The Digital Journalist
Tech Tips

by Chuck Westfall

I've never understood why Canon has placed the seven cross-sensors vertically down the center of the frame of the 1D series cameras. This design doesn't really ever help me. I've noticed another manufacturer has placed their cross-sensors horizontally and vertically across the frame. Why did Canon position the sensors this way and how is it supposed to benefit photographers seeking the highest possible AF performance?

The EOS-1V professional 35mm SLR and its digital descendants, the EOS-1D series, all feature a 45-point Area AF system that was designed primarily for photojournalists and professional sports photographers. As a group, these photographers are often required to shoot verticals in order to fit the layouts of traditional print media such as magazines and newspapers. Canon's idea was to optimize the AF system for this purpose. The first step involved expanding the coverage area from 5 points to 45 points in an oval shape that provided greater continuous coverage than any other AF system ever released. The next step involved increasing the precision of the central area AF points by increasing the baselength of certain rangefinding portions of the AF sensor, with the limitation that the high-precision functionality could only be accessed with lenses featuring maximum apertures of f/4 and larger. This decision was based on the theory that professional photographers use large-aperture lenses more often than not, in which case the enhanced precision is effective in attaining the highest possible AF performance. In the process of designing the new AF system, Canon was able to increase the number of high-precision cross-type focusing points from 1 to 7, with the limitation that they had to be in the central portion of the picture in order to maintain their high-precision capabilities. When the camera is positioned vertically, the 7 high-precision cross-type focusing points are spread across the picture area from left to right, thus providing maximum coverage for a vertical subject, such as an athlete. To support this feature even further, the camera bodies are designed to permit rapid scrolling of the high-precision central AF points via the camera's input dials, thus allowing photographers to select the optimum AF points without taking their eye away from the viewfinder.

I have an EOS 5D and am having difficulty connecting to the camera to manipulate in-camera parameters. One of the things I do with all my Canon DSLRs is, in the Owners Field, I put my name followed by (c) 2006. It's a new year and it is time to change the owner/copyright info in my 5D and I cannot connect to the camera. I have tried ZoomBrowser 5.5 on a WinXP box as well as EOS Viewer Utility 1.2.0 on both WinXP and Mac OSX 10.4. -- all using known good USB cables. For some reason I had a dickens of a time doing this with my 1Ds2 as well. I finally got it updated using EVU on my Mac via a Firewire cable. For some reason my computers are having trouble "seeing" the EOS cameras. Most times in EVU, under the Options menu Camera Settings is grayed out. I am not sure which app I should be using to manage my 5D. ZoomBrowser 5.5 is, for me, unintuitive (to be honest, I just don't get it). Is this what I should use to adjust camera settings, or is there a version of EOS Viewer Utility I should be using? My version of EVU came with my 1Ds2, so I am assuming it is too old to recognize the 5D.

Whether you are using Windows XP or Mac OS X, the application you need to update the Owner's Name field on your EOS 5D and other EOS digital SLRs is called Camera Window. This software is included when you install ZoomBrowser EX 5.5 (for Windows) or ImageBrowser 5.5 (Mac) from EOS Solution Disk 11 that was provided with your EOS 5D. The next key point is making sure that a memory card is loaded in the camera when you connect it to the computer. If the camera is empty, you won't be able to update the Owner's Name. Assuming that the software has been installed correctly, Camera Window will appear shortly after you connect the camera to the computer via the interface cable. At default settings in XP, you will get an Event Window asking which program you want to use to download images, and Camera Window is usually at the top of the list. In OS X, Camera Window shows up automatically. Once Camera Window is running, click on the 'Set to Camera' tab and then on the 'Confirms/changes camera settings' button to access the Camera Settings screen. This screen allows you to update the Owner's Name, set the camera's internal date and time, and format the memory card if desired. The current versions of Camera Window are fully compatible with Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.2 through 10.4.

I've recently started using a 5D. I love its image quality and its diminutive form factor but there is one thing about this body that has me puzzled. When I remove it from my holster pack with the power switch in the "off" position (I realize that there are two "on" positions), the red activity light on the back of the 5D almost always flickers. I can't figure out why. I only notice this happening after I've carried it around in the bag for awhile. If I re-insert it and remove it a second time I cannot reproduce the behavior. Further, there is no button I can press or panel I can push on to cause activity when the power switch is off. The only thing I've found that will cause the red light to flicker with the camera off is opening and closing the CF door. But I have been checking to make sure this door is tightly closed before initially pulling the 5D from the bag. The door IS closed; but the light still flickers when I pull the camera out. Any thoughts? Is this normal behaviour?

Closing the CF card door while the camera is off is one thing that will cause a 5D to check the memory card and run the card-busy light for a fraction of a second. Changing a lens will do the same thing, as will opening and then closing the battery compartment cover. I suspect that you might be twisting the lens and/or flexing the battery compartment cover when you use your camera holster. Whatever the reason, it's nothing to worry about.

With all the excitement and interest centered on digital photography, what about the possibility of Canon upgrading the Canon EOS-1v with a Mark II model. In your opinion, will this upgrade ever happen ? If so, how long from now should we expect it to happen ? The Canon EOS-1v is now almost 6 years old. Thanks!

There is no point in ruling out the possibility of an updated EOS 35mm professional camera, but if you're interested in my opinion, I would say that it is very, very unlikely to occur. Sales of the 1V are virtually nonexistent at this point, and we very rarely get any requests from our professional or advanced amateur customers for an updated version.

I'm a longtime user of 1.6x crop cameras (currently 20D); as of today I now own a brand new 5D and this camera is simply the most outstanding camera I've ever used. It literally brought my 24-70 f/2.8L (which is a perfect copy) to a whole new level. The pictures are just amazing. I do notice however that I have a hot pixel that shows up at about 1-second exposure, and gets brighter as the ISO is increased. Actually at ISO 1600 there is the bright white pixel and a blue dot in photos. Is this to be expected with the full-frame sensor bodies?

Glad to hear you are pleased with your EOS gear! Hot pixels are not a chronic problem with full-frame cameras, but they do occur occasionally. The good news is that they can be fixed (mapped out) by our Service Department, so it is unnecessary either to live with the problem or to replace the entire camera.

An often asked question, but I've never seen a full answer: Is it technically possible to produce a pellicle mirrored version of, say, the Canon 20D or similar? I can understand that it might not be feasible 'demand'-wise but I would love to see one amongst the lineup. I have used both the EOS RT and the 1NRs and sorely miss the quietness of the shutter operation. However , I do love the immediacy of digital. Kind of caught in a quandary at the moment!

Pellicle mirror versions of any EOS Digital SLR are technically possible, but as you say, customer demand for them has not been overwhelming so far. I'm sure that Canon Inc. would consider them more seriously if more photographers started requesting them.

I often use both mirror lockup and auto exposure bracketing together as do many landscape photographers. It seems to me that a major improvement would be to offer a combined mode where the mirror would flip up, all three bracketed exposures would be taken in sequence, and then only after the last exposure would the mirror flip down. Currently the mirror goes up and down with each shot. This would allow much less time to elapse between exposures and insure that the mirror slap is not moving the camera between frames. I don't think any further switches or settings would be required as this behavior could be specified by the drive mode, i.e., have the mirror go up and down for each frame if in single-shot mode or have the mirror stay up for all three shots in continuous shooting mode (as per 20D/350D controls). For later digital blending this would be a vast improvement over the current scheme where the mirror goes up and down between every exposure as there is too much time elapsing in many situations allowing the scene to change.

Thanks very much for the suggestion! I will be happy to forward it to Canon Inc. for their consideration.

One thing I miss about shooting medium-format film is the square format. Square was better for me because cropping was easier after the fact. I didn't need as wide a lens either, because more information was captured on both the horizontal and vertical. A camera lens creates a round image circle, so it makes sense to use a square format to capture as much information as possible in a single shot. Now that I'm shooting digital SLRs, I have to put up with the shortcomings of the 35mm format again; too long and narrow for portrait framing, and constantly switching from horizontal to vertical to get a variety of compositions. I'm always wishing for a wider lens in a bag already full of lenses, because the 35mm format just isn't efficient. Remember how frustrating it was making an 8X10 print with a 35mm negative? So I'm curious why SLR manufacturers overlook the magic of the square when they embarked on the digital path. A "square" SLR would be simpler to build and use since it doesn't need to be flipped on its side. Easier flash on-camera flash usage too. Bumping up megapixel resolution would be easily accommodated by square sensors. Less time would be wasted from having to flip the camera back and forth, and unique photo opportunities could be captured without regret of original camera orientation. What is the fascination with the 35mm format? It's neither panoramic nor "perfect." It forces a photographer to accept the limitations of its dimensions. I wish camera manufacturers would realize the benefit and power of the square, or at least the "golden" rectangle, which offers probably some of the most interesting compositions due to its mathematical intrigue. And forget trying to sell me a digital back for medium format. It's overkill for publication work, and too expensive. I am thankful, however, for the quality of the images coming from today's digital SLRs.

It's hindsight now, but clearly a big reason for sticking with the 35mm format in digital SLRs is the wide range of lenses made for that format. One could argue that these lenses project a circular image, and could therefore be accommodated by a square format SLR design, but it turns out that many lenses like the EF14mm f/2.8L, EF20-35mm f/3.5-4.5, EF 28mm f/1.8, etc. feature built-in rectangular baffles to reduce flare. Using these lenses on a square format camera would result in harsh vignetting. However, your points about the desirability of square format and 8x10 aspect ratio are certainly valid, so other options are being explored, including modified focusing screens that crop or mask the 35mm format to square or 8x10 ratios. This is not the perfect solution, but as new cameras with higher resolutions are developed, there is at least the possibility of providing built-in cropping options that could be reflected in software for easier post-processing. Thanks for the feedback!

I would appreciate an explanation of custom function 14 on the 5D. I have read many explanations but am still not sure when I would use evaluative and when I would use average. Is this function only related to flash metering?

Custom Function 14 on the EOS 5D as well as the Mark II versions of the EOS-1 class digital SLRs controls the flash metering pattern only. It has no effect on ambient metering. At its default setting, C.Fn 14-0 allows the flash meter reading to be based on the size and location of the subject, as determined by preflash information that's registered a fraction of a second before the real exposure. C.Fn 14-1, the optional setting, causes the camera to average the flash meter reading across the entire metering area. We recommend C.Fn 14-0 for the majority of typical flash photography applications, but C.Fn 14-1 can be more effective for specialized applications such as wedding photography, with its high-contrast subject matter such as white dresses and black tuxedos.

Thanks for reading "Tech Tips"! That's it for now. See you in March!

You are invited to submit questions about photo equipment, imaging technology, or photo industry trends that may have a bearing on your work or interests. I cannot promise to answer everything, but I pledge to do my best to address the issues that concern you. (Please use the e-mail link provided at the end of this article.)

© Chuck Westfall

After earning a degree in Professional Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and accumulating some valuable on-the-job experience during a 10-year stint in commercial photography and photo retail, Chuck Westfall began his corporate career with Canon U.S.A. in 1982 as a Technical Representative. He has steadily advanced through the ranks to achieve his present position as Director of Media & Customer Relationship for the company's Consumer Imaging Group, working out of Canon U.S.A.'s headquarters office in Lake Success, N.Y. Among his many assignments, Chuck Westfall is currently Canon USA's main media spokesman for new camera products. He also provides a unique insider's perspective to financial analysts who follow the company's CIG sales and marketing activities.

Chuck's involvement with digital cameras began in 1994, when he assisted Canon and Kodak engineers in developing the EOS-DCS series of professional SLRs. Since then, his responsibilities have expanded to include participation in the development and launching of many other Camera Division products, including Canon's professional and consumer-oriented digital cameras. Over the last 10 years, Chuck has continued to participate in the design, development, introduction and marketing support of camera products. Most recently, he supervised the launch of a comprehensive on-line and on-site dealer training initiative for the Camera Division.

On the personal side, Chuck married his beautiful wife Ying in 2000 and they have been blessed with a wonderful 2-year old daughter, Anna. As Chuck says, "Bringing up the baby is a blast, and we're enjoying every minute of it."