Canon EOS 350D: error-correction job
A bit more than two years ago, in August 2003, the world of photo technique was shattered by the sensation: Canon announced having released its digital reflex camera Canon EOS 300D whose recommended price amounted to less than 1000 US dollars. Therefore, the conventional price barrier that separated the amateur market from the professional was overcome, and for the first time in history the digital "reflex" proved to be affordable to the widest army of consumers. That resulted in an unheard-of popularity of the camera, which even proved a surprise for Canon either. The EOS 300D model was literally swept off the retail shelves, and in the first months of sales already it acquired a truly worship status, while leaving the competitors turn green with envy. Even these days two years afterwards, EOS 300D is still enjoying a steady demand - a rare occasion of longevity for the mass market of high-tech.
Nevertheless, despite numerous advantages, the novelty had its own "Achilles' heel". Namely, its essential functional restrictions. The thing is, EOS 300D was created on the base of its higher-end model EOS 10D that was aimed at the "prosumer" market and sold at about $1500. Therefore, from the marketing considerations, the functionality of EOS 300D was intentionally "cut down" so that the younger model could not compete that. In particular, EOS 300D lacked the possibility of explicitly setting the exposure meter and auto-focusing modes, it had not flash expo-correction, pre-lifting of the mirror, etc. On top of all that, the "simplish" plastic housing of the camera aroused a wave of criticism. Certainly, these bottlenecks were immediately noticed by competitors who, inspired by the success of Canon, started feverishly creating their own budget-sector "reflexes".
In March 2004, there appeared the first "killer" of EOS 300D – Nikon D70. Having the starting price a bit higher, D70 offered significant advantages over EOS 300D both in terms of functionality and design (due to the metal housing). Owing to the attractive "price/functionality" ratio, the new Nikon model successfully fitted within the budget and "prosumer" sectors thus strongly shattering Canon's positions in these market niches. Some time afterwards, Pentax and Olympus announced a release of successful enough cameras *ist DS and E-300 which proved direct competitors to EOS 300 D at the price and offered a number of functional advantages. That time, it became absolutely clear that the legendary EOS 300D was in for a replacement. So, the response from Canon was quick enough, as usual. On 17 February last year, at PMA expo a launch of EOS 350D production, a heiress to EOS 300D, was announced.
As is the case with EOS 300D whose "progenitor" was the higher-end model EOS 10D, the new amateur camera by Canon is also based on the prosumer camera – EOS 20D.
Well, let's look at the specifications of the novelty and compare them against EOS 300D and EOS 20D.
|EOS 350D||EOS 300D||EOS 20D|
|Housing||Plastic||Plastic||Metal (magnesium alloy)|
|Lens attachment type||EF-S||EF-S||EF-S|
|Sensor||CMOS, 22.2 x14.8 mm, 3:2, crop-factor – 1.6 8.2 MP (8.0 MP effective)||CMOS, 22.7 x 15.1 mm, 3:2, crop-factor – 1.6 6.5 MP (6.3 effective)||CMOS, 22.5 x 15.0 mm, 3:2, crop-factor – 1.6 8.5 MP (8.2 effective)|
|Processor||DiGiC II||DiGiC||DiGiC II|
|Shutter||30 - 1 /4000 s||30 – 1/4000 s||30 – 1/8000 s|
|Auto focus||TTL, 7 focusing points, selectable 1. One shot2. AI Servo3. AI Focus. Selection is possible in any shooting mode||TTL, 7 focusing points, selectable 1. One shot2. AI Servo3. AI Focus. Selection depends on the shooting mode||TTL, 9 focusing points, selectable 1. One shot2. AI Servo3. AI Focus. Selection is possible in any shooting mode|
|Exposure measurement||1. Estimation (35-zone)2. Partial (around 9% of the frame area)3. Centrally weighed Selection is possible in any shooting mode||1. Estimation (35-zone)2. Partial (around 9% of the frame area)3. Centrally weighed Selection depends on the shooting mode||1. Estimation (35-zone)2. Partial (around 9% of the frame area)3. Centrally weighed Selection is possible in any shooting mode|
|Expo correction||+/- 2 EV in 0.5 or 0.3 increments Expo-correction bracketing||+/- 2 EV in 0.5 increments Expo-correction bracketing||+/- 2 EV in 0.5 increments Expo-correction bracketing|
|Viewfinder||Reflex pentaprism, with diopter correction, magnification – 0.8x, coverage - 95%||Reflex pentaprism, with diopter correction, magnification – 0.8x, coverage - 95%||Reflex pentaprism, with diopter correction, magnification – 0.9x, coverage - 95%|
|LCD||1. Main, color, 1.8", 115 000 pixels, 5 brightness levels 2. Auxiliary, monochromic (with orange backlight)||1. Main, color, 1.8", 118,000 pixels, 5 brightness levels 2. Auxiliary, monochromic (with orange backlight)||1. Main, color, 1.8", 115 000 pixels, 5 brightness levels 2. Auxiliary, monochromic (with orange backlight)|
|White balance||Auto, daylight, shadow, clouds, incandescent lamp, fluorescent lamp, flash, white sheet calibration mode White balance bracketing (3 frames)||Auto, daylight, shadow, clouds, incandescent lamp, fluorescent lamp, flash, white sheet calibration mode||Auto, daylight, shadow, clouds, incandescent lamp, fluorescent lamp, flash, white sheet calibration mode, measurement of the color temperature of light source directly in Kelvin degrees White balance bracketing|
|White balance tuning||From blue to amber (19 scales) From purple to green (19 scales)||NA||From blue to amber (19 scales) From purple to green (19 scales)|
|Flash gun||Embedded, "cobra" type, lead number 13, E- TTL II Clocking interface: 1/200 s||Embedded, "cobra" type, lead number 13, E- TTL Clocking interface: 1/200 s||Embedded, "cobra" type, lead number 13, E- TTL II Clocking interface: 1/250 s|
|Flash expo-correction||+/- 2 EV in 0.5 or 0.3 increments||NA||+/- 2 EV in 0.5 or 0.3 increments|
|Serial shooting||3 frames/s (up to 14 frames in the JPEG, or 4 frames in the RAW format)||2.5 frames/s (up to 4 frames)||5 frames/s (up to 23 frames)|
|Auto-release||10 s delay (3 s, with the mirror blocking)||10 s delay||10 s delay (3 s, with the mirror blocking)|
|Image formats||3456x2304 ,2496x1664 ,1728x1152 RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG||3072x2048 , 2048x1360 , 1536x1024 RAW, JPEG||3504x2336, 2544x1696, 1728x1152 RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG|
|Color space||sRGB, Adobe RGB||sRGB, Adobe RGB||sRGB, Adobe RGB|
|Media||CompactFlash Type I or II||CompactFlash Type I or II||CompactFlash Type I or II|
|Connectors and interfaces||USB 2.0, video output (PAL/ NTSC), connector for wired remote control||USB 1.1, video output (PAL/ NTSC), connector for wired remote control||USB 2.0, video output (PAL/ NTSC), connector for wired remote control|
|Power||Li-Ion battery NB-2 LH||Li-Ion battery BP-511/512||Li-Ion battery BP-511/512|
|Dimensions||127x94x64 mm||142x99x72 mm||144x106x72 mm|
|Weight||540 g (with the battery)||648 g (with the battery)||770 g (with the battery)|
Since EOS 350D is a direct heir to EOS 300D, we can't avoid comparing these two models all the time. So, it is comparison that today's review is built on. OK, then..
Design and usability
Traditionally, we start with the housing and at that we are in for least surprises. EOS 350D hasn't undergone any radical changes in the exterior: the camera has merely turned more compact and 100 g lighter (having beaten the "reflex" Pentax * ist DS at that). Canon also tried to add a bit more gloss and professional look to the image of EOS 350D - the plastic shooting mode selector has been replaced with an "impressive" one made of metal, and the standard silvery look of the housing has been complemented with a black-color make. At the same time, the housing of EOS 350D like in its predecessor remained plastic. Nevertheless, I'd like to warn our readers against snobbish mood: plastics differ, and believe me - Canon did its best to make the housing of its most popular reflex camera strong enough. To all appearances, it doesn't make any sense cracking nuts with the device, but provided you are reasonably neat nothing terrible will happen to your EOS 350D. The lightness that the plastic housing imparts to the camera is hard to overestimate: when the device is hanging on your neck for a whole day, the 230 g difference between the "plastic" EOS 350D and "metal" EOS 20D makes itself felt immensely.
Personally, the only remark I have regarding the housing design is about not large enough handle. It becomes to quite handy to keep the camera in a steady position when using relatively heavy lenses. In fact, all depends on the photographer's hand size, and this comment is subjective enough.
As regards the controls, there aren't many differences from the previous model either. The buttons have turned larger, and a button to control direct printing has been added (a standard feature for all the latest Canon cameras of the amateur class). Besides, from the compactness considerations the button to switch between the normal, speedy and delayed modes of shooting has been moved from the upper plane of the housing to the rear panel. The solution is disputable - at first, I all the time mistook this button for the expo-correction button positioned nearby.
Among the distinguishing features of EOS 350D is the possibility to "program" the SET button for fast switching to the play mode, for selecting the focus points, for various quality modes and resolutions, as well as for switching between the profiles of contrast, clearness, saturation, etc.
The design of the camera's menu has been changed - in EOS 350D, the user interface is of the same look, the way it is in all the new Canon cameras built on the DiGiC II processor. Nevertheless, the continuity with the old menu system has been preserved, and long-standing worshippers of Canon will easily find ways with the new interface. Anyway, the same applies to neophytes - handling the device has been implemented sensibly and logically indeed. I found only one noticeable shortcoming: while changing any of the parameters via the menu (e.g., the expo-measuring mode), you always have to confirm your selection by pressing the SET button. If, instead of that, you press the shutter release button, the selection will be ignored. Since most of the cameras (including EOS 300D!) show a different behavior (i.e., the photographer's selection is stored through half-pressing the shutter release button), it is not really easy to get used to that new "feature". Actually, the problem is pure programmatical and hopefully will be solved in the forthcoming "builds". By the way, the GUI of the device menu, unlike EOS 300D, has been localized into Russian language, which is of course a nice thing.
Display and viewfinder
In the shooting mode, the most important shooting parameters are displayed on the B/W LCD, with part of them duplicated on the viewfinder's info panel. Also, additional info on the camera settings can be brought to the color LCD. The latter offers the same diagonal as EOS 300D (1.8 inches), but for some reason it offers a bit lower resolution (115 000 pixels versus 118 000). In practice, this difference is almost invisible. Unfortunately, in the bright sunlight the color LCD looks rather "weak-sighted", which makes it difficult to view the shots and navigate around the menu.
One of the most critical problem of all the modern entry-level "reflex" cameras (not only digital, and not only by Canon) is the insufficient magnification of the viewfinder. That is mainly related to the wide occurrence of auto-focus cameras and lenses. Manufacturers believe that in most ways the auto-focus operates reliably enough, the manual focusing is rarely used, and the photographer has no special need for a visual checkup of the focusing precision. If that is so, the camera does not need a "powerful" viewfinder (which, by the way, helps reduce both the dimensions and the price of the device). All this reasoning is justified indeed, but as long as the auto-focus does not let you down. Once you need to use the manual focusing, you immediately come up against such an issue like impossibility to adequately estimate the sharpness with the small image in the viewfinder. That prevents you from using old non-autofocus lenses in modern reflex cameras. Moreover, the crop factor aggravates the situation. Remember that the viewfinder's magnification is the coefficient denoting the times the object visible through the viewfinder will be greater than the same object visible to the naked eye. In so doing, a camera of "normal" 50 mm lens focused to infinity is taken as the reference. However, the 50 mm distance (and thus the magnification) for digital reflex cameras has to be divided by the crop factor (which is never done by manufacturers, on advertising grounds). Therefore, with the crop factor taken into account, the 0.8x magnification in EOS 350D turns to 0.5x, which is not much really.
That causes a justified discontent among many photographers, so they expected to see an improved viewfinder in the heiress to EOS 300D. Alas, - that hasn't come true - the viewfinder has remained the same as before. Moreover, like in EOS 300D, the novelty uses a penta-mirror instead of a penta-prism. On the one hand, this solution makes the camera a bit cheaper and reduces the weight, but on the other hand makes the viewfinder much "darker".
Therefore, summing up the mentioned shortcomings, we can estimate the functionality of EOS 350D viewfinder as pretty middling. If you often use manual focusing (e.g. in the portrait shooting or under poor illumination where the auto-focus often "fails"), we would recommend that you should take a closer look at cameras of somehow greater magnification of the viewfinder. In fact, there are almost no models like that in the value sector – to name a few, it is Konica Minolta Dynax 7D (whose price has essentially gone down for the past six months), and (with some reservation) Pentax * ist DS.
At the same time, if you use automatic focusing all the time and rarely shoot in the darkness, then a "small-size" viewfinder of EOS 350D will not be an issue for you. Also, in some dubious cases the 10x magnification of shots brought to the LCD provided a precise enough focusing control.
Pre-lifting of the mirror
The pre-lifting of the mirror is another one of the most recent features in EOS 350D: in this mode, the mirror is lifted no simultaneously with the shutter release, but a few seconds before. The idea behind it is to eliminate vibrations of the camera as a result of the mirror lifting. In macro-shooting or when shooting with telescopic lens, this functionality can be of quite good use.
Bayonet and auto-focus
The camera uses the long ago familiar bayonet of the EF-S type (with the operating part cut down), inverse-compatible to the old EF standard. Therefore, EOS 350D can use a widest spectrum of compatible lens produced since 1987 by both Canon and other manufacturers. The impressive kit of optics matching most varied shooting tasks is one of the strongest arguments in favor of just the the camera by Canon (let alone the stabilized lens!).
EOS 350D uses a 7-point system of TTL autofocus – the same as in the previous model. As before, the following 3 focusing modes are supported: «One shot», «AI servo», and «AI focus». In the first of these modes, auto-focusing is done once, upon half-pressing the shutter release button; in the second mode - auto-focus is done continuously while the button is pressed (this helps keeping moving objects in the focus). In the automatic (AI focus) mode, switching between the «AI servo» and «One shot» focusing modes is done dynamically, depending on the mobility of the object being shot.
One of the major shortcomings of EOS 300D was a strict boundedness of the auto-focus modes to the shooting modes. For instance, the «AI servo» was accessible only in the "Sport" shooting mode, while in all the creativity modes only the «AI focus» could be used, etc. Certainly, this feature resulted in evident discomfort and aroused discontent from photographers. In EOS 350D, Canon amended this shortcoming, so the mentioned limitations were removed: now in all the shooting modes it is possible to freely switch between various focusing modes.
The quality of auto-focus operation can be estimated as perfect - even under relatively low illumination level the results are adequate enough. The selection of focusing points has been implemented conveniently enough (using a separate button and a "joystick"); the points at which the camera has focused are backlit on the focusing screen with LEDs.
The resolution of CMOS-sensor in EOS 350D has been increased by 1.7 MP relative to EOS 300D and amounts to 8.3 MP (8.0 MP effective). Interestingly, that is a sensor specially designed for the new model and is not the sensor which is used in EOS 20D (that camera also offers 8 MP resolutions). Despite the apprehension about the rise of noise level as a result of increased resolution, nothing like that happened - even more, in my humble opinion, the noise levels have even gone down relative to EOS 300D. That has been partly achieved due to the perfect sensor, and partly - due to the new DiGiC II processor in which, according to Canon, image-processing algorithms have been significantly improved.
Well, extra mega-pixels acquired without loss in quality is always welcome, especially because the camera is able using very high quality optics of super-high resolution (in particular, with the L series in the line of Canon lens).
Similar to the auto-focusing modes, various expo measurement modes in EOS 300D were directly bounded to the shooting programs. And of course that limitation aroused even more discontent from photographers: while the photographer does not use switching between auto-focusing modes so often, the need for switching between various measurement algorithms is a vital and everyday need (except when shooting in a studio). In the new model, Canon has fixed this shortcoming either - in most shooting programs the new camera allows using any of the three measurement modes (estimation, partial, or centrally-weighed).
The functionality of the "AEL" button (expo measurement blocking) has been extended: now it can be "programmed" for either blocking the expo, or auto-focus, or expo together with auto-focus. Besides, there has been added to possibility to select the expo-correction increment - 0.3 or 0.5 units (in EOS 300D, the 0.5 increment was rigidly fixed).
White balance and effects
Along with standard presets for various illumination conditions, EOS 350D has acquired a visual tool for fine-tuning the white balance. Visually, it is implemented as two perpendicular axes (purple-green and amber-blue), each having 19 gradations. Therefore, 361 presets are available to the photographer - the precision is more than sufficient. Besides, there is also reference sheet calibration, as well as the white auto-balance (which in fact does not work very well in the artificial illumination).
Like EOS 300D, the new model offers two preset profiles of specific combinations of contrast, clearness, saturation and hue (it is also possible to create 3 user profiles). But, while EOS 300D allowed using profiles in only the sRGB color space, now they are accessible in the Adobe RGB color space as well.
Besides, EOS 350D has acquired an additional profile for black-and-white shooting with the possibility to apply color filter emulation – for yellow, orange, red, and green. I must admit, I am very skeptical about whatever special effects implemented at the photo camera level - at the GUI convenience and flexibility of control, it is a hard nut to crack for cameras to compete with professional graphic packages. Anyway, I enjoyed experimenting with the "virtual" color filters - the imitation proved amusingly true to life.
Another significant improvement that has been introduced into EOS 350D is the new algorithm for controlling the flash - the E- TTL II. It operates jointly with the lens, and when calculating the power of the light pulse it takes account of the distance to the object being shot. This allows optimizing the flash operation and in many ways avoiding the rough shades and glares often accompanying the shooting with pulse light sources.
The design of the embedded flash of "cobra" type has also been improved a bit - its oscillator "jumps out" 5 mm higher than in EOS 300D, which in theory reduces the chances for "red eyes" effect to appear on shots. The flash can be forcedly enabled, disabled or tuned to the automatic snap-on. Besides, it can be used for backlighting the auto-focus and active suppression of the "red eye" effect. There is also the "hot boot" for plugging in external Canon Speedlite flashes, and the synchronization by the first and second shutters.
Addition of the flash expo-correction within -2 to +2 expo units in 0.3 or 0.5 increments has proved to be another step forward versus EOS 300D.
Additionally, EOS 300D has been often criticized for its extreme sluggishness. It used to take over 3 second for the camera to initialize, and the speed of series shooting was 2.5 frames/second if the sequence is no more than 4 frames. While the series shooting was not popular among all photographers, the delay upon power-on did annoy many owners of the camera.
In this regard, the new model is a complete antipode to its predecessor. EOS 350D starts up almost instantly, the performance of the speedy shooting has also attained impressive highs: on the average, it is 3 frames/sec under the maximum series length 14 (JPEG) or 5 (RAW) shots. Of course, it is not a "burst of machine-gun fire" (5 frames/s) done by EOS 20D, and on the other hand, it is not a toy of a feature added to the camera for showing-off only. With this "rate of fire" (don't forget about the AI servo!) the camera is already a match for using it as a reports coverage device. Nothing to say – the result is impressive indeed, which became possible due to the new high-performance DiGiC II processor (and, to all appearances, due to the increased size of the buffer memory). Besides, again due to the DiGiC II the speed of executing other operations like sequential previewing of the shots made, selective zoom-in etc. has also gone up.
Now in the preview mode you can navigate around the shots not only in 10 frames increment but 100 as well, and also easily navigate between the days of shooting. The latter feature is especially handy on holidays when you squeeze hundreds of photos taken on different days into a single flash card. EOS 350D allows instantly moving to the required day with merely a few presses on the «JUMP» button.
Image storage has also undergone important improvement: at last, EOS 350D has been equipped with the full-featured mode of simultaneous frame recording in both RAW and JPEG formats.
Something similar was already in EOS 300D, however, its implementation left much to be desired: during RAW recording the camera created a file in which a JPEG image always embedded along with the RAW data. Such approach suffered from evident shortcomings. First, to extract a JPEG image from the RAW file, a special program was needed. Secondly, the "embedded" JPEG was recorded not at the maximum but merely at the middle resolution which was equivalent to approximately 2.8 MP. Such a low resolution in many ways made the extra JPEG part almost useless and when shooting in the RAW mode it was taking up much space on the flash card for nothing.
Now let's tell them apart: in the new RAW+ mode, JPEG data of each type is stored into two different files; at the same time, a JPEG image is recorded at full and not at the cut-down resolution. Along with the RAW+JPEG, JPEG-only and RAW-only recording is possible. There are three resolutions supported for the JPEG: 3456x2304, 2496x1664, and 1728x1152. The camera has now been equipped with an orientation sensor whose reading is recorded into EXIF-headers of JPEG files.
By the way, note the superb quality of the JPEG images which are absolutely free of any compression artifacts – it took me quite long to choose among the shots where the difference between JPEG and RAW is visible (another compliment to the new DiGiC II processor).
CompactFlash cards traditional for Canon are used as data media. Unfortunately, the long-standing inconvenience related to memory cards has been inherited to the new model either: once you open the lid that blocks access to the card, the camera powers off without any warnings. So, data may simply get lost if a shot (or a series of shots) recording was in progress that time.
But, unlike EOS 300D, the control of the camera during recording to a flash card is no longer blocked - while the recording is on, you can navigate around the menu, change the settings, etc.
The power supply for EOS 350D is fed from the proprietary 7.4V lithium-Ion NB-2 LH battery of 720 mA*H capacity. Fully charged, the battery is enough for taking 400-600 shots - depending on the ambient temperature, intensity of using the flash etc. The BP-511 battery used in EOS 300D offered greater capacity (1100 mA*Hr), but the camera itself consumed more energy, so the "life-time" of both the models is about the same, if the battery is fully charged.
I have to make a reservation stating that the test specimen of the camera was provided by Canon for no more than two days (which is an indirect sign of agitation still going on around this new model), so I was unable to test the device in all of its modes. In particular, among the sample shots there aren't any which would demonstrate the flash operation following the E- TTL II algorithm. Nevertheless, the photos presented therein give a good general idea of the camera.
All the photos were taken using the lens EF-S 17-85 mm f/4-5.6 IS USM, color space sRGB, default contrast, clearness, and saturation, without a tripod.
The first nightly shots immediately leaves a fantastic impression.
Basically, the illumination allowed taking pictures in the less "noisy" ISO 800 mode, but for the purpose of demonstration of the sensor performance I intentionally set the maximum sensitivity for this shot. The results are evident: there noise of course are well seen, but in general the produced shot is suitable enough for further processing and even printing at a small resolution. There are very few among competitor reflex cameras comparable in price which could boast such outstanding quality of the sensor. The auto-focus did a fine job coping with the hard task like automatic white balance.
By the way, note the clearness of the shot albeit take from the hands - the lens optical stabilization (IS) makes itself felt.
The following two pictures also demonstrate a successful camera operation under severe illumination conditions.
As you can see, even in the back lighting and large enough aperture the expo measurement works adequately enough, and the sensor again shows its best (note the most delicate gradations of the color tints).
These three examples do not need any special comments: the outstanding image detail (due to both the sensor quality and the lens), bright and natural colors, reliable operation of the measurer and auto-focus.
Successful focusing even at a close distance.
On this sample, I chose not the best white balance (perhaps, I should have trusted to the automatics), which resulted in some sort of a color palette "distortion" towards the blue channel. Anyway, this blunder is easy to fix with any bitmap editor (especially if RAW images are used). On the other hand, the focusing precision and details have again proved up to the mark.
In conclusion, compare two photos of one and the same object taken using different lenses: the above mentioned EF -S 17-85 mm f/4-5,6 IS USM, and the nominal EF - S 18-55 mm f /3.5-5.6 II .
I apologize for not having provided a purity of experiment because of the haste (as you see, the shooting parameters of the photos are a bit different), but they will do for a superficial comparison of lenses. Actually, our improvised tests revealed no surprises - at clearness and details, the nominal optics has proved an absolute loser (as practice has shown, at large aperture sizes the "soaping" of image becomes unacceptable at all).
In a word, a cheap nominal lens will do for the first time, but it won't work for a more or less serious shooting - later on, you should definitely target something more serious. If you can afford it, you'd better buy not a kit but the camera and a high-quality lens separately.
EOS 350D is not only a new sensor, new processor, and a lot of new features. What's more important, it is a new marketing approach of Canon to its value-sector cameras. While EOS 300D with its cut-down functionality quite distantly resembled its higher-end model in the line, EOS 350D is already five minutes to being a semi-professional EOS 20D but packaged into a plastic housing.
Of course, the housing is not the only distinction between these two cameras. Indeed, EOS 20D can boast increased shutter release speed, 9-point auto-focus system (versus 7-point in EOS 350D), as well as extended kit of "fine" settings and a more advanced pentaprism viewfinder, a speedier series shooting. On the other hand, the basic functionality (which essentially determines the comfort of everyday shooting) in both cameras is absolutely the same, with some artificial limitations hindering the shooting are missing in the lower-end model on principle. So, if you are looking for a new "reflex", have some "extra" dollars, and still hesitant about choosing between 350D and 20D, I would advise that you should stop at just 350D and spend the price difference for some more serious lens. I assure you - EOS 350D together with the same lens EF-S 17-85 mm f/4-5,6 IS USM will give you much more advantages than EOS 20D with a cheap "regular".
Therefore, EOS 350D is to date one of the offerings having the most balanced "price/functionality" ratio, so I am taking the pleasure to recommend to buy this camera.