User Review of the Canon EOS-1D Mark II
First Look

This review summarizes my initial tests with the EOS-1D Mark II run after immediately after receiving the camera. I have been using an EOS-1D for 2 years and an EOS-1Ds for over a year. I have been very pleased with the performance of both the EOS-1D and the EOS-1Ds. The EOS-1D Mark II was designed to have the frame rate and autofocus performance comparable to the EOS-1D (with even better autofocus function) and resolution performance closer to the EOS-1Ds.

Image Detail in Portrait and Landscape Photography

As expected based on its 8.2 megapixel sensor rating, image detail produced with the EOS-1D Mark II is closer to that of the EOS-1Ds (11.1 megapixels) than the EOS-1D (4.15 megapixels).

I wanted to know how the EOS-1 Mark II compared to EOS-1Ds in landscape photography and portrait photography applications and tested the camera with two targets. Click on links below for details.

Test Page for Portrait Applications with Mannequin Photos
Test Page for Landscape Application with Parking Garage Target

Resolution Test with USAF 1951 Pattern

The USAF 1951 test pattern is an insensitive target for testing digital camera resolving power. I started the tests several years ago with film and early digital cameras when running lens tests and continue the tests with more advanced digital cameras to give a rough indication of sensor and image processor capabilities. The EOS-1D Mark II in my tests gave peak resolution at 53 line pairs per mm (lppm) compared to 56 lppm for the EOS-1Ds and 40 lppm for the original EOS-1D. Tests were run using a method comparable to this.

Comparison of images in low ambient light

The following full-frame photographs were taken in ambient light in my living room. There was a skylight window and West facing window, and light was reflected with a Tri-Lite reflector system.. Settings were aperture priority, evaluative metering, ISO 200, f/2.8, Automatic White Balance, Raw with RAW conversion with Canon EOS Viewer Utility. Images were resized in Photoshop and put into sRGB color space, but otherwise untouched. Partial cloud cover resulted in slightly variable lighting conditions.

In the first tests, the EOS-1D Mark II appeared to slightly overexpose images in evaluative metering mode under low light. The upper row is untouched from the camera and Canon EOS Viewer Utility software. The lower row has been adjusted in Photoshop.

Straight out of camera and Canon raw conversion software with resizing
EOS-1D Mark II
EF 50mm f/1.4

EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L @70mm

EF 50mm f/1.4
Adjusted in Photoshop

E-TTL II Flash Metering with the EOS-1D Mark II

Link to Evaluation of E-TTL II Flash Metering of the EOS-1D Mark II compared to EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds

Tests with the EOS-1D, EOS-1Ds, and EOS-1D Mark II showed that each gave good flash function under balanced subject composition with even background. I tested the flash systems under more extreme lighting and background conditions to see how well the new E-TTL II flash system worked. Click on the link above to evaluate details of the test. Briefly, program flash exposures were run with the cameras under conditions where the subject was wearing light clothing against a light background and a bright light source in the background. In the other extreme, the subject was wearing black against a black background.

The following is a summary of the results:

Autofocus Speed and Accuracy

Autofocus speed and accuracy of the EOS-1D Mark II appears to be at least as good as that for the EOS-1D and substantially better than that for the EOS-1Ds. I'll probably need to use the camera for a few months before I'll be able to make any informed comparisons of the EOS-1D and the 1D Mark II.

Data for 1GB Microdrive Users Shooting RAW Files

Megapixel Rating 4.15 megapixels 8.2 megapixels 11.1 megapixels
RAW File Size (ISO 200) 3.2 mb 7.0 mb 8.2 mb
# RAW files / microdrive (ISO 800) 175 92 79
Time to Process and Write 10 RAW exposures in buffer to microdrive (ISO 200) 16 seconds 22 seconds 60 seconds
Raw Buffer Size (ISO 200) 17 exposures 19 exposures 10 exposures
Estimated Process/ Write Speed
2,000 kb/sec 3,182 kb/sec 1,367 kb/sec

The EOS-1D Mark II has a much faster image processor and associated write speed to microdrive than the EOS-1Ds.

Other data: EOS-1D EOS-1D Mark II EOS-1DS
Peak exposure rate 8 per second 8 per second 3 per second
Crop / Mag factor 1.3 1.3 Full Frame

High Iso Setting Images

Click here for comparison of EOS-1D Mark II, EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds at ISO 800, 1000, 1250, 1600 and 3200

Images at high ISO settings with the EOS-1D Mark II have much lower noise and better color than the EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds.

Preliminary Conclusions

The EOS-1D Mark II is a major improvement over the EOS-1D and produces higher resolution images with no loss of shooting speed or autofocus function. Low noise and good color in high ISO images under low available light is a major improvement. It appears to be all that it was advertised to be for photojournalism and sports photography. Image quality (detail and color of images) is excellent and will stand up well to image cropping and enlargement. Image quality produced by the EOS-1Ds is higher than that for the 1D Mark II for most uses. I still prefer the EOS-1Ds for portraits, landscapes, weddings and other events/subjects where maximum image detail and optimal color is desired and where high frame rate is not required and good lighting is available. Once conditions of low ambient light or conditions requiring fast autofocus and high exposure rate present themselves, performance of the EOS-1D Mark II is unmatched.

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Review initially posted 24 April 2004; Revised: 25, 26 April 2004, 02 May 2004

© 2004, William L. Castleman