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Canon EOS 10D Test Review
© 2005 KenRockwell.com
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You can get a refurbished one here, but get the 20D instead

OBSOLETE as of September 2004. Get the 20D instead.

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This was introduced at PMA in Las Vegas in March 2003. It was obsolesced by the 20D in August 2004. Don't by this camera, get the far superior 20D instead. That said, here's what I had to say about it a year ago. Please consider the rest of this page as historic information. The 20D adds a lot, especially much, much faster operation and WB flexibility.

The 10D is a slick $1,500 6MP digital SLR. Image quality is the same or better than every other DSLR except the EOS 1Ds. You can get the same image quality in a plasticyer package with a few less features as the $900 Digital Rebel.

If I was starting out today I'd give this 10D some very serious thought. It's either this or the very similar Nikon D100.

You can read the entire excellent instruction manual here, which includes explicit explanations of everything as well as detailed specifications.

24 November 2003 free firmware upgrade v 2.0.0 here


2,048 x 3,072 max image size (6MP), which makes a 3.5MB JPG file at the biggest quality setting

Standard sRGB as well as Adobe 1998 RGB

Takes standard CF cards and microdrives

3FPS with 9 frame buffer, typical.

ISO 100 - 3,200, excellent. (Just remember to set the "ISO Expansion" menu option to ON, otherwise you are stopped at ISO 1,600.)

Standard 15 x 23 mm sensor effectively crops the image down from what you get with 35mm film. In other words, you only get the center of the film image. Thus your field of view with this camera is narrower than with film for the same lens. The effect is that your field of view with the 10D with any lens is what you would get with a lens of 1.6 times the focal length on 35mm film. No, there is no ultra-wide lens for this camera because of this cropping effect. Others call this the "multiplication factor."

Built in flash.

Rechargeable battery and charger included, excellent. Rated about 500 shots/charge, excellent.

Full range of shutter speeds, 30 seconds to 1/4000. (Other bad DSLRs like the Sigma SD9 and Kodak 14n have heinous limitations on what speeds you can use at different ISOs, for instance. In the case of the Kodak it's more of a practical limit, on the Sigma it actually locked out!)

Pokey flash sync speed of 1/200, typical for an amateur camera. This is important: it is the fastest speed you can use with fill flash in daylight! Pro cameras like the Nikon D1 series offer a much more useful 1/500 instead. I think the 10D is limited to only 1/60 if you use the PC terminal for studio flash, probably not important in the studio but a potential problem if you're using external strobes at a basketball game. There is a trick FP mode that I don't find practical.

It comes with Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, a great program for doing just about anything short of getting the $609 full version of Photoshop. If you want to piddle with color profiles and cause yourself all the problems associated with the special Adobe 1998 RGB format you really need the full version of Photoshop.


Canon told me it's also rated for 150,000 exposures, which is great. You'll shoot more than you ever imagined with digital. It feels pretty sturdy with the new magnesium outer coverings compared to plastic D30, D60 and D100. This 10D still uses plenty of plastic.

My biggest concern is that it's slower on playback than the Nikons. Each time you move to the next image it's fuzzy on the screen till the camera reads the rest of the file a second later. This sounds trivial, but just like the D30 and D60 it slows down your ability to see what you shot. The Nikon DSLRs let you scroll instantly through everything. I hate this slow response; I need my images NOW.

As I point out in my other reviews ease-of-use is the most important aspect of any digital camera. Image quality among competing cameras is actually quite similar but ease of use varies.

I find the Canons slower to use than the Nikon DSLRs. To me there are too many menus required for items that often need to be changed shot to shot, like file compression. The Nikon DSLRs have dedicated buttons or a knob for these, but with the Canons you have to fiddle with menus for some of these while you miss your shot. I'm unsure if my bias here is absolute, or just that I'm used to my Nikon.

I hear that you can fiddle with menus to allow setting compression level directly as CF-1, for instance. Set CF-1 to value 1: "Use set button for image quality." This enables the set button as an instant shortcut. Try this yourself and see.

I was never able to figure out what format I was recording on any of the Canons because they use pictographs instead of plain English on their menus and LCDs. I personally don't care if Canon needs to reduce costs by using only one LCD for all markets, I need to know what's going on.

The standard image sensor means you cannot get super wide angle views. Even with a super exotic 14mm lens you only get the same image as you do with a 22mm lens on 35mm film. Unlike Nikon who has announced a special digital ultrawide lens for their DSLRs, there is no way to get ultrawide images on the 10D. OK, you could look for screw-on adapters from Century Optics, but that's another story.

Unlike any Nikon digital camera, you can upgrade the firmware yourself for free from the Internet. Get v 2.0.0 here. With Nikon you have to send the camera away, so I've never bothered to upgrade my D1H.

The white balance settings lack the very important ability to trim each preset setting. In other words, on the Nikon you can warm or cool each of the DAYLIGHT, CLOUDY, SHADE, etc. settings. On the 10D you have to settle for whatever the camera does, or get stuck having to use a custom or manual setting. This is a big drawback in practical shooting, since you only have one custom and one manual setting. Because you don't have enough settings to cover you for all the situations you are likely to come across you may get stuck fiddling with a new custom setting each time the light changes and miss an important shot. I don't know if you are new to all this, but I actually use my preset trims all the time on my Nikon and would not like losing this ability. For me this would either slow down how fast I can shoot (not acceptable) or would wind up giving me not the exact white balance I need, also not acceptable. The inability to set the WB correctly is a visible picture defect you can see, unlike the less important noise and resolution that most non-photographers worry about. WB bracketing does not fix this.

There are five saturation settings, five contrast settings, five sharpness settings, and five hue settings, all very nice and better than my Nikon.

The manual is unclear, and it seems to allow setting three presets with different combinations of some of these settings.

The camera stops whatever it's doing and is ready to shoot immediately whenever you press the shutter halfway down, excellent.

The LCD counts seconds for you in BULB, very nice. The manual says you can get a 2.5 hour exposure with a full battery, but image sensor noise is what limits how long a practical exposure may be.

It has a PC terminal for use with studio strobes.

The claimed ability to record both regular JPG and RAW files at the same time is kind of useless because you need to use the special Canon software extract those JPGs. In other words, there really is no separate JPG you can read off the CF card directly, and you always can create JPGs from RAW files if you have to use a computer to read the RAW files anyway. This is only helpful if you don't know how to do actions and batch commands in Photoshop.

I see no ability to create new file folders, unlike Nikon. If you shoot more than one subject on the same CF card this winds up wasting your time after you download the images because you manually have to sort out which images belong to which job. On Nikon DSLRs you can just create new folders in the camera (hold down the LOCK (looks like a key) button when you turn the power on) and when you download you already have your jobs in separate folders. Not so on the Canon.

A custom function allows you a "safety shift" in the Av and Tv modes. This permits the camera to change your manually preset aperture or shutter speed if it needs to to get a correct exposure. This is very helpful if you are in the TV or Av mode and shooting in conditions where changes of light may require a different setting than what you chose. Nikon does not offer this and I really wish they did, since I often shoot in varying conditions where this would save me manual twiddling.

Unlike Nikon, the combinations of aperture and shutter speed chosen in Program mode vary with the lens' maximum aperture. I prefer Nikon's predictable program mode selections, which always default to the same combinations. For instance, at EV 14 Nikon always defaults to f/8 at a 250th. The Canon under the same light you might get f/5.6 at a 500th or f/11 at a 125th depending on the lens. I usually shoot in Program.


Get the 20D instead.

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