon promises, then its feature set and software, combined with a street price of well below US$3000, will make the D30 an appealing option for newspapers with smaller budgets and lots of Canon gear, as well as the thousands of Canon-toting freelance news shooters eager to make the jump to digital. Canon has built just enough pro features into the D30 to make many a photojournalist sit up and take notice.


Canon EOS D30 with the Battery Grip BG-ED3 attached

This article is an examination of the D30's suitability for photojournalism, and is broken down into eleven sections. They are:

Price

Let's start with the camera's most enticing feature: it's cost. Canon in the US has not established a dealer price yet, so street pricing in the main North American market is difficult to peg. A dealer in Canada, however, is quoting a price of CDN$3500, or about US$2400; another I checked with in northern Europe is telling prospective customers to set aside the equivalent of US$2600. Factoring in a margin of error of even several hundred dollars, it's easy to see that the D30 will be within the budget of even small market newspapers and individual freelance photographers.


Canon USA's Chuck Westfall (left) talks up the D30 to photojournalists
Joe Elbert of The Washington Post, Sam Cranston of the Daytona Beach News-Journal,
Keith Jenkins of The Washington Post Magazine and Battle Vaughan of the Miami Herald at
Visual Edge 2000 in Florida this week. (Photo by Reed Hoffmann)

Image quality

Nine things are known about D30 image quality at this time:

  • It captures 12-bits per colour from 3.11 million image pixels on a sensor that is about the same physical size as that found in the Nikon D1, Kodak DCS 520, 620, 620x and EOS D2000. That means that focal length magnification is about the same too, at 1.6x.

  • If the image is written out to JPEG format in the D30, then the 12-bits per colour the camera captures is reduced to 8-bits per colour.

  • Open a Large Fine JPEG or Large Normal JPEG into Photoshop and you'll have an 8.9MB, 8-bits per colour file. As RAW files are processed on the computer, they can be converted to 8-bits per colour also, or the full 12-bits per colour the camera captures may be preserved, depending on the file format selected. Assuming that the camera delivers a sharp, clean 3.11 million pixels worth of data, newspapers will be able to use D30 photos at sizes large and small, and be able to crop to some degree, without appreciable quality loss.

  • Five file format settings are choosable on the camera: JPEG Fine and JPEG Normal at full and reduced resolution, plus RAW. JPEG is standard fare these days on digital cameras, so I won't say much about that. It's great, however, to see that Canon has chosen to include RAW as well. A digital camera's RAW data, by definition, is unprocessed, and therefore contains the full 12-bits per colour and tonal range the camera can capture. D1 shooters have begun to discover what Kodak camera users have known for some time: going RAW means slightly to drastically improved image quality, depending on the shooting situation. The D30 has this mode as an option too, but it's not enough for a camera to be able to record images in this mode. Its design has to be optimized to make RAW usable, because RAW files are exponentially larger than straight JPEGs. The Kodak cameras handle RAW files well because of several smart engineering decisions. They include the writing of a thumbnail that's the same size as the rear LCD, and the storing of a number of those thumbnails in memory, for lighting fast thumbnail display; lossless compression of the RAW data, so that it takes up less than half the space it otherwise would on the card; the incorporation of a relatively speedy writer/reader in the camera; and internal memory capacity sufficient to hold 12-13 frames. The D30 appears to match the Kodak cameras on at least two of these four points. Specifically, the RAW file is losslessly compressed, to 3.4MB or less (and probably to about 3MB a lot of the time), and the CompactFlash I/II reader/writer in the D30, at least in a cursory examination, seems really fast. While the camera does write a thumbnail into each JPEG photo, it may not into the RAW file, because in pre-production models a 160 x 120 pixel thumbnail is created separately and stored on the card as a .thm file for some reason. Still, a clear, screen-resolution version of the RAW photo takes only about a 1/2 second to display on the camera's rear monitor, suggesting that the camera's internal processing is speedy enough to generate a screen version from RAW data in a big hurry.

  • The pre-production models Canon is showing to users in the US seem to shoot only 3 frames quickly in RAW mode before slowing considerably. It's not clear why this is. For now, I've put it down to a pre-production quirk and will wait to see how production cameras respond. In short, the D30 appears that it may be designed to not penalize the photographer for choosing RAW. If so, that will be a good thing. Canon will also be bundling, for free, software for processing RAW files.

  • The D30 has a similar range of white balance settings to the D1 and Kodak pro cameras. That is, it includes 5 manual settings, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent and Flash, to handle various warm, cool and fluorescent lighting situations. The colour temperature associated with each setting is not known yet. It also includes Auto White Balance. The D30 also has the all-important Custom White Balance, a mode in which the white balance can be set from a previously-shot photo of something neutral in colour, akin to Preset on a D1 or Custom White Balance on a Kodak camera. It remains to be seen how effective each white balance setting is. The mechanics of setting a Custom White Balance seems superior to the D1, but not quite as easy as with Kodak cameras.

  • Canon has opted for a CMOS sensor of its own design in the D30. CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxygen-Silicon) sensors have been touted for years as the next great thing in digital imaging, and already fill numerous low-end devices, including consumer web cams. The advantages of the CMOS sensor are well-known: principally, they are less expensive to produce than CCD sensors, their associated electronics are easier to miniaturize and consume less power. But image quality has never been CMOS's strong suit. As a result, CCD technology has previously won out over CMOS in applications where good-looking photos matter. Canon claims to have overcome the quality problems and other engineering obstacles associated with building a 18.1mm x 24.9mm CMOS sensor, and will be the first manufacturer to release a digital SLR based on the technology. Because Canon is blazing a trail here, it's wise to be skeptical of their claims of superior photo quality until you, or a photographer you trust, gives D30 photos two thumbs up on real world assignments.

  • The D30's sensor sits behind a low-pass filter that is designed to minimize artifacting in a manner similar to the D1 and Kodak cameras. The filter also does some infrared filtration, but Canon's Chuck Westfall prefers to describe it as less of an IR filter and more of a colour balancing filter. It obviously is designed to tune the light to account for colour response oddities in the CMOS sensor, in the same way the D1 and Kodak cameras include heavy filtration for infrared.

  • An ISO 1600 image being shown on-screen at Visual Edge 2000 this week is noisy, really noisy, both in the red, green and blue channels in RGB, and in the Lightness channel in LAB. Canon reps have been cautioning that it was shot with a pre-production camera, and as such it is not representative of the ISO 1600 quality we'll see in production cameras. On the other hand, most sample prints and on-screen photos Canon is showing off at trade shows these days look good, really good. Jason Freling, a New York-based photojournalist, had this to say about the D30 prints on hand at last week's MacWorld New York:

Sharpness, color, tone - it's all there Rob. They had a night shot of a bridge that was stunning. No noise at all. I asked to stick my MicroDrive in and take a few happy photos, but no chance.

Canon is steadfastly refusing photographer requests to shoot and take away photos made with pre-production D30 units. Therefore, I think it's prudent to wait and see how a production camera performs on actual assignments, and how its photos look in print, before rating D30 image quality.

Camera construction

The camera has been called a digital Rebel, and that is either unfair to the D30 or a great compliment to Canon's entry level film camera. The D30 is built around a stainless steel alloy frame for one, and the feel of the camera is really good. The quality of the plastics covering the frame, the buttons, the dials and other controls - they all seem on par with Canon's pro cameras. And it's so light! No more skipping out of assignments early complaining of sore digital arms.


D30 interior view

The D1 feels heavier, even when the D30 has its vertical grip attached. But the D1 also feels like the more rugged camera, and it almost certainly has better seals around key buttons and controls. In short, the D30 will likely be more durable than I had guessed initially, but it will be a notch below true pro cameras. It may be comparable, however, to Kodak's cameras, which do not have special seals on certain controls to keep out moisture and dust.


Cutaway drawing of the D30, with CompactFlash Type I card

The D30 is small. Really small. In fact, some shooters with large hands may want to shoot with the vertical grip in place all the time. Canon's web site illustrates the D30's diminuitive stature well in this diagram. If a barrier to Canon digital for you has been the DCS 520/D2000's size, the D30 removes that barrier, and then some.

Interface and controls

This is where the D30 really starts to shine, and where it becomes clear that it is NOT an amateur point-and-shoot dressed up to look like an SLR. Canon has included a wealth of features that will please both pros and amateurs, many of which seem well-implemented behind the right button located in the right place. It's not enough to have all the same functions as the other guy's camera - they also have to be easy to use, especially for a photojournalist on the move, and the D30 seems to have plenty of those. Here are some examples:

  • Its Custom White Balance mode is a lot like that of Kodak's cameras: shoot a frame with something neutral in the middle, then tell the camera to set white accordingly. The neutral object needs to fill only the partial metering circle comprising approximately the centre 10% of the frame, which makes it easier to set a white than if the neutral object had to fill the frame. Photos shot subsequently will be balanced according to that frame.

  • On the top of the D30 is a button dedicated to changing the white balance setting, which is displayed in the LCD to the button's right. Setting white balance correctly on any digital camera is critical; having the button that controls it front and centre is good.


Top view showing the dedicated WB button and other key controls

  • The D30 is always ready to shoot pictures, even if images are being reviewed on the rear display. Some amateur digital cameras, and the D1, have distinct playback modes in which the camera will not fire during playback. The D30 wisely eschews this approach.

  • The AE lock (*) thumb button becomes the autofocus start button by altering Custom Function 2. This will please sports shooters in particular. That's the good news. The bad news is that, like the DCS 520/D2000, you have to choose between focusing with your thumb or taking advantage of Flash Exposure Lock (FEL). FEL is the best way to maximize the accuracy of Canon's E-TTL flash system, but it works off the same (*) button. The EOS 3 and EOS1v have a separate button for FEL; not so on the D30 or DCS 520/D2000. In practice, this means choosing between focusing with the back button or making the best possible flash exposures. The D30 does provide a partial workaround for this: a Custom Function can be adjusted to make the AF Stop button on certain Canon lenses act as the AF start button instead, which means the (*) thumb button is once again free for FEL duties. Unfortunately, this feature is only available with lenses that one isn't too likely to be using flash with anyway: the 300/2.8L IS, 400/2.8L IS, 500/4L IS and 600/4L IS.

  • The 1.8 inch, 114,000 pixel rear LCD is the same as that found in Canon's S-series cameras. That means that it isn't a match for the D1's fantastic rear screen, but is easily superior to the one found in Kodak pro cameras. In short, it's more than adequate for judging exposure and image content, and only so-so for judging white balance. The overall design of the menus on the LCD, from the layout to colour, is clean and professional. Digital Photography Review provides a good look at the menus in a recent overview of the D30.


The 1.8 inch, 114,000 pixel rear LCD display

  • The camera includes a histogram and overexposed highlights indicator. Both features are indispensable in assessing exposure. One potential hangup: overexposed highlights only blink in the image/histogram display mode (below), and not the full-screen image (above). There's a two-stage brightness control for the screen as well.


Rear LCD display showing image, histogram and a wealth of image info

  • Finally. The ability to zoom in on the image being displayed, then scroll around to different portions of the image to check focus. This feature is on many amateur rangefinder digicams, but will be making its first appearance on a digital SLR in the D30. It's good to see this function on this camera, but it's not enough. The D30 can zoom in one level to 3x magnification, then clunk around the image in nine different segments using the Quick Control Dial on the back of the camera. I want what the Coolpix 990 has: near-stepless zooming and scrolling up to 4x magnification at least. Still, it's good to see this feature in something other than a point-and-shoot, and the D30 and Fuji's S1 Pro will be the only digital SLR cameras that have it this fall.

  • If you've watched with envy as your friends rig their digital cameras up in the rafters, then trigger them courtside, you'll be happy to know that the D30 has a remote socket to accommodate shooting just this way. The D30 should be compatible with the same remote accessories as the DCS 520/D2000, EOS-3 and EOS-1v through the N3 remote socket on the camera's side. This includes Canon's Wireless Controller LC-4 and Remote Switch RS-80N3. The camera's included Remote Capture 1.0 software will enable the camera to automatically save the remote camera's images to a server over a wired or wireless connection, similar to Nikon Capture and the D1.

  • The D30's CMOS sensor is subject to dark current noise, the same as its CCD counterparts. Dark current noise, usually a pattern of white or coloured pixels sprinkled across the photo, rears its ugly head during long exposures. One method for ridding photos of this noise is to shoot a frame with the lens cap on for the same exposure duration, then use that lens cap frame to subtract noise from the actual frame in Photoshop. This saves long exposure photos shot with Kodak cameras in particular. The D30 can be set to do this internally, simply by adjusting Custom Function 1 to switch it on. Canon is currently showing a D30 sample print, of a brightly-lit bridge at night, that has been processed using the camera's long exposure noise reduction. There isn't a hint of noise, not even in the individual channels, suggesting that the function may work well, though it may also tie up the camera for several seconds after each long exposure photo is shot.

  • The behaviour, while the D30 is shooting, of the Set button in the middle of the Quick Control Dial can be changed with a Custom Function. It can be configured to change ISO, image quality/resolution or image processing parameters. It seems that it might be a handy shortcut for changing ISO in particular, which otherwise is dialed in under a menu on the LCD.


The Set button inside the Quick Control Dial can optionally
control ISO, image quality or processing parameters

Battery

The optional Battery Grip BG-ED3 will be a mandatory purchase for many. Not only does the grip enable two batteries to be powering the camera simultaneously, it also brings a vertical shutter release to the camera. And it provides the D30 with some much-needed depth for photographers with large hands. Other features include:

  • In addition to a vertical shutter release, the BG-ED3 includes a Main Dial, AE Lock/Autofocus Start focus point selection buttons.

  • Battery life for the D30's rechargeable lithium-ion Battery Pack BP-511 is estimated by Canon to be 540 frames. Real world performance will vary, and will almost certainly be less if the LCD screen is used heavily. The Battery Grip BG-ED3 holds two BP-511 batteries, which act essentially as a single, higher capacity pack. The D30 reads the voltage of each, and initially draws only from the battery that is less drained, until its voltage matches the voltage of the idle battery. Then, the two batteries provide juice to the camera simultaneously.


Battery Grip BG-ED3, showing dual battery slots

  • The battery door on the bottom of the camera must be removed before attaching the grip. There is a holder on the grip for the door, beneath the portion of the grip that inserts into the D30's battery slot.

Included with the camera is a dual-slot charger, the CA-PS400, that will charge a battery in about 90 minutes. Also included with the camera is the DC Coupler DR-400. This turns the charger into an AC adapter for the D30.

Frame rate, shutter lag, autofocus

A beef that some sports shooters have with the DCS 520/D2000 is its shutter lag. The perception is that the time between when the shutter button is depressed and the shutter opens is unacceptably long. The D30's shutter lag, says Chuck Westfall, is in the same ballpark as Canon's flagship EOS-1v. If true, shooting the first frame in a sports action sequence should be easier for some.

The camera will fire at 3 fps when the shutter speed is 1/250th a second or faster, or so says the literature on the camera. After holding the button down for several extended bursts, I've concluded that pre-production D30's delivers 3 fps only when moving downhill with a tailwind. Maybe my judgement is coloured by months of listening to the D1 whiz by at 4.5 fps, but the D30 I handled didn't sound as fast as Canon's specs state.

For me, autofocus speed and accuracy is impossible to assess without strapping on a long lens and heading to the sidelines of football game. Chuck Westfall rates the autofocus performance as being on par with an EOS A2/A2E. If so, that means the autofocus capabilities will be really good, but well short of the EOS-3 and EOS-1v. Heck, I might as well show my Canon autofocus bias here: I once had to resort to shooting an entire high school basketball game on an EOS Elan, and the number of sharp frames was pretty close to what I would have expected from my EOS 1 at that time. As a result, I'm optimistic that the D30's autofocus capabilities will be just fine, though not the best available today. The camera includes a 3 point autofocus system, with the usual Canon range of options. That is, you can select which of 3 autofocus points is active, or have the camera pick.

Frames per burst

The specification for the number of frames the D30 can achieve in a burst is easy enough to understand: with the camera set to Large Fine (full 2160 x 1440 resolution, best quality JPEG compression), 8 frames at 3 fps may be shot before the camera pauses to write to the CompactFlash card. The problem is, the camera hasn't read the spec sheet. If it had, it would have known that it can't actually shoot the 27-28 (yes, 27-28!) Large Fine frames the pre-production models at Visual Edge are peeling off in succession. The reasons for this aren't entirely clear. Assuming this isn't a trick that only pre-production models can perform, the camera's behaviour suggests two things:

  • Most or all of the image processing, including JPEG compression, is taking place before the photo is transferred to the D30's 32MB of memory. In the D1, for example, the memory buffer is used as a holding queue for partially-processed image data before it passes through the remainder of the camera's processing path, including JPEG compression.

  • If this is in fact the way the D30 is functioning, then its ASIC, the collection of integrated circuits that handle each processing step, must be really fast.

For your amusement, then, is the D30's official frame rate specification:

  • 2160 X 1440 resolution, Fine (best quality) JPEG: 3 fps for 8 frames
  • 2160 X 1440 resolution, Normal (lower quality) JPEG: 3 fps for 17 frames
  • 1440 X 960 resolution, Fine (best quality) JPEG: 3 fps for 17 frames
  • 1440 X 960 resolution, Normal (lower quality) JPEG: 3 fps for 30 frames
  • 2160 X 1440 resolution, RAW: 3 fps for 3 frames

In RAW mode, pre-production models shoot 3 frames at 3 fps, then the frame rate slows for another 3 frames, before the camera pauses to move images to the card. Again, why this is so is not clear, and may be a quirk that will be eliminated in finished cameras.

IBM's microdrive, including the three new models beginning to ship next month, will be compatible with the D30, as will most CompactFlash Flash RAM cards. The D30 allows space for the microdrive's breather hole, which may help the microdrive dissipate heat.

Flash and metering

The D30 is an interesting hybrid of Canon's best flash system, E-TTL, mated to the same 35-segment, evaluative metering found in the Rebel 2000. The flash and metering system's features include:

  • Support for E-TTL, and E-TTL only, in both external flashes and the camera's built-in flash. E-TTL is Canon's evaluative flash metering system that fires a preflash before the photo is taken, then uses that preflash to help calculate flash output. The 550EX will be fully-compatible with the D30. High-speed sync up to 1/4000 of a second, Flash Exposure Lock, rear curtain sync, the ST-E2 wireless transmitter, multiple 550EX strobes controlled wirelessly; all should function as they do with the EOS-3 and EOS-1v. Canon's Chuck Westfall says that this includes even the ability to adjust lighting ratios in multiple 550EX strobe setups, and use the 550EX's modeling light feature. These two capabilities are missing with the DCS 520/D2000.

  • A top sync speed of 1/200th of a second, the same as the A2/A2E and EOS-3. This is barely fast enough for pro fill-flash use, and a far cry from the D1's 1/500th sync speed. Because the D30 supports the 380EX's and 550EX's high-speed sync mode, however, it will be possible to cheat the shutter speed beyond 1/200th, though with approximately a 50% drop in effective flash range by 1/500th of a second.

  • Older, non-EX Canon TTL flashes will not function in TTL mode with the D30. If you attach, for example, a 540EZ to the camera, set it to TTL and press the shutter button, the flash will not fire. The camera lacks traditional off-the-film TTL metering cells and circuitry, so Canon opted to not trigger older Canon strobes if it detects that they're set to TTL. Switch the same flash to Manual and it will fire.

  • Exposure compensation for flash output may be set on the flash itself, if the flash has that capability (the 550EX does), or on the camera body. Being able to set flash exposure compensation on the body is handy in multiple 550EX strobe setups.

  • EX-series strobes that lack the ability to set rear curtain sync on the flash itself can still take advantage of rear curtain sync with the D30 by adjusting Custom Function 8.

  • A PC outlet for external studio strobes, Pocket Wizards and the like, is built into the camera's left side.

  • The 35 segments that make up the metering system are equal in size, arranged in a 7 x 5 grid. It remains to be seen how effective this metering pattern is in a digital camera.

Software and camera connectivity

Nowhere does the camera straddle the pro and amateur markets more than in the included Canon software. With the D30 will be four different Mac/Windows applications or plug-ins, including everything from a newer version of the same consumer-level browser that ships with Canon's S-series cameras to a program that enables the automatic offloading of images from the camera to a remote server. The four pieces of software, all developed by Canon Information Systems Research in Australia, are:

Photoshop plug-in (Mac)/TWAIN driver (Windows) - This software's closest cousin is the acquire module supplied with Kodak pro cameras, though with fewer features than Kodak's software. It will be possible to view and open into Photoshop both D30 JPEG and RAW files, with almost all of the control a photojournalist might want over the RAW data.

The D30's RAW file shares several similarities with that of Kodak's cameras, including the fact that the raw data isn't white balanced in the camera (the D1's raw file is). This may have contributed to Canon's decision to incorporate the same colour controls the camera has into its software. If you shot the picture on Daylight and it would actually look best on Fluorescent, no problem. Just select the photo and choose Fluorescent from a popup menu before acquiring it into Photoshop. Prefer to set the white balance off something neutral in the scene? No problem - use the click balance tool. Prefer to bypass the plug-in's colour processing altogether and use an ICC profile to tune the colour? No problem - switch on Linear output, bring the image into Photoshop and apply the profile. Prefer to acquire the RAW file's 12-bits per colour into Photoshop's 16 bit space instead of converting it to 8 bit? Also, no problem. These options all exist in Canon's Photoshop plug-in and TWAIN driver for the D30.

What's missing? It's a biggie. There's no exposure compensation function of the kind found in Kodak's acquire software, or Bibble/MacBibble for the D1. Being able to fix serious exposure errors when working with RAW data is the very best reason in the whole world for a photojournalist to shoot RAW, so it's a disappointment that it won't be possible when the D30 launches.

In addition, there are some rudimentary controls over contrast, sharpness and saturation, but they will probably be surpassed by Photoshop's own tools.

Zoom Browser EX (Windows)/Image Browser (Mac) - Browsing images on a card, either in a card reader or in the D30 itself, as well as copying files from the D30, is this program's primary function. The thumbnails are displayed in a rolling horizontal strip, akin to a roll of film, when the images are still in the camera and are being viewed across a USB connection. This is not the way most pros will want to view their D30 images. Fortunately, once files are copied off the camera, they may be browsed with this program in a more traditional grid arrangement, and at different sizes as well. Chuck Westfall indicates that in "addition to image downloading, archiving and browsing functions, it also supports uploading, basic image editing, auto layout printing, slide show functions, audio recording and playback, and automated preparation of images for e-mail." Zoom Browser EX/Image Browser can also pass on files that its browsing into Photoshop or another image editor of the user's choice.

In a nutshell, the D30-compatible versions of Zoom Browser EX/Image Browser are similar too, and based on, the software that comes with current S-series Canon cameras, which will be pretty good for amateur digicam users. Having used the software with S10 and S20 files previously, however, I suspect that many photojournalists will be looking to third party solutions like Photo Mechanic and FotoStation to browse and edit their D30 JPEGs.

Canon has also built RAW file browsing and processing into Zoom Browser EX/Image Browser. In fact, most everything that can be accomplished in the plug-in/TWAIN driver can also be accomplished in Canon's standalone browser. This includes overriding the camera-set white balance and applying basic contrast, sharpness and saturation adjustments. In the beta software Canon showed at Visual Edge, RAW files could also be batch processed out into finished files, as long as the user didn't wish to override the parameters set in the camera at the time the RAW photo was recorded. Regardless of whether RAW files are processed one at a time or in a batch, the user can select from five different output file formats: 48-bit TIFF, 24-bit TIFF, Bitmap (a lossless format popular on the Windows platform), Flashpix and JPEG.

Remote Capture (Mac/Windows) - As a photojournalist, there is little about Nikon Capture that I find useful day to day, since the program is designed more for studio photographers. It does, however, have three functions that are both handy and well-implemented: control of almost all of the camera's settings remotely, an intervalometer and the ability to save photos shot with the camera to a hard drive or server automatically.

Canon's Remote Capture application will handle 2 of those three tasks via a USB cable connection to the D30. It has an intervalometer, for one. It will also, as it shoots photos, be able to save those photos across the USB connection and on to either the computer's hard drive or a server accessible from that computer over a wired or wireless Ethernet connection (and optionally to the camera's card simultaneously). Using a remote trigger like Canon's Wireless Controller LC-4, the camera should continue to operate at 3 fps until its 32MB memory buffer is filled.

In short, it should be about on par with the D1 for remote photography, with one exception: camera settings, including shutter speed, aperture and the like, can be seen from Remote Capture, but not changed. Nikon Capture enables the user to change most everything except focus mode. Control over at least shutter speed and aperture would be welcome, since lighting at big indoor sporting events can and often does change from the time the camera is set up to the time the event commences. This limitation precludes using Timbuktu Pro remotely to control the laptop in the rafters to change the exposure if necessary.

The D30 sidesteps speedy FireWire in favour of slow USB. Chuck Westfall indicates that the D30 will deliver the full 1.2MB/second that USB is capable of, when transferring files using Zoom Browser EX/Image Browser and Remote Capture. If this is so, it would make the D30's USB about as fast, and perhaps even faster, than the FireWire in the D1 and Kodak's pro cameras. The reasons for that are a topic for another time. Suffice it to say that the D30 and its lowly USB port may, just may, be as speedy as the FireWire in Nikon's and Kodak's cameras.

PhotoStitch (Mac/Windows) - Canon's S-series cameras including a slick function for shooting separate photos of different portions of a scene, which can then be pieced together using PhotoStitch. PhotoStitch is also included with the D30, though the camera lacks the stitching function of the S-series models.

Canon is expected to release a Software Development Kit (SDK) so that third party developers can process D30 photos, including raw photos, from within their applications. It is likely to be for Windows only, which will be a source of frustration for Mac users if a killer D30 application is released for Windows exclusively.

Wrap-up

As you can see, the D30 is a carefully-crafted mix of pro and amateur features. If D30 photos from production cameras look good and print well, especially at ISO 800 and 1600, then it may have a place in small newspaper and freelance photojournalism. Looking at it another way, the D30 is interesting for what it says about Canon's commitment to digital. The company has announced that they have manufacturing capacity for 8000 D30 cameras a month, starting from when the camera is released in September worldwide. If they sell the camera at that rate, it bodes well for the continued rapid development and growth of SLR digital overall. The D30 serves also as a great teaser for the pro camera that Canon promises for sometime next year.

The D30 will ship with the following:

  • Battery pack BP-511
  • Compact Power Adapter CA-PS400
  • 16MB CompactFlash card
  • DC Coupler DR-400
  • Interface cable IFC-200PCU
  • Video cable VC-100
  • CD-ROM, software manual
  • Neck strap L-3


The D30 kit

D30 links

Digital Photography Review recently posted a comprehensive overview of the D30, with screen shots of its menus, a complete list of specifications, an explanation of the CMOS sensor and more. Other D30 links include:

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