When I received Canon's
EOS-1D Mark II for testing, I planned to photograph Jaguar Mark 2 automobiles
comparing camera and car models, but the changeable weather of springtime
in the Rockies (it snows a lot) meant my choices were narrowed as the
deadline marched on. So I ended up taking the EOS-1D Mark II with me
everywhere, on assignment or for fun, and have never been more impressed
with any camera--digital or film--before. The EOS-1D Mark
II is a lot like a Jaguar Mark 2; it has style, character, and fast
The Good Stuff
Like a Mark 2 Jaguar, this new Canon is built like a tank to take professional
use, the way Pat Grossman drives her Mark 2 Jag hard in vintage sports
car races. The Mark II is identical in size and slightly lighter (44.1
oz) than the EOS-1D it replaces. All of the Mark II's gripping
surfaces are covered with rubber and provide excellent grip, including
vertical grip shooting controls. When combined with world-class ergonomics,
smooth shutter release, and a quick 55ms lag time (that can be adjusted
to 40ms) making photographs requires only that you think about it--and
the camera does the rest.
Audio caption information up to 30 seconds long, such as
the owner's name and hometown of this Mark 2 Jaguar,
can be recorded using the camera's built-in microphone.
It is saved along with the file in WAV (Waveform) format
that can be read by Canon's DPP, EOS Viewer Utility,
and other WAV compliant programs. This raw image file was
captured with an EF 16-35mm lens at 21mm, ISO 200, and Program
mode (1/400 sec at f/10.)
Photos © 2004, Peter K. Burian, All Rights Reserved
The big news is the 8.2-megapixel
CMOS sensor that captures images at 8.5 fps in continuous bursts of up
to 40 JPEG or 20 raw frames. Canon is now all CMOS, all the time, with
its digital SLRs. The Mark II includes the next generation DIGIC II image
processor, permitting faster processing of large files with, Canon says,
"superior color and more precise detail." PR talk, for sure,
but borne out by my real-world experience working with this camera under
many kinds of lighting and working conditions. The new and improved auto
white balance control is done directly off the image sensor and I found
it to be spot-on accurate all the time. Picky photographers might want
to play with the camera's seven color matrices as well as a white
balance bracketing option that lets you shift color balance slightly in
magenta-green or amber-blue directions.
The camera's exposure modes include Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter
Priority, and Program. Shutter speeds are available from 30 seconds up
to 1/8000 sec plus the ever-popular Bulb. ISO range is from 100-1600 in
1/3 stop increments with ISO 50 or 3200 possible using the ISO extension
via an on-screen menu. Spot metering is approximately 3.8 percent or multi-spot
linked to 9-11 AF points. Exposures in all of the autoexposure modes were
the most accurate on any digital SLR that I've tested, and I seldom,
if ever, had to resort to using the exposure compensation feature to tweak
exposures while shooting.
One of the first photographs I made with the Mark II was
during my daily walk that takes me past this nearby farm,
which has been the subject of many of my photographs. During
my walk, I shot some large JPEG and raw files. When I booted
up Canon's DPP software and opened this file I was
stunned by its color and sharpness. "Wow," I
said to myself, "these raw files are awesome."
That's when I realized I was looking at a JPEG file
and was even more impressed. Image file captured with an
EF 16-35mm lens at 16mm, ISO 200 in Av (1/320 sec at f/8)
The Mark II's 2"
LCD preview screen contains 230,000 pixels (the EOS-1D only had 120,000)
and provides approximately 100 percent coverage. Like a real pro camera,
the Mark II's screen offers the option of showing a single image
with histogram with separate graphs for RGB colors. If any exposure compensation
tweaking is needed, you'll know it.
Like the (let's all say it together) Mark I before it, the Mark
II has a focal length conversion factor of 1.3. That means a 50mm lens
becomes a 65mm or a 16mm covers the area of a 21mm. In actual use, the
1.3x factor is barely noticeable, especially with the big, bright viewfinder
image the Mark II delivers. Maybe it's not quite as good as the
more expensive EOS-1Ds, but it's amazing considering it uses a pentamirror.
Bigger Files + Faster
Frame Rates = Bigger Memory Cards
Like some Jaguar automobiles that have twin gas tanks, the EOS-1D Mark
II has two memory card slots: one for CompactFlash Type I and II, the
other for SecureDigital, although I guess you can stick an MMC card in
there, too. Like the other members of the "One" family, the
Mark II has 21 built-in custom features, but unlike them allows you to
save custom and personal function menus off to a CompactFlash or SecureDigital
card, allowing them to be installed on another camera.
The first weekend I took the Mark II everywhere, including
making this photograph of my wife Mary and her brand-new
1993 Mazda Miata at a nearby park. I forgot to bring a 550EX
flash, and like a "real" pro's camera,
the Mark II doesn't have a built-in flash, but a little
burning and dodging in Photoshop CS produced this final
result. The original JPEG file was captured with an EF 28-105mm
lens at 28mm, ISO 200, and Program mode (1/200 sec at f/9.)
Stealing some good ideas from
the EOS 10D, the Mark II offers video out to a TV monitor and includes
the needed cable. It has a FireWire out jack as well as a USB port for
direct printing to compatible Canon and PictBridge-capable printers. The
NP-E3 nickel metal-hydride power pack is the same as the other "Ones"
use, but Canon claims battery life is superior at 1200 shots per charge.
Of course, that ultimately depends on your chimping habits. (See Chimping
When working with models I not only chimp, but also show the images for
quite a long time to any on-set clients. During one shoot I never made
it to 700 frames from a full charge. On the upside, the battery charges
fast and during a break I was able to refresh the battery and finish the
day's shoot. A DC Coupler kit (DCK-E1) permits the camera to run
on AC all day long.
The Bad Stuff
If you're already familiar with the EOS-1D or 1Ds, there's
little not to like about the EOS-1D Mark II. When moving uptown from an
EOS 10D, D60, or D30, you're in for a surprise. All the on-screen
menus and control buttons appear similar--but act differently. Every
control, and I mean every, has an interlock button. To remove the rechargeable
Ni-MH battery pack, you first must press an unlock button, and then turn
a sturdy latch. Before you do anything, you gotta do something else. Why?
After noticing that the EOS-1Ds menus and controls were so different from
my 10D, I asked a Canon representative this very question. He said, "Yes,
the menus and controls on the 10D are more intuitive (italics mine) but
this camera has the same menu structure as the 1D." He also said
the camera was deliberately designed to make it more difficult to make
changes because "that's what pros want."
The Mark II's magnesium alloy body is fully sealed
and gasketed against harsh working conditions, like the
blowing dust and high winds when photographing this aluminum
alloy Land Rover fire truck. The raw image file was captured
with an EF 16-35mm lens at 16mm, ISO 200, and Manual mode
(1/500 sec at f/11.)
Let me get this straight; it's
harder to use the on-screen controls because pros want extra steps that
slow them down? I don't think so.
Like I said, EOS-1D and 1Ds users won't notice, but every time you
want to switch from capturing images on the CompactFlash card to the SecureDigital
card the rest of us will have to open the manual and read how to do it.
Or maybe I'm just stupid, which is always a possibility. Changing
between SmartMedia and CompactFlash cards on an Olympus E20N involves
pushing the SM/CF button and turning a wheel one click!
Here's just an outline of what Canon uses two pages to say in the
otherwise excellent 180-page Instruction Manual. (The software User's
Guide is twice as big and has 220 pages for both Windows and Mac OS versions.)
Begin by setting the camera to the folder mode; then create a new folder;
then select a folder; and finally choose the memory card you want to use.
Whew! Why not give me a custom function that lets the camera automatically
write to the other card when one is full?
5: Because of weather problems during the time I had the
Mark II for testing, I was unable to test the 45-point AF
system (same as the other "One" family members)
on a Mark II, but found focus to be 100 percent accurate
all of the time. This raw image file of a Jaguar Mark 2
was captured with an EF 16-35mm lens at 21mm, ISO 200, and
Manual mode (1/320 sec at f/9.)
To work with raw files, Canon bundles their new Digital Photo Professional
(DPP) software, and it ain't bad. It ain't good either, but
at least they don't charge for it. Although the latest Adobe Camera
Raw plug reads EOS-1D Mark II raw files, it was produced without help
from Canon. (Olympus, for example, provided file specifications to Adobe.)
The Canon portions of the Camera Raw 2.2 plug-in, the latest as I write
this, was engineered backward by a bunch of folks working away to come
up with the code. Canon told me that they usually don't share this
information with others and DPP does a better job than Adobe Camera Raw,
and I believe them.
It has an elegant interface, but I found DPP slow, although more techie
types will probably love it. It does have a Transfer to Photoshop command
that opens a raw file inside Adobe's program, so why doesn't
Canon just develop a Photoshop compatible plug-in? Heck I'll even
pay for it. In the meantime, I'll stick with Adobe Camera Raw.
Speed is relative. A 1963 Jaguar Mark 2 had 223 horsepower
and a 2004 Jaguar XK-R Stirling Moss edition delivers 465
horsepower. Which one is faster? Canon claims that their
DPP software offers, "high-speed processing of raw
images," but it took me more than an hour to process
80 files. DPP is supposed to be 5-6 times faster than Canon's
File Viewer Utility that's bundled with the other
A Dream Camera?
So what do I really think? To paraphrase Tom Hnatiw (www.dreamcargarage.com):
Do you need a camera like this? If you are a professional photographer
the stunning image quality that the EOS-1D Mark II delivers is what you
want and what your clients expect. If you shoot sports, the ability to
capture a burst of 40 JPEG frames gives you an edge in capturing that
one split second that makes the difference between a good shot and a great
one. And every aspiring pro will want to upgrade to the Mark II, as their
budgets permit. Do you want a camera like this? Oh yeah!
(Sidebar) Bedtime For
Bonzo Or Chimping's Genesis
In case you're
not familiar with the term chimping, here's some background from
that font of information, the World Wide Web. According to PhotoNet (www.photo.net),
the term "was first used by a few unnamed photographers at the US
Open tennis tournament several years ago" and refers to the monkey-like
sounds photographers make when looking at images on their digital cameras'
LCD screens. The photographers make what they think is a great image,
review it on the LCD screen, and make sounds like "ooooo, aaaaaa."
Its first documented reference was on SportsShooter (www.sportsshooter.com).
Over at the Leica Users Group they say chimping is a term to describe
folks using digital cameras that take a shot, look at it on the display;
take a shot, look at it on the LCD; and take a shot, and look at it on
the screen because "that's the way a chimp would use a digital
camera." Not everyone agrees with these negative connotations: "Chimping
is a very powerful tool, as an aid to creativity it's well worth
the high price of admission to the digital world" (www.nature-photographytechniques.com/digital-travelphotography.html).
As an incurable chimper, I like that one best.
Adobe and Canon aren't the only raw software choices.
SilverFast's (www.silverfast.com) DCPro supports the
raw formats for many professional digital cameras from Canon,
Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Kodak, Fuji, and Sigma. The conversion
of the raw data takes place in the background; saving time
so you can re-open converted files fast. The Virtual Light
Table, shown here, provides the user with the capability
to view, organize, and manage their digital image files
and the application and Photoshop compatible plug-in provides
image correction tools, such as redeye removal, color correction,
white balance, and exposure adjustment.
The Mark II has a smarter
"E-TTL" flash metering system that, while compatible with
all EX-series flashes, is designed to illuminate the subject as a "plane"
to ensure that images of various colors and levels of reflection are accurately
captured. This was useful when I was commandeered to shoot some "grip
and grins" (argghhhhhh) at the ground breaking of a new Land Rover
dealership. The new system compares ambient light with the reflected pre-flash
in all 17 metering modes and selects the areas with small differences
to be weighted for flash exposure compensation. This, I expect, will be
of most use to wedding and other shoot-and-scoot photographers working
with Canon's 550EX flash.
For more information about
the EOS-1D Mark II, visit Canon's website at: www.usa.canon.com.
Type: Digital AF/AE SLR camera; 36-bit color (12 bits
per RGB color) CMOS sensor
Lens Mount: Canon EF mount; all EF lenses except EF-S
Equivalent Focal Length: 1.3x focal length increase
Total Pixels: 8.5 megapixels; effective pixels: approx.
Pixel Unit: 8.2 microns square
Storage Media: CompactFlash Type I or II, SecureDigital
(one slot each)
ISO Film Speed Range: 100, 125, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500,
640, 800, 1000, 1250, and 1600; ISO 50 and 3200 are settable via menu
Shutter Speeds: 30 seconds to 1/8000 sec in 1/3 stops;
X-sync at 1/250 sec
Long Exposure Noise Reduction: Applied to shutter speeds
of 1 second and longer
Drive Modes: Single; 3 fps; 8.5 fps
Continuous Shooting: Up to 40 shots (for JPEG images)
Sound Recording: Sound recorded with the built-in microphone
is attached to the respective image Digital Port: FireWire
Camera Direct Port: USB
Exterior Material And Chassis: Magnesium alloy
Weight: 43 oz (body only); Battery: 11.8 oz
For a full list of specifications, check the Canon website at: http://web.canon.jp/Imaging/eos1dm2/html/specifications.html.
Canon's DPP software is designed to read only one
kind of Canon raw file; the type that EOS-1D Mark II's,
Mark I's, and EOS-1Ds write.
Raw image file of limited edition Jaguar XKR Silverstone
"Stirling Moss edition" captured with an EF
16-35mm lens at 16mm, ISO 200, and Manual mode (1/400 sec