Canon's Pro Digital SLR
October 6, 2001
I had an opportunity yesterday to spend some time handling a pre-production sample of the EOS-1D. My first impression is that Canon certainly got the ergonomics right. Imagine the offspring of a mating between an EOS-1V and a D30 and you have some impression of what this new camera is like in the flesh.
"Robust" is a good word to start with in any attempt to describe the way it falls to hand. I've been using the EOS-1V for a couple of years now and have nothing but praise for its "all-of-a-piece" handling. The 1D matches this and adds the new dimension of digital file management, all with apparently the same level of refinement and mechanical strength. I did notice the extra level of moisture proofing that the camera has received. Just about every possible point of entry has a rubber gasket. Water and sand should not be an issue for this camera under most circumstances.
Unfortunately this pre-production sample had some software teething pains and so I wasn't able to properly examine image quality, other than in a cursory manner. This evaluation of the most important aspect of the camera, for my purposes at least, will have to wait until I can test a production sample some time later this year.
September 25, 2001 — just 1 year after the announcement of the EOS-D30, the long awaited EOS-1D pro-level SLR was introduced. The EOS-1D is a 4.15 megapixel CCD-based camera based on the rock solid EOS-1V body design. The rumour mill had been rampant for months, and by early September there had been fairly reliable information available.
This appears to be an incredibly robust and high performance camera. (A link to the complete specs are available at the bottom of this page). The camera is based on the EOS-1V and that's high praise indeed. But, this is not the camera that many, including me, have been waiting for. Instead, it is a newspaper and sports photographer's solution, albeit an ideal one.
I wondered if I was alone in my disappointment. But a quick survey of some of the discussion forums around the net quickly showed that I was not. Almost unanimously there were expressions of disappointment. Undoubtedly this is the tool that newspaper and sports photographers have been waiting for. Robust, dirt and water resistant, very high speed shooting capability, and high speed flash sync. All desirable attributes. My guess is that newspapers, news agencies and photojournalists around the world will be lining up to buy them even at the US $6-$7,000 retail price that these will command. Some of the defections to Nikon will have been stemmed.
So, why am I disappointed, and why are so many avid amateurs and professionals less than enamoured of the EOS-1D?
The answer isn't the price. Well-heeled amateurs would buy it regardless, and professional photographers can easily justify the expense. The answer lies in unfulfilled expectations. We all expected the EOS-1D to be what it is, a digital version of the tough-as-nails and high-performance EOS-1V that many of us have come to love and rely on. But it had to also be more.
By giving us a 4.1 megapixel CCD-based camera they have disappointed. The CMOS-based D30 produces images with a luminescent quality unlike those from any other camera. When I discussed this in October, 2000, after publishing the world's first on-line user review, many were dubious. But this impression was quickly seconded by others, and then by thousands of others. Today, a year later, and even after the introduction of many higher resolution competitors from other brands, the D30 still is regarded as having unique imaging capabilities.
What we had wanted from the EOS-1D is everything that it turned out to be, but with a full frame 6 megapixel CMOS sensor. Canon has now told us that they couldn't do this. CMOS technology apparently isn't yet at the point where Canon can produce a 6mp chip that can produce the high frame rates needed by sports and newspaper photographers, and at a price that would make the camera economically viable.
Thus Canon had to make a business decision. Produce a camera for the photojournalist market, or produce a camera for the rest of us. They made their choice, I'm sure, based on sound business reasons. I can make no complaint.
But, what I can complain about is that they have given Canon lens owners no clear signal as to what to expect next. The D30, as good as it is, is rapidly being eclipsed in the Prosumer marketplace. Point & Shoots are now 5mp and better. Contax and Pentax will be shipping their full-frame 6mp cameras within a couple of months.
To someone without a large investment in Canon glass, the fact that Canon offers no competitive alternative isn't critical. If the forthcoming Contax, Pentax or some other high-end digital seems to answer ones needs, then that's the way to go. But for anyone with a large investment in Canon lenses the choices are less clear. The EOS-1D isn't the answer, and the D30 is getting long-in-the-tooth. What to do?
Like most, I'll probably wait. There can be little doubt that Canon will eventually release a camera with a 6mp CMOS full-frame imaging chip. It doesn't need to have 8FPS shooting speed. It doesn't need to have 1/500 sec flash sync. But it does need to have the 1V and 1D's high-end autofocus and metering capabilities.
My only gripe is that Canon is not currently providing us with a roadmap. Without one there will now be months of speculation, rumours and muttering among the faithful. There will be much gnashing of teeth as other manufacturers start shipping their 6mp full-frame cameras. But with a little marketing savvy Canon could avoid this. Alas they likely won't.
Canon. See you next year. Maybe.
December 6, 2001: My hands-on review of a full production EOS 1D is now online.
Reviews & Product Specs Found Elsewhere