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Canon EOS-1D Mark II

Canon doubles the resolution of their speed demon SLR, while actually increasing its speed and cutting image noise. Amazing!

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Page 3:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 01/27/2005

Executive Overview

For professional Canon shooters accustomed to working with Canon's top-of -the-line EOS-1v film SLR, or even the EOS-1D or 1Ds digital SLRs, the Canon EOS-1D Mark II will be immediately familiar, with a body design and control layout that is virtually identical to both predecessors. Obviously, Canon's goal was to produce a camera that looks, feels, and operates as much like previous EOS-1 cameras as possible, and to all appearances they've succeeded. EOS-1v, 1D, and 1Ds shooters should have little difficulty switching among the cameras, and Mark II users will enjoy its larger CMOS sensor and enhanced image playback functions. The Mark II does not have the Depth of Field AE shooting mode that I found so useful on the 1D. However, the Mark II sports both a Video Out and a USB port, the latter included for direct printing to a range of Canon printers, and accepts both SD/MMC and CompactFlash (Type I and II) memory cards.

The Canon EOS-1D Mark II's lens mount accommodates the full line of Canon EF lenses (but not the new EF-S lenses, with their shorter lens/focal plane distance and smaller image circles), employing the same highly-praised 45-point Area Ellipse autofocus system that is used by the 35mm EOS-1v, and which also appeared on the EOS-1D. This sophisticated system allows you to manually select a specific autofocus area from within a 45-point elliptical area, or you can set the camera to determine focus area based on the subject. You can also opt for One-Shot focusing or select the AI Servo AF, which tracks rapidly moving subjects. The TTL optical viewfinder uses a pentaprism design to display the full view of the lens, along with an information readout that reports all of the most important exposure information, including aperture, shutter speed, resolution, and exposure compensation.

The 2.0-inch, TFT color LCD monitor provides both image playback and on-screen menu viewing, and has a brightness adjustment for bright or dark viewing situations. An image information display reports in-depth exposure information, and includes a histogram showing the tonal distribution throughout the image. Additionally, a highlight feature "blinks" any blown-out highlights in the captured image. This is a feature that I've found exceptionally useful on past Canon digicam models. A new RGB Histogram mode also shows three individual histograms for Red, Green, and Blue.

The Canon EOS-1D Mark II offers total exposure control, with Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and Bulb exposure modes available. In Program AE, you can select from a range of equivalent exposure settings simply by turning the Main dial on top of the camera. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes offer limited manual control, while the Manual mode gives total control of aperture and shutter time to the photographer. Bulb mode simply extends the Manual mode to include unlimited shutter times. Here, you can keep the shutter open for as long as the camera has power. (Quite unusual, as most digital cameras set a fixed limit on maximum bulb exposure times.) A Noise Reduction menu option engages Canon's very effective Noise Reduction technology for any exposures longer than 1/15 second.

The Canon EOS-1D Mark II employs a 21-Zone Evaluative Metering system, which divides the image area into 21 zones of different sizes, with a honeycomb pattern in the central portion of the frame. Each of the 21 zones is assessed to determine exposure, using an algorithm that takes contrast and tonal distribution into account, going much further than does simple averaged metering. Other metering options include Center-Weighted, Partial, Spot, Multi-Spot, Spot AF, and Flash Exposure Lock. Exposure compensation is adjustable from -3 to +3 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. If you're unsure about the exposure, an Auto Exposure Bracketing feature captures three shots at different exposures. The Mark II also offers White Balance and ISO Auto Exposure Bracketing options. (This last option should be particularly interesting for pros, who may want to bracket without disturbing the aperture or shutter speed settings.)

Ten white balance modes are provided, including Auto, Daylight, Shade, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom (manual setting), Color Temperature, and Personal White Balance. Color Temperature covers a range of color temperatures from 2,800°K to 10,000°K, in 100-degree increments, and Personal White Balance allows you to download as many as three white balance settings from a host computer. The Mark II's extensive menu system offers a variety of Color Matrix options, for both sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces, and a Custom Functions menu lets you extensively customize the user interface. A Personal Functions menu option also allows you to download image attribute settings (including a custom tone curve) from a computer.

An external flash hot-shoe and PC sync socket offer two external flash connection options, but the camera has no built-in strobe. Canon recommends using its EX series of flash units, though some third-party units are compatible as well. The Flash Exposure Lock button locks the exposure for the flash, and a Flash Exposure Compensation button alters the flash exposure from -3 to +3 EV in one-third-step increments. You can also alter the ambient exposure compensation without altering the flash intensity.

The Mark II offers Low-Speed Continuous and High-Speed Continuous shooting modes through the Drive setting. Low-Speed Continuous captures as many as 40 consecutive frames at approximately three frames per second, while High-Speed Continuous captures the same number of frames at approximately 8.5 frames per second. (The actual frame rate and number of frames in a sequence will vary depending on memory card space, image size, and the amount of image information to record.) The Drive options also include two different Self-Timer options, with delay times adjustable via the LCD menu system.

The Canon EOS-1D Mark II captures images at either 3,504 x 2,336; 3,104 x 2,072; 2,544 x 1,696; or 1,728 x 1,152 pixels, with JPEG compression levels from one to 10 available. A RAW image option is also available, recording the full pixel information from the CCD without any processing. The Mark II is accompanied by an IEEE-1394 "FireWire" interface cable for a super-speedy connection to a computer, as well as a USB cable for connecting to a range of Canon printers. Canon's Solution Disk software and a copy of Canon's new Digital Photo Professional program are included with the camera, for use on both PC and Macintosh computers. A Video Out jack and cable connect the camera to a television set for reviewing images. For power, the Mark II uses an NP-E3 rechargeable NiMH battery pack or an AC adapter (both accompany the camera). A CR2025 lithium coin cell serves as backup for the camera's calendar and clock settings.

I was initially impressed with the EOS-1D, due to its similarities to the 35mm 1v model and the exceptional amount of photographic control it offered. The Mark II maintains that tradition, with improved resolution via the 8.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, improved noise characteristics, increased speed, and smart design, plus other niceties such as expanded playback options and video out capability. The sturdy Mark II body can handle extensive shooting, with a beefed-up shutter rated at an expected 200,000 cycles. The body is also sealed at all openings to protect against dust and water. Its user interface is customizable and straightforward (once you get the hang of it), and its extensive controls are enough to make any pro photographer happy. Designed for professionals who want the convenience of digital imaging and uncompromising image quality, combined with the look, feel, and interface of Canon's already successful pro 35mm line, the Mark II appears ideally suited for professional sports and photojournalistic shooters.

 

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