Book Report: 350D eBook

Hot Topic (August 2005)

We knew that the 350D was a challenge, but now we know how challenging it can be.

It turned out to be the deepest DSLR eBook yet. And that took extra innings to get all the factoids right.

Small is Big

The DRXT is small, all right. Everybody has riffed on that with some folks forming the snap decision that their hands and the 350D aren't a good fit. My word to them: use it a while.

You're the same folks who buy the latest, greatest most-pocket-size cell phones and not one single control on the XT is that tiny. In fact, it's an ergonomic tour-de-force but you DO have to gain experience with it to find the right way to hold and control its many aspects.

Yes, it's small, but on vacation, on your shoulder, in your camera bag and any time it comes along for the ride, you're going to be glad it doesn't take up more room than it has to. It just feels a tad small in comparison to the larger cameras you've been handling.

Let's look at it this way: Suppose the 350D was your form/function experience for the last few years and suddenly the ALL NEW, LATEST/GREATEST 20D came out with its 48 x 32 pixel BIGGER image chip and all the other 20D features. Wow, you would say, I gotta get me one of those! Then you'd go down to your local camera store and pick it up.

Hey! What's with this monster, your brain would cry out. How come this thing is so darn BIG? Can't they fit this technology into a regular size camera package? What's the deal here, anyhow?

After twenty minutes of trying to sound like Jerry Seinfeld, you'd become used to it and after a day of owning one, the entire issue would evaporate. Thus it is with the 350D. It does indeed feel smaller than previous DSLRs, but that fades away in no time. One thing that doesn't fade away, though, is that it fits into a smaller camera bag with other gear and that its expandability up to Big Camera form is an easy add on.

Truth be told, my own reaction was semi-reactionary, too. Hey, how come this is so small? Then reality set in. After 8500+ exposures, it no longer feels small. It's just lighter, more compact than the 20D and my fingers flow between the two with ease.

Some of the same images appear here and in the EOS 20D eBook pages. Both cameras traveled with me as these eBooks were being produced and their images are within 1.3% of each other, so example shots from one are valid for the other.

Underneath its hood the 350D is big. Huge even. It's so full of features that matter that it defines a new level of sub-$1,000 photographic experience.

There's no way a camera this small and this big deserves small coverage. It's a Big Deal, and prying its secrets out took extra effort.

Our DSLR: Canon DRXT EOS 350D eBook peels its layers off and exposes the naked truths that let you use it to greatest effect. As an instrument of photographic prowess, the 350D leads its genre. As an eBook rife with secrets, lore and more, this new DSLR title pushes the envelope very hard.

The core Camera Operations chapter is 62% larger than the similar chapter about the EOS 300D in its own eBook. And that one was prodigious.

Manual Speak: Not

Interactive images, embedded movies, new animations, precise information, secret passages, in-text Internet links, custom charts, DOF tables and over 1400 images guide you from idea to idea with not a whiff of "Manual Speak."

"Manual Speak," you may remember from Photography 101, is that stilted form of precisely boring English construction that concentrates on ideas like "this is a thing that does that" and gives you no sense of when it would be very cool to do this or why on Earth you would ever want to do that. Make no mistake. Manuals and the joy of photographic creativity are two separate and distinct universes. This eBook is the force that connects these two galaxies in ways that make sense, promotes creativity and burrows into Mr. Science mode when technical ideas are afoot. Inset, above, the thumbnails from Chapter 4's deep investigation of the Rebel XT's every control, menu item and infobite.

This eBook avoids Manual Speak at every turn. Manuals are about how you use the camera. Here is an eBook about how you use this camera to take pictures and improve your chances at photographic greatness.

Cool, Creative and Connected

This eBook isn't a short course in anything. It's deep, rewarding and gives you a working knowledge of those photons you keep trying to corral, those colors you keep collecting and those creative flashes you keep pursuing.

Along the way, every button, every menu page, every feature and every boundary inherent in the Digital Rebel XT is confronted and seen for its ability to help you take better images. How can knowing where the boundaries lie help your shots? Ask an ice skater who skates to the edge yet stays on her feet. Ask a detail that stays in the frame.

You'll find out things about your eyes, your sense of inner photo editor and your latent skills in timing, seeing and orchestrating decisive moments that no camera manual on this planet ever gets into. Yet vision is what a camera mechanically mimics, and that editorial critic is what you alone can supply, so we see them as essential understandings and skills.

Why is this eBook not a run-down on every technical point? Because photography isn't about cameras, it's about photographs. Canon made this camera so you could take photographs. Not so you could collect your thoughts at the end of the day as you review what you've learned while thinking, "Gee, Fn 09: Shutter Curtain Sync option 01 = Second Curtain. That means sooo much to me."

What you want to see is something more like this (paraphrased from the eBook):

It's a neat image, but doesn't that car look a little like it's backing up? That's what you get with First Curtain Sync. It fires the flash at the top of the exposure, and when that exposure is a significant portion of a second, the streaks from moving subjects continue forward of the flash. Rollover to see the effect of Second Curtain Sync, which fires the flash at the instant the shutter ends the exposure. The "curtain" idea? That's an obsolete carry-over from film SLRs that had twin curtain shutters.

Now when your head hits the pillow, you'll have something to think about. "I wonder what the effect of photographing a dancer would be using Second Curtain Sync? Or maybe it would look better with First Curtain. Hmm. I'll bet it depends on the way she's moving. I can't wait to try it tomorrow."

Interactive rollover and rollover/click images are on nearly every page as features of the camera are compared. You'll see unambiguous comparisons of every sort that expand your working knowledge of how various settings, options, alternate techniques and new ways of solving "issues" can be applied. Shooting a picture is more than just pressing a button, it's a creative act with you in the center of the action.

Like articulate speaking, photographic creativity is something that comes out of you, not something that comes into your camera. Without you, the camera is a battery powered paperweight. But with this eBook, you learn the vocabulary of creative photographic experiences.

The goal, as in all the previous eBooks from DigitalSecrets.Net, is to make the camera completely transparent in your hands--to demystify its buttons, menus and dials, to be sure, but to make them and all of their exotic operations into commonplace tools for your personal creative process.

Numerous examples and hundreds of InfoBites make the process a pleasure. People write us thank-you notes all the time. Here's one from yesterday:

"I am COMPELLED to thank you and Uwe for the outstanding material you have prepared in the DSLR: Nikon D70 eBook CD. I've enjoyed photography for more decades than I'd care to recount, and made the switch to digital several years ago.

Your book is the "one stop shop" that explains, instructs and illuminates what is really happening inside that "box"....good on you!

I appreciate your efforts on this work, thank you!" --Steve Chanel, Bel Air

Photoshop in 7 Easy Lessons. Sure, you can spend years learning every last thing about Photoshop. But how do you open this program for the first time and come up to speed in two hours? With Chapter 3 in the eBook.

Here, the full version of Photoshop becomes an easy program to wrap your brain around because at its core, Photoshop is really a collection of easy to use operations. But what Photoshop's Manual doesn't tell you is what we tell you right up front: Do these seven little lessons and you--the digital photographer--will be achieving results it takes years worth of experience in a darkroom to do with film images.

Photoshop isn't daunting--it's just a little strange at first. Do the seven lessons and you'll be inventing, improving and staying up late with the world's coolest video game. The one that makes your pictures more like Ansel Adams' pictures.

And Uwe Steinmueller's second-level set of Photoshop lessons will introduce you to the wonderful world of Layers. Pretty soon your spouse will be saying, "Hey, it's late. Are you coming to bed or what?"

Yes, Photoshop is that addictive once you've smoothly made it up the entrance ramp. But wait, there's more...

Is this for real? Press a button, do this:

Hard Software. From the beginning we've included custom software for the full version of Photoshop in our eBooks. You have the camera, and if you've obtained the editing software that matches its performance, you will have moved up to Photoshop.

Photoshop steps can be automated as "Actions." One made the shot with the 16 pictures above. That's one Action? Yes, and it takes only one letter page (US Letter or A4) to pop out the print so you can hand it off to friends and family. Variations allow vertical and horizontal images without the twist to be generated, too.

Photoshop Actions are such powerful tools that we've included an immense group of custom, original iNovaFX Photoshop Actions in our eBooks since Day One. Now there are well over 450 of them included in the CD.

They fix problems, iron out oddities (like barrel distortion, for instance), enhance images in a huge range of ways, present images in novel interpretations (like that "35mm" frame way up above), expand your photographic range (how about ISO 6400 with your XT?), and convert your images into stunning graphic interpretations.

Dragonfly face here has benefitted from two things found in the eBook.

#1, he was shot with the XT using a Canon f/1.8 auto-focus, auto exposure macro lens that costs about $160 if you know how to acquire it (and yes, we clue you in because there isn't a photo store out there that knows how to sell it to you), and

#2, he was treated with the iHalcyon filter that makes him look like a shot made with a Victorian era color film, if such a thing had ever existed. Rollover the image with your mouse to see the effect.

The iHalcyon series (as in "halcyon days of yore") is a color version of a nostalgic image interpretation that seeks to transcend mere Sepia treatments. Click on the frame and you'll see the cold variation that looks more like a moon-lit horror movie interpretation of Mister Monster Bug.

There are four variations in the series and they can all be produced with one click using an original idea we call the "Carnet" meaning a book of tickets you can buy all at once. In this case, you get to see all of the variations at one time, each landing in your Photoshop History palette as named Snapshots.

Since we value individual creativity, each iHalcyon Snapshot is multi-layer, allowing you to further manipulate the image until you have achieved your own personal version. So four basic variations can now become several million degrees of tweak.

These iNovaFX Photoshop Actions can have as few as two steps or as many as 150 or more. The one that builds the transparent 35mm frame at the top of this page has 148 precise sequential operations to build that image out of your XT photo, so just listing them on a page wouldn't help. You'd never get them right if you had to do them manually, and neither would I.

Starting with the EOS 300D eBook we've expanded our software support to Photoshop Elements, and that continues with the EOS 350D eBook. Adaptions of select iNovaFX Photoshop Actions are now presented as processes you can achieve with Photoshop Elements 2 and 3. Chapter 11 gives you 20 pages of fun you'll never find in the Photoshop manual.

Fish Story Part II. The big one that didn't get away. Roll your mouse over this image to see what the all new iBCXTSigma8.atn Actions do to this lens on the Rebel XT.

Aw, gee. Do I have to own that lens to play with images? Not actually. You could use a rather normal image with the Action and get the striking interpretation found under the above image. Click and ye shall find.

InfoBites. Every idea that's worth parking in the back of your head is worth tagging as "memorable." We tag these ideas as InfoBites, which are single paragraph ideas worth calling out as extra-noteworthy. You're not going to memorize them, but they'll be there for you when the time is right because we've given them the InfoBite logo and your brain knew that you would need this factoid later, so it parked the data in a special place. Here's a sample:

In the Medium/Normal Quality setting, you may be able to shoot literally a hundred or more images without feeling the motor drive slow at all. That Medium frame is plenty large enough to produce outstanding 11 x 14 inch (280 x 356 mm) prints at a near-optimum 178 ppi.

See how they work? It's insidious, but completely painless. You will never be able to pick up the 350D again in your entire life without remembering there's a logical way to get a hundred or more high quality shots in a single, uninterrupted gulp. Not only that, but you've been reminded gently that Medium frames make great looking 11 x 14 prints.

InfoBites tell you how the 350D can operate like it had a 2-second self-timer, how it can be used for time-lapse IMAX movies (not kidding), how Program Shift works better here and not there, how Manual mode's metering can deliver spot-meter results into your exposure calculation, how NR mode is sometimes a Bad Idea, how AI Servo AF can help or hinder a shot, how rules of thumb help and when you need to be cautious where you put your thumbs. This list could go on for days. There are literally 348 of these XT InfoBites in the Camera Operations chapter alone.

I wonder which InfoBite tells me about the camera strap that improves my photography while costing as much as a first-class postage stamp?

And who would ever believe that a simple strap like that could actually improve my photos?

It's in there. Along with why this is no bogus notion.

Because this is an eBook, you search for the key word "strap" and you'll find it within seconds. Along with the explanation and some funny strap stories, too. But I digress...

In-camera Filters. White balance can color a shot correctly or incorrectly. Special iNovaFX Photoshop Actions fix the ones where you had the camera mistakenly set to the wrong WB, but the Rebel XT's WB circuits are much more talented than even Canon was willing to admit.

Included on the eBook package is a special set of 12 color effect filters you can put into your camera with less than one minute's work. Once they're in the camera, you can call them up at any time and instantly add a color filter effect to your shot before the image is captured. In-camera color filters for digital still cameras originated here.

Raw Power. Uwe Steinmueller, King of digital RAW image techniques, has contributed a whole extra volume to the DSLR eBook. Here you will find out how to control RAW images with several software packages, interpreting the results to best effect.

Over the Top. There are long lists of data, a complete listing of Canon's recommended lenses for the DRXT, plus a whole section on third-party optics and accessories. There are tips on lighting, publishing, Internetting, an interactive Appendix and extended Gallery of Digital Rebel XT images.

DSLR: Canon Digital Rebel XT EOS 350D. 520 8.5 x 11 -inch pages, over 1400 images, charts, illustrations, graphics, tables and animations. 450+ exclusive iNovaFX Photoshop Actions. Demo software, test images and much more. $49.95 + shipping. Available now.

It Keeps Getting Better Department:

Firmware Update for the 350D. Just CLICK and follow instructions.


Complete Digital here for an informative comparison of the 20D and 350D.

Imaging Resource here for a report on the 350D.

Digital Photography Review here for their preview look.

Luminous Landscape Field Report here on the 350D.

itscanon is © 2005, Peter iNova. All rights reserved. Images by the author. They're © 2006, too.
Note: This is a private series of page not supported by or associated with Canon Inc.