Thursday, 7 August 2008

Back-up for the Back-up

Remember that EOS 1N I got recently as a backup to my 5D for Weddings? And remember how I said I was also tempted by the 10D as another Digital option? Well yep, you guessed it - I've now got a back-up for my back-up.

I only got it recently - second hand from a camera dealer - but I've had a little play and formed a few opinions on it already. The body is a little worse for wear, but everything functions as it should (except perhaps for the 'occasional' sticking of the control wheel on the back).

First impressions after using it a few times? It's a solidly built camera with excellent heft (weight) and nicely laid out controls. It's lighter (but not much) and smaller than the 5D, so I will try to get a vertical grip for it as well to give it a little more 'body'. The LCD screen on the back is 'tiny' (1.5" I think?), especially after using the one on the 5D. The image processing engine is a little on the 'slow' side as well - taking about 2 seconds to show a full-res preview with histogram after taking a shot. This isn't necessarily a problem, as long as you're not wanting to review each and every shot after you take it (you shouldn't be anyway). The screen might be tiny, but it is clear, and the images are still easily viewable - just not very big.

Shot-to-shot speed isn't a problem though, it's plenty fast enough so that you're not waiting to take the next shot (although as already mentioned reviewing them is another matter altogether). The shutter is beautifully soft and quiet - next to Nikon's F80 film camera the quietest shutter I've experienced. This could be quite important during the Wedding service, and the 10D may become my 'go to' camera for these times when quietness is of the essence.

Autofocus seems quick and accurate - especially set up for my shooting style with the central sensor active, and it has a nifty programmable button that you can push to go straight to your selected focus point. There are heaps of custom functions available, and you can set every parameter imaginable so the 10D fits your own personal style.

One slight 'quirk' with the 10D is the way it handles shooting RAW files. Set to RAW, you don't get an option to tag a Jpeg file (or not), it automatically creates a jpeg file as well. You do get to select the size of the tagged jpeg - and to be fair it doesn't add that much to the file size, but I do find it odd that there is no straight RAW option. I've never shot RAW + Jpeg on any of my other cameras, but I guess I don't have a choice with the 10D. Odd.

Another 'quirk' of the 10D that most reviewers pick up on is the 'softness' of its image files. And yes, I can attest to the fact that the 10D does take 'soft' images at the default settings. Seems that Canon's engineers were a little 'light' with the in-camera sharpness settings of the 10D, but again, this isn't really a big issue. Either bump the sharpness settings 'in camera' to +2, or sharpen later on in Photoshop (which I do anyway). I can also attest to the fact that the Canon 10D's images sharpen up beautifully with moderate settings of the 'Unsharp Mask' filter (I use Amount: 150, Radius: .5 and Threshold: 0 for a lot of my images to create a little more 'pop'). And notice that it's a radius of 'point 5' (or a half) and NOT 5 - that's way too much radius.

Is the 10D the best camera ever made - well of course not. Is it a solid, well made photographic tool capable of taking stunning images of great clarity - you betchya. Does it have a few 'quirks' that may require some thought - absolutely. But its 6.3 Megapixels is plenty big enough for Wedding Album images - even double page spreads at a push - and it's only a back-up to my 5D (and EOS 1N) after all.

Canon 10D with 24-105mm f4 'L' set to 50mm, f8 @250th sec. Taken on an overcast day, with moderate sharpening applied in Photoshop.

It may be a few years old now, but Canon didn't hold back with this solid little digital SLR. If you were looking for a 'cheap' second-hand introduction to the Canon DSLR system you could do a lot worse than the 10D (the 300/350D springs to mind). In fact, I'd go with a 10D over any of the new plastic 'prosumer' DSLR's out there any day. Slap a cheap 50mm f1.8 on the 10D (which will give you an 80mm f1.8 equivalent due to the 10D's 1.6x 'cropping factor' from the smaller sensor), take some photos with the sharpness set to +2, and go WOW!

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