Home    Search    Gallery    How-To    Books    Links    Workshops    About    Contact


Canon EOS-1Ds 1Ds Test Review
© 2004 KenRockwell.com
about these reviews

I'd get it here

Please help KenRockwell..com

image linked from manufacturer's site

OBSOLETE as of September 2004.

More Canon Reviews


As of September 2004 this is replaced by the Canon 1Ds Mk II. Get that instead. Please consider the rest of this page as historical information.

You can buy these for about $8,000 as of February 2004. For anyone who's loaded this is the best digital camera for shooting still lifes, real estate and landscapes, although as you know I far prefer film for even better quality, broader color range (especially deep reds), resolution and lower cost, although film requires far more effort.

As it better be for eight grand, it's a killer camera, although with only 3FPS, 1/250 flash sync, 10 frame buffer and ISO 1,250 maximum it's still slower for sports use compared to the standard Nikon D1H. Fast enough for weddings, but I wouldn't let some bozo shoot my wedding on digital just to save him the cost of film, plus flash sync is still way too slow.

The 1/250 flash sync is limiting compared to the much more useful 1/500 of Nikon D1H and D1X. Pros realize how important this is even though most amateurs completely gloss over this. This sync speed is the fastest speed you can use with fill flash, period. There is a screwy FP mode, just like the Nikons, that let you get to 1/8000, however it only works with some Canon flashes like the 550EX and you lose most of your light anyway.

It was introduced at Photokina in September, 2002.

You can see Canon's data here, presuming you have the Macromedia Flash player installed.

People compare it to the Kodak DCS-14n, but the only similarity is sensor size. Here's a comparison made by Canon.

The Kodak is an amateur camera. This Canon is built like a professional workhorse.

If you want this camera you are in luck that Kodak trumped Canon and introduced the DCS-14n, for less then half the price of the 1Ds which has similar image quality. Of course they are entirely different classes of cameras, but when negotiating with your dealer don't let him know you know the difference.

Canon rates the plastic Kodak for only 30,000 exposures here, which means that I would wear it out in six months. You will shoot more on digital than you ever expected. This Canon seems rated for 150,000 shots, which would last me three years at which time you have to realize you will give any digital camera to The Salvation Army or Goodwill.


Like most things from Canon it works great. It's more difficult to operate than the Nikons for me, a big drawback. Although it would get easier with experience, Canon still uses cryptic icons for important basics like file size instead of being to the point as Nikons are. For instance, even the Canon employee showing it to me at PMA 2003 could not find the zoom for playback, and then discovered that Canon left that out and that feature has to be loaded in as extra firmware! (A friend who owned one of these claims it does have zoom playback, so good luck finding it.)

The image size is 4,064 x 2,704 pixels and made 3.4MB JPGs for me. Of course I have no idea of that was the big or normal size JPG file since Canon's menus are so confusing that I was just guessing. Looking at the specs that is the big JPG, the normal JPG is smaller. The RAW files are 8MB

It is as slow as the amateur D100 and 10D cameras with only 3FPS and 1/250 flash sync.

Image quality seems quite nice as digital goes. Just remember before blowing 8 grand that 11MP is only 35% better than 6MP, since its a square function versus area, which is almost invisible. More here.

Even though people who want you to buy these keep telling us how fantastic the images are, to be dead honest it still looks soft in print compared to film when you try to enlarge past 8 x 12." Just compare Canon's double-truck spread in the 1Ds brochure by Barbara Bordnick and you'll see it's soft compared to what I get with film and what you see reproduced elsewhere from film.

Ignore me, just look here for why Arizona Highways Magazine simply does not accept images from this digital camera for publication since the quality is not good enough.

RAW + JPG file mode

The 1Ds I used, bought in February 2004, seemed to have two firmware and software flaws as explained by the users manual and my personal experience: 1.) In RAW + JPG mode it forgets to show the JPG indication on the LCD (very confusing!), and 2.) for some reason the Canon software when downloading the camera files saves the JPG as .JPG (good), but tags the RAW file as .TIF (bad!). I'm unsure what you need to do with the Canon: I don't know if you need to rename the files manually or if you really just get a TIF (also bad, since it never asked you for the adjustments when converting from RAW.) I suspect the file is mis-tagged, since the file size was 8MB, the right size for RAW data representing the 30MB TIF, thus I suspect you probably have to rename these. I'm glad I can't afford a 1Ds so I don't have to worry about such things.


Get today's Canon 1Ds Mk II instead.

11 megapixels is no big deal compared with 6 megapixels. (see The Megapixel Myth), although the images I've seen are really good. Of course it's no match for 4x5" film for professional landscape photography. An 11MP camera is only about as good as film resolution up to about 9 x 13" prints, which is pretty good. When I shoot digital I go for speed, so resolution is unimportant. As Arizona Highways points out here, this camera does not have the quality for publication in their magazine.

For my $8,000 I prefer the speed of my Nikon D1H, which sells for half, or if you use Canon, get the faster EOS-1D which also sells for half.

Home     Gallery     How-To     Links    Workshops     About     Contact