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Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II

Review Date: Nov 18, 2004 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $7,999.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Excellent quality per pixel; Superb ISO range; Quick handling; ISO 3200 useability; Buffer adjusts for image size (ie smaller resolutions increase shot throughput); TV-out; Vertical release, thumb-wheel issues of 1DII resolved
Auto WB not seemingly as accurate as 1DII and 20D (preliminary result); Image preview only a preview- to access info or other info, it must write to the CF card (?-only slight delay); Still lower AF coverage of full frame (percentage-wise); No image review without shooting data in frame (small gripe); Still no hand grip supplied with camera; Still can't see ISO in viewfinder when making adjustments No ability to shoot smaller-sized RAW images (ie if you want RAW adjustment capability, you gotta shoot the full 16MP only).

PROS: Like many others I have climbed slowly up the expensive Canon DSLR ladder, bringing me hopefully to my last DSLR in quite a while. Its specs are well-known- but I thought I might share some initial thoughts. First is image quality- I think of all the DSLR's from Canon I've owned (from the D30 to the 1D MarkII) the 1DsII has the finest image quality per pixel, rivaled perhaps by the original 1D. Images straight from the camera at nearly all ISO's just look stunning.

Next is handling- this camera is definetely faster than the original 1Ds in almost every respect. The shutter makes the same 1Ds "clishink" sound rather than the 1D and 1DII "click" sound. Image preview after shooting is initially much faster than the 1Ds, and just a hair slower than the 1DII. However, once you want to zoom in or change whether you want info or not, it takes a moment to think- in this way it is a little slower than the 1DII. It is almost if the camera pops a quick preview right after the shot is taken, and then requires reading from the CF card before adjusted reviewing can occur.

The 4fps speed is just that- and incremental speed increase over the 1Ds. The layout and rear LCD is just like the 1DII, but if you are coming from the 1D or 1Ds, the controls are just slightly different. No troubles there. One really nice feature- I believe the 1Ds limited shots to 10 in a row, regardless of image size. The 1DsII allows jpegs to be written, up to 70-something continuously if shooting in small to medium resolutions. Very nice for snapshots when a lot of action is going on!

For me a HUGE benefit of the 1DsII is the ISO 3200, and when it is shot at small resolution (or sampled to 4MP like the 1D), the noise almost all-but cancels out- it looks much like a 1D ISO 400 or 640 shot. Just amazing really- it makes ISO 3200 just that much more useable.

Another big plus for me is the video out- crazy as it sounds. I have a small TV for when I shoot families in a studio setting, and they can see the results right after the shoot. I wanted to do that with my 1Ds but unfortunately it wasn't supported.

Noise performance at ISO 100-200 is just incredible (to be expected) but where the 1Ds had some noise in shadow detail, the 1DsII is so clean.

The vertical release is much less sensitive than that on my 1DII- an appreciated improvement. It is now nearly identical to the standard release.

Overall the camera is phenomenal- a worthy successor to the 1Ds, although I do have some minor reservations mentioned below. Smile


So far, my biggest gripe with the camera seems to be the auto WB. It seems less accurate in the studio setting than my 1DII or 20D. This is an initial opinion, but it seems that with some subjects the color balance is much too cool, while with others it is much too warm. The same subjects in the same lighting with the 1DII and 20D seemed to produce more natural and consistent WB selections. Hopefully this is not a major issue, and I could have done something wrong with my settings, but it is my initial opinion.

A second minor gripe is similar to what I mentioned above in the positive remarks- while the LCD displays a preview quickly, it is still somewhat of a "false review" and only a preview. The review takes a little longer than I was used to on the 1DII. Not bad, but I think after initial reports my expectations were very high.

While I am a huge fan of backward compatibility, I think there are some elements of the 1DsII design that could have been improved since the 1D came out. The LCD screen is still quite small. I would have liked to see an improvement in the AF coverage of the frame- after shooting on a 1DII and 1D, going back to full frame reveals the smaller AF coverage once again like the 1Ds. Others have mentioned the battery or the 1D-series- not a huge issue for me, but it would be nice to see it get a little lighter if it were possible.

After using the 20D, there are also some gripes with the image display that I have with the 1DsII. The 20D is very intelligent with the review- if you switch to "info" review, the camera remembers that setting and uses that on the next review. The 1DsII has no such feature. Also, the 20D allows a review function that displays the image with no numerical data overlying the photo. On the 1DsII you can display the photo without info, but the numerical data is always at the top. This is visually distracting when reviewing the photo on a TV or viewing a slideshow. This might not be considered a "pro" feature, but I have grown to appreciate it on the 20D.

A wish of mine for some time is a RAW size adjustment in-camera. I believe Kodak has used this feature. On a 16MP camera there are definitely times I'd like to have WB correction and other 16-bit adjustment capability in a smaller file size and smaller resolution. I know it is not a true "RAW" by definition, but I am sure it would be possible and very handy.

Another feature I have wished Canon would implement would be an auto ISO feature (or TvAv lock)- for low-light situations- but this feature would be more important in a sports camera.