I find the early 00’s interesting when it comes to cameras, the time when the first DSLR’s was released but when analog film SLR’s was still being used by professionals. At that time I was a young teenager that just got into university and that only had shitty digital point and shoot cameras. Looking back I would have loved to have owned a good camera to have documented my youth. The question is, what should I have bought back then?

Analog film was still king in the early 00’s and that would probably have been the best option. But for a begninger analog film is terrible, you have to burn through a lot of film and money to gain experience, and I would probably have given up back then

With digital photography you started to see some good options for consumers in the early 00’s. The Canon EOS 300D (aka. Digital Rebel) from 2004 was known to be the first good DSLR in the price range for average people (999$ with kit lens). I remember going to Roskilde Festival in 2006 and thinking about buying the Canon EOS 350D (aka. Digital Rebel XT) from 2005. Looking in old danish catalogs I can see the prices was 7495 DKK (1000 euro) with the kit lens at release, not impossible for me to buy back then.

Shot with Canon EOS 350D + Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II at Vesterbro in Copenhagen (in 2021).

I didn’t buy the Canon EOS 350d back in 2006, but in late 2020 I found a good deal for one for 150 DKK (20 euro) and bought it. I always wanted to know how the camera would have preformed had I bought it back then, and how much have changed since.

Here are some of the epic specs of the Canon EOS 350D:

  • 8 megapixels!
  • APS-C sensor.
  • Up to iso 1600!!!
  • Raw support
  • CF-flash card slot.
  • Works with all EF lenses.

Also check out this old advertisement of the Canon EOS 350D:

The camera is pretty small. It feels very cheap and the plastic look hasn’t aged well. Besides that it still works great, basically feels like a modern DSLR.

The camera came with a the kit lens the Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 (the old version). I know it’s a bad lens so I bought a lens I would also have been able to afford back in 2006, the Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II (danish price in 2005 was 1195 DKK / 161 euro from to Photografica). It’s a pretty sharp lens for a cheap price, and it would have been a great setup for me back then.

Older danish trains in Copenhagen shot with Canon EOS 350D + Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II

So how does it perform? Image quality is surprisingly good for a 2005 camera. Yes it’s unsharp compared to todays cameras (same kind of unsharpness you have found on cheap DSLR Canon cameras for many years but worse). I had expected the quality to be lower and it can almost look charming in a analog film way. Dynamic range was my biggest fear and that is also better than expected and totally usable for many subjects. Iso noise looks bad at iso 1600 but at iso 100 the grain looks very good, meaning it’s a daytime camera mostly.

I’m surprised at how good the raw files are for such an old camera. And you need to do very little to get the raw files to look good, the good “Canon colors” was already developed back then. Of cause back in the early 00’s almost nobody was editing raw files. Editing photos back then consisted of opening a jpg in Photoshop and turning up saturation and contrast, maybe applying a cringe tone curve (if you where a hipster). Then overwriting the old jpg and later realizing that it was a mistake.

Portrait of my dad with the Canon EOS 350D + Canon EF 50mm f1.8 II at f1.8. Even though the lens is ok sharp the photo looks very soft, especially when subjects are close to you.

Auto focus is not that good and reminds me of a lot of old Canon EOS film cameras, they focus quick and with confidence but later you might realize that the photo is out of focus. But it’s usable, the problem is just that the back screen is so bad that you can’t tell if you nailed focus or not. Continuos auto focus is completely unusable, don’t think any photos I took with it of moving subjects was in focus.

So all in all, it’s a great camera from that time and I really wished I had bought it back then and would have started my life as photographer already back then. Using the camera today doesn’t make much sense, unless you are a desperate kid with no pocket money. But back then I would have loved to own this camera.