Canon EOS 1D MKII N (2005)

Are The Recent Upgrades to the 1D Mark II Worth It For Photographers?


So, Canon has done it again. Upped the ante in the DSLR wars with the release of the Canon EOS 1D MKII N and the brand new EOS 5D.

  • So what is the story?
  • Are they worth upgrading from what you have?
  • Are you about to purchase a DSLR or upgrade anyway?

This is my personal take.


As Canon says - "The World's Finest Digital SLR just got refined"!

Now I may be a little biased here as I bought the 1D MKII about 3 months ago (early 2005). The new "N" version is about $1000 or more than what I paid for the 1DMKII.

So what do you get for your extra bucks?

The changes are not as radical as I, nor most people, were expecting. It seems Canon have made a few tweaks and fine adjustments to make things just that little bit better whilst keeping the original specs of the 1D MKII.

Things that "haven't" changed with the Canon EOS 1D MKII N:

  • Sensor still 8.19 Million Pixels
  • Same Digic II processor
  • Same 45-point AF and 21 Zone metering system
  • Battery is the same
  • So is the Viewfinder
  • Same Shape and layout: The only obvious difference is the "N" on the front, and a slight shifting around of buttons re the bigger LCD screen

The shooting of images therefore, remains pretty much the same. This is by no means enough for me personally to want to upgrade. So what is different?

Things that "have" changed with the Canon EOS 1D MKII N:

Most differences on the Canon EOS 1d MKII N are to do with the review and playback of captured images :

  • A new, 2.5 inch (diagonal), 230,000-pixel TFT rear LCD monitor as opposed to the old 2 inch screen on the 1d MKII, although they both share the same pixel count!
  • "Enlarge from selected AF point" - This means that you can now automatically review and enlarge the image directly to the point of focus. A nice feature but all it does is save you from scrolling to the correct position.
  • Quick review feature - The first image in any burst is instantly displayed on the rear screen and it is possible to enlarge and scroll about whilst the rest are being written to the card.
  • Info Display Changes - The display now shows the file sizes and whether the image is in colour or black and white.
  • The ISO (+ ISO bracketing) can now be set from the viewfinder - Big thumbs up for that!
  • The RAW and JPEG files can now be written separately to each individual card - Another big thumbs up, very useful indeed!
  • Buffer can now hold 48 shots in a burst as opposed to 40, and start up time is 0.2 as opposed to 0.3. A noticeable improvement?

New Picture Style Menu

The EOS-1D Mark II's Colour Matrix and Parameters menus have gone. They have been replaced by the new Picture Style menu on the EOS 1D MKII N. The Contrast, Colour Saturation, Sharpness and Colour Tone have all been moved to the same place. With the increments upped to 9 from 5 on the original 1D MKII.

This will obviously give the user that little bit more control over these parameters, but what else?

The Picture Style Menu now also includes 6 pre-set combinations of colour tone, colour saturation, sharpness and contrast by way of;

  1. 1
    Standard - Sharpness of 3 with vivid colour tone and saturation overall.
  2. 2
    Portrait - Sharpness to 2 with parameters set for skin tone enhancement.
  3. 3
    Landscape - Sharpness 4. Vivid Blues and Greens.
  4. 4
    Neutral - Sharpness 0. All settings normal.
  5. 5
    Faithful - Sharpness 0. This is the equivalent to Digital Photo Professionals Faithful option. Accurate colours under 5200K lighting.
  6. 6
    Monochrome - The same as the Monochrome setting on the 20D.

For me, these are all changes that can be made to a RAW image in Photoshop during the processing. They just add another set of choices when taking the actual picture. I loved the fact that the original EOS 1D MKII didn't have the "mode" dial that the 20D and many other DSLR's have. Features such as Sports, Landscape and Portrait etc. All this has done is put those features back onto a professional DSLR.


People talk about these changes "dramatically" changing the range of colour options! Just how far can this go? What if in 10 years, we are still saying "The colour options now are outstanding"! What will that mean? Will the colours be so bright and bold that they blind us at the merest glance? I personally like to make these changes on my PC, I am a "bold colour freak", but that is just me. This may be great for others.

I may appear cynical here, and I love the nice people at Canon and most of the SLR's that they have ever released. However, I can't help thinking that these upgrades are simply marketing ploys to beat off the ever encroaching Nikon camp!

Of course this is the case. It's just that I can't understand why Canon didn't take the opportunity to totally revamp this camera to a full frame sensor, larger 12.8 million pixel count (like the 5D). Whilst keeping the same "machine gun" speed along with all the adjustments mentioned above?

Then I really would have been tempted!!!

It may not be enough for the mighty Canon to encourage a spending spree for this camera. Likewise, it may not yet be enough to make people like myself to upgrade from the 1D MKII. For someone just entering the Pro DSLR market though, I would say the extra features are probably worth the extra cost. Bear in mind though that this release will certainly reduce the list price of the 1D MKII?!?

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