Canon EOS-1D Q & A Session

As a part of the information gathering process for the review I had an exclusive opportunity to question four of Canon Europa's top digital camera and professional digital SLR staff. Below is a summary of that Q & A session, my questions shown in green, Canon answers in white.

How long ago did the actual development of the EOS-1D begin? Was the EOS-D30 a test platform for any of the EOS-1D's technology?

Development on the EOS-1D was under way even before the 1V was released, although obviously the requirement for the physical characteristics of the camera lay with the completion of the 1V body.

There were two different teams working on the development of the EOS-1D and EOS-D30, although certainly some of the software development (menus etc.) may have been prepared by one group of software specialists.

Clearly the EOS-1D is a significant and important camera for Canon, how would it rate (on a scale of 1 to 10) compared to the release of other cameras (such as the EOS-1V)?

When ever we produce a professional camera we are always aiming to produce the 'pinnacle product', there is no distinction in importance between the EOS-1V or EOS-1D.

What are the production figures for the EOS-1D (per month)?

3,000 per month.

It's interesting that the EOS-1D uses a CCD sensor, a lot of people were (of course) expecting another CMOS sensor. What are the reasons for using CCD and was the EOS-D30 the last CMOS sensor D-SLR from Canon?

At the moment CCD is the best solution for this camera (overall), it is faster than a CMOS sensor at transferring the data off and into the cameras buffer, this is clearly very important to maintain the very high frame rate.

It is not our policy to talk about future products. However, Canon has unique technologies allowing us to make significant strides with CMOS technology, thus achieving a very high quality image output. This technology will be continually developed and used where appropriate.

How do you think potential buyers will take the fact that the EOS-1D has a four megapixel (as opposed to six megapixel) sensor, do you think this matters to the target user?

The decision to use a four megapixel sensor is based on several factors: (a) to maintain the balance between frame rate and resolution, (b) to use a sensor which is economically viable and wouldn't adversely affect the price of the product, (c) a high quality 4 megapixel (square pixel) sensor is still capable of very large file sizes (12 MB) which are still capable of providing high quality, high resolution images (example - magazines spreads).

Is there a balance between pixels and frame rate or is the 4 megapixel count just a current technological limitation?

It would be possible to use a higher pixel count sensor but this would increase the price of the camera and adversely affect the 'usability' (frame rate, flush speeds etc.). Technological advances may make this possible in the future. Canon believe that the EOS-1D will be a pinnacle product which will meet the needs of a wide range of professional users, it provides both high resolution and high frame rate in one camera.

Is the CCD sensor a Canon development? If not who makes it?

No, it is not a Canon development. No comment.

How extensively has the EOS-1D been tested, has it been in the hands of photojournalists for long?

The EOS-1D has undergone similar levels of environmental testing as the EOS-1V. It is just as robust and waterproof as that camera. Most tests are carried out in a lab. Waterproofing depends on the use of special L lenses with a rubber gasket which seals against the lens mount.

Does the EOS-1D mean that the EOS-1V was the last professional film SLR from Canon?

No, if there is demand for a more sophisticated or advanced film SLR than the EOS-1V then of course Canon would develop it.

Still talking about reliability, what is the cameras MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure)?

The shutter mechanism (the first thing likely to fail) is guaranteed to 150,000 cycles, although it is generally expected to last far longer than this (the same mechanism on a film camera lasted 400,000+ cycles in an independent test).

Is the EOS-1D's 45 point AF better (faster?) than the EOS-1V? (as we are now further down the development line)

No, it is the same as the EOS-1V. It could be perceived as better because as a consequence of the 1.3x 'crop' (focal length multiplier) the AF ellipse actually covers a larger percentage of the frame.

Are metering systems in digital SLR's (notably the EOS-1D) tuned to provide maximum digital latitude?

The metering systems in the EOS-1V and EOS-1D are identical.

Looking at the EOS-1D it's clear that the button layout and controls are a combination of the EOS-1V and the D2000 / D6000, is this simply for familiarity?

Yes, the design and layout and controls of the 'digital side' of the camera is similar to the D2000 (AKA. Kodak DCS 520) to aid familiarity with the camera for existing D2000 users. The 'hold down and turn' system is commonly used on professional cameras to avoid accidental settings changes.

The EOS-1D has a faster top shutter speed of 1/16,000 sec and an X-Sync speed of 1/500 sec (compared to the EOS-1V), how important was this?

There are some difficult challenges involved in very high flash sync and shutter speeds on film cameras. We could achieve the high sync speed and shutter speed on the EOS-1D and so have included it. The high 1/500 sec X-Sync speed is extremely important.

The EOS-1D has a very impressive continuous shooting rate of 8 frames per second, what are the challenges involved in developing a mirror / shutter / buffering system to handle this speed?

The mirror mechanism with its special 'bounce reduction' and low 87 ms blackout is the same as the EOS-1V, the shutter mechanism is the same as the EOS 3. A unique combination.

The EOS-1D can only buffer 21 shots, is there a reason for not providing a larger buffer?

Canon believe that the 21 shot buffer is more than sufficient for most professional photographers, CF card write speeds have also increased so that the image buffer flushes more quickly. The camera will take a shot with the shutter release held down as soon as there is space in the buffer.

Will there be a higher resolution / slower shooting EOS-1D in the near future?

Sorry, no comment on future products.

Why is ISO 100 not normally available, is this a throwback to familiarity with the D2000?

CCD sensors have a certain set of parameters between which they perform at their optimum. Canon always tend to be cautious in ensuring that the user is provided with the highest possible quality and therefore by default provide a selection between ISO 200 and 1600. The other sensitivities of ISO 100 and 3200 can be selected by way of a custom function but the photographer should understand that under certain extreme conditions there may be compromises to be made at these sensitivities.

I notice that the EOS-1D has a white balance sensor; does Canon believe that external white balance sensors are better capable of measuring light colour?

The EOS-1D's external white balance sensor is complementary to the white balance of the image as seen by the CCD sensor, this is called Hybrid Auto White Balance. Primarily white balance is measured by the CCD sensor but the external white balance sensor enables the camera system to confirm or correct the colour of the scenes ambient light.

The EOS-1D allows a lot of control over image parameters, even down to tone curves and JPEG compression levels, do you believe this is important for the professional or is this based on the comments of previous D-SLR owners?

Many professional photographers have exacting requirements about the output of the image, these image parameters give them the flexibility to choose exactly how the image will look. They may also have a variety of different output requirements (or customers) and can therefore easily set up and select image parameters for each of these.

Colour space - settings are numbered 1 - 5, although 4 is labelled 'Adobe RGB', 1,2, 3 and 5 are not strictly labelled, is it fair to assume they are all variations on sRGB? Are ICC colour profiles supplied with the camera?

Yes, 1,2,3 and 5 are essentially sRGB although 2, 3 and 5 are all tuned very slightly to give different colour output for shooting different subjects (2 is designed to be good for skin tones etc.). ICC colour profiles will not be supplied with the camera

Sharpness / sharpness pattern parameters - why the distinction and what's the difference? Is sharpening like an unsharp mask?

The sharpness setting is for how strong a sharpening effect you want. The sharpness pattern is for the kind of subject you wish to sharpen (fine or coarse details).

I note that the EOS-1D's firmware is user-upgradeable, what kind of things can be corrected in firmware (image quality / processing / menus), are we likely to see regular feature firmware updates or just bug fixes?

Firmware updates give the camera an extended life, they enable us to handle the unknown problems that may arise and potentially add new features in the future. Firmware updates should be seen as a positive thing for the buyer because it means they are not buying a 'dead end' product.

The EOS-D30 appears to have an additional filter just behind the shutter but some distance from the sensor to protect the sensor from dust, does the EOS-1D have this same protective filter? What is the policy on the use of 'swabs' to clean the sensor?

No. We will not recommend use of hand brush or any other things for remove dust on LPF because it may leave a scratch on the surface. If necessary please visit our service deportment for cleaning.