Canon has a long tradition in camera construction. The first one was Kwanon, made in 1937. They had kept their position among the leaders in inovation throughout the years. Unfortunately, for many years they were unable to convince professional photojournalists to adopt excellent cameras such as F1, F1new, T90 and EOS 1. Their competitor, Nikon, had a major benefit in being able to provide a wider range of equipment.
However, Canon was developing it's professional equipment only to be released at the right moment. In 1986, Minolta 7000 brought auto focus to SLR cameras and one single inovation, the transfer of focusing system motors into lens in 1987, has slowly paved the road to success for Canon. If Nikon held 90% of market share among photojournalists in MF era, the ratio is quite different now. With the introduction of EOS 1, professional photographers really started to go with Canon 1989. In 1994, when EOS 1n and a wide range of L lenses were released, there were more than enough reasons to switch to Canon. EOS 1RS, the pellicle mirror version of the EOS 1n, and EOS 1v finally approved that Canon is well capable of satisfying the needs of the pros.
The digital era hasn't changed that. Perhaps they didn't introduce new cameras as frequent as other manufacturers, but they knew exactly when the time was right for convincing photojournalists to switch to digital. Canon's cooperation with Kodak gave birth to two excellent DLSRs, the D2000 and D6000. You can see them even today in some PJ's hands.
Then came December 2001 – and BOOM! The camera EOS 1D swept the competition. At that time, I have written who the winner of the gold medal is – EOS 1D. Two years later, EOS 1D is still a silent wish of many photojournalists. Or in other words, for two years this camera has served well to it's owners. Nikon just couldn't convince it's relatively smaller group of users to switch to digital using their cameras. At the end of 2003, the D2H finally brought a smile to Nikon users. Unfortunately, they needed two years to develop a camera which can just about win over the EOS 1D. However Nikon did prove once again they are quite capable of constructing professional equipment.
However, a smaller base of users did not help Nikon at all. It is apparently so if we look at their pro series of lenses – many still lack of optical stabilisation. The development of a new LBCAST sensor might be in timing disadvantage also. Canon had two years time to improve it's product and so their answer to D2H is here.Today, it is »domesticated« so much, it is already in our hands on it's first review. This time Canon chose not to use it's standard name extensions such as n (new) or v (victory). Instead, they used for body the name Mark II.
Canon EOS 1D Mark II
First look at the camera and you can hardly notice any difference, the body is pretty much the same as in EOS 1D and 1Ds. The real improvement, a rather huge one, lies inside it. Nonetheless, the specifications speek for themselves. I am sure that those newspaper editors, who were doubting in the output of 1D, will now be more impressed. Mark II has twice the number of pixels, spread over the same-size sensor (28.7 X 19.1 mm). Even higher number of pixels are available in EOS 1Ds, but photojournalists need a bit different beast, they need speed. Which is what EOS 1D Mark II is made for.
The combination of high speed and high resolution
EOS 1D Mark II is made for both. 8 million pixels with 8.5 frames per second. To achieve that, Canon upgraded it's DIGIC processor, which is doing the majority of data manipulation. The specifications list three new features, which improve the speed of data transfer. They are: a new CMOS-based sensor, DIGIC II processor and a huge buffer. This technology can transfer 8.5 frames per second in 8 million pixels resolution to the memory in a series of 40 JPEG or 20 RAW files. This speed is available in Single Shot AF and in AI Servo AF mode. It truly makes it possible to experience another world in sports photography.
While 1D featured a CCD sensor, it's successor has CMOS. The size of the pixel is just 8.2µm. By comparing it to the 8.8µm pixel size in 1Ds, Canon obviously managed to keep the noise low. According to Canon's developers, by using CMOS they have achieved higher speed, resolution, lower noise and lower power consumption than it was possible with CCD. The EOS 1D Mark II is, according to Canon, the first sign they chose well when they sticked with CMOS. Canon makes their CMOS sensors by itself and is the only manufacturer who uses three different sized sensors in their DSLRs.
DIGIC II (second-generation processor)
Without a fast processor, which is able to process an enormous amount of data, there is little use of a fast-shooting camera. In combination of the newest technology, CMOS sensor, DIGIC II processor and expanded buffer system, EOS 1D Mark II can process 69 million pixels worth of data in just a second. All these technology makes it possible to achieve an amazing start-up time of half a second. DIGIC II furthermore has an advanced set of algorithms for white balance settings. A photographer also has an option to choose among four different image sizes, each of them can be further saved in ten different JPEG compressions. The camera operates in Adobe RGB as well as in sRGB color modes, with the ability of pre-setting the saturation and hue. There are five custom functions, available for two different users. White balance can be set in 9 +/- steps in the blue/orange and magenta/green. WB bracketing can be set in +/- 3 steps.
New features and improvements
Shutter is renewed – now it is tested for at least 200,000 frames. The magnesium body is extra sealed on more than 70 places to provide weather, dust, water etc. protection. An astonishing feature is a two memory card slot – offering writing on both simultaneously. Mark II can write on CompactFlash and on SecurityDigitaly media. By writting on two different cards at the same time, the probability of loosing a picture is minimized. This function can of course be switched off.
EOS 1D Mark II uses new E-TTL II technology, which provides better lighting when using with flash. The camera can now detect the movement of the subject and thanks to new algorithms in the camera and in the lens, it adapts the settings, detected by 21-zone mettering at pre-flash.
The control over the picture
EOS 1D was operating in the range of ISO 200 to 1600. Mark II can operate in ISO 100 – 1600, but also includes ISO 50 and ISO 3200 as extended modes. Light mettering is 21-zone, partial, spot, center-weighted. Pictures are automatically rotated and displayed on LCD screen with 230,000 pixels which gives a nice review of composition, furthermore, with 10x zoom we can make sure our focus is sharp. The camera uses USB and FireWire interface, pictures can be directly printed over the PictBridge and DirectPrint technology.
Photographs can be displayed with luminance and RGB histogram. Shutter speeds are from 1/8000 sec to 30 seconds with shutter lag only 40ms.
Digital Photo Professional is a new program, which provides fast RAW processing. It is supposedly six times faster than previous programs. Various settings can be easily manipulated, such as WB, dynamic range, light compensation and color tones. There are many color modes, including sRGB, Adobe RGB, extended RGB. ICC (International Color Consortium) profiling is automatically added to a RAW file when converted to TIFF or JPEG. This enables the correct color representation in different environments, which are ICC aware.
As did EOS 1D, the Mark II offers many settings, from WB, hue, color matrix, JPEG compressions, to customized functions.
EOS 1D Mark II is compatible with more than 60 Canon EF lenses (but not with EF-S) and all EX flash units.
Camera EOS 1D Mark II (first impressions)
I am already quite sure that it is a splendid replacement of EOS 1D and that it is more than suitable for photojournalists – 8.5 frames per second, a huge buffer for 40 images, shutter endurancy for at least 200.000 frames, etc. – it is a great performer. I was curious how it compares to 1Ds, because Mark II is supposed to provide high-quality images, suitable even for fashion, glamour, studio photography. If Mark II compares reasonably well against EOS 1Ds, it will no doubt have an enourmous area of use. This is especially interesting, because EOS 1D is really only meant for photojournalists.
So much about our first night review. EOS 1D Mark II definitely is a camera, which offers quite more than a two year old 1D. But the old model is far away to be thrown to the garbage can. At this very moment, there are many customers willing to buy an old EOS 1D. 1D Mark II will most likely be further improved by firmware, at least until olympic games in Athens. Main photo agencies still stick with Canon. As long as they will be inovative enough in digital technology and in optics, they have nothing to worry about in the PRO class. EOS 1D Mark II should probably be looked at this way: 8.2 million pixels, 8.5 frames per second in series of 40. And that is just it. The quality of images for photojournalists is fairly certain. How it compares against EOS 1Ds will be know in the next few days. In a month or so, when it reaches the market, many positive things can happen.