What’s wrong with my Canon T100

If you’ve been reading the many posts related to my purchase and use of the Canon EOS Rebel T100 you probably think I’m some sort of silly Canon fan boy. It does sometimes look as though I have nothing but praise for this camera. This is not entirely the case, though. In Canon vs. Nikon we see it get beat by the superior general-use abilities of the old P610. The main failing being the lens.

Let’s talk about the lens. It’s an 18-55mm Canon zoom ‘kit’ lens that came with it. If I had nothing to compare it with I’d have no complaints, except that the front focus ring is sloppy – poor workmanship. You notice this when manually focusing or putting a filter on/off – or adjusting a polarizer. But the Nikon’s fixed-mount 60X zoom is actually sharper and has more contrast, and frankly the 28mm Super Takumar makes them both look like optical plastic on something from the Herbert George Company (famous for Imperial brand toy cameras).

From there we can step over to another fault, one found on almost all digital cameras today: the lack of proper focusing and aperture rings. It’s all very well to have the camera pick for itself, but on those occasions when the photographer’s brain is superior to programmed AI (i.e. almost always) having to play hunt-the-control isn’t any fun. The Canon does have a dial to spin for aperture, but it is not dedicated. In Manual mode it’s a pain to have to hold a separate button down to switch the dial from shutter to aperture – and you have to watch the rear screen for either to see what you are setting them to. Most of my Manual shooting has been done with non-connected lenses anyway, but it’s still a pain if you want to use the Canon lens manually. There are no numbers for the focusing ring, no aperture ring with numbers, no depth of field scale. It is frustrating to use manually.

Now let’s talk about the lack of sharpness and contrast. Okay, it’s a cheap basic zoom to sell the camera with. I get it. Most people will never notice the difference. I did, and went looking for a suitable ‘prime’ lens just as a matter of course. Apparently Canon can’t do math, because they don’t seem to offer one. Normal focal length for this cropped sensor camera would be around 30-32mm (as 35mm film SLR equivalent: 48-51). There doesn’t appear to be any such lens, aside from one very expensive macro-only unit. They heavily promote a 24mm wide-angle (about 38mm equivalent – not very wide) and a 50mm short telephoto (80mm equivalent) but nothing that would count as “normal” field of view. Unless I’m missing something, which could entirely be the case. If I am, it’s probably “third party” and costs over $1,000. I’ve seen a lot of that. But really Canon ought to offer something decent here. (Note: finally found it. Not quite $1,000, but pretty expensive just the same. Apparently discontinued. Well that was bright. As it is it’s not in-line with the 24mm or 50mm lenses price-wise – unless you buy a cheap Chinese knock-off.)

The Canon with its 18-55mm and the Super Takumar 28mm. Note the lack of proper rings and numbers on the former.

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Having thoroughly dissed the supplied lens, let’s complain about the camera itself. Whereas most of the controls are easy to use and intuitive, some are still “menu buried” or not dedicated. Shutter speed being the chief one to complain about. As with the lens, there’s that dial to twist – and that LCD to look at to see what you’re doing. You don’t get truly continuous adjustment either, although there are more settings than you’d find on an old manual film camera. But you’d be amazed at how much “exposure latitude” can do for you even with a digital sensor. (And let’s face it, ‘exposure compensation’ is just a way to say to the camera “hey stupid; you’re consistently under/over exposing my pictures”. Really it’s for fixing AI mistakes in Programmed mode.)

The good control on the top of the Canon – and the dubious does-all dial.

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White Balance. It’s right there and easy to get to and change, except for programming it manually. Now here is where they could stand to admit photographers have brains and give them the ability to set degrees Kelvin and know what it means. Sometimes you want a bit warmer/cooler than the prevailing light – so here’s where a “built in filter” function could be useful.

There is a menu-nested setting called “picture type” which includes three user customizable settings, and yet appears to be utterly useless. I’ve tried all the presets and can see no noticeable difference except the one that shifts the camera into black & white. These settings are adjustable, and in theory could be “pre-programmed” to imitate film types. I have not experimented extensively with them – nothing beyond trying the defaults. If it does work it would be useful, just not handy. Say, why not a “film type” dial – as I suggested in Digital Dreams? Being able to make changes with a simple adjustment would be so much better than hunting down and altering nested menu settings. I’ll even figure out what changes I want for myself, so long as I can access them easily. That’s the tricky part: being able to quickly and intuitively access the controls you most often use.

I read once where “all Canon DSLRs have built-in dioptic eyepiece” and laughed because it isn’t true. I guess they didn’t count the entry-level Rebel line. It sure could use it, though. The add-on corrections … well they’re few and far between and expensive and no hint as to what one you need. I can’t use my glasses there as I wear two different kinds now and take them off most of the time so my vision is sort of tri-focal, as it were. Usually I shoot with them off using an eye cup to block side light and hoping I get what I think I see in the finder. Often this doesn’t happen; astigmatism wrecks alignment all too easily. I swear one day I’m going to take pictures with my eyes shut as it seems I’m guessing at everything anyway.

The rear controls: a mixed bag of good and bad.

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As accessible as these controls are, some I have not bothered to memorize the purpose of because I simply do not use them enough. The ISO control is certainly handy, the WB I would wish to be a ‘film selector’ or outright colour-temperature control, the AF I have only used once or twice (I either use my center preferred AF or switch to manual), and the self-timer … once in a blue moon. Menu, yes. Review, yes. Display … uh not used it yet. I don’t really know what the others are for (aside from the trash can) so obviously they do not fit with my style of shooting. Some easy way to switch between centered and averaging metering would be nice. Yes I know it’s in there … somewhere.

The body of the camera itself is okay, but could be better. And not just the fact it’s plastic fantastic including the lens mount. For one thing this shape all DSLRs seem to be locked into isn’t really the best fit for hands. Not my hands anyway. But if I were to point out the worst aspect of the Canon design it’s the front overhang that contains the flash – and blocks the numbers on my manual lenses. I have to look sideways at it to figure out what they are, and that’s not always best when you have astigmatism. I would also point out that the door to access the battery & memory card seems quite cheap and flimsy. I expect it to break every time I open it. I suppose they expect people to use the wifi/blue tooth functions to transfer images but my computer has neither and I prefer taking the SD card out (like a roll of film – and wouldn’t it be nice if we could pre-program SD cards for particular film-like aspects so it would be like loading a roll?). I envision a future modification involving a piece of tape to hold the thing shut, or maybe to cover where the cover no longer is.

Well I’ve exceeded 800 photos with it already and still haven’t plumbed all the depths nor even tried everything I’ve thought up so far. As I write this I have two more days of good sunshine predicted and plan to spend one day each shooting with the 50mm Super Takumar and the 135mm Vivitar. As well as any other ideas that come to mind in that time.

Addendum: I have since been able to work with the menu-nested “picture type” settings. I can not report any spectacular results, though. The changes are subtle and limited. It would have been nice to be able to pre-program imitations of certain film types – but no luck. I will experiment more with this, but it does not look hopeful.

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