Canon’s new EOS-1Ds digital SLR represents a breakthrough in digital cameras, not only in terms of its resolution — it produces a 4,074-by-2,704-pixel image — but also in terms of its chip: this is the first digital SLR whose chip covers the same area as 35mm film, for which the Canon EOS-1 camera system was designed. This means that the focal-length distortion that has plagued digital SLRs — where a normal lens seems like a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens seems like a normal lens, and wide-angle captures demand extremely expensive super-wide-angle lenses — is a thing of the past. And since the camera uses an EOS-1 body, it works with one of the widest and best ranges of lenses available.
The Canon EOS-1Ds is also one of the most usable digital cameras we’ve yet seen — for the most part, it behaves exactly like an EOS-1 35mm film camera. If you’re used to shooting an entire roll of 35mm film in six seconds, you’ll find that the EOS-1Ds can’t quite match that kind of performance, but it does allow you to shoot three frames per second for ten frames, after which you’ll have to wait, perhaps as long as ten seconds, while the camera writes the data to the CompactFlash card.
Image quality is outstanding — the camera easily captures two more stops of dynamic range than film, while producing sharper, more-detailed images with none of the color distortions to which film is prone. In some situations, the sharpness of the sensor is a mixed blessing — we tested the camera with Canon’s new EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM zoom lens, and found that at focal lengths shorter than 28mm, we could see moderate chromatic aberration (color fringing on high-contrast edges) that film captures made with the same lens didn’t show. The problem is that the sensor is merciless when it comes to exposing the same lens flaws that fuzzier film captures hide.
The only real disappointment here (other than the camera’s $7,500 body-only price tag) is the Canon capture software for the Mac, which is inexcusably slow and buggy. During our testing, we quickly ditched it in favor of Adobe’s CameraRAW plug-in, which worked flawlessly.
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If you’re looking to make the switch from film to digital, you owe it to yourself to check out the Canon EOS-1Ds. The images from this camera far surpass images from 35mm film, and it retains almost all of the flexibility of the 35mm format. The EOS-1Ds is truly a milestone in the evolution of digital photography.