Canon EOS 10DIn a class of cameras where prices are in the thousands, the EOS 10D strikes a terrific balance among professional features, high-resolution imaging, fine ease of use, and a relatively low price. The 10D is $1500 for the body alone--the way most film single-lens reflex models are priced--but that amount seems pretty reasonable compared with $4000 for the Canon EOS 1D, $8000 for the EOS 1Ds, or $1700 for the Nikon D100. We tested the 10D with an outstanding EF 16mm-to-35mm wide-angle zoom lens (26mm to 56mm, 35mm equivalent) that costs as much as the 10D body, but more-modest zoom lenses start at just over $400. If you currently have a film-based Canon SLR that uses the EF series of lenses, upgrading to the 10D is a no-brainer--it can use the lenses you already own. (Note that because the CCD on a digital SLR is smaller than a frame of 35mm film, it has a zooming effect on lenses designed for film. For example, a 50mm EF lens mounted on the EOS 10D is the equivalent of an 80mm lens on a 35mm film camera.) We found the EOS 10D a pleasure to use, for the most part. Its optical viewfinder, though not exceptionally bright, is good enough for all light conditions and workable with or without glasses. It's easy to read the various exposure and status settings arranged along the viewfinder's bottom frame. Two dials, over a dozen buttons, and an extensive menu system let you control the camera's long list of features. Most of the buttons are well labeled, and--given the camera's complexity--the menus are surprisingly fast and easy to navigate. A few of the buttons have more than one function, however, and these can be confusing as you learn to use the camera. The camera's focusing system is fast and flexible: Automatic focus seemed especially quick and accurate, except when confronted with smooth homogeneous surfaces such as a painted wall. A seven-point zone-focusing system tells you exactly what the camera is focusing on--especially useful when you have subjects in the foreground, middle distance, and background. Using a dial, you can rapidly select one of the seven points as your preferred point of focus within the viewfinder. We used the camera's Custom Functions setting to assign one of the focus points to a button, giving us a simple, fast way to switch between zone and spot focus. We also liked the 10D's image-bracketing options, which include exposure, flash, and white balance. Most important, however, the EOS 10D takes impressive images. In our lab tests it was among the top cameras for image quality, scoring especially high in our image sharpness test. In our informal tests taking photos of a variety of subjects, the 10D's images had fine, accurate colors, and equally exceptional detail. We were able to print out beautiful 8-by-10-inch photos in which you couldn't see the pixels, and cropped and enlarged images still looked great. Shots with fill-flash were also pleasing; the 10D does a nice job of automatically cutting down the power of the flash, giving high-contrast portrait scenes a subtle lighting. Powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery, the 10D goes a long way on a single charge. When we took photos both with and without the built-in flash in our battery tests, it lasted for almost 1100 shots.
Using this camera is like weight lifting: Since it is nearly 2 pounds, you really start to feel its heft after an hour or so of shooting. Other deficiencies are in the eye of the user--there's no audio or video recording capabilities (rarely found in digital SLRs), and the LCD on the back of the camera cannot serve as a viewfinder. (We like the pop-out LCDs found on a few digital cameras for overhead and on-your-belly macro shooting.) Moreover, the EOS 10D comes with no media, so you'll have to purchase a CompactFlash card before you start using the camera. We also discovered that some of the lenses are not well suited for use with the built-in flash. When we used the wide-angle zoom mentioned above at its 16mm focal length, the lens cast a prominent shadow in the bottom center of the photo.
Using any of the 17 menu-based Custom Functions settings, you can change many of the camera's default controls. But this approach isn't as flexible as the user memory settings found in Nikon and Olympus cameras. The 10D has the full complement of exposure controls one expects to find on a high-end camera, including aperture- and shutter-priority options, a full manual mode that's quick and intuitive to use, and a program mode that lets the camera decide the best aperture and shutter speed. It also has six scene modes (portrait, landscape, and sports, for example), a feature that you usually associate with point-and-shoot cameras. Canon gave the EOS 10D an extensive selection of white-balance controls. In addition to auto white balance and six presets (shade, cloudy, fluorescent, and others), you can set the color temperature or use white-balance calibration. We found the latter to be a bit of a kludge compared with the function on other digital cameras. With some models, such as the Olympus E-20N, you simply point the camera at a white object (such as a sheet of paper) and press a button. But the 10D requires you to take a picture of the object, go into the menus and select the image you just took, press Set, and then use the dial on the back of the camera to select custom white balance. Most of the 10D's other functions, such as multishot mode, the various metering modes, image playback, and image delete, are very similar to what you'll find in any higher-end digital camera--all functional and easy to use, for the most part.
The EOS 10D brings digital SLRs down from their stratospheric prices, giving any serious photographer a powerful and flexible imaging tool.