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Living with the Canon 1D

With a comment on the 400mm DO lens

By: Bill Caulfeild-Browne

Since my foray with my first digital camera in January 2002, A Month in New Zealand With The Canon EOS 1D, when I had owned the 1D for just a couple of weeks, Iíve come to know and understand the camera much better. This might be expected after several thousand exposures ! This brief report will cover some of the features I had not used then, and comment in greater depth on some I now realize I did not fully understand.

First, the camera itself. It continues to be a joy to handle, and Iím now at the point where I donít even have to think about most of the controls. Changing ISO speed, for example, has become second nature. Shooting a heron near nightfall recently, I found myself jacking up the speed from 200 to 400 and finally to 800 ISO as the light deteriorated and shutter speeds lengthened.

Great Blue Heron, ISO 320, 1/160 at f8
ISO 320, 1/160 at f8, 400mm DO IS with 1.4 extender

The speed of operation, the almost fool-proof autofocus and the evaluative metering are the wildlife photographerís dream ñ Iím getting images far better than in the past, though I admit some of that is because I shoot far more freely knowing Iím not wasting film.

I have now used ISO 1600 as well, and am quite pleasantly surprised at the quality. The shot of the ferry was taken after sunset while it was moving at 10 or 15 mph. There is noise in the dark areas and the sky, but on an ink-jet print the result is better than I could get with ISO 1600 film. Incidentally, I use a filing/archiving program called ìThumbs Plusî (the best of its kind in my opinion) which has a ìDigital Camera Clean-upî option. This does a nice job of muting noise.

ISO 1600, 1/30th at f5.6 (full aperture), 28-135mm IS lens

The Canon software is much better than I gave credit for in January. Although I still think itís a tad slow, I was unaware of the options for decoding the Raw images. For example, I was simply decoding the image to Photoshop and sharpening it there. In fact, Canonís own algorithms are very good indeed and I get better sharpness by setting Canonís options before moving the image to Photoshop. They are quite extensive and allow many variations.

The ability, before decoding, to set the color matrix, the density and other shot settings means that marginally exposed shots can be completely ìrecoveredî before one starts playing with them in Photoshop.

Battery life has been my most pleasant surprise. I apologise to Canon for doubting them. Although new batteries gave me only a couple of hundred shots, as they have aged they have improved. My last charge powered the camera for 426 frames. This was with Review turned off, Raw images only, but with IS being used at least a third of the time. (Canon says 350-500 shots ñ right on.)

Canon service was, and is, one of the reasons I use their equipment. I am pleased to report my confidence continues to be justified. While cleaning the CCD, I sneezed. (Do not try this at home !). The result was tiny spots of moisture on the CCD, which I decided Iíd not try to remove myself. I took the camera into Canon, who cleaned the CCD so quickly, and while I waited, that I wondered if theyíd really done anything. They had indeed, and the Rubber Stamp in Photoshop no longer gets used as much !

In fact, I have not found dust too much of a problem, though I am quite careful about changing lenses quickly, and never leave the body without one attached. I find a quick puff about once a month has been enough ñ but does anybody know of a miniature vacuum cleaner one could use ? Seems to me that sucking dust gently away would be better than (potentially) just blowing it into a different place.

Redbellied Woodpecker
ISO 250, 1/400 at f8, 400mm DO IS.

Canon has also been good about software updates. They have twice informed me of downloads available from their website, and the camera now has version 1.3 installed.

Of course, one thing we all seek is image quality. I continue to bowled over by the 8.5 by 11 inch prints this camera can produce. They seem clearer to me than many film-derived prints ñ a sort of clarity that I canít quite explain but I can certainly show in side-by-side images. 13 by 19 inch prints are a stretch, but quite acceptable, especially with ìrezzing upî. Needless to say, Iím hoping Canon will soon produce the equivalent of the D60 in the pro line.

Canon 400mm DO

Finally, a word about the 400mm DO lens I recently bought. What a gem ! I wonít go into comparisons (though I have done some) because Michael has already done a superior job of that; his were the ones that convinced me to buy the lens. But I can add something ñ this lens has an almost macro quality when used at its closest focus of 3.5 metres, a little over 10 feet. And when I add the 1.4X Extender, image quality is fully retained as far as my eyesight is concerned.

I donít recommend hand-holding the lens; it is do-able but your arms will tire quickly. Nevertheless, I have snatched some quick shots ñ see the sparrow ñ with the extender, IS and luck. Considering the effective focal length is 728 mm on the 1D, Iím pretty pleased at the result !

Savannah Sparrow
ISO 250, 1/750 at f8, 400mm DO IS with 1.4 extender. Not a great composition but shows the versatility of the lens as this was at its closest focus and hand-held at an effective focal length of 728 mm.

Ten years ago, as I sweated with manual focus, 2 frames a second and a huge film bill, I could not have conceived of the speed and ease that the 1D offers the serious wildlife photographer. And to think itís only going to get better !

All Text and Photographs are Copyright Bill Caulfeild-Browne — 2002

About The Author

Bill Caulfeild-Browne is a semi-retired business executive who lives in Tobermory, Ontario. A dedicated nature photographer, he has had three one-man exhibitions in Mississauga and Toronto and has contributed to numerous magazines and books, including the World Wildlife Fund's "Endangered Spaces" and "A Nature Guide to Ontario". He loves to travel, usually with his Rollei 6008s, and has recently visited the Galapagos and Antarctica. He is a member of the Board of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

The world's first hands-on review of the EOS-1D can be found here.

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Concepts: Digital single-lens reflex camera, Photographic lens, F-number, Camera, Focal length, Digital camera, Photography, Focus

Entities: Tobermory, Mississauga, Toronto, Canon, Blue Heron, Canonu00eds, Antarctica, New Zealand, Canada, Photoshop, Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Michael Reichmann, Iu00edm, Bill Caulfeild-Browne, Savannah Sparrow, Michael, Ontario

Tags: image, camera, effective focal length, closest focus, inch prints, image quality, Canon EOS 1D, Photoshop, u00ecdigital camera clean-upu00ee, Great Blue Heron, semi-retired business executive, huge film bill, dedicated nature photographer, World Wildlife Fund, ISO speed, Canon service, digital camera, Canon software, shutter speeds, greater depth, fool-proof autofocus, wildlife, brief report, evaluative metering, nice job, tiny spots, pleasant surprise, ink-jet print, Battery life, shot settings, New Zealand, Canonu00eds options, Rollei 6008s, dark areas, Bill Caulfeild-Browne, new batteries, one-man exhibitions, different place, film-derived prints, quick puff