Canon EOS 30D review:

Canon EOS 30D

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Canon EOS 30D (with 18-55mm lens)

(Part #: 1234B002) Released: Mar 15, 2006
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The Good Excellent low-light performance; fast and responsive; straightforward controls; nice balance of features for both experienced and rookie photographers.

The Bad Pop-up flash casts shadow with some lenses; average battery life.

The Bottom Line An excellent midrange digital SLR, the 30D has given way to its even more excellent successor, the 40D. However, it remains a great choice if you can find it at a good price.

CNET Editors' Rating

7.6 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Image quality 8.0

Editors' note: Changes in the competitive landscape for digital SLRs as well as the release of a newer model have prompted us to adjust the ratings for this camera twice. In September 2007, we dropped the Design and Performance ratings to 8, for a new overall rating of 8.0--and removed its Editors' Choice designation. More recently, we dropped the Features rating to 6, for a new overall rating of 7.6.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it--that seems to be Canon's approach to its EOS 30D, the follow-up to its perennial favorite, the EOS 20D. Aside from a few performance tweaks, the Canon EOS 30D is the same camera as its predecessor. (For complete details of the 20D/30D, read the EOS 20D review; in this piece, I address mainly the enhancements that differentiate the 30D.) It has the same well-balanced, magnesium-alloy body with its intelligently laid-out controls; an almost identical set of pro-level, extremely customizable features; and roughly the same, excellent performance. Also, thanks to the identical 8-megapixel CMOS sensor and image-processing system, it yields the same superb photos, especially at high-ISO sensitivity settings.

I accidentally shot this photo at ISO 3,200, but thanks to the EOS 30D's excellent noise performance, I was still able to produce a satisfying print at 13x19.

Among the few key enhancements to the 30D, Canon has upped the number of sequential frames that you can capture in continuous-shooting mode to 30 JPEG or 11 raw shots, from 23 or 6, respectively; however the 5fps rate remains. In practice, however, it typically delivered 14 raw shots until the buffer slowed it down, as well as essentially an unlimited number of highest-quality JPEG shots, albeit at a clip of 3.5fps. Generally, unless you're shooting very fast action such as car racing, that kind of burst-shooting performance should suffice.

Additionally, the 30D now has a real spot meter, though the 3.5 percent metering circle isn't quite as tight as other models' 2 percent. Though that might sound like a quibble, it means you won't see as much of a difference between the 30D's 9 percent partial metering mode and the spot meter as you would between other cameras' metering modes. Canon has also added the ability to set ISO sensitivity in 1/3-stop increments; ironically, that would be more valuable if the 30D's high-ISO performance were worse. It does help, though, when you need more exposure latitude for very fine control over your depth of field.

The larger 2.5-inch LCD has a wider viewing angle than that of the 1.8-inch model on the 20D, which always comes in handy for reviewing your shots with onlookers. And Canon's Picture Styles are a good way of organizing the myriad custom settings--sharpness, tone, saturation, and contrast--that the camera has always allowed you to control. Finally, Canon rates the shutter durability on this model for as much as 100,000 cycles. I did not test this claim, for obvious reasons.

There are a few aspects of the 30D that Canon didn't change but that could have used an update. The battery didn't last for the length of one of my shooting sessions, or about 250 photos. The lens still casts a shadow when using the onboard flash at wide-angle focal lengths with some lenses. And the viewfinder still shows only 95 percent of the scene. Nonetheless, it remains the top-notch model that the 20D was.

If you don't need the better continuous-shooting performance, spot metering, or the larger LCD, you might as well save about $200 and buy a 20D while you still can.

Shooting speed in seconds  
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Time to first shot  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT (silver)
Canon EOS 30D
Nikon D70s
Olympus Evolt E-330
Nikon D200

Typical continuous-shooting speed in frames per second  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Typical continuous-shooting speed   
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