White Balance

The EOS-1Ds Mark II's automatic white balance performance was fairly similar to that of the EOS-1D Mark II and EOS 20D. Very good in natural light, fairly goodin fluorescent light but really average in incandescent light. In addition to automatic white balance there are of course a range of WB presets, manual WB and Kelvin temperature. You can also now fine-tune the WB presets in the same manner as the EOS-1D Mark II (by holding the WB and WB+/- buttons and using the command dials).

Outdoor - Auto WB
Red: -0.2%, Blue: -0.1%

Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red: -0.3%, Blue: -3.4%
Incandescent - Auto WB
Red: 6.9%, Blue: -12.1%

Long Exposure noise reduction / Night shots

The EOS-1Ds Mark II has typical 'dark frame subtraction' noise reduction for exposures of one second or longer, this can be enabled or disabled via the camera menu. Dark frame subtraction NR works by taking a second equal exposure immediately after the first but with the shutter closed, any hot pixel noise in this second exposure can then be subtracted from the first to produce a cleaner image. With noise reduction off we were only able to identify two 'hot pixels' in our 30 second exposure, switched on these are gone with no black pit artifacts.

Typical night exposure

Noise reduction Off Noise reduction On
30 sec, F11 30 sec, F11


The EOS-1Ds Mark II features the latest version of Canon's flash metering system, E-TTL II. This utilizes additional 'distance information' provided to the camera by the lens (although not all lenses provide this). The lens used on the shots below as the EF 24-70 mm F2.8L, exposure mode P. My snapshot attempts didn't come out too well, clearly in the hands of a flash expert you'd get better results than these (that said I would have expected the metering system to cope better).

Canon 550 EX direct Canon 550 EX bounced
Canon 550 EX direct  

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

Nobody can doubt that the EOS-1Ds Mark II marks the pinacle of resolution for 35 mm based digital SLR's (you can get more by going medium format, for a lot more money). The sixteen megapixel CMOS sensor, low noise and a mature, high quality image processing system mean not only are you getting a 'large image' but that the delivered resolution is as high as you could expect, excellent per-pixel sharpness and detail.

Canon's EOS-1D series of digital SLR's have always had noticeably better 'per-pixel sharpness' than their more affordable double-digit siblings, this is due to a more advanced sensor which utilizes more exotic materials and is backed by higher quality components and cleaner data paths. One thing that is important however is getting the camera's sharpness setting just right, we'd recommend level 1 or 2 (but not really any higher).

Only the best glass will do

Of course to get the optimum from this large, high resolution sensor you need to use the best lenses. The EOS-1Ds Mark II is very unforgiving of lens edge softness, chromatic aberrations and lens shading/vignetting. Of course there are special difficulties with a full size sensor and very wide angle lenses, the angle that light hits the outer microlenses can mean it's very difficult to produce absolute sharpness across the frame. Remember that with this camera you're using a lot more of the total area of each lens element than you would with a cropped sensor camera.

Edge softness / chromatic aberrations

As mentioned above you must be mindful of the limits of the lens when shooting with the EOS-1Ds Mark II (much more so than you would on a cropped sensor camera). These limits occur most often at extreme wide angle and/or large apertures (even with the most expensive professional 'L' lenses). On the counter side we should also say that the field of view provided by (say) a 17 mm lens on the EOS-1Ds Mark II would be very difficult to achieve on a cropped sensor camera.

17-35 mm F2.8L @ 17 mm, F4.5 17-35 mm F2.8L @ 21 mm, F5.0
Edge crop (100%) Edge crop (100%)
Center crop (100%) Center crop (100%)

* Note: the visibility of chromatic aberrations can be removed when converting RAW files via Adobe Camera RAW (the 'Lens' option).