Canon EOS 450D DSLR camera

Canon's new entry-level flagship model has become so advanced that it is starting to encroach on the company's more professionally targeted 40D camera. So should those looking to upgrade give this one a miss? We went out and about with both cameras to find out.

A quick glance of the specs of both the 450D and the 40D show a lot of similarities. They both have the DIGIC III processor, they both offer a 3-inch screen, and both come with Live View that allows you to view the image on the back of the screen rather than having to rely on the viewfinder.

As with both cameras the DIGIC III image processor and a redesigned menu system is borrowed from Canon's EOS-1 pro-level range while a choice of 13 custom functions allowing the user to customise the camera to their shooting style will please enthusiasts.

The camera also comes with the company's EOS Integrated Cleaning System alongside the addition of a new 9-point wide-area AF system with f/5.6 cross-type centre point and extra sensitivity at f/2.8 compared with the 40D's 9 cross-type AF points (f/2.8 at centre).

The 450D even beats its more expensive companion with 12 megapixels over 10 megapixels.

But it's there the similarities end, the 450D takes the more pocket friendly SD cards over CompactFlash, while the 40D sports a bigger magnesium alloy casing and ISO settings up to 3200 rather than 1600.

Those looking at upgrading from the 350D or 400D will see a radical overhaul of their current camera. From a design perspective it's not a completely new design but there are improvements and changes. The most obvious is the increase in screen size from 2.5 to 3 inches.

The change makes a massive difference especially when viewing images on playback and it dominates the rear of the camera offering relevant shooting data when not in use displaying images.

To accommodate the screen the buttons have been moved around considerably. The Jump button has been lost, White Balance and PictBridge how share the same button and rather than opt for the circular jog wheel as found on the 40D, the pseudo d-pad remains.

The most drastic move is the ISO button that is now next to the shutter button on the top of the camera. At first we though this was a strange move, but in use means you can easily change the setting without moving your finger too far away from the shutter button.

Compared to the 400D, the 450D is virtually the same size, if not a little bit taller. However that hasn't stopped Canon switching out the CompactFlash slot for the more consumer friendly SD card. The move accordingly is to attract consumers upgrading from a compact camera and will no doubt appeal, allowing people to utilise their current cache of cards with their new purchase.

We for one, welcome the move, as a mobile journalist it is always frustrating that if we use our 400D we have to remember to bring a cable with us. SD cards have the advantage of plugging straight into a PC Card slot reader or if your using one of the SanDisk USB cards straight into a USB slot.

Other improvements include a revamped menu system that doesn't involve you having to scroll off screen and as an entry level digital SLR the camera is easy to pick up and use.

As for the Live View - it's not so straightforward. Firstly, maybe it's because we already use a DSLR, but holding a camera so large this way is uncomfortable, secondly we had trouble focusing automatically.

So what about all-important performance? Well the pictures are very large (4.9MB large) and the resolution and quality crisp and impressive at this price. The two extra megapixels are however unlikely to make a massive difference over the 400D or 40D's 10-megapixel offering, although the Image Stablising element to the 18-55mm kit lens in the box will help you produce better images.

Our main criticism was that images appeared flat, almost under exposed, with colours pale compared to test shots taken at the same time with the same lens on the 40D. It's not that the results were bad, it's just next to each other you can clearly see the difference between the two (see spilt image in gallery) with the 40D winning hands down.

There is also the fact that the files are so large and it's something you'll have to bear in mind, especially if you are new to digital photography. The increase in file size will mean that it will take more time to transfer the images and more hard drive space needed on your computer. A 512MB card at full JPEG setting gives you 114 images, if you record in RAW with large JPEG this number comes down to 23.

Verdict

If you've yet to enter the digital SLR market and fancy going Canon, there are a number of features here on the Canon 450D that will appeal, not only that, it's actually a very good camera that performs well if not a little flat for our liking, something that can be fixed easily in Photoshop.

Compared to the Nikon 60D and the Olympus E series its probably down to personal preference as to what you are comfortable using and if you've got any lenses within that family.

However those upgrading from a previous Canon digital EOS SLR offering would be better to save up the extra cash and go for the 40D.

Online prices currently put them around £80 apart after you take in Canon's current £100 cashback offer. Okay so you don't get a lens with the 40D body, but then if you're upgrading you've got this sorted already.

Our verdict then? If your new to the digital SLR world and want Canon go for it. If you're looking to upgrade and 400D users don't worry you don't have to yet, go for the more powerful 40D it offers much more for your money and should last you a lot longer.