Canon 1Ds Mk II vs. Nikon D2x
The two top DSLRs content for the title Worldās Greatest Digital
1Ds Mk II
Perhaps Canonās motto when designing the 1Ds Mark II digital camera
was Think Big ÷ as in big camera, big sensor, big files, and of
course, a big price to match. But most would have to agree that
thinking big has paid off for Canon since the MKII can still be
difficult to find on your dealerās shelves.
big has never been a problem for most pro photographers either.
In the past theyāve wanted big slides, big negatives and the capability
to make big, high-quality prints. While the 1Ds MKII canāt give
them a big slide or a big negative, it can certainly deliver in
the big print department with its 16.7 megapixel full-frame Canon
CMOS sensor. In addition to that big image sensor, it has Canonās
latest Digic II image processor chip which handles (among other
things) the ćtraffic controlä inherent in shoveling that many pixels
through the cameraās circuitry and into your card. The same chip
is also responsible for a vast improvement in battery life over
its predecessor, the 1Ds.
there a downside to having such huge files at your disposal? The
answer is quite possibly yes. For example, a ćpunyä 1 gigabyte Compact
Flash card will barely hold a little over 50 RAW images and just
shy of 90 large JPEG files. So you may suddenly find that larger
CF (or SD) cards appear on your shopping list. A good card reader
will serve you well too ÷ especially if your PC doesnāt have a FireWire
connection. (The cameraās USB interface is for direct printing only.)
And speaking of large JPEG files, every time you press the shutter
button youāre consuming at least 5.5 megabytes of storage space
(usually more), and when you pull that same file into Photoshop,
it typically expands to over 48 megabytes. The RAW files can weigh
in close to 90 megabytes once opened in Photoshop. This could entail
a substantial upgrade to your existing digital darkroom equipment
in the form of more RAM for your PC and certainly more storage space
and backup media. Is all that trouble and expense worth it?
The images produced by this camera are nothing short of remarkable.
Some of the detail that is apparent when examining the images in
Photoshop is reminiscent of what one might expect from closely scrutinizing
a medium-format slide. The colors are accurate and the camera has
plenty of customizable controls to fine-tune and adapt to your shooting
style. Of course it takes more than megapixels to make a good image
and the MKII does not disappoint. Skin tones are rendered accurately,
colors pop, and the lack of digital noise between ISO 100 and 1600
is amazing. Before jumping into more image quality details letās
look at a few of the cameraās specifications.
1Ds Mark II uses a 24X36mm full frame CMOS sensor (no more ćcrop
factorä) with 16.7 effective megapixels. It supports two types of
storage media: CF and SD, with a dual slot configuration. It supports
four levels of JPEG compression and 12 bit RAW files, as well as
RAW+JPEG. There are two interface connections: USB and FireWire.
The viewfinder offers 100% coverage with a 45-point TTL autofocus
system. There is no built-in flash mounted on top of the tough magnesium
alloy body. Light metering is accomplished by a 21-Zone TTL system
that supports Evaluative, Partial, and Spot metering modes. You
can select between ISO 100 and 1600 which can be expanded to ISO
50-3200 via a custom function. The shutter speed can reach from
1/8000th of a second up to 30 seconds, as well as Bulb. The Drive
mode supports up to 4 FPS with a 32-shot burst in JPEG or an 11-shot
burst in RAW. Thereās a two-inch LCD to review your shots with an
RGB histogram option. The camera also supports (an optional) wireless
LAN connection and voice annotation with a built-in microphone (but
no speaker.) The body weighs 42.9 ounces but you can add 11.8 ounces
to that with the battery installed ÷ almost 3.5 pounds with no lens
the camera arrived it didnāt take me long to come up with a nick-name
for it. My 1Ds Mark II is affectionately known as ćThe Brickä and
sometimes after a long day of shooting, it felt like one. If I ever
dropped this camera on a rock, the rock would suffer more damage.
Fit and finish are top-notch and Canon has taken great care in terms
of weather-sealing the body against moisture, dirt and dust. The
body is comfortable to hold in either landscape or portrait orientation
with its built-in vertical grip and Canon has placed the controls
at your fingertips regardless of which way you hold it to your eye.
Having become accustomed to the 10D and 20D Canon digital SLR cameras,
the first thing I did after removing the 1Ds MKII from its box was
to strap on my Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens and look through the (very
bright) viewfinder. Finally! No more crop; I got my wide angle lenses
this review I wanted to put the camera through several different
shooting situations using a variety of lenses, most of which wore
the Canon label. I shot mostly with my aforementioned Canon 17-40mm
wide angle lens, but also a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8, a Canon 70-200mm
f/2.8L IS lens as well as my Canon 500mm f/4L IS ćbazookaä lens,
with and without a 1.4x teleconverter. I also occasionally used
the Canon 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro lens, as well as its big brother,
the EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. The camera went with me on hikes
in the woods but I also worked at sporting events and in the studio.
Just as one might expect after spending $8,000 on a camera, it performed
is one aspect of working with the Mark II that took quite a bit
of getting used to and that was the interface. If youāre accustomed
to Canonās 10D or 20D digital SLRs, you too might find that mastering
the controls can be challenging.
every task you might ask this camera to perform must be accomplished
by pressing more than one button, and sometimes two buttons, simultaneously.
Many times, in order to select a menu option, you must do so by
releasing an already-pressed button. I must confess that this was
a bit exasperating, especially at first. I understand the rationale
behind the interface; itās so we do not inadvertently select something
we donāt mean to. However at times it also momentarily prevented
me from selecting something that was not inadvertent, and performing
some tasks are downright counter-intuitive.
example, if you elect to shoot with both a CF card and a SD card,
telling the camera to switch from one to the other involves a convoluted
and time-consuming series of steps that is needlessly complex. It
would have been nice if Canon had included a Custom or Personal
Function that tells the camera to automatically switch from one
card to the other when the first one is full, but alas, that feature
using the camera for a couple of weeks Iāve become more accustomed
to it but if youāre considering taking the plunge, or even thinking
about checking out a rental for an upcoming job, my advice would
be to give yourself at least a day, if not more, to familiarize
yourself with the controls and interface. You wouldnāt want to be
fumbling with buttons and miss an important shot.
then thereās the dust. If youāve ever spent countless hours de-spotting
scanned negatives and slides, you know what a pain dust can be.
I thought Iād given all that up when I made the switch from film
to digital, but after using the 1Ds MKII, I was able to reminisce
about those ćgoodä old days. Iām not sure if Iām seeing more spots
due to the higher resolution, or thereās simply more surface area
on the bigger sensor to collect it. But if youāre a photographer
who changes lenses often you might as well add a sensor cleaning
kit to your shopping list because youāll likely need it.
fact, I was more than a bit shocked after closely examining one
of my shots to see so much dust. Iām fairly typical about lens changes,
I think. After all, one reason to own an SLR camera in the first
place is to have the interchangeable lens capability. Each time
you make a swap, donāt be surprised if a new spot or two appears
in your images. Canon acknowledges this in the manual and encourages
customers to change lenses as quickly as possible. Itās also a good
idea to cut the camera off beforehand so the charged CMOS chip doesnāt
attract the stuff. Canon is ambiguous about cleaning the sensor.
On one hand they give instructions in the manual on the proper procedures
to ready the camera, but they also encourage MKII owners to send
the camera back to an authorized Canon service center for sensor
cleaning. I had good luck using Visible Dustās sensor cleaning brush
MKII ships with a battery charger that can accommodate two batteries,
even though only one ships with the camera. It is a Ni-Mh battery
and charger is the NP-E3. These chargers have a feature thatās lacking
in their 10D and 20D counterparts: a ćrefreshä button appears on
the NP-E3. These batteries can exhibit a memory effect if one does
not fully discharge them occasionally. That is, over time, they
may not fully recharge to their rated capacity. The refresh feature
is a nice one, although time consuming. If one elects to use this
and presses the refresh button after connecting the battery, the
charger will completely drain the battery prior to charging it.
Iād used the camera for two days in a row (with quite a bit of ćchimpingä
between shots) so I figured it must be pretty close to being drained.
Not so! My battery sat on the charger, discharging all night long.
When that was finally accomplished, the charger automatically switched
from ćrefreshä mode to ćchargeä mode and began charging. A typical
battery charge takes approximately two hours without a refresh.
So far, I havenāt run this battery down.
test out the colors I was in luck - spring had sprung in my neck
of the woods so finding colorful flowers and foliage wasnāt a problem.
The MkII, like its predecessor, includes five pre-set color matrixes:
(1) Standard, which offers a relatively neutral setting for natural-looking
colors; (2) Portrait, which is used to enhance skin tones; (3)High
Saturation, which does a good job of mimicking highly saturated
slide films like Fuji Velvia; (4) Adobe RGB, the standard color
space used by many photographers which is a wider gamut than common
sRGB, and (5) Low Saturation for more subdued colors. In addition
there are two custom settings: CM set1 and CM set2, which gives
MkII owner the ability to customize their own color matrixes.
shooting very colorful flowers like azaleas, If I selected the High
Saturation setting, some of the colors were just a wee bit over
the top for my tastes. I ended up using the Adobe RGB setting which,
to my eye, produced the most pleasing balance and flexibility for
Portrait setting worked very well for rendering skin tones accurately
and I found the resulting images required very little fuss in Photoshop
÷ even in Fine JPEG mode. RAW files give the most flexibility of
course and there are those who say using anything less is foolish
with a camera as capable as this. In some situations I would have
to agree, but not all. Shooting RAW often entails quite a lengthy
addition to the photographerās workflow since one must first use
either the supplied Canon RAW converter or a third party converter
such as Adobe Camera RAW. If itās an important shoot, of course
this extra time is worth it. For grab shots, Iām not so sure because
the JPEG files this camera delivers are nothing to sneeze at.
shooting sports is far from being my fort, I took advantage of
a nearby lacrosse game to test out my EF 500mm f/4L IS lens with
the MkII. After locking my lens to my gimbal head and tripod, and
attaching the camera, I hoisted it all to my shoulder and sallied
forth. It was a very bright and contrasty day ÷ perfect for sports
if not photography. The camera responded beautifully; the AI Servo
autofocus was superb and locked on to the subjects immediately,
doing a splendid job tracking its target.
the game it was too pretty to stay inside so I sat in my backyard
to see if some birds might appear. While no Ivory Billed Woodpeckers
made an appearance, a few less-glamorous birds did. Once again,
I was amazed at the detail this camera/lens combination can provide,
even when cropping away a large part of the image and using a 1.4x
spending the day in the great outdoors, I was ready to take a few
shots under more controlled conditions in the studio with a model.
I mostly used my Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens for this task, although
I did try my Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lens as well with no problems.
Once again, the MkII performed flawlessly with a Pocket Wizard wireless
remote and Alien Bees flash. I shot in both JPEG and RAW modes and
while the RAW files would allow me to eke out just a wee bit more
shadow detail, even the JPEGs looked terrific. I used the Flash
white balance setting on the camera as well as the Portrait color
matrix, which uses the sRGB color space, standard saturation and
a -2 color tone.
good shoots must come to an end though, so at the end of our time
together I asked my model if sheād let me take a few last shots
outdoors, on a sunny afternoon, with my Canon 550EX flash. The MkII
supports Canonās new flash implementation, ETTL II, which factors
distance information to calculate the flash values. Having cut my
teeth on the 10Dās flash idiosyncrasies, then upgraded to a 20D
(also with ETTL II), I came to appreciate the improvement. Once
again ćThe Brickä didnāt let me down and my fill-flash shots taken
in Av mode were nicely exposed with little to no flash exposure
had occasion to use the camera for a product-shot assignment that
was to be done on location in a room with some very tricky fluorescent
lighting. For this job I brought along two Alien Bees 800 watt lights,
an umbrella and a few gels to add some color and to counter the
greenish hue of the fluorescent lights. The client wanted to see
the results right away, so I used Canonās included EOS Viewer Utility
software to connect the camera to my laptop via the FireWire port.
We viewed the images on the laptopās screen a moment after each
shot. The shoot went well and the client was impressed with the
the Canon 1Ds Mark II pretty much do it all? Iād have to say yes.
Is it for everyone? Of course not; even if we take the exorbitant
price out of the picture. I canāt imagine a street shooter, for
example, giving up his Leica for this camera. Heād have to start
working out at the gym just to carry it around all day. The MkII
ās weight will probably keep it out of many serious hikerās backpacks
too. Wedding photographers? Well, unless your customers regularly
demand huge, over-the-mantle prints, then this much firepower isnāt
necessary÷ a 1D MKII or even a 20D will do a fine job. I suspect
most photojournalists will be better served by the speedier 1D Mark
II at almost half the price; ditto for sports shooters.
who is buying all of these cameras since theyāre so hard to find?
One group may be photographers who are simply obsessed with image
quality and want every advantage (and pixel) they can get. Photographers
who spend most of their time in a studio doing portrait work, or
fashion and product photography probably covet the 1Ds Mark II if
they donāt already own one. Architectural photography? Absolutely.
Landscape? Sure! The detail is astounding. The ćold timerä portrait
photographer who is sticking with his trusty Hasselblad, Kodak Portra
film and pro lab probably wonāt be rushing out the door to buy one
though, thank you very much. At least not this year, or perhaps
the next. Despite my having a few misgivings that surround the interface,
there is one thing that is almost certain: This camera just might
be the beginning of the end of film photography. Itās that good.
š Unmatched 16.7 MP resolution
š Full-frame CMOS sensor for no-äcrop factorä shooting
š Incredibly high build quality
š Supports both CF and SD cards
š Very heavy and bulky
š Overly complex controls
š NiMH instead of Li-Ion battery
š Sensor dust must be cleaned by a Canon dealer
1Ds Mk II
Full-size digital 16.7 megapixel SLR camera measures 6.1 x 6.2 x
3.2 inches, weighs 55 ounces without battery and uses a 36x24mm
CMOS imager. Maximum image size is 4992 x 33328 pixels and images
can be saved in RAW or JPEG mode. The camera has a flash shoe. Images
are stored on CF or SD cards. Menus are displayed on a 2.0-inch
LCD with 230k pixels, viewfinder is a fixed penta mirror. Connectivity
is via USB and FireWire. The camera uses rechargeable NiMH batteries,
shutter speed ranges from 1/8000 to 30 seconds, maximum ISO sensitivity
is 3200, and it comes with EOS Digital Solution and Photo Professional
software. Camera body usually sells for US$7,999.
SLR scale rating: 9.8
D1x high-resolution camera was introduced in 2001. Its 5.5 megapixel
CCD sensor was state-of-the-art at the time. But a lot has changed
in the years since 2001, not the least of which has been the introduction
of many sensors with higher pixel density and improved characteristics.
Now Nikon has responded to those clamoring for more megapixels with
the new D2x. Not only does the D2x sport a 12.84 megapixel sensor,
but this time around it is a CMOS sensor rather than the CCD type
used in all previous Nikon digital SLR cameras. Pixel size is 5.49µm
square, rather than the odd rectangular pixels used in the D1x that
required interpolation. It used to be said that CCDs were better
than CMOS because CMOS sensors were inherently noisier than CCD.
Nikon even used this argument when they were using only CCD and
their competition was using CMOS. But the fact is that modern CMOS
sensors are not noisier than CCD and offer some significant advantages,
not the least of which is lower power consumption. The new sensor
measures 15.7 X 23.7 mm, approximately APS size.
been working with an early production D2x for about a month in preparation
for this test report, and have overall been very impressed with
the camera. It borrows its body design and overall ergonomics from
the D2h that I reviewed here in Digital Camera Magazine last year.
It has a very big and bright 2.5-inch LCD monitor on the back where
its clear and logical menus are displayed. Previews are seen here
as well, along with an exceptionally useful set of histograms, one
each for luminance, red, green and blue. The only problem with this
is that outdoors, where you most need to see the histograms, they
are very difficult or impossible to see in medium to bright ambient
light. But this is a problem shared by all digital cameras with
LCD monitors, and a problem I see little attention paid to by designers
digital camera are getting more and more complex as technology advances
most of us have to carry the instruction manual with us everywhere.
Nikon has taken a nice step in the right direction by including
a built-in manual of sorts. On the camera back you will see a ć?ä
next to the button with the key icon on it. Pressing this button
after selecting a menu item takes you to a Help screen that tells
you what that menu item does. I really like this feature just because
I donāt like to have to carry manuals around with me when I am out
Nikon D2x also offers an extensive selection of custom functions.
You can customize this camera in so many ways that it may leave
you dizzy just contemplating the options. Since you can use the
Help button to get definitions of any custom function, you can set
the camera to your personal preferences quickly and without puzzling
over just what does what. That being said, I found the default settings
worked just fine for me. Any time you use a custom setting to change
something, that change is indicated on the menu by an asterisk next
to the custom function.
you first look into the big, bright viewfinder you will notice a
rectangle marked on the focusing screen. That rectangle indicates
the frame area when you switch over to the High Speed Crop mode.
By using only part of the sensor to create the image, a smaller
image is produced, and this allows the cameraās maximum speed to
increase from 5.3 frames per second up to 8 frames per second. This
certainly ought to be fast enough for just about any sort of action
photography. In the High Speed Crop mode the portion of the sensor
used is about half, 6.9 megapixels. (What this means is that the
lens magnification factor, normally 1.5X, becomes 2X.) Actually
the camera offers you six different image sizes through a choice
of three images sizes with normal and High Speed Crop modes. In
normal you can select pixel dimensions of Large (2848x288), Medium
(2136x216) and Small (1424x2144), and in High Speed Crop mode you
can select Large (2136x3216), Medium (1600x2400) and Small (1024
x1600). Matching image size to job requirements should be very easy
with these six options.
criticism of past Nikon digital SLR cameras has been that their
lowest ISO setting has been limited to ISO 200 equivalent. Nikon
has listened, and on the D2x they have added ISO equivalents down
to ISO 50. This had been an issue for me because I had set up my
studio lighting for ISO 100 transparency film for more than twenty
years, and I knew exactly what all of my lights would do at ISO
100. Switching to the ISO 200 equivalent on Nikon DSLR cameras required
me to change things, and since I was also still shooting transparency
film I would have preferred to use the same camera settings for
both to prevent mistakes. Since I could set the D2x to ISO 100 equivalent
in my studio, I was happy. For my outdoor work I also chose ISO
100 except when making test shots at higher ISO settings just to
see how well they worked. Actually, when working outdoors the danger
is always that you will get blown out highlights, so after setting
the camera to ISO 100 I entered a ö1/3 compensation on both camera
and flash. A Nikon technical support person had suggested this to
me several years ago and it has become a habit with me. It is much
easier to pull up a slight underexposure in Photoshop than to try
to fix badly blown-out highlights.
Nikon D2x comes with Picture Project 1.5, a basic photo application.
If you want Nikon Capture 4.6.1 youāll have to buy that separately,
which seems kind of silly for a camera in this price bracket. Although
I installed and tried Picture Project 1.5, I canāt imagine using
it if you have a recent version of Adobe Photoshop, since it seems
targeted at beginners and is less versatile than even Photoshop
Elements 3.0. Since Photoshop can now open NEF files from the D2x,
I really canāt see any point in adding Nikon Capture unless you
need the ability to remote control your camera from your computer.
I was debugging Photoshop CS2 during the time I was testing the
D2x, so I used it to open and manipulate the files from the D2x.
There is a minor issue with Adobeās camera raw converter because
Nikon has chosen to encrypt the white balance information in NEF
files from the D2x, but it really seemed to be a non-issue to me.
If youāre interested in the debate on this issue, Google ćNikon
white balance encryptionä.
covered a lot of the technical detail about the camera, but how
does the Nikon D2x measure up as a working photographerās tool?
It is here, in the trenches, where the D2x shines. When you pick
up this camera it just plain feels good. It is solid, like it was
hewn out of a solid block of metal. The body is made from magnesium
alloy and should put up with just about any kind of hard professional
use. The handgrip felt perfect in my hand, not too chunky, not too
small for a firm hold. Unusually, the vertical grip feels just as
good as the horizontal, something other camera makers could learn
lessons from. The buttons on the back are big and very easy to find,
even in dim light. The LCD displays on top and back are bright,
contrasty, and easy to see even with less than 20/20 eyesight. Once
you know what does what, you can use this camera intuitively and
really fast. The super-fast and sure autofocus operation gives you
a feeling of confidence; that what you pick will be in perfect focus.
In short, this camera becomes an extension of the photographerās
eye and mind and lets him concentrate on what is really important:
the image is really all that matters in the long run. Iāve hardly
ever had a client ask what camera I used when buying a photograph.
Iāve said for years that the camera should be transparent, and that
is just what Nikon has accomplished with the D2x. I could concentrate
on the images, and I was delighted when I pulled the first batch
of images up on my computer monitor. And I am still just as happy
a month later with each new batch of D2x images that I open.
š Double the resolution of D1x
š Weird rectangular pixels gone
š Ultra-rugged body design
š Great built-in help system
š ISO now goes as low as 50
š Large 2.5-inch LCD
š Sensor still not full-frame
š LCD hard to read in bright light
š White balance info encrypted
š Nikon Capture a pricey add-on
Full-size digital 12.4 megapixel SLR camera measures 6.2 x 5.9 x
3.4 inches, weighs 39 ounces without battery and uses a 23.7x15.7mm
CMOS imager. Maximum image size is 4288 x 2848 pixels and images
can be saved in RAW, TIFF or JPEG mode. The camera has an ISO 518
standard flash shoe. Images are stored on CF cards (MicroDrive possible).
Menus are displayed on a 2.5-inch LCD with 235k pixels, viewfinder
is a mirror type. Computer connectivity is via USB 2.0. The camera
uses an EN-EL4 Li-Ion battery, shutter speed ranges from 1/8000
to 30 seconds, maximum ISO sensitivity is 800, and it comes with
Picture Project software. Camera body usually sells for US$4999.
SLR scale rating: 9.1