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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!

Review First Posted: 01/27/2005




MSRP $4499 US

 

*
8.2-megapixel CMOS sensor delivers 3,504 x 2,336 pixel images
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SD/MMC and CompactFlash (Type I and II) compatibility
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 Enhanced image review options
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Full support for RAW file format in-the-box
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Highly configurable to suit individual shooting needs/styles


Canon EOS-1D Mark II: Manufacturer Overview

The Canon EOS-1D was a groundbreaking digicam when it was first announced in late 2001, and held its ground amazingly well against the competition in all the time since then. In January of 2004, Canon announced the EOS-1D Mark II, a radical update of the original 1D, doubling its resolution, while simultaneously increasing its continuous shooting speed slightly to a blazing 8.5 frames/second, and cutting image noise in the process. Other specs between the cameras are fairly close (although the Canon EOS 1D Mark II's low image noise levels are particularly impressive), but the net result is that Canon has staked out a sizeable piece of the high-end digital SLR turf in a decisive manner. No other camera currently on the market comes close to matching the Canon EOS-1D Mark II for its combination of resolution and shooting speed. Read on for all the details, the Canon EOS-1D Mark II is one amazing camera!

 

Canon EOS-1D Mark II: High Points

 

Comparison, Canon EOS-1D Mark II vs EOS-1D

Since many of our readers will already be familiar with the earlier Canon EOS-1D, we've prepared the following table showing differences between the two models:

Canon EOS-1D Mark II vs EOS 1-D
Camera EOS-1D Mark II EOS-1D
Sensor Type 28.7 x 19.1 mm CMOS w/ RGBG filter 28.7 x 19.1 mm CCD w/ RGBG filter
Sensor Improvements Larger microlenses, size of gaps between microlenses reduced by 50%. Greater area of each pixel on the sensor sensitive to light, due to elimination of transistors in each pixel. Canon claims higher sensitivity, higher dynamic range -
Sensor Resolution (total) 8.5 megapixels 4.5 megapixels
Sensor Resolution (effective) 8.2 megapixels 4.1 megapixels
Image Sizes 3504 x 2336, 3104 x 2072, 2544 x 1696, 1728 x 1152 2464 x 1648, 1232 x 824
File Formats Four JPEG sizes, 10 possible levels of compression, plus CR2 RAW format.
(CR2 format allows more room for metadata, much of which is supported by Photoshop CS.)
Two JPEG sizes, Original CRW RAW format
Image Storage Compact Flash and Secure Digital cards supported.

Can write to either card separately, or both cards simultaneously (redundant backup) or sequentially ("reserve tank").

Opening card compartment halts writing, but does not erase written data. Writing resumes when cover is closed again.

Compact Flash only
FAT 32 file system support Yes No
IPTC data support RAW and JPEG files RAW files only
RAW File Format .CR2 (Canon RAW, Second Edition) .CRW (Canon RAW)
Compliance EXIF 2.21 (Adds Adobe RGB support to EXIF 2 spec.) DCF (EXIF 1?)
ISO Sensitivity ISO 100 - 1600
(extendable to 50 to 3200 via menu option)
ISO 200 - 1600
(extendable to 100 to 3200 via menu option)
Image Noise High sensitivity CMOS sensor and new second-generation on-chip 3-stage noise reduction circuit. CMOS sensor consumes less power, so less temperature rise and noise in longer exposures. Digital control circuit board completely separated from analog circuitry. Flex circuit wiring reconfigured to shorten analog signal paths. Noise is lower at all ISO ratings, especially above ISO 400. -
Noise Reduction New long-exposure noise reduction feature, using dark frame subtraction. Shoots a second identical shot after image capture with shutter closed, then subtracts this frame to remove fixed long-exposure noise. Power to the output amp and circuit-driving standard current is cut off during long exposures to reduce noise. -
White Balance
Sensing
CMOS image sensor only
(New white balance algorithm eliminates need for external sensor)
External light sensor plus CCD image sensor
White Balance and Color Rendering Auto white balance now more precise and accurate in low color temperatures (eg, tungsten light sources). False colors and noise in low light have been reduced.

White balance compensation function added, permits up to 9 levels of adjustment for each color. Blue/amber and magenta/green bias adjustments can be set simultaneously.

White balance bracketing now done in a single shot (3 bracketed files from one exposure).

Color reproduction of high-saturation, bright subjects improved.

-
Color Matrix 4 sRGB, Adobe RGB, 2 user-set

User-set color matrices can be set to sRGB or Adobe, any of 5 saturation levels, or 5 color tone levels

Menu now states what each color matrix setting is (standard, portrait, etc), rather than just displaying a number.

4 sRGB, Adobe RGB
Contrast Control Tone curve, plus 5-level contrast adjustment Tone curve
Sharpness Control Level Level, radius
Orientation Sensor Yes No
Shutter Durability 200,000 cycles 150,000 cycles
Shutter Speed 1/8,000 to 30 sec, bulb 1/16,000 to 30 sec, bulb
X-sync Speed 1/250 sec. 1/500 sec.
Burst Speed 8.1 frames per second
(By actual measurement)
7.7 frames per second
(By actual measurement)
Burst Depth (Large / Fine JPEG) 40 frames 21 frames
Burst Depth (RAW) 20 frames 16 frames
Start-up Time (approx.) 0.5 seconds 0.9 seconds
Shutter Lag (approx.) 55 milliseconds
(40 msec with Personal Function 26)
55 milliseconds
Autofocus Improvements Autofocus function now divided between two 32-bit RISC microprocessors. Twice as many focus operations per unit time than the (already very fast) EOS-1D.

AI Servo AF/Predictive AF uses statistical information from previous focusing operations to enhance speed and improve precision. Faster predictive AF means AF more likely to catch subject movement just prior to the shutter release.

Bottom line, one-shot AF speed is higher for Mark II, and AI Servo AF precision is higher.

(Single processor for AF operations.) 
Shooting Modes P, M, Tv, Av P, M, Tv, Av, DEP
(Depth of field priority)
Flash Metering E-TTL II E-TTL
Flash Metering Improvements Ambient light measurement before pre-flash and distance information from lens helps to identify and ignore highly reflective or specular objects, avoiding underexposure.

Flash autoexposure no longer dependent on active AF point. Compares ambient and flash exposures at 17 central metering zones, uses match between ambient and flash to exclude reflective and non-subject objects.

Distance information from EF lenses also incorporated into flash exposure determination.

N/A
Image Processor DIGIC II DIGIC
Image Processor Improvements Data read from sensor chip via 8 channels simultaneously, double data-rate SDRAM used in buffer memory.

CompactFlash maximum write speed now 5.0 MB/sec.

Data read from sensor two channels at a time.

CF max write speed 3.2 MB/sec.

Control and Layout Improvements Color Matrix settings now labeled with description vs just a number.

White balance color temperatures now entered directly via WB button and the main dial, vs in a menu window.

JPEG, RAW, and RAW+JPEG formats all selectable via a single control. (No need for menu entry.)

ISO speed extensions moved to main menu from Custom Function menu.

Enlarge button added to control playback magnification.

Erase button moved to bottom row with Quality and White Balance buttons.

Erase button now has small raised point in center to distinguish from other buttons.

Camera settings can now be saved to a memory card, allowing settings to be copied to multiple cameras used for covering a large event, or preserved when the camera is sent in for service.

-
Custom/Personal Functions

21 custom functions. New or changed functions are:

C. Fn-03, ISO expansion has been dropped. (ISO 50 ("L") and 3200 ("H") are always available)

C. Fn-06, Exposure level increments, has been modified slightly, to give separate options for exposure settings and compensation adjustments.

C.Fn-14 E-TTL II - was formerly "Auto reduction of daylight sync.

C. Fn-21, Drive speed priority AI Servo, is newly added., Exposure level increments, has been changed to 0: 1/3 stop and 1: 1/2 stop. (Moved from Personal Function menu.)

P.Fn-26 added, Shortened release time lag

P.Fn-30 added, Quick Control switch turns off main dial too.

P.Fn-31 added, Add original decision data.

21 custom functions
Connectivity IEEE 1394 (FireWire), 4-pin connector
USB v1.1 (For printing only, with PictBridge support)
IEEE 1394 (FireWire), 6-pin connector
Direct Printing Supports PictBridge via USB v1.1 N/A
LCD Display 2.0", 230,000 pixels

White LED backlight
(Brighter, lower power)

2.0", 120,000 pixels

Fluorescent backlight

Playback Enhancements Zoom option on playback, up to 10x in 15 steps. Scroll around magnified image, view next image while retaining magnification and location settings(!).

RGB histogram facilitates checking color-related information that the LCD can't show.

-
Orientation Sensor Yes No
Video Out Yes, NTSC or PAL timing, user-selectable No
Audio Recording Yes No
Size 6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in
(156 x 157.6 x 79.9 mm)
6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in
(156 x 157.6 x 79.9 mm)
Weight 43 oz. (1220 g) body only 44.1 oz. (1250 g) body only

 

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.

 

Design

The Canon EOS-1D Mark II has just about all of the excellent features of the original EOS-1D, including dust and water sealing around all moving parts exposed to the outside (one must use an L glass lens with a rubber seal to get weather sealing around the lens opening, however), but ups the ante with a large, 8.2-megapixel CMOS sensor. Weighing in at a hefty 55.3 ounces (1,569 grams) with the battery and memory card installed (but no lens attached), the Canon EOS-1D Mark II is more than a handful. Its magnesium-alloy body is exceptionally tough and durable, ready for heavy use. Like the previous 1D, size and portability weren't top design considerations, as the camera is clearly intended for the serious photographer. Instead, Canon opted for maximum speed, ruggedness, and compatibility with the EOS-1v film camera and previous 1D and 1Ds models. The EOS-1D Mark II measures a whopping (by consumer digicam standards) 6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 inches (156 x 157.6 x 79.9mm ), and definitely requires a two-handed grip.

Like the 1D, the Mark II's resemblance to the film-based EOS-1v (introduced a year earlier than the 1D) is more than close -- the cameras are virtually identical. All of the conventional controls (AF, Mode, Drive, ISO, Exposure Compensation, etc.) are exactly the same, except for the obvious differences, such as those digital controls on the Mark II that simply don't apply to a film camera, and the lack of a film compartment door -- but everything that can be the same is. This extends even to the Custom Function options. If you're comfortable using an EOS-1v, you'll be able to transition to the 1D or Mark II with almost no learning curve, and switching rapidly back and forth between them should involve no confusion.

The front of the Canon EOS-1D Mark II is simple in design, featuring just the lens mount and a few controls. A small release button on the left side of the lens (when holding the camera from the rear) releases the lens from its mount, allowing you to remove it completely with a turn to the right. The large, bulky hand grip is big enough to provide a secure hold on the camera, even with a lens attached. A smaller ridge runs along the bottom, serving as the vertical handgrip and battery compartment, with a secondary Shutter button and Command dial, for use when holding the camera vertically. Also visible from the front of the camera is the main Shutter button, mounted at a sloping angle from the top panel, as well as the front of the battery compartment. Almost hidden between the lens mount and hand grip is the self-timer lamp, behind a dark window. Finally, the Depth of Field Preview button can be seen on the right side of the lens mount (on the left in the image above).

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from behind) is an On/Off switch that activates the secondary camera controls; the secondary Flash Exposure Lock button; the secondary Main Dial; and the secondary Shutter button. Also on this side of the camera is one of the hefty neck strap attachment eyelets.

Lining the opposite side of the camera are the Flash PC socket, Remote Control, Video Out, and Digital input jacks (USB and IEEE-1394 Firewire), each covered by a flexible synthetic rubber flap that swings around out of the way for easier access. At the bottom are the battery compartment and its release controls -- a rotating lock and a release button, both of which must be activated to open the compartment door. Though I found this system a little difficult to operate at times, it does ensure that the battery stays in place, and won't accidentally end up on the ground.

The Canon EOS-1D Mark II's top panel holds several camera controls, including the Mode, AF, Drive, ISO, Metering/Flash Exposure Compensation, LCD Illumination, Exposure Compensation, Flash Exposure Lock, and Shutter buttons. The small Command Dial located just behind the Shutter button, is used to adjust camera settings. (The Main Dial is used by itself to set aperture and shutter speed in some modes, or works with many of the plethora other buttons to engage the actual setting changes.) The external flash hot shoe crowns the camera's top panel, and a small, black-and-white LCD monitor reports camera information such as battery power, exposure mode, aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation, among others.

The remaining camera controls are located on the back panel, along with the LCD monitor and optical viewfinder eyepiece. A diopter adjustment dial and the optical viewfinder eyepiece shutter lever flank the eyepiece on either side. A removable soft rubber eyecup (included in the box with the Mark II) can be attached to improve viewing in strong ambient lighting. In the center of the back panel is the large Quick Control dial, which also selects camera settings when turned on (a small switch above the dial turns it on or off). While it does work in conjunction with some of the camera's buttons, the Quick Control dial primarily serves as part of the user interface for the LCD menu system. Camera controls on the back panel include the Assist, AE Lock, AF Point Selection, Sound/Protect, Menu, Select, Display, Memory Card/Magnify, Erase, Image Size Selection, and White Balance buttons. In the lower right corner are the secondary Assist, AE Lock, and AF Point Selection buttons, for use when holding the camera vertically. The 2.0-inch LCD monitor displays image playback and menu screens, and a secondary, black-and-white LCD data readout just below it reports more camera information. Also on the back panel is the dual memory card slot whose door is released by turning the small release key just below it.

The bottom panel of the Canon EOS-1D Mark II holds only a tripod socket and a secondary neck strap attachment eyelet (presumably for attaching the neck strap for vertical shooting). The tripod mount is directly below the centerline of the lens, designed to reduce parallax errors between shots when panning.

 

Viewfinder

A TTL (Through The Lens) optical viewfinder is the sole mechanism for composing images on the Canon EOS-1D Mark II, as the 2.0-inch LCD monitor is purely for image review and menu navigation. (This is typical of most SLRs, because by nature the light path is either through the eyepiece or onto the CCD, with no provision for a "live" LCD viewfinder display.) Fortunately, the optical viewfinder on the Mark II offers a true 100 percent field of view, a relative rarity, even among high-end SLRs. The optical viewfinder has a glass pentaprism design, using a mirror to reflect the view from the lens, just as in a traditional SLR viewfinder design. A full information overlay along the bottom and right of the viewfinder window reports the current exposure settings, including shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, and ISO, among other information. A circular black outline at the center of the viewfinder window indicates the central spot-metering area, (although as I'll explain later, the Mark II is capable of spot metering at a number of locations within the field of view). A large, black elliptical outline marks the boundaries of the autofocus area. A total of 45 discrete autofocus sensors are distributed within this ellipse, and may be used singly or in combination as I'll describe later, in the "Optics" section of this review. Active AF points are normally invisible, illuminating red when the Shutter button is half-pressed and focus is achieved at one or more of the points.

The amount of information conveyed by the Mark II's viewfinder readout is quite impressive, all the more so because the display is actually quite uncluttered and easy to understand. The illustration below (courtesy Canon USA) shows all the internal viewfinder displays and their functions. (Readers familiar with the EOS-1v film SLR or the previous EOS-1D will immediately recognize this display as being the same one used on those cameras.)

On the left side of the viewfinder eyepiece is a diopter adjustment dial, which corrects the viewfinder display from -3.0 to +1.0 diopter units to accommodate eyeglass wearers. The viewfinder has a moderately high eye point, meaning that the view should be reasonably clear, even with fairly thick eyeglasses. (In addition to the rather wide range of diopter adjustments available on-camera, Canon also offers dioptric correction lenses for the viewfinder ranging from -4 to +3 diopters in 10 steps. These clip on externally, and act in addition to the built-in diopter adjustment, for a total range of -7 to +4 diopters. If you can see well enough to pick up the camera, you should be able to see through the viewfinder!) Nine interchangeable focusing screens are available for the Mark II. On the right side of the viewfinder eyepiece is a small lever that opens and closes a shutter behind the eyepiece. This prevents any additional light from filtering into the camera through the viewfinder eyepiece during long exposures on a tripod. The Mark II also features a removable eyecup that fits over the viewfinder eyepiece, handy for high ambient light environments.

The 2.0-inch, TFT color LCD monitor is used only for image playback and menu viewing, and is made up of approximately 230,000 pixels. A brightness control offers five brightness levels, helpful for improving viewing in excessively dark or bright conditions. Images can be displayed with or without the relevant image information, and the Mark II offers four- or nine-image index display modes. A very useful feature is the optional Highlight Alert, which flashes overexposed sections of the image gray/white during playback. An optional histogram display is also available, which is handy for assessing overall exposure, though I've personally found the blinking highlight display much more useful for showing where I've blown out highlights. (The problem with a histogram display is that blown highlights usually represent only a small percentage of overall image area, meaning it's hard to pick them up on the histogram readout. A blinking area on the LCD playback display is pretty hard to miss.)


The new RGB Histogram also displays individual histograms, stacked one atop the other, one for each color channel.


A feature I'm pleased to see added to the Mark II's LCD display is a zoomed playback, via the Magnify and Reduce buttons on the camera's rear panel. This is handy for checking fine framing details, or even for checking focus and depth of field. The Mark II offers magnification from 1.5x to 10x. The 10x magnification level in particular is very useful for checking focus and depth of field.


Active Mirror Technology
As I mentioned earlier, the Mark II is incredibly fast, faster than most film cameras. (Up to 8.1 frames per second, based on our actual measurements.) It turns out that in normal situations, even the bounce of the mirror as it settles back into position after each shot would prevent frame rates this high. To overcome this, Canon developed "Active Mirror" technology for the EOS-1v model, which uses active drive electronics to damp out mirror vibrations in half the time that would be required otherwise. The sheer shot-to-shot speed of Active Mirror technology is only part of the equation though -- because the mirror moves so fast, the viewfinder blackout time between exposures is reduced to only 45 milliseconds. The viewfinder remains very usable, even when the shutter is clattering away at the maximum frame rate. Quite impressive, especially when you consider that the mirror is really a two piece design, with a big half-mirror that allows light through for the smaller sub-mirror behind it that reflects light down to the AF sensors below. Both of these mirrors must come together and flip up out of the way as often as 8.1 times per second.

 

Sensor, Noise Reduction, and Optics

Sensor
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One of the first notable characteristics of the Mark II's optical system is its unusually large CMOS sensor. The chip on the Mark II measures 28.7 x 19.1mm. Oddly, Canon states the multiplier ratio for this sensor to be 1.3x -- relative to the full 35mm frame (24 x 36mm) -- but a little math reveals that it's actually only 1.255x. Thus, a 16-35mm wide-angle lens works about like a 20-44mm lens on a 35mm camera. This ability to shoot wider with common lenses will be welcomed by many photojournalists, the market at which the Mark II is clearly aimed.

The Mark II's CMOS sensor has a total of 8.5 million pixels. Of these, 8.2 million are "effective" pixels, the rest are lost to dark current calibration and edge effects. After processing, the resulting images measure 3,504 x 2,336 pixels at full size, with a range of smaller resolutions available as well. What's special about this sensor is not only its greater resolution, but the improvements Canon has made in the speed of data "readout" due to the camera's 8-channel reading technology. What this means is that the CMOS sensor has more pathways to quickly offload the data from each pixel for fast processing by the DIGIC II chip.

Image noise reduction
One of the most notable improvements in the Mark II's sensor technology though, is in its noise performance. The 1D Mark II incorporates a range of engineering advances that act together to provide dramatic improvements in image noise, particularly at high ISOs and long exposure times. The changes involve not only the sensor circuitry itself, but microlens design, algorithm changes, and even the physical arrangement of digital and analog circuitry within the camera body.

Canon's advanced CMOS sensor technology uniquely allows significant image-processing functions to be integrated right onto the sensor chip, before the image data even reaches the digitizing electronics. In the 1D Mark II's sensor, Canon has implemented no fewer than three different anti-noise processing techniques directly on-chip. While remaining very close-mouthed about the specifics of these anti-noise techniques, Canon does note that they affect both fixed-pattern and random noise generated within the sensor elements.

A common but little-recognized source of image noise in digital cameras is electrical noise generated by the digital signal-processing circuitry. The current spikes generated by high-speed digital circuitry can couple back into the sensitive analog circuitry, if circuit designers aren't careful. In the EOS-1D Mark II, Canon's engineers went to the extreme of completely separating analog and digital circuitry onto physically separate circuit boards, each with its own ground plane. It's hard to say just how much this reduced image noise levels, but it's notable that Canon invested the required engineering effort and manufacturing expense to achieve the required separation.

It's important to note here that noise reduction is only one path to producing noise-free images. What ultimately matters is not how much noise is present in an absolute sense, but how the noise level compares with that of the signal you're interested in. (In this case, the "signal" is the image data itself.) This is why engineers speak in terms of "signal to noise ratio" (SNR for short), when characterizing noise levels in an electronic system.

The concept of signal to noise ratio makes it clear that there are two ways to improve the "cleanliness" of images. You can reduce the noise levels in absolute terms, or you can increase the magnitude of the image "signal" itself. In the CMOS sensor used in the EOS 1D Mark II, Canon has worked both sides of the equation, with two enhancements to the sensor design working specifically to increase the amount of signal the sensor has to work with.

Improved Sensor Cell Layout
In any semiconductor image sensor, some portion of the silicon real estate has to be devoted to circuit wiring and other functions not directly related to light measurement. This reduces the amount of surface area that can be devoted to the light-sensitive detectors themselves, in turn reducing the sensitivity of the chip as a whole.

For the CMOS sensor used in the EOS 1D Mark II, Canon developed a more efficient pixel layout, that reduces the amount of surface area lost to ancillary functions. This increases the image "signal" directly, since each pixel is able to collect more of the light falling on it. Canon hasn't told us how much the improved pixel layout helps relative to earlier designs of theirs, but it could easily amount to 10-20%, possibly even more.

Larger Microlenses
To make the most of the light-sensitive area that they do have, most digicam sensor chips incorporate an array of "microlenses" on the surface of the chip. Constructed right on the surface of the chip itself, each microlens is positioned above a single pixel. The job of the microlens is to collect the light that's falling on the full area of the pixel, and concentrate it on just the light-sensitive part.. (Anyone who's played with a magnifying lens and light from the sun will understand immediately how this works.)

Like many things, microlenses are simple in concept, but tricky to implement well. The lens material itself is less than perfectly transparent, and the fabrication process makes it difficult to create lenses that cover a large percentage of the pixel's real estate. This was thus another area to which Canon's chip engineers devoted considerable effort, with very salutary results. The microlenses on the 1D Mark II's sensor are larger than those on previous chips, and the gaps between them are much smaller. Here again, Canon has declined to say just how much improvement they've achieved in this area, but they claim that the new microlens design and fabrication techniques "greatly increase the efficiency of light convergence, while greatly reducing birefringence." (I believe that this last refers to the optical phenomenon that produces the "purple fringe" seen around dark objects against bright backgrounds in the images from many digicams.)

Image Noise bottom Line
The net result of all the aforementioned improvements in both noise reduction and light gathering ability is immediately apparent when you examine high-ISO images produced by the 1D Mark II. Noise levels are indeed remarkably low, and what noise is present has a very fine-grained pattern to it, making it even less obtrusive than it would be otherwise. While perceived (as opposed to measured) noise levels are a very subjective matter, my own reaction to the 1D Mark II's images is that shots from it at ISO 1600 look as good as those from many competing d-SLRs shooting at ISO 400. - Even if some readers disagree agree with my subjective evaluation, it's safe to say that pretty much any photographer will be impressed by the quality of the 1D Mark II's high-ISO images, when comparing them to those from other d-SLRs currently on the market.

Lenses
The Mark II features a Canon EF lens mount, which accommodates the full range of Canon EF lenses. I normally cite the aperture and focal length of a digital camera's lens in this part of the review, but because the Mark II accepts a wide range of lenses, these characteristics will vary depending on the lens in use. My evaluation model was accompanied by Canon's 16-35mm L-series USM lens with a maximum f/2.8 aperture setting. Since Canon seems to be promoting this lens for use with the 1D Mark II somewhat, I shot my Outdoor and Indoor Portrait and Far Field tests with it, as well as a fair number of our "Gallery" shots for the Mark II. For images subjected to critical analysis though, we stuck with the 100mm f/2.8 EF Macro lens, a lens known to be very sharp and distortion-free.

Antialiasing Filter
Essentially all of today's digital cameras use "antialiasing" filters in front of the CCD array to reduce color aliasing in images containing high spatial frequencies (high-contrast, closely spaced lines). These filters work by slightly blurring the image -- technically, by knocking off the high spatial frequencies, while hopefully leaving the lower frequencies undisturbed. The problem of course, arises in trying to balance the need for antialiasing with the desire to maintain good image sharpness. Too strong a filter produces soft-looking images, while too weak a filter results in color "twinkles" and "jaggies" appearing in the fine details. Some high-end cameras leave the choice up to the user, with a removable antialiasing filter that allows the user to choose whether or not to use it, based on specific shooting conditions.

In the original 1D, Canon claimed to have taken a different approach, deliberately choosing an antialiasing filter with a higher cutoff frequency, and relying on fancy image processing to eliminate or reduce any aliasing that might creep in as a result. It's not clear whether Canon stuck with this approach on the Mark II, or if they've gone back to a more aggressive antialias filter. The softness of the Mark II's images at its default settings suggest a possibly stronger antialias filter, but it's equally likely that this is just a matter of different default settings than were used on the original 1D.

This would probably be a good point to discuss the softness of the Canon EOS-1D Mark II's images: Out of the box, the Mark II's default image processing parameters produce rather soft images, when compared to those from other d-SLRs, including its predecessor the original 1D. Much has been made of this in some internet forums, but the fact is that it has everything to do with the settings to use for the Mark II's defaults, and almost nothing to do with the actual amount of detail the camera actually captures. Setting a sharpening level of 2 or 3 in the Parameters sub-menu of the Capture menu sharpens the images a fair bit, while introducing only negligible artifacts in the process. Images captured with the default sharpening setting take strong/tight unsharp masking in Adobe Photoshop(tm) or other image-processing software very well, revealing excellent detail. Bottom line, the Canon EOS-1D Mark II delivers excellent resolution and detail, you just need to allow for Canon's deliberately conservative approach to in-camera sharpening.

Autofocus
The Mark II employs a very fast autofocus system, with a myriad of focusing options. At the heart of Canon's advanced AF is an unusually large AF frame. (The region over which the AF system can take readings to determine focus.) As in the EOS-1v, no fewer than 45 autofocus points cover a large portion of the overall field of view. As shown in the diagram at right, seven of these are "cross" sensors, sensitive to both horizontal and vertical detail, while the remaining 38 respond to texture in the horizontal axis only. The Mark II can select the specific AF point automatically (based on the closest subject with reliable autofocus characteristics), or the user can select a specific AF point manually. The AI Servo AF system can also track moving subjects anywhere in the AF frame, if they're initially locked-in via the central AF area.


In the Manual/45-point mode, you can select any one of the 45 AF points manually, and the camera will use that point exclusively in its focus determinations. Selection is made by using both the front and back Command dials.


No question, 45 focus points are probably a lot more than you need for manual selection, and choosing just one of them could be more time-consuming than you'd like, particularly in a fast-paced shooting situation. Custom Function menu item 13-1 and 13-2 simplify the AF choice, reducing the number of available AF points to 11, and arranging them in a cross pattern. Selection is again made using both the front and back Command dials.


When speed is really the issue, Custom Function menu option 13-3 further reduces the available AF points to nine, all located around the periphery of the AF frame area. The advantage of this is that only the Quick Control dial is needed to select an AF point, rotating the selection point around the edge of the AF area as it is rotated. This allows for a much faster selection, and is particularly useful for situations where the photographer is dealing with an off-center subject.


Sometimes, you may want to use more than one focusing point (for example, if your subject is fast-moving, low-contrast, or if you're working in low-light conditions). For these situations, Canon has provided the AF Point Activation Area option, available as Custom Function menu items 17-1 and 17-2. In these modes, you can still manually select a single focus point, but the camera then looks at up to six surrounding points to determine focus. Only the selected point lights up in the viewfinder, but as many as six other points are used to determine focus.


In addition to being able to select the AF area, you can also set the camera to One-Shot AF or AI Servo AF. One-Shot AF is intended for stationary subjects, and locks in focus on one area. In AI Servo AF mode, the camera tracks moving subjects, keeping the subject in sharp focus no matter where it appears in the frame. (As fast as 186 mph or 300 km/h when using the 300mm f/2.8L IS lens, according to Canon.) I admit that I'm not quite sure what this spec means, as the focusing behavior of the lens would obviously depend on the range from camera to subject, something not specified in the brochure where this performance figure was mentioned.)

Depending on the lens, you can also employ standard Manual focus, controlled by turning the focus ring encircling the lens barrel. Canon's USM autofocus lenses support a camera mode that autofocuses when the Shutter button is first pressed, but that allows you to focus manually while continuing to depress the Shutter button, to permit manual tweaking of the focus point after the AF system has put you into the ballpark.

A Depth of Field Preview button on the camera's front panel allows you to check the depth of field and focus for the current aperture setting. The preview is displayed in the viewfinder, and is helpful for determining how much of the scene will be in focus.

Overall, the Mark II's AF technology is very impressive, as it employs the same technology as the 1D, 1Ds, and 1v, but with the added benefit of two powerful signal-processing chips to run the AF-related computations, vs the single chip used in the earlier 1D. It's both flexible and very fast, well-suited to the demands of professional sports shooters and photojournalists.

 

Exposure

Wide Range of Exposure Options
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With a design mimicking the 35mm EOS-1v model and the original EOS-1D, the Mark II offers full manual exposure control, as well as a complement of partial manual and automatic exposure modes. For example, you can choose between Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and Bulb modes. (The Depth of Field AE mode is absent, however.) The majority of these are fairly self-explanatory, as Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes provide varying degrees of manual and automatic exposure control. While available apertures vary with the lens used, shutter speeds range from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds in all modes except Bulb, which keeps the shutter open as long as the Shutter button is depressed. (Interestingly, Bulb mode has no time limit, other than the available charge in the battery.) Canon's optional RS-80N3 remote switch and TC-80N3 Timer Remote Controller allow you to take long time exposures without having to hold your finger on the Shutter button. One interesting note is that in Program AE mode, turning the Main dial on top of the camera cycles through a range of equivalent exposure settings, allowing you to pick the best exposure with an emphasis on either aperture or shutter speed, while letting the camera determine the exposure. (This is commonly referred to as a "program shift" or "vari-program" option.)

Noise Reduction System
The remaining exposure mode is Bulb, which simply allows you to take long exposures for unlimited periods of time, depending on the type of power source (With the new DIGIC II chip, Canon estimates a fully charged battery pack will allow for a 3-hour maximum exposure time, double that of the 1D and 1Ds; however the AC adapter allows for unlimited exposure times.) The Mark II automatically employs a noise reduction system in exposures longer than 1/15-second (this function can be turned off through the Record menu when shot-to-shot cycle time is an issue). To reduce image noise, the camera captures a second, blank, image with the shutter closed, which is then compared against, and subtracted from, the original to remove the noise. As with the earlier 1D, it's somewhat surprising that the dark-frame noise reduction system works even for very long Bulb exposures, as those of most cameras I've tested do not. Even more impressive, is that the 1D Mark II can queue up multiple bulb exposures, waiting until you're finished with an entire series of shots before doing the dark-frame processing for the first one, and then processing all of the exposures in sequence, performing separate dark-frame exposures for each of them. (If you do run up against the buffer limit, the top LCD readout will display "busy" when you try to take another shot while it's still processing the dark frame reference images for shots you've already captured.) To prevent any camera movement during long exposures (from holding down or releasing the Shutter button), it's best to work with the accessory remote control and attach the camera to a tripod. As was the case with the original EOS-1D, I was pleased to find that the noise reduction system worked even in Bulb exposure: The dark-frame noise suppression systems on most digital cameras I test are limited to timed exposures of relatively short duration. Even more impressive, the EOS-1D Mark II can queue up the dark-frame processing from number of successive exposures, waiting to apply the dark frame adjustment until you've stopped shooting. If you run up against the limit of the buffer capacity while the camera is still processing dark frames from previous shots, the top LCD readout displays "busy". Very slick!

In my testing, I found the Mark II's noise reduction system exceptionally effective. It won't work miracles with a very warm camera (image noise roughly doubles for every 8°C rise in temperature), but I rarely found any "hot pixels" in any of the bulb exposures I did, although I only tested it to roughly three minute exposure times. (If you do encounter any stuck pixels, I highly recommend Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro, a program with an amazing ability to remove spot noise without disturbing the underlying image.)

Metering Sensors
To determine exposure, the Mark II borrows the 21-Zone Evaluative Metering system employed by the 35mm EOS-1v and EOS-1D. Evaluative metering divides the image area into 21 zones of different sizes, with a honeycomb pattern in the central portion of the frame. The full Evaluative Metering mode determines the exposure by assessing each of the 21 zones and averaging the best exposure value for the entire frame. The 21-zone system also offers Center-Weighted and Partial metering modes. In Center-Weighted metering, the camera reads the exposure from the entire scene, but places emphasis on a large area in the center of the frame. Partial metering works along similar lines, but only places emphasis on approximately 13.5 percent of the center area.

Spot Metering Options
In addition to the Evaluative Metering options, the Mark II also offers a range of Spot metering choices. Normal Spot metering bases the exposure on a reading taken from the very center of the frame, and is usually chosen for use with high-contrast subjects. Alternatively, in some autofocus modes, you can choose to link the Spot metering area to one of nine or 11 active AF points. When you use Custom Function menu 13 to limit the selectable AF points to either nine or 11, the manually-selected AF point is linked to a 3.8 percent Spot Metering sensor, centered on that point. Another option is to choose the Multi-Spot metering option, which bases the exposure on as many as eight separate readings from different parts of the image. In Multi-Spot metering mode, the central spot metering sensor is activated, and a meter reading is taken every time you press the "FEL" button on the top front of the camera. As you take successive readings, the exposure readouts in the viewfinder show the current aperture and shutter speed settings the camera has computed, while the vertical exposure level indicator shows the relative light levels corresponding to each of the points you measured. This is a pretty powerful exposure option, giving the photographer great control over the final exposure. The exposure level indicator gives you a pretty good idea of how much dynamic range the shot requires, and you can choose to give more weight to a given area of the image by taking multiple readings there. Very slick, a great feature!

Exposure Lock
As you'd expect, the Mark II also offers an Exposure Lock option, which lets you lock exposure independently from the autofocus determination. You simply center the frame on the part of the subject you want to expose for, and press the AE Lock button, marked with an "*" on the camera. What's interesting though, is that this same AE Lock capability is extended to flash exposures when using Canon Speedlights. When shooting with an external flash, a Flash Exposure Lock option (the same FEL button used in the Multi-Spot metering mode) works with Spot metering to determine and lock the flash exposure. While not a multi-spot system, you can select a specific portion of the image on which to meter for flash exposure, just as you can with non-flash shots using the AE Lock button. You can also lock non-flash exposures, by pressing the AE Lock button marked with an "*" on the camera body.

Exposure Compensation
Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -3 to +3 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. An Auto Exposure Bracketing option is available when you're not sure about the best exposure. Three images are captured in succession -- one at the metered exposure, one overexposed, and one underexposed. The amount of exposure variation can vary as much as +/-3 EV steps. In addition to aperture or shutter-speed based bracketing, the Mark II offers a unique ISO speed bracketing option. In this mode, the camera leaves the aperture and shutter settings at their predetermined values, and brackets the exposure by varying the ISO light sensitivity of the camera.

ISO Sensitivity
The Mark II's light sensitivity is adjustable from 100 to 1,600 ISO equivalents, which is expandable to 50 to 3,200 ISO equivalents through an on-screen menu option. You can experiment with a range of ISOs, by using the ISO Auto Bracketing function to capture three images at different ISO settings. The first image is taken at the set ISO value, followed by one at the next lowest value, and one at the next highest value. For example, bracketing the ISO around the 200 value results in a series of images taken at 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents.

12 White Balance Modes
The Mark II offers 12 White Balance modes from which to choose, including Auto, Daylight, Shade, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom, Color Temperature, and up to three separate Personal White Balance settings. Custom is the manual white balance option, which determines the white balance setting from a previously-captured image of a gray card. This method differs from the customary use of a white card held in front of the lens. (Other Canon pro SLRs also use this approach.) While slightly less convenient for on-the-fly white balance adjustment (you have to shoot the test image, then go back into the menu system to select it as the white balance reference), the advantages are actually manifold. First, you can easily store several different reference images on the camera's card, letting you quickly switch between different custom white balance settings. This can be very handy in environments where you need to quickly switch between radically different lighting environments. (Consider sports shooting, where you may want one custom setting for the stadium lights and another for the fluorescent lighting of the locker room.) Another advantage of Canon's custom white balance approach comes in scenarios where multiple photographers are covering the same event. The same set of white balance reference images can be loaded onto each shooter's CF cards, making for perfect color consistency between all the cameras and shooters. (A great help for post-event image workflow!). Here's a list of the available White Balance modes:

White Balance Bracketing
White Balance Bracketing is another useful feature that Canon included in the Mark II. You can set the camera to shoot three images at the same exposure level, varying the White Balance setting between shots by up to +/- 3 steps, each step being equivalent to five Mireds (Micro-reciprocal degrees). Mireds are a bit of an arcane measurement, but represent the units most directly applicable to the mathematics of color adjustment, their main benefit being that they're additive. A filter that shifts 3200°K light by 100°K will produce a much different shift (measured in degrees Kelvin) with 7000°K light, hence the use of mireds to describe the shift, rather than degrees Kelvin. (For example, five mireds at 3200°K is a shift of only 52°K, while five mireds at 7000°K is a shift of about 257°K.) This is all a little convoluted for the uninitiated, but pro photographers are accustomed to working with mireds in calculating filter factors, and professional color meters generally offer a mired scale for calculating filter corrections.)

White Balance in Degrees Kelvin
I also like Canon's provision of a Color Temperature white balance option, which allows the user to select the desired color temperature in 100-degree increments from 2,800°K to 10,000°K. I'd still like to see the lower end of this range extend a little further, since household and commercial incandescent lighting tends to be more in the range of 2,500°K to 2,800°K. Still, the Color Temperature white balance is very handy, particularly if the shooter has access to a color temperature meter.

"Personal" White Balance Settings for Rapid-fire Custom Changes
Finally, the Personal White Balance feature allows you to create as many as three different white balance settings on a computer and load them into the Mark II for quick use. This strikes me as another great option for pros who have to shoot under highly variable lighting, or for groups of pros needing consistency between their setups. Not quite as flexible as the Custom option, because the Personal settings must be downloaded to the camera from a host computer, but arguably more powerful, not to mention having the advantage of allowing you to switch between three distinct custom settings very quickly.

"Color Matrix" options
The Mark II offers a nice range of color options, moving away from the tyranny of the sRGB color space. sRGB produces bright, saturated color on computer monitors, but has a woefully restricted color gamut. Bottom line, sRGB is fine for consumer-level devices, but is really unsuited for color-critical professional applications. Nikon took a step away from sRGB in its D1x and D1h models, by providing support for the so-called Adobe RGB color space in addition to the default sRGB. The Canon EOS-1D Mark II goes a step further, offering no fewer than five color-space options through the Record menu, plus the ability to store two customized settings. Canon calls these "Color Matrix" settings, and they offer an interesting range of possibilities. The table below lists their attributes.

Color Setting
Description/Characteristics
Color Matrix 1
(Standard)
Default color matrix. Normal saturation, sRGB color space.
Color Matrix 2
(Portrait)
sRGB color space, but hue and chroma optimized for reproduction of skin tones. (A little warmer, more saturated in the reds and pinks.)
Color Matrix 3
(High Saturation)
sRGB color space, extra saturation. Intended to reproduce the characteristics of high-chroma slide film.
Color Matrix 4
(Adobe RGB)
Adobe RGB color space, normal hue and chroma within that space. Much wider color gamut than sRGB, which means images will look dull on sRGB monitors. Excellent for use in color-managed workflows, particularly ones going to print as final output.
Color Matrix 5
(Low Saturation)
Mysterious low-saturation color space. Apparently sRGB-based, but color saturation is lower than normal.
Color Matrix Settings 1 and 2
Preset settings.
Color Matrix Setup
Lets you set your own custom color matrix.

For the pros likely to buy this camera, I call particular attention to Color Matrix settings 4 and 5. Setting 4 is matched to Adobe RGB, providing the greater color gamut that color space offers. The EOS-1D Mark II's handling of Adobe RGB JPEGs is another area that's been enhanced relative to the performance of the original 1D. Thanks to its support of the EXIF 2.21 standard, the 1D Mark II now embeds an ICC color profile into the EXIF header of JPEG files, so EXIF 2.21-aware image editing applications can recognize and apply the proper color space parameters automatically. (With the original EOS-1D, it was up to you to be alert and configure your image editor properly when opening images shot with the Adobe RGB color space.) Note though, that only the more recent versions of most imaging applications will be EXIF 2.21-aware: Adobe Photoshop version 7 doesn't recognize the 1D Mark II's Adobe RGB tags in its JPEG files, but Photoshop CS does.

Color Matrix setting 5 is a little mysterious, as there are some indications Canon intended it to be a special wide-gamut color space, but now treats it simply as a low-saturation sRGB.

 

The "Red Problem," Description and Workaround

Soon after production models of the 1D Mark II began hitting retail shelves, users reported odd behavior when photographing strong reds. As time went on, some users also found similar issues with some shades of blue, under certain ill-defined conditions. In the months leading up to the publishing of this review (in mid-January, 2004), the 1D Mark II's color handling generated an unusual amount of foment and speculation across the Internet, but unfortunately with the lack of careful test and analysis so often characteristic of Internet discussion.

When we checked with Canon, we were told that they felt that most of the reported problems resulted from people inadvertently running the camera with the color saturation setting boosted, but that the color management in the Digital Photo Professional software package was indeed more sophisticated than that in the camera.

Wanting to get to the bottom of the issue, I put together a "red-hue torture test" in the studio, using our artificial "sunlight" lighting setup. (The smooth spectrum of the dichroic-filtered incandescent lighting of this setup should give rise to fewer potential problems with metamerism than the more "spiky" spectral distribution of HMI lights, and would avoid potential problems with fluorescence from the UV content of strobes.)

The image above shows the test scene I set up (as rendered by Digital Photo Professional, which did indeed produce the best results). There's a collection of bright colors in the red/magenta portion of the spectrum, as well as a bright blue and yellow, some greens in the flower bouquet, and several color and grayscale reference targets, so I could see how the color management affected other portions of the spectrum.

To see what was really going on, I shot this scene with each of the 1D Mark II's color matrices, creating both RAW and JPEG files in the camera. All exposures were widely bracketed, so I could be sure of having shots that captured the full dynamic range of the scene and that were comparable with each other. I shot the range of color matrices using the camera's default settings, then went back to CM1 (the default sRGB color space) and shot with the camera's color saturation setting dialed down a few days later. (This was after I spoke with Canon, and they indicated that they thought that the red problem was caused by incorrect color saturation settings.) The positions of some of the coats are slightly different in this second set of shots, but the lighting is identical between the two scenes.

The results were very interesting, and underscore the importance of RAW shooting and the use of the Digital Photo Professional software package for color-critical work with the EOS-1D Mark II. The thumbnails below show the results with various combinations of color settings and conversion methods. The color of the magenta jacket on the left side of the frame should be more purplish, with more color separation between it and the red nylon shell to the right of it. Also, because the red channel completely saturates in the highlight on the shoulder of the jacket, considerable detail is lost.

Canon EOS-1D Mark II In-Camera Red Handling
Camera RGB (CM1)
Default Saturation
Camera RGB (CM1)
Medium-Low
Saturation
Camera RGB (CM1)
Lowest
Saturation

The color of the magenta jacket on the left side of the frame should be more purplish, with more color separation between it and the red nylon shell to the right of it. Also, because the red channel completely saturates in the highlight on the shoulder of the jacket, considerable detail is lost. From this, it's pretty clear that the 1D Mark II has difficulty with the (admittedly very tough, out-of-gamut) magenta of the jacket on the left, and also somewhat oversaturates the magenta jacket that's more towards the middle of the frame as well. Also, it's evident that reducing the camera's saturation setting has relatively little effect. As noted, close inspection reveals that what's happening is that the red channel saturates completely, well short of the point of maximum brightness/saturation. This is a not-uncommon issue in color management when dealing with out-of-gamut colors: The color management scheme just tries for the best match it can manage, and when the color goes out of gamut, it "clips", the affected color channel staying pegged at its maximum value, while the others change in accordance with the color-mapping equations.

A better (or at least, more often preferable) approach is that taken by the Digital Photo Professional software. Rather than aiming for the best accuracy for in-gamut colors, and letting out-of-gamut ones clip, this approach is to compress the color at the edges of the available color space, so some range of out-of-gamut colors are mapped to the edge of the color space. Typically, colors are mapped exactly in areas that are well within the available color space, but a region of color space near the edge of the gamut is selectively compressed, so at least some differences in relative color will still be displayed as the subject moves out of gamut, but a broader range of color can still be accommodated. (This is a very simple description of the concept of gamut compression. - The real art comes in deciding exactly how to compress the color, over what range of values, and how to transition from exact mapping to varying degrees of compression.)

So how does Digital Photo Professional do? Here are some samples showing its output, as well as that from the less-sophisticated Canon EOS Viewer utility. (Which more or less matches the color management of the camera itself.)

EOS-1D Mark II Red Hues, Processed from RAW files
EOS Viewer from RAW
Digital Photo Professional from RAW
Digital Photo Professional
(From RAW shot in CM4, Adobe RGB)

As noted, the EOS Viewer utility falls prey to the same phenomenon as does the camera's own internal JPEG conversion, saturating the red channel and clipping the color gamut on the magenta jacket. In contrast, Digital Photo Professional's RAW converter engine reduces saturation in the magenta hues somewhat overall, and compresses the color space somewhat as the subject color approaches the edge of the color space. The result is much more natural-looking, and very little detail is lost in the highlights on the shoulder of the jacket.

What about Adobe RGB color space? The broader color gamut of Adobe RGB does indeed largely fix the problem, although you'll need to use the resulting images in a color-managed environment, since most desktop imaging applications assume sRGB as their standard color space. Here are some examples, shot with Adobe RGB, showing that the Camera, EOS Viewer Utility, and Digital Photo Professional all do fairly well when working in the Adobe RGB color space (although DPP still wins out, in my opinion):

EOS-1D Mark II Red Hues, Adobe RGB color space
Camera JPEG,
Color Mode 4
Digital Photo Professional from CM4 RAW file
EOS Viewer Utility, from CM4 RAW file

Finally, given the difficulty of the colors we're dealing with here, a fair question would be whether other cameras handle them much better. At the time I shot the test, I didn't have a lot of competing SLR models available, but shot the scene with my Nikon D70, as well as two consumer cameras, a Canon PowerShot S70 and a Kodak DX7440. Of the three, the D70 arguably did the best job, losing relatively little detail, and maintaining fairly good color separation between the jacket and red nylon shell. The Canon S70 also held onto detail fairly well, but rendered the magenta jacket as an almost pure red. Finally, the Kodak DX7440 maintained excellent separation between the colors, but at the cost of a lot of detail in the highlights of the magenta jacket. (Sorry, no larger images are linked to the thumbnails below.)

Other Cameras
Nikon D70
Canon
PowerShot S70
Kodak
DX 7440


Bottom line then, there are issues to be found in some areas of the spectrum (strong magentas and reds in our testing, possibly other colors as well - Shawn also had issues with a bright orange on a model's bikini he shot with the 1D Mark II), but when working with the JPEG files generated in-camera. Processing RAW images through Canon's Digital Photo Professional software seems to avoid these color issues almost entirely.

Tonality and Custom Tonal Curves
This was a major feature of the original 1D, but also a bit an Achilles heel. In the 1D Mark II, most limitations have been addressed. The original 1D's default tone curve was rather contrasty, but its support for custom tone curves at least gave you a way to deal with the issue. The remaining problem though, was that the process of manipulating tone curves in Canon's EOS Capture utility was glacially slow, at least on Macintosh computers. With the version shipped with the 1D Mark II though, not only is the camera's default tone curve less contrasty, but the software is much more responsive when you're interactively adjusting a tone curve. Now, creating a custom tone curve and downloading it into the camera is a relatively painless process. (Although I would still like to see it be a little faster in displaying the results of a tone curve tweak.)

 

Flash

Like most pro cameras, the Mark II has both an external flash hot-shoe as well as an external PC socket for connecting a strobe. The hot-shoe accommodates all Canon EX series speedlights, as well as a variety of third-party flash units. A Flash Exposure Lock button allows users to lock the flash exposure in advance of the shot, and a Flash Exposure Compensation option adjusts the overall flash power from -3 to +3 EV in one-third-step increments (only for Canon EX series speedlights). Automatic flash exposure bracketing is also available. A High Speed Sync option synchronizes the flash with all shutter speeds available on the Mark II, from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds. (Note though, that a full-power flash almost invariably lasts longer than 1/8,000 second, so you won't see the full flash power when working with a shutter speed that fast.) When using a Canon EX flash unit, you can also sync up wireless slave units for greater coverage, with no connecting wires, special codes, or anything. Full TTL flash metering is available even with multi-flash wireless setups. (Canon's series of dedicated Speedlights have a remarkable range of capabilities, really deserving of a review of their own, rather than the very brief treatment I'm giving them here. Unfortunately, I really don't have the time or space to go into all their functions, and the details of how they integrate with the Mark II.)

Continuous Shooting
Two Continuous Shooting modes are available on the Mark II: High-Speed and Low-Speed. High Speed Continuous Shooting captures as many as 8.1 frames per second, provided you're using a fast enough shutter speed. (For maximum frame rates, Canon says you need to use a shutter speed of 1/500 second or faster. Canon rates the 1D Mark II's continuous speed at 8.5 frames/second, but 8.1 frames/second was what we measured in our own tests.) Low-Speed Continuous mode captures approximately three frames per second. In both modes, the maximum burst series is 40 frames (unless remaining removable memory space is limited to a smaller number). Maximum burst length drops to 20 frames in the RAW file setting. (See the Shutter Lag/Cycle Time section of the review below for more information on shooting speed.)

Self-Timer Modes
The Mark II offers two Self-Timer modes, 10-Second and Two-Second. Both modes are accessed through the Drive button on top of the camera, the same button that activates the Continuous Shooting modes.

 

Shutter Lag / Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time required for the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure both shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times for all cameras I test, using a test system I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I measured for the Canon EOS-1D Mark II:

Canon EOS-1D Mark II Timings
Operation
Time
(secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
0.95
Quite fast, if not exactly blazing.
Shutdown
~0 - 73
First time is simple shutdown, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. Second time is quite long, but corresponds to writing 18 files in RAW + JPEG mode.
Play to Record, first shot
0.3
Time until first shot is captured. Very fast.
Record to play
1.9 / 0.4
First time is that required to display a large/fine file immediately after capture, second time is that needed to display a large/fine file that has already been processed and stored on the memory card. First time isn't especially fast for a camera of this caliber, but still not bad. Second time is quite good.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.20 / 0.24
First time is at 16mm, second is at 35mm with 16-35 mm f/2.8 EF lens. Times will obviously vary greatly with different lenses, but this is quite fast nonetheless.
Shutter lag, manual focus
0.075
Very fast.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.054
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Very fast.
Cycle Time, max resolution

0.6 (1.65 fps)

Times are averages. Shoots 55 shots this fast in single-shot mode, then slows to about 0.8 fps. Buffer clears in 36 seconds with a Lexar 80x CF card.
Cycle Time, continuous High mode, max/min resolution 0.124
(8.1 fps)
Shoots at the same rate for large/fine files or "TV" size images. Times are averages. In large/fine mode, slows to 0.84 fps after 33 frames and clears the buffer in 38 seconds. In TV mode, gradually slows to 2.5 fps after 63 frames and clears the buffer in 26 seconds. All times measured with a Lexar 80x CF card.
Cycle Time, continuous Low mode, max resolution 0.33
(3.0 fps)
Times are averages. Shoots 41 frames this fast, then slows to 0.84 fps. Buffer clears in 38 seconds. Times measured with a Lexar 80x CF card. (Low continuous mode speed can be programmed anywhere from 3 to 8 fps via a personal function menu item, in conjunction with Canon EOS Viewer software. 3 fps is the factory default.)
Cycle Time, continuous RAW mode 0.123
(8.1 fps)
Times are averages. Shoots 19 RAW frames this fast, then slows to about 3 seconds per frame. Buffer clears in 55 seconds. Shoots 18 RAW+JPG frames this fast, then slows to about 4 seconds per frame. Buffer clears in 73 seconds. Above times measured with Lexar 80x CF card. Buffer clearing is about 20% slower with a 4x memory card, 10% faster to non-speed rated Lexar SD card, 29% faster to a SanDisk Ultra II SD card.

No question about it, the EOS-1D Mark II is the fastest pro SLR we've tested to date. Every parameter is fast, from shutter lag and AF performance to shot-to-shot cycle times. It does take advantage of fast memory cards to clear its buffer memory more quickly, but the difference between 4x and 80x cards is only about 20%. More interestingly, its SD card interface seems to be consistently slightly faster than the CF slot. (Bottom line though, the 1D Mark II has such a large buffer and clears it so quickly with almost any modern memory card, card speed and buffer clearing aren't likely to be an issue for the majority of users.)

 

Operation and User Interface

The Mark II's user interface is certainly one of the most complex I've encountered, with extensive external camera controls that have multiple functions, and duplicate controls for vertical shooting. However, the interface is very similar to the previous EOS-1D, which I had to refer to the manual on a number of occasions to fully understand what each control did. However, once I became familiar with the layout and began to memorize each button's function(s), camera operation was straightforward and quite efficient. This is definitely not a camera for a casual user, but professional shooters will find it very fast and flexible to operate. Dual controls for the Shutter button, AE Lock, AF Point Selection, and the Assist button enable you to comfortably operate the camera horizontally or vertically, a mandatory option for pro photographers. The vertical controls can also be turned off if they're not compatible with a photographer's shooting style. The combination of control dials and buttons allows you to adjust most of the camera's settings without venturing into the LCD menu system, a great time-saver in fast-paced shooting situations. For those times when the LCD menu is unavoidable, the menu system offers straightforward navigation, once you get the hang of Canon's multi-button and dial-based user interface.

 

LCD Data Readouts
The Mark II uses two monochrome LCD data readouts to report camera status, and provide a visual user interface to the various knobs, dials, and buttons. As with the EOS-1D before it, you can actually control quite a bit of the camera's operation without venturing into the menu system on the color LCD screen. This not only saves power (by avoiding the hefty drain of the large LCD screen), but makes the camera much quicker to operate. Here are the details of the information provided by the two LCD readouts, on the top and back of the camera. (Illustrations courtesy Canon USA, Inc. Used with permission.)

 


Control Enumeration

With the foregoing as background, here's a step-by-step description of the Mark II's various controls and their operation:


Shutter Button: Located on the top of the camera body, sloping down toward the front panel, this button sets focus and/or exposure when pressed halfway. A full press fires the shutter.


Depth of Field Preview Button: Hidden on the lower right side of the lens mount (when holding the camera from behind), this button previews the depth of field in the viewfinder. Pressing the button stops the lens down to the selected aperture, letting you visually check the depth of field.


Lens Release Button: On the left side of the camera's front panel, this semicircular button releases a latch so the lens can be removed with a turn to the right.


FE Lock / Multi-Spot Metering Button ("FEL"): Situated on the top panel of the camera, just behind the Shutter button, this button controls the flash exposure lock and Multi-Metering functions, just like its vertical grip counterpart. Pressing the button when a Canon Speedlight is in use locks the exposure based on a test flash. In Multi-Spot Metering mode (with the flash off), this button selects up to eight metering points for exposure calculation.


Main Dial: To the right of the FE Lock / Multi-Spot Metering button, this dial controls a variety of camera functions when turned while pressing a control button. Depending on the exposure mode, turning the dial on its own adjusts some of the functions listed on the top LCD panel, such as aperture or shutter speed. In Program AE mode, turning this dial cycles through a range of equivalent exposure settings.


LCD Panel Illumination Button: Behind and to the left of the FE Lock / Multi-Spot Metering button, this button activates an electroluminescent blue background illumination for both the rear and top status LCD panels. You can turn off the illumination by pressing the button a second time. Pressing the button once leaves the light on for six seconds.


Exposure Compensation / Aperture Button: To the right of the LCD Panel Illumination button, this button controls the exposure compensation in conjunction with the Main dial (in all exposure modes except Manual). Pressing the button blanks all the top-panel LCD readouts except the exposure compensation indicator, and connects the Main dial to the exposure compensation adjustment. Pressing the button again or half-pressing the Shutter button registers the exposure compensation setting you've selected, and puts the camera back in shooting mode. In Manual mode, pressing this button while turning the Main dial controls the aperture setting.


Metering Mode / Flash Exposure Compensation Button: The first button on the far left side of the top panel (when looking from the back), this button changes the current metering mode when pressed while turning the Main dial, cycling through Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Center-Weighted, and AF Point-Linked Spot metering modes. When pressed while turning the Quick Control dial on the back panel, the flash exposure compensation is adjusted from -3 to +3 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. (Note that this only applies to Canon dedicated Speedlights.) Pressing this button in conjunction with the Shooting Mode (MODE) button while turning the Main dial adjusts the camera's Drive mode, cycling through Single Frame, High-Speed Continuous, Low-Speed Continuous, 10-Second Self-Timer, and Two-Second Self-Timer modes. Finally, pressing this button in conjunction with the AF Mode button while turning the Main dial sets the ISO sensitivity.


AF Mode Button: The next button on the left, just in front of the Metering Mode / Flash Exposure Compensation button, this button sets the autofocus mode when pressed while turning the Main dial, cycling between One-Shot AF and AI Servo AF (which focuses continuously to track moving subjects). Pressing this button while holding down the Metering Mode / Flash Exposure Compensation button and turning the Main dial adjusts the ISO setting. Additionally, holding down this button while pressing the Shooting Mode button and turning the Main dial activates the Auto Exposure Bracketing mode and sets the amount of exposure variation.


Shooting Mode Button: The last button on the left side of the top panel, this button sets the camera's exposure mode when held down while turning the Main dial, cycling through the following modes:

When pressed in conjunction with the AF Mode button while turning the Main dial, this button activates the Auto Exposure Bracketing mode and adjusts the amount of exposure variation. Pressing this button while holding down the Metering Mode / Flash Exposure Compensation button adjusts the camera's Drive mode, cycling through Single Frame, High-Speed Continuous, Low-Speed Continuous, 10-Second Self-Timer, and Two-Second Self-Timer modes.


Diopter Adjustment Dial: Located on the camera's back panel, to the left of the viewfinder, this dial adjusts the optical viewfinder display to accommodate eyeglass wearers.


Eyepiece Shutter Lever: On the opposite side of the viewfinder, this lever opens and closes a small shutter inside the eyepiece, which prevents incident light from affecting the exposure when the camera is mounted on a tripod. (Normally, the photographer's eye prevents ambient light from entering the viewfinder eyepiece.)


Assist / White Balance Correction Button: Directly to the right of the Eyepiece Shutter lever, this button registers the selected AF point when pressed in conjunction with the Flash Exposure Lock button. Pressing this button with the AF Point Selection button switches between the normal AF mode and the registered AF point. Very handy for quickly switching between a specific AF point and normal multi-area AF operation. The operation of this control may be modified somewhat through Custom Function menu 18.

When pressing the WB button on the rear panel and this button simultaneously, you can adjust the white balance by altering the amount of blue, amber, magenta, or green, using the Main and Command dials.


AE Lock ("*") / Reduce Button: To the right of the Assist button, this button locks the exposure when pressed. (The AE Lock is canceled six seconds later, or when a shot is taken, whichever comes first.)

In Playback mode, this button reduces the magnified image display when pressed while holding down the Format / Magnify button.


AF Point Selection / Magnify Button: Directly to the right of the AE Lock button, this button selects one of the 45 AF points when pressed while turning either the Quick Control or Main dials. (The Quick Control dial selects vertically, while the Main dial selects horizontally.) Pressing this button simultaneously with the Assist button switches between the normal AF mode and the registered AF point.

In Playback mode, this button magnifies the displayed image, as much as 10x, when pressed while holding down the Format / Magnify button.


Quick Control Dial Switch: In the center of the back panel, above the Quick Control dial, this switch turns the dial on or off, as a precaution against changes being made if it is accidentally turned.


Quick Control Dial: The large dial in the center of the back panel, this dial controls a variety of camera settings when turned while pressing control buttons. During image playback, turning this dial scrolls through captured images, and moves up and down in a zoomed image (while the main dial handles left and right movement), and it is a primary user interface element for navigating the LCD menu system.


Main Switch: Directly below the Quick Control dial, this switch turns the camera on or off. In its third position (marked with a little speaker icon), the beeper is enabled, to signal when focus is achieved.


Memory Card Slot Release Latch: Located at the bottom left corner of the dual-slot memory card compartment, this switch unlocks the compartment door, allowing you to remove the memory cards.


Protect / Sound Recording Button: The first button in a series lining the left side of the LCD monitor, this button assigns or removes write protection for selected files during image playback. Also in Playback mode, this button allows you to record as long as 30 seconds of audio to attach to an image file, by holding down the button for two seconds. (Very handy for pros needing to keep track of what's recorded in various shots.)


Menu Button: Directly below the Protect / Sound Recording button, this button displays the LCD menu system. Unlike most digital cameras, you must press and hold this button and use the Quick dial to move between the different Menu tabs. Only when you release this button are you able to press and hold the select button to scroll through each menu item.


Select Button: The third button in the series on the left side of the LCD monitor, this button selects menu settings while in the LCD menu system. Like the Menu button, it must be held down as you scroll through the options. Releasing it selects the option and moves you to the next step in selecting (a fly out menu or selection buttons, for example. You must press the button again to make further selections with the Quick dial as you move through the settings. It can be confusing at first, but will seem plenty natural after a short time. When playing back images, this button lets you scroll through captured frames when pressed while turning the Quick Control dial.


Display / White Balance Bracketing Button: Just below the Select button, this button controls the LCD display mode when playing back images. A full press of the button turns the display on or off. Holding down the button while turning the Quick Control dial cycles through the image playback display modes, including Info (with histogram), Single Image Display, Four-Image Display, Nine-Image Display, and Storage (which allows users to create new image storage folders). In Record mode, pressing this button in conjunction with the White Balance button activates the White Balance Bracketing mode, letting you adjust the parameters before shooting.


Format / Magnify Button
: The last button in the series, this button lets you format the memory card when pressed in Record mode. In Playback mode, you can enlarge the captured image by holding down this button and pressing the Reduce or Magnify buttons mentioned above.


Erase Button: Located below the LCD monitor as the first button in a series, this button erases selected images or folders.

 


Image Size Selection Button: To the right of the Erase button, this button cycles through the file resolution settings when pressed while turning the Quick Control button. Pressing and holding this button with the White Balance button for two seconds returns the camera's settings to their defaults.


White Balance Button: Directly to the right of the Quality button, this button cycles through the available White Balance settings when pressed while turning the Quick Control dial. When held down in conjunction with the Quality button, this button resets the camera settings to their defaults. Holding this button while pressing the Display button activates the White Balance Bracketing mode.


Vertical Grip Operation On/Off Switch: Located on the right side of the camera (when looking from the back) and near the cluster of vertical grip controls, this switch turns those controls on or off. Disabling the controls prevents accidental activation when shooting with the camera in a normal horizontal orientation.


Vertical Grip Shutter Button: Directly below the primary Shutter button, but on the bottom panel of the camera, this button performs the same shutter functions when shooting with the camera held vertically. It may be a little more sensitive in our experience, especially when shooting in High or Low speed Continuous modes, more frequently firing off two or three shots than the main shutter button.


Vertical Grip Main Dial: Like the Main dial on top of the camera, this dial controls a variety of camera settings when rotated while holding down a control button. Located just behind the Vertical Grip Shutter button, this dial controls several functions on the top LCD panel when turned by itself, such as aperture or shutter speed, depending on the exposure mode. When turned while in Program AE mode, the dial cycles through a range of equivalent exposures.


Vertical Grip FE Lock / Multi-Spot Metering Button ("FEL"): Just behind the Vertical Grip Main dial, this button locks the exposure when an external flash is used. Like the main FE Lock button, when no flash is in use, this button sets the metering points for the Multi-Spot Metering mode, which averages the exposure from as many as eight separate readings.


Vertical Grip Assist / White Balance Correction Button: Just like the Assist button at the top of the back panel, this button (located in the lower right corner of the back panel) registers the AF point when pressed in conjunction with the Flash Exposure Lock button. It also switches between the normal AF setting and the registered point when pressed simultaneously with the AF Point Selection button.

When pressed with the WB button, this button lets you adjust the amount of blue, amber, magenta, and green in the color balance.


Vertical Grip AE Lock / Reduce Button: To the right of and below the Vertical Grip Assist button, this button locks the exposure for a maximum of six seconds when pressed once.

In Playback mode, this button reduces the enlarged playback view when pressed while holding down the Magnify button.


Vertical Grip AF Point Selection / Magnify Button: The final vertical grip control in the lower right corner of the back panel, this button performs the same functions as its main counterpart, allowing you to select an AF point for use by holding down the button and turning the Quick Control or Main dial. Pressing this button with the Assist button selects between the normal AF mode and the registered AF point.

In Playback mode, this button enlarges the review display when pressed while holding down the Magnify button.


Battery Compartment Release Button: Situated on the left side of the camera, when looking from the back, this button must be pressed to fully release the battery after turning the Battery Release Handle.


Battery Release Handle
: Also on the left, centered on the battery itself, must be turned to the left, then the Battery Compartment Release Button must be depressed.

 

Camera Menus

The Mark II offers five menus, all of which are available at all times by pressing the Menu button. The last item you had selected in any given menu is the first selected when you re-select that tab. It is not reset until you power the camera off and on.

Record Menu


Playback Menu


Setup Menu 1


Setup Menu 2


Custom Menu

Custom Functions
The Mark II continues with the extensive Custom Menu and Personal Function options that appeared on the original 1D, making it one of the most customizable cameras I've seen. An amazing range of the camera's operating functions is subject to user configuration, with no fewer than 21 "Custom" function menus and 27 "Personal" functions.

To help you manage the Mark II's configurability, you can group both custom and personal functions into "custom function groups," letting you quickly switch between different sets of them for different shooting conditions or photographers.

Here's a list of the Custom Function options, and the camera features they control. (I didn't bother showing you screen captures of these, as there's really not much information displayed on these screens other than a list of options for each. The list below has more detail on the actual operation of each menu than is in the menus themselves.)

Personal Functions: A wide variety of secondary camera options can be controlled via the "Personal Functions" menu system. These are options that are less integral to basic camera operation, but that fall more into the realm of personal preferences. (Examples include things like setting the continuous shooting speed, enabling or disabling metering modes, whether or not to illuminate the LCD panels during bulb exposures, etc.)

These functions are enabled or disabled via the host software provided with the camera. The default is for none of the personal function options to be available: You'll have to connect the camera to the computer and turn them on before they'll be accessible on the LCD menu system. The menu displays in this mode are unusually informative, as Canon has made excellent use of the high-resolution LCD panel to show explanatory information. Accordingly, I'll simply show screenshots of each Personal Function menu in the table below.

 


Image Storage and Interface

The Canon EOS-1D Mark II stores images on either a CompactFlash Type I or II or SD/MMC memory card (or both), and is compatible with Hitachi MicroDrives. A dual-slot memory card compartment on the rear panel accommodates both formats. The Mark II does not come with a memory card, but accessory cards are currently available in a large range of sizes. The Mark II allows you to write-protect individual images via the Protect option of the Playback menu, which saves them from accidental erasure or manipulation, but not from card formatting, which erases the entire card.

The Mark II offers four resolution sizes: 3,504 x 2,336; 3,104 x 2, 072; 2,544 x 1,696; and 1,728 x 1,152 pixels. A full range of JPEG compression levels are available as well, from one to 10. There's also a RAW mode, which records all the information from the CCD, without any processing. The camera can be configured to save both a RAW and JPEG-compressed image at the same time, for every shot captured. Given a large enough memory card, this looks like a very useful operating mode, giving you a ready-to-use JPEG file as well as a "digital negative" in the form of the RAW file. RAW-format images can be processed on the host computer to change White Balance and even Color Matrix settings. Exposure can also be adjusted by as much as +/- 2 EV on a RAW file. Canon includes a utility for processing and viewing RAW files as part of its Solution disk.

Following is the approximate number of storable images and the associated compression ratios for a 256 MB CompactFlash card. File sizes and compression ratios shown here are based on the default JPEG compression settings used by the camera (8). Higher or lower compression ratios would obviously increase or decrease file sizes.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
256 MB Memory Card
Fine (10) Normal (6)
Basic (1)
RAW
3504 x 2336 Images
(Avg size)
44
5.8 MB
96
2.7 MB
248
1.0 MB
31-47
8.2-5.4 MB
Approx.
Compression
4:1 9:1 24:1 3:1 - 5:1
3104 x 2072 Images
(Avg size)
55
4.6 MB
118
2.1 MB
290
881 KB
 -
Approx.
Compression
4:1 9:1 22:1  -
2544 x 1696 Images
(Avg size)
74
3.4 MB
149
1.7 MB
353
725 KB
 -
Approx.
Compression
4:1 8:1
18:1
 -
1728 x 1152
Images
(Avg size)
128
2.0 MB
253
1.0 MB
499
513 KB
 -
Approx.
Compression
3:1 6:1
11:1
 -

Interface software and an IEEE-1394 "FireWire" cable also accompany the camera, for high speed connection to a PC or Macintosh. A USB cable also comes with the camera, for direct printing to DPOF- and Pictbridge-compatible printers.

 

Video Out


The Mark II has a Video Out jack for connecting the camera to a television set, useful for reviewing images on a larger screen. A menu option lets you choose between NTSC and PAL timing, for European or US usage.


 

Power

Power is supplied to the Mark II via an NiMH rechargeable battery pack or the included "DC Coupler" (AC adapter) accessory. The NP-E3 battery pack and DC coupler both accompany the camera, along with a battery charger. According to Canon, a freshly charged NP-E3 battery pack should produce as many as 1,200 shots at normal temperature (28C/68F). At low temperatures, battery capacity can be significantly reduced, but the manual says that at freezing (0C/32F) the Mark II can take 800 shots per charge. The (approximate) amount of battery life remaining is displayed on the top LCD status display panel. An Auto Power-Off feature automatically turns off the camera after 1, 2, 4, 8, 15, or 30 minutes, depending on the time set through the settings menu (you can also turn this off). A CR2025 lithium battery serves as the backup power supply for the camera's internal calendar and clock.

Working with the DC coupler, I performed my usual measurements on the Mark II's power consumption in various operating modes. Here's what I found for the Mark II's power consumption numbers:

Operating Mode
Power
(@ 13v)
Est. Minutes
(1650 mAh
NP-E3 pack)
Capture Mode, "semi-sleep"
50 mA
31 hours
Capture Mode, "awake"
145.8 mA
10.4 hours
Memory Write (transient)
171 mA
n/a
Burst shooting, 8fps
469
n/a
Image Playback
253 mA
8.8 hours

The EOS-1D Mark II's power consumption is markedly lower than that of the original EOS-1D across the board, regardless of operating mode. No doubt about it, this is a camera for the long haul, able to keep shooting all day long.

 

Included Software

Three software CDs come with the Mark II, the first containing Canon's Solution Disk software for both PC and Macintosh platforms, the second containing Canon's new Digital Photo Professional software package, and the third Adobe Photoshop Elements. The camera connects to the computer via an IEEE-1394 "FireWire" interface cable. A USB cable is also included, for direct printing to Canon or other PictBridge/DPOF printers. The Solution Disk software package includes Canon Utilities, EOS Capture (for operating the camera from the computer), and the necessary drivers. I mentioned the Canon software earlier, calling particular attention to the ability it provides the user to customize the camera's tone curves. Here's a simple list of what's included on the cross-platform disk:

The two Canon applications shipped with the EOS-1D Mark II to some extent overlap in function, to the extent that I expect Canon in the future will merge both into a single application, almost certainly Digital Photo Professional. Here's a look at the two Canon applications:

 

Canon EOS Viewer Utility (version 1.1.10)

This is Canon's workhorse image viewing utility, shipped in one form or another with Canon digital cameras for the last several years. This latest version has a somewhat updated user interface, as well as significantly improved performance when adjusting RAW-format image files. I unfortunately did still find it to be glacially slow when navigating into folders with large numbers of items in them, a trait shared by both Mac and PC versions of the program.

EOS Viewer's main window (shown above) is split into four panes: File/Folder list (upper right), thumbnail display (center), image information (right), and bookmark (bottom right). EOS viewer will display thumbnails directly from the camera (without having downloaded the images to the computer first), from a local hard drive, or from a network-attached drive. Clicking on an image causes its exposure information to be displayed in the righthand pane, where you now have a choice between a single brightness histogram, or a display showing separate histograms for the red, green, and blue color channels. (A nice touch.) You can select multiple images at once by shift-clicking on their thumbnails. Double-clicking on an image opens it for viewing, either fit to the window or 100% (1:1 camera/screen pixels). Icons across the top toolbar let you show or hide the thumbnails or the directory tree, move between open windows, rotate images, mark or unmark them, protect or unprotect them, play any attached sound clips, view and edit IPTC caption information, select all/marked/unmarked/protected/unprotected images, save files, transfer images to another application, start up the Capture application, or delete selected images. When you have an image open for individual viewing, a nifty feature lets you see what autofocus points were active when the image was captured. (This works with both JPEG and RAW formats.)

When you have an image open for individual viewing, there's not much else to do with JPEG files than inspect them more closely. - EOS Viewer doesn't provide any tools for editing JPEG files, apart from rotating them.

The Tool Palette (access from the View menu, or hit CTRL-T on the keyboard) lets you adjust RAW-mode image files. (If you hit CTRL-T while viewing a JPEG image, you'll just get an empty window.) The Tool Palette works in both Thumbnail or full-frame views, and you can manipulate multiple images simultaneously in Thumbnail view, simply by shift-click selecting them. A wide range of adjustments are possible, including (from the top down):

RAW-file image manipulation is the area where Canon has made the biggest improvements relative to earlier versions of this program, changes that you make now being reflected in the images after only a slight pause. Tone curves developed in EOS Viewer can be saved to disk, and then applied to the camera, stored on the camera in any of the three custom tone-curve memories. You can thus shoot a test image, manipulate the tone curve until you get it looking the way you want on the computer, and then download that custom tone curve into the 1D Mark II. Very slick! (This feature was available in the original 1D as well, but the software application was so mind-numbingly slow that it just wasn't practical to create your own tone curves.) Another nice touch is that EOS Viewer saves its RAW-file adjustments in the file header, so they're remembered from one use of the program to another, while leaving the image data itself untouched.

With the camera connected via its FireWire port, you can modify a variety of its internal settings, including Owner's name and date and time (which can be set directly from the PC, nice if your computer uses a time server to keep its clock accurate). The second screen gives you access to all the Personal Functions of the 1D Mark II. Important note: In order to access the Personal Functions from the camera's menu, you have to first enable them (one by one) via the EOS Viewer software. The third screen gives you control over the camera's various shot settings, including Parameters, Tone Curve (this is where you'd go to download a custom tone curve), Personal white balance, Color matrix, and JPEG quality.

 

Canon Digital Photo Professional (version 1.5.0.8)

This is the latest addition to Canon's imaging software, apparently intended primarily to provide better color management when working from RAW files. Digital Photo Professional's (DPP for short) main screen looks similar to that of EOS Viewer Utility (EVU for short), the most obvious difference being the different graphical treatment of the icons across the top, and the lack of an information pane on the right.

Some functions that were buried on the Tool Palette on EVU are brought out onto the icon bar in DPP, but other things are lacking, mainly anything involving connection to the camera. - You can't download files from the camera in DPP, control the camera, or upload custom settings. DPP does offer the ability to manipulate JPEG files as well as RAW ones though, and as noted elsewhere in this review, it does a significantly better job rendering difficult colors from RAW images, notably some reds and blues.

While it lacks EVU's info pane, DPP does offer a useful "Info view" of the files, combining a thumbnail with a brightness histogram and basic exposure information about each file. The information here isn't nearly as extensive as that in EVU's information pane, but it's much easier to access.

Just as with EVU, double-clicking on an image in DPP opens it into a larger window of its own. Likewise, hitting CTRL-T brings up a tools palette. The biggest difference here though, is that DPP lets you manipulate the tone curve, brightness, contrast, hue and saturation on JPEG files as well as RAW ones.

When manipulating RAW images, the tool palette looks slightly different, incorporating some (but not all) of the capabilities of EVU, as well as some new ones particular to DPP. The standard brightness (EV) adjustment leads the list, followed by a range of white balance options. The "Tune" button now leads to a more intuitive color-wheel display for making fine adjustments to color balance, rather than the blue-yellow/red-cyan sliders of EVU. There's a nice combined dynamic range/tone curve adjustment that lets you easily adjust how the 12-bit data of the RAW file maps onto the 8-bit display space, but you have much less control over the tone curve itself than in EVU, with just a single slider to shift it darker or lighter. (EVU lets you place multiple control points along the curve, and push/pull them however you like.) Finally, there's an option to adjust the camera's color handling to the Shot Settings, to a "Faithful" (basically, a setting that tries to match in-gamut colors more precisely, and lets out of gamut colors clip), and a Custom setting that lets you adjust hue and saturation via a pair of sliders.

DPP's batch-processing screen is a new addition, but in actuality, essentially all its capabilities were available in EVU's Save As dialog, just arranged slightly differently. Still, nice to have them arranged cleanly in a separate option screen, as shown here.

Overall, as I noted at the outset of the software discussion here, there's a fair bit of duplication and redundancy between EVU and DPP. The obvious direction for Canon to go would be to integrate the camera-control functions of EVU into DPP (including most particularly custom tone curve creation), and then dispense with EVU entirely. For anyone doing color-critical work, DPP's color rendering (from RAW files) is significantly more sure-footed than either EVU's or that of the 1D Mark II itself.

 

In the Box

Included with the EOS-1D Mark II digital camera are the following items:

NOTE: No memory card is included with the Mark II, so plan on buying a large SD or CF memory card.

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Canon EOS-1D Mark II's sample pictures page.

For a collection of more pictorial images from the Canon EOS-1D Mark II, check out our Canon 1D Mark II photo gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the 1D Mark II with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the Canon EOS-1D Mark II's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

 

Conclusion

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The EOS-1D was an impressive digital SLR at its debut, arguably the most rugged, configurable, and fastest then available on the market. The new EOS-1D Mark II raises the bar while maintaining all that made the 1D such a successful and formidable SLR, offering the same great exposure control, but with a much higher resolution, 8.2-megapixel CMOS sensor. Its amazingly rapid shutter sound will make you enjoy each click that much more, to the point that you'll be tempted to put it in high continuous mode and squeeze a few off every once in awhile just to hear the music of the Mark II's shutter. Its heft and excellent control layout make it clear that the Mark II means business, and its image quality is second to none. (Although I do caution readers to shoot in RAW mode and use Canon's Digital Photo Professional software to convert images to JPEG whenever dealing with out-of-gamut colors, particularly reds.) The expanded image review options and inclusion of Video Out and USB jacks are added pluses. Continuing with the same excellent user interface that mimics the 35mm EOS-1v and an amazing range of custom menu options, the Mark II really stands alone with its combination of high resolution, excellent image quality, and astonishing speed. (Needless to say, I'd call it Highly Recommended.)


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