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There was really no good reason for Canon to replace the EOS 20D. And so, commendably, it didn't.
The new EOS 30D ($1,400 street, body only) might well be considered a "20D II" or a "20DN," given that it uses the same 8MP CMOS sensor, processing engine, viewfinder system, chassis, and control layout of the now-discontinued 20D. But you now get a bigger LCD screen (a 2.5-incher), a spotmeter, more burst capacity, a tougher shutter mechanism, and assorted other new or upgraded features.
Test results for the 30D were virtually the same as for the 20D we reviewed in the January 2005 issue (read it online here). Resolution averaged around 1,720 lines at all tested ISOs for an Excellent rating, and noise was no higher than Moderately Low throughout that range. Color accuracy also ranked Excellent, with an average Delta E of 7.61. Capsule review: The 30D takes really good pictures, as did the 20D.
In size and shape, the 30D is, not surprisingly, very nearly a clone of the 20D. A few curves on the new body are slightly smoother, and the 30D feels a bit bulkier than the older model, due to about 2mm of added depth for the bigger LCD. Handling remains excellent, and the menus are considerably easier to read -- even at arm's length -- owing to the bigger type allowed on the large LCD.
Canon says that the startup time of the camera has been speeded up to 0.15 sec from 0.2 sec -- that is, by 1/20 of a second. If you can tell the difference, bully for you, but we couldn't.
Instead, where the added processing speed really shows up is in burst shooting. The 30D has two high-speed drive modes: low speed runs at about 3 frames per second, high speed at 5 fps. Canon states a maximum high-speed burst of 30 highest-quality JPEGs, which we found to be an understatement. With a SanDisk Extreme CompactFlash card in a 30D, we were able to fire off as many as 46 highest-quality JPEGs at 5 fps, and continued shooting at 1 fps or faster until the card yelled "Uncle!" That's impressive. (With the same card in a 20D, we got 32 JPEGs at 5 fps.) The 30D's burst rate for RAW capture isn't quite as dramatic -- Canon states 11 frames at 5 fps, and we could sometimes shoot 12 with a fast card -- but the speed is still way ahead of other cameras in this class.
Combine this with the fast and accurate AF system carried over from the 20D, and you have a camera that is particularly well-suited for sports, wildlife, and spot news shooting. In view of this, the most significant upgrade on the 30D may be the strengthened shutter mechanism, rated for 100,000 cycles -- tacit recognition that this can be, yes, a pro camera.
Another pro-oriented upgrade on the 30D is a fourth meter pattern -- a 3.5 percent central spotmeter -- added to the evaluative, centerweighted, and 9 percent limited area. The inscribed central circle on the 30D's focusing screen has shrunk to match the dimensions of the narrower spot, which allows more selective metering of individual tones than the 9 percent "fat spot."