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!

5 thoughts on “Tech Tips for September 15, 2008

  1. so fun … and yet so true.

    Fake Chuck, does Fake Canon inc. have opened positions ?
    I have some technical knowledge in marketing bullshiting. I feel my expertise in that matter may help you create some great new incremental products. I have already a list of ideas for potential 50DmkII, 50Dn and 51D bodies, that would be pleased to discuss with you.


  2. Pingback: The 5D Mark II is out! « Fake Chuck Westfall

  3. Pingback: Tech Tips and Emails « Fake Chuck Westfall

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