Can we have more confusion in a name. (August 20, 2007)
Pixel envy reached a fever pitch, today, as Canon rolled out its biggest gun, the EOS-1 Ds Mark III.
Not to be confused with the EOS-1 D Mark III--even though the two look identical at a quick glimpse--this camera's lower case 's' is hiding more behind it that it has any typographic right to.
Like: Twice as many pixels, for instance. Like a Full Frame Chip, for instance.
Impressively crafted and riding the high road to major bragging rights, the Ds represents the apex in DSLRs of the 35mm camera form factor.
It's long-scale CMOS image chip records 21 megabyte RAW shots and sRAW (half scale RAW) images, too.
Live View allows a live feed from the image chip to fill the 3-inch monitor or a nearby big screen TV, so everybody in the room can see the shot before it's taken. Don't hold back. Tell the photographer how your idea is better.
Thankfully, you can turn this idea off...
With zero compromise to image chip size (except the $8000 price tag, give or take), your new 14mm Canon EF f/2.8 (packaged as an ultra-wide kit lens with the Ds for a combined price of only $10,200US) shows off every tee-weensie detail right into the corners of its 114 degree image.
Six ounces lighter than the Ds Mark II (16.7 MP) that it replaces, the Ds has a 3-inch monitor, new ergonomic layout, magnesium body, 76 weather seal system throughout and improvements in every nook and cranny.
With improvements in CMOS sensor design, Canon has been able to lower pixel noise while packing more 6.4µm (micrometer) photosites on the image chip. For an idea of how small that is, think of it this way: 36mm of chip holds 5632 pixels. That's just over 156 pixels per millimeter. Resolving 80 line pairs per millimeter should be within range.
Diffraction limit for pixels this size appears at around f/10.5, but not one person on earth will look at its pictures and grump if you shoot at f/14.625.
Live View is a Canon breakthrough. Compact cameras have had this all along, because they only use the image chip to give a lens-view of things. Some have no other way of viewing at all.
Flip the mirror up, pull the curtain away and look at that: a living image right from the living image chip. Exposures are all-electronic, so the camera can be virtually silent from shot to shot.
To view this way, only a portion of the photosites are active, but there's no mistaking the effect: Here's your shot. Run it out to an external TV and get everybody on the set involved.
"See, Herbie, that's the light that you need to tweak."
"Look, Zonicia, stretch your chin this way... that's it."
Focus is unambiguous. With 45 focus sensors (19 of them both horizontal and vertical at the same time), the whole image is covered, just about.
Monitoring is with the 230,000 pixel, 3" monitor with brightness that takes it well into sunlight.
They've even increased text size for menu items. Someone realized that the photographers who have the bread to buy one of these aren't the ones with the youngest eyes. About time.
Anti dust is built in. Every power-up or -down delivers a microscopic chipquake to the imager, shaking off the occasional mote while powerful static charges flick the mote into repulsion. This is carried to the shutter curtains, too, and Canon has studied the moving parts chain in the interior, heading off wear areas that might generate small particles.
One may expect a minimum of 300,000 shutter whacks before worrying about a tune up. That would be 1000 images a day (except Tuesday) for a year. Or, in more normal use, an average of 100 shots a day (except Wednesday) for the better part of a decade.
Unless you think Canon might have a better camera some time in the next five years, you can dismiss you shutter cycle fear factor.
Who buys the $8000 camera body? The working photographer who sees this as a competitive edge, a cutting tool for business growth or a lust so powerful it can't be denied.
I know photographers who rarely shoot professionally, but who had to have the previous 16.7MP Ds Mark II, and every time they pick it up, they don't think about its cost--just its promise. No doubt they'll get one of these, too.
Just to put some spin on it, the new 40D and 400D both have 10.1 MP image chips and shoot with a multiplication factor of 1.6, turning 50mm lenses into 80mm lenses, and so on. Canon's EF-S (for Short back focus) lenses fit these and cover the smaller image chip. Diffraction limits for these is a half-stop wider, but the pixel map is only 3888 x 2592, about 69% of the Ds Mk III's frame.
That 44% more coverage in the Eight Grand body is costing you between $6,700 and $7,400 in the US (depending on which camera it's compared to). Still, a photographer's got to do what a photographer's got to do. And sometimes that means stopping all criticism of equipment at the door.
Initial reports indicate that RAW images are 14-bit per pixel, tipping the scales at 25 MB per click. 8GB cards can hold about 320 shots this size. Get fast cards.
Small RAW (sRAW) images are half-scale, smaller file size shots. Still 5.2 MP images, their look is improved through down-sampling before being captured into the RAW format. Still 2816 x 1296 pixels, they still make killer-looking 16 inch wide shots.
Any photographer who shoots for Internet photos of 800 pixels wide at the most with this camera deserves a nuggie.
Large and RAW images shoot at 5 fps. If you need twice that, the EOS-1 D Mark III is your bird. 10 fps there in the smaller image format.
Somewhere a meeting took place among camera manufacturers which established the idea that an on-camera flash was a terrible thing to hand to a professional photographer. Did they assume he/she would never need or want convenient fill light? No pro would need to trigger a big array of slave units from the camera?
At some future date, this missing feature may arrive. I'm surprised that no low, light and IR-switchable speedlight exists yet, but there you are: Professionals must add imbalancing, hefty flash units if light grows dim.
--Peter iNova (email@example.com)