From what I've gathered from reading various web forums, a significant number
of people have gone out and plunked down their $1500 for a Canon EOS 10D without
having much of a clue of what it is or what it does. It seems to be the first SLR
a number of buyers have ever owned and is regarded as an "upgrade" from their
Now they want to know how it works, what lens to use on it and why it doesn't
wake them up with a fresh cup of coffee every morning. So here goes:
Read the Manual
Yes, a novel concept I'll admit, but most of what you want to know is
in the manual. Yes, it's quite a big manual, yes it's got lots of pages, yes the
print is small, but this is a fairly complex piece of opto-electronics. It's not
a P&S. If you wanted a P&S you should probably have looked at something
cheaper and simpler.
Once you've read the manual, read it again because you will have missed half
of what's in there. Take it to bed as your bedtime reading. Make notes. Pretend
you have a test tomorrow.
A Lens, a Lens, my Kingdom for a Lens
Unlike a P&S digicam, you actually have to buy a lens which fits the 10D
before you can take a picture. I know you've just spent $1500, but this is no
time to look for the cheapest lens you can find, especially if it's covered in
dust, hidden on the bottom shelf of the dealer's counter and has something
written on it which doesn't seem to be in English (assuming you are buying this
in the US). Names like "optocon", "cambron", "cheapo" and such do not bode well.
"Canon" on the other hand is a good sign.
So rule #1 is get a real lens. One made by Canon that doesn't have a plastic
lensmount. They aren't that expensive and you are rich (or you wouldn't have been
able to buy the 10D in the first place would you?). Which lens? Well how about
the EF28-105/3.5-4.5 II USM. Note all the numbers and letters carefully. This is
NOT the same lens at the EF28-105/4-5.6 USM - it doesn't have enough letters.
This lens - EF28-105/3.5-4.5 II USM - will cost you around $225. Maybe a few
dollars more or less, depending where you buy it. If you're offered one for $150,
it's the wrong lens. The 28-105(/3.5-4.5 II USM) is a good lens. It has a ring
USM motor (don't worry about what this is, you want it) and is optically quite
good. On a 10D it will appear to be a 45-173mm zoom (why? read the manual, it's
on page 27).
If you want a fast lens, break rule #1 and look at the 50/1.8 II. It has a
plastic lensmount, but then nobody's perfect. Despite the low cost ($70) it's
actually not bad optically and a couple of stops faster than the zoom. On the 10D
it will appear to be an 80mm lens (manual - l page 27 again).
If you want something longer, look in your wallet. It it's full of $50 bills,
look at the EF70-200/4L USM. A superb lens (112-320mm on a 10D). Cost should be
around $600. If your wallet is full of $20 bills, look at the EF100-300/4.5-5.6
USM (160-480mm on a 10D). Cost around $275. If your wallet is full of $10 bills,
the 75-300/4-5.6 III may be the lens for you at $150 or so.
It you want a really wide-angle lens, you're out of luck. A 20-35 35mm zoom
becomes a 32-56 zoom on the 10D. If that's enough then the EF20-35/3.5-4.5 USM is
a good choice at $375. For $450 you can get a 15-35/3.5-4.5 made by Sigma and
that's equal to a 24-56 zoom on the 10D. Just make REALLY sure any Sigma lens you
buy actually works on the EOS body you own. There's a long history of their older
lenses not working on newer EOS bodies.
Not your memory or my memory, the camera's memory. Unlike yours and mine, it's
removable and you can get it in different sizes. How big should you get? Well the
10D files are quite big (around 2.4 MB each for best quality), even bigger (up to
8MB) if you use RAW files. RAW files? - see manual page 47. So with a 128MB card
you get 14 RAW shots. Not many. If you intend to shoot RAW, you need a bigger
memory. 512 MB (56 shots) would probably be a minimum. If you intend to shoot
high quality JPEGs 128MB may be enough (50 shots), but 256MB would be better (100
shots). What's a JPEG? - see manual page 160. What's an MB - a million bytes -
and it will cost you about $0.50 for every one on your memory card.
Settings and Software
Some people expect printer perfect images straight out of the camera. I expect
a 20% salary increase next year. We're both headed for disappointment. Despite
what manufacturer's suggest, all serious photographers expect to have to adjust
all their images before printing. That's why Canon give you PhotoShop Elements II
with your 10D.
I've seen reports that 10D images aren't as sharp as they might be, or the
saturation is low, or the contrast is wrong. Opinions differ and that's why the
10D let's you adjust all these settings (manual, p.56). However you have to make
these adjustments BEFORE the shot is taken if you are shooting JPEG files. If you
shoot RAW files you can make these adjustments later (Software manual page W.27
or M.25) when you transfer the files to your PC. You can't print RAW files, they
have to be converted first, so you need a PC for this. If you don't have a PC
then (a) You bought the wrong camera and (b) How are you reading this?
Even if you shoot RAW and make adjustments during conversion, you may still
want to use PhotoShop Elements II to make final adjustments before printing.
PhotoShop Elements II has a built in manual as a help file. If you think it's
complex just be glad you don't have PhotoShop 7.0. Elements is like PhotoShop
with one hand tied behind it's back and a missing leg. Less parts, less powerful
but cheaper and somewhat less confusing. You may want to buy a book on how to use
PhotoShop Elements. It's far from intuitive. In fact PhotoShop in general is so
confusing that the bookstores are full of books on how to use it. Every time a
new version appears a whole new section of shelving has to be built just to house
the new books which try to explain how to use it.
Nothing seems to confuse Canon EOS owners more than how the flash works. Film
based EOS bodies use TTL modes, A-TTL modes and E-TTL modes. 10D owners are lucky
since TTL and A-TTL modes are not supported so they only have E-TTL left to
confuse them. Note here that any Canon Flash (known as "Speedlites") that ends in
the letters EZ (e.g. 540EZ) does not support E-TTL flash and so is effectively
crippled when used on a 10D. Don't let your friendly local camera store sell you
an EZ flash for your 10D. While it can be used in a fully manual mode,
most people don't want to manually set aperture based on guide number (GN) and
distance. Most people don't know what GN is anyway - and I don't believe it's
defined in the manual either (though it is mentioned). E-TTL flash is smarter
then the average user and does all the calculating for you. It's available via
the built in flash and on any Canon Speedite ending in EX (e.g. 380EX).
Don't give up
Within a week or the 10D hitting the streets, I've seen used ones offered for
sale by people who found it was "too much camera". I've no idea what they
expected, but if they expected a P&S they could have saved themselves $1000
and a headache. The 10D is a professional tool (in the hands of a professional).
In the hands of someone who doesn't know how to use it, it's a liability. Take
time to learn how to use it (....read the manual....) and you will be rewarded.
Keep an eye on those shelves in the bookstore too. I would not be surprised to
see "The Dummies guide to the EOS 10D" rear its ugly head (if it hasn't already).
Just look for the yellow cover...
Oh, and I don't know why it doesn't wake you up with coffee in the morning.
Maybe the EOS-3D will, but we'll have to wait and see about that.