Canon 1Ds Mark II More Thoughts After Use

I have been shooting with the Canon 1Ds Mark II as my backup for about a month now. If you read my previous post you know that I am and always have been a really big fan of this camera.

But how has it been faring after a few shoots in totally different circumstances?

In the last couple of weeks I have done a wedding and a couple of engagement photography shoots. I’ve also done a kid photo shoot chasing them around finding Easter eggs as well as personal shoots for my own use. Each of these shoots has its own set of issues and I wanted to put the Canon 1Ds Mark II through its paces.

How did it do? Very well! It’s not perfect though. Here are my main issues as well as, what I feel, are its main strengths. Some of these were brought up in my previous post, but not everyone would of read that.

• The LCD screen. I said it before and I’ll say it again, this thing is nearly useless! Colors are off, sharpness doesn’t reflect the actual sharpness of the image and I always think I’m shooting soft only to come home, load up the images and they’re razor sharp.

• The buffer on the 1Ds Mark II is tiny. I mean TINY! Shooting quick successive images in RAW is nearly impossible unless you’re willing to wait quite a few seconds for the preview image to show up on the LCD screen. I totally understand why Canon decided to make both a full frame and cropped frame 1D series camera. The 1D is for action and the 1Ds is for studio. The 1Ds Mark III however and the even newer 1Dx don’t have buffer issues, which is probably one of the reasons why Canon has gotten rid of the cropped frame 1D and merged both the 1D and 1Ds into the 1Dx. They now have the technology to make both a huge resolution sensor and fast buffer. There’s just no need for a cropped sensor anymore.

• Unless you buy the 1Ds Mark II with its original battery, which will most likely be old and not able to hold a good charge, or you buy a new Canon battery, the NP-E3, you’re going to be very unhappy with the after market batteries made for this camera. They don’t seal correctly on the housing and instead they leave a small gap about the size of the thickness of a quarter, or 50p piece if you’re using English money. This totally voids and negates all the benefits of buying this weather resistant, weather sealed machine. This might feel like a moot point, but I don’t think it is. Looking around on eBay I found dozens of sellers advertising their 1Ds Mark IIs with new batteries only to find, upon closer inspection, that they were almost all after market batteries. I’ve had to spend the money to buy a new Canon battery for my 1Ds Mark II because I just couldn’t handle seeing my gorgeous camera with a small sliver taken out of it where there weather proofing was supposed to go.

Notice the sloppy fit on the after market battery!

• Images even at ISO 100, when zoomed in 100%, are grainy. Totally reminds me of when I would scan in my Fuji Provia film. The images at 25% and 50% were smooth, fine images, but once you get in close grain is prevalent. It’s not a bad thing and I actually kind of like the look. I’ve found that with the 5D Mark II my images are sometimes too grain-less and too razor sharp. Every spec and impurity shows up in huge detail. But it’s something to be wary of before you buy this. If you were born into digital photography and have only known grain-less images, you’re probably not going to like the images the 1Ds Mark II makes. If however, your favorite photographer is Henri Cartier-Bresson, you will love it!

Ok, now onto the things I love:

• Silly, insanely fast auto focus. I recently showed the 1Ds Mark II to a pro photographer friend of mine, she uses the 5D Mark II, and she put her finger on the shutter button and pressed really lightly just trying to engage the auto focus. Before she even had time to fully compose her shot the camera had auto focused and fired off a shot. All I heard from her was, “Ah! Oh, wow!” And that’s the way I feel about it’s auto focus.

• Weather sealing! I recently did a shoot in Brighton and the weather was supposed to be awful. Luckily it wasn’t, but knowing I had a fully weather-proof camera and L lens really put my mind at ease. I wouldn’t dare take my 5D Mark II out in that kind of weather.

• It just feels right in my hand. Owning the 1Ds Mark II and the 5D Mark II I find myself reaching for the 1Ds Mark II far more than the 5D Mark II. That isn’t to say I think it’s a better camera, it’s not. The 5D Mark II is one of the world’s greatest machines. I just like the feeling the 1Ds Mark II gives me. It’s the difference between buying a used Audi S4 with its 4.2 liter V8 engine and the newer V6 model. There is just something about the sound of the engine, that throaty groan when you throw it into 6th gear and fly past that Corvette. It’s just a nice feeling and even though the newer S4s are a better car, better handling, bigger, better on consumption, etc. you still love that V8 sound. I love the sound the shutter makes when it’s taking a shot. I love that I can throw it over my shoulder and have it hit something and not scratch or break. I love the weight and the feel of it in my hand. I just plain love it.

It’s not for everyone and I wouldn’t tell anyone to sell their 5D Mark II to get this. I would say though, if you’re in the market for a backup, or have just switched from zoom to prime lenses and need another body to extend your range and stop you from having to switch lenses every 5 minutes like me, go for the 1Ds Mark II. It is cheaper than a 5D Mark II and you’ll be able to use it in a hurricane!!

Better yet, if you have the money, buy the 1Ds Mark III and forget everything I just said. Because that has all the best points of the 1Ds Mark II and none of the weaknesses. But personally, even if I had the money, I’d stick with the 1Ds Mark II. It’s really a great machine and a hell of a bargain!

***UPDATE*** After shooting with the 1Ds Mark II for the whole of the 2012 wedding season, I decided to sell it and grab another 5D Mark II to use as my second, which at it’s current price since the release of the 5D III is a bargain. The 1Ds II is a beautiful machine and very capable, but the noise at high ISOs was killing me. The LCD was just too hard to read any data from it and I couldn’t make decisions I was happy with using the LCD as a preview. It constantly had me second guessing my images. The buffer… again, just frustrated me too much. And with the 5D Mark II being so inexpensive, I now think there is a new bargain camera on the market. Perhaps the biggest bargain we have ever seen in digital photography.


  • plevyadophy


    Very interesting comments re the 1Ds Mark II.

    I too have recently purchased this camera and would like to add a few comments.


    I kinda have problems with it ……….. and kinda not.
    I am an advocate for live view and regard an EVF (electronic viewfinder) as being far far far superior to WORK WITH than an optical viewfinder (although, an optical viewfinder is nicer to LOOK through).

    So although my old Sony R1 has the same resolution and size LCD, I don’t find it so irritating because instinctively when I want to have a REEEEAAALY close look at an image I usually put it’s viewfinder to my eye and I can see a lot better when I have an image zoomed-in for review.

    I also, somehow don’t think the uprezzing of images, when you are zooming in, is done as well on the Canon as on the Sony, perhaps because Canon have tried to zoom too much with a low res LCD.

    But other than that, when I compare the two LCDs they are roughly the same.

    One useful tip I can give you to ease your frustration with the LCD is this: the LCD has a 15x zoom capability. Whatever you do, DO NOT use that capability as it will make you ill (the pixellation softness is horrid). Instead, what I do is to zoom in just 10x (press the zoom button ten times). The view you get approximates a 100% view.

    This brings me on to my biggest irritation with the LCD.

    LCD zooming

    Most cameras have an indication on-screen as to how far you have zoomed into an image. For example, in the top left there will be a readout saying “2x”, “3x”, “4x” and so on as you zoom in. That way you can keep your finger on the zoom button and release it as soon as you have reached the magnification you want.

    No so the 1Ds Mark II. There is no such indication on the screen so you are forced to press the zoom function button multiple times, whilst counting the number of times you have pressed the button, until you reach your desired zoomed view. After a while, a few months of repeated self training in my case, you get a sense of when you have reached the required zoom level and you can simply keep your finger on the button, rather than pressing multiple times, and then release when you have reached your desired zoom ratio.


    You complain about the buffer. However, I would like to draw an important distinction between the shoot buffer and the review buffer and/or data bandwidth.

    The shoot buffer is just fine. With your eye to the viewfinder you can rapid fire until your heart’s content with little, if any, interruption to the frame rate.

    The issue you complain of, and with which I agree, is a separate issue, and that is the inability to view quickly any of the images you have taken in a burst until such time as most of the images have been written to the card (you will see an image appear just before the red light near the memory card door extinguishes).

    This latter issue, I would hazard a guess is a combination of bandwidth and processing power issues.

    However, there is a little trick that you can employ, and which I believe is buried somewhere in the manual. The trick is to immediately press and hold on to the “Display” button after you have finished your burst of shots. What happens is, still not as quick as one would like though, you get to see one of the images in the buffer before having to wait for all the images to be written to the memory card; and whilst you are holding the “Display” button the LCD will playback the remaining images as they are being written to the memory card.


    I note your comments about the eBay batteries. I have had similar issues too (in my case the charging socket on the batteries weren’t the correct fit for the charger).

    However, there is good news. If you purchase a Calumet own brand NP-E3 battery, you get a battery of the same build quality as the original Canon ones and at two-thirds of the price (£100 as against £150). If you don’t have a branch of Calumet near you then you can buy from their UK website.

    JPEG Quality

    For JPEG shooters, the JPEG quality is really really good. The reason for that is, Canon have given the user a mini Photoshop on the camera: you can control the tone curve by loading your own into the camera, and you can control sharpness to ten levels as well as having control over hue (which Canon call “color”) and saturation. The only control that they took away, which was present in the previous Mark I bodies is the control of sharpness radius, which Canon referred to as “pattern”.


    I think it is silly that you can’t write raws to one card and JPEGs to the other (as you can with the later 1D Mark IIn).

    I thoroughly dislike having to press two buttons simultaneously for pretty much every feature on the camera.

    I find Canon’s matrix metering ridiculous beyond belief. Here’s why. You set up a bride and groom side-by-side in exactly the same light. You focus on the groom’s black tux and get an exposure shutter speed of say 1/100 secs. If you keep the framing exactly the same but now focus on the bride’s white dress your shutter speed will now be 1/200th. Absurd! The light hasn’t changed so why in God’s name such a wide variation in exposure?!!! I don’t mind such a setting as a Custom Function (for times when one might wish to focus on the same thing all the time e.g faces at an event shoot) but I object to it being hard-wired into the camera logic. The flash system is equally stupid but at least for the flash there is a custom function that can be applied in the Camera body that can reduce that madness.

    Canon 1Ds Mark III

    I much prefer the ergonomics, the LCD and the fact that the camera has live view. But that’s where it ends.

    The camera suffers from the same extremely well documented focusing issues as the Canon 1D Mark III (even though Canon claims that later models had the issue fixed). Added to which, a good few 1Ds Mark III bodies had alignment issues (viewfinder to sensor). So buying second-hand is a minefield of ascertaining whether or not the body you are interested in is a later model, and how late, so as to limit the focusing issues and then you need to ascertain whether or not the camera has the alignment issue. Too much work and uncertainty as far as I am concerned.

    I therefore wouldn’t recommend the Mark III bodies to anyone.

    Of the primitive bodies, by that I mean the bodies without live view, I regard the 1D Mark IIn as the best ergonomically as it had a number of very useful updates. However, it’s not a full frame sensor.

    In my view, all the Canon bodies up to and including the 1D Mark IIn were built and functioned to spec (even if one may disagree with some of those specs e.g. I hate their metering logic). On the other hand the Mark III bodies were flawed, and even buying on the used market I refuse to buy something that is fundamentally flawed to the point that it doesn’t even meet the manufacturer’s performance specs.

    That then is my take on the 1Ds Mark II.

    I hope readers find my musing useful.

    Warm regards,


    October 16, 2012
    • admin

      Very good comments on the 1Ds Mark II. Nice tips re: the buffer and the battery.

      I have recently sold the 1Ds Mark II and purchased another 5D Mark II as my second. Although I love the 1Ds II in so many ways, being a professional photographer and making my income from it continues to show me that I have to stay ahead of the curve and shoot with the latest technology, without breaking the bank. It served it’s purpose during the 2012 wedding season, but has found a new home.

      And as much as I would of loved to have kept the 1Ds II, in low light it is just not a capable camera and I couldn’t handle the image preview. It simply does not give me enough data to work with in a quick manner.

      I am still an advocate of the 1Ds II, but not if you make your living from it. There are too many young photographers nipping at our heals with the latest and greatest and it is very important to stay ahead of the curve.

      With the 5D II and III the only thing that limits you is your own natural ability. Equipment is not an issue anymore.

      All the best with the 1Ds II… it’s a lovely machine!! Let me know if you still have it in a few years.

      October 17, 2012
  • wow i read your review on the 1ds MKII and i was sold on it but luckily i didnot leave your site and i read your update!!!
    For those reason i was on the fence and i will “DREAM” to maybe one day own the 1dsmkIII as my main Pro photography only cam since the autofocus on my 5dmkii is irritating me!!!

    Thank and i like your work!!!

    November 9, 2012
  • Hi,

    Just wanna write a little follow up to my last post.

    Regarding the buffer and image review.

    Here’s what I found recently, and it may be something you overlooked when you had the camera, certainly I overlooked it, and I think many of your readers interested in this camera will be interested in my findings.

    So here goes….


Raw burst is 13 images at ISO 100, then a 14 seconds wait for image review to appear and 20 secs before the card activity light extinguishes.

    Now here’s where it gets, erm, shall we say “interesting”.

If you have the image verification option ( Personal Function 31 (P.Fn.31) ) set to ON, raw burst is reduced to 12 images at ISO 100, then a leisurely 34 seconds wait for image review to appear and a whopping 40 secs before the card activity light extinguishes!!

    But I found that with a short burst of just 4 raw images, the wait for an image review is reduced to a much less annoying 2.5 secs and 9 secs if you have the aforementioned 
P.Fn.31 set to ON.

    Setting ISO a lot higher than ISO 100 will increase these times. 

Canon’s official data says the camera can do a raw burst of 11 images (and I tested it, and it turns out that the figure Canon quotes is for a burst of shots at ISO 1600 and WITHOUT P.Fn.31 enabled).

    The above times come from my testing today using a Kingston 32GB Ultimate 266x CF Card ( a 266x card is capable of transferring data at a rate of approx 40MB/s i.e. 266 x 150KB/s )

 but according to Canon’s technical White Paper for this camera, the camera is capable of writing data at just 5.8 MB/s (I am not sure if the Canon data is based on the max speed the camera can write at or whether it was simply based on the quickest cards available at the time the camera was released).

    Now, for me that P.Fn.31 presents a problem because it clearly slows things down and I am pretty anal about security and copyright so I actually like having the feature set to ON. I guess, if a photographer is like me, and therefore wants the feature ON, they will just have to decide whether or not they are gonna shoot in bursts, and if so, how many shots in that burst, or whether or not they are gonna be doing a lot of chimping (frequent image reviewing on the LCD). If say, for a particular shoot, you want to chimp and/or do long bursts then you will have to remember to disable P.Fn.31 (I only stumbled across the issue when I was shooting a burst and the image review and writing to card seemed to take a ridiculously long time).

    I hope that info helps someone out there.

    Warm regards,

    And all the best everyone for forthcoming festive season.


    December 20, 2012
  • plevyadophy

    Hi, Just wanted to add a second follow up to my initial post.


    In your review you complained about the quality of the LCD and I posted initially that I didn’t find LCD that bad. Well, after a little more use I do now find it a wee bit irritating.

    The main problem with it is that it washes out highlights very easily.

    If for example I shoot at the cameras metered setting and I take a picture of a room with magnolia coloured walls, I can see the magnolia colour in the LCD review. However, if I over-expose by adding say two-thirds of a stop Exposure Compensation (which is how I have my cameras set as standard) I find that the review image shows a washed out colour so that the magnolia now looks white or near white.

    So now, what I do is look at the LCD for a rough idea of what the image looks like and also check the histogram. If I have any bright highlights that appear badly washed out in the LCD review, by reference to the histogram I can gauge whether or not I really do have a problem and if not I know that when I upload the images to a computer that those apparently washed out highlights will actually be O.K. with reasonably saturated colours.

    The other problem with the LCD is that it doesn’t allow for a very wide angle of view. You have to be looking at the LCD straight on otherwise you end up with a distorted view of the colours and shadow detail.

    Maybe, it’s with the benefit of hindsight that we say this, but it seems now that for a camera that cost around £7,000 when new that this LCD is really really poor. One wonders if this LCD really was the best that was available or perhaps when the camera was released, obtaining a better quality LCD would have been prohibitively expensive given the already high cost of the camera?


    I earlier sang the praises of the Calumet line of batteries. Well, yes they are well made (better sealing than any of the other third party batteries I have seen) but no they are not as good as the original Canon ones; I later found that in actual fact there is a gap, albeit a very small one (and of course,now that I know the gap is there, it seems HUGE to me!) at the front facing area of the battery. So dropping the camera in water, especially if the camera remained immersed for more than a second or so, would result in water getting into the body. So it seems that if one wants the weather sealing properties of the camera to include the battery as well, then one has no choice but to buy the over-priced Canon batteries at £150 a piece.

    I hope my follow-up proves useful to others considering this camera.

    Warmest regards,

    April 9, 2013
  • Ashley Karyl

    I’ve gone through various 3rd party batteries for the 1DsII that were less than ideal but just before Christmas I bought one through a seller on Amazon that fits perfectly like an original and lasts forever. Actually the performance has far exceeded what I used to get from the original and it only cost me about £20.

    On the subject of file noise the only times I’ve ever seen image noise at 100 ISO is if I’ve under exposed the file. I typically use a Sekonic L-758D lightmeter that allows me to create an exposure profile based on my camera so the exposures are always optimal and noise is just not an issue.

    You can usually overexpose the files on a 1DsII when shooting Raw by 1-2 stops and then pull back any lost highlight details during processing in Lightroom. The results are stunning with low noise even at 800 ISO but it’s definitely a camera you need to experiment with for best results.

    The buffer limit is occasionally a drag but I suppose it depends on what kind of work you do. Certainly it has never bothered me in the studio when shooting portraits and I tend to think that if I’m shooting that fast outdoors I’m probably not paying enough attention to the subject.

    As for the LCD I used film for so many years that I’m not fussed by the screen at all. I know the camera can focus precisely on a pin head, so the rest is up to me as a photographer. Many medium format backs still have useless LCD screens.

    I don’t want to give the impression that I think the 1DsII is perfect in every way but just because it’s a few years old shouldn’t unduly dissuade people because it’s still a very fine camera that is built to last. I’ve tried various newer cameras and for some reason I keep going back to the old warhorse.

    April 21, 2013
  • Rob Stanton

    I have previously owned Canon 20D, 40D, 5D, and 5DII models.

    I sold the 5DII in May 2012, and banked the money, then used it to buy a 6D in December 2012.

    In addition to the 6D, I own a 1DsII, a 1DIII, and three 1DII models.

    With the nice sunny weather, I have relegated my new favorite cam (the 6D) as a backup, and use the 1DSII as much as I can.

    When I examine the LCD after taking a shot, I look for two things only, if any Highlight Alerts show up in the image, and I look carefully at the RGB histogram.

    I “Expose to the Right” when I have the time to re-take shots, otherwise, I set exposure compensation at -3/4 and usually get perfect exposures.

    When I use my 6D, I look for the same two things. Have I blown the highlights, and how do the individual color channels look….. as long as I haven’t blown any single channel, and since I shoot RAW, I can rely on the 1DsII to make the shot.

    I paid a ridiculously high price for my 1DsII and my 1DIII and 1DII cameras, but they are reliable. Rock solid. They are like Sherman Tanks. They take a beating, and they work in inclement weather.

    And I trust the 1D series completely.

    The 5Dx series…. not so much. The 5D was a great camera. The 5DII was a great camera. The 5D3 is a great camera.

    But with the current cameras I own, I can cover all bases. When I need to take a shot in low light, I rely on the 6D. Otherwise, the 1DsII can not be beat, except by a 1DX.

    As for the batteries, you can buy non-OEM replacements that fit well, I suggest you do what I do.

    Open up your bad batteries and replace the individual AA batteries found inside, with Sony Encana rechargeable Ni-Cads. They last a long time, and you’ll get 25% more life during a shoot. The battery will require a longer charging time, but its minor compared to what you get in return.

    You need a soldering iron and a little skill – but it’s still way cheaper than buying a new replacement original Canon battery.

    June 13, 2013
  • Jakub Mach

    Thank you for article and all valuable comments. For useable display sharpness I do recommend to set “Sharpness” to highest number 5. It is found in camera menu under “Parameters” – “Set up”.

    March 7, 2014
  • Thanks for the review!

    I have a 5d1, 5d2 and 1ds2, using them for making a living for a long time already.

    I prefer 1ds2 over 5d2 in almost every single way. Are you sure you did not have a slightly faulty 1ds2 camera? The noise on ISO100 is the same as mark 2, the only moment when I can see more noise on ISO100 is on very long exposures (5 sec. or more)?

    Up to ISO800, all three cameras are veeery close, 5d2 is just slightly better than 1ds2, and practically the same as 5d1. For ISOs above 800, 5d2 is definitely a winner, but all other things I find to be worse on 5d2 that the other 2 cameras.

    I don’t mind the display. It’s showing the exposure correctly, and it very easy to know is the photo sharp or not, when you get used to it… despite being terribly ugly. With 5D2, every photo that I make looks the same. All the same feel, boring and digital sterility on it’s top level. I feel the same about 5D3, while for examle, 1Dc that I use a lot during the last year or so, is much closer to 1ds2 than 5d2 or 5d3. There is that SOMETHING about the series 1d that is so much better.

    June 20, 2014
  • I forgot to add (no post editing available), get a LENMAR battery for 1ds, every single one fits PERFECTLY. Even if you have a dead OEM battery, when you buy a cheap alternative you can only exchange the battery cover-door, and it will fit perfectly 🙂

    Also, I used to break-open a dead OEM battery, and put 10x eneloop XXX AA and get a 30% better battery than OEM one. Really, it rocks.

    Enough from me. Bye byeee 🙂

    June 20, 2014
  • KTR

    “There’s just no need for a cropped sensor anymore.”

    Yes there is! It avoids the worst part of the image circle and ensures corner to corner sharpness, even from middle-of-the-road lenses.

    “As for the LCD I used film for so many years that I’m not fussed by the screen at all. ”


    ” I was shooting a burst and the image review and writing to card seemed to take a ridiculously long time”

    Anyone that thinks a !Ds ii clears its buffer slowly needs to spend a few days with a Sigma SD1.

    April 23, 2015
  • KTR

    Further advantages of a 1D or 1Ds series camera over “lesser” cameras?

    If you forget your hammer you can knock nails in with it.

    It makes a handy substitute for a mace if you have to defend yourself

    April 23, 2015
    • admin

      Haha! Clearly you’re not a fan.

      April 23, 2015

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