First is the imposing 3in LCD monitor. Hold a 450D next to an old EOS 350D with its 1.8in screen and the difference is huge. The size of the screen is important when it comes to the second new feature, the Live View mode. This lets you operate the 450D like a compact camera, using the monitor to frame and focus shots rather than the optical viewfinder. Thanks to the screen size, focusing manually is fairly easy, and the ability to digitally zoom in at 5x and 10x assists further.
As well as making the transition easier for compact owners, Live View takes some of the hit and miss out of awkward over-the-head shots, too. It will even have its uses in standard shots: in Live View you can use the four-way selector buttons to move a target box to the exact area you want to focus on and expose for.
The 450D marks the abandonment of Compact Flash – it now accepts only SD card memory. This leaves room in the body for a larger battery with almost double the capacity of the 400D’s and it makes up for increased power consumption using Live View – a weekend’s worth of shooting didn’t trouble the camera at all.
Last on the list of major new features is the standard kit lens. It still has an 18-55mm zoom range, and it still feels lightweight and a little on the under-built side, but crucially it now comes with optical image stabilisation. That gives around two stops of leeway and mitigates the relatively slow f/3.5 maximum aperture, allowing for practical indoor shots without flash in moderate light.
Beyond the headline stuff, Canon has made some genuine improvements to the 450D’s features. Our favourite is the addition of a spot-metering mode, which has always been artificially absent from the range. On top of that, look through the viewfinder and you can now see the ISO sensitivity setting as well as aperture and shutter-speed information, which should eradicate a major cause of accidentally less-than-perfect shots.
The physical design continues to evolve, with a slightly more curvy body and – when you press the shutter release – a more muted shutter sound. It’s a little faster, too, with a burst rate of 3.5fps over the 3fps of the previous models – enough to make a noticeable difference to action shooting.
The only disappointment is that while the JPEG buffer depth gives you at least 25 shots in burst mode, the increased pixel count means you’ll still only get five frames if you shoot RAW rather than JPEG. That’s a shame, since there’s now even more reason to shoot in RAW, with the sensor’s analogue-to-digital converters producing 14-bit output to give 16,384 levels per channel. That’s four times higher than the 4096 levels of the previous 12-bit system.
The bigger screen has led to a re-arrangement of the controls, with the loss of the space down the left-hand side of the rear. But an ISO button has appeared on the top plate in front of the mode selector – a great addition now ISO information is shown in the viewfinder.
Even better news is the price. The EOS 400D was around $1200 at launch and the 450D is $200 less meaning it’s still an entry-level option. Canon is continuing to sell the 400D, and the standard 400D kit can be had for $200 less (much less if you buy a grey import).
With the number of new features and image quality that remains as good as ever, the 450D is a compelling camera. But bear in mind you can get hold of the semi-professional EOS 40D body-only for about the same price as the 450D kit, and Nikon’s ageing but still superb D80 can be had for around $100 more.
For first-time users, the likes of Nikon’s D40 or Canon’s own 350D are a better choice, at nearly half the price of the 450D. But for a compact, feature-laden DSLR that isn’t going to see the rough and tumble of serious amateur use, the 450D has addressed our criticisms. It adds up to a very fine camera for the money.
A significant overhaul and a great camera. At this price it’s the best all-round package on the market
• Canon: www.canon.com.au
• Price: $1024 • Camera type: DSLR • Megapixels: 12 • Sensor type: CMOS • Max resolution: 4272,2848 • Live view: Yes • Metering type(s): evaluative/partial/spot/centre-weighted • Shutter speed: 1/4000 to 30 seconds • ISO range: 100-1600 • Anti-Shake mode: Optical stabilisation • Exposure compensation: +/-2EV • RAW mode: Yes • Max burst speed: 3.5fps • Battery type: li-ion • Rechargeable battery: Yes • Dimensions (WDH mm): 129x98x63 • Weight: 720g • Manufacturer: Canon • Supplier: Canon