Journal, Photography

Canon 1D

On Saturday night, I got a curious email from an online retailer. The Canon 1D that I pre-ordered had shipped! Uh… suffice it to say, I was not expecting this email, especially since I heard horror stories of the camera not being available until January or February. I kept my eager eyes on the FedEx tracking number, watching the shipment make its way from Dulles, VA to Memphis, TN, where all FedEx packages must go through. On Monday morning, it arrived in Sunnyvale and was placed on the van at 8:03 am.

I was clearing my coffee table around 10:19 am in anticipation for Mr. FedEx when the doorbell rang. I knew instinctively who it was and leaped from my crouched position to open the door. Sure enough, the FedEx delivery man was carrying a rather large box containing a brand-new Canon 1D Digital SLR. I’m a poor man now, but it’s all for a good cause in the end.

So, I guess normal people like me are starting to receive the 1D. There’s been a lot of talk on the newsgroups and forums that only select photographers — those working the Olympics and in the press — are receiving the camera. I’m neither… yet.

It’s 11:43 am right now, and the NiMH battery is charging for the requisite two hours. After that’s done, I’m going to test the camera out and see for myself whether there are any banding issues. There are concerns with the 1D that the noise (which is roughly equivalent to film grain) doesn’t look random (i.e. gaussian), but is clumped into horizontal bands. Egads! Michael from Luminous Landscape wrote that he hasn’t seen any banding in the four days he was testing and reviewing the camera. On the other hand, Phil from Digital Photography Review noticed it in many of his high ISO, underexposed shots in his review. There are lively (i.e. heated) threads on DPReview’s Canon SLR Forum and Rob Galbraith’s 1D Forum about the banding issue. I’ve stayed more or less in the background (save for one post), but now that I have the camera in my hands, I’m going to see for myself what all the hubbub is about.

With that in mind, it’s going to be a fun next few weeks, as I leave for Austin, Texas on Thurday for the holidays. I’ll likely bring both the D30 and the 1D to the Lone Star State. My Leica and Canon S100, on the other hand, will both be staying home for the holidays.

Updated: December 17, 2001, 7:45 pm

Sigh. My preliminary reports show that banding does appear in 1D images. It’s a bit disappointing to see in these images, because everything else about the camera is so rock-solid.

Click on the two links above to see the original and enhanced image of the photo below. The shot was taken with the following settings:

  • 17-35mm f/2.8L
  • ISO 1600
  • 1/80 sec
  • f/4.5

I’ve raised the curves of the highlighted areas and added some explanatory text.

Enhanced small image

As you can see, there is a horizontal line at the very top of the image. If you look carefully at Eric’s dark shirt, you’ll see that it’s turned into a striped shirt. Sigh. Even without adjusting the curves on the image, you can easily see the banding in the darkened areas of the photo.

Looks like the first Canon 1D tip of the day is to shoot at ISO 400 to reduce banding. Sigh.

It’s bad enough that Eric cancelled his 1D pre-order. I guess I’ll be his guinea pig for the 1D. I’m “cautiously optimistic” that Canon will release a fix for the 1D in the form of a firmware update, but I’m not going to hold my breath for it.

In the meantime, I’m going to perform some additional tests with the 1D and the D30 at the same settings to see differences in the image quality. Needless to say, I’m a little disappointed in seeing banding so apparent in my images.

Update: December 18, 2001

I’ve posted a new page on image analysis of the 1D, focusing on comparing the 1D with the D30 and on the banding issue. Click here to read the analysis.

Updated: February 11, 2002

More analysis and information can now be found in my Photography section.

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