Canon EOS 350D review: Canon EOS 350D

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The Good Image quality leads its class. Competitive price. Ultrafast start-up time. Very responsive.

The Bad Lightweight plastic body isn't ergonomically satisfying. No spot meter. Limited continuous-shooting mode, unimpressive kit lens. 1.6x lens-conversion factor.

The Bottom Line The Canon EOS 350D is an exceptionally small and lightweight camera designed for amateur dSLR owners, but it delivers the responsiveness and image quality you'd expect from a semipro model.

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8.0 Overall

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The Canon EOS 350D represents a leap forward from its predecessor, the original EOS 300D, offering more than one might expect from the addition of a couple consonants to the name. The 350D is a zippy performer. It offers more creative control than its predecessor and boasts an 8-megapixel CMOS sensor and Canon's Digic II processing engine.

Canon touts its smaller, lighter body as well; it's nearly as small as you can get in a digital SLR. But while that might appeal to the small handed and nimble, the 350D's compressed, lightweight, and slightly chintzy-feeling frame will be a hindrance to others who prefer a solid grip and a balanced camera body -- particularly if they're using a lens any heavier than the mediocre 18mm-to-55mm f/3.5-to-f/5.6 unit included in the kit.

In terms of image quality, the 350D is a bargain, delivering wonderfully detailed and colourful images for a competitive price. While the 350D lacks some features found on the more solid and slightly pricier Nikon D70, the 350D is the clear winner when it comes to resolution and dynamic range.

The all-plastic Canon EOS 350D is extremely lightweight for an SLR. Without a lens, it weighs only about 490 grams. It also comes in your choice of a traditional matte-black or brushed-silver finish. The body is quite small, too, about a half-inch narrower than the EOS 300D. The only dSLR that's more compact is Pentax's *ist DS.

The mode dial, single control dial, power switch, and shutter release are the only camera-top controls.

All of the controls for adjusting shooting settings are concentrated on the right side of the camera back.

While the camera's size and weight make it wonderfully portable for travel, we found it a little uncomfortable for prolonged shooting. The hard plastic and only slightly textured grip aren't ergonomically designed for average-size hands, and the limited real estate makes it too easy to accidentally trip buttons while shooting. That's particularly true of the autoexposure-lock button on the upper-right side of the camera back, which sits where your thumb needs to be to keep the camera balanced. These quirks become much more noticeable when you're using a Canon EF-mount lens other than the very lightweight zoom included in the kit.

To the left of the main and status LCDs, you'll find the menu access button and playback controls.

The two buttons on the upper-right corner of the camera back let you select focus points and lock exposure.

Most controls are laid out well. There isn't enough space on top of the camera to display camera status, but a status readout appears above the rear LCD monitor. The power switch is secure and out of the way alongside the top command dial, which is logically labeled with standard exposure abbreviations and six scene-mode icons (although one of those "scenes" is Flash Off, the only flash adjustment you can make without menu surfing). On the back, there's a pad of four-way directional buttons designed to enable quick adjustments of ISO, autofocus, white balance, and metering mode. While you must make these adjustments within the LCD menu system, pushing the buttons brings you directly to them. The control dial located on top of the grip primarily changes aperture, shutter speed, and when used in tandem with a button on the back, exposure compensation.

The Canon EOS 350D loosens a number of the restrictions that bound EOS 300D shooters. It offers more flexibility with respect to metering mode, with easily selectable evaluative, partial, or center-weighted average metering (but still no spot metering). There are also more options with flash-exposure control and autofocus selection via the One Shot, AI Servo, and AI Focus modes.

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