Full frame with digital

Full frame is addictive but has its bad side:

Let's just be honest, we've had to learn to live with the limitations of shooting digital with lenses designed for 35mm film. The main restriction is smaller digital sensors which in turn, create the need for multipliers in order to calculate focal length. This reason alone has created many headaches, and prevented some professional film photographers from taking the plunge, and going digital.

With the advent of the new 1Ds CMOS full frame sensor, which is identical in size to 35mm film, this limitation is finally eliminated. Photographers now have the ability to shoot as wide as 14mm with a digital body. Wide-angle lenses are living up to their name and are now truly wide again. With this new camera you can take full advantage of lenses carefully designed for 35mm film. Here is a look at how Canon digital bodies have evolved. (Illustration by John Ray)



Unfortunately, the ability to capture information from center to corner comes at a price. There are a few side effects to contend with. First and foremost, glass quality is now a major factor. You'll have to invest in the best lenses to use with this camera because optical quality difference between consumer and L lenses is more noticeable than ever before (in digital). In the super wide-angle range, current lens designs struggle with the 1Ds capability to record very high detail and use of full range including corners. Lateral chromatic aberration can be seen in most wide angle lenses including the best L lenses available.

(Samples of these aberrations can be found by clicking on the 100% crop links under any photo on this page.)

I tested the 1Ds with the 14mm f/2.8L, 24mm f/1.4L and 16-35mm f/2.8L wide-angle lenses and was very surprised by the degree of lateral chromatic aberration revealed. It was not noticeable on the camera LCD while using the new 100% magnification option in the field. However, as soon as I transferred the images and saw them on my monitor, it was obvious. The flaw was apparent right away, and my heart sunk. I had never seen anything like it, and it was the last thing I expected to have to deal with after avoiding scorpions to get my shot in the dunes . I can't even tell you how disappointed I was, when the aberration also showed up on the prints I made with an Epson 2200P.

Others have speculated that the new 1Ds is somehow creating these aberrations. But, let's be fair. Wide-angle lenses have this limitation. These aberrations are nothing new. They can be seen on film, 1D or even D30, and D60 files. The 1Ds probably reveals this side-effect because this camera has the unique ability to capture such a high level of detail within the full frame.


As you can see from the example above, shooting full frame at 14mm is fun. I got to meet some cool biker guys and although they may look scary, they were actually really nice and didn't rob me after all. But lets get back on track here, click on the "unsharpened 100% crop" link right below the image and pay attention to the faces and the edges on the crop sample to see these aberrations. Up until this point, all of the examples I have shown were taken with the 14mm f/2.8L.

However, the same aberrations still pop up even with the best wide-angle lenses that Canon produces, including the 24mm f/1.4L. It performed a tad bit better than the 14mm since the lateral chromatic aberrations were only apparent in high contrast images. Here is a crop from a full-size image taken at high noon with the 24mm f/1.4L.

Don't despair, there is a brighter side to this. Here's the difference, below is an image that was shot with the same lens. However, this image was lower in contrast and taken at sunset with favorable lighting. In this case, the aberration seems to be gone, and not noticeable in the image at all.


If you're wondering why the 100% crops look so soft, it's because I intentionally left all of the review crop samples unsharpened and unedited. I wanted you to have a genuine representation of how 1Ds files look when using in-camera "no sharpening", which I highly recommend. This is not to say that the in-camera sharpening will not sharpen your images well. The drawback is that it usually globally sharpens your files therefore increasing noise and artifacts. Luckily, there is a workaround for this, which would be to use sophisticated sharpening techniques in Photoshop.

To my surprise the lens that caused the least amount of chromatic aberration was the 16-35 f/2.8L zoom. The aberrations were hard to spot and not so obvious, but I could still see traces in the corners, especially when shooting high contrast subjects.

The below image was taken with the 16-35L @ 24mm which is almost free of lateral chromatic aberration:

1Ds and 16-35mm f/2.8L: Unsharpened 100% crop | Resized larger image


Overall, regardless of which wide-angle lens you use with the 1Ds, you need to be prepared to contend with the aberration issue. At least for now, unless a new superhero L series lens is secretly being designed. It's not to say that this can't be fixed in software. It can. But, this type of channel editing compromises image quality, and calculations are difficult to manage especially since there is no universal solution and you'll need to recalculate channel shifting for each individual lens.


Page 3 - 1Ds and long exposure photography