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Canon EOS-350D / Digital Rebel XT with 18-55mm f3.5~5.6 II EF-S lens Gordon Laing, December 2005
 

Canon EOS 350D / Rebel XT design

Physically speaking, the 350D is a seriously compact digital SLR. At 127 x 94 x 64mm, it's only fractionally larger than the tiny Pentax *istDL, which is the smallest in its class. Fit a battery and standard lens though and the 350D can comfortably claim the prize of lightest digital SLR at just 724g for the complete working kit. The body, available in black or silver finish, is pictured here on the far left, next to Konica Minolta's Dynax 5D, Nikon's D50 and the Pentax *istDL.



Canon EOS 350D, Konica Minolta Dynax 5D, Nikon D50 and Pentax *istDL

 

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Canon EOS 400D / Rebel XTi

Canon EOS 350D / Rebel XT

Placed alongside the earlier 300D, the difference in size is immediately apparent. The grip's shrunk and from the front the 350D looks much more symmetrical. While some will love the fact a digital SLR can now just about squeeze into a large coat pocket, others will find the smaller body less comfortable to hold. It all depends on the size of your hands and what you're used to. If your heart's set on the 350D, but it's just a wee bit on the small side, consider buying the optional battery grip. It provides a much greater surface to hold onto and also includes portrait aspect controls.

 
 
Canon EOS 350D / Digital Rebel XT right side view
 

Much of the weight reduction is thanks to a considerably smaller battery than the 300D. This immediately raises alarm bells to battery life, but the new lower-power image processor compensates and as a result you'll still enjoy as many shots on a single charge. During one test period, the 350D battery grip with two batteries was good for around 900 shots taken predominantly with hungry IS lenses.

Despite its smaller size and weight, the 350D feels much better built than the often creaky 300D. It's no-where near the same league as the 20D, but a great improvement none-the-less. Many of the controls feel better too, especially the tactile mode dial.


Canon EOS 350D / Digital Rebel XT left side view
 

Like the 300D, the mode dial is split between traditional creative modes and automatic presets. On the creative side there's the usual Program, Manual, Shutter and Aperture Priority, along with Auto Depth-of-field. Shutter speeds range from 1/4000 to 30 seconds plus Bulb in third-stop increments; it's possible switch these to half-stop increments in a custom menu. The automatic preset modes consist of Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night, Flash-off and the fully automatic Canon green rectangle.

Strangely though several controls have been relocated for no apparent reason. The drive button has been moved from the top of the 300D to the right of the status display on the 350D. This seems no big deal until you press the shutter release and find you've inadvertently activated the self-timer option with your nose - it sounds unlikely, but we've witnessed several people complain of the same thing. This control would have been better left at the top, or only used in combination with a turn of the dial. The ISO setting which used to be shown on the status screen has also now inexplicably moved to main colour screen, which isn't as easy to read under bright conditions.

One of the greatest complaints about the earlier 300D was its lack of custom functions, several of which could be unlocked using a hacked firmware update. Thankfully Canon's officially implemented nine custom functions on the 350D, including the ability to activate mirror lockup or rear curtain flash.

In addition the main menus offer the choice of sRGB and Adobe RGB colour spaces, white balance bracketing and a black and white mode with the choice of four digital colour filters. Like the 20D, the built-in flash now pops-up a little higher and the 350D also supports E-TTL II for through-the-lens exposure control. And at long last there's flash compensation controls.

Canon EOS-350D / Rebel XT composition and screen

 
Canon EOS 350D / Digital Rebel XT rear view
 


The 350D's new focussing screen provides a noticeably brighter viewfinder than the 300D, although manual focussing isn't any easier; you also won't get optional LCD grid lines to aid composition as seen on Nikon's D70(s).

Canon's fitted a 1.8in LCD screen with 115,000 pixels. Images and menus look colourful and sharp, but the screen is slightly dim with the default settings. Before long, you'll want to increase the brightness by a notch.

Probably the biggest complaint though is it's size. 1.8in may have been acceptable a couple of years ago, but now seems miserly, especially given each of its budget rivals have 2in or even 2.5in screens. Hopefully the 2.5in screen of the high-end EOS-5D will be rolled-out across Canon's entire DSLR range in the future.

 

Canon EOS-350D / Rebel XT lens

 
Canon EOS 350D / Digital Rebel XT top view
 



The 350D is compatible with both EF and EF-S lenses, and its APS-C sized sensor results in their focal length effectively being multiplied by 1.6 times. Like its predecessor it's optionally bundled with an EF-S 18-55mm f3.5~5.6 lens, which delivers an effective focal length of 29-88mm. This EF-S kit lens is now labelled with a II, although Canon has stated the optical design is identical to the lens previously bundled with the 300D.


The EF-S 18-55mm is so light you worry it's not going to perform particularly well, but stop it down a little and it's actually surprisingly good. Probably the worst aspect is that the front element rotates, which can prove inconvenient for users of polarising filters.

Canon produces a USM version of this EF-S 18-55mm lens which is bundled in certain regions or with special edition packages. Annoyingly Canon's chosen not to include this USM version with standard 350D kits in Europe and the US.

Admittedly this USM version is otherwise identical to the non-USM lens, including the annoying rotating front element, but it would still have been nice to enjoy its slightly faster and quieter autofocus with the 350D - especially as Canon's internal goal is to feature USM across its entire lens range. That said, given the modest difference in price between the kit versus the body alone, you'd have to be crazy not to go for the standard lens, even if only to give the camera better resale value.

UPDATE: Not sure which general-purpose lens to buy for your EOS 350D? Check out our video tour which discusses four popular choices from the budget EF-S 18-55mm to the stabilised EF-S 17-85mm. The camera we used in the video was an EOS 400D, but all the lenses work on the EOS 350D and the comments equally apply. If you're interested in seeing results from each model along with a detailed discussion of their pros and cons, check out our full Canon kit lens group test.

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All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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