Tech Tips for September 15, 2008

As you can see I’m a bit late with this week’s Tech Tips, but that’s because we’re quite busy here at Canon USA preparing for the big launch of the new “5D Mark II.” Things are getting really hectic as we approach the launch. I haven’t even had the time to shower for the last two days, and I’m sure Ying is not going to appreciate it when I get home.

Anyway, let’s start with the reader questions for this week:

My 1Ds Mark III is great, but I was wondering are there any hidden special functions that might help me get more out of my camera?

There is at least some functionality hidden in the firmware that’s currently in every 1Ds3 out there, but unfortunately there is no way for you to enable that. Most of these functionalities are related to features which we were not yet finished with when we released the camera. There’s also functionality which we disabled for marketing reasons because we felt we could get you to pay more to upgrade to the next camera once we enable them there. But as far as “special functions” go that you can enable right now, I have had a lot of emails sent to me in the last few months by photographers mentioning that they are very unhappy with their 1D3, and who felt that it’s essentially only useful as a door stop, albeit a very expensive one. Since the 1D3 and the 1Ds3 share a lot of features and essentially have the same body and build quality, I would assume that the 1Ds3 could also be used for the same purpose. With regards to the “that might help me get more out of my camera” part of your question, this is something that you would have to decide for yourself. But from the feedback I’ve gotten so far, other photographers do seem to get more out of their 1D3 by using the special door stop function.

Chuck this is not a technical question, but I’m looking at buying the new 5D camera (I have the “old” 5D now) and have a bit of a problem trying to convince my wife. I haven’t yet asked her about it, but I’m fairly sure that she won’t allow me to spend money on a new camera this year. Do you have any advice you can give me?

This is a very good question, thank you for asking. I’ve gotten this question a lot more in the past, and I also understand what you’re dealing with from personal experience during the time before I got a job at Canon USA. There are many ways to deal with this problem, and I’ve seen many people get very creative trying to find a solution. One way to deal with this problem is to make it a habit to tape over the logos and model names on your camera with black tape AS SOON AS YOU BUY IT. Even before you bring it home. It’s not always a problem if the wife has seen your camera before you’ve taped it, since most of them won’t be able to remember which model it was the next day. At Canon Inc. they understand this issue very well, and there have been numerous internal studies on it. One of the results of this study can be seen today in the fact that all upgrades to our cameras essentially look the same with only minor differences on the outside. This is why the 50D looks almost exactly like the 40D. We knew that it would be hard to justify to your wife buying a 50D just 10 months after you got your 40D.
So the benefit you get from taping over the logos and model names, is that once you have done that, you can essentially just go out and buy the new camera, tape it just like the old one, and bring it home without the wife noticing what’s going on. And since you’ve made it a habit to tape your bodies, she’ll think it’s normal. After a few years, she might even ask you herself why you keep using that same old camera and don’t go and buy yourself the latest, not knowing you’ve been doing just that every year.
As an added bonus, you’ll also look more important when you’re out shooting and people are going to stare at you, wondering if you’re using a new pre-production body that’s about to come out soon.

Hey Fake Chuck, get a fucking life. Don’t you have anything better to do than posting worthless crap on the Internet, you stupid fuck? How’s that for a tech tip question??

What you say?

I’ve seen you mention the exceptional low light capabilities of the new 5D on your blog, and I was wondering how Canon has been able to achieve this? And what’s that about the high sensitivity and low noise?

I know I haven’t been too clear about this, but this is for the simple reason that the new 5D hasn’t been officially launched yet, and a detailed white paper will be published shortly after its launch. But to clarify a little, we’ve made a lot of improvements to the sensor design to be able to achieve the exceptional low light performance.

5D2 Sensor Design Diagram

5D2 Sensor Design Diagram

If you look at the diagram above, you can compare part of the sensor designs of the 5D2, the 1Ds3 and the 1Ds2. As you can see from the diagram, one of the improvements we’ve made is that we have further reduced the gaps between the on-chip microlenses to the point where it has become gapless. This increases the light gathering efficiency of the sensor greatly. So we now gather even more light than before on the sensor. In addition to this, we have also further decreased the space between the microlenses and the photo diodes, increased the fill factor by applying the micro-rule that improves the performance of the exposure device, further adding to the light gathering efficiency super index matrix of the sensor. We have also included a Micro Solar Cel next to each photo diode on the sensor providing clean, localized power. As a result of this, we’re now sending a much lower voltage through the micro circuit wiring than was previously possible, resulting in a much cooler running sensor. Essentially we’re only reading from the micro circuit wiring now. Power consumption by the sensor has also been greatly reduced. We’ve also added a micro copper heat pipe grid on the sensor for heat spreading efficiency. These are very small interconnected copper pipes running below the photo diodes. With all of this we have virtually eliminated background noise resulting in a virtually noise free signal from the sensor.
Due to the fact that each photo diode now has its own power generator right next to it, we’re now able to reach much higher sensitivity levels further improving performance in low light. Combined with the low noise, we’re getting results which are 50 to 60 stops better than the 1Ds3.
We’re still not finished yet. Future improvements, such as the addition of watercooling to the sensor (through the micro copper heat pipe grid) will allow us to make the sensor run even cooler while increasing sensitivity and performance. More details will be available in a white paper that will be released soon.

I’m furious at Canon. How is it that Sony is capable of releasing a 24MP camera at $3000 and the 1Ds Mark III costs an astounding $8000?? Now I’ll be lucky if I can sell my 4 month old 1Ds Mark III for $4000. Thanks to you I’m taking a huge loss now. And as if that’s not enough the next 5D is going to be 21MP as well from what I have seen, including newer tech such as Digic 4 AND cost around $3000 as well. I hope everyone realizes how you’ve been screwing them with the $8000 1Ds Mark III body!

First, let me state that I completely understand your frustration and I will be happy to pass this along to Canon Inc. in Japan. The short version of my answer is “Yes, you’ve been screwed, and we didn’t use any kind of lube either. In hindsight, we probably should have at least lubed you up first.” The longer version of my answer is that this is simply the result of what happens when you have only one player on the market that is capable of supplying a certain kind of product or service. Chances are you are going to be paying a premium price for it, which was the case with the 1Ds Mark III. Now with Sony entering the high resolution full frame market, and Nikon expected to follow soon, there’s some competition and prices will drop as a result. And you too are going to benefit from that.

Thanks for reading Tech Tips. That’s it for now. Remember to email your questions to or leave a comment in this post. See you next week!

“5D Mark II” Marketing Campaign Rocking the Internet

I’m extremely happy with how our marketing campaign for the new “5D Mark II” is being received around the Internet. People are talking about it, people are searching the Internet every second for new information and technical details, emotions are running high, it’s simply marketing at its best. My compliments to our marketing department. Yes, as the technical adviser for Canon USA’s professional products marketing division I contributed too, of course. However, as usual, Japan didn’t listen to all my ideas, but I’ll come to this later.

People are even going so far as to use advanced imaging techniques to alter the images from our teaser animation, to try and squeeze every bit of detail out of it. What impressed me the most was the picture I found on this thread on DPReview:

5D Mark II

"5D Mark II"

The above picture was the result of running the blurry picture which I posted a few days ago through software called “Focus Magic” and the results are pretty nice. I was so impressed, I immediately sent an email to Yoroku, Sunichi and our engineers in Japan to check the possibility of including “Focus Magic” in our next firmware update for the 1D/Ds Mark III and future products. Notice how it managed to bring back the “5D” out of the blurry picture. Amazing. Galbraith is going to love this.

Bradley Cooper and Chase Jarvis - Seperated at birth?

Bradley Cooper and Chase Jarvis (right) - Seperated at birth?

But anyway, even though I’m pleased with our marketing so far, I still feel that we should have used a more modern approach at the same time. Like what Nikon did with that guy called Chase Jarvis. They gave him a D90 to play with and the guy started raving about it on his blog and it generated a lot of buzz. And they made the right choice too. Have you seen that guy? He has this overly energetic appearance. It’s almost like he’s high on crack 24/7. He could get you excited about anything! I look at him and feel exhausted within seconds. You simply can’t keep up. He reminded me of that guy played by Bradley Cooper in the movie “Wedding Crashers.” If you’ve seen Wedding Crashers, you know what I mean. Maybe we should hire him to positively influence public perception of the 1D Mark III.

But back to our “5D Mark II” marketing efforts. I’ve gotten some emails from people suggesting that the atmosphere at both Nikon and Sony is very tense right now, and gets even more tense with every day that we get closer to the official launch. The situation there has been described to me as sitting on death row waiting for their execution.

And let me tell you, they have every reason to be afraid. As I type this, major publications around the world are already trying out their sample of the “5D Mark II” and preparing their previews. We’re going to set the standard for the next few years this week. Regardless of what Galbraith says. Stay tuned.

Galbraith suggests problems with the “5D Mark II”

My job is certainly not an easy one, I can tell you that. You simply can’t begin to image the amount of email I get from photographers everywhere, asking for help, tips, complaining about issues, etc. Some days, everything just goes very well, and some days, like today, I suddenly get a message from someone that completely ruins the rest of my day.

It looks like Galbraith still isn’t satisfied with all the problems he caused us this year. Screw it, i’m not going to write about it now, here’s a screenshot of the conversation I had with him today. I think it speaks for itself:

Notice how he went completely silent in the end. Stupid coward. I hope you’re reading this Rob! Don’t make me post the other chatlogs too, you moron!

I’m going to get me a cappuccino now and lie down for a bit.

Tech Tips

Most of you already know that I’ve been publishing a “Tech Tips” column on The Digital Journalist for quite a while now. This has been a monthly column so far, and since I have my own blog now I was thinking of publishing some more tech tips here on my blog on a weekly basis where I can respond to your questions more quickly.

So if you have any questions (it doesn’t have to be technical), just email them to me at and I will post the answers here on my blog every monday in my Tech Tips. This should provide everyone with something to look forward to reading when they arrive at work in the morning. Please note that I can’t always comment on future products that haven’t been announced yet, although I might bend or break the rules sometimes, depending on my mood that day.

Oh and, I’ll still continue to do the column over at The Digital Journalist. I don’t feel comfortable letting them down at the moment.

EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens

I finally got my production-quality copy of the new EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM lens today, and I’m disappointed. I can’t tell you how frustrated I am right now. Everytime we get a shipment of new gear from Japan, I have to pray that I get a good working copy to test.

As soon as I attached the lens to the 50D body I have in my office and took a picture, I noticed that the picture was soft. After some quick tests, I was able to confirm that the lens was backfocusing significantly. Right now the lens is already on its way to our local service facility to get checked. I just sent a rather serious flame email to Canon Japan about this. I’m not very hopeful though, Fujio hasn’t been answering my emails for a couple of months now after our argument.

Sometimes I just feel like quitting my job. I try to encourage everyone to use our gear, but how am I supposed to sound confident doing that, when even I can’t rely on the gear I get from Japan?

Launch of the new “5D Mark II”

I’ve been playing with the new “5D Mark II” for the last month and I have to say, both Nikon and Sony are going to shit their pants. Yeah yeah, I know, I’m biased, but seriously, it’s good. Japan won’t allow me to give you too much information as of yet, but since some of our NDA’s have expired today, I’m going to pre-empt the press and give you some more details.

First, there’s this image:

'5D Mark II', EF 24mm f/1.4 L II, 1/400s, f11, ISO 400

"5D Mark II", EF 35mm f/1.4 L II, 1/400s, f11, ISO 400

At first, it might seem like a normal image, but when you realize that this was taken about 10pm at night, at a shutter speed of 1/400s, and an aperture of f11, and at 400 ISO, you have to agree with me that this is far from normal. After the release of the new “5D Mark II” it will be normal.

People commented on the way I laughed when I demonstrated the 10 FPS framerate of the 1D Mark III last year, just wait until you hear me laugh this time!

The 24MP sensor in the “5D Mark II” is going to enable extremely low light photography. Combined with our fast lenses, the possibilities are mindblowing. Prepare to take pictures in your living room during the day at 1/4000s, f2.8, ISO 100. We’re so confident about the low light capabilities, we haven’t even included a built in flash on this camera. In fact, the use of flash is going to be only for creative purposes from now on.

I’m not yet allowed to reveal the name of this camera, but I can show you this image I got from our marketing department. It’s not very clear, I know, the marketing people insisted on taking this picture with a 1D Mark III in AI Servo mode.

The "EOS 5D Mark II" or whatever is really its name ;)

The "EOS 5D Mark II" or whatever is really its name ;)

All the details are going to be revealed beginning next week. Exciting times for everyone!


This is not usually me.

This is not usually me.

Hi there, welcome to my blog. I’m not actually Chuck Westfall. I thought it was about time that I had my own blog on the Internet so I could communicate a little better with all the photographers out there, instead of just relying on other sites to post my articles once in a while.

I’m going to use this blog as a platform to let you all know what I’m up to, what Canon is up to, and to talk about all the new gear we’re going to be releasing soon. So stay tuned for some exciting posts!