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© Vincent Oliver 2005

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Canon EOS 1Ds MkII

Three years down the line and this is the first camera review that photo-i is publishing. Regular readers will be aware by now that I put hardware through real life tests and avoid using too much techno talk. The Canon EOS 1Ds Mk II is a top of the range camera, not just for Canon but for the entire digital camera market. Due to the high price tag this camera may perhaps appeal more to professionals than the average home user, I will bend my rules slightly and include more technical information. I will also look at image quality and how the camera performs on a pro shoot.

The Canon EOS 1Ds Mk II is a full frame 36 x 24mm (35mm film full frame) digital camera, with a 16.70 megapixel CMOS sensor. This will produce a 47.5mb file, a good selling point for professional users and the seriously rich hobbyist. For the editorial, stock and commercial photographer this may be the only camera a photographer will ever need. At just over £5000 it has to deliver a lot of quality, so does this camera live up to expectations? Read on and find out.

What's in the box?

  1. Firewire cable
  2. Canon EOS body
  3. Power cable X2
  4. Battery charger
  5. DC coupler
  6. DC coupler battery
  7. Protective cover
  8. Neck strap
  9. Video cable
  10. Software CD
  11. Pocket guide
  12. USB cable
  13. User guides and warranties

Almost everything you need to get you up and shooting is included in the box, with the exception of a memory card, but then I don't recall Hassleblad giving me any film either when I purchased their camera. You will need to purchase a lens too, fortunately all Canon EF (film and digital) lenses are compatible (but not EF-S lenses). For this review I have been supplied with two lenses; a 17 - 40mm F4L USM and a 28 - 135mm F3.5 - 5.6 IS Ultrasonic zoom lens.

The camera parts

Starting from the top plate and working down towards the tripod mount, this section will explain all the parts and their function. This large camera has more buttons, wheels and menus than I have ever seen on any digital camera, but don't be overwhelmed by them, you needn't use or may not need them all. I hope to prove to you that you don't need a pilots licence to operate this camera.

Large body
Easy to see LCD panel
Shutter release, top wheel and forefinger buttons
Buttons controlled by your right thumb
Sturdy strap mount
Hot shoe for dedicated flash users

Taking a look at the top right hand side of the camera. The LCD panel is very clear and easy to read, in a dimly lit room you can use the LCD illuminator. This lights up the LCD screen to a light blue for approx. 5 seconds. To the right of this button is the exposure compensation button, use this in combination with the front wheel to increase or decrease the exposure in 1/3 stop increments up to -/+ 3 full stops. The LCD display shows you where you are going, but the viewfinder only shows a scale, it would have been better if there was a + or - symbol to remind you which way to go whilst looking through the viewfinder. Still, after using the camera for a while it will be second nature.

The small button marked FEL is used to evaluate the exposure whilst in spot reading mode, press the button each time you want a reading to register (up to 8 readings can be stored) and the exposures will be evaluated to give an average exposure. Sounds like hard work to me, why not just take a reading of the area you want. I am not sure what FEL stands for, even after spending 15 minutes or more searching through the manual. The top dial is used for making adjustments such as shooting modes, EV compensations, drive mode etc. The dial is well placed for quick and convenient use, and is firm enough to avoid the settings being accidentally knocked off their mark. For most of the adjustments you need to press another button or combination of buttons first. Turning the dial on its own will change aperture or shutter, depending on which mode you are using.

The shutter release is well placed and comfortable to use. Depress the shutter button halfway to lock the focus, exposure etc and fully depress to take the picture. At the half way mark the button top is flush with the grip, fully depressing the button takes it to below grip level, in short you are not going to get a card full of pictures of your camera bag interior.

The strap mount is possibly the most robust mount I have ever seen on a camera, in fact it looks like you could tow a caravan with it. Of course the weakest link will be the actual strap, the strap provided seems to be well put together and I would quite happily place a camera on the end of it. My advice would be to regularly check any strap for normal wear and tear. Do follow the recommendations for securing the strap (page 42 in the manual). The strap can be fastened from the two top mounts for horizontal use, or by securing one end to the camera base for vertical use. Be aware that this may interfere with some tripods.

The three other buttons, although not strictly on the top plate, are from left to right, White Balance adjustment button. To use this you have to first depress the bottom WB button (I haven't got to this one yet) and then press the top WB +/- button, then using the top dial or rear dial you can adjust the Blue and Amber (top dial) or Magenta and Green (rear dial) colours (+/- 9 units). Using the WB (top) button in combination with the AF point selection button and top dial allows you to control the AF sensor point. The AF sensor button switches you between the various AF point settings. I am beginning to think you need to be an octopus to handle this camera. The star button is the exposure lock, press this once to lock the exposure reading. this is simple. Pressing any other button or taking a picture cancels the reading.

Last item on this page is the Hot shoe, attach a suitable Canon EX series Speedlight flash to this and off you go.

14 March, 2005

© Vincent Oliver 2008 www.photo-i.co.uk
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