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A first look at the Canon EOS-1D Mark III - Continued
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Yippee: Canon EOS-1D Mark III at ISO 200 (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Live View, Remote Live View
 
This is the arguably the most innovative feature in the EOS-1D Mark III. It's not the first digital camera to turn the rear LCD into an electronic viewfinder, as compact digital cameras work that way. And it's not the first digital SLR to do it either. But it's the first we've seen that does it with such aplomb.
 
Here are some observations:

The 3.0 inch (diagonal), 230,000-dot rear LCD is great. The big screen size is cool, but that's not the main reason why we like it. It's because Canon has calibrated the display so well. It's the most tonality-accurate rear display we've seen in a digital SLR, and colour is good too. This means Live View is off to a good start, right from the moment the LCD lights up.

The Live View image is smooth, devoid of jerkiness and nearly lag-free. The Live View image is generated from the image sensor itself, as opposed to a secondary low-resolution sensor, which makes the smoothness and responsiveness of the EOS-1D Mark III's Live View all the more impressive.

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Zoom In: Screenshots of the EOS-1D Mark III's Live View mode

Because the mirror is up when Live View is on, and the mirror has to be down for autofocus to work, the camera is strictly manual focus when this feature is active. This sounds more limiting than it actually is. Live View can be zoomed to 5X or 10X magnification, the zoomed area is selectable and the view at both zoom levels is sharpened.

So, with Live View at the 10X zoom level (or "x10," as Canon calls it), it's not difficult at all to see the point at which the subject snaps into focus. Alternatively, you can press the Set button to turn off Live View, autofocus the camera, then press the Set button to turn on Live View once again.
 
(By comparison, the full-screen and zoomed view when reviewing already-shot pictures is overly soft.)

If you connect to the camera with EOS Utility 2.0 and engage Remote Live View, it's almost as easy to see in the software's Live View window when focus is achieved, though the camera's rear LCD view has a slight edge. Included in the software window are controls for driving the focus, so you can manual focus the lens from EOS Utility rather than turn the focus ring on the lens, if you want. The controls allow for both large and small focus movements. Live View won't be suitable for any situation where continous focus changes are required. But its very good manual focus implementation should be more than sufficient for static setups. While we generally think Canon's software is underengineered, the implementation of Remote Live View in EOS Utility 2.0 is decent.
 
The screen movie below shows Remote Live View in action. It was recorded when the camera was connected wirelessly via a WFT-E2/E2A, but the camera control and remote viewing features are identical whether the link is USB 2.0, Wi-Fi or Ethernet. There is less Remote Live View lag, however, plus quicker camera control response, over USB 2.0, so please keep that in mind when watching the movie. To download a 1680 x 1050 pixel QuickTime version of this movie, click here.
 
No Wires: Remote Live View over a Wi-Fi connection. Click here to download a 1680 x 1050 pixel QuickTime version of this movie. (Screen movie by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

We've only done one test to see if leaving Live View on for extended periods causes the image to degrade. In that test, the only evidence we saw of a reduction in image quality was the introduction of a handful of hot pixels after 45 minutes of continuous use. Otherwise, the photo taken after 45 minutes looked the same as one taken just prior to activating Live View. But we need to test this more.

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C. FnIV-16: Live View Exposure Simulation
The brightness of the Live View image can be linked to the actual exposure settings, to simulate how the image will be captured under the existing, ambient light. Or it can be configured to ignore the exposure settings (C. FnIV-16-0), so that, for example, when using studio strobes and the shutter speed, aperture and ISO are set accordingly, Live View will auto-adjust itself to the brightness of the modeling lights instead.

Live View will work even when there's a Canon Speedlite connected. The on-screen histogram dims to indicate that it's not representative of the flash photo about to be taken. Pressing the shutter button kicks off a mechanical clatter as the shutter closes and the mirror drops so that the Speedlite can do its preflash and determine exposure, then the mirror rises again and the shutter opens for the actual picture.

And more...
 
Lighten up The switch to the smaller LP-E4 Lithium-Ion battery pack, from the NiMH NP-E3 of all other 1-series digital SLRs, is almost entirely responsible for the 8oz weight reduction in the EOS-1D Mark III. It's a difference you can feel, even with a lens like the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS attached. This is a noticeably lighter camera.
 
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Rear LCD: Battery Information
Power up The EOS-1D Mark III's 11.1V, 2300 mAh LP-E4 Lithium Ion pack is the spitting image of Nikon's 11.1V, 2500mAh EN-EL4a, which is used in its D2-series cameras. Despite the similarity in appearance, they aren't compatible.
 
The EOS-1D Mark III's battery information screen is also a close cousin to that of the D2Xs and other Nikons that share its body style.
 
The other similarity they share is ultralong battery life, With Live View mostly off, we've pushed through 3000+ frames with the EOS-1D Mark III between charges, no problem. Heavy Live View shooting, however, drops this to a few hundred frames at most.
 
The EOS-1D Mark III is supplied with the two-slot Battery Charger LC-E4. It will charge two batteries sequentially, not simultaneously, and includes a function for checking whether the battery needs to be calibrated. It can also perform the calibration. To connect the camera to AC power, the LP-E4 must be replaced with a dummy battery, otherwise known as DC Coupler DR-E4, whose non-removable cable attaches to AC Adapter AC-E4.
 
Image Review As mentioned, the rear LCD in the EOS-1D Mark III is well calibrated, the viewing angle is wide and we've quickly come to trust what it's showing, even without checking the histogram. The EOS-1D Mark III will blink the highlight areas that are blown out in full screen view, not just on the secondary Info screen. which is a nice change from earlier Canons. Pressing the Info button walks you through four different screens: full screen, full screen + frame count, info + histogram and RGB + brightness histograms.
 
Scrolling quickly back and forth through images doesn't produce the busy banner in the centre of the screen, like other 1-series Canons. Zooming and scrolling is easier, thanks to the new control layout on the back of the camera, though scrolling around a zoomed image is slightly pokey. EOS-1D Mark III RAW CR2s contain a 1936 x 1288 pixel JPEG that's used for display on the rear LCD, and to quickly review CR2s in software that knows where to look for this JPEG. The full-screen view of either JPEG or RAW files is somewhat soft, softer than the EOS-1D Mark II N's full-screen view.
 
Set ISO in a hurry The EOS-1D Mark III offers three ways to set the ISO without taking the camera from your eye. If you shoot theatre, dance or something else with constant and drastic shifts in illumination, all three will be welcome, but for the quickest possible ISO changes, look no further than C. FnIV-3-2. With this Custom Function set, turning the Quick Control Dial alone, without first pressing a button, changes the ISO (which is visible in the viewfinder). The EOS-1D Mark III also has a dedicated ISO button by the top LCD, and it can also be configured so that pressing the Set button then enables the ISO to be changed with another dial (this last method only works when Live View mode is disabled, since the Set button is otherwise used to activate Live View).
 
Media management The EOS-1D Mark III has about all the options one could imagine for storing pictures on memory cards, and it does so faster than any previous Canon digital SLR too. CompactFlash write speed is approaching 11MB/second with the fastest cards in our testing, and well over 14MB/second with SD. The camera doesn't support UDMA, so it doesn't take full advantage of the speed possible from cards like SanDisk's Extreme IV and Lexar's 300X. Nevertheless, it is the fastest writing Canon (or Nikon) digital SLR we've tested.
 
Reading from a fast card to the computer over a USB cable is more of a mixed bag. As mentioned earlier, Remote Live View over USB is peppy and responsive, but transferring batches of pictures through the same cable, using EOS Utility, can be slow, at least in our Mac-only speed testing so far. For example, Apple's Image Capture application can transfer a folder of 50 CR2s in the EOS-1D Mark III at 10.8MB/second to a 17-inch MacBook Pro, but this drops to 2.6MB/second to do the same transfer with EOS Utility (with all fancy stuff switched off in the program that might slow things down). Similarly, it takes more than twice as long for the EOS-1D Mark III to transfer a CR2 direct to Digital Photo Professional's Edit Image window than it does for the EOS-1D Mark II N to do the same thing, despite the fact that the older camera is slower in batch transfers with either Image Capture or EOS Utility. So, writing to a memory card in the camera is snappy, but reading from the camera to the computer over USB is either not finished or just doesn't work very well in some instances.
 
Back on the topic of writing in the camera: the EOS-1D Mark III will mirror pictures across CompactFlash and SD, switch from one to the other when full, write different formats on each and can even copy files from one to the other after the fact. With a WFT-E2/E2A connected and a USB drive hooked up to that, the camera will treat the USB drive as another memory card with the same range of write options. For fun, we tried configuring the camera to put a different file format on CompactFlash, SD and a linked USB drive while simultaneously transmitting over a Wi-Fi link. The camera managed this multitasking mission without any problem, even as we continued to shoot. Very, very cool.
 
Here's a look at some of the media management and file format selection menus, as they appear when both CompactFlash and SD cards are inserted and a USB drive is connected:

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Record Time: Selecting destination and file format options in the EOS-1D Mark III

When the EOS-1D Mark II N's card slot door is opened while the camera is still writing pictures, writing will pause until the door is closed again. The EOS-1D Mark III, by comparison, will continue writing while it displays a warning message on the rear LCD that includes a countdown of the number of frames left to write.
 
Flash sync speed Canon improved slightly the standard flash sync speed, from 1/250 to 1/300. If you're using a Canon Speedlite set to High Speed Sync, this means that this mode won't kick in until the EOS-1D Mark III is operating at shutter speeds briefer than 1/300. It also translates into a slight bump in the maximum flash sync speed with other strobes, from 1/320 for the EOS-1D Mark II N to 1/400 for the EOS-1D Mark III in our testing with Elinchrom Style 600 S and AlienBees B400 strobes, though there are some caveats.
 
At 1/400, when either flash is connected by sync cable to the camera's PC socket, EOS-1D Mark II N photos show a thin black band at the base of the frame that's not present in the EOS-1D Mark III frame. When PocketWizards are used instead, and the receiver is a MultiMAX set to Fast Mode, the EOS-1D Mark III frame shows an ultrathin shadow at the base of the frame, a shadow that grows into a thin band when the MultiMAX receiver's Fast Mode is turned off.

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Hold Still: An example of strobe blur with the Canon EOS-1D Mark III. Click the thumbnail above to view a full-resolution crop (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

All of this translates into 1/400 being a usable flash synchronization speed, sometimes, with the EOS-1D Mark III. To better overcome ambient or to help in the battle against strobe blur when using studio strobes to shoot sports action, we welcome the small jump in flash sync speed. But we wish Canon had added one more thing to the long list of improvements engineered into the new model: the ability to sync at shutter speeds well above the standard sync speed with non-dedicated flash units.
 
The discontinued EOS-1D can do this (along with several discontinued Nikons), and it means that the image blurring "tail" of light that follows the peak flash burst from studio-type strobes can be effectively clipped off, simply by choosing a shutter speed shorter than about 1/500 on the camera. It makes for a dramatic improvement in the action-stopping ability of strobes, even those with a reasonably short flash duration already. Here's hoping that this feature will return in the EOS-1D Mark IV.
 
Click the thumbnail at right to see a full-resolution crop of a photo that shows the amount of strobe blur possible with the EOS-1D Mark III and our kit of Elinchrom Style 600 S flash units, which are spec'd for 1/2050 (t.0.5) flash duration. This photo isn't a ringer, we have frames that show more strobe blur, and ones that show less. The original CR2 has been processed in Digital Photo Professional and sharpened in Photoshop CS3, to pull out as much detail from the file as possible.
 
Our Elinchroms have been consistent and reliable. And at 600ws we can shoot at 6-8 stops over ambient with them, which eliminates ambient ghosting from the equation. But by the start of the next season of indoor sports, we MUST have new lights with faster flash duration in place. The arrival of the EOS-1D Mark III means that Canon isn't going to be solving this problem for us in the camera anytime soon, and there's nothing in Nikon's lineup that fits the bill either.
 
But we already know from testing some short-duration lights that changing the strobes will help alleviate the problem somewhat, not eliminate it.
 
(This seems like a good time to mention we're accepting Profoto Pro 7 donations, contact us for shipping details.)
 
Except for the boost in standard flash sync speed, operation of the EOS-1D Mark III with Speedlites is largely the same. A new 63-segment metering sensor handles flash (and ambient) exposure measurements now and the new 580EX II includes a weather-sealed metal foot, PC sync socket and on-flash exposure sensor, but actually using this or other Canon shoemount flashes seems mostly unchanged, plus the option to force Evaluative or Average E-TTL II metering carries over from earlier Canons. In addition, the EOS-1D Mark III, like previous 1-series digital SLRs, still shifts the ambient metering pattern back to Evaluative while a Speedlite is attached, even if the camera is set to a different ambient metering pattern.
 
The camera has the ability to configure a Speedlite's Custom Functions, via the External Speedlite Control menu, but it may work only with the 580EX II. It doesn't recognize as controllable either a 580EX or 430EX in the hot shoe (though both flashes can be used to take flash pictures with the new camera).
 
Custom White Balance The new Custom White Balance options in the EOS-1D Mark III, which closely match the Preset options of Nikon's D2-series cameras, are great. Up to five Custom White Balance settings can be created and stored in the camera, and up to five Personal White Balance settings can be created in Canon software and transfered to the camera, for a total of ten customized white balance slots in the EOS-1D Mark III.

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Getting Personal: Setting and later selecting a Custom White Balance in the EOS-1D Mark III

Each Custom White Balance has a small picture associated with it, so you can see where your grey card was when you made the setting, and each can have a short caption too (the caption is entered through an on-screen interface). A Custom White Balance can be set from a photo on your memory card or, by choosing [Record and register image], you can shoot and store a new white balance as one step.
 
Personal White Balances can be set and loaded into the camera from EOS Utility, up to five in all. With a mix of both Personal White Balance and Custom White Balance slots, it becomes convenient to:
  • Load the Personal White Balance slots with customized white balances for light that won't change often. Ssince these can't be overwritten unless the camera is connected to the computer, they're better suited to lighting situations that are pretty stable, like a pro sports arena where the light may not shift much or at all over a period of months, a tabletop product setup whose lighting is fixed in place or your Speedlite with a certain gel pack.
  • Load the Custom White Balance slots with ones that may need to be changed more frequently, since it's easy to change these from assignment to assignment.
Buttons and dials The camera's control layout is almost entirely new and a huge improvement over existing 1-series digital SLRs. Here are a few thoughts about that:
 
With C. FnII-9-1 set, pressing the Info button (when not reviewing pictures) will display on the rear LCD various shooting-related settings. The display isn't static; settings adjustments such as changing the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure mode, drive mode and metering pattern can all be made while looking at the Info display rather than the top display or viewfinder. Pressing the AF pattern button switches the rear LCD to show the AF ellipse, which is also active and enables the selection of an AF point or pattern while looking at it, rather than through the viewfinder. This is one of our favourite usability changes in the EOS-1D Mark III.

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Information Please: Pressing the Info button while not reviewing pictures turns the rear LCD into a hub for shooting-related settings

The rightmost of the three buttons at base of the rear information display gives direct access to the Picture Style menu. As we mentioned earlier in the story, the colour quality of Neutral Picture Style is very good, after that things go downhill quickly. As a result, we rarely access Picture Styles to do anything other than to make minor tweaks to Neutral. Given that, we wish the Picture Style button were either a dedicated White Balance button or, better yet, a programmable button. Or, even better yet, we wish Canon had reworked the colour for Picture Styles other than Neutral, so that we'd have more reason to choose them.
 
With C. FnIV-8-1 set, the middle of the three buttons, FUNC, provides an instant path to the White Balance, file format/resolution and memory card management menus on the rear LCD. With C. FnIV-8-0 set, FUNC instead is a shortcut to setting white balance and file format/resolution via small icons on the lower rear information display. We quickly discovered its faster and easier on the eyes to use the rear LCD menus for these things. When Live View is active, the camera is clever enough to override C. FnIV-8 so that white balance and file format/resolution can be changed on the lower rear information display always while the rear LCD is otherwise occupied.

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Six Pack: My Menu

My Menu, a new feature in the EOS-1D Mark III, is a handy gathering point for up to six frequently-accessed menu items, and the camera can be configured so that My Menu always appears when the Menu button is pressed.
 
This is a great way to provide fast access to settings you need to get to often, especially on a camera like the EOS-1D Mark III that has so many options. Combine this with the multicontroller, which speeds access to the top level of the camera's eight (yes, eight!) other menus, and you have a camera whose menu interface is much better than existing 1-series digital SLRs, and one we like more than any other camera we've used too.
 
Our coverage of the camera itself is nearing an end, so we'll shoehorn in a mention of two other changes in the EOS-1D Mark III. First, the Date/Time menu in the camera now enables the time to be set down to the second, for more precise synchronization with other camera bodies without having to connect the camera to the computer. Second, the viewfinder eyecup stays firmly locked in place, which may make the EOS-1D Mark III the first 1-series Canon ever to not require gaffer tape to keep the eyecup from disappearing. And when the eyecup is on, the diopter wheel is now deeply recessed, which makes it nearly impossible to accidentally move the diopter setting. This eliminates the other need for gaffer tape.
 
Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E2/E2A
 
This pint-sized powerhouse, this transmitting titan, this wireless wonder is nearly as big a deal as the EOS-1D Mark III itself. We were able to borrow a beta unit for a few days, which was long enough to figure out that it is as versatile as its specifications suggest and a big improvement over the WFT-E1/E1A. The WFT-E2A we tested was also fairly beta, much moreso than the EOS-1D Mark III itself, so it's possible that some of the problems and limitations we note in this section of the article will be long gone by the time the product ships.
 
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Super Size: Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E2A (Photo by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
 
The WFT-E2/E2A promises to be the swiss army knife of EOS-1D Mark III accessories (it's not compatible with existing Canons). It can transmit photos to an FTP server, serve up pictures to a web browser with its built-in web server, it provides extensive control over camera settings remotely, from shutter speed to focus, and can even pass along what the camera is seeing, in near-real time, thanks to Remote Live View in EOS Utility 2.0.
 
It can link up both wired and wirelessly, and will also manage the connection to an external USB hard drive or USB key, which the camera then treats like an additional, high-capacity memory card, or to a GPS device. All this is stuffed into a tiny package that attaches securely and fairly unobtrusively to the left side of the camera, without blocking the various ports that are also found there.

Update, May 29, 2008: The production version of the WFT-E2/E2A with firmware v1.0.1 loaded doesn't work with the same range of portable USB drives and USB keys that we tested for this article. While the preproduction model would provide power and work fine with all that we tried, the production version instead displays an [Incompatible USB device] error message during the connection step unless the drive is powered by some other means, such as an AC adapter or external battery.
 
FTP, PTP, HTTP, USB, GPS, Wi-Fi - that's a lot of acronyms to support, plus wired Ethernet on top of that. The beta unit we tested wasn't perfect, but it worked well enough for the WFT-E2/E2A to earn a place on our must-have equipment list. Here's a look at what you can expect:
 
Getting configured With a WFT-E2/E2A connected, a new WFT settings menu option appears on the rear LCD display. Choose it, and you pass through the gateway to configuration of the device. A Connection Wizard walks through the process of setting up FTP, the unit's web server or PTP (for camera control and Remote Live View). It will scan for wireless networks and display them, and figure out the basic connection details, such as whether it's an 802.11b or 802.11g network and what type of security is enabled. You can also navigate the shark-infested waters of wireless network setup manually if you like.
 
New in the WFT-E2/E2A is support for 802.11g ad hoc wireless connections, which means that linking wirelessly to a laptop directly, without a router acting as an intermediary, is much faster than the WFT-E1/E1A, which is restricted to ad hoc 802.11b connections. This is true in theory, and definitely true in reality. FTP transfers from the WFT-E2A to a MacBook Pro were as much as 3.5X faster than from a WFT-E1/E1A (sending from an EOS 5D), because the latter was restricted to the slower wireless connection protocol.
 
Once you've got things set up, four settings summary screens allow you to see what you've done. Three of those are shown in the lower right, below.

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Get Ready: Gaining access to, configuring and confirming WFT-E2/E2A settings

FTP This works much like the WFT-E1/E1A, though there are additional options for selecting which files will be transfered and appending a caption (which we didn't try). The Set button can be used to start transfers and best of all, there is a new option to disable the automatic creation of a multi-level labyrinth of subfolders at the destination FTP server. With the Directory Structure menu set to Default, photos drop directly into the destination directory - it's a beautiful thing. If a file with the same name already exists at the destination it can be overwritten or you have the option of setting the WFT-E2/E2A to rename the source file, appending "_1" before sending it.
 
As with the WFT-E1/E1A, the camera can automatically transfer new pictures as they're shot, and it's possible to do things like send just the JPEG in a RAW+JPEG pair.

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Move Along: All things FTP in the WFT-E2/E2A

HTTP If you know how to surf the Web, then you know most of what you need to know to access the WFT-E2/E2A's built-in web server. Once logged in (up to three different HTTP username/password accounts can be established during the configuration process), you can trigger the camera, view thumbnails (RAW or JPEG) of the pictures on inserted memory cards, see a larger preview (JPEGs only) and download the full file (RAW or JPEG).
 
Thumbnails display very quickly, previews less so (the full JPEG is loaded into the browser, but at a reduced size). Downloading full files is done one at a time, there's no batch download function. It will handle up to three browser sessions simultaneously, but it attends to each one at a time; while a photo is being downloaded by one connected user, the other two users' connections are idled.
 
The beta WFT-E2A we tested couldn't manage connections from the other side of a router, owing to a public-to-private IP addressing snafu that is a bug or design flaw in the device, and it wouldn't work when connected directly to our office cable modem either (it couldn't acquire an IP address).
 
The WFT-E2/E2A's web server is fairly rudimentary, and there are some bugs to work out. But used within its limitations, it's very cool. We set up the EOS-1D Mark III as a catwalk remote, with the WFT-E2A linked by Ethernet to an Airport Express (so we could hang the Apple router down from the catwalk and into the open air of Calgary's Saddledome for broader wireless coverage). Photos of the somewhat untidy setup are below.

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Sky High: The setup. Click any photo to enlarge (Photos by Rob Galbraith/Photo Journey)

Then, we walked the building, seeing whether our MacBook Pro could connect wirelessly to the Airport Express and through to the WFT-E2A web server to view pictures (we were triggering the camera separately with PocketWizards). From every spot within the 20,000-seat bowl we tried, except when the scoreboard was in the way, logging into the web server, viewing and downloading a photo was a breeze.
 
The screen movie below demonstrates the features of the WFT-E2/E2A's built-in web server. To download a 1680 x 1050 pixel QuickTime version of this movie, click here.
 
Over the Top:  A demonstration of the WFT-E2/E2A's HTTP server. Click here to download a 1680 x 1050 pixel QuickTime version of this movie. (Screen movie by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)
 
PTP Except for the process of pairing the EOS-1D Mark III to the computer over the wireless or Ethernet link (which only has to be done once), controlling the camera and using Remote Live View is identical to USB. Except slower: Remote Live View lags a bit more over wireless or Ethernet, and it takes fractionally longer for the software to respond to shutter speed, aperture and other adjustments when Remote Live View is running concurrently. All of that said, Remote Live View over Wi-Fi or Ethernet is magical and more than fast enough to be usable. Plus, unlike HTTP mode, it's possible to view and selectively transfer groups of photos from the camera. PTP has the potential to be the most powerful of the camera connection method for remote shooters.

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Remotely Useful: Selecting PTP and pairing with a computer

There's a fly in the ointment, however. If the PTP link is broken - by closing your laptop to move 50 feet to a new shooting location, for example - the beta WFT-E2/E2A won't allow the link to be restored unless the camera initiates it. This means physically accessing the camera, which may be in a location where it's inconvenient or impossible to do so. If production WFT-E2/E2As work the same way, that will kill this feature for remote use.
 
USB Canon has made it a snap to connect a USB hard drive or USB key to the WFT-E2/E2A. Attach the USB key or USB cable to the drive, then choose to connect it in the on-screen menus. Every USB drive we tried, and every USB key, just worked, as long as they were formatted FAT32. Once connected, the USB drive is treated like an additional memory card, with all the same image storage and copying options. We tried attaching a USB card reader with a CompactFlash card inside, but the beta WFT-E2A wouldn't bite: it declared whatever we had connected to be incompatible.

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Drive-In: An Iomega 20GB USB hard drive (left) and Garmin GPSMAP 76CSx (right) connected to the WFT-E2A. Click any photo to enlarge (Photos by Rob Galbraith/Little Guy Media)

Update, May 29, 2008: The production version of the WFT-E2/E2A with firmware v1.0.1 loaded doesn't work with the same range of portable USB drives and USB keys that we tested for this article. While the preproduction model would provide power and work fine with all that we tried, the production version instead displays an [Incompatible USB device] error message during the connection step unless the drive is powered by some other means, such as an AC adapter or external battery.

We also hooked up a Garmin GPSmap 76CSx, and it too was recognized without any problem. It also auto-switched to being powered over USB. The WFT-E2/E2A is specified to be able to grab latitude and longitude values, with three digits of precision after the decimal, plus altitude, and pass those to the camera for writing into the EXIF metadata. But it wasn't working quite right yet. Compass direction isn't written to the metadata either, and isn't planned for the WFT-E2/E2A.
 
Neither the camera itself nor the WFT-E2/E2A is compatible with USB bar code scanners. Also note that to use a USB drive or GPS unit with the EOS-1D Mark III, you must connect these devices to the WFT-E2/E2A rather than to the camera's built-in USB port.
 
Performance While it's generally faster than the WFT-E1/E1A, the WFT-E2/E2A is no speed demon. Transfers over a wireless 802.11g connection top out in the 1.3-1.4MB/second range, which is decent and usable but well short of 802.11g's real-world capabilities. Ethernet transfers top out at the same speed, which is a fraction of what 100 Base-TX Ethernet can do. We also benchmarked RAW CR2 write speed to two different USB drives, a 1.8 inch 20GB model that's capable of 12MB/second, and a 2.5 inch 80GB that's capable of 18MB/second, with our MacBook Pro. Write speed to both drives from the WFT-E2/E2A was identical, at 5.95MB/second.
 
Make of these numbers what you want. Remote Live View would work better if the WFT-E2/E2A were faster, but it still works really well. HTTP mode for the most part still feels peppy, and thumbnail display absolutely does. It's really large transfers that would benefit from greater throughput, and perhaps we'll see more speed there from production-level WFT-E2/E2As. 
 
What's missing To shrink the WFT-E2/E2A down to its 2.7oz fighting weight, Canon cut several features of the WFT-E1/E1A. The new transmitter uses an internal antenna and lacks an external antenna receptacle, it has no LCD display and no battery of its own. None of these add up to a problem for us, but they may for you, and Canon could probably mitigate the lack of an external antenna by producing a camera connection cable that would allow the WFT-E2/E2A to be positioned separate from the EOS-1D Mark III, in a location where there is optimum signal.
 
Also, the wireless protocols supported don't include 802.11n, the newer, faster flavour of Wi-Fi. Given that the unit seems to be restricted internally to less than 1.5MB/second throughput, it seems doubtful that 802.11n would have amounted to much if any increase in transfer speed, so because of this, lack of 802.11n support probably isn't an issue. Probably more critical is the lack of 802.11a support, since it would allow the WFT-E2/E2A to operate in the less-crowded 5GHz band. For our office network, we've switched to 802.11a and 802.11n wireless networking to steer clear of the many 2.4GHz 802.11b/g routers that have sprung up in the area. This has made a world of difference in wireless network reliability. For high-profile news and sports events, the situation is much the same.
 
The biggest omission of all, however, is the lack of any way we can find to restablish a lost camera-to-computer remote connection or other temporary hiccup without physically returning to the camera. This is true of all three communication modes: FTP, HTTP and PTP. Canon needs to solve this for the PTP mode in particular.
 
A separate but related feature that's also needed for all three communication modes is a retry timer. Currently, once the LAN light starts blinking red, the WFT-E2/E2A has officially given up.  And it won't try again until you - yes, that's right - come back to the camera and do something about it. But with so many link failure problems being temporary in nature - a computer is being restarted, Wi-Fi flakes out for a minute - the WFT-E2/E2A needs to be able to reset itself and try again every so often, where how often is choosable by the end user. With the option for FTP mode to recommence transfers from where it left off, or just since the link was fixed.
 
Even with its current shortcomings, the WFT-E2/E2A is an intriguing device, and one that is much more versatile than its predecessor, the WFT-E1/E1A.
 
(Incidentally, if you have a WFT-E1/E1A and are planning on switching to the EOS-1D Mark III, you'll need to step up to the WFT-E2/E2A. That's because the older transmitter isn't compatible with the new camera and Canon has no plans to make it be compatible).
 
Conclusion
 
In every area except autofocus, the preproduction Canon EOS-1D Mark III is the best full-featured SLR we've ever used, and its image quality is the best we've seen from a digital SLR in all ways except sheer resolution, where the EOS-1Ds Mark II is still the leader. If Canon can finish the job on autofocus, then the EOS-1D Mark III will be one of the most powerful cameras ever made. And if Canon follows up the EOS-1D Mark III with a full-frame EOS-1Ds Mark III that records photos of equivalent quality, only with 20+ million pixels in those photos, and it can shoot at perhaps 4-5 fps, then Canon may have an unbeatable duo of cameras for the pro digital SLR photographer. Right now, it all hinges on Canon getting the autofocus working before the EOS-1D Mark III ships.
 
Update, June 19, 2007: We've now published an analysis of EOS-1D Mark III autofocus performance based on shipping cameras.
 
Assuming that they do, then Nikon has their work cut out for them. It's obvious that among Canon's many design goals for the EOS-1D Mark III was a desire to catch up to or surpass Nikon in several areas where the D2-series of cameras was superior, including body weight, the battery system and camera configuration. Canon has done that, and so much more. Nikon still has a better wireless flash system, though Canon's flash tweaks in the Speedlite 580EX II, and the fact they have a usable wireless flash system themselves, means that Nikon's lead even in this area is probably not a big factor in the purchasing decisions of most photographers.
 
In short, if Canon ships an EOS-1D Mark III with proper autofocus, the competition at the pro end between the two companies will be over for the moment. Since we'd choose the image quality - and everything else about the EOS-1D Mark III - over the higher resolution D2Xs, and we won't be the only shooters to figure out that Canon is offering a superior product. Nikon's next pro digital SLR body is going to have to be a killer camera to keep up.
 
At the time of the EOS-1D Mark III's announcement it was expected to ship in April 2007, along with the WFT-E2/E2A, Speedlite 580EX II and EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II. The lens is shipping, but the camera is now slated for U.S. release by the end of May 2007, says a letter sent to U.S. dealers recently. In Canada, dealers are being informed to expect the camera at the beginning of June.
 
The EOS-1D Mark III's minimum advertised price (MAP) in the U.S., which is usually very close to the initial street price at reputable dealers, is US$4499. In Canada, the EOS-1D Mark III has an expected street price of roughly CDN$5700; Canadian CPS members will want to contact their pro retailers to find out what the CPS price on the body will be.
 
Thanks to Chuck Westfall and Neil Stephenson for their assistance with this article.
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