Canon EOS 100D – Trial by Outback

My EOS 100D has arrived and in the nick of time too!  As my order also had extra batteries (of the lithium-ion type) and because Cameras Direct forgot to sign the dangerous goods form, the shipment was delayed, arriving on Friday 25th October, the day I was to leave for the outback.  Small mistake, but luckily the staff at CamerasDirect were able to quickly get a hold of Australia Post to sort it out (luckily I notified them after seeing the status update on the online tracker, when it didn’t arrive on time!)

So with the camera here, I have to admit, I’m wasn’t that excited about it.  Sure, it’s a brand new camera, but there isn’t really anything that special about it.  Okay, so it has a touchscreen and an improved phase-detect AF system for video and it is small, but overall, that’s just it.  For guys who have been using the xD series or xxD series Canon SLR’s, don’t expect too much suprises – oh, besides that you need to go back to the old 2.5mm jack for the remote shutter release.

Unfortunately, this means I can’t use my programmable shutter release unit with the 100D, which makes things like timed shots/exposures will be harder to do.

Full specs of the EOS 100D can be found here.

Gear taken on trip

As the camera is a lot lighter than the other Canon SLR’s out there, the strap which came with the camera is about half the width of the usual neck strap supplied with the cameras.  This made it more ‘agile’ to swing around and put around your neck, sacrificing a little bit of comfort in the process.  For the trip, I’ve swapped this neck trap with the neck strap from my 40D.

In addition to this, I took the following on the trip:

  • 2 spare batteries
  • 580EXII Speedlite
  • 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM lens with polarising filter.
  • Remote shutter release
  • Gorillapod SLR Zoom
  • 2x 32Gb Sandisk Extreme memory cards

Taking Photos

One of features which seems to have gone missing from the Canon’s newer range of SLR’s these days is the ‘joystick’ controller on the back of the camera, which I’ve used to select the autofocus points for the camera.  Instead, selection of autofocus points can be made by pressing on the right side buttons and using the scroll wheel behind the shutter button to rotate through.  It’s not as fast but it’s something that you can get used to.

That being said, the buttons to select the focus point and to lock the exposure settings are now arranged vertically on the 100D, however again, this is not that big a deal.

Shooting mostly RAW for the entire trip, I found noise levels to be quite noticeable above ISO800.  The really nice LCD screen on the back gives the ‘iPhone effect’ for photos – that is they look good at any ISO on screen, but when zoomed in or viewed on a computer, the noise is a lot more obvious.

In the custom functions, there is a “highlight tone priority” mode, which is spruiked by the folks at DPReview.  From what I understand, it adjusts the metering of the camera to prevent wash out, preserving more highlight details (underexposing the highlight tones), giving the impression of increased dynamic range.  Shooting with this on or off on RAW made little difference in my opinion, as I typically shoot slightly underexposed and make any corrections in post-editing (except when shooting in darker places where detail can be lost in the shadows).

When taking photos with a lot of shadows, the AF struggled to find the right focus point and when manually selected, the lack of contrast made focuses quite a chore.

Autofocus was a bit hit and miss, even in areas like this.
Autofocus was a bit hit and miss, even in areas like this.

In well lit conditions, well, expectedly the camera was fine.  Again, it’s up to the user to ensure the correct metering.

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In the full size crops below, you can see the noise which you get at ISO400, taken at early morning.

IMG_0007100crop

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Video

Recently, I’ve beginning to shoot more video, so with its compact size, the 100D seems perfect for on the go shots, with a lightweight camera.

Whilst I hear the autofocus doesn’t hunt around when using one of the new STM (step-motor) lenses, it certainly will hunt with the 17-55mm USM (ultrasonic motor) lens.  The autofocus has a number of modes, one of them being an intelligent mode where you can select, using the touchscreen an object to track.  Even with the USM lens, this function actually worked quite well, especially if the lighting conditions give good contrast or if the objects aren’t moving too fast.

The normal AI Focus for video always seems to hunt around, and will cycle back and forth before attaining a lock.  Whilst this can be annoying, this also means that the internal microphone will always be recording the ‘whirl’ of the USM motor.  Luckily the 100D does have a 3.5mm external microphone jack and I will be definitely buying an external mic for it.

For the most part this trip, focusing was done manually, which for the most part gave reasonable results.  The nice, sharp LCD screen was easy to read in the open sun, if you’re not wearing polarised sunglasses!

Unlike many smartphones these days where the polarising of the screen is done at non-orthogonal angles to enable viewing when wearing polarised sunglasses, the polarising angle on the 100D’s screen meant that you couldn’t see anything when the camera is in the normal orientation.

Overall

When I made the decision to purchase a 100D, I did so knowing that I would be making many compromises in terms of autofocus capability, high ISO noise, no wifi or GPS and by not going for the 70D, fast video autofocus.  Buying the 100D did allow me to use most of my current kit and the results from the trip to the outback were still fantastic.

As a result of this trip, I have decided that I need something at the wider end, so I have purchased a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM as I ran into many circumstances where I could not fit everything in frame! (Uluru at sunset for example)

Though I will probably buy another Canon SLR if Canon pulls their socks up and offers something comparable to the next-gen Nikons, for the time being I’ll make do with the 100D as I try and travel light across Europe.

One other thing- though the 100D is the smallest and lightest SLR currently out there, I’ll be stating the obvious when I say that the lenses and other gear that you’ll be attaching to it will significantly take away any space/weight advantages.  Unless you opt for a small prime lens, you’ll still be using a non-pocket friendly camera.

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