On the surface, the 450D is a compact, well proportioned SLR and weighing in at 540 grams, it isn’t going to hurt the shoulders either. Two big changes are in the shape of storage media and battery design. Gone is the CompactFlash storage and in comes SecureDigital (SD). The battery now has recessed contacts to avoid the short circuiting possibilities that were present with the older design. Of course those moving on from a point and shot or film will not face the consequence of these changes but those upgrading from the 350D or 400D should take note.
The 450D is sold as a kit with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens by Canon. The beauty of SLRs allow you to interchange the lens with any other within the “system”. Our 450D came with the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS and Tamron AF 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD Macro a combo which goes from wide well into the telephoto range. The bundle can be purchased from Jessops for £639.50 while the body without lens can be had for £449.00. As a reference, we have also used the Canon EF 70-200mm F/4 L and EF 100mm F2.8 Macro lens.
The little warrior
The 450D feels sturdy and well made even if it is predominantly plastic. As DSLRs go, the 450D is diminutive and this characteristic is only appreciated once you hold it in your hand. Most of the buttons and the controls are very similar to 400D with some minor changes. The controls are conveniently placed but are crammed in due to the large LCD on the back. The dedicated ISO button next to the command dial is a positive addition on prior models but is wedged between the command dial, power switch and the dial. This makes it very difficult to operate when you are looking through the viewfinder and trying to find the button coupled to the risk of accidentally switching the camera off.
One of the main advantages of a DSLR over point and shoot is its accurate and fast autofocus. The 450D offers mainly two different types of autofocus; one shot and AI servo. The camera provides autofocus automation similar to auto ISO as AI focus. In this mode the camera decides out of the two modes which one to use based on whether the object in focus is still or moving. This can be very handy for beginners who may find it difficult to master the auto focusing in a DSLR initially.
To test the performance of AI servo and one shot we photographed cars moving at approximately 30mph. In most of the cases the autofocus was fast and responsive with the kit lens it could keep up with the 3.5 frames per second speed and focus correctly.
The Tamron 70-300mm lens was a bit slower than the Canon EF-S 18-55mm or the Canon EF 70-200mm F4L which uses a Ultra-Sonic motor (USM). However it is worth caveating that last comment with the fact that this Tamron lens is not in competition with EF70-200mm F4L or any of Canon’s professional L series lens which carry a price tag over four times that of the Tamron.
For still images the camera was spot on when available light was adequate. The camera and lens combination ‘hunts’ (searches for focus) a bit in poor light with both the Canon EF-S 18-55mm and the Tamron 70-300mm. This may be attributed to the lens being slow and having a high F stop of 5.6. The camera managed to focus accurately on a well-lit day using AI servo on moving objects without any problems.
Image quality and ISO performance
The image quality of JPEGs straight out of the camera is good. It can be further enhanced and improved in the DPP software. The 450D seems to have visible croma noise (colour noise) from ISO 400 onwards. The noise is not noticeable in normal viewing or in standard day to day prints up to A4 size so in practical terms it is not an issue, but can be seen if the image is enlarged to 100%. The images straight out of the camera are reasonably sharp with default settings. Sharpness can be changed in DPP or other software if required. The sharpness and contrast of an image are dependent on the quality of the lens used and camera and to isolate that, we tested the 450D with Canon EF 70-200mm F/4L, Canon EF 100mm F2.8 Macro, Canon’s EF-S 18-55mm kit lens and the Tamron AF 70-300mm. The photos produced by the kit lens and Tamron are not as sharp as the other two lens which mostly can be attributed to the lens rather than the camera.
Now we move our attention to the lens that comes with the 450D.