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Canon EOS-1DS

Canon extends the EOS-1D with 11.1 megapixels, and a full-frame CMOS sensor!

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 9/24/2002

Test Results

In keeping with our standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the EOS-1Ds' "pictures" page.

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 EOS-1Ds' images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

The big, easy story with this camera is of course its resolution. With 11 megapixels on a full-frame sensor, the EOS-1Ds provided a stellar performance on our "laboratory" resolution test chart, showing "strong detail" all the way to 1,700 lines/picture height horizontally, and about 1,600 lines vertically. (Note though, that you need to take these numbers with a grain of salt, and figure that they could easily be +/- 100 in either direction. - When dealing with closely-spaced, nearly parallel lines as on the ISO-12233 res target, it's very difficult to consistently "call" the point at which aliasing begins to obscure the target detail. For this reason, I generally don't specify resolution much closer than in units of 100 lines, eschewing the sophistry of ratings like "1745 lines," etc.)

While resolution is the most obvious strong point of the 1Ds, it did quite well in other areas as well. Throughout my testing, the EOS-1Ds produced good, accurate color, although its default saturation was a little low for my personal tastes. - Most pros will appreciate color that isn't over-saturated, and users wanting more saturation can select Color Matrix 3 for "vivid" colors matching high-saturation color film. The Auto white balance typically did a good job although it was just slightly warm in many cases, but the Manual setting was by far the most accurate, handling our full range of light sources very well. The Manual option also performed well under the difficult incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait (without flash), and produced very accurate colors in the large color blocks of the Davebox target. The camera had just a little trouble with the awkward blues in the flower bouquet in the outdoor test shot, darkening the tone and shifting the color slightly toward violet (a common failing among many cameras I've tested), but much less so than most cameras I've tested.

Probably the biggest surprise the 1Ds held for me though, was in the area of image noise. Despite the large physical dimensions of the sensor, in the back of my mind I was really expecting to see higher image noise from such a high-resolution chip. In actuality, the 1Ds' pixels are of fairly typical size for pro SLR sensors, making them no more prone to noise than pixels of lower-res cameras. As it turned out, the noise contest between the 1Ds and the D60 is a bit of a mixed bag, with the D60 winning in some areas, and the 1Ds in others. Here's a brief table, comparing brightness and standard deviation values for two neutral gray swatches of a MacBeth chart between the 1Ds and D60, both captured at ISO100 under pretty bright daylight lighting:

(ISO 100, bright conditions)

1Ds D60
Luminance s.d. (noise)
Red 94.50 93.81
Red s.d. 1.77 1.73
Green 99.74 97.50
Green s.d. 1.46 0.95
Blue 97.71 95.68
Blue s.d. 1.59 1.27

Clearly, the D60 wins the noise derby hands down, but the 1Ds is no slouch either. Where the 1Ds really comes into its own though is at higher ISOs and under low light conditions. Check out the results below, with the two cameras operating at ISO 400, and shooting at a light level of 1 foot-candle. (About equivalent to typical city streetlighting.) Under these conditions, the 1Ds walks away from the D60. Very interesting, very impressive for such a high pixel-count sensor.

(ISO 400, one foot-candle)
1Ds D60
Luminance s.d. (noise)
Red 131.63 123.16
Red s.d. 2.81 3.64
Green 141.45 132.28
Green s.d. 2.43 3.04
Blue 139.63 132.12
Blue s.d. 2.62 3.55

With an excellent noise-reduction system, nearly unlimited bulb exposures, and ISOs extending to 1,250, the 1Ds is a phenomenal night shooter. It had no trouble down to the 1/16 foot-candle limit of my testing, and its auto white balance system even managed to produce very good colors, a real achievement under such dim shooting conditions. Even at ISO settings of 800 and 1,250, the image noise really wasn't objectionable, helped I think by its very fine grain structure.

Over the course of my shooting, I felt that the camera tended to underexpose some shots slightly in Program mode, but only a little tweaking with the exposure compensation adjustment was required to correct for this in most instances. The one notable exception was my "indoor portrait" shot, which required a dramatic compensation of +1.7EV to produce an appropriately exposed image. I've seen this behavior from time to time on that shot, but am a little mystified as to why the 1Ds was tricked into such a drastic underexposure with that one shot, when I really didn't see it happen with other subjects.

Along with the exceptional low light performance, I was most impressed with the 1Ds' dynamic range. Possibly more than any other camera I've tested to date, the 1Ds did a superb job of holding onto highlight detail while simultaneously preserving excellent detail (with low noise) in the shadows as well. While I don't currently have any good way of quantifying it, it does seem that there's a fair bit of "headroom" in the RAW files from the 1Ds as well, as I was able to pull back highlight detail that was easily a full f-stop or more overexposed.

The EOS-1Ds also performed well on our viewfinder accuracy test, showing just about 100 percent frame accuracy. Though the outside edges of my measurement lines were just barely cut off, framing was near perfect.

The EOS-1Ds' optical performance and capabilities will vary with the lens in use. That said, with a 100mm macro lens attached, the camera captured a somewhat large minimum area of 4.03 x 2.68 inches (102 x 68 millimeters). - One impact of the full-frame sensor is that the camera always "sees" a larger area than its small-sensor cousins. This is no surprise of course, but do keep it in mind when thinking about things like telephoto and macro shooting.

Throughout my testing, I was continually impressed with the EOS-1Ds' performance. Words like "incredible," "amazing," and "superb" kept coming to mind. Resolution, detail, and color were all superb, with excellent performance in the low-light category as well. The level of detail in the outdoor house shot and resolution target was really outstanding. Overall, an excellent job.


The EOS-1Ds represents breakthroughs in two separate areas for Canon shooters. On the one hand, it has by far the highest resolution sensor available for the Canon lens mount. This will likely open new doors for Canon SLRs, as there's plenty of resolution here for even the most demanding two-page catalog spreads, or large-format commercial portraits.With the advent of portable SLRs like the 1Ds, these cameras are now encroaching on terrain that was previously the exclusive province of "studio" cameras.

This is also the first Canon-format SLR with a full-frame 35mm sensor. It is thus now possible to shoot true wide angle digital photos with Canon-mount lenses. (There's no focal-length multiplier to contend with.) This opens up a whole new range of applications and shooting scenarios, and will make it all the easier for photographers converting from film.

I was very impressed with the prototype 1Ds when I first played with it, but my admiration for the camera has grown dramatically now that I've tested a production model in depth. The more I looked at its images, the more I was impressed by the combination of resolution, dynamic range, and low image noise. Clearly one of the best cameras on the market at this time - If you're looking for a full-frame, high-resolution D-SLR for your Canon lenses, your wait is over. Very highly recommended!

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