Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Canon EOS 1D Mark II (also "N") Experience Report

A review diary by Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller

This review will be written again in the form of a diary. Most recent findings on top.

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Note on image processing:

As usual we work only with raw files and use a of Camera Raw 2.2 for Photoshop CS or a beta of Bibble 4.

All images are also sharpened using EasyS Sharpening.

Comparing Canon 5D, 1D Mk. II (N), 1Ds Mk. II and Nikon D2x

9/11/2005 Canon EOS 1D Mk.II N first impressions

We just got in a production sample from the 1D Mk. II N. Overall all the upgrades seem to be minor but of course nice to have.

The 2.5" LCD allows clearly a better view on images and histogram data. But overall we think that Canon could improve the organization of their histogram views. In our view the Nikon D2x allows a better inspection on the LCD while using a LCD of about the same size. We would propose to show the histograms as an overlay with both the luminance and the RGB channel histograms. The histograms have to be very bright and also the clipping indicators easy visible. But as said the LCD size is very nice.

The 1D Mk. II N comes with DPP 2.0 which is also a minor update to the previous DPP versions. The newly included "Picture Style" (both on camera and in DPP) have some potential. But this would also require that Canon documents how to create and read your own picture styles. As we understand the Picture Styles also use ICC profiles. Would be nice if the user could create own Picture Style with also custom profiles.

A very good feature for many users is the new backup option. You can record all RAWs on one card (e.g. CF card) and a JPG copy on the other card (e.g. SD card). This has a few workflow and security advantages:

  • You can process fast all the JPGs (sports and weddings)
  • Get later the matching RAW for larger prints and fine tuning
  • If one card messes up (it happens) you have a copy

Overall we still think the Canon 1D Mk. II is a great action camera and the "N" version even improved a bit (we shot 21 RAWs in one 8 fps burst - we used a slow 4GB Microdrive). We plan to use the "N" a bit more over the next few weeks.


7/18/2004 Canon 1D Mark II Gallery published

After 2500 frames the Canon 1D Mark II is now normal part of our photographic work (side by side with the 1Ds). The gallery shows a broad spectrum of outdoor shots. We have to say this is the most versatile high-end DSLR right now.

What we love

  • Speed
  • Low noise at even higher ISO
  • Solid body
  • All the great features of the original 1D and 1Ds

What we don't like

  • Mirror lockup needs a menu change. Canon did not learn from 1Ds and previous 1D
  • Switch between RGB and luminance histogram also needs a menu change
  • Histogram shows values for the embedded JPG and does not properly reflect the raw data

Highly Recommended


7/4/2004 Ghost Town Bodie Portfolio
Nearly all photos in this portfolio were taken with the Canon 1D Mark II.

6/26/2004 Lens Distortions
We have now helped to create some lens profiles for PTLens and the Mark II. Check it out!

6/19/2004 Photo trip to the Eastern Sierra

This is our first real test of the Mark II. We use it side by side with our Canon 1Ds.

Golden Light near Mono Lake (Mark II)

There are many notes that the vertical shutter release of the Mark 2 is over sensitive. We can confirm this. It would be a main headache for us if we would not mostly use horizontal shots.

Otherwise we like what we get from the Mark II. Have a look at our Eastern Sierra travel portfolio.


6/15/2004 Phil Askey's Mark II review
We did not find any surprise here. Canon defines the state of the art for a 8MP DSLR.

6/12/2004 Fine detail raw test file

Thanks to Ferenc Harmat we can provide our readers with a raw test file that contains very high frequency elements and will challenge all raw converters (detail resolution, demosaicing artifacts and color aliasing).

You can download the test file from here (8MP ZIP).

THis file is also a good test case for all sharpening tools that you want to use for 1D Mark II files.


6/1/2004 High frame rate

We tried to capture Snowy Egret at full frame rate 8.5 fps.

Snowy Egret with 300mm f/4 + 1.4TC

Evening sun and white Egrets is tough but the shot is just ok. This photo is from a landing sequence.

5/30/2004 Sharpening and Upsizing 1D Mark II files

Our recent Sharpening Contest #4 featured a Mark II image. The result was a 500 pixel crop. We upsized the sharpened 500 pixel wide crop to 1248 pixels wide (using some custom upsizing routine from a friend), This results in an image that prints 5.2" wide at 240 PPI (equivalent to the whole image being about 36x24" @ 240 PPI).

You can download the upsized image from here. Try how it looks on your printer. But don't forget that the complete image would print at 36x24".

Printing this sample also will give you some feeling how images print even if they don't look that impressive on screen.


5/29/2004 At the Santa Cruz Pier

Now the Mark II is part of our main equipment. We will mainly share new insights and the results of our review portfolios. This time at Santa Cruz Pier.


5/28/2004 Closeup

Here is one more shot from Filoli (using Canon 100mm Macro lens @ ISO 400):

Giant Poppy with Bee (crop of the full frame image)

At 100% magnification


5/27/2004 A note on 1D Mark II resolution by Jack Flesher

Jack Flesher is a new contributor to our site. He already contributed to our 1D Mk. II, 1Ds and /C shootout.

Here is a sample that shows the detail a Mark II can resolve with top lenses:

Full frame shot

Jack Flesher wrote: "The first is the fullframe shot taken with the MKII and 200mm lens PLUS the 1.4x converter, for an effective 280mm at 1/2500th @ f4, RAW converted in ACR and no other post except sharpened EasyS before downsizing and converting to 8-bit sRGB.

100% magnification after upsizing to 24x36 at 300 DPI

The second shot is actual pixel crop of that image AFTER I upscaled it to 24x36 at 300 DPI with my own custome PS action. Note you can see the small needle holes in the glove where the machine stitching is!

You should realize that at actual pixel view, a 24x36 300 PPI print crop is like looking at a section of a poster print that is around 8x12 FEET.

You can also see a single strand of my daughter's hair in the final print!! Impressive I think..."



5/26/2004 Flowers and Sharpening

We like to photograph flowers at Villa Filoli. Photographing flower close ups is challenging:

  • Wind
  • Getting close and have low DOF

This means you want to use high shutter speed (1/160 or faster) and an f-stop at at least f/8 or smaller. This means that you want to use ISO 200 or even higher. With the Mark II we don't even think twice working at ISO 400. With all our previous cameras we got way more noise at this level.

Filoli Art Garden


Giant Poppy

Yellow Flowers (we don't know the name :-))

As we already know the Mark Ii needs quite some sharpening. But the good news is it sharpened very well.

100% magnification (no sharpening)

Same sharpened with EasyS



5/25/2004 Mark II RGB histogram

We want to caution you judging the exposure by only using the RGB histogram. Here is what we found out (ll histograms from the same image):

1D Mark II RGB Histogram

We now show the histograms of the same image on camera and in EVU (EOS File Viewer Utility):



We think that the camera RGB histogram shows the data differently than EVU and the camera luminance histogram. The camera RGB histogram seems not to show data below a certain percentage (e.g. calculates 0.45 pixels histogram height and will round it to 0, this is numerical correct but sends the wrong message to the user) while the EVU RGB histogram indicates that there are still data available.

We will from now on use the camera brightness histogram and only in some case also consult the RGB histogram. Unfortunately there is no way to switch fast between both versions in camera.



5/24/2004 Our own 1D Mark II got in

Interesting that our own shootout between Canon 1Ds, Canon 1D Mk. II and the Kodak SLR /c made us buy the Mark II. Before this test we had no plans to buy the Mark II. Why did we buy this camera?

  • We wanted a second body (we are two Bettina and Uwe) and it feels not that well switching between 10D and 1Ds. To get us right the 10D is a wonderful camera but if you own the 1Ds you will hardly use it.
  • The Kodak SLR /c would probably win the resolution contest but resolution is not all what a camera is all about. Also the SLR /c has quite some quirks (e.g. color shifts with some lenses, AF problems with other ones)
  • A second Canon 1Ds would not be bad but these are the points against this choice:
    • Lot more expensive
    • We expect a next version later this year
    • Not as good ISO behavior as the Mark II
  • This left the Canon Mark II which did not perform that bad in the resolution discipline and was the master of low noise at high ISO
  • ISO matters: We photograph also a lot freehand. Being able to select a higher ISO allows for better DOF and/or higher shutter speeds. Both needed more often or not.
  • We like the 1.3x multiplier. Many praise full frame sensors but also forget that only very few lenses are critical sharp in the corners. We find that 1.2-1.3x is a good balance between wide angle capabilities (we hardly use extreme wide angle) and avoiding the extreme corners of the full frame sensors. Why did we then get a 1Ds in the first place? The only reason was the absolute resolution.

At the end of our brief test it was clear to me that the 1D Mark II is the most universal performer in this field.


Today we made our traditional Los Gatos tour with our brand new 1D Mark II. There is not to much learning coming from a Canon 1Ds. The only thing to reevaluate is the reading of the histogram (e.g. how much to the right can we go without blowing out any highlights). We rather accept some mild under exposure than risk to lose highlights. Also here a low noise helps as the underexposed areas won't show that bad noise with the Mark II.

The 1D Mark II features a RGB histogram that shows all three RGB channels. This is a very good move but unfortunately this histogram is hard to read. We would like to see the luminosity histogram with some indicators that warn if channels get clipped.

Los Gatos Ristorante

100% magnification

Results are good in color and also detail without any major changes except some white balance correction (the auto white balance was very close and may be even more correct).

Los Gatos Antique store

100% magnification

Very nice detail and low noise in the shadows.

ISO Test 2

We did a second ISO test using our standard scene and additional ISO 1600.

Bear Coffee Shop

Canon 1D Mark II

ISO 100
ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600


ISO 1600 treated with Noise Ninja

The noise behavior of the Mark II is just amazing. Even at ISO 1600 the noise does not get out of hand and can be controlled using Noise Ninja 2.0 (we used only the automatic settings in Noise Ninja).

We think that Noise Ninja and Simple Sharpening (here we are of course somehow biased) are essential tools for all Mark II owners.

We have the ISO 1600 as original raw here for your information.

5/22/2004 1D Mk II and Simple Sharpening

We let a customer speak for us:

"If you own a 1D-II buy this NOW. I can sharpen to hell and back without halo's. Being an owner of Smarter Sharpen, this is everything I'd hoped for."

Dan Barthel, 5/21/2004

For more info read here this.


5/15/2004 1D Mark II ISO check (not extreme)

In out shootout yesterday we also made some ISO tests with the Mark II.

Sample Scene

ISO 160

ISO 320

ISO 640

ISO 1250

The noise behavior of the 1D Mark II is just stellar. The more we look into results of this camera the more we are impressed.

5/14/2004 Kodak SLR/c, Canon 1Ds and 1D Mark II comparison photos

We have new article that features this comparison.


4/12/2004 Canon's new Raw Converter: DPP

The Mark II comes with two software applications:

  • EOS Viewer Utility (EVU) is a very much improved version of the old File Viewer Utility
  • Digital Photo Professional (DPP)

You find a brief review of DPP here.


3/31/2004 !d Mark II first impressions

We did not get a a review camera yet but had the chance last week to use a Mark II for one hour in Alviso. We will share our first findings. Otherwise wait for our diary once we will get a sample for two weeks.

Of course the 1D MArk II feels very familiar to us as we use a 1Ds all the time.

We will discuss three topics:

  • Softness?
  • RGB Histogram
  • ISO


Most digital cameras have an AA filter to avoid color aliasing and moires. There are two schools of thought:

1) Avoid the AA filter as much as possible as it hurts final sharpness and detail

2) Use an AA filter to help prevent aliasing/moires and accept the fact that you need to sharpen the image stronger

Our take on the 1D Mark II is that it has a quite strong AA filter and needs also strong sharpening. We demonstrate this with two samples.

Note: We used for all shots good Canon lenses (180mm Macro and 24-70mm zoom).

Gate in Alviso

100% magnification crop (no sharpening)

100% magnification (strong sharpening)

We sharpened pretty strong in Simple Sharpening and you can see the result is quite good (hardly halos visible).

In Alviso

100% magnification crop (no sharpening)

100% magnification crop (strong sharpening)

The Canon 1Ds does not only have more resolution but also features a weaker AA filter.

RGB Histogram

Canon listened and implemented a full RGB histogram, bravo. Unfortunately this histogram is not that easy to read in bright light. Here is a proposal:

  • Each clipped (overexposed) channel should blink. This way it would easy to see that there is a channel clipped.


The noise behavior of this camera is excellent:

Alviso Mural Detail (ISO 1600)

100% magnification crop (ISO 1600)

All noise removal was set to off in Camera Raw.

Now we have to wait to get the review camera.


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