Canon’s range of DLRs seem to have gone through something of a phase shift, moving the specs up the range and allowing Canon to create a new entry-level point for the new digital EOS 1000D, under the current EOS 450D. There may be a little head-scratching to determine whether this is a new camera, or a rehash of the previous entry model the EOS 400D, or a feature-reduced EOS 450D, combining specs found on both models.
That said, if you are looking for a Canon at this entry point, it is worth reading up on both the EOS 400D and EOS 450D, so you know what you are getting.
The "1000" model number does, however, hark back to Canon’s film DSLRs, where the EOS 1000 was the entry model. The new 1000D is aimed again at the newcomer to DSLR photography who wants more creative features and control than a compact camera will offer. We tested the camera with Canon’s EFS 18-55mm IS lens, which is the standard kit lens for this model. However, it will work with EF and EF-S lenses, so those moving from a film SLR will be able to use some of their existing glass.
The body of the camera is typical DSLR size and shape, slightly smaller than the 450D, but slightly larger than the 400D. There is the usual right-hand grip arrangement with space on the back for your thumb to lie without hitting any of the controls. Compared to the 400D that it effectively replaces, it does feel a little plasticky, not helped by the slightly larger buttons.
Canon users will instantly recognise the buttons and menu systems which reflect the rest of their range of cameras, so for those that do step-up (from an Ixus, for example) things will be easy to get a handle on. As with Canon’s other DSLR cameras, main modes are selected on the top dial, with the usual A-DEP, M, Av, Tv, P and full auto, with scene selections for portrait, landscape, macro, sports, night and no flash all catered for, just as you'll find on the other models.
Other controls within these major mode selections are handled via the back buttons, allowing you to change the more detailed settings, exposure compensation, white balance, focusing, metering and so on. ISO control, which offers you from Auto up to 1600, now sits on the top of the body in a slightly unusual place, but is easy enough to get to, as in the 450D, with similar performance. The Auto ISO only takes you from 100-800, after which things begin to get noisy.
One of the headline features here is Live View, allowing you to use the 2.5in LCD screen rather than the viewfinder. Whilst this seems like a logical move, the size of the camera generally means it is impractical for holding out and shooting like you would a compact, but is useful when mounted on a tripod and setting up a scene. Still, it is the feature du jour, so something that you’d expect to see at this price.
However, it doesn’t feel as though this feature really integrates into the camera on offer here. There is no Live View button (you have to press Set), so rather than shouting about this feature, it feels like a last minute addition. Equally, it doesn’t seem to work in full-auto mode, disappearing from the menus, until you venture into a different mode, as is common with Canon menus. However, for those looking for this feature, it certainly ticks that box, but the screen is fixed, with no tilt options that you’ll find in some competitors.
The camera brings the 10.1MP CMOS sensor found in the EOS 400D, but backed by Canon’s Digic III processor as in the 450D. The result are good crisp images, with plenty of detail and rich colour. One thing that Canon haven’t done in the EOS 1000D is degrade the quality of images you capture. In very very bright conditions there is a tendency to over-expose, easily compensated for however, and easy to detect by shifting through the display options.
You only get seven-point focusing, down from nine in the 400 and 450, and whilst this doesn’t make a huge difference, it might mean you spend longer trying to get the subject you want in focus. That said, focusing, as you’d expect, is quick and accurate and when the light gets low it still does a good job of illuminating the subject and finding a focal point. Occasionally you’ll find it just focuses on the wrong thing, but manual focus is only a switch of the control on the lens and perfectly useable for composed shots.
We found the flash to be good, and when put along side a compact, you’ll achieve the results that your point and shoot may fail to deliver, especially for those wedding reception moments, capturing groups and friends and so on. For those serious about illuminating indoor scenes there is the normal hot shoe for an additional flash.
Whilst on the flash, we did find that it has a tendency, in full auto mode, to pop-up whenever you get too close to the sun. This is something of a double-edged sword, whilst reducing shadow on the face of your subject, it may also destroy the scene you wanted. For a standard portrait on the beach with strong backlighting it might work, but we found the flash wanting to fire in some landscape shots too, prompting use of the preset options over the simple full auto mode.
The other major change that the EOS 1000D brings to the table is the support for SD/SDHC cards, moving away from the CompactFlash of previous cameras. This is a good move for Canon, especially in this level of camera, meaning any one moving up from a compact will probably already have a card they can slot right in. It is also becoming increasingly common for notebooks to have a built-in reader, whilst the space required on the camera is small – so everybody wins.
With the EOS 1000D coming with the pedigree it does from the Canon fold, you can’t go far wrong in terms of usability and image quality: out of the box the EOS 1000D is easy to use and delivers great results.
Live View is a good feature for an entry-level model, however, this is an increasingly busy sector of the market and at an RRP of £500 for the body only, the EOS 1000D does look a little on the pricy side. The EOS 450D, however, is only a small step up in price and delivers a fuller set of features although the final performance is very close.
However, if you don’t have a particular affinity to Canon then there are other cameras in this space that potentially offer a greater range of features for your money, and it is certainly worth weighing up all options available.