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Canon EOS-1D Mark II N adds larger LCD screen, numerous refinements  
Monday, August 22, 2005 | by Rob Galbraith

The second of Canon's two digital SLR announcements today is the EOS-1D Mark II N, a new version of the venerable EOS-1D Mark II.

In the redesign, Canon appears to have kept all of what's good about their 8.5 fps news and sports digital SLR while adding a larger rear LCD and buffing up some of the EOS-1D Mark II's few rough edges. Though we've not yet seen the new model in person, we're optimistic that the changes are going to add up to a noticeably better camera for Canon shooters on the move.

The EOS-1D Mark II N - A Refined EOS-1D Mark II

The new camera is best described as a refined EOS-1D Mark II. The "N" version of this model, which replaces the original EOS-1D Mark II that has been shipping since the summer of 2004, is comprised of the same 8.19 million image pixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC II image processing circuitry, same 45-point AF, same 21-zone metering, same NP-E3 NiMH battery system, same viewfinder (though the viewfinder information has changed slightly), the same control layout and the same compatibility with Data Verification Kit DVK-E2 and the WFT-E1/E1A transmitter.

And it's all stuffed inside a magnesium alloy body and stainless steel chassis that's the same weight and nearly identical in appearance to the camera it replaces, though there are some obvious exterior differences: on the front, the lower name badge now says "Mark II N" instead of "Mark II DIGITAL". And on the back, the lower LCD data panel has been reshaped to make room for the more-capacious 2.5 inch (diagonal) rear LCD monitor (up from 2.0 inches in the EOS-1D Mark II).

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Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II N (Photo courtesy Canon)

In other words, shooting with the camera is largely unchanged, as are the photos it creates. And that, for the most part, is just fine, since the EOS-1D Mark II has been our favourite fast action SLR since it first arrived here last year. The bulk of the differences between original and N flavours, then, will be noticed when configuring the camera or reviewing photos on its rear display.

Enter the EOS-1D Mark II N

This section highlights some of the key changes in the EOS-1D Mark II N.

Revamped image review An all-new, 2.5 inch (diagonal), 230,000-pixel TFT rear LCD monitor, which is the same component that graces the back of the EOS 5D, represents perhaps the most obvious change in the EOS-1D Mark II N. A larger screen should, theoretically, improve the overall photo review experience, since more screen area is generally a good thing (though it should be noted that the larger rear LCD has the same total number of pixels, at 230,000 as the 2.0 inch display of the EOS-1D Mark II).

That said, Canon's superb tuning of the smaller rear LCD's in the EOS-1D Mark II, EOS-1Ds Mark II and EOS 20D has meant for us that judging exposure off the back of these cameras, even without peeking at the histogram, has been relatively easy, as long as we look at the screen straight on. By comparison, the 2.5 inch rear LCD in Nikon's D2X almost always renders the picture lighter than it actually is, even with the brightness turned down.

Because we like the rear LCD in Canon's current cameras a lot, and because we aren't as enamored of the larger screen in the D2X, we hope that Canon has been able to adjust the EOS-1D Mark II N's rear LCD so that it retains the excellent (for a rear LCD) brightness and contrast characteristics of Canon's 2004-vintage digital SLRs while simultaneously taking advantage of the greater screen real estate.

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Canon EOS-1D Mark II (left); EOS-1D Mark II N (Photos courtesy Canon)

Canon has implemented other changes that impact the review of photos, including:

  • The viewing angle of the new rear LCD is spec'd at 170 degrees in both the horizontal and vertical dimension. This should translate into not having to position one's head as precisely when viewing the rear display to see a photo at proper brightness.

  • With the new menu option [Enlarge from selected AF point] chosen, image magnification will automatically be centred around the active AF point at the time the picture was taken, instead of the centre of the photo. This should be a time-saver for those who routinely have AF set to something other than the centre point.

  • The clarity of the magnified image is promised to be better; in current cameras, it can be dificult to judge the point of focus in group shots because of image fuzziness when approaching maximum magnification. Chuck Westfall, Director of Media and Customer Relationship at Canon USA, indicates that a newly-developed downsampling algorithm in the camera, one that's optimized for the size and resolution of the 2.5 inch display, is primarily responsible for the improvement. The dimensions of the preview JPEG inside RAW CR2 files are expected to be the same as existing Canon digital SLRs at about 1500 pixels wide.

  • With Quick Review enabled so that the rear LCD automatically displays a photo after its taken, it's possible to magnify and scroll about the photo. Quick Review always displays the first picture in a burst, and that's the only one that can be magnified while pictures are still being written out. Unfortunately, it's still not possible in a 1-series digital SLR to to scroll back and forth between photos, select a photo and magnify it while other photos are being transferred to the CF or SD card. This feature has been a mainstay of Nikon cameras since 2001, and made its first appearance in the 20D in Canon's lineup, so it's downright odd that the EOS-1D Mark II N didn't gain this important capability. (Note that when we first published this story in the wee hours of August 22, 2005 we wrote that the new camera did in fact have this feature. Canon USA's Westfall has subsequently checked a preproduction EOS-1D Mark II N and determined that this is not the case). 

  • The behaviour of the EOS-1D Mark II N when resuming the review of pictures - when no new pictures have been taken - has been altered slightly from its predecessor. When resuming playback, the EOS-1D Mark II will show the last picture displayed (i.e. frame 34/100) when the Display button was used to turn off the rear LCD. When the shutter or AE Lock buttons were pressed to turn off the rear LCD instead, the last picture shot (i.e. 100/100) would be shown when the display was next turned on. The change in the EOS-1D Mark II N is to have the last picture displayed be the one shown, regardless of whether it was the Display, shutter or AE Lock button that switched the rear LCD off. When new pictures are taken, however, the EOS-1D Mark II N works like the camera that came before it: the last picture shot (i.e. 102/102) is the one shown when the rear LCD is next lit up.

  • The INFO Display now includes the file size and whether the picture is black and white (a new option on the EOS-1D Mark II N) or colour (called monochrome and RGB in the camera).

  • The 2.5 inch rear LCD looks like its crowding the Quick Control Dial (QCD) a bit, and perhaps in a way that will make full-circle trips around the QCD somewhat less smooth owing to the potential bonking of one's thumb against the side of the LCD housing.

New Picture Style menu Gone are the EOS-1D Mark II's Color Matrix and Parameters menus in favour of a new menu called Picture Style. Picture Style brings the controls for Sharpness, Contrast, Color Saturation and Color Tone into one place. Each of one of these parameters can be adjusted in 8 or 9 increments (up from 5 or 6 in the EOS-1D Mark II), with both finer control (owing to the greater number of increments) and a wider range of adjustment than similar controls in the EOS-1D Mark II.

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Shooting menu in the EOS-1D Mark II (Screenshot courtesy Canon)
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Shooting menu in the EOS-1D Mark II N (Screenshot courtesy Canon)

Assuming identical settings for Contrast, Color Saturation and Color Tone in an EOS-1D Mark II and EOS-1D Mark II N, the JPEGs each camera produces, or RAW files run through Canon's software, should be effectively identical in colour and contrast, says Westfall. But it appears that Canon may have developed a range of presets that go beyond just providing a more-convenient way of adjusting image appearance. Based on the preliminary information we've received - and it is both preliminary, subject to change and tempered by the fact we've not explored this feature of the camera ourselves - it looks as if Canon may be offering a variety of truly different colour looks, each accessible from the Picture Style menu.

Westfall also indicates that, while Canon USA staff hasn't fully-examined the Sharpness function in the EOS-1D Mark II N yet, their preliminary opinion is that the sharpening algorithm is both different and better than that of the EOS-1D Mark II. Since we consider in-camera sharpening to be one of the EOS-1D Mark II's few image quality weak points, we have our fingers crossed that sharpening is in fact improved.

The Picture Style menu contains six preset combinations of Contrast, Color Saturation, Color Tone and Sharpness. The first three have a 9-increment scale made up of a middle [0] position and a +/-4 range of adjustment. The last, Sharpness, is an 8-increment scale, where [0] is on the far left and, when chosen, disables sharpening. There are 7 increments to the right of [0], each representing a higher level of sharpening.

Note: The Major Features page of the article Canon EOS 5D to ship in October for US$3299 has screenshots of the 5D's Picture Style menu, which is similar in appearance to that of the EOS-1D Mark II N.

The Picture Style menu presets are (descriptions in brackets are from Canon-supplied information):

  • Standard (Sharpness set to [3], Color Tone and Color Saturation adjusted for vivid overall colour; this preset is equivalent to the Parameter 1 option in the EOS Digital Rebel/300D, Rebel XT/350D and 20D)
  • Portrait (Sharpness set to [2], Color Tone and Color Saturation adjusted for natural skin tones)
  • Landscape (Sharpness set to [4], Color Tone and Color Saturation adjusted for vivid blues and greens)
  • Neutral (Sharpness set to [0], other settings equivalent to Standard or Color Matrix 1 in existing cameras)
  • Faithful (Sharpness set to [0], colour rendering equivalent to Digital Photo Professional's Faithful option and is meant to produce colorimetrically accurate colour under 5200K lighting)
  • Monochrome (for this preset only, the four controls are Sharpness, Contrast, Filter Effect and Toning Effect; this preset is similar to the monochrome Parameter Set in the 20D)

The Picture Style combos above are better-described as suggestions rather than presets, since all four controls within each can be adjusted freely on the EOS-1D Mark II N. Unlike the Color Matrix of 1-series digital SLRs, or the Parameter Sets of other Canon cameras, which are essentially variations on the same basic colour theme with a measure of adjustment over saturation, contrast and skin tone appearance, the five colour presets in the EOS-1D Mark II may each have a very different colour rendering scheme under the hood. We're not certain of this, because the information from Canon is incomplete right now. But there are some important clues that suggest this is the case, including the fact, says Westfall, that the five colour presets all render a scene differently, even though the default Color Saturation, Color Tone and Contrast settings for each are at [0]. In other words, [0] in Portrait doesn't equal [0] in Landscape, and so on.

There are also three additional settings, User Def. 1, 2, and 3, which also allow all four controls to be adjusted as desired within the same 8 or 9-increment range (from within the user-defined setup screen, the user must select one of the presets as a starting point for adjustment, presumably to pick an underlying colour rendering method). Configuration of all nine Picture Style entries can be done right in the camera, says Westfall.

The method for setting basic image processing controls in the EOS-1D Mark II, while hardly unworkable, was always too complicated, since it put some settings inside the Color Matrix menu and others inside the Parameters menu, with two separate controls affecting contrast to boot. Canon's move to gather these controls in the Picture Style menu - which carries over to the EOS 5D also - should simplify matters, while possibly expanding the range of colour options too.

Other image processing changes include:

  • The colour space options for in-camera JPEGs are still sRGB and Adobe RGB, but this is now set in its own menu item. Like the 20D, among other Canon cameras, the choice of output colour space is now entirely independent of the colour and tone processing settings.

  • Sharpening has been switched off by default at the factory in all 1-series digital SLRs to date. In the EOS-1D Mark II N, sharpening will be on by default, since the configuration of the default Standard Picture Style menu option includes some sharpening (though sharpening can still be turned completely off if desired).

  • Gone from the EOS-1D Mark II N is the ability to load in a custom tone curve. This feature of all previous 1-series digital SLRs has long been hampered by the relative difficulty of creating a useful tone curve in Canon software, owing to the design of the tone curve creation tool. Combine that with a contrast control in the EOS-1D Mark II N that has 9 different settings - which should be more than enough to choose from for most photographers - and we suspect that few users wil lament the passing of the custom tone curve option (though there will undoubtedly be some that are impacted by this change).

  • Applying a blue/amber and/or green/magenta bias via the White Balance Correction feature in the EOS-1D Mark II N is done in a manner identical to the camera it replaces. The White Balance Correction grid that appears in the menus of the EOS 20D and now EOS 5D has not replaced the WB+AF register button method of setting correction values. That method carries through unchanged from the EOS-1D Mark II.

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Canon EOS-1D Mark II N - top view (Photo courtesy Canon)

 

ISO can be set in the viewfinder The first time we shot a concert in available light with a digital camera we appreciated how necessary it is to be able to change ISO quickly as light levels shift from bright to non-existent. The EOS-1D Mark II requires that you pull your eye away from the viewfinder to change the ISO; in the EOS-1D Mark II N, when doing the double-button press to change the ISO, the ISO displays in the information beneath the viewfinder and updates as the Main Dial is turned. This should make the changing of ISO on the fly a much-quicker operation. ISO bracketing can also be set while looking through the viewfinder.

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Setup menu 1 showing new File Name Setting option (Screenshot courtesy Canon)

Customizable file names The first four characters of the file name can now be set by the user, using an interface in the camera. If the Color Space menu in the EOS-1D Mark II N is set to Adobe RGB, however, the first character of the file name is always an underscore. Which, for us, means that characters 2-4 of the file name will be the only ones that are really customizable. And that's just enough for a photographer's three initials. Both this change and the display of file size in the INFO Display will be particularly useful to regular users of Canon's WFT-E1/E1A transmitter.

The first four characters of the file name can now be set by the user, using an interface in the camera. If the Color Space menu in the EOS-1D Mark II N is set to Adobe RGB, however, the first character of the file name is always an underscore. Which, for us, means that characters 2-4 of the file name will be the only ones that are really customizable. And that's just enough for a photographer's three initials. Both this change and the display of file size in the INFO Display will be particularly useful to regular users of Canon's WFT-E1/E1A transmitter.

The curse of 9999 is lifted A longstanding quirk of 1-series digital SLR cameras has been addressed. Now, when the camera reaches an image file number of 9999, it will automatically create a new folder and reset the count to 0001. If you've ever pulled an EOS-1D Mark II out of a remote setup, only to discover that the camera stopped shooting because it hit 9999 and was waiting for you to clear the on-screen new folder prompt that appears, you'll appreciate how important and welcome this change is.

Automatic long exposure noise reduction With the new Auto option selected in the Noise Reduction menu, the EOS-1D Mark II N will analyse the level of noise in exposures between 1 and 30 seconds and apply long exposure noise reduction only if it deems it would be beneficial to the picture (as of this writing we're not clear on what happens when Auto is chosen and the exposure time is greater than 30 seconds). The EOS-1D Mark II N, like the camera before it, doesn't force the photographer to wait an amount of time equal to the exposure time while it applies long exposure noise reduction. This is a sweet feature of 1-series Canon's and the 5D when shooting time exposures of events that unfold continuously, such as fireworks.

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Configuring the EOS-1D Mark II N to write RAW to one card and JPEG to the other (Screenshot courtesy Canon)

More flexible use of CompactFlash and SD The EOS-1D Mark II N retains its predecessor's ability to write the same photo to both a CompactFlash card and SD card simultaneously, or write to one card, then manually switch to writing to the other. The new model adds the ability to save RAW CR2's to one card and JPEGs to the other when the camera is set to RAW+JPEG (you choose which file format goes to which media).

Canon has also made it easier to switch the writing of images from one card to the other, by eliminating the need to first navigate to the folder selection screen. Now, pressing the memory card selection button on the back of the camera sends the user directly to the card selection menu.

It doesn't appear that Canon has implemented the option of automatic switching from one card to the other when the first card fills, however.

Optional secure erasing of SD The Secure Digital formatting menu in the EOS-1D Mark II N includes what's described by Canon as a low-level format option to wipe out all data on the card in a manner that eliminates the possibility of recovery. Though a Canon technical document doesn't explicitly mention how this is done by the camera, it's likely that a particular SD command is being issued that forces the card to reset all memory cells containing the file system and data to zero.

The CompactFlash formatting menu doesn't include a similar option.

New optional Ec-S focusing screen Canon has developed a new focusing screen that has a "steeper parabola of focus," says a Canon technical document. With f/2.8 and faster lenses, it's said to be easier to see the point where the focus snaps in during a manual focus operation. This screen is an optional accessory; the EOS-1D Mark II N is to ship with the same Ec-CIII screen that's in the EOS-1D Mark II.

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C.Fn-00 in the EOS-1D Mark II N showing the new metering compensation curve option for the Ec-S screen (Screenshot courtesy Canon)

The Ec-S screen has a small S engraved on the removal tab, to differentiate it at a glance from the standard Ec-CIII screen. And the EOS-1D Mark II N incorporates a new option in C.Fn-00 that, when selected, will apply the appropriate metering compensation curve when the Ec-S screen is installed.

Because earlier 1-series digital SLR cameras do not have the appropriate metering compensation curve in their firmware, the Ec-S screen is not compatible with anything other than the EOS-1D Mark II N, though it will physically fit into other 1-series models. Canon is evaluating whether to roll out a firmware update for any earlier cameras that would add the required metering compensation curve to C.Fn-00. (Westfall indicates that simply applying a certain amount of exposure compensation isn't sufficient to compensate for the different light transmission characteristics of the Ec-S screen.)

Increased burst depth Canon's specification for the number of Large (Quality: 8) JPEGs in a burst is now 48, up from 40; RAW is now 22, up from 20 (RAW+JPEG is 19). The burst specifications for the EOS-1D Mark II are, in practice, only the roughest of guidelines, since scene content and ISO (especially ISO) have a huge impact on the actual number of frames in a burst. For example, when photographing a detailed test scene with the EOS-1D Mark II, and the camera is set to Large (Quality: 8) JPEG, we've found the burst depth to be 45 frames at ISO 100, dropping to 17 frames by ISO 3200. If the burst depth increase in the EOS-1D Mark II N adds up to a little more shooting elbow room at the higher ISO settings, the change will be a welcome improvement.

Picture Style in Digital Photo Professional To be bundled with the EOS-1D Mark II N is Digital Photo Professional (DPP) 2.0 for Windows and Mac. There are only a handful of new features in Canon's flagship RAW viewing and processing software, beyond support for the two new cameras - the EOS-1D Mark II N and EOS 5D - and one old one - the EOS D30.

One important new feature worth noting, however, is the addition of the full range of Picture Style adjustments to a redesigned RAW image adjustment palette. DPP's 2.0's Picture Style controls can applied to RAW files from all Canon digital SLR cameras back to the D30 (the screenshot below shows the Picture Style presets menu and other Picture Style parameters in a beta version of DPP 2.0).

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The main window in Digital Photo Professional 2.0

Other changes include:

  • Sharpening can be previewed in DPP for the first time. The RAW image adjustment palette now has a 0-10 sharpening scale, with the effect applied in near-real time in the preview window. The RGB image adjustment palette also includes a sharpening function now, with a 0-500 scale (presumably to emulate Amount in Photoshop's Unsharp Mask).

  • A new Quick Check Tool enables photos to be previewed faster by rendering them at 50% resolution.

  • The 1,2,3 Checkmark function allows ranking of photos.

  • New folders can be created in the folder navigator at left in the main window.

  • The Stamp Tool now has a mode somewhat similar to Photoshop's Healing Brush: brush in the area containing the dust or other defect and DPP attempts to blend the surrounding area into the trouble spot. There are two different modes, one for cloning away detritus that is lighter than the surrounding area, and another for dealing with unwelcome guck that is darker than the surrounding area.

  • The Transfer to Photoshop command is back, or rather it's once again available outside the Batch dialog (in addition to Batch). In DPP 2.0, it's lurking under the Tools menu.

  • The list of working colour spaces has grown to five, and now includes Apple RGB and ColorMatch RGB in addition to sRGB, Adobe RGB and Wide Gamut RGB.

  • The option to choose between Relative Colorimetric and Perceptual rendering intents has been added to the CMYK simulation profile preferences.

DPP 2.0 will be released on a Canon web site as a free update for existing DPP users. A date for its web release has not been set, says Westfall. Rounding out the camera's software bundle is ZoomBrowser EX 5.5 (Windows)/ImageBrowser 5.5 (Mac), EOS Capture 1.5, PhotoStitch 3.1 and a set of PTP, WIA and TWAIN drivers (Windows).

And more... Other EOS-1D Mark II N refinements include:

  • A drop in the camera startup time from a hardly noticeable 0.3 seconds to a nearly imperceptible 0.2 seconds.

  • The ability to make certain adjustments in the on-screen menus while the camera is writing pictures to the card (by comparison, the EOS-1D Mark II simply displays a busy message when the Menu button is pressed while the camera is writing).

  • A [9/Center AF] option in C.Fn-13 [Number AF points/Spot metering] has been added. In the EOS-1D Mark II, if you want the number of AF points choosable to be less than 45, but you also want spot metering to take place in the centre of the viewfinder regardless of the AF point selected, then 11 is the number of AF points you get. The new option in the EOS-1D Mark II N allows for the selection of 9 AF points to be combined with spot metering at the centre of the viewfinder.

  • P.Fn-19 has been revamped to give greater flexibility in choosing frame rates for the camera's [H] and [L] settings. The EOS-1D Mark II limits [L] to 1-3 fps and [H] to 4-8.5 fps. In the EOS-1D Mark II N, [L] ranges from 1-7 fps and [H] ranges from 2-8.5 fps. For sports shooters trying to tailor their frame rate for a given sport, this allows the option in-camera of choosing, for example, 8.5 fps, 7 fps or 6 fps. This is more useful than the EOS-1D Mark II, which forces one of those settings to be 3 fps or less. Canon cameras should really have a menu item for choosing any frame rate from 1-8.5 fps in 1 fps increments, in place of this Personal Function; until that day arrives, this tweak of P.Fn-19 is a step in the right direction.

  • PictBridge direct printing options have been expanded to include contact sheet printing, complete with file names, a 35mm film strip graphic along each of the 5 rows of 7 thumbnails and a 24mm x 36mm size for those thumbnails. The goal being to approximate the look of a traditional 35mm film contact sheet. There are two other new layouts - one with 20 thumbnails and up to 11 fields of EXIF data per thumbnail, and another that is comprised of a single image and EXIF data. There is also a Face Brightener option, plus new 4 x 8 inch, 8 x 10 inch and 10 x 12 inch print sizes. All of these new features come to life only when the camera is connected to one of the PIXMA-series printers that have also been announced today.

  • The EOS-1D Mark II N is to ship with a black plastic locking cap meant to keep a cable inserted in the FireWire port from slipping out accidentally. The cap will attach to the EOS-1D Mark II and EOS-1Ds Mark II also, and it may become an accessory available for purchase by existing camera owners.

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Canon EOS-1D Mark II N (Photo courtesy Canon)

Conclusion

At a glance, the changes in the EOS-1D Mark II N, relative to the camera it replaces, should make what was already a really fine camera that much better. Canon deserves credit for implementing so many refinements to an existing product, some of which will make the camera a better tool for the photographer but which may not automatically help Canon sell more units. In other words, this upgrade to the EOS-1D Mark II seems to be more about adding truly useful features and refinements than it is about adding stuff that can be marketed easily. If the changes are all implemented well, we hope that Canon is rewarded for their efforts with reinvigorated sales of a product that - given Canon's rapid digital SLR development schedule in recent times - might otherwise have been headed for retirement soon.

There's no hiding our affection for the EOS-1D Mark II, and our optimism that the EOS-1D Mark II N is going to be a worthy replacement for it. But that doesn't mean Canon has done everything we hoped for. Limiting our comments mostly to what else we would have liked to see in a refined EOS-1D Mark II (as opposed to a new-from-the-ground-up pro digital SLR), these items top the list:

Playback without limitations while photos are being written This one is a real teeth-gnasher here. We really dig the EOS-1D Mark II for shooting sports, but have often bemoaned the fact we can't fully review and tag photos while play is stopped in sports like football and hockey nearly as efficiently as we can with any of a number of Nikon cameras dating back to the D1H and D1X. That's because it's necessary to wait until the EOS-1D Mark II writes all the pictures in a burst to the card before the scroll, magnify and tag mambo can begin. In fact, if we shoot a big burst and the interval between plays is short, there often isn't enough time to get the edit started before play recommences. And on deadline, this matters. If you shoot sports and like to do your initial edit in the camera, this is a critical change that should have been implemented in the EOS-1D Mark II N.

Configuration without tethering To load Personal White Balance settings, configure Personal Functions and enter an image comment, the camera must be tethered to a computer. It's time for all of this to be possible without the aid of a computer.

One-handed image review We'd like the Quick Control Dial to take us backward and forward through pictures on the card without having to hold down the Select button. This would free up one hand to shield the screen in bright light (we have a silly-looking but effective telescoping tube that we use with other cameras for this) and make the tagging process somewhat quicker.

Always-on Evaluative flash metering E-TTL II, first introduced in the EOS-1D Mark II and since carried forward to other Canon cameras, brought truly usable TTL flash to Canon's lineup. We like the Evaluative mode of E-TTL II so much in fact that we'd like for every Speedlite flash picture we take to use Evaluative in determining the flash exposure. But this isn't possible when C.Fn-4-3 (or 4-1) is set, which turns the rear AE Lock [*] button into the AF start button. Though Evaluative E-TTL II is used when the flash fires while the rear [*] is pressed, as soon as the [*] button is released to "lock" the focus on a stationary object, the flash exposure calculation switches to the less-effective (in our experience) Average method.

In the EOS-1D Mark II, C.Fn-14-1 forces Average to always be the flash exposure calculation method, regardless of how AF is configured, but that camera lacks an option to make Evaluative always be used instead when the camera is set up for rear-button focusing. We would have liked this option to appear in the EOS-1D Mark II N, but that isn't the case. (Update, February 22, 2007: We've done some additional testing of this with several current Canon digital SLRs - including the EOS-1D Mark II N - against a preproduction unit of the EOS-1D Mark III. What we found was that the EOS-1D Mark II N and other E-TTL II cameras exhibit some inconsistency in flash exposure on the first frame of a sequence, when the camera is set to use Evaluative for flash exposure calculation, an inconsistency that isn't linked to whether the flash is fully-recycled. This we mistook for the camera not using Evaluative to calculate flash exposure when focus isn't active. The EOS-1D Mark III shows none of this inconsistency. We're happy now.)

On a related note, Canon continues to design its 1-series digital SLRs - including the EOS-1D Mark II N - so that when a Speedlite is attached and ready to fire, the ambient metering pattern switches to Evaluative. Even if another metering mode - such as Spot - has been selected by the photographer. By comparison, the EOS 5D, 20D and earlier mid-range digital SLR cameras stay put in the selected metering mode when a Canon strobe is powered up. We very rarely use anything other than Evaluative ambient metering, so this inconsistency across Canon's lineup doesn't have any practical impact here. But it does seem time for Canon to get this sorted out one way or the other across its line of cameras, and it seems sensible to standardize on not auto-changing the ambient metering mode just because a Speedlite is in the hot shoe.

Out with NiMH Ever since Nikon's D2H and its feather-light Lithium-Ion battery emerged in 2004, we've looked askance at the brute that is Canon's NiMH Pack NP-E3. Our thinking goes like this: if Nikon has been able to develop a high-frame-rate camera (well, 3 actually, including the D2Hs and D2X) and power it with Lithium-Ion, then Canon must be able to do the same. Lithium-Ion offers a much better weight-to-capacity ratio and does away with NiMH's semi-constant need to be conditioned for maximum capacity and service life. Keeping the NP-E3 form factor, or perhaps even sawing it in half - either of which would have allowed Canon to avoid a major redesign of the body - but retooling the battery's internals and the camera's power system around Lithium-Ion, would have meant lower overall camera weight, greater capacity or both. This would, for us, outweigh (pun intended) the potential hassle of requiring new batteries for the new camera. Death to NiMH! Well, except for our shoe-mount strobes and 1001 other electronic gizmos.

In with the EOS-1Ds Mark II N And in a somewhat-cheekier vein, we suspect that prospective purchasers of the existing EOS-1Ds Mark II are thinking that the "feature" the EOS-1D Mark II N needs most is a companion in the form of an "N" version of Canon's 16.61 million image pixel 1-series digital SLR. And while it stands to reason that Canon will ship an EOS-1Ds Mark II N at some point, the official word from Canon USA's Westfall is that no such product has been announced. Given that Canon will have its hands full in the next few months getting the EOS-1D Mark II N and EOS 5D out the door to dealers, it's probably safe to assume that if an EOS-1Ds Mark II N is coming - and there's no guarantee of this of course - it won't emerge before 2006.

Despite this list of EOS-1D Mark II-isms that remain unchanged in the EOS-1D Mark II N, we remain excited about the prospects for the new camera to improve the way Canon-based news and sports photographers in particular are able to work.

1dmkIIn_front_50.jpg
Canon EOS-1D Mark II N (Photo courtesy Canon)

Availability

The EOS-1D Mark II N is slated to ship in mid-September 2005 in the U.S. at a minimum advertised price (MAP) of US$3999 (which is the MAP of the EOS-1D Mark II now).

In Canada, availability is also planned for September 2005. Though the price hasn't yet been finalized, Canadians can expect to pay about the same for the EOS-1D Mark II N as the going rate for the EOS-1D Mark II, which is roughly CDN$5200-5400. Canadian CPS members should check with their favourite pro photo retailer a little closer to the release date for the CPS price.

Links

Thanks to Chuck Westfall, Neil Stephenson, Deb Szajngarten, Dan Havlik and Geoff Coalter for their assistance in the preparation of this article.

Revision History
 Added new information and corrected errors in the descriptions of image review and the Picture Style menu (August 22, 2005)
 Added several screenshots of the EOS-1D Mark II N's menus (August 23, 2005)
 Added additional detail about the Picture Style menu (August 23, 2005)
 Added additional information about Digital Photo Professional 2.0 (August 24, 2005)

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