The original Canon EOS-1D is coming up on its 20th birthday this November. The DSLR, which is quite large by today’s standards, was Canon’s first foray into the professional digital camera market. The EOS 1D series itself survives to this day, with 2020’s EOS-1D X Mark III continuing to see heavy use among professional photographers in the face of mirrorless alternatives from Canon itself and competing brands.
What’s it like shooting with a 20-year-old camera? Does the Canon EOS-1D hold up, even today? Photographer Eduardo Pavez Goye wanted to answer this question in a new video.
Eduardo did a photoshoot with model Georgia Dietz in New York City. As you can see in the photos in Eduardo’s video, the image quality looks good. While dynamic range testing by Photons to Photos shows the original EOS-1D as topping out at 7.72 stops of dynamic range, compared to the EOS-1D X III at 11.25, in real-world images, the 1D’s photos look good. Granted, they likely don’t hold up well at large sizes, high ISOs or when making extensive adjustments during editing. Plus, it helps that Pavez Goye is a talented photographer.
Using the EOS-1D with a Canon 50mm F1.8 lens, Eduardo was quite impressed by the camera’s image quality. He didn’t like the autofocus as much. There was inconsistent with focus when shooting a series of images. Some would be in focus, and others wouldn’t be. You can’t check your focus on the camera’s small display because you can’t zoom in.
The Canon EOS-1D has a 4.48MP CCD image sensor with a 1.3x crop factor. The image size is a mere 2464 x 1648, which seems paltry by today’s standards. The camera records 12-bit RAW files at up to 8 frames per second, which is pretty brisk. The native ISO range goes from 200 to 1600, although it can be expanded to 100-3200.
The 1D is based on Canon’s EOS-1V professional film SLR camera and includes the same pro-grade weather-sealed magnesium camera body. The camera has other features that hold up surprisingly well to today’s DSLR cameras, too, including a 45-point autofocus system, a full range of metering modes, 1/16,000s maximum shutter speed and a 1/500s flash sync. Using high-speed sync, flash could be synced across the entire 30s to 1/16,000s shutter speed range, although with a non-Canon flash, recommended maximum sync speed is 1/250s. In our review from 2001, Phil Askey wrote, ‘The EOS-1D is a remarkably important and prestigious camera for Canon. In all of the Company’s history only a very few select cameras have worn the ‘1’ label, each has been at the pinnacle of the current state of technology and (of course) it is a name only given to the best Canon have. The 1D is also Canon’s first home grown professional digital SLR, built from the ground up by their own R&D team its place in Canon history was guaranteed even before it was released.’ The camera was awarded the ‘Highly Recommended’ designation.
It’s always tempting to want the latest and greatest gear for many excellent reasons. It’s also the case that you can get a lot of performance out of older digital cameras. It may not be wise to seek out a digital SLR from two decades ago (connecting to your computer via Firewire is tough). Still, there are many fantastic used cameras available for fractions of what they cost when brand-new.