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Canon EOS-1D: a preview of Canon's pro digital SLR  
Friday, September 28, 2001 | by

The drought is almost over for pro Canon shooters. With the EOS-1D, announced this week and slated to ship in December at a US list price of US$6500, Canon has signaled they're ready to provide Nikon's D1H and D1x with some serious competition in the professional digital SLR segment.

 

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Canon EOS-1D
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Canon EOS-1D - rear view (Zoom)
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Canon EOS-1D - side view (Zoom)
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Canon EOS-1D - technical (Zoom)

While the natural expectation would be to view this as a follow-on to Canon's EOS D30, the EOS-1D and its software clearly trace their lineage to the discontinued Kodak DCS 520/Canon EOS D2000 and Kodak's v5.9.3 acquire module. From the layout of the controls on the back of the camera to the menu interface on the LCD monitor, it's the DCS 520/D2000 reborn. While the interface has been updated, new features have been added, and D30 flourishes sprinkled here and there, photographers with a DCS 520/D2000 background will find the transition to the EOS-1D's digital interface effortless.

Canon's new driver software for the EOS-1D is a near-clone of Kodak's v5.9.3 acquire plug-in/TWAIN driver. The icons may be different, and the underlying image processing code all-new, but the basic layout and functionality is eerily similar.

Representatives from Kodak and Canon have not said publicly what arrangement exists between the two companies that has resulted in the EOS-1D and its driver software bearing such a strong resemblance to the DCS 520/D2000. The possibilities range from a technology licensing deal to collaboration on the engineering of the camera itself. Whatever the situation, the EOS-1D largely benefits as a result.

This report previews the upcoming EOS-1D, based on an opportunity to work with a prototype unit earlier this month, as well as extended briefings on the camera by Canon USA's Chuck Westfall. The focus is on all that's digital in the EOS-1D, with less emphasis on the analog features that carry over from the EOS-1V, including exposure metering and autofocus.

Canon EOS-1D Major Features

The EOS-1D's feature list is exhaustive; at least on paper, this is one complete camera. Major features include:

  • Core camera capabilities the same as the EOS-1V, including 45 point Area AF, reflex mirror with Active Mirror Control, 21 zone Evaluative Metering, full wireless E-TTL flash compatibility and more

  • Built for durability, from its magnesium alloy body and 150,000+ cycle carbon fiber shutter to its 1V-level weather sealing

  • Two full-resolution JPEG settings, in addition to one half-resolution setting, RAW and a RAW + JPEG combo. Ten-step tuning of JPEG compression possible

  • 4.48 million pixel Interline Transfer CCD generates JPEGs that open as 11.7MB 8 bits per colour files in Photoshop (4.06 million actual image pixels when camera set to Large/Fine or Large/Normal JPEG)

  • 4.48 million pixel Interline Transfer CCD generates finished files from RAW that open to 11.9MB 8 bits per colour files, or 23.8MB 16 bits per colour files, when processed through Canon software into Photoshop (4.15 million actual image pixels when camera set to RAW)

  • 12 bits per colour image capture (converted to 8 or 16 bits per colour, depending on file format and processing)

  • 1.3x focal length conversion (relative to 35mm format). The new 16-35 f/2.8 L USM lens takes in the equivalent of about a 21mm lens at its widest setting; a 14mm lens translates to about an 18mm

  • Standard ISO range of 200 - 1600 in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 stop increments. ISO 100 and ISO 3200 selectable via a Custom Function

  • Shutter lag rated at 55ms, same as EOS-1V; camera is "shooting priority" design

  • Top shutter speed of 1/16,000; top flash sync speed of 1/500 (and higher with E-TTL series strobes set to High Speed Sync)

  • Shoots at up to 8 fps, even when Predictive Focus Tracking. The frames per second rate adjustable, in 1 fps increments, between 1 fps and 8 fps

  • JPEG burst depth of 21 frames; 14 frames above ISO 800

  • RAW burst depth of 16 frames; 14 frames above ISO 800

  • Accepts a single CompactFlash Type I/II card, including the IBM Microdrive

  • Voice annotations; sound clips can be associated with any photo

  • 1-up, 4-up and 9-up image review, plus image info screen; no zoomed playback mode

  • Histogram and "Highlight Alert" indicator on rear LCD; blown highlights blink in both 1-up and image info views

  • Digital user interface operation similar to that of DCS 520/D2000

  • Extensive white balance options, including Hybrid Auto WB that makes its colour determination using combined measurements from an external sensor and the image data itself. In addition, users may dial in the exact colour temperature, in 100 Kelvin increments, between 2800 Kelvin and 10,000 Kelvin. Custom WB, 3 Personal WB settings and 6 presets - Tungsten, Fluorescent, Daylight, Flash, Overcast, Shade - round out the package

  • Five "Color Matrix" options, four that map colour within the sRGB colour space, and one within AdobeRGB

  • White Balance Bracketing and ISO Speed Bracketing, in addition to Exposure Bracketing

  • Optional long exposure noise reduction; kicks in at shutter speeds of 1/15 or longer

  • Store up to 3 additional image processing parameter sets in the camera, each containing the user's preferred combination for "gamma correction" (a tone curve plus optional global colour adjustment), sharpness and JPEG compression

  • 21 Custom Functions; 25 Personal Functions

  • Flexible folder naming and selection options

  • Powered by the 12v, 1650mAh NP-E3 battery pack or AC via DC Coupler Kit DCK-E1

  • Firmware may be updated by the end user, from a CompactFlash card

  • 400mbps FireWire interface; no video out or serial port for GPS

  • Software that includes a freshly-minted Canon Digital Camera Plug-in (Mac)/dual TWAIN drivers (Windows), Canon Remote Capture and Software Development Kits (SDKs) for both Mac and Windows developers (slated for release in 2002).

Body Design: Think EOS-1V

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Magnesium alloy body (Zoom)
To get a sense of the build quality of the EOS-1D, one need look no further than the EOS-1V. They share the same material - magnesium alloy - in the camera's chassis and external covers. The EOS-1D is also secured from dust and rain by a plethora of seals located around the CompactFlash door, buttons and other controls. The EOS-1D adds one seal not found in the EOS-1V system, to the lip of its NP-E3 battery pack.

In many other respects, the EOS-1D is also the digital equivalent of the EOS-1V. The following EOS-1V features have migrated to the EOS-1D with little or no modification:

  • 45-point Area AF

  • Mirror box, complete with the EOS-1V's shock-absorbing Active Mirror Control. This enables the camera's high frame rates and short 87ms viewfinder blackout specification

  • Control layout and top LCD display information

  • 100% Viewfinder. The eyepiece protrudes slightly more, the viewfinder image itself is masked to compensate for the smaller image area of the EOS-1D, and an indicator has been added to show when JPEG is the active file format (when the indicator isn't lit, that means it's shooting RAW). With the exception of these minor differences, looking through the eyepiece of the EOS-1V and EOS-1D is about the same: the apparent magnification is identical, only the total viewing area is smaller because of the masking. Focusing screens compatible with the EOS-1V are compatible with the EOS-1D.

  • 21 zone Evaluative Metering. Because the metering sensor is in the prism, the viewfinder mask protrudes into the sensor's coverage area, blocking a portion of each of the outer 4 metering zones. To compensate for this, the EOS-1D's metering algorithm is a modified version of that found in the EOS-1V. The algorithm was further tweaked to account for differences, relative to film, in the way the EOS-1D's CCD responds to certain lighting types. Also carried over to the EOS-1D are the EOS-1V's partial, spot and centre-weighted metering modes. Because of the smaller image area of the EOS-1D, the partial and spot areas are proportionally larger than in their film camera counterpart.

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EOS-1D viewfinder (Zoom)
Clearly, a key design goal was to make the EOS-1D as easy to migrate to for EOS-1V users as possible. The EOS-1D also has the same seductively solid pro feel of the EOS-1V, with key camera controls in the right place for easy access, comfortable vertical shooting, and a tightness to the fit and finish that is just about unrivaled in my experience. And this impression is based on what Canon refers to as an MT1 level prototype unit. Prototypes are usually looser and mushier than production cameras.

A Canon FAQ says the EOS-1D is also designed to provide "an unprecedented degree of comfort for photographers looking to switch from competitive models." Marketing hyperbole aside, the EOS-1D is the first digital SLR I've held in my hands since the D1's introduction that feels, like the D1, as if it were built for the pro photographer on the move. It remains to be seen whether the EOS-1D will be so compelling a camera that it will stir Nikon shooters to switch of course, but few pros will be able to find fault with the sleek, rock-solid, well-balanced EOS-1D body.

The CCD

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4.48MP Canon-designed CCD. Shown ready for placement in front of the CCD is the separate low-pass filter. A Canon FAQ says the "low-pass filter in the EOS-1D keeps filtering to a minimum to maintain all the quality of the original image captured by the high-resolution CCD sensor. Any filter-induced color aberrations are then virtually eliminated by a digital image processor using an originally developed algorithm." (Zoom)
With the introduction of the D30, Canon seemed to be signaling an all-CMOS future for their digital SLR line. The lower power requirements of CMOS sensors, and their lower cost of manufacture, seemed to suggest this direction. A CMOS sensor was ruled out for the EOS-1D, says Canon's Chuck Westfall, for a number of reasons. They included the fact that it's not possible to clear a CMOS sensor quickly enough to allow for the high frame rate that had been set as a design parameter for the EOS-1D.

In its place, Canon has opted for an Interline Transfer CCD with an RGB colour filter array (CFA), because, says Westfall, this type of sensor can "refresh itself as fast as we need it to." Building the EOS-1D around this type of sensor meant that the frame rate limit was dictated elsewhere in the camera. With the EOS-1V as the starting point, the limit wasn't a mechanical one, since that camera whizzes along at up to 10 fps. Ultimately, it was the speed of post-capture image processing that put the brakes on at 8 fps. The table below lists the CCD's primary specifications:

 

Sensor Interline Transfer CCD w/RGB colour filter array
Dimensions 28.7mm x 19.1mm; diagonal 34.5mm
Pixel size 11.5 x 11.5 microns
Total Pixels 4.48 million
Effective Pixels (Large JPEG) 4.06 million (more pixels are trimmed from the edges during in-camera image processing out to JPEG than when the RAW format is processed in software)
Effective Pixels (RAW) 4.15 million
Focal length conversion factor (relative to 35mm format) 1.3x

Note: Some specification tables for the camera list the conversion factor at 1.25x. When comparing the image area of 35mm film and the effective image area of the EOS-1D, the conversion factor is closer to the quoted 1.3x)

The sensor is a Canon design, as opposed to an off-the-shelf component, fabricated by an unspecified manufacturer for Canon. Because Canon's sensor is from the same CCD family as Nikon's D1-series, certain EOS-1D attributes read like they're from a Nikon brochure, including a top shutter speed of 1/16,000, a flash sync speed of 1/500 and the ability to sync even with non-dedicated strobes (i.e. Speedotrons mounted in the rafters) at shutter speeds beyond 1/1000 typically.

This bit of flash magic comes about because the carbon fiber, 150,000+ cycle shutter in the EOS-1D doesn't control the shutter speed. Instead, the entire shutter speed range is controlled electronically within the CCD sensor. In fact, when the camera's shutter speed moves beyond 1/125 towards 1/16,000, the EOS-1D's shutter mechanism locks in at 1/125 perpetually.

I'm sure Canon reps are already girding themselves for the big question: Where's the 6 MP sensor? At just over 4 million effective image pixels, Canon's CCD falls well short of the pixel count of cameras like the Kodak DCS 760 or Nikon D1X, the current big-file SLR leaders. The comparatively less impressive 4MP figure is certain to be seen as a failing by some pro photographers seeking maximum image quality.

I have a different take on this. For almost 23 months, feedback from me to any camera company rep willing to listen has been that the optimum news and sports camera today would probably need to produce nice, clean 10-12MB finished 8-bit files to meet the majority of image quality needs of this group. That is, while still maintaining manageable file sizes in an age where pictures are still transmitted over modem and where archiving systems can quickly choke if fed too many too large photos.

I arrived at this conclusion the week of November 1, 1999. That's the week that I shot my first pictures with the 2.7MP D1. When I saw how well that camera's files held together when sharpened, enlarged and cropped, it became clear that a CCD sensor that was perhaps just slightly larger, to allow for wider wide angles without completely robbing long lens shooters of their precious 1.5x focal length cropping factor, with a few more pixels thrown in for good measure, would be about ideal in today's news and sports shooter workflows.

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Relative sizes of 35mm film format and the EOS-1D's CCD sensor
Pixel count and sensor size are two key factors in final image quality. But everything from the EOS-1D's image processing algorithms to the strength of the optical low-pass filter in front of the CCD will contribute to the camera's ultimate real resolution and image enlargeability. On paper anyway, Canon's comparatively large 4MP-range CCD, complete with its 1.3x focal length cropping factor and files that are just shy of 12MB, hits all the right chords here. Only files from a production EOS-1D, however, will reveal if Canon has made the most of what appears to be a brilliant design decision.

Like other digital cameras in its class, the CCD is covered by an optical low-pass filter designed to minimize the effect of chrominance artifacting. It's also coated to absorb infrared light, to preserve CCD colour response. The filter blurs the image slightly; I'll withhold judgement on whether the filtering strength is such that fine detail can still be extracted from images until a production EOS-1D is in hand.

I'll close this section by noting that the design of the 1V-size mirror box in the EOS-1D is such that dust, the bane of every digital SLR shooter, should be relatively easy to blow or swab away (though Canon does not recommend using anything other than a blower).

Image Recording Options, Write Speed

At first glance, the EOS-1D's file format options seem to be pretty standard stuff: two full-resolution JPEG options, one reduced-resolution JPEG and RAW. Digging a little deeper reveals a camera that offers tremendous file format flexibility.

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Enabling RAW + JPEG recording on the EOS-1D's rear LCD monitor
First, the EOS-1D can be configured to shoot a RAW format photo, simultaneously convert it to JPEG, then write both the RAW and JPEG versions out to the CompactFlash card one by one. Armed with the original RAW negative and a final JPEG print right from the camera, a photographer has the best of both worlds: JPEG for speed, and RAW for ultimate quality or, more importantly, for fixing the sorts of serious exposure and WB errors that can't be repaired when only a JPEG is at hand. Kodak's DCS 720x, and soon the DCS 760, can do the same thing in-camera, but not at the almost real-time processing speeds of the EOS-1D.

RAW + JPEG's usefulness could have been hamstrung by limitations downstream, but that doesn't seem to be the case with the EOS-1D. For example, a combined RAW file and Large/Fine JPEG file of the same scene will weigh in at about 7MB typically. With a fast CompactFlash card in the camera, coupled with the speedy writer in the EOS-1D (more on that in a moment), these two files should be processed and stored in less than 4 seconds. Back on the computer, Canon's new import plug-in/TWAIN driver makes relatively light work of browsing both, processing the RAW file and optionally opening the JPEG at the same time into Photoshop.

Upstream, however, lies one significant limitation: the camera's 16 frame burst depth (which drops to 14 frames above ISO 800) when set to RAW + JPEG. As I discuss in the next section, an 8 fps camera needs a more substantial buffer than this, in part because it will limit the opportunities in which RAW + JPEG can realistically be chosen.

The table below describes the EOS-1D's file format options and file sizes, based on the most recent specifications from Canon. Note that while those specs indicate a difference in image size in pixels between the RAW and JPEG formats, and the table below reflects that, Chuck Westfall indicates that two revisions of pre-release cameras received by Canon USA generate RAW and JPEG files with the same 2464 x 1648 dimensions.

Image Quality Image Size in Pixels Approx. Compressed Image File Size Uncompressed File Size When Opened into Photoshop, Bit Depth
Large/Fine JPEG 2464 x 1648 2.4MB 11.7MB, 8 bits per colour
Large/Normal JPEG 2464 x 1648 1.3MB 11.7MB, 8 bits per colour
Small/Fine JPEG 1232 x 824 1.1MB 2.91MB, 8 bits per colour
RAW 2496 x 1662 4.8MB •11.9MB, 8 bits per colour
•23.8MB, 16 bits per colour
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG -- 7.2MB total --
RAW + Large/Normal JPEG -- 6.1MB total --
RAW + Small/Fine JPEG
-- 5.9MB total --

Note: Since both the EOS-1D's JPEG and RAW formats use some form of compression, the actual compressed image file sizes will vary with scene content and ISO. In other words, the more detailed the scene, and the more noise present, the less efficient both the JPEG and RAW formats' respective compressors will be. Like the D30, the EOS-1D reminds the user of this fact by reducing its estimate of the number of frames left as the ISO is notched up. That's because as ISO increases, so does image noise. That in turn translates into less efficient compression, larger compressed file sizes, and fewer images stored on a card. Though Canon has not confirmed this, I suspect that the specs above for compressed image size represent the maximum, not average, file size for each type. Case in point: At ISO 200, a prototype EOS-1D produced 1.9MB files of a detailed outdoor scene. The same scene shot at ISO 1600 boosted the file size to about 2.3MB.

What the table doesn't reveal is the degree of control the EOS-1D offers over JPEG compression rates.

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From the camera's Recording Menu, the JPEG Normal and Fine compression settings stored in each of the camera's up to 4 parameter sets can be confirmed. JPEG compression is set in 5 increments for Normal, and 5 increments for Fine, then loaded from a computer as a parameter set to the EOS-1D
The Fine and Normal settings can each be tuned in 5 increments, for a total of 10 JPEG compression levels in-camera. User preferences for JPEG compression are stored in parameter sets, of which there are 4 in total: Standard, plus 3 that can be defined by the user. It's possible to choose between the sets, and confirm the settings in each set, from the camera's Recording menu. Changing the stored parameters can only be done via software to a FireWire-connected EOS-1D. Parameter sets will be discussed in greater detail later in this report.

The RAW format is compressed as well, though unlike JPEG, a lossless compression algorithm is used. Canon's proprietary algorithm for RAW compression is stored and run from a dedicated hardware circuit in the camera, enabling the compression time to be nearly instantaneous. As with most compression schemes that don't alter the numeric values that represent the image data, RAW compression rates are moderate: Canon's estimate is a file size of about 4.8MB (though it's worth noting that RAW files from some prototype cameras hover closer to 4MB).

 

A Few Words on the RAW Format

Regular readers of this site know I'm a strong advocate of the RAW format for news photographers. The RAW format is like a negative, containing the full range of colour and tone captured by the CCD at a given ISO.

The camera has to be designed to shoot RAW efficiently, and processing software has to unlock the full potential of RAW. With the notable exception of burst depth, the EOS-1D workflow is RAW-friendly from camera to computer. As will be discussed later, Canon's driver software includes all the right tools for fixing shooting errors, and they seem to be wired up optimally as well. So, RAW looks like it will be a viable option even for news shooters, perhaps not for full-time use, but for those assignments where maximum quality is needed, or where the likelihood of a WB or exposure error is high.

In designing the file structure of the EOS-1D's RAW format, Canon has made some good decisions.

  • First, like most other RAW formats, a TIFF data structure is used, and the file is marked internally as such, so that non-Canon programs can interpret the data structure, if not the RAW data itself. Nikon's .NEF format and Kodak's .DCR format are both full-fledged TIFFs as well, despite a three-letter extension that suggests otherwise. The D30's .CRW format is not.

  • Second, EOS-1D RAW format files end in .TIF. On the Mac, that means that when EOS-1D RAW photos on a CompactFlash card appear on the desktop, they'll have the TIFF file type assigned to them (and the Picture Viewer application will be assigned as their creator, unless this association is overridden in the File Exchange control panel). On a PC, Windows will associate the TIFFs with the default or user's chosen application.

  • Third, built into the file is an enormous, and good quality, 288 x 192 pixel thumbnail.

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iView MediaPro 1.2 for Mac displaying 288 x 192 pixel thumbnails, and key EXIF shooting data, from EOS-1D RAW format files. Note that MediaPro, and other archive software, can build smaller thumbs into the catalog too, using the same 288 x 192 pixel thumbnail in the RAW file as the source (Zoom)
Because the files are TIFF, and are indicated as such, many browsing and cataloging programs will be able to find the 288 x 192 pixel thumbnail and display that. For example, my favourite image cataloger, iView MediaPro 1.2 for Mac, can locate the large thumbnail and build its catalog entry from that, as well as extract key shooting data and IPTC caption data (if present) as well. Of the exposure and shooting information I refer to most often, only the WB setting chosen in the camera is not displaying at this time in MediaPro.

This means that from the moment the camera's released, it will be possible to not only shoot and process RAW EOS-1D files, but to build them into a browsable, searchable archive as well, with no apparent drawbacks in doing so. As I look back over time to other digital SLR releases, I can't recall another in which the archiving of RAW files was to be so effortless from Day One. Extensis Portfolio 5 for Mac, FotoStation 4.5 Build 118 for Mac and Photo Mechanic Lite and Pro 2.0r16 for Mac show a similar ability to locate and work with the large thumbnail inside EOS-1D RAW files. I expect similar results on the PC, though I've not tested this.

The one disadvantage to the .TIF extension is that double-clicking a RAW EOS-1D file will open not the full-resolution image, but a 288 x 192 pixel thumbnail, into the associated application. If that's Photoshop, and if by accident one were to resave that photo, the thumbnail only would be saved and the original RAW image lost. This disadvantage would be neutralized if a Photoshop file format plug-in (different from an import/acquire plug-in) were to be developed to support the EOS-1D RAW format, though Canon has not indicated plans to do so.

 

Write Speed

Like other digital cameras, the CompactFlash card inserted directly impacts the speed at which the EOS-1D can write images from its memory buffer. I'm pleased to report that with a fast card the EOS-1D moves images about as quickly as any camera I've tested, though it may lag behind the Kodak DCS 700 series overall. The data in the table below has been generated from quick-and-dirty speed testing with a prototype EOS-1D and a random collection of cards on hand. As such it isn't guaranteed to be representative of production EOS-1D performance.

Update, December 13, 2001: Testing with a production EOS-1D reveals that the camera's CompactFlash performance characteristics have changed significantly from the preproduction camera tested here. As such, the numbers below are not at all indicative of a production EOS-1D.

CF Card Write Speed CF Card Write Speed
SimpleTech 96MB 1116K/sec IBM Microdrive 340MB (original series) 1172K/sec
Lexar Media 160MB 10X 1233K/sec Lexar Media 512MB 12X 1674K/sec
Microtech 256MB 2037K/sec Sandisk 512MB 852K/sec
Testing Note: The time it took to record 20 Large/Fine JPEGs of about 2344K each was measured. The testing method used was not the same as that of previous CompactFlash reports on this web site, so the numbers are not directly comparable.

Shooting Performance: Frame Rate, Burst Depth, Shutter Lag and Autofocus

Earlier, I wrote about the apparent DCS 520/D2000 influence in the overall design of the EOS-1D. Most of the features that affect the EOS-1D's ability to grab a decisive moment, however, are ported directly from the EOS-1V. In this section, camera shooting performance is examined, beginning with frame rate and burst depth.

Frame Rate and Burst Depth

A digital SLR that fires at 8 fps, whether it's pointed at a static subject or tracking a wide receiver, is way cool. Sports shooters in particular will find this feature enticing. To give you an idea of what 8 fps sounds like in comparison to several other SLRs, click the appropriate Play () button below.

 

NOTE: INSERT SOUND BITE HERE

 

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EOS-1D imaging engine (Zoom)
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Motorcycle leap at 8 fps. Even firing at its maximum frame rate, the EOS-1D is quieter than the EOS-3 and EOS-1N, though louder than the D30, says Westfall (Zoom)

With the camera set to High-Speed Continuous, there's no doubt about it: a lot of image data is created in a big hurry. To process up to 8 photos each second, Canon developed a speedy new imaging engine that puts all image processing steps before the memory buffer. This is no mean feat; most other digital SLRs are designed to quickly dump RAW data into the memory buffer first, where it's queued up for processing and transfer to the storage media. By comparison, the EOS-1D's buffer serves as a holding tank for already-processed files waiting to be written.

For those situations in which 8 photos each second is overkill, the EOS-1D offers a 3 fps Low-Speed Continuous setting, plus the EOS-1D can be customized, through a Personal Function, to fire at 1 fps through 8 fps in 1 fps increments.

And that's a good thing, because as exciting as 8 fps may sound, a significant Canon EOS-1D design blunder will hamper the usability of the camera's fast frame rate. With a burst depth of no more than 21 JPEG or 16 RAW frames, which drops to 14 frames above ISO 800 for all formats, night sports shooters could find themselves running out of ammo during extended sequences.

There are three factors that mitigate the damage:

 

  • The EOS-1D can shoot and write to the card simultaneously. It doesn't, as the D30 does, wait until the shutter button is released to commence writing.

  • When the memory buffer reaches capacity, keeping the shutter button squeezed will trigger the camera to fire again as soon as soon as its able, after it has moved 1 image to the card. Or at least I suspect it'll be 1 image; when testing this with a prototype EOS-1D, sometimes it seemed to wait for room for 1 image, other times it would suddenly have room for 2 or 3. This is in contrast to, for example, Nikon's D1-series, where the shutter button has to be released first, then pressed again, before the camera will continue firing after a full buffer lockup.

  • With a fast CompactFlash card inserted and Large/Fine JPEG selected, the filling of the memory buffer is more of a hiccup in continuous shooting than a full stop. The prototype camera seemed to cough and spurt through several more frames in fairly short order.

Still, while the camera's overall design eases the pain of its skimpy memory buffer, the fact remains that a photographer shooting with an EOS-1D, especially above ISO 800, will either have to turn down the frame rate to, say 4 or 5 fps, or adjust the way they shoot. Or both. If I had to pick one glaring design flaw in the EOS-1D based on what I've learned about the camera to date, this would be it.

Note: It's not clear if the EOS-1D, like the D30 before it, writes out all images in the memory buffer to the card if the camera is accidentally turned off mid-write. The D30 and Nikon's D1-series cameras, for example, finish writing the current image, then eject the remainder into the ozone. While Chuck Westfall is of the opinion that the EOS-1D, like its predecessor the EOS D2000, will in fact write all buffered photos before shutting off, the prototype model tested did not work this way. It followed the D30's approach, which is to turn off both when the camera's power switch is flipped, and when the card door is opened. So, it remains to be seen which path the EOS-1D will follow in this regard.

Shutter Lag

Canon's spec of 55ms, if that bears out in production models, will make it not only the quickest to fire of any digital SLR, but also the same as the EOS-1V's default shutter lag. This would compare, in my testing, to about a 75ms shutter lag for Nikon's D1-series and 61ms for the Kodak DCS 720x.

Canon's shutter lag spec, however, only reveals part of the story. The remainder all sounds promising. First, the shutter lag extends to 315ms if the camera enters its light-sleep mode, which it will do after 2 seconds of shutter button inactivity. That's not the good news. The good news is that Personal Function 23 allows for the shutter button inactivity timeout to be extended, in 1 second increments, up to 3600 seconds (1 hour).

In addition, full compatibility is expected with the Pocket Wizard CM-N3-P Pre-Trigger cable. This cable is designed to keep the camera fully awake perpetually for quick trigger response in remote setups, should Personal Function 23's 1 hour setting be insufficient. In short, it should be possible to configure the camera so that it delivers its 55ms shutter lag whenever necessary. The only side effect will be reduced battery life; how much is unclear.

Chuck Westfall notes that when the EOS-1D's Main Switch is turned from off to on, or the camera is roused out of its Auto Power Off mode, it takes less than half a second for it to spin up and fire.

Autofocus

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A view of the Porsche test facility, as seen from the EOS-1D's rear LCD
A year ago, I'd have been the last person to suggest that Canon had to demonstrate they knew how to build an autofocus digital SLR. After all, best-of-class autofocus systems is what has defined Canon for years. But as a founding member of the D30 Autofocus Survivors Support Group, I'm of the opinion that superior autofocus from the EOS-1D is by no means assured.

One EOS-1D autofocus experience has buoyed my spirits, however. Shortly before my arrival at Canon to discuss the camera, Canon USA Pro Markets Rep Rudy Winston had taken it, an EF 500mm f/4L IS and 1.4x extender to photograph at Porsche's private test facility. I had an opportunity to examine much of his take up close, and I'm happy to report that virtually all of the speeding car sequences were tack sharp, from the first frame to the last.

The nuts and bolts of EOS-1D autofocus are right out of the EOS-1V; as such, I'll not expend additional bandwidth discussing it. For more information on Canon's top-of-the-line autofocus system, see Canon's web pages on the EOS-1V.

Image Quality and ISO Range

Based on an examination of several dozen frames from early, early EOS-1D cameras, I'm cautiously optimistic that Canon's pro digital SLR will deliver good quality photos. I'll not say more until a few assignment's worth of production EOS-1D images are tucked away on my hard drive later this year. What I will discuss in this section is the vast array of functions that affect image quality, including White Balance, Color Matrix settings, image parameter settings (sharpening, gamma correction) and ISO. The EOS-1D offers unprecedented control over final image quality.

White Balance (WB)

Canon appears to have been determined to leave no WB stone unturned in designing the EOS-1D. The range of options are extensive, bordering on bewildering. The table below provides a brief description of each WB setting; an analysis follows that.

Setting Colour Temp.
(Kelvin)
Description
Hybrid Auto WB 4000K-7000K

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Camera sets the WB automatically and steplessly within its workin colour temperature range.

It combines readings from actual image data (the portion of the photo that falls within the spot metering circle) and from the external semi-opaque sensor on the front of the camera (shown at left).

Shade 7000K Neutralizes colour casts in open shade.
Overcast 6000K Neutralizes colour casts on cloudy days. The EOS-1D manual suggests this setting for sunsets and sunrises, presumably to emphasize the warmth in the scene.
Flash 5600K Neutralizes colour casts in scenes lit by flash.
Daylight 5200K Neutralizes colour casts on sunny days.
Fluorescent 4000K Neutralizes colour casts under one type of fluorescent illumination.
Tungsten 3200K Neutralizes colour casts under tungsten or incandescent illumination.
K (Colour Temp.) 2800K-10,000K

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A colour temperature value can be selected via an on-screen menu, in 100K increments.

Custom WB 2000K-10,000K Colour casts are neutralized based on a previously-taken image of a neutral object (the EOS-1D user guide recommends a white piece of paper). The object must fill the spot metering circle.
Personal WB 2000K-10,000K Load into the camera up to three Custom White Balance Settings.
White Balance Bracketing +/- 15 mireds in 5 mired increments The camera takes three shots consecutively, bracketing the colour temperature.

Obviously, it's impossible to know how well the EOS-1D's myriad of WB options perform at this point. It is feasible, however, to look at some of the WB possibilities that open up with a camera offering so much, as well as discuss some of the potential pitfalls.

Hybrid Auto WB - There's every reason to be optimistic about the effectiveness of the EOS-1D's automatic scene balancing setting, based on how well the EOS D30's Auto WB performs. That camera can work some minor WB miracles when set to Auto. One would hope that with the addition of an external sensor to the equation, which the D30 lacks, Auto WB will only improve over the D30. The system is apparently smart enough to detect if an object is covering the sensor, and respond by making the white balance calculation solely from the image data. With a working colour temperature range of 4000K to 7000K, however, news photographers will routinely find themselves under light that's outside the scope of the EOS-1D's Hybrid Auto WB.

Shade to Fluorescent - There's every reason to be skeptical about the effectiveness of Canon's range of WB presets, based on the D30's comparable settings. In fact, I exchanged the first D30 I received because I thought it was broken, so miswired were the settings above 5000K. Part of the reason I became such good friends with the D30's Auto WB was because there were many situations in which it was the only workable option. By comparison, Nikon's similar range of WB options in the D1H and D1X are absolutely locked on target, near-perfect for their intended illuminants. I hope that Canon was looking more at Nikon's latest digital SLRs, and not its own D30, when tuning these WB settings. Files from prototype EOS-1D's are encouraging in this regard.

K (Color Temperature) WB - This I suspect has been one of the most-requested WB options, and Canon deserves kudos for implementing it in the EOS-1D. But don't break out the champagne just yet. Getting the best colour from a digital SLR in a wide variety of lighting environments is much more complex than simply picking the closest colour temperature and rolling with it. Allow me to explain why.

In the 1600's, Isaac Newton discovered that white light was made up of all the colours in the visible spectrum, and digital photography hasn't been the same since.


Visible spectrum

His revelation was the foundation for a concept key to the understanding of the difficulties facing Canon: two different light sources can have the same colour temperature, but images shot under those light sources can look completely different. That's because the spectral curve of each light source is different. A spectral curve is a graph showing the proportions of different wavelengths across the visible spectrum emitted by the light source. An example of a spectral curve graph is shown below:

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Spectral curve comparison (published with the permission of Tailored Lighting Inc.)

If you've ever shot film under the spiky daylight-balanced fluorescent light plotted above, you know that special techniques are usually required to prevent images from taking on an overall green cast or, more likely, to keep certain colours (i.e. skin tones) from shifting unacceptably. By comparison, photos taken under actual daylight will not share these unwelcome characteristics, primarily because the sun's spectral curve is much smoother. And yet, both light sources may measure to have the same colour temperature.

Left out of this mini colour science tutorial so far is the importance of the viewer. The viewer is usually said to be the human perceiving the light reflected off objects in the scene. The human visual system is incredibly good at compensating for oddball spectral curves, in effect filtering out the spike found in the green portion of the spectral curve of most standard fluorescent lights, for example. In other words, the goal of the human visual system is to minimize the differences between light sources, so that an object lit under light source A will be perceived to be about the same colour under light source B. There are all sorts of exceptions and limits of course, but overall, the human visual system is first-rate.

For the purposes of this report, think of the viewer as the EOS-1D recording the light reflected off objects in front of its lens. The camera's visual system, just like the human visual system, determines how similar an object's colour will appear under different illuminants.

Three factors will determine the efficacy of the EOS-1D's visual system at minimizing spectral data differences, not to mention the overall look and feel of EOS-1D colour. They are:

  • The CCD itself. Actually, the CCD is less important than the colour filter array (CFA) layered over top. In the EOS-1D, the CFA is made up of microscopic red, green and blue filters; the spectral absorption characteristics of these filters, which stem from the dyes used in constructing them, determine how the CCD will respond when struck by candlelight, office fluorescent, flash or the sun in the sky.

  • The mapping of colours from RAW CCD data to finished file. The actual RAW image recorded by the EOS-1D, and all other digital cameras, is dark, murky and flat. Canon colour scientists and engineers had to make certain decisions about what the final colour ought to look like, then go about creating scary-sounding things like colour lookup tables and colour matrices to accomplish that. The colour mapping procedure needs to take into account how the CCD's CFA responds to different spectral curves, and build colour countermeasures into the camera and software. If the colour mapping is performed optimally on all WB settings, then not only will photos look great, but a flash-lit scene will appear to have about the same overall look to the colour as one lit by tungsten illumination, and so on. Putting this another way, a well-designed 4000K Fluorescent WB setting, for example, will not only be tuned to compensate for the warmth of the light source, so that neutrals are neutral, but also to account for deficiencies in the way the CFA responds to that light source's spectral curve. The net effect should be photos that don't look like they were illuminated by icky fluorescent light.

  • The colour space in which the colour mapping takes place. This is sometimes identified as the only factor affecting final image colour. That's a mistake. A colour space simply defines the boundaries within the visible spectrum that the colour scientist will work in. It does not determine automatically how RAW colours will map to finished colours within those boundaries. The colour space matters, but it's not as important as the CFA and the colour mapping in determining final EOS-1D colour.

The point of the tale is this: it's by no means certain that simply dialing a light source's colour temperature into the EOS-1D will result in good, consistent colour in a variety of shooting situations. In good light, like studio strobe, it can reasonably be expected to work, and probably work well. In hairy lighting situations - 3000K warm fluorescent office lighting for example - it would great to be able twirl a dial on the EOS-1D to bring that illuminant's colour into line. But it remains to be seen whether Canon has done the underlying heavy colour lifting to make it so.

One final cautionary note: the Minolta Colormeter IIIF displays an accurate reading of colour temperature under continuous light sources and with strobe, and should therefore mesh well with Canon's Color Temperature WB. Under pulsating light sources, and/or light sources with spiky spectral curves, the IIIF's reading is much too high. For example, a 3000K fluorescent light source measures closer to 3800 or 4000K. Under some stadium lighting I've experienced the same apparent inaccuracy. So, in the oddball lighting situations in which I'd most like to call on the Color Temperature WB feature as a simple way of adjusting camera colour, the Colormeter IIF, and probably other colour temperature meters, don't provide accurate enough information to do this.

Custom WB and Personal White Balance - Custom WB is kind of a precursor to Canon's Color Temperature WB. By photographing a neutral object, then commanding the camera to determine the optimum balance of the red, green and blue channels, one is, in a sense, communicating the colour temperature of the scene to the camera. As such, all the same caveats apply, and the rewards too if it works well.

The EOS-1D makes it easy enough to set a Custom WB. The neutral object need only fill the spot metering circle, not the whole frame, and is applied then to photos shot subsequently. Setting a Custom White Balance is done from an on-screen menu; the camera automatically switches to the 9-up image review mode to make it simpler to locate the source frame.

On the prototype EOS-1D I examined, no error message appeared when the neutral object photograph was out of range (i.e. way overexposed or way underexposed), so there is some risk of setting a bogus Custom WB.

The EOS-1D can store up to three Custom WB settings called Personal White Balances, selectable on the back of the camera once stored.

White Balance Bracketing - For colour critical work, or as a quicker way of shooting a series of WB test frames for later evaluation on a computer, White Balance Bracketing should be helpful. Like exposure bracketing, the EOS-1D shoots one frame at the chosen WB setting, then one frame at a higher colour temperature to warm the photo, then at a lower colour temperature to cool the photo. All WB settings except Flash are supported; White Balance Bracketing automatically cancels if an EX-series flash (and perhaps other flashes too) is connected and ready to fire.

The bracketing amount is adjustable, in 5 mired increments, up to 15 mireds. Canon chose to measure the degree of adjustment in mireds, rather than Kelvin, to ensure that the visual effect of the bracketing was consistent through the colour temperature range. In case that's a head scratcher, it may be helpful to know that, for example, a 500K shift at 3200K produces a much more noticeable colour change than a 500K shift at 7000K. By comparison, a 5 mired shift at either 3000K or 7000K will produce the same apparent colour change in the photo. The table below shows how mireds map to Kelvin steps at several WB settings.

WB Setting Colour Temperature sequence at 5 mireds Colour Temperature sequence at 10 mireds Colour Temperature sequence at 15 mireds
Tungsten 3200K, 3252K, 3150K 3200K, 3306K, 3101K 3200K, 3361K, 3053K
Daylight 5200K, 5339K, 5068K 5200K, 5485K, 4943K 5200K, 5640K, 4824K
Shade 7000K, 7252K, 6761K 7000K, 7524K, 6540K 7000K, 7819K, 6333K

The bracketing order may be changed via a Custom Function.

Color Matrix Settings

In an effort to give users more choice over the colour look from the EOS-1D, Canon has implemented 5 different colour processing paths. Four of them do the colour mapping within the relatively narrow-gamut sRGB colour space; the remaining one falls within the boundaries of the wider-gamut AdobeRGB. As was discussed earlier in this section, the colour space is less important than what Canon colour scientists were aiming for with each setting. The table below lists the colour intent for Color Matrix Settings 1 through 5, as stated in the EOS-1D software user guide.

Color Matrix Description
1 Reproduces the hues and chromaticity for natural color tones. Select this option to show the subject's natural skin tones. (sRGB)
2 Reproduces hue and chromaticity suited to portraits. Select this option to reproduce beautifully natural skin tones. (sRGB)
4 Reproduces hue and chromaticity similar to those in high-saturation color slide film. Select this option to reproduce clear and vivid color tones. (sRGB)
4 Reproduces colors with a slightly higher color sensitivity (color reproduction range) than sRGB and fairly low saturation. Select this option when you intend to download the processed image to Photoshop 5.0 LE for fine color saturation adjustment or profile conversion. (AdobeRGB)
5 Reproduces colors with a slightly higher color sensitivity (color reproduction range) than sRGB and fairly low saturation. Select this option when you intend to download the processed image to Photoshop 5.0 LE for fine color saturation adjustment. (sRGB)

Canon's Color Matrix appears to be a direct descendant of the colour mode offerings in Nikon's D1X and D1H, which also utilize the sRGB and AdobeRGB colour space. Canon is clearly looking to do Nikon one better (well, three better actually) with a total of 5 colour intents. Based on prototype images, Color Matrix 2 does indeed produce pleasing caucasian skin tones, in line with its description, while Color Matrix 4 and 5 are quite flat, also in line with the intent for these settings. There's not much else to be said until the camera's release.

Image Parameter Sets

Carried over directly from the D30 is the concept of Image Parameter Sets. As mentioned earlier, the camera can store 4 in all, 3 of which may be defined by the user. Image Parameter Sets are combinations of a gamma correction adjustment, sharpening and JPEG compression. Canon's driver software is used to create up to 3 sets, which are then loaded into the camera over a FireWire connection. The table below outlines the available controls:

Parameter Description Settings
Gamma Correction Use a Curves-like tool to create a custom tone curve. The tone curve can affect the RGB colour channels as a whole and the individual colour channels separately. Gamma table
Sharpness Level This appears to be similar to the Amount setting in Photoshop's Unsharp Mask filter. It's not clear if 0 turns sharpening off, though it appears that way. Setting 5 looks like it might be equivalent to an Amount of no more than about 300%. •0
•1
•2
•3
•4
•5
Pattern Sharpness This appears to be similar to the Radius setting in Photoshop's Unsharp Mask filter, where the radius value increases moving from Fine to Coarse. Coarse appears equivalent to about a radius value of 1.0. Sharpening appears to be to the luminance only. •Coarse
•Slightly Coarse
•Standard
•Slightly Fine
•Fine
Normal JPEG Quality Sets the compression rate; the higher the number, the lower the compression rate. The default appears to be 3. •1
•2
•3
•4
•5
Fine JPEG Quality Sets the compression rate; the higher the number, the lower the compression . The default appears to be 8. •6
•7
•8
•9
•10

With the exception of Gamma correction, I would prefer to be able to set these parameters in the camera exclusively, without having to create fixed combos in the computer for transfer to the EOS-1D. I suspect that Image Parameter Sets came about less as a deliberate design decision, and more as a workaround for limitations in the available memory storage space in the camera, which prevented all of the image parameter options being loaded simultaneously. This, of course, is only a hunch. Whatever the reason, the Image Parameter Set approach is clunkier than I would like.

ISO Range

The EOS-1D's stock ISO range is 200-1600, in 1/3 stop increments. A Custom Function forces the ISO to either 100 or 3200. I can't wait to see ISO 1600 files from a production EOS-1D.

I must admit, I've never been one to use exposure bracketing, though I've owned several cameras with this feature. Any time I've felt moved to bracket the exposure I've done it manually. ISO Speed Bracketing might finally compel me to hand the bracketing duties over to the camera. When gearing up to shoot hockey, for example, I bracket the ISO around the exposure settings I want to use: 1/500 at f/2.8. I'll then select the properly exposed frame from the sequence, lock the camera's ISO on that and I'm ready to shoot. Anything that can make this setup step faster is welcome, and it appears that ISO Speed Bracketing will do that.

The bracketing order can be tailored to user preference. When performing ISO Speed Bracketing, the EOS-1D's maximum frame rate drops to 2.7 fps. An ISO-based initialization step prior to each exposure limits the firing rate.

Flash

The EOS-1D is unique in that it's the first Canon-bodied digital SLR to incorporate all of Canon's advanced E-TTL flash features, matching function-for-function the company's premium film cameras for the first time. It also adds one that's not found elsewhere in Canon's camera lineup: Metered Manual Flash. Here's a rundown of EX-flash support in the EOS-1D:

  • Support for E-TTL, and E-TTL only, as the only through-the-lens flash metering system. E-TTL is Canon's evaluative flash metering system that fires a preflash before the photo is taken, then uses that preflash to help calculate flash output. The 550EX will be fully-compatible with the EOS-1D, as will the 420EX and other EX-series strobes. Flash Exposure Lock, rear curtain sync, flash exposure compensation, the ST-E2 wireless transmitter, multiple 550EX strobes controlled wirelessly; all should function as they do with the EOS-1v. This includes the ability to adjust lighting ratios in multiple 550EX strobe setups, and use the 550EX's modeling light feature. These two capabilities are missing from the DCS 520/D2000, though present on the D30.

  • A top sync speed of 1/500th of a second, High-Speed Sync up to 1/16,000, and the capability of synching with non-dedicated strobes well above 1/500 in manual flash operation.

  • Older, non-EX Canon TTL flashes will not function in TTL or A-TTL mode with the EOS-1D. If you attach, for example, a 540EZ to the camera, set it to TTL and press the shutter button, the flash will not fire. Unlike the EOS-1V, which supports the older flashes, the EOS-1D lacks traditional off-the-film TTL metering cells and circuitry, so Canon opted to not trigger older Canon strobes if it detects that they're set to TTL. Switch the same flash to Manual and it will fire.

  • Exposure compensation for flash output may be set on the flash itself, if the flash has that capability (the 550EX does), or on the camera body. Being able to set flash exposure compensation on the body is handy in multiple 550EX strobe setups.

  • A PC outlet for external studio strobes, radio remotes and the like, is located under a flap on the camera's left side. It's non-polarized, so sync polarity shouldn't be a problem.

  • E-TTL flash output managed by the same 21 zone Evaluative Metering system that governs the ambient exposure, just as it is with the EOS-1V. Also like the EOS-1V, the ambient metering pattern always reverts to Evaluative with flashes like the 550EX, even if it has been set on, say, Spot by the user. As described earlier, the 21 zone Evaluative Metering algortihm has been modified to account for the smaller image area of the EOS-1D, relative to the EOS-1V.

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The EOS-1D gains two dedicated Flash Exposure Lock (FEL) buttons, one near each shutter release
Flash Exposure Lock

A small change from the DCS 520/D2000 and D30 will make a big difference in the usability of E-TTL flash for those who reassign the rear AE Lock button to autofocus duties.

With previous Canon digital SLRs, this button also served as the Flash Exposure Lock (FEL) button, which means one had to choose between focusing with that button, or calling on it to trigger Canon's super-accurate FEL flash spot metering.

The EOS-1D, by comparison, offers dedicated FEL buttons near both the horizontal and vertical shutter releases, which means Canon digital photographers will no longer have to choose between FEL and thumb focusing. This tiny new button will make a big splash in my photography.

Metered Manual Flash

As if building LCD review screens into cameras wasn't bad enough for sales of flash meters, Canon adds the ability to turn the EOS-1D itself into a rudimentary flash meter. All that's required is a gray card and an EX-series strobe with manual output control. With the camera set to manual focus and the gray card positioned in the scene so that it's filling the entire spot metering circle, triggering FEL results in the flash exposure level indicator in the viewfinder displaying the flash exposure. Adjust the flash output or aperture until the indicator is lined up with the correct exposure index mark and the flash exposure should be correct. It works in either manual or aperture priority exposure modes.

Is Metered Manual Flash useful? Maybe, maybe not. But it's cool.

Power and Charging

The EOS-1D is powered by the NP-E3 battery, a 12v, 1650mAh NiMH pack that's similar to the 12v, 1500mAh NP-E2 battery for the EOS-1V. The two are not interchangeable, though they are both charged by the same NiMH Battery Charger NC-E2. The battery slides into the camera with a rock-solid feel, owing in part to its heft: the NP-E3 is a big battery.

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12v, 1650mAh NP-E3
Battery Pack (Zoom)
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NiMH Battery Charger NC-E2 attached to NP-E3 (Zoom)
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NiMH Battery
Charger NC-E2 (Zoom)

Canon rates the battery at 500 frames per charge at room temperature, dropping to 350 frames in moderate cold. Long lens autofocus and heavy rear LCD monitor use will dramatically affect the number of frames per charge.

Two batteries can be connected to the included NC-E2 charger simultaneously, but they charge sequentially. Same applies to the Refresh function.

Digital Interface and Controls

The name of the camera is the EOS-1D, but from the back it looks more like a Kodak DCS 540 or Canon EOS D4000. Okay, these cameras don't exist, but if they did, this is what the digital control layout would look like.

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Canon EOS-1D - rear view

The arrangement of the upper and lower LCD displays, the four holes for the microphone, the row of buttons to the left (including the dual-purpose Protect/Record button), it's all a dead ringer for the discontinued DCS 520/D2000. The similarities are more than skin deep; working the controls is also very much the same. That translates into an interface that should be simple to use, but with too much switching back and forth from the Display, Select and Menu buttons when navigating through pictures and menus. This section looks at the camera's digital user interface and highlights some of the features found therein.

Voice Recording

Voice annotation lives! The usefulness of being able to associate audio commentary with a photo at the press of a button can't be overstated, at least for photographers who make a living providing complete, accurate caption info along with their photos. From basic identification of subjects at nonstop events like rodeo, where matching names to images after the fact can be a captioning nightmare otherwise, to noting additional, caption-enriching details about the big play, voice annotation is a mandatory digital SLR feature for news and sports shooters. It's great to see it here.

To record a voice annotation, the Protect/Record button is held down; after 2 seconds recording begins. Recording ends when the button is released, then a .wav format sound file is created and given the same file name, except for the .wav extension, as the picture it's associated with.

To associate a sound with a specific picture other than the last picture, the rear LCD must be on and that photo displayed prior to the recording of the sound clip. Sound clips are limited to a maximum of 30 seconds each; more than 1 sound clip may be recorded in succession. If the recording quality is similar to that of Kodak DCS cameras, the amount of room they'll occupy on the card will be negligible.

Image Protection

The Protect/Record button serves double-duty. Held down, it records a voice annotation; pressed briefly, it protects or unprotects the image displayed/selected on the rear LCD monitor. The EOS-1D has several methods for protecting a single image or multiple images at the same time. Images may be marked or cleared for protection on a per folder or per card basis, from the camera's Playback menu.

The most useful method is single image protection, activated by a quick press of Protect/Record. Once protected, a key icon appears above the photo on the LCD, and a similar icon appears around the photo when viewed in Canon's driver software.

Though this feature would seem to mimic the Tag feature of its predecessor, the DCS 520/D2000, there are two differences:

  • The image itself isn't modified when protected. Instead, an entry in the card's file system indicates that the status of that photo is read-only. In contrast, the DCS 520/D2000 actually updates a marker inside the image file indicating a tag has been applied.

  • Canon's driver software will recognize the image has been protected, but it lacks the ability to select protected images as a group. In other words, if you want to use the EOS-1D's Protect function to perform an initial edit in the camera (as I do with all other cameras that support this feature), lack of a few helpful protected-image selection features in Canon's software preclude this.

Additional details are provided in the EOS-1D software preview report.

Image Display, Folder Selection and Image Erase

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Pressing the Display button turns on the monitor and displays the last photo taken, or the current photo being saved. Shutter speed, aperture and file format run across the top of the screen. If highlights are overexposed, they will blink in this view.
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Holding down the Display button, then turning the Quick Control Dial, changes the display mode (choices are Info, 1-up, 4-up, 9-up and folder). Here the Info screen displays key shooting information, Photoshop-style histogram and a 1/4 screen view of the photo, complete with blinking highlights and a red marker showing the AF point(s) active for the photo. Click zoom to have a closer look at the AF point display feature (Zoom)
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4-up display mode. Holding down the Select button and turning the Quick Control Dial moves from one frame to the next in any image display format
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9-up display mode. The EOS-1D automatically switches to this display format during the setting of Custom WB. Pressing the Display button turns the display off again
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Folder mode, displaying the names of the folders on the card, and the number of photos they contain. New folders may be created and selected here. The EOS-1D also recognizes folders created on the card from a computer, though they have to follow a precise naming convention
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Pressing the Erase (Trash icon) button enables one at a time or all-at-once image deletion from this confirmation screen

Observations

  • The 120,000 dot TFT LCD monitor with white LED backlighting is sharp, bright and, on the prototype unit I examined, blue. Not as blue as captured in the screenshots above, but it has a noticeable blue cast nonetheless. A useful 5-increment brightness adjustment is provided.

  • The AF point display is way cool; it can be turned off and on from the Playback menu.

  • There is no on-screen zoom. The omission of such a basic feature is unfortunate, since a well-implemented zoom is helpful for checking focus and image content.

  • Pressing the Display button, while a burst of images is being written, turns on the screen, then displays the photos as they're being written to the card. "Busy" is displayed above the photos, each successive image flashes about for about 1/4 second and it takes slightly longer to clear the buffer to the card.

Menu interface

The on-screen menus are divided into four sections: Recording, Playback, Set-up and Custom Function/Personal Function.

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Pressing the Menu button turns on the LCD monitor and displays the menu screen. Here, the top level of the Recording Menu is shown. Holding down the Select button and turning the Quick Control Dial moves between menu items; releasing the Select button selects the highlighted menu item
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Holding down the Menu button and turning the Quick Control Dial moves between menus. Here, the Playback menu is shown
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The Set-up menu. Auto Power Off works much as it does in the D30, turning the camera off after a user-set time period between 1 and 30 minutes. It can also be disabled
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The EOS-1D's firmware is upgradeable; like Kodak DCS cameras, a firmware file is loaded onto a CompactFlash card and the camera extracts it from there. User-upgradeable firmware is great, as it means that bugs may be easily fixed and features added to the EOS-1D over its life, assuming Canon chooses to offer firmware updates in the future
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The EOS-1D's Format screen. The format function seems to be the same rudimentary one found in most other digital cameras. The DCS 520/D2000 and other Kodak DCS cameras offer additional card handling features, including a full format function that can assist in the detection of cards that are wearing out, and a recover function that can resurrect deleted images that haven't been overwritten. It would have been great to see that functionality rolled into the EOS-1D
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The top level of the Custom Function/Personal Function menu displays the current Custom Function settings. Personal Function 0 stores up to three different Custom Function Groups, and can be set from the camera. All other Personal Functions must be configured from the computer using Canon's driver software. Once a Personal Function setting is stored in the EOS-1D, it can be enabled or disabled from the on-screen menus

Observations

Canon's EOS D30 was the first digital SLR to include long exposure noise reduction. It performs a technique called dark frame subtraction in the camera, and is effective at neutralizing the white to multicolored pixels, called dark current noise, that gather in the frame as the shutter is left open for extended periods. The same noise reduction technology has been ported to the EOS-1D, though with a different threshold. When enabled, it kicks in at shutter speeds of 1/15 or longer, as compared to the D30's 1 second.

User-upgradeable firmware means that if firmware bugs are found, EOS-1D owners needn't ship the camera back to Canon for an update. Equally importantly, it enables Canon to grow the capabilities of the camera over time, either via free or extra-cost firmware releases. Chuck Westfall indicates that Canon is actively exploring the best wireless transmitting option or options to add to the EOS-1D; he says it's not a matter of if, but when something will come available. Presumably, the ease with which the end user can update EOS-1D firmware makes adding a major feature like this a possibility.

The camera sports 21 Custom Functions and 25 Personal Functions. Personal Functions actually run up to setting 28, but 11, 12 and 26 are unused. Personal Functions wherever possible correspond to their equivalent in the EOS-1V; of the three unused slots, two correspond to ones on the EOS-1V that are film-related, while the third slows down the EOS-1V's shutter lag to as short as 40ms.

External Interface Options

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EOS-1D FireWire port (Zoom)

A trend in digital SLR development has been to increase the number of ways the camera can communicate with external devices; it's not just about hooking up strobes or remote releases anymore.

Nikon's D1X and D1H, for example, sport Firewire, video and serial ports, enabling connection to a computer, external monitor and GPS device, respectively.

The EOS-1D bucks this trend, offering a single 400mbps FireWire port. The lack of video out will not affect my use of the camera, but it may limit the appeal of the EOS-1D in certain photography segments.

 

Software

EOS-1D software is covered in a separate report.

EOS-1D Standard Kit

In addition to an EOS-1D, the standard kit, at least in the US, will contain:

  • NiMH Battery Pack NP-E3
  • NiMH Battery Charger NC-E2
  • DC Coupler Kit DCK-E1
  • IEEE1394 Cable IFC-200D6
  • Neckstrap L4
  • Handstrap E1
  • EOS Digital Solutions Disk
  • Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE Disk

Specifications Comparison

The table below compares key EOS-1D, DCS 520/D2000 and D30 specifications. Full specifications for the EOS-1D are on Canon's web site.

Resolution and CCD Canon EOS-1D Kodak DCS 520/Canon EOS D2000 Canon EOS D30
Sensor type Interline Transfer CCD w/RGB colour filter array Full Frame CCD w/RGB colour filter array CMOS w/RGB colour filter array
Effective pixels •4.15 million (RAW)
•4.06 million (JPEG)
1.99 million 3.11 million
Pixel layout •2464 x 1648 (JPEG)
•2496 x 1662 (RAW)
1728 x 1152 2160 x 1440
Pixel size 11.5 microns x 11.5 microns 13 microns x 13 microns 10.5 microns x 10.5 microns
Finished file size •11.7MB, 8 bits per colour (Large JPEG)
•11.9MB, 8 bits per colour (RAW)
•23.8MB, 16 bits per colour (RAW)

Note: Reduced resolution JPEG not listed

•5.7MB, 8 bits per colour
•11.4MB, 16 bits per colour
•8.9MB, 8 bits per colour, (Large JPEG, RAW)
•17.8MB, 16 bits per colour (RAW)

Note: Reduced resolution JPEG not listed

Focal length conversion factor (relative to 35mm format) 1.3x (varies slightly between JPEG and RAW) 1.6x 1.6x
Low-pass filter included? Yes; non-removable Yes, removable (may be replaced with IR blocking filter) Yes; non-removable
ISO Range •200-1600 in 1/3 stop increments
•ISO 100 and ISO 3200 via Custom Function
200-1600 in 1/3 stop increments
ISO 100-1600 in 1 stop increments
Shooting Speed
Maximum fps 8 fps 3.5 fps 3 fps
Burst depth •21 frames (JPEG, ISO 800 or lower)
•16 frames (RAW or RAW + JPEG, IS 800 or lower)
•14 frames (Above ISO 800, all formats)
12-13 frames typically •8-30+ frames (Large/Fine JPEG; varies with ISO and scene content; camera switches to processing images if shutter button released at any point in a sequence, causing delay before shooting can recommence)
•3 frames (RAW)
Shutter lag 55ms 90ms Approx. 100ms
Top shutter speed 1/16,000 1/8000 1/4000
Top flash sync speed (standard flash mode, dedicated flash) 1/500 1/250 1/200
AF System 45-point Area AF (7 cross-type AF sensors) 5-point (1 cross-type AF sensor) 3-point (1 cross-type AF sensor)
Image Storage
Storage media Single CompactFlash slot; compatible with CompactFlash Type I/II, including Microdrive Dual PC Card slots; compatible with PC Card Type I/II/III, Compactflash Type I/II (including Microdrive) and Sony Memory Stick Single CompactFlash slot; compatible with CompactFlash Type I/II, including Microdrive
RAW files TIFF-based lossless compression TIFF-based lossless compression Canon CRW lossless compression
JPEGs •Large Fine (full-res)
•Large Normal (full-res)
•Small Fine (reduced-res)
•JPEGs can be generated in-camera from user-selected RAW files; 3 different compression rates and resolutions available •Large Fine (full-res)
•Large Normal (full-res)
•Small Fine (reduced-res)
•Small Normal (reduced-res)
Simultaneous JPEG + RAW Yes Yes, sort of. JPEGs may be generated in the background as new RAW files are shot, but per- image processing time prohibitive No
User can create folders? Yes Yes No
Interface
Computer 400mbps FireWire 100mbps FireWire USB 1.1 (12mbps)
Voice annotation? Yes Yes No
Video out? No No Yes
Serial? No Yes; supports Zmodem file transmissions via mobile phone or landline) No
Exposure and Colour
Evaluative metering? Yes; 21 zone Evaluative Yes; 12 zone Evaluative (modified version of EOS-1N's 16 zone meter) Yes; 35 zone Evaluative (same as Rebel 2000)
Flash metering E-TTL E-TTL E-TTL
Wireless TTL? Yes Yes, with limitations Yes
WB settings •Shade
•Overcast
•Daylight
•Flash
•Fluorescent
•Tungsten
•Hybrid Auto WB
•Custom WB (can store 3 in camera)
•K (Color Temperature)
•Daylight
•Flash
•Fluorescent
•Tungsten
•Auto WB
•Custom WB (can store 10 in camera)
•Overcast
•Daylight
•Flash
•Fluorescent
•Tungsten
•Auto WB
•Custom WB
Colour space •sRGB
•AdobeRGB
DCSRGB sRGB
Camera Body
Dimensions (W x H x D) 6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 inches (155 x 157 x 79 mm) 6.3 x 6.9 x 3.6 inches (161 x 174 x 92 mm) 5.9 x 4.2 x 3.0 inches (150 x 107 x 76 mm)
Battery Removable 1650mAh NiMH Removable 1700mAh NiMH Removable 1100mAh Lithium Ion

Conclusion

An EOS-1V digital camera with software designed for the news and sports photographer: that's the EOS-1D in a nutshell. The EOS-1D should be the camera that Canon devotees have been clamoring for since Nikon stormed the scene with the D1 two years ago. Canon hasn't quite hit a home run - the shallowness of its 14 frame burst depth above ISO 800 is going to be a big problem for some - but it appears to have covered almost all the other bases well. If the image quality is sound, this should be the digital SLR Canon shooters have been waiting for, and Nikon will finally have some strong competition from its long-time rival in the pro segment.

In the US, the first scheduled opportunity to touch and try the EOS-1D will be the Visual Edge 2001 Workshop at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida. The camera will be on hand from October 7-12. It will also be shown during all stops of the NPPA Flying Short Course, October 13-20. The first major US trade show appearance is PhotoPlus Expo East in New York City, November 1-3.

Thanks to Chuck Westfall of Canon USA, and Dennis Walker of Camera Bits, for their assistance in the preparation of this report.

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