Photo packs have come a long way in the past decade, especially those that are targeted toward outdoor and adventure photographers. Alaska-based adventure photographer Dan Bailey takes a closer look...
Due to arrive in stores in December 2001, the
EOS-1D is Canon's only professional digital single-lens reflex. This machine
promises to be the world's most capable where auto-focus and weather sealing are
The EOS-1D shares a lot of features and design ideas from the EOS-1V film body
and uses that machine's 45-point auto-focus system. This compares very favorably
with the inadequate 5-sensor system on N D1x and D1H. And this auto-focus system
operates at the camera's maximum speed of 8 frames per second.
With this professional camera, Canon has abandoned the CMOS sensor of its
consumer D30 body. The EOS-1D sensor is a standard CCD. Canon says that it did
this to achieve an 8 frames-per-second capture rate. One nice thing about the
sensor is that it is huge, implying a lens focal length multiplier of only 1.3 as
opposed to 1.5 or 1.6 for most other digital SLRs. The bottom line on the flash
card is only 4.5 megapixels (1662x2496 pixels). This doesn't sound very
competitive next to the
the Nikon D1x, but the
EOS-1D sensor may provide higher quality per pixel. The sensor underneath each
pixel on the EOS-1D is about twice as large as its equivalent inside the D1x.
This may result in lower noise and better contrast range. Everyone pays attention
to the resolution numbers but it is quite possible that the EOS-1D will deliver a
superior print in the end. We won't know until the bodies are in photographers'
The EOS-1V has the best viewfinder of any Canon body and the EOS-1D should be
very good as well. Finder coverage is 100%, which is more important in the
digital world than in the film world. With film there is invariably some
post-exposure cropping imposed by a slide mount or enlarger. With digital, what
you capture on the flash card is what will appear on the Web, unless you want to
spend your life in an image editing utility cropping each image individually. A
100% viewfinder will let you make those critical cropping decisions at the time
Assuming Canon handled the programming sensibly, the EOS-1D should be a
responsive body. The camera has enough memory to store 21 full-resolution images.
So the photographer should never be waiting with a locked-up camera while an
image is being written to the flash card or Microdrive.
Power to the EOS-1D is supplied by a heavy bulky NiMH battery pack. This seems
like a regression from the light efficient Lith-ion battery in the Canon D30, but
it is presumably necessary due to the power hunger of the CCD sensor and the need
for high power during 8 frames-per-second exposure frenzies.
Like the Nikon D1x, the EOS-1D interfaces to the world of computers via IEEE
The EOS-1D can be set to store RAW and JPEG copies of each image. This burns
up extra storage on the flash card but has the advantage that you can quickly
upload 8-bit JPEGs to a Web server while preserving the high quality 12-bit RAW
files in case you decide to invest some time in image editing and printing.
Canon added a microphone to the EOS-1D body and the ability to record voice
annotations tagged to images.
One innovative feature of the Nikon D1x that is not available in the EOS-1D is
a serial interface for a GPS receiver. If you don't mind lugging around a
separate gizmo and cable, the Nikon body is capable of recording the latitude and
longitude of every image created; the Canon body is not.
Canon seems to have followed the lead of Fuji and Nikon in providing the
ability to operate the camera from a personal computer. This is especially useful
for interval photography.
Every owner of a big EOS lens system with $5000+ to burn will want to rush out
and get an EOS-1D. The only real shames are that image quality and light weight
have been sacrificed to some extent in order to achieve the market-leading 8
frames-per-second exposure rate that is of little value to most
Denis Reggie's Field Report using the camera in Fiji
Back in the US from my 10 days of travel (Atlanta to LA, Honolulu, Fiji, San
Francisco, then back to Atlanta..ouch.) with the new EOS-1D... I reluctantly had
to hand over my test camera to the Canon rep, but not until I had 4 wedding
assignments (yes, four... on October 13, 18, 20 and 21) under my belt with the 1D
(along with a couple of D30's as backup). My camera was apparently one of 4 that
Canon issued to working pros to shoot, one was in Afghanistan, another was being
used by Doug Kirkland... Canon is looking for feedback and images for
advertisements and brochures. I was thrilled to be in the bunch.
My read of the specs is a little different than Phil's. I actually thought
that Canon's decision to go with a 4 megapixel camera was, well, brilliant. It
seems that their camera line now handles consumers with their array of digital
cameras, the prosumer/photobuff/enthusiast or photographer who works with slower
moving targets -- like products, still lifes, even portraits -- with their very
popular D30, and now, the 1D which seems near perfect for news and sports (two
huge Canon markets) and surely to be a huge hit in the wedding photojournalism
world (that's my area).
Going to 6 or more megapixels would have
Been overkill for my world given my primary need of images in album print
Surely have slowed the camera with a more limiting buffer for burst sequence
It would mean far fewer images on todays CF cards.
In use, and as a regular user of EOS-1v HS (with high speed battery chamber)
film cameras, I found this pro-digital camera to feel very familiar. And having
used Kodak DCS 520 cameras (a 1998 era digital camera based on the EOS-1N), the
LCD menu controls and built-in microphone seemed very familiar as well. The
supplied Photoshop plug-in module to acquire images has virtually identical
features as the software marketed under Kodak's name to accomplish the same...
including a wonderful plus/minus exposure compensation slider control to tweak
RAW files before creating jpegs. Below you can see how I was able to compensate
afterwards using the RAW image data on the image of the hut. There is a tone
curve feature as well to employ color preferences to images. Quite a nice piece
of software. PF's (Personal Functions) can also be assigned to the camera via
this software and a firewire cord. CF's (Custom Functions) can be set directly
from the camera menu.
My initial feel for the camera was one of handling a fine instrument...
somewhat Porsche-like in feel and finish. After my complete read of the manuals
(one for camera, one for software), and after lengthy conversations with the
Tokyo product manager for Canon and with Chuck Westfall (technical guru for Canon
USA), I decided that I would choose to go with RAW images only. The books said to
expect 4.8 megs per image, but most of mine were 3.3 to 3.6 megs each. I
typically got 275 images per 1 gig Microdrive. (I am awaiting the Simple
Technologies 1 gig CF-2 cards later this year, or even the Lexar Pro 16x half-gig
CF cards which also due in November).
Before using the camera at all, we had the brand new BIOS update applied that
addressed soe jpeg quality (contrast) and focus accuracy issues found in some of
the few cameras built. So I shot under release 1.00.1 for some 7,000 images.
I particularly like the film emulations (called Color Matrix). There are five
that include a Velvia look (very saturated colors - setting 3) and, my favorite
for wedding work: setting 2 which looks like Kodak Portra NC film. Most of my
flash work was done at ISO 400 at setting 2, and the skin tones were perfect.
I tried some at ISO 1600 settings, but they looked (on the LCD screen) to be
noisy. I will need to test that more before I render an opinion on it. The images
looked superb to me and my limited printing since Sunday (when I made it back to
my office) affirmed my assessment that 4 megapixels on this camera will do just
fine for my needs, and I would think most any wedding photojournalist. Superb
color and no visible blooming to my eye. Impressive.
Battery life in my test camera was not impressive. I was able to get no more
that 350 images from one charge (500 are suggested on the Canon website). My
e-mail from Canon explained that the pre-production cameras were not nearly as
efficient as the actual production models, plus batteries need to be conditioned
as well. The short answer is that Canon is quite confident that 500 will be a
good number, and I believe them. Having received only 2 batteries in my test
gear, I brought the charge along and learned that 2 hours is needed to fully
recharge a battery... low and behold, that just about how long it takes me to
blow through 320 frames... so I was never without power.
Flash accuracy is a big deal in my world. The 550EX was impressive, and
rendered perfect exposures (and I mean perfect) whenever I would take time to FEL
on the face of the subject (Focus Exposure Lock -- a preflash to measure
exposure) . Even when using the FEL feature was impractical, I was able to get
fairly good results in most every situation by simply clicking away... and with
the 2-stop RAW file latitude, I easily have the margin needed to get perfect
The AF system, being 1v based, was amazing, and quite a step from the D30
system (it's weakest feature??). And ambient metering in the 1D seemed to be a
bit less dependent on the focus point (versus the D30), so exposures (in
evaluative mode) were mostly right on... a bit of facial overexposure in some
cases when subjects were dressed in dark clothing, etc.
One of the PF setting I made was to lower the frame rate on High mode from 8
fps to 5 fps. And, I never once had the camera bog down or say "busy." The card
reader is apparently also quite fast as well. Based on my use of RAW mode, I
would only imagine that in jpeg mode (news and sports shooters??) the camera
would be blazing in write speed.
The camera seems to be a tad quicker to focus and advance versus the 1v... and
also a quieter sound when clicking off frames. Impressive.
What was not to like? Not much. I would have enjoyed having the images
properly oriented in the browser (vertical or horizontal) based on which shutter
release button was used for each shot... what a time saver, and seemingly so
simple to do.
I wasn't thrilled with the new FEL button placement next to the main shutter
release button. My finger is usually busy holding focus in one-shot mode and now
needs to make its way over to this FEL button to operate it.. I prefer the D30
method of the thumb-operated asterix button accomplishing FEL. Actually, and
auto-FEL feature would rock... so that whenever you achieve focus in one-shot
mode, the FEL preflash fires (if you have this "feature" turned on with a flash
attached) so that the exposure is made concurrently with the focus. Wow, would
that save time at wedding receptions. Just a thought. I also did get dust on the
sensor once, which is probably explained by my frequent lens changes in dusty
places (the beaches of Fiji, though I was careful).
Conclusion? I want my EOS-1D's tomorrow. I'll take three, please. And look for
my D30's on E-bay soon (also some Hasselblads and a couple of my 1v's as well!).