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Canon EOS 1Ds

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      14.09.2009 18:37
      Very helpful



      A pro camera at an amateur price

      Ok - so you have a compact camera that shoots a 10MP image. You even get 5 MP out of your phone, which boasts a Zeiss lens. So why would you want one of these?

      Allow me to give you a little insight into where I come from on this product....

      I trained as a photographer many moons ago, back in the days when film was, well, film, the darkroom was dark and had wet chemicals in it, (which gave you an interesting aroma!)

      In light of this, I will keep my comments purely to the use of the EOS1-DS in the shooting department and leave the digital workflow to those who know about such things (and whose reviews I will read and value)

      I was weaned on Nikon F2 cameras - built out of offcuts of supertanker and truly indestructible, these were solid, heavy and superb. The cameras were entirely manual (you set both the aperture and shutter speed are set by the user, and that's it! There is a light meter built in.... but I digress!

      There is relevance to this, honest!

      I moved from the F2 to the Nikon F3, which was automatic as well, but I hated it! So when Canon launched the EOS-1 (film version) and I had the chance to use one, I became a convert to the Canon marque.
      I ended up with 3 of the film bodies and a great set of lenses (all pro spec , f2.8 versions), all of which are great tools.

      The world then went digital, with 2.2Mp cameras costing over £20,000 ( a bit beyond my budget!) so I stuck with film, (which I still use from time to time.)

      Eventually the resolution of the "new" digital formats became comparable with the lower end of 35mm resolution and I started to get interested in the idea of having a digital version of my EOS-1's.
      Canon had launched a lot of digital SLR cameras, but whilst they all accepted the lenses I already owned they had a different effective focal lengths, due to the size of the digital "receiver" in the camera.

      Being a bit slow (and a little set in my ways, to be honest!), I didn't want to have to carry two focal length "data sets" in my mind, so waited, and waited for the "Full-Frame" digital body Canon were due to release. It eventually arrived in 2003 as the EOS 1DS, but cost a fortune, so again I waited....

      The next interest was the launch of the EOS-5 - a "pro-sumer" model with full frame imaging (hurrah!) and a resolution of 12.8 Mp (a bit higher than the 1-DS) in 2005, but I was still strapped for cash, so put the idea on hold.

      About 18 months ago, I had money enough to treat myself to a digital body (so much easier than going to the gym and virtually painless!) so I had a huge internal debate about the merits of the EOS-1DS and the EOS-5.

      The 5 was newer, but less robust. It had better resolution, but only just. The prices were comparable.....(new 5 vs used 1-DS)

      I ended up plumping for the 1-DS. Knowing the way I use cameras (they are tools, not ornaments) I preferred the weatherproof, titanium bodied model over the lighter weight plastic bodied one.


      So, here it is, a hulking great beast of a camera.

      It is not light in the hand, but I am used to heavy film cameras, so it feels right. Anyone used to the lightweight convenience of a compact camera will be shocked by the sheer heft of this monster. If nothing else, it would be a good defensive weapon if push came to shove!

      Some of the features feel familiar... The two dials for adjusting settings fall comfortably to hand, (one on the top of the handgrip, one where the right hand thumb can adjust it whilst the camera is close to the photographer's face), the ISO rating adjustment process, and the balance of the whole setup.

      The wide range of different shooting modes is impressive - Program AE (shiftable), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, depth-of-field AE, E-TTL autoflash, manual, flash metered manual.

      There is a spectacular range of light metering options, too: (1) Evaluative metering (linkable to any AF point) (2) Partial metering (approx. 8.5% of viewfinder at centre) (3) Spot metering
      - Centre spot metering (approx. 2.4% of viewfinder at centre)
      - AF point-linked spot metering (approx. 2.4% of viewfinder)
      - Multi-spot metering (Max. 8 spot metering entries)(4) Centre weighted average metering

      Obviously the big physical differences are the lack of an openable back (no film!) and the somewhat small LCD display on the rear of the camera. This works ok, but having had a chance to use a friend's Nikon DSLR, a larger screen is a boon, particularly when working at low light levels or with the shallow depth of field a wide open lens can give.

      The biggest challenges I have found are getting used to the menu structure - not in the viewfinder, but the bigger menu(s) displayed on the rear of the camera body. There is a whole host of information available to the technically competent digital photographer, concerning the digital analysis of the image recorded, custom white balance, personal profiles and a month more bedtime reading.

      I am still getting to grips with all the fine details of the camera and this review is no way meant to be a re-working of the (exhaustive and exhausting!) instruction manual, but have started to realise that there are very different parameters and usage patterns for digital than for film. It's just not the same!

      So - for around £500-£700 you can buy a low use real pro spec camera. It was top of the range in its time, and still is a really good camera. Admittedly the newer models have higher resolution, bigger screens and more flexibility, but they cost £4000 upwards for the pleasure!

      This is a little like buying a used prestige car - you get all the frills available at the time it was made at a fraction of the cost of the current model. Or you can buy a small hatchback new - it's up to you to decide which suits you better!

      For me I think it is a great camera, a real workhorse and a pleasure to use. My wife cannot believe how much it weighs and hates me taking the camera and lenses out on family trips, although she enjoys the images I have created.

      Oh - and the dawn of digital reference - EOS is the Greek goddess of the dawn...


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