The Digital Journalist
Camera Corner: Using the Canon EOS1-D Mark II at the Super Bowl
February 2004

by David Drapkin

I picked up a pair of the new Canon Mark II EOS Digital cameras on the day before The Super Bowl at the Canon trailer outside Reliant stadium in Houston.

Photo by David Drapkin/NFL
When Dave Metz, the head of Canon Professional put the camera in my hands, the first thing I did was to turn it around and see if Canon listened to our complaints. based on using earlier cameras for high pressure, high speed shooting at sports events. I have been using these cameras for the past several years in my job as an official NFL photographer.

They did. They changed the latch that opens the door to the compact flash card area. I heard a collective sigh of relief from all of you. In a hurry or in extreme weather conditions, you could never seem to open that door fast enough. The camera feels just like your EOS-1D, which means they left all the adjustable buttons, wheels and knobs in the same place. I think it's a little lighter than the EOS 1D but I didn't weigh them side-by-side.

The camera has a new Evaluative Through-The Lens (E-TTL) Automatic flash setting, which goes with any of the Ex-series speed lights I used the 550. During pre-game, I usually set the camera-strobe combination to add light under the helmets in huddles or for group shots. This time, I had to follow Commissioner Tagliabue to meet with various people on the field, in his box and in the owners box. You encounter backlight, side light & harsh lights of many color temperatures. The camera-strobe combination performed flawlessly.

Photo by David Drapkin/NFL
I could get into all the minutia about increased ISO Sensitivity Range (ISO 50 & 3200) and new sd backup card slots (for backup image recording), but you have probably read the Canon literature already. What I will talk about is speed. This baby is FAST. During the game I used the 600mm f4, the 400mm f2.8 and the 70 - 200mm f2.8 lenses in both manual and auto-focus modes. I couldn't have been happier with the results. The new maximum frames per second(FPS) rate is 8.5fps. And because they nearly doubled the amount of full res JPEGs that you can get in a burst, It seems like the camera is faster than my old film based EOS1V. And while I personally would never need 40 full res jpegs, level 8 or 20 raw or full res maximum frames in a burst, I sleep better at night knowing that they are there.

The Auto White balance worked great. The control on the back of the camera is easy to change and it adjusted to different lighting conditions that were encountered (indoor & outdoor, fluorescent, incandescent, tungsten, and daylight).

Canon has continued to banish the bane of digital photographers. I found no shutter lag time.

Photo by David Drapkin/NFL
A great feature was the ability to enlarge on any area of the preview screen to see if your images are sharp. I would NEVER edit my own pictures while shooting a game, but it's nice to know it's there for those of you that do. The one thing Canon warned me about is that the preview screen is about a stop brighter that the actual image will be, which is something to get used to. The camera also automatically rotates vertical shots which is a big time saver for all of us .It takes the same battery as the EOS-1D, so no new batteries to buy and the battery lasts twice as long.

The camera comes with new software, EOS Viewer Utility that offers better preview of digital files and new Canon Digital Photo Pro Software, which is needed to process canon's new raw file format (New Canon.CR2, not Tiff-based.TIF as the EOS1D & 1Ds created) is a welcome addition and worked extremely well during the super bowl.

There are other features that I didn't get to use, like transferring data via four pin firewire cables between camera & computer which is done at 100 megabits per second, more than twice as fast as the previous cameras allowed. But you'll get all that stuff when Dirck asks me for my next review, "My First Year with EOS-1d Mark II" or "The Return of EOS-1d Mark II" or "The Revenge of EOS-1d Mark II."

I would like to take this moment to apologize to the audience reading this review. When I get a new camera, I normally take it into different situations (i.e. Football games, concerts, studio, indoor& outdoor, ETC) and really get into how the camera becomes one with me. These cameras are so new that this was impossible.

I did shoot a concert at the Verizon Theater on Saturday night given by MTV called The CMT Crossroads Special with guests Sammy Hagar, Darryl McDaniels (DMC), Willie Nelson, Joe Perry, Chad Smith, Wayman Tisdale & Steven Tyler. I know that this is not a sports assignment but it does take into consideration a lot of the problems that we would face like fast moving people, white balance, shutter lag time, flash control, battery life, follow focus, auto focus & manual focus. I was impressed on the ability to take the camera out from the first time I used it and feel totally comfortable with it. The large file size (8.2mb raw) is such an advantage over other professional cameras, especially if you have to use pictures for large applications (i.e. Double truck ads).

One final thought about the camera: If all of you liked the camera half as much as I did, Canon will have a successful and profitable new product on the market.

© David Drapkin

David Drapkin has been shooting for the NFL for 15 years and has photographed 14 Super Bowls as well as many Olympics and World Cups. His photograph of Super Bowl XXXVIII shot with the EOS 1D Mark 11 ran in a double-truck Canon ad in Sports Illustrated's Super Bowl issue.