When their cameras still contained rolls of film, Canon used to divide up their range into four groups, distinguished by the number of figures in their model number. The EOS 1, 3 and 5 were intended for professionals, the 30 and 50 for expert photographers, the 300 and 500 were mostly for amateurs and, finally, the 3000 and 5000 were entry-level models. At last, Canon are reviving the '4 figure' nomenclature, in an attempt to create a reflex that's suitable for beginners. The goal is to attract users who are already at home with compact cameras to the EOS line by maintaining several of the features found in higher-end models at a much lower price.
Thanks to a redesigned grip, the EOS 1000D is much easier to hold than the 350D and 400D, despite its very small size. The only problem is the poor grip offered by the plastic case, which can easily slip out of balmy hands on a warm day. In general, the camera's body is very light, which is only to be expected of a reflex weighing in at less than 600 grams. It certainly doesn't have the same robust feel as the K200D, though. The interface won't lose those used to the EOS 450D, and while the buttons are a little larger, they are all in exactly the same place, right down to the depth-of-field detector.
This alone shows that the 1000D is not a stripped down and simplified machine like the 3000 and 5000 film-based models were. In fact, it's much more like a 400D whose controls have adopted the position of those on a 450D. It has the same viewfinder as the 400D, but a little narrower and less comfortable to use, while the seven-point autofocus system seems to have been taken from the 350D. As for the other features, they are mostly similar to those found on the 350D and 400D. The 1000D is a quick camera that's pleasant to use.
The only shadow is cast by the autofocus system in Live View mode, which remains noticeably slower than when in reflex mode. Focusing using the LCD screen should therefore probably only be used for still-life or landscape shots, with the viewfinder reserved for shots of moving subjects. Otherwise, although the camera can be a little jerky, its internal memory can only hold 4 RAW images at a speed of no more than about 1.2 images per second. Those preferring longer bursts will have to make do with JPEGs, which the camera can capture at up to 3 images a second until its memory is full.
Unsurprisingly, when we tested it using the 18-55 mm lens which is usually supplied, the EOS 1000D gave excellent results. The sensor, taken from the 400D, has already proved itself and the quality remains high up to 800 ISO. At 1600 ISO, a little 'billowing' is evident, but seems to be fairly restrained, which leads us to ask why there's no 3200 ISO setting.
No surprises with colors, either. As is usual for Canon, yellows and reds are saturated, giving a relatively warm tone that is pleasing to the eye. The lens itself is excellent, and has nothing in common with the non-stabilized version that preceded it in earlier models all the way up to the 400D. Its principal weakness is an obvious distortion with wide angle shots, which is particularly noticeable on images of geometric objects.
Compared to the competitors
At this point we have to ask who the target user is for this camera. If the 4 figures lead us to think it's aimed at the general public, the similarities with the 450D suggest it's much closer to a high-end model. It's as easy (or as hard) to use as any other Canon reflex, so this camera is hardly likely to disabuse users of automatics of their prejudice that 'reflexes are complicated.' In fact, we rather suspect that by refusing to compromise on any of its functionality, the EOS 100D fails to reach its intended audience of compact owners looking to upgrade.
These considerations aside, the competition in this market is already fierce. The Nikon D60, the Sony Alpha 200 or the Olympus E-420 are all worthy rivals to the EOS 1OOD. For its part, the D60 makes real efforts to step away from the 'difficult reflex' image, but the fact that you can't focus using its screen can only hold it back; the same is true of the Alpha 200. The E-240 also has Live View, with an autofocus sharing the same slowness that affects the 1000D. While the E-240's controls are much easier to operate, Olympus could certainly simplify its menus, where Canon retains the upper hand.
The Pentax K200D could also steal the spotlight, but despite its faster focus and solid construction, the fact that it is a lot less compact and a lot heavier suggest that the target audience is not exactly the same.
At the time of writing this review - and we do hope that this will change in the next few months - the EOS 100D suffers from one major drawback: its price. It is much more expensive than its competitors - so much so, in fact, that it is mostly threatened by Canon's own EOS 450D. The 450D is a little faster in burst mode, a lot faster in Raw mode, easily comparable in terms of ease-of-use and comes with a bigger, more comfortable viewfinder and better autofocus capabilities. Its price has fallen recently, and the gap between the two models is now less than 100 Euros.