The Canon EOS 350D continues to sell well and holds its own against rival models and stablemates. Is this 8-megapixel DLSR worth tracking down?
“The Canon EOS 350D is a speedy performer. Startup time is so fast as to be non-existent at 0.2 seconds. Shot-to-shot time is fast too, with 3 frames per second in burst mode”
Released back in 2005 but still widely available, the basic body design of the Canon EOS 350D is almost identical to its younger brothers the 400D and 450D.
The biggest difference with this model is the fact that as well as a colour monitor on the back, you also get a secondary LCD display, something that’s been abandoned on the newer models. This shows shooting information such as shutter speed, aperture and shots remaining on your CompactFlash card.
Canon will tell you it was removed from later models to enable larger main screens – and to be fair the 1.8in affair on the back of the 350D does look pretty weeny compared to modern 3in monitors. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the secondary LCD is incredibly useful and you’ll find one on all high-end DSLRs.
Like its predecessor the 300D and all its successors, the image sensor is an APS-C-sized device and the lens mount is EF, allowing you to use standard Canon lenses. The smaller sensor compared to 35mm film means that not all of the view of the lens is covered, giving an effective 1.6x magnification in focal length.
Speed for sports
The 350D is a speedy performer. Startup time is so fast as to be non-existent at 0.2 seconds. Shot-to-shot time is fast too, with 3 frames per second in burst mode. Even more significant for anyone interested in sports photography is the fact that the camera has a 14-frame buffer, up from the four frames of the 300D.
With such excellent basic hardware, Canon has to differentiate the 350D from higher-end models
somehow, and that’s where some annoyances lie. The 350D has only three metering modes: matrix, centre-weighted average, and partial. The partial setting gives you ‘semi-spot’ metering, using a nine percent area of the centre of the frame, but a true spot mode is conspicuous by its absence; an artificial restriction since even consumer-level compact cameras have spot metering these days.
One of the new features of the 350D is also a definite retrograde step: press the dedicated shortcut buttons on the body for ISO, focus mode, metering mode or white balance, and you’re forced to use the colour monitor to see your changes – it isn’t shown in the mono LCD panel. This means first that you can’t use the 350D purely as a traditional SLR: you’re forced to use the monitor. Second, and more significant, it’s practically impossible to see the small menu text in bright sunlight, a genuine problem that could easily cause you to miss a shot while you’re shading the monitor with your hand and squinting at the screen. Later models with their larger screens have sidestepped the issue.
Back on the bright side, you do get a raft of settings and menu features. Top of the list is the set of Custom functions. There are nine of these, allowing you to tweak parameters including exposure-level increments, set the flash metering mode, and set mirror lock-up. This last function is for macro shots, when it’s desirable to eliminate absolutely all camera shake.
A particular trademark of Canon’s digital SLRs is their noise performance, and the 350D carries the baton well. It’s perfectly usable at ISO800, a sensitivity setting at which many digitals would give you horribly noise-ridden results. You can push it up to ISO1600 too, at which point noise-reduction techniques kick in a little too far and produce some noticeable softness, but still very low noise.
The E-TTL II flash-exposure system gives incredible results – it’s almost impossible to fool and flash shots never have that clipped, washed-out look, even when you’re taking hastily composed photos from only a few feet away. If you’re used to seeing flash photos from cheap compact cameras, the results from the 350D are amazing. The pop-up flash unit itself is well away from the centre line of the lens, which eliminates the dreaded red-eye. It also doubles as a focus-assist lamp for low-light focusing.
Set against this is the competence of the auto white balance, which we found distinctly lacking. Taking some shots in a park, in a pretty standard situation – bright blue sky, grass and trees – the EOS floundered around and produced results with a distinct blueish cast to them. This basic lack of accuracy does rather make the inclusion of a special white-balance shift menu seem a bit pointless.
You can sidestep the problem in three other ways: select one of the white balance presets or set it yourself while pointing the camera at a neutral-coloured object. Or you can shoot in RAW mode, allowing you to set the balance when you’re converting the RAW file with the excellent Digital Photo Professional software supplied with the 350D. Not a major problem then, but still behind even Canon’s own consumer-level cameras.
If you’re looking for a new DLSR, you shouldn’t necessarily be wowed by the huge megapixel ratings of newer models. The 350D is still a very good camera and still available new, and it’s an absolute bargain at the prices you’ll find it for these days.
Canon EOS 350D Info
Typical price: £399 body only; £539 with 18-55mm lens
Great quality images
No spot metering
Small monitor screen
May be hard to get hold of
Verdict: Partner it with a decent lens and the 350D is still a very classy performer despite its age.
Rating: 4 stars
More info: Canon Website
- The 350D has two screens on the back, the smaller LCD screen showing camera settings. It does mean, however, that the colour LCD is only 1.8 inches in size
- The top of the Canon EOS 350D is fairly feature-free, but does have a handy finger wheel for changing settings without having to pull away from the viewfinder