• Price When Reviewed: 539

  • Pros: Lightweight and easy-to-use body; generally good and responsive handling; handy Live View and IS options; entirely usable ISO range.

  • Cons: Little significance in detail over 10-megapixel offerings; ISO 1600 maximum is on the low side; some autofocus inaccuracies.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10We rate this 7 out of 10 We rate this 7 out of 10

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Canon’s latest digital SLR – the EOS 450D – will be of interest to creatives who aren’t professional photographers. Over the entry-level EOS 400D, the new model adds 14-bit capture, Live View with both phase- (viewfinder AF) and contrast-detection AF, as well as a larger 3-inch LCD and faster continuous shooting.

To hold, the 450D feels much like the 400D. It’s made of a similar plastic shell and shares a familiar – yet still overly – small handgrip. It has a new body shape, at least around the camera’s head, maybe as a result of the slight improvement in viewfinder magnification. There’s still that characteristic tunnel-like feeling when it’s held to the eye, but the slightly larger image is welcome all the same.

The three-inch screen is the same size as that found on the PowerShot G9. But, while good, it’s nowhere as bright or crisp, and it lacks the anti-reflective coating of that model. Maybe that’s a result of the new battery – it’s not as long-lasting as rivals, and falls from the quoted 500 shots to just under 200 using the Live View mode.

Like the earlier semi-pro EOS 40D, the new model can auto-focus in Live View using the viewfinder (phase-detection) AF, dubbed Quick Mode, but it’s tardy and quirky in use. A new contrast-detection AF option using data from the CMOS image chip is no slower, but it’s very well implemented.

Using up to x10 magnification, you can watch the AF system improve focus accuracy over the initial attempt. You can also use manual focus in the same manner, making Live View exceptionally useful in the studio. Either way shutter lag is non-existent, so the camera could be used successfully for high-speed shooting.

A more sensitive cross-type AF sensor has been employed in the centre of the diamond-shaped 9-point array, but we noticed some focus inaccuracies at the wider end using the new 18-55mm IS kit zoom. Although it’s now image-stabilized,
the kit lens remains just as miniscule in size and weight as its predecessor.

Like the Olympus’ SAT and Sony’s DRO technology, the EOS 450D has a new Auto Lighting Optimizer option that seemingly adjusts the gamma curve to improve shadow detail. This is subtly applied to in-camera JPEGs, but Raw files look unaltered on the screen and in third-party software. A Highlight Tone priority option helps reduce blown highlights, albeit very subtly. Both options are buried in the Custom Function menu but they can be enabled independently.

Unsurprisingly, image quality is high – with and without High ISO noise reduction, right up to the maximum of ISO 1600. And there lies the rub: by avoiding the high sensitivities of rivals, the EOS 450D can’t be unduly criticized for noise. Snaps are highly detailed, but there’s little to be gained in real terms over 10-megapixel offerings.

Be that as it may, the EOS 450D is a fine performer. The only real problem is price. The 450D sits uncomfortably close to the 10-megapixel EOS 40D. With the maker’s current cashback offer, the better-quipped semi-pro model can be had for roughly the same price. If it wasn’t for the (probably short-term) anomaly, the EOS 450D would easily score a higher rating.