Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Canon Announces 10.1 Megapixel, 10 FPS DSLR

Canon has announced a new EOS digital SLR with a 10 fps shooting rate the company says is the fastest of any digital SLR on the market, and a “live-view” the option of using the LCD screen as a viewfinder like on point-and-shoot cameras or for remote shooting.

At 10 fps, the EOS-1D Mark III will be able to fire “motor-driven” bursts of 110 Large JPEGs or 30 RAW files thanks to a new Dual DIGIC III image processor engine that Canon says provides enough computational horsepower to do parallel processing at a rate unmatched by any other digital SLR.

The all-new 10.1 megapixel, APS-H size CMOS sensor designed and manufactured by Canon is the most light-sensitive sensor Canon has developed to date. With a 1.3 lens magnification factor, it features a new microlens array and a more efficient pixel structure for “ultra-low” noise resulting in “exceptional” image quality and an ISO range of 100 to 3200 with extensions to ISO 50 and a “highly usable” ISO 6400. The ISO 6400 speed would be the first in a digital SLR, beating Nikon’s top 3200 ISO by a factor of two.

Canon says the new camera will ship in spring and sell for about the same as the current EOS-1D Mark II N, which streets for about $3,400. Canon will display and demonstrate the Mark III March 8 - 11 at the Photo Marketing Association trade show in Las Vegas.

"The new EOS-1D Mark III Digital SLR is an essential tool for professional sports photographers and photojournalists because of its exceptional speed and durability and it will attract a broad range of other professional and advanced amateur photographers because of its superior image quality and improved low-light performance," said Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager of the Consumer Imaging Group at Canon USA Inc. "In designing the EOS-1D Mark III Digital SLR, Canon responded to the requests of its many professional customers by adding new features that cater to their demanding needs. But at the same time, we have once again raised the bar for digital SLR cameras by introducing new technologies that only Canon can offer with the legendary EOS System."

Live View LCD
One of the most unusual functions of the EOS-1D Mark III is the introduction of a Live View shooting mode. Photographers who use point-and-shoot digital cameras are familiar with looking at the LCD screen on the back of the camera to compose their images. Normally, a single lens reflex cannot do this because the mirror is in the way.

The Live View function has several options in addition to the conventional SLR through-the-lens optical viewfinder. If the camera is going to be close at hand, the new mode lets the user focus and compose on the built-in three-inch LCD screen and magnify the image 5x or 10x to achieve the optimal focus. If a user is going to be a few feet from the camera – in the studio, for example – the camera can be connected to a computer with a USB 2.0 cable, and the real-time image viewed on the computer monitor using the including EOS Utility 2.0 software, lets you view what the camera is seeing in real time and control its operation.

If the photographer is going to be far away from the camera, say, on the other side of a racetrack or stadium, or if the camera is hidden or buried someplace inaccessible, the EOS-1D Mark III can be operated wirelessly with the assistance of the new WFT- E2A Wireless File Transmitter. This allows users to view images directly off the camera's sensor in virtually real time with the ability to adjust many camera settings on the fly.

As a side benefit, Live View shooting mode helps to reduce vibration by lifting the reflex mirror out of the optical path well in advance of the exposure, improving image quality at slow shutter speeds.

Integrated Cleaning System
The camera is the first to feature the new EOS Integrated Cleaning System. The new CMOS image sensor is designed with a lightweight infrared absorption glass cover that vibrates for 3.5 seconds when the camera is turned on or off. (The delay can be cancelled immediately upon startup by pressing the shutter button, or turned off completely in the custom function menu.)

The sensor is also sealed around its edges to help keep dust out. The shutter, newly upgraded to 300,000 cycle durability, generates less dust, and fires three times during the process so dust is shaken off the shutter curtains as well. The second part of the anti-dust system is software that records the location of any spots on the sensor as Dust Delete Data and appends the information to the image file. The spots can then be erased automatically in the included Digital Photo Professional 3.0 software.

Advanced Autofocus
The Mark III also has a new autofocus system. Like previous EOS 1 Canon cameras, the Mark III has 45 AF points, but unlike its predecessors, 19 of them, rather than seven, are of the high-precision cross-type configuration. In addition to the center point, the new array allows the other points to be divided into groups of nine inner and nine outer focusing points plus a center point, which makes picking an individual focusing point much faster and easier than going through all 45, as in the past. During manual AF point selection, the AF point area is expandable.

At the request of sports and wildlife photographers, a new micro-adjustment feature allows for very fine changes in the AF point of focus for each lens type in use, along with the addition of adjustable focus-tracking sensitivity as another new AF feature. In addition to the AF sensor itself, other new components in the AF system include a reconfigured concave submirror and the secondary image formation lens. Also, the low-light sensitivity of the new AF sensor has been doubled to EV-1 for superior performance compared to earlier EOS digital SLRs.

Dual Image Processors
To cope with the voluminous signal processing required by the EOS-1D Mark III's 10.1 megapixel resolution and top continuous shooting speed of 10 fps, dual DIGIC III imaging engines are incorporated for parallel signal processing. The DIGIC III image processor replaces the DIGIC II and assists in rendering very fine image detail and natural color reproduction with 50 percent less shadow noise than previous EOS digital SLRs.

The CMOS sensor reads out to the dual DIGIC III processors simultaneously in eight channels. By having two processors handle the workload, image processing is approximately 1.5x faster than before, Compact Flash access speed is 1.3x faster and SD card access is 2x faster. The camera is compatible with the new high-capacity SDHC format memory card. The extra power of dual DIGIC III processors has also allowed analog-to-digital conversion to improve from 12 to 14 bits per channel, meaning that tonal gradation for RAW images is now divided into 16,384 separate levels per channel rather than 4,096. The difference also means freedom from defects such as moirés, Canon says.

Proprietary CMOS Sensor
The all-new 10.1 megapixel CMOS sensor is designed and manufactured by Canon using semiconductor manufacturing equipment that is designed and manufactured by Canon. The sensor is APS-H size, 28.1 by 18.7mm, significantly larger than the much more commonly found APS-C, usually about 23.5 by 15.5mm. The lens magnification factor is 1.3x, rather than 1.5x or 1.6x.

The increased sensor size means that each pixel can be larger for a given resolution. The pixels of the EOS-1D Mark III Digital SLR are 7.2 microns square. A sensor with 10 megapixels in APS-C size would have pixels less than 6 microns square, smaller and therefore receiving less light, requiring more amplification and producing more noise. Canon has also increased the proportion of each pixel that is sensitive to light, called the fill factor, so the pixels are not only bigger but more receptive to light. Another improvement comes from the revised microlens array that collects light for the sensor. The new unit has smaller gaps between the tiny lenses, meaning more light is gathered and less is lost. Canon says the changes will lead to “sensational” low-light performance and “terrific” quality at ISO 3200 and 6400.

Other Features
Canon says the camera has several new features that make it “much more reassuring and confidence inspiring.” Highlight tone priority extends the dynamic range of highlights by about one stop and improves gradation within highlight areas. Safety shift lets the camera automatically change the shutter speed, the aperture or even the ISO speed, according to the photographer's choice, even if the light level changes out of the range that the settings on the camera can normally handle. In-camera noise reduction for high ISO images is provided, along with a “silent drive” mode for situations where camera noise needs to be minimized (such as in a courtroom or on a movie set).

Canon says controls on the Mark III are new and easy to use. The camera uses a Main Dial, a Quick Control Dial, a Multi-controller, a SET button and several other buttons to select and set various functions. In addition, the ISO speed button, AF Start (AF-ON) button, Picture Style button, and Memory selection/Image size/White balance function button have been newly added to make camera operation faster and easier than previous models.

Answering the requests of many current EOS system users, information displays have also been improved. For example, both the ISO speed and the metering pattern in use are now visible at all times, not only on the top LCD data panel, but in the viewfinder as well.

New Battery
The Mark III uses a new LC-E4 Lithium-ion battery pack instead of the previous NP-E3 Nickel-Metal Hydride type. As a result, the weight with the battery and memory cards installed is approximately 8 ounces lighter than the EOS-1D Mark II N, and estimated shooting capacity has significantly improved from 1200 shots to approximately 2200. Charge levels are displayed in 1 percent increments.

The Custom Functions and Personal Functions of previous EOS models have been merged to create an easier set of 57 Custom Functions arranged in four groups according to categories such as exposure and autofocus. Up to six frequently used menu options and Custom Functions can be registered in a new user-friendly feature, called "My Menu." Up to 10 sets of camera settings can now be saved to one recording medium and moved from one camera to another. Up to five personal white balance settings and five custom white balance data items can now be registered.

sRAW Option
In addition to the RAW and JPEG options found in previous EOS Digital SLRs, the Mark III offers the "sRAW" recording format. "sRAW" has all the flexibility of standard RAW data recording, but at one quarter the resolution and approximately half the file size of conventional RAW images.

The Mark II can also record to external USB storage devices connected to the camera via the optional WFT-E2A Wireless Transmitter. Another new option is automatic switching of recording media; when the current recording medium becomes full, the camera switches to another automatically and continues recording without interruption. With separate recording, a captured image can be recorded in varying sizes on different media. Each recording medium can be set to record a specific image size (L, M1, M2, S, RAW, sRAW) for each shot. With recording of identical images, the same image is recorded to all recording media. This is also possible with RAW+JPEG and sRAW+JPEG. Any image stored in a memory card or external media can be copied to another installed or connected recording medium. If the card slot cover is opened during the writing operation, an alarm sounds and a warning message appears on the screen to indicate that writing is in progress, but writing continues even if the slot cover is opened. Also, if the power switch is set to "off" position during the card writing process, a message appears on the screen to indicate that writing is in progress. After the writing is completed, the power turns off.

Improved Software
The Mark III will be supplied with the latest versions of Canon software, including Digital Photo Professional 3.0 and EOS Utility 2.0, which now support the camera's Remote Live View and Dust Delete Data functions, as well as incorporating a broad range of additional improvements designed to improve image quality and speed up workflow. Also included are new versions of ZoomBrowser EX and ImageBrowser for easy browsing, viewing, printing and archiving with compatible computer operating systems, including Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows XP, as well as Mac OS X.


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