(USA Today staffer Bert Hanashiro, a veteran digital photojournalist and daily DCS 520 shooter, spent some quality time earlier this week with a pre-production Canon EOS D30 at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Hanashiro cautions that this is a preliminary look at the camera, but that he liked what he saw overall)
I played around with the D30 today. Even shot some of the DNC tonight just to see how it would perform under "game conditions". As has been reported on this site and elsewhere, the camera itself is a marvel ...fast and responsive, long bursts, small and light and easy to use.
Canon EOS D30 with Battery Grip BG-ED3 attached
The drawback: the files under bad lighting conditions at high ASA are a bit rough. Images shot under flat conditions looked very nice, even at 1600. But images shot at 800 and 1600 under contrasty conditions showed a distinct muddy pattern in the deep shadow areas.
But I think the images would have been very useable for the paper. The quality of the images are very nice at 800 and surprisingly good at 1600. But certainly useable and definitely better than a DCS 520 (though not better than a 620x) at 800 or higher. If the shadows at 1600 are cleaned up, Canon users will finally have a REAL ASA 1600 on digital. Haven't had too much time to go into the images in PhotoShop to really see what we have here, however.
There are pasty highlights in overexposed images. The meter seems to run a little hot on the body I used. But in a casual look, things appear to be heading in the right direction quality-wise.
To me, however, the reason I loved the camera is that it is VERY responsive and displayed no obvious shutter lag. It's hard to say for sure not having shot football or basketball with the D30, but I felt very sure that when I pressed the shutter release, the image I saw was what was captured.
Also the ability to shoot fairly long bursts is something I loved. I shot a burst of 18 frames without stopping with the camera at the "Large Fine" jpeg setting (best quality) one time and then was able to shoot a burst of 24 another time. Wow! I repeat: Wow! After filling the buffer with one long continuos burst of 24 frames, I was able to start shooting again after 4 seconds and was able to shoot another burst of 4.
It's a tad slower in the motor drive than the DCS 520, but not by much. Personally I don't think DCS 520 is 3.5 frames a second, but that's just a "feel" kind of thing ... we did a totally unscientific test, timed 10 frames with each camera with a stop watch (D30 and DCS 520) and they tied. If you're used to a 1v, D1 or heck, even a film EOS 1n body the D30 is a slow poke. But it is not significantly slower than the DCS 520/D2000 ...if it is at all ...but the lack of a significant shutter delay certainly makes up for it.
There are FOUR quality settings... I shot some in Large Fine, but mostly in Large Normal. The files on the best quality setting are about 1.4 - 1.5 megs. It's not a problem here at the DNC...we're on a T-1 or something to our network back in Virginia..but under normal situations we'd be transmitting from the field on an analog line. I want to see the quality of the files under that kind of condition, which would be saved at the "Large Normal" setting.
The camera is incredibly quiet compared to the clunky DCS 520 and it is very light. It has a nice feel and doesn't feel real "plastic-y" like an A2 or Rebel. But it is still incredibly light. This would be an ideal camera for documentary - news work where long glass (like 300 2.8-400-600mm) are not needed. I've always been very careful about my camera's mount dimensions and I suspect using long glass would not be good on the mount and front chassis of the body. But as a third camera body ... something to use around the neck or over the shoulder with a 17-35, 28-70, 14mm, et al ... the D30 could be the BOMB! I also think as a remote camera (for hoops, track & field, etc.) the D30 would be great.
You really have to have the battery pack/grip on the D30 to get the right "feel" for the body The grip/battery pack also has a vertical release that has both "back buttons" and a wheel to change shutter speeds or apertures.
I got a very brief rundown of the D30 by CPS and the controls and settings are very easy to figure out and use. They claim the batteries in the grip will power the D30 for over a 1,000 frames (That's what CPS said!). The charger is a dual slot number.
All in all as I said, it shows a lot of promise. Tim Dillon, our Washington, DC-based photographer (who covers mostly news and politics) just said "Hey, get me two!" I think for photographers like Tim who do not have to use long glass a lot (300 and longer) this camera could certainly work well. The size and weight make it very useable. Tim did shoot a few speakers from the center camera platform yesterday afternoon with a 400 and 300 and said the AF was pretty fast and didn't notice much of a difference. He also said the lack of a shutter delay was very noticeable.
Canon seems to be heading in the right direction...