Canon EOS 1D SLR Review

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Canon EOS-1D Pro SLR

Playback Features

To review captured images you press the DISPLAY button, this puts the camera into playback mode. To chose the desired playback format you hold the DISPLAY button in and rotate the Quick Control dial. The various formats are shown below.

Canon EOS-1D Digital SLR

The five icons in the upper left of the rear data LCD indicate the various display formats in playback mode. We'll show you each one of them starting with the INFO screen.

Canon EOS-1D Digital SLR

The INFO screen can show all pertinent exposure and camera settings: shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, protected image, voice note attached, image size and quality, exposure mode, metering mode, flash compensation, ISO speed, white balance, date, time and file number. It shows a small thumbnail of the picture and the most important item is the histogram.

Canon EOS-1D Digital SLR

The Single Image screen shows the picture full screen with the shutter speed, aperture, image size and quality across the top.

Canon EOS-1D Digital SLR

There are two Index modes available, the first one displays four thumbnails per screen.

Canon EOS-1D Digital SLR

The second Index screen displays 9 thumbnails per screen.

The last option in Playback mode is the Create Folder screen.

Steve's Conclusion

Canon put the digital camera world on its heels when they introduced the EOS D30 in 2000. This was the first reasonably-priced digital SLR with interchangeable lenses and it was also the first SLR to employ a large area CMOS sensor. The D30 has proven itself in the last year as a very capable performer for the advanced amateur and even professional users. Canon never claimed that the D30 was a "pro" level camera but promised that a true pro SLR was coming later in 2001. They were very tight-lipped about what type of imager it would use. Many of us figured that they would take the success of the CMOS imager in the D30 and use an even larger one in the new pro SLR. As it turns out the current CMOS sensors are just not capable of the frame rate that Canon required so a more conventional CCD sensor was used instead. Canon's target market for the EOS-1D are the sports shooters and photojournalists that now use the EOS-1v 35mm SLR camera. In that respect the EOS-1D is a home run, its 8fps burst rate and the same incredibly fast autofocus of the EOS-1v makes it the fastest digital SLR currently available.

It's difficult to tell which is which when the EOS-1D and EOS-1v are put side by side. The most obvious difference is on the back, the digital EOS has a large 2-inch color LCD display. The 1D was purposely designed as close as possible to its film sibling, this makes the learning curve extremely short for those transitioning from film to digital. The similarities between the 1D and 1v also extend into the build quality of the camera body. The 1D has extensive weather proofing (over 70 O-ring and gaskets) to allow it to be used in the worst of conditions which is often where you'll find the pro sports shooter or photojournalist. Comparing the D30 to the EOS-1D is pure apples to oranges. The D30 is more kin to the EOS Rebel with its polycarbonate outer body, the 1D is all metal and built like a tank, a very stylish tank. Of course the 1D is substantially heavier as a result of the ruggedized body and a larger battery. I was surprised to see a high-capacity NiMH type battery but I guess the power-hungry CCD sensor and electronics necessary for the 8fps burst rate would tax a lithium pack too heavily. The NiMH pack is good for about 200-300 shots per charge and working pros will undoubtedly carry several at all times.

The 1D's image size is 4.1-megapixels, which is not all that much larger than the D30's 3.25-megapixels. Again, we were surprised because we had expected the new Canon SLR to employ a full-frame sensor with 6-megapixel resolution. The 1D's imager is physically larger than the D30's and gives it a 1.3X focal length multiplier versus the 1.6X multiplier of the D30. The lower the focal length multiplier, the closer it is to providing the same coverage as a 35mm film camera. This means that wide angle lenses are truly wide angle lenses, something that has been difficult at best in the past with other digital SLRs. The 1D's image resolution at four megapixels will be sufficient for newspaper and magazine work and is sure to satisfy other pros as well (see Dan's second opinion below.) The 1D's image quality is very good, the white balance and color saturation is spot on and requires little to no post-processing at all. We have noticed some noise banding problems at ISO 800 and 1600, mostly in the shadow areas. The Photoshop filter Band-Aide from Camera Bits pretty much eliminates it but I'm sure that Canon will work on making the 1D's images even cleaner with a future firmware upgrade. The Nikon D1 suffered from the same banding problem when it was first released and Nikon later fixed it with both a firmware and hardware upgrade. The 1D's images compared to the D30 are less saturated but more natural, the D30 tends to over-saturate the colors.

In real-world use the 1D is a dream, its 45-point autofocus system is lightning fast and you get visual confirmation of exactly what focus areas were used in the viewfinder display. The controls are well placed and easy to get to. If you are using an EOS-1v now you'll be right at home with the 1D. The major difference is the instant feedback from the color LCD, no more wondering if you got the shot or not. Those who have been using the D30 will definitely notice the weight increase, it's about the same as a Kodak DCS series camera. If you think the AF system is fast just wait until you mash the shutter button on continuous high speed. It sounds like a machine gun and simply astounds the mind to imagine that a mirror and shutter mechanism could operate at that incredible speed. There is very little action that you will ever miss at 8fps. Some sports shooters have already commented that the 1D's buffer size is too small as it can only hold 21 frames (16 frames in RAW.) Shooting at 8fps means that the buffer is full in less than three seconds. The Nikon D1H can buffer 40 frames (at 5fps) which equals eight seconds of action. Most 1D users will probably throttle back the frame rate to increase the burst duration.

The EOS-1D has to be the most customizable digital SLR ever. There are twenty custom functions available from the camera's menu system and another twenty-five personal functions that can be uploaded via software. You can customize the actions of most of the control buttons, sets mins and maxs on shutter speed, aperture, disable shooting or metering modes. The number of options pertaining to the focusing system is almost overwhelming, you can alter the AF Point selection method, the way the AF Points are illuminated in the viewfinder, the number of AF Points used, expand the number of AF Points according to the lens' focal length, switch between normal AF and previously registered AF points, adjust the AI-Servo tracking speed, disable or enable automatic AF point selection, it goes on and on... And then we get to the way the camera processes the image data. Up to three custom camera settings can be specified with the software and uploaded to the camera. Parameters such as tone curves, sharpness level, JPEG compression settings and more. Using the Color Matrix custom functions you can set the color characteristics for the image, there's five options:

    1.Natural hue and chroma, best for capturing natural color tone.
    2.Sets the hue and chroma for skin tones.
    3.Adjusts hue and chroma to match high-chroma slide film.
    4.Corresponds to Adobe RGB color space.
    5.Lowers chroma, for more moderate color tone.
And you can also capture both a RAW image and a JPEG image simultaneously if desired. The size and quality of the JPEG image can also be specified.

If that's not enough then take a look at the 1D's white balance options. You'll find the usual presets like Auto, daylight, shade, overcast, tungsten light, fluorescent light and flash. Then there is the Custom WB that lets you used a stored image as the "reference" image. Or the Color Temperature option that lets you specify the white balance directly in degrees Kelvin from 2800°K to 10,000°K in 100°K increments. The hybrid auto balance feature uses the CCD sensor and a dedicated external sensor. Up to three personal white balance settings can be registered. And last but not least, the 1D offers white balance bracketing with +/- 3 steps.

In the world of SLR cameras the viewfinder is extremely important and we like to see it cover as close to 100% of the frame as possible. The EOS-1D's eyelevel glass pentaprism does exactly that, it covers 100% vertically and horizontally the captured pixels. It has a 20mm eye point and dioptric adjustment (-3.0 to +1.0) and the focusing screen is interchangeable with 9 other types. There's lots of camera and exposure information displayed, including: AF points, focus confirmation light, shutter speed, aperture, manual exposure, metering range, ISO speed, exposure level, exposure warning, flash ready, FP flash, FE lock, flash exposure level, JPEG format, number of remaining shots and CF card information.

The EOS-1D's exposure control system is TTL full aperture metering. Evaluative metering is linkable to any AF point. Partial metering uses approx. 13.5% of the center and spot metering is 3.8% of the center with options to follow the AF point or letting the user specify up to 8 spot metering points in the frame. There's also the usual center-weighted averaging option as well. As for exposure modes, it has them all of course; Program AE (shiftable), Shutter-priority AE, Aperture-priority AE, Depth-of-Field AE, E-TTL flash AE, Manual and Flash metered manual. The normal ISO coverage is from 200 to 1600 in 1/3 stop increments and can be expanded to ISO 100 to 3200 with a custom function. AE Bracketing is +/- 3 stops in 1/3 stop increments, and it can be shutter speed or aperture, ISO speed or both! Shutter speeds are from 1/16,000 to 30 seconds in 1/3 stop increments plus Bulb and an X-Sync speed of 1/500 that is perfect for daylight flash fills. Noise reduction can be used at 1/15 sec. or longer shutter speeds including Bulb.

Yes, I know that the information in the last three paragraphs can be found in the specifications table, it's just important to point out that this camera has pretty much got it all when it comes to features and settings. My only complaints are that it lacks a magnified playback option and there's no Video Out option, both of these can be found on the EOS D30 and most other digital SLRs. The Video Out option is not all that important but the lack of the magnified playback feature means that you cannot check for critical focus in the field. You have to be able to enlarge the view on a 2-inch color LCD to see facial details or other fine features. I also think that it needs a larger memory buffer to make that 8fps burst rate more useable for the sports shooters, they are the main market for this camera.

The way the EOS-1D comes out of the box now is sure to make the majority of its users very happy. Lets not forget that this is only the first of what I am sure is going to be a long line of professional digital SLR cameras from Canon. When the EOS-1D is matched up with one of the EF lenses with an USM focusing motor the performance is nothing short of awesome. There's no doubt that there will be an EOS-1D behind most all of those big, white telephoto lenses at this year's NFL games. The only problem Canon will have is being able to build them fast enough -- they're only scheduled to produce 3,000 cameras per month. And kudos to Canon for bringing it to market at $5495 instead of the originally announced $6500 price!

Canon EOS-1D: a preview of the camera's included software

For a good look at the software included with the EOS-1D check it out at Rob Galbraith's web site.

This from Canon USA (06/21/02):

Got questions about the EOS-1D's images and software? Unclear about some of the basics in the software instruction book that came with the camera? Canon USA has developed a 29-page overview of the EOS-1D software, that may shed some light on questions you have. This overview is available right here as an Adobe Acrobat file, which you can view on-screen, or download and print. It's formatted to print on standard US letter size paper (8.5 x 11 inches).

This driver software overview isn't intended to replace your software instruction book, and it's not a course in Photoshop. Our goal here is to clearly explain many of the basic fundamentals that can be confusing to first-time digital users, and increase your understanding of the EOS-1D's driver software - its operation and its options. It's free of charge, and we hope it helps maximize your enjoyment of digital photography and the EOS-1D.

Click to view EOS-1D Software Overview (Adobe pdf).

Canon Posts New EOS-1D Firmware

Canon Japan has posted the EOS-1D Firmware Update 1.4.0 and New Driver Software. Canon has improved the EOS-1D's firmware and driver software for better performance and greater functionality. All EOS-1D owners should install Firmware Update 1.4.0 together with the latest versions of the EOS-1D driver software in order to utilize the following new features:

  1. Noise reduction tone curve settings are added to the EOS-1D's monitor menu.
  2. Continuous shooting is supported with Remote Capture 2.5 or higher.
  3. Exif 2.2 (Exif Print) is supported.
  4. Windows® XP is supported. (Direct connect support via WIA 4.5)
  5. Camera settings metadata has been modified.

Canon EOS 1D Noise & banding pattern removal

Fred Miranda has just released his 1D ISOR-BR filter for Photoshop 6.0 or higher (PC and MAC) - currently not compatible with Photoshop5.5, LE and Elements.

There are several ways to reduce high iso noise from normak/high Canon 1D images. The trick is to reduce as much noise as possible while keeping most of detail and sharpness intact. This action also includes banding pattern removal options.

1D ISOR-BR works exclusively with Canon 1D jpeg or tiff (raw) files. They were developed to minimize or in some cases completely erase noise & banding pattern from normal/high images, while maintaining most detail and sharpness intact. In addition, they were optimized with Photoshop's batch mode and run faster than any other noise reduction currently available.

Second Opinion

I recently had the good fortune to use Steve's Canon EOS-1D review camera in and out of the studio. Like many of you, I was very curious as to how it would measure up to the D30, the Kodak DCS 760, the Nikon D1X, etc. I currently own and use a Canon D30 every day. I've had it for 13 months and have created and sold many thousands of images with it. Previously I owned and used the Nikon D1 for about 11 months.

I'm a full-time photographer and studio owner. For the last two years all the images I've sold have been digital. The weddings, studio portraits and commercial table work done in the studio were all created with either the D1 or my current D30. One of my concerns was the CCD imager in the 1D. I like the CMOS chip in the D30 and had hoped the 1D would have the same type, just jumbo sized. After the first day that worry vanished. The CCD in the 1D does a better job than the CMOS in my D30, the image is crisper and shows less noise at all ISO settings. I also had concerns about the image size of the 1D. I wanted 6MPixel and as we all know the 1D is a little over 4MPixel. The advantage of 4MPixel is faster down loads, more space on the CF card or Micro drive and faster opening in Photoshop. Can you make a quality 8x10, 11x14 or 16x20 print? You bet, and they look great !

The auto focus on the 1D is fast, the D30 it is not. How fast is it? Fast enough so you won't be thinking about it all the time. How about the 1D with flash? It really does work, I used it with the 550ex and it gives very acceptable results. So how would I rate the EOS 1D against the competition? The only real contenders in my mind are the Nikon D1X, Nikon D1H and the Kodak DCS 760. I have used them all in my studio and they're all great cameras with fine imaging ability. All things considered, the EOS-1D would be my hands-down pick at this time.

Now for the down side, really not much. The Mac software in my opinion needs to be a stand alone program, the Photoshop plugin is just to slow for my needs. When you have three to four hundred images from a wedding or a shoot, speed is of the essence and the plugin will never handle my needs. I currently use iView with the D30 but it only handles D30 Raw files on a limited bases at this time. I would also like to see changes in the RemoteCapture software that comes with the 1D. The way it is now you must be in single exposure mode and this is too slow for a model shoot or a portrait sitting. One thing I really miss is the D30's magnified playback feature, why they didn't put it on the 1D is a question that I'm sure many will ask.

Now for the big question, will I buy one or wait for some future camera to be announced. Yes I will purchase a 1D now, just as soon as one is available. One last note, is the EOS 1D the perfect camera? No of course not but it's state of the art and heads above the competition in my opinion. Check it out for yourself, see some of my shots on Steve's EOS-1D sample photos page and good shooting!

I recently received a few emails mentioning that some of my images showed banding stripes at the higher ISO settings. These are horizontal tracks that appear in the dark areas of the image. After very close examination I find this to be true, as to the cause, I'm unsure. This would be something one should consider if you are contemplating buying the camera and using at the higher ISO ranges.

Dan Eisenman
All Pro Photo
Clearwater FL

Continue on to
Sample Photos

Other Canon EOS-1D Reviews

Imaging-Resource's EOS-1D review

DP Review's EOS-1D review

Moose Peterson's EOS-1D review

Rob Galbraith's EOS-1D Preview

Luminous Landscape's EOS-1D Reviewer's Notebook

Digital Outback's EOS-1D Experience Report

Rob Galbraith's EOS-1D Forum

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