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First Look: Canon 10D
by Vivid Light Staff

Take all the good things from the hot selling D60 digital (and we found a lot of them when we tested one last fall). Add a new chip technology that promises increased performance and expanded color space. Base the whole package on the well proven Elan 7 chasis and focus system. Team it with Canon's excellent lenses. Stir liberally and offer the whole package for a suggested list price of $1,499 and what have you got?

Well unless Canon really dropped the ball somewhere in the execution you've got a winner.

The big news here is the new chip called the DIGIC imaging engine. A CMOS based design, it maintains the 6.3 megapixel capacity of the D60 as well as its 1.6X 35mm effective focal length.

The big news is it can capture an expanded color space (Adobe RGB vs. sRGB). According to Canon that expanded color capability enables the 10D to render images that rival film and capture the luminous quality that you find in slides. Digital images often fall a bit flat and require a tweaking in Photoshop to get the three dimensional look you get from film. This new DIGIC technology promises to provide that level of quality right out of the camera.

Another quality improvement at the chip level is the ability of the DIGIC processor to virtually eliminate signal noise. Signal noise is stray light and off color pixels. The result of the expanded color space and reduced signal noise is said to be a "dramatic" improvement in the gradation of highlight areas and the rendering of highlight detail. Improved detail means that the images hold up better when they are blown up or tightly cropped.

Sample images on display in Canon's booth at PMA did indeed show impressive detail in highlight areas. But experience has taught us to look with skepticism at trade show samples (though we're casting no aspersions at Canon). We'll withhold judgment on the expanded color space and highlight detail until we can get a production model in our own hands.

Another feature Canon is crowing about is the claim that the release on the 10D equals that of a film camera. Typically there is a slight lag in even the best digital cameras compared to film cameras. The lag can be especially long in all-in-one digitals.

The focusing system lifted from the Elan 7 has proven itself over the years and we found the metering system to be very good in the D60. 

The exception to that was the auto white balance, which has been a sore spot in every digital SLR we've tested. We always advise setting white balance manually. It will be interesting to see if this is improved on the 10D. White balance bracketing is included.

Like the 1Ds the 10D has the ability to shoot in dual mode. This mode records both JPEG and raw files simultaneously while you're shooting and combines them into a single raw file. The JPEGS can then be quickly stripped out when the files are loaded into your computer using the included Canon software. The camera supports both Fat16 and Fat32 file interfaces, which means it will be compatible with larger format CompactFlash cards now being introduced such as the Lexar 4GB card (see Big Memory in this issue). While we're on the subject of capacity sports shooters will be happy to hear that the 10D can shoot 3 frames per second and hold 9 frames in the image buffer.

In the firmware department the 10D offers you the opportunity to fine-tune settings such as contrast, sharpness, saturation, and tone far more than was possible in the past. How usable these controls are, and therefore how much they'll actually be used in the field, remain to be seen. We'll let you know once we get our hands on a test unit.

Earlier we mentioned the chassis. The interesting news there is that the 10D is built on a magnesium chassis covered with a rubber skin. This design should make the 10D quite durable and shock resistant even if it's not as rugged as the 1Ds.

The short time we had to spend with the prototype allowed us little chance to put it through its paces. We could immediately see that the controls are typical EOS controls. Any Canon shooter would be at home with this camera almost immediately and a D60 shooter wouldn't even have to look at the manual to get started shooting.

Finally the 10D is EXIF compatible which will take the hassle out of printing if you have and EXIF compatible printer and Canon just happens to make a couple of EXIF printers.

The 10D started shipping last week. Expect to pay list price for the immediate future as supplies will initially be short. We checked two large retailers and both were already out of stock. 

If you're going to wait around for a bargain keep in mind that the D60 was in short supply for quite some time. But with a starting price of $1,499 it will be interesting to watch what happens with the price as supply catches up with demand. When it does will Canon eventually price the 10D at the first serious sub-$1,000 digital SLR? 

Even at $999.99 that would be big news indeed.

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