Canon's 1Ds Mark II is the company's new flagship D-SLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. Replacing the 11Mp 1Ds, the Mark II boasts an industry-leading 16.7Mp resolution, incredibly tough body and a price tag just shy of six grand. So it's firmly targeted at professionals.
The first thing which strikes you about the 1Ds Mark II is its body. With large comfortable grips for both landscape and portrait shots, it's almost square when viewed face-on. Pick up the 1Ds and you're in no doubt it is a serious piece of kit: weighing 1.5kg with a battery but without a lens, it's not light, however it has the kind of weight which exudes confidence.
Unsurprisingly there are no scene presets, just the traditional Program, Manual, Shutter and Aperture Priority modes, along with a Bulb setting for longer exposures. Shutter speeds range from 30 seconds to a blindingly quick 1/8,000 and there's exposure compensation from -3 to +3 EV. Sensitivity runs from 100 to 1,600 ISO in third-stop increments, with 50 and 3,200 in an extended mode. Suffice it to say that the 1Ds Mark II powers-up in a fraction of a second and is ready to shoot immediately.
While the body and controls are physically impressive, it's the sensor that makes the 1Ds Mark II really special. It has 16.7Mp and produces images with 4,992x3,328 pixels. This is the highest resolution camera to date without trading up to a medium format system.
Big is beautiful
Uncompressed images measure 50MB, meeting the minimum requirements of many professional photo libraries. Before you fear for your memory card, images can of course be saved as Jpegs and there's the choice of 10 different settings: best quality Jpegs measure around 12MB each. A RAW mode is also available.
Continuing the tradition of Canon's flagship D-SLRs, the 1Ds Mark II's sensor is a full-frame design that matches the size of 35mm film. Consequently all lenses deliver the same focal length as they would on a 35mm camera, unlike other D-SLRs that typically multiply them by 1.5 times. This is great news for fans of wide angle, and it's nice to enjoy an uncropped optical viewfinder.
Images are stored on either CompactFlash or SD (Secure Digital) memory cards. As with other D-SLRs you'll need to supply your own. In burst mode the 1Ds Mark II can capture four frames per second with a buffer for 32 Jpegs - impressive considering the amount of data per image. There are USB and FireWire ports, along with a flash hotshoe and sync ports but again, as with other pro SLRs,there's no pop-up flash.
Image quality is superb. The 1Ds Mark II easily out-resolves all its rivals, including the sharpest professional 35mm film. Indeed if you want a better digital camera, you may need to go for the as-yet unpriced 22Mp Mamiya ZD SLR.
Of course such quality comes at a high price: £5,999 to be precise. In contrast, Nikon's forthcoming D2X offers 12.4Mp resolution for £3,499, albeit employing a physically smaller sensor which multiplies lens focal lengths 1.5 times. Canon remains one of the few companies developing full-frame sensors and these don't come cheap.
If you need a full-frame sensor and the 50MB files demanded by professional libraries, the 1Ds Mark II is your best bet. At this price though we'd recommend waiting to see how much the Mamiya ZD eventually weighs in at. And for us mere mortals? We can only pray Canon filters some of this technology into consumer D-SLRs sooner or later.