Canon Rebel 300D

I've had the Canon Digital Rebel (300D) for over 3 years now.  The camera has been out in all weather including wind, rain, dust and -7 degrees in the backyard at 1.00am performing astrophotography with ice covering it.  The camera has never objected!

Image quality is excellent for a camera with the APS sized sensor - I would love to try the 5D or the like with a full-frame sensor. 

During the time I've owned the Rebel I have had several pocket digital cameras including the Fuji-finepix which is a bridge camera.  The finepix was great fun and could shoot video too but there's no comparison between an SLR and a bridge camera - the SLR will outperform it in everything that matters: shooting speed, especially image quality, shutter speed range, ISO (usable) range, lens interchangeability, creative shooting with Av, Tv, Manual Mode.

Canon Rebel 300D with 55-250mm IS Lens

Essential Features

I enjoy daylight photography, but my main usage of the Canon DSLR is for Astrophotography.  With that in mind I've been looking to upgrade to gain a few valuable features for night shooting:

I would like a higher ISO setting, as just an increase from 1600 to 3200 would mean I could shoot much deeper sky objects within the non-guiding limit of 2 minutes.  Essentially I could get a 4 minute image in 2 minutes.  That's a huge gain.

Mirror lockup would also be a great advantage.  I've actually looked through the camera while it fires the shutter and even on a short tube refractor solidly mounted the whole scope and camera vibrate for seconds after the camera shutter is released.

The Wasia Upgrade

Recently I noticed a book in London Drugs about 'hacking' digital cameras.  This is not something I would normally be interested in, but there was a section in particular on the Canon Rebel.  Apparently two programmers realised that Canon had used the same firmware (control) chip in the Rebel as in some of their higher end camera's costing thousands of dollars more.  Canon had simply disabled the features in the lower priced Rebel.  The programmers, Ravel and Wasia, unlocked the firmware code and released the custom functions menu. 

Since I've had the Rebel sometime now I thought it was worth the risk of trying the non OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) firmware upgrade.  It literally took about half an hour to find the Wasia website, download in install the firmware upgrade.

When the Rebel was turned on, following the upgrade, a new menu option appeared 'Custom Functions'.

New Custom Functions Menu

Entering the new custom functions menu allows access to many higher end features - the main ones of interest to me are 'mirror lockup' with programmable delay, and increased ISO to 3200.  There is also FEC (Flash Exposure Compensation) a very useful feature for indoor shooting.  I checked out the menus and tried out the new features.

Mirror Lockup Feature

When you now select ISO and rotate the selector wheel beyond ISO 1600 the new setting reads 'H' for High.  If you shoot at this setting and use review you will see the setting was 3200.  The results are grainy but definitely usable.  I will experiment to find the best way to remove the noise.

New ISO 3200 Setting 'H'

A few test shots using the new ISO 3200 - I've yet to try this with night shooting.

Update - Feb 16, 2009

Some prime focus shots using ISO 3200 - Large JPG's Unprocessed

ISO 3200

2 min unguided

ISO 1600

2 min unguided

ISO 3200

90 sec

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