Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent resolution, not just a step change from the EOS-1D but a leap
- Switch from CCD to CMOS delivers very clean images with no pattern noise
- Maintains EOS-1D's amazing 8.3 fps and increases buffer to 40 frames (JPEG)
- Superbly well built, 'a solid block', fully environmentally sealed, totally robust
- Very fast in use, ultra fast auto focus, extremely short shutter lag, although 0.8 sec startup
- Separate tone / sharpness and color matrix control, all customizable
- Wide range of ISO sensitivities, ISO 50 - 3200 (with 'ISO Expansion' enabled)
- Two different types of white balance fine tuning (blue-amber & green-magenta)
- Large clear viewfinder with 98% field of view and a very low blackout time
- New brighter and sharper LCD monitor is a big improvement over EOS-1D / EOS-1Ds
- Playback magnification up to 10x (the EOS-1D had none)
- Excellent and supremely fast auto focus, 45 point AF and a large AF area for focus tracking
- Very high speed continuous shooting (the fastest shooting D-SLR)
- Very well implemented buffering system backed up by fast media throughput
- Dual storage slots, well implemented 'backup' double-save mode, awkward to switch slots
- Superb Secure Digital performance, over 6 MB/sec
- Support for FAT32 storage devices (greater than 2 GB in size)
- Proper RAW+JPEG with immediately selectable JPEG image size
- Directly selectable JPEG image quality (compression ratio) per image size
- Huge range of custom and personal functions, one of the most configurable cameras
- Three types of bracketing: Exposure, Sensitivity (ISO), White Balance
- Inbuilt portrait grip
- Noise free very long exposures (ideal for very long exposure night shots)
- Extremely flexible controls, lots of options for the photographer
- Interchangeable focus screen
- Firewire (IEEE 1394) and USB connectivity
- Remote tethered capture software for studio work (included)
- Voice annotation feature (built-in mic)
- Battery / Double Charger and AC Adapter all included with camera
- Value for money (considering what you get)
Conclusion - Cons
- Startup delay - on a camera at this level we expect no startup delay
- JPEG images appear a little soft, can be improved by increasing sharpness setting
- Control system can be a little confusing at first, menu operation different to other D-SLR's
- Confusing provision of both EVU and DPP
- DPP moiré artifacts on resolution chart - Canon are investigating this
- Awkward to switch media slot
- No option to write different image formats to different media (eg. RAW->CF, JPEG->SD)
- NiMH battery adds to camera's weight, still no use of Lithium-Ion or Lithium-Polymer
- No GPS (serial) connection
The original EOS-1D was a very important camera for Canon, their first home grown professional digital SLR built to EOS-1V standards and carrying that all important '1' label (indicating the best in their range). As such it was a camera which made its way into the hands of some of the most hard working professional photographers in the world and is still seen at the side of high profile sporting events and firing off in the face of celebrities and politicians alike.
As a camera to be used by such photographers it was always going to be the hardest used and closest examined. Thankfully Canon has once more demonstrated that they gather all of this feedback and drive it into the development of the next model. The Mark II is a perfect example of evolution of technology (eight megapixel, CMOS, 40 frame buffer) and also correction of function and usage. It's amazing how many small things have been fixed, things that could only have come out of experience in the hands of dedicated professional photographers.
I could go through the list of improvements, such as the vastly improved LCD monitor and up to 10x magnification in playback mode but it's more interesting to take just one example. Canon pointed out to me that they had changed the design of the media compartment release lever, it now has a raised midsection making it more of a 'U' shape. Why was this done? To make it easier to open the media compartment when wearing gloves. Small details matter.
Image quality wise there are no complaints with the EOS-1D Mark II, it's certainly no point-and-shoot camera and requires a certain amount of experimentation and learning before reaching your idea of the perfect image. That's also the camera's advantage, taking a hands-off approach to image development means that the photographer gets to decide just how the final image will look.
Is this the ultimate digital SLR? For now I have to say yes, it offers an amazing level of build quality and environmental sealing, superb eight megapixels of resolution, low noise at almost any sensitivity, over eight frames per second (with a forty frame buffer) and near instant performance. All this for $1,000 less than the EOS-1D cost when it was introduced.
So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.