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Canon EOS-1D: a preview of the camera's included software  
Friday, September 28, 2001 | by
It would be putting it in the kindest terms to say that I haven't been a fan of Canon's digital SLR software up until now. The EOS-1D is poised to change that impression. In developing the EOS-1D's core application - Canon Digital Camera Plug-in/TWAIN 4.0 - Canon has adopted the features and framework of Kodak's Acquire Module, a Mac Photoshop plug-in/Windows TWAIN driver that Kodak had grown into a mature, full-featured package before abandoning its development in place of DCS Photo Desk late last year.

Neither Canon nor Kodak has said publicly what arrangement between them has led to the development of this software clone. Whatever the back room deal, news and sports photographers benefit. In fact, any photographer who works within Photoshop and wants to process EOS-1D RAW or JPEG images quickly will find Canon's new software an acceptable, even pleasant solution. D30 users needn't feel left out either; the software is backwards-compatible with its JPEG and RAW files too, though some features are EOS-1D only. The software will not work with the DCS 520/D2000.


Canon Digital Camera Plug-In 4.0 (Mac version)

Also included with the EOS-1D is an update of Remote Capture, where the primary or only change since it was released with the D30 is the addition of support for the EOS-1D.

But perhaps the best news of all is that Canon has committed to the release of a Software Development Kit (SDK) for both Windows and Mac in the first half of 2002. If the SDK supports a decent collection of EOS-1D RAW processing features (and since it could well be based around Kodak's SDK, it should), then third party developers will be able to build EOS-1D RAW support, and perhaps camera control, into their own applications. This could spell good news for photographers, like myself, who are wedded to browsers like Photo Mechanic.

This report provides an overview of the software shipping with the EOS-1D in December. Manufacturing considerations mean that the camera itself can't change too much between now and its release date. Software, however, can be tweaked until the 11th hour. Therefore, key functions in the current beta of the plug-in/TWAIN driver, and any limitations, may not be present when the final version is stamped onto the EOS-1D Digital Solution CD.

Canon Digital Camera Plug-In/TWAIN Driver v4.0

The centerpiece of the EOS-1D software package is the Mac Photoshop plug-in/Windows TWAIN driver. It provide two functions:

  • The configuring of a FireWire-connected EOS-1D
  • The editing of EOS-1D photos in the camera or on other media

Camera Configuration

When the EOS-1D is linked to a computer over FireWire, the following functions are possible:


Parameter Settings (Zoom)
The configuration and loading of Image Parameter Sets, Personal Functions and Personal WB settings. These and other tasks are handled from the Camera Settings window. Three Image Parameter Sets may be created and transferred to the camera, in addition to three Personal WB settings. All 25 Personal Functions are configured here as well (only 1 Personal Function can be set or adjusted in the camera without it first being set up in Camera Settings).

Setting the EOS-1D's date and time, storing a user name to be written into every photo.

Activating the camera's format function.

Editing images on the CF card in the camera is also possible. In essence, the camera is treated like a card reader, and the full range of browsing, editing, processing and image adjustment functions are available.

Not supported is remote control of the camera, including the adjustment of shooting parameters such as shutter speed or aperture. Remote Capture will enable the camera to be triggered remotely through its interface, but it lacks controls for adjusting EOS-1D shooting parameters as well.

EOS-1D Image Editing

This is the heart of Canon's new software strategy. The following functions apply to either JPEG or RAW EOS-1D photos:

  • Browse images in the camera or on mounted media
  • View thumbnails at three sizes in a contact-sheet style browser
  • Preview at three sizes, including 100% magnification, within a scrollable area
  • Rotate single images or a group of images
  • Attach IPTC-format caption information. All major fields are supported
  • Apply/remove Checkmarks to single images or a group of images
  • Select images based on their Checkmark status
  • Apply/remove Protect status to single images or a group of images
  • Erase single images or a group of images
  • Play associated voice annotations
  • Generate a rudimentary contact sheet
  • View extensive shooting information
  • View the focus point(s) active when the picture was taken
  • Acquire single images or a group of images into Photoshop (Mac/Windows) or other host application (Mac/Windows)

These functions apply only to EOS-1D RAW images:

  • Override in-camera white balance, color matrix, tone and sharpness
  • Apply Digital Exposure Compensation to overexposed or underexposed photos
  • Save files out as unconverted RAW, JPEG or TIFF (8 or 16 bit)
  • Acquire single images or a group of images into Photoshop (Mac/Windows) or other host application (Windows), processing the RAW data into finished files. If the photo was shot in RAW + JPEG mode, optionally transfer the JPEG alongside the converted RAW version


Movie demonstrating 2 different methods of processing an EOS-1D RAW photo: transferring it into Photoshop, or saving it as a finished JPEG file. 43 seconds
(195 x 134|391 x 269)

Movie demonstrating image rotation, colour processing controls and Digital Exposure Compensation. 32 seconds
(195 x 134|391 x 269)

IPTC Information window. All the major IPTC fields are supported, and template documents be saved out and loaded in subsequent editing sessions. Batch IPTC captioning isn't really possible, though a kludge is to move through a group of pictures and stamp them with IPTC captions one at a time. Canon's .ipk template documents do not appear interchangeable with Kodak's .ipt templates, at least not in the Mac beta version tested (Zoom)

Thumbnails displays the image's format, Digital Exposure Compensation value , and either the file name or date of capture. If applicable, icons will appearing indicating the picture has been Checkmarked, Protected or has a sound associated with it. Click Zoom to see the three thumbnail sizes (Zoom)

Note: The file name for shipping cameras will not start with "IMG_". Instead, look for a four letter combo that's unique to that camera


Preferences - General Settings (Zoom)

Preferences - RAW Image Processing Settings. In-camera sharpening settings may be overridden here, but not on a per image basis as with other corrections, only globally (Zoom)

Preview mode displays images in three sizes. Navigation controls move through selected images; once an image has been previewed in the preview session, it's cached in memory and redisplays quickly. Regardless of the preview size chosen, a full-res preview is processed, which takes about the same time as acquiring or saving out the image. All corrections, including various WB options and Digital Exposure Compensation, may be applied to either the preview or thumbnail (Zoom)

Images may be transferred into the host application, which on the Mac means Photoshop. In the beta, when a JPEG is selected, a new, untitled copy of it is opened into Photoshop, which prevents accidentally saving over the original JPEG. When a RAW file is selected, it's converted based on a combination of the settings stored in the file, and those that may have been overridden during the editing session. A new, untitled image opens into Photoshop, leaving the RAW image untouched (Zoom)

Observations

  • The list of browsing, editing and processing functions in Canon's v4.0 plug-in/TWAIN driver is shorter than, for example, Nikon Capture 2.01. The functions available, how they're accessed, the speed of operation, they all comes down clearly on the side of Canon's software, however. Working through of a series of RAW photos, optimizing their colour and brightness, then processing them into Photoshop is light years faster than Capture. Like the Kodak software its based on, this is software designed to browse and prep multiple images fast, then move them into Photoshop for the rest of the job.

  • Processing EOS-1D photos through the beta Mac software is also considerably faster than processing the D30's files through Canon's current software offerings on either Mac or PC. Speed on a Mac G4/867 is sprightly, from thumbnail display through to RAW file conversion. Running the Windows beta on a P4 1.5ghz processor PC reveals all operations to be that much faster again.

  • Digital Exposure Compensation works! This function takes advantage of the fact that RAW files can have about the same latitude as garden variety colour negative film. This appears to be true of the EOS-1D's RAW files. As such, the Digital Exposure Compensation function optimizes the conversion from RAW to finished image to account for exposure error. Its +/- 2 stop range is probably ISO dependent to an extent, as it is with Kodak RAW files. I'm optimistic this function will work as advertised, saving photographers from bad exposures, at least when shooting RAW photos.

  • All of the camera's WB controls are duplicated in software. This means that when shooting the RAW format, it should be possible to completely undo a serious WB error after the fact. It doesn't appear possible to see at a glance which Color Matrix was chosen, though all other settings can be gleaned from the shooting information. The Color Matrix setting can still be overridden, however.

There's lots to like about Canon's new software. But there's room for improvement as well:

  • Files can't be renamed except when saving them out to another location. And in the Mac beta, even if it were possible, the process of acquiring either JPEG or RAW images dumps the file name in place of Untitled-1, Untitled-2, etc.

  • Batch IPTC captioning isn't possible.

  • RAW or JPEG images whose thumbnails have been rotated will be acquired into Photoshop or other host application already rotated. That sounds good, except that it takes forever. This could be nothing more than a beta anomaly, and I hope it is. But the rotate function in the v3.x Canon plug-in is also dog-slow, so some dodgy rotate code may be gumming up v4.0 too.

  • The software can recognize the Protect status of images, but it offers no method for selecting based on whether images are protected or not. Photo Mechanic Lite and Pro for Mac includes a workaround that applies with Nikon D1-series cameras. It recognizes images as having been protected by their read-only status and recognizes that as an equivalent of a tag in its own software. This could be accomplished in Canon's software by marking read-only images with its Checkmark. Oh, except that the Checkmark doesn't stick to the image through editing sessions, at least not in the beta copy here.

  • As mentioned previously, adjustment of camera exposure and other shooting settings isn't possible, either with this software or Remote Capture.

So sure, it needs work. But as it happens, with Kodak's DCS Photo Desk still in a transition phase, and Nikon's Capture software geared towards a different kind of photographer, Canon's v4.0 plug-in/TWAIN driver jumps to the head of the class for news and sports shooters.

Canon's Chuck Westfall notes that Canon Digital Camera Plug-in/TWAIN 4.0 will be made available free on the Web so that EOS-1D and D30 shooters can snap it up as soon as it's ready (it will ship in the box with the EOS-1D from the outset as well). No release date has been set, though Westfall suggests it will be prior to the shipping of final production EOS-1D cameras.

Compatibility with Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows XP is planned.

Canon Remote Capture 2.1


Canon Remote Capture

Remote Capture is a simple Mac/Windows application for triggering the camera over a FireWire connection and copying photos taken under its command, or when the camera is triggered by a remote release. Features include:

  • An intervalometer. It may be set to shoot up to 9999 images, with an interval between 5 and 3600 seconds, in 1 second increments.

  • Timer delay. The software will trigger the camera to fire after 2 to 30 seconds, in 1 second increments.

  • Histogram

  • As photos are being taken, Remote Capture will copy those photos from the camera over FireWire on to either the computer's hard drive or a server accessible from that computer over a wired or wireless Ethernet connection. It will optionally save them to the CompactFlash card in the EOS-1D simultaneously. Copy speed should be several times faster than the D30, which relies on slower USB as the conduit.

The D30 never really panned out as a remote camera for sports photographers, primarily because it wasn't designed to process and write photos when kept awake by a pre-trigger cable. The EOS-1D should not have the same limitation, and as such it's likely that Remote Capture will be driving EOS-1D's up in the rafters at major sporting events, transferring photos back to the photographer via Wireless Ethernet.

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