2005-12-11 1011 Photography: == Ultimate digital camera for under £700 == Psst! Want a camera that's <b>25 Megapixels</b> in . . .

Ultimate digital camera for under £700

Psst! Want a camera that’s 25 Megapixels in resolution, got an ISO range of 25 to 12800, can shoot around 600 images on a single battery charge and is available (if you shop around) for under £500 in the UK?

Thought you might.

Update: I’ve added sample images at the bottom of this post!

The good news is that just such a camera exists. I’ve got one myself. It’s the Canon 300D (Digital Rebel). Yes, the original one. No, I’m not kidding.

The specs on the box are much lower, but the camera itself really does have the specifications I’ve given. I’ll take them one by one.

25 Megapixels

I’ve already covered this one in 2005-11-27 2312 Photography but in short: take a RAW image then open it using Adobe’s Raw import in Photoshop. Tick the box at the bottom to Show Workflow Options. There’s a drop down box in the new panel where you can set the output resolution all the way up to 6144 by 4096. That’s a whole 25 Megapixels of output, folks. This is not interpolated. The downside of this technique is that the “grain” is much more noticeable at this high a resolution. For my purposes – creating VERY large black-and-white, infrared or duotone images, that’s fine though. Remember that at 300dpi, images of this size will print at 20″ by 13″!!! Neat Image does a pretty good job of removing most of the noise too.

ISO 25

If you want VERY low noise levels though, the optimum solution is to use as low an “ISO” setting as possible. The 300D’s usual lowest ISO is 100 – but ISO 25 is possible. Shoot using RAW at ISO 100 and over expose for 2 stops. At this level you’ll almost certainly need a tripod and use mirror lockup (using the Undutchalbes hack) and the timer to keep shake to an absolute minimum.

Use a RAW processor (Like Adobe’s or Raw Shooter Essentials) to correct the exposure levels back to normal. The end result is a correct exposed image with even lower noise than ISO100. Each stop in under or over exposure equals one jump in ISO, so +2 stops is equal to ISO 25.


ISO 12800

This will give LOTS of grain, but just goes to show what’s possible, and it’s great for hand held monochrome night images!

The technique is much the same as ISO 25 above. This time though use the Canon 300D hack from undutchables to enable setting the ISO to “H” (ISO 3200) then underexpose by two stops. Correct the exposure in your RAW tool of choice, and there’s your ISO 12800 image.

I’ll post a few sample images up later today to show what these tricks look like in practise. The bottom line is that there really is no better camera around than the Canon 300D!


Here are two sample images taken at both ISO 25 and ISO 12800.

This is ISO 25


Click on the image to see a 100% crop of the 25 megapixel image. Note the complete lack of film grain!

Here’s the EXIF data:

 Model : Canon EOS 300D DIGITAL
 ExposureTime : 1/3.3Sec
 FNumber : F8.0
 ISOSpeedRatings : 100
 ExposureBiasValue : EV2.0
 Flash : Not fired
 FocalLength : 50.00(mm)

Remember that ISO 100 +2 stops then corrected = ISO 25. Even in brigher light this shot at 1/3 second exposure at f/8.

The conditions for this shot weren’t idea because some patchs of the image burnt out completely due to the +2 exposure. As it’s a setting more of use in a controlled studio environment rather than for shots like this, I don’t think it’s going to affect many people! Real ISO 25 would probably have a similar problem with the lassitude of this shot. Pulling back to ISO 100 +1 stop (effective ISO 50) would have removed the burning completely.

And here’s ISO 12800

ISO 25

Again, click on the image to see a 100% crop of the 25 megapixel image. Note the extreme film grain! Not great in colour (unless you like that kind of thing), but excellent for monocrhome or infrared.

EXIF data again:

 Model : Canon EOS 300D DIGITAL
 ExposureTime : 1/200Sec
 FNumber : F22.0
 ISOSpeedRatings : 3200
 Flash : Not fired
 FocalLength : 50.00(mm)

f/22 at 1/200 second?! Granted, ISO 12800 (ie, ISO 3200 -2 stops = ISO 12800) is much more suited to extremely low light photography, but it just goes to show what’s possible.

These are extreme settings – the point here is that they do exist, and have their uses. I know of no other camera on the market with a effective ISO range thast covers such a wide spectrum.

The full ISO range for the 300D is 25 (100 +2), 50 (100 +1), 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 (H), 6400 (H -1), 12800 (H -2).

At the “normal” levels of ISO 100-400, the Canon 300D produces superb almost noise free shots that can stand up to anything else, and given that the images can size to 25 megapixels from RAW, I just don’t think there’s a camera to beat it for the price.

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