When it comes to digital SLRs, Canon deserves credit for breaking more price and performance barriers in the last three years than any other manufacturer. It all started with the introduction of the EOS D30 in 2001, the first 3MP DSLR priced under $3,000, and the very first to use a CMOS sensor. A year later, Canon launched the CMOS-based EOS D60, the first 6.3MP camera priced under $2,000. Soon afterward, we celebrated the arrival of the EOS-1Ds, the world's first full frame, CMOS-based 11MP DSLR with a street price under $8,000. This year, Canon surprised us with its new EOS 10D, a $1,500 (street price) DSLR equipped with the same 6.3MP CMOS sensor as the EOS D60. (We were all secretly hoping for a more affordable version of the dream-machine EOS-1Ds). This left us wondering: Is the new EOS 10D merely a lower-priced version of the D60, or yet another digital SLR milestone?
Canon apparently wrestled with the shortcomings of the D60 and D30 in designing the new EOS 10D. (The D60 and the D30 shared the same stainless-steel chassis and polycarbonate body, a mediocre three-sensor autofocusing system, and relatively poor low-light performance.) For starters, the 10D chassis is also constructed of both polycarbonate and stainless steel, but with further protection added by rigid magnesium-alloy covers on the sides, top, and back. A larger rubberized surface on the right side also makes the camera easier to grip. The improved construction adds four ounces to the body, but we now feel that the EOS 10D has more of the look, feel, overall balance, and ruggedness of a pro SLR.
Several controls (such as meter mode and exposure compensation) have been moved closer to the shutter-release button and are easier to reach. While most of the buttons on the camera back are the same as those on the D60, the AF-select and partial metering buttons now serve a dual purpose in playback mode, allowing you to zoom in (up to 10X, versus 4X on the D60) and zoom out. The top LED panel is about the same size as the D60's and provides much of the same information on exposure and camera controls.
Canon claims that the 10D's focusing system has been greatly improved in terms of speed and low-light sensitivity. There are now seven selectable AF zones instead of just three, and they cover a wider horizontal and vertical focusing area. In addition, the EOS 10D has a higher-capacity burst rate of up to nine images at 3 fps in the highest resolution setting, using either JPEG or RAW formats. Other than the additional AF zones, the viewfinder is pretty much the same as the D60's, but it now includes a flash-exposure-compensation indicator and a memory-buffer indicator. In single-shot mode, the latter usually reads nine images. But in continuous mode, it varies based on the number of images shot, updating continually as images are stored to memory. (More on the actual AF and shooting performance later.)