Is canon EOS 1Ds still worth?

Started Dec 12, 2010 | Discussions thread
Michael Thomas Mitchell Forum Pro • Posts: 11,776
Re: Is canon EOS 1Ds still worth?

The original 1Ds was a heck of a camera... and still is! What you need to decide, though, is whether it's the best choice for what you want to do.

It's strengths are:

Unsurpassed build quality. Virtually unchanged in physical construction right up to the latest model. In someone's hands, you would not easily distinguish it from a Mark IV.

Superb image quality, especially for landscape and studio.

Full frame means you can take fullest advantage of wide angle lenses.

Exceptional AF system. Although Canon has updated and improved in subsequent 1D models, it still outshines virtually any other non-1D model.

Drawbacks (maybe):

Poor high ISO performance. Intended for studio work, high ISO performance was probably never one of the designers' goals. Exactly where the ceiling is is entirely subjective. Some say 400, others say 800. It came out roughly the same time as the D60, which had a maximum ISO of 1000. The 1Ds is 1250. I have felt that the 1Ds delivers better 1250 than the D60 at 1000. The key is getting the right exposure from the beginning. In fact, a well exposed image at 1250 resized down to the original 1D 4MP image size is actually quite good.

LCD. It reflects the era in which was made. Some people complain that it is small. Actually, it's 2", which is just fine. The problem is that it's such a low resolution screen. If you're into screen viewing, you'll find it limiting. As a purely photographic tool, however, (especially with use of the histogram), it's just fine.

Battery performance. Yes, it eats up battery power more than later models. On the other hand, you can easily get hundreds of shots with a good battery. These batteries are about $20 these days. To me, changing a battery every few hours of heavy shooting is no big deal. For some, I guess it is.


So, what would get in later generations that the 1Ds lacks?

Dual card slots. Beginning with the Mark II bodies, Canon provided both a CD and SD slot for either double-storage capacity OR instant backup. In my case, I love using the latter. No worries about corrupt cards and so forth; I instantly have two copies of every image file. Very comforting, especially when shooting for hire.

LCD. The Mark II series DOUBLED the LCD resolution. Made a big difference. With the Mark IIn, Canon also increased the size. Again, a nice difference. To me, however, a luxury. To others, maybe a necessity.

Improved high ISO performance. The Mark II increases the max ISO to 3200, and both models pull it off just fine, especially when shooting raw and using good noise reduction software. In fact, I've pushed the Mark II (both models) to 6400 in particular instances with good results. But I wouldn't go beyond it... the dynamic range suffers too much. The Mark II improves upon noise slightly, and the Mark IV slightly more still.

AF. The Mark II improved upon the AF by incorporating dual processors in its existing design. A new AF was introduced with the III and then improved in the IV. While the 1D/1Ds AF system was already good (and really, the envy still of all non-1D bodies today), steady improvements have been made, primarily in servo speed and accuracy. In the real world, this is a plus for actions shooters, but largely irrelevant for studio/landscape use.

Resolution. The 1Ds' 11MP is plenty for most applications. But, for pixel junkies, the Mark II and III "s" models inevitably jumped ahead to 16 and 21 MP respectively. This increase, however, is probably only noticed in super large prints.


It's interesting looking back at the release of the 1Ds, and how it was commonly believed that it represented not the introduction of a new line of "studio" cameras, but rather the next generation following the 1D. With the release of the Mark II line, however, it was clear what Canon's intention truly was. And now we understand that the 1Ds was simply the FIRST of a line of three cameras rather than second in a line of eight.

For many people, the original 1Ds can still provide a viable and compelling photographic experience, IF you can live with its limitations, particularly compared to later models. It's amazing, though, how far the Mark II went beyond the first generation. The single biggest jump in the line, in fact, is probably between the first generation and the Mark II bodies. From the II to III, and then the III to IV, the differences were less (omitting the consideration of live view and video).

If the 1Ds might still be a useful tool, however, I personally feel that the prices they are fetching are still a bit high. These bodies commonly sell for a thousands dollars and more on ebay. Meanwhile, a Mark II body can be had for about $800, a Mark IIn for about $1100, and a 1DsII body for about $1800-2000. For my taste, a grand for a 1Ds is a bit rich.

If you can find one in decent condition for about $800 AND can live with its limitations, I think it will be a body you will really enjoy using.

libis22 wrote:

Hi All,

I am new to DSLR category but I used to work with SLR previously.
I was just looking for a second hand camera under 1200$ budget.

In ebay I could see Canon EOS 1Ds on sale which comes close to my budget. I love Nature, landscape and wildlife photography. Anyone please advise is it still worth the money or technology has gone far beyond? I tried to research but couldn’t find a direct answer anywhere.


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Michael Thomas Mitchell

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Canon EOS-1D Mark II Canon EOS 70D Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS II USM
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