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  Canon EOS 350D 10/10. Date Posted 14/06/2005.

The new Canon EOS 350D digital SLR camera is now available worldwide. The follow-up to the EOS 300D boasts a new 8 MP sensor and is lighter and smaller than its predessor. It is photographed above with the 28-135mm IS lens. This is probably one of the most common lenses used with this camera (except for the kits lens 18-55mm), so I thought it would be good to use it for most of the review. Compared side-by-side with the EOS 300D it is noticeably smaller.

Some reviewers have complained that it is too small. However, I did not find any problems and I think most people will prefer having a small digital SLR especially for travel. Used with a 50mm F1.8 Canon lens (only 130g), it would be a great street photography camera possibly even fitting into (a very big!) pocket. You obviously get the extra resolution (6 MP vs 8 MP) which is noticeable on big prints, but not so much on small prints. There are many other improvements. One is noise. Even at ISO 1600 you get decent usable pictures. On some ISO 800 pictures you can barely see any noise without zooming in. The EOS 300D was also great when it came to image noise, but this is even better. Below we have a 1:1 zoom in sample of an ISO 1600 image (120,000 pixels). As you can see noise is visible but it's not too bad considering how far zooming in we are. At lower ISOs like 100 there is no noise at all (this is also true of the EOS 300D).

In general use the EOS 350D is quicker. It takes 0.2 seconds to start up and writes photos to the CompactFlash card a lot quicker. Reviewing photos is also instantaneous. With the 300D even if you had a very fast card (eg. Sandisk Ultra II) it took a while to write photos to disk. Its buffer can take up to 5 RAW photos in a row without slowing, which sports photographers should find useful. For me this is not that important. One cool feature is also tracking auto focus, which was only available on the 300D in sports mode. Some custom features stripped from the 300D are also here, such as mirror lockup. I also noticed that the camera's metering seemed better, exposing pictures more accurately than the 300D.

The only drawback I could find compared to the 300D was the battery. It's now a lot smaller presumably to cut the weight. In fact it's the same battery found on some Canon digital compacts. However, it went down to half full quicker than the 300D's. Also the matte black body seems to get finger marks on it very easily. I do not understand why Canon did not use the shiny black plastic used on their other cameras! Also my camera developed a fault, so that the wheel to change shutter speed etc. did not work properly after about 3 weeks of use. Thankfully, Jessops who I bought the camera off did replace it, given this appeared to be a manufacturing fault. However, they did say they haven't seen this fault before and trawling the web this does seem like an isolated case.

In addition to the 28-135mm IS lens, I tried out Canon's cheapest lens the 50mm f1.8. It is very light, so combined with the 350D, you have probably one of the lightest camera/lens combinations. It's also great quality and isn't too long for general use (it becomes 80mm). Lastly I tried a 100mm macro lens. This is by far the sharpest lens I have ever used, and showed have much detail can be picked up by the 350D, eg. pollen grains. It's also good for a portrait lens (can be a bit long becoming 160mm), but given it's sharpness, it might bring out a bit too many spots and lines in your sitter! I have not however used any Canon L series lenses which are supposed to be excellent (and much more expensive than any lens I used for this review!)

In short the 350D is a great camera and a worthy upgrade for the 300D. If you are only interested in the extra two megapixels it might be worth waiting for the 400D. But if you are also interested in the other features of the 350D such as faster operation and better noise handling it is well worth it. You might also consider getting the 20D, which has several more features and a more durable body. But the 20D is much more expensive and the image quality is virtually the same. Other competitors include the Nikon D70s and D50, which are worth a look as well.