Equipment DIY Technical & Testing

The Canon EOS 30D Project

The initial goal here was to find the cheapest camera I could get and see what I could do with it. My focus was to see if this camera could meet the needs of someone on an extreme budget. Kinda like my non-existent YouTube production budget, haha. I think you get the idea here. If this ends up being successful, that will motivate me more to try this with other cameras.

The video where I receive the camera and work on it to make everything functional.

That idea morphed as I spent an unnecessary amount of time browsing used camera shops like and where they give you some type of warranty on gear, which is a nice bonus or necessary depending on your needs. KEH had a 12% off coupon at one point and I took action. It was under $50, but shipping added a bit of extra cost.

See what used Canon EOS 30D camera bodies KEH has here (I signed up to be an affiliate with them after making this video).

I was initially going for a 20D or a Nikon DSLR, but with a coupon the 30D hit that pricing sweet spot. The larger LCD screen looked appealing. In the related video I go over what I’ve learned so far about the camera. I also have a few sample images in there. I try to keep my data footprint on this site low with images so I won’t be including much here besides what I need. If there is interest, I could make an unlisted 4K video with samples.

The Canon EOS 30D was released in February 2006. It’s a “semi-professional” 8.2 megapixel APS-C digital SLR. That means some of the features like build quality tend to be a step up from entry level camera gear.

When considering old used camera equipment, I think there might be a a happy medium with these semi-pro cameras. Think of aspects like build quality, but also who the photographers using them were.

On the ultra high-end a lot of those cameras probably went through hell and back, so the bargain camera bodies in that tier are probably the heavily used ones. On the opposite side with entry level cameras, those are simply not built to the same standard with shutters, buttons, and dials that don’t last as long.

The 30D has a larger screen than the 20D, which is nice. Overall the design of this range of camera seems very similar from what I can tell with button layout. From what I can remember, the Canon EOS 90D still has the same overall design!

What are the benefits of an old cheap used camera?

  • You can often get a higher-end camera for a low price. Some aspects like tens of megapixels or liveview might have to be sacrificed at this price, but others like maximum shutter speed can be at that pro level. In the case of the 30D has a maximum of 1/8000th of a second. Many lower-end APS-C cameras only can do 1/4000th. It’s a functional benefit.
  • If you select a camera of this tier, you have high build quality. The 30D has a magnesium alloy body and a large number of physical controls. Again, entry level cameras don’t come with these features. Features like this make the camera more robust and enjoyable to use.
  • In the case of some online stores, they offer at least a few months of warranty on the camera.
  • After resizing test images from the Canon EOS M50 and the 30D to 3000 pixels on the long end, the images were surprisingly similar. I think the 30D can suffer from banding more easily than the M50, but the M50 get grain in it’s full-resolution photos sooner than the 30D.

The drawbacks of the 30D or similar cameras?

  • No live-view and no video recording. Some hardcore photographers probably like that there is no video recording capabilities.
  • 8 megapixels does have limitations in some situations. With the EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens stopped down, I do see more details in the photos at 100% with the 24 mega-pixel Canon EOS M50.
  • While the camera has a warranty, it might not last as long as a new camera. If you are doing something serious with it, be sure to have an extra backup or two on-hand.
  • It simply doesn’t have as many features compared to even a consumer camera like the M50. The only reason I’m comparing the M50 is because I own it and want a bit of context when not considering the huge price difference (although used M50 cameras are getting cheaper and cheaper).
  • The autofocus system on the 30D has limitations. Only the center point is “cross-type” with high sensitivity. I think you would need to step up to the 40D to get a full set of cross-type autofocus points. Of course, the price jumps up too. From what I can tell it’s currently around 35% higher. Still a pretty cheap camera, but you have to stop creeping up the camera line at some point.
At full resolution, the M50 has more pronounced lens related issues like color fringing. Even when resized, it is still is present. Oddly enough I think the 30D could be slightly better at high ISO, but I did notice some areas that might have been horizontal banding. I didn’t try pushing shadows.

I found three issues with the 30D to start off. Well, it might have been two, but I messed with adjusting the autofocus system before I realized the other problem. Everything works now meaning there wasn’t a problem that would have required me to return the camera. You do need a certain level of technical skill to work out these issues.

It took me a while to figure out what was happening. I initially thought the camera was very misaligned internally somehow, but it was related to the focusing screen area and not something more serious.
  1. The camera I received had 1.0.4 firmware instead of 1.0.6 which was the last version the 30D received as far as I can tell. It was a challenge finding the latest version. Thanks to the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine) for storing a copy of the file! All of Canon’s sites no longer store 30D firmware as far as I can tell.
  2. Someone installed the focusing screen upside down. There is a ridge on the side of the screen that should meet up with the shim facing up toward the pentaprism. They had that facing the hold-down bracket. This took me a while to figure out and realize it was the main issue.
  3. The autofocus system wasn’t adjusted properly, or it could have been something I did while diagnosing the other problem. This gives me flashbacks of my time with Pentax. I was adjusting focus systems and even disassembling those cameras back in 2011 or so.
Three pieces to the focusing screen that are held next to the viewfinder prism with a metal clamp. The top piece was the one that had been placed incorrectly. You can see the autofocus points laser etched into the bottom piece. A red light will light up those spots to give the photographer and indication of which focus point is being used.

After two tries, I was able to adjust the focus system to be accurate enough for my tastes. Keep in mind that adjusting the camera for one lens might make it worse for others. This is a drawback of old DSLRs and especially ones with only one form of adjustment. Some later cameras offered firmware based AF adjustment per lens. In my case, it seems fine with the EF 50mm f1.8 STM and the EF 100-300mm f4.5-5.6 lens after adjustment.

There are two holes with metal flanges inside the mirrorbox. The holes are probably rectangular in shape, but I’m not sure. A hex tool approximately 0.05″ or 1.3mm kinda sorta works… The tool needs some filing down on two of the edges to fit well. Some bending is also involved and/or using two tools with slightly different bends so you can get more adjustment range. I list sources of this information below.

Digital SLRs need an external system for autofocus. If something isn’t aligned properly you will have issues with getting the intended focal point.

The gist of it is getting one or two properly fitting tools to rotate the right metal flange/knob (while looking into the mirrorbox) by fitting the tool in there and pressing it up or down. That rotates the flange/knob and will in-turn move around whatever it needs to internally to adjust the AF system. The hole is hollow, so the tool should be able to fit in deeply. You will feel resistance when pressing up or down and sort of a quick bit of tension give… sort of like a friction-click…click…feeling. I’d suggest marking the side of the knob with a black marker so you have a frame of reference to how much it is rotating.

Canon’s cameras push what focus point was being used into the EXIF metadata, so in their “Digital Photo Professional” software you can compare that to where the actual photo was focused. Extremely useful!

Sources on focus adjustment with the Canon EOS 30D…

  • A forum posting about AF adjustment.
    • Quote: “After some trial and error, I learned that moving the hex wrench up/CCW pushed focus back (increased backfocus) and moving it down/CW pushed focus forward (decreased backfocus)…it works”
  • A forum posting talking about the other sources being wrong about the tool shape.
    • Quote: “But they are wrong in the size wrench you need. It’s not a hex head, it has a square opening. I can’t tell you the size of the square, but actually it’s not necessary. What I did was take a 3/32 hex head wrench and grind down the end to four tapered sides that ended in a point. I then ground the point back so it made a square, slowing taking away material until I had found the size that went into the hold and engaged the sides. Make sure when you grind this square point you do so that the wrench engages the screw with the wrench handle in the middle of the mirror box. Even if you do that, you may need two of these wrenches. The second wrench is made the same way, but you have to grind the sides down 45 degrees different to the wrench’s handle than you made the first one. The reason for this is there is limited space in the mirror box, so if you need to turn more than about 30 degrees, then you need a second wrench to engage the screw.”
  • The original French language website that came up with the idea.

I was able to adjust the camera to a level that I’m happy with it. I’ve used the camera quite a few times since most of what you see filmed in the video. Overall, its a pleasant camera to use and definitely has some benefit over the small mirrorless EF-M cameras I’ve been using exclusively for a while after switching from Nikon full-frame DSLRs.

This was a fun project. I plan on using the camera in future videos. I actually have one or two photo outings recorded with the camera that will be used if the footage and photos turned out worth making into an actual videos. I’m also looking around for ultra cheap EF glass I can use with it and in-turn use with the EF-M gear with adapters.

See what used Canon EOS 30D camera bodies KEH has here (I signed up to be an affiliate with them after making this video).