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Canon EOS-1D

Canon leaps into the professional SLR arena, with the fastest digital SLR on the planet!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 12/08/2001

Executive Overview
For professional Canon shooters accustomed to working with Canon's top-of -the-line EOS-1v film SLR, the EOS-1D will be immediately familiar, with a body design and control layout that is virtually identical to its film-based predecessor. Obviously, Canon's goal was to produce a camera that looks, feels, and operates as much like the EOS-1v as possible, and to all appearances, they've succeeded. EOS-1v shooters should have little difficulty switching between the two cameras.

One notable carryover from the EOS-1v design is the remarkably rugged and environmentally sealed magnesium alloy body. While Magnesium alloy bodies are de rigueur in high-end professional cameras these days, the environmental sealing of the 1D is something else again. With all its myriad flaps, knobs, buttons, and switches, it never occurred to us that it might be possible to actually seal a digital SLR against the elements. That's exactly what Canon's done with the EOS-1D, with more than 70 O-ring and gaskets protecting the internal mechanisms. You still won't want to take it underwater diving without a housing, but it will certainly be able to stand up to shooting in driving rain, blizzards, or dust storms.

The EOS-1D's lens mount accommodates the full line of Canon EF lenses, employing the same highly-praised 45-point Area Ellipse autofocus system that is used by the 35mm EOS-1v. This sophisticated system allows you to manually select the autofocus area from a 45-point ellipse, 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 Al Single Servo AF, which tracks rapidly moving subjects as fast as 80 mph (based on Canon's testing). 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 size, 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.

The EOS-1D offers total exposure control, with Program AE, Aperture Priority, Depth of Field AE, 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. In Depth of Field AE, you can specify a depth of field that you'd like to maintain, while the camera finds the best exposure to achieve that goal. (Handy if you're trying to eke out the last iota of shutter speed, wanting to keep the aperture as large as possible, while still holding focus.) 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 EOS-1D 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 with 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 EOS-1D also offers White Balance and ISO Auto Exposure Bracketing options. (This last 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 EOS-1D's extensive menu system offers a variety of Color Matrix options, for both sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces, and a Custom Functions menu so you can completely customize the user interface. A Personal Functions menu option also allows you to download image attribute settings (including a custom tonal curve) from a computer.

An external flash hot-shoe and PC sync socket offer two external flash connection options. 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 EOS-1D offers Low-Speed Continuous and High-Speed Continuous shooting modes through the Drive setting. Low-Speed Continuous captures as many as 21 consecutive frames at approximately three frames per second, while High-Speed Continuous captures the same number of frames at approximately eight frames per second. (The actual frame rate and number of frames in a sequence will vary depending on CompactFlash space, image size, and the amount of image information to record.) The 1D has a buffer capacity of 21 frames in normal JPEG mode, but only 16 shots in RAW mode, and only 14 frames when the ISO is set to higher than 800. Several pro photographers have commented that these are rather small buffer sizes, particularly at high ISOs. The Drive options also include two different Self-Timer options, with delay times adjustable via the LCD menu system.

The EOS-1D captures images at either 2,464 x 1,648- or 1,232 x 824-pixel resolution, with JPEG compression levels of Fine and Normal available for the larger images, and Fine for the smaller ones. A RAW image option is also available, recording the full pixel information from the CCD without any processing. The EOS-1D is accompanied by an IEEE-1394 "FireWire" interface cable for a super-speedy connection to a computer. Canon's Solution Disk software and a copy of Adobe photocopy LE are included with the camera, for use on both PC and Macintosh computers. For power, the EOS-1D 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.

Heavy in features and capabilities, the EOS-1D's heft and size are relatively trifling matters. The sturdy EOS-1D body is ready for any situation. 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 with the look, feel, and interface of Canon's already successful pro 35mm line, the EOS-1D appears ideally suited for professional sports and photojournalistic shooters. (I just wish it had a larger buffer memory.)

 

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