EOS Digital Cameras

The Future Arrives

The Digtal Image

The development of our modern digital cameras
began in the research laboratories of Bell Labs, Nasa,
Fairchild Semiconductor and a host of research facilities
in the United States. This research was , at first, unrelated to the

camera industry and it was only later that an optical application was explored. We forget that it was only in 1947 that the first transistor was demonstrated at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, usually referred to as the Bell Labs, although work on the theory behind them had been going on for years.

 Once the device was shown to be feasible research began in earnest to improve the transistor and suit it to various electronic applications. With hindsight this was probably the most important invention of the 20th century. Using it in optical applications followed very quickly

Through the 1960’s, again at Bell Labs, work was carried out on the technology underpinning charge coupled devices (CCD’s) which were to become the sensors in the first generation of digital cameras. An initial research paper published in April of 1970 described the theory underlying the CCD and one of the suggested uses for them was imaging devices.

By 1974 Fairchild Semiconductor had produced a 500 element CCD followed by a 100 x 100 sensor array


The First Digital Camera

By the early 1970’s the worlds attention seemed to be directed at the transistor and its future. In 1971 Texas Instruments was the first to obtain a patent for a “filmless” camera but the technology lagged behind the ideas and they were unable to actually construct one that worked. That honor was left to Kodak.

The first functional digital camera was a proof of concept lab model never intended for the market.

Steven Sasson of the Kodak Labs holds his first proof of concept operational digital camera.

Steven Sasson was a young engineer working in the Kodak Laboratories in 1975. He had available to him a recent Fairchild Semiconductor CCD array of 100 x 100 pixels which could capture coarse images. Using this he set out to see if he could build a self contained portable device that could take pictures. What he came up with was the first true digital camera.

He used parts from Kodak super 8 movie cameras and several custom circuit boards which he combined with a video tape recording system and 16 ni-cad batteries. What he ended up with weighed 8 pounds (3.6 kilos) and was the size of a small tool box (and the same shape). But it could take pictures! The images were .01 mpx!

The tape could store 30 images and each one took 23 seconds to register completely on the video tape. The worlds first digital image taken with this camera was of a fellow lab assistant. However, that image was lost somewhere along the way and no copy of it exists.

The First Canon Digital Cameras

Kodak did not pursue their early development of the digital camera opting, instead, to gamble on the continued use of film (we know how that turned out!). However, the Kodak Labs did continue to dabble with digital and by 1986 they had developed a 1.4 million pixel sensor. Using this and other developments they brought to market a series of very competent professional digital cameras.

They did this by building a camera back which they installed on a Nikon SLR and it was connected to a shoulder mounted storage and processing unit. Nikon was chosen as it was the most widely used professional camera at the time. These units were so expensive that it was the professional photographers that were targeted feeling that they would be able to afford these cameras. The first to market was the 1.3 mpx Kodak KAF-1300 which became available in 1991. This was built on a Nikon F3 body which was attached to a processor and storage unit slung over the photographers shoulder.

The DCS 200 (Digital Camera System) built on the Nikon N8008s camera

For more detailed information on the Kodak cameras have a look at this Kodak Publication.

This is the user guide for a later DCS camera built on a Canon EOS 1N body

 The next year they condensed the processor into a module which attached to the bottom of the SLR and the DCS (Digital Camera System) series was born. The first camera was the DCS 200 built on a Nikon N8008S body. This series went through several iterations and finally in December of 1995 they introduced the EOS DCS 1 which was built on a Canon EOS 1N body. Canon was now part of the digital revolution. Canon marketed the Kodak adapted EOS cameras as the EOS DCS 1, EOS DCS 3 and EOS DCS 5 with various sub models.

Kodak continued to offer Canon based Kodak cameras into the late 90’s. The last in the series were the EOS DCS 520 and 560 marketed by Canon as the EOS D2000 and EOS D6000. These were very expensive cameras and well beyond the reach of the amateur photographer or snapshot shooter. But they were a start.

Canon/Kodak EOS DCS 3c

This is a clipping from “Photo Technique”  December 1998 Page 71 describing the Kodak DCS 520 which was marketed by Canon as the EOS D2000.

This has been only the briefest description of Canon’s entry into the digital camera age. There were many experimental cameras and various models that have been omitted for space considerations. It is a fascinating story and hopefully this little introduction will encourage you to dig deeper into this story.

“Full Frame” and The Modern Image Sensor

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries many many film formats were designed and employed in those early cameras. The 35mm format was originally specified as 1.375 inches and was introduced in 1892 by William Dickson and Thomas Edison. They were working with film stock supplied by George Eastman. By 1909 the international standard for movie film became a strip 35mm wide with four sprocket holes per frame. Of course, remember that movies placed their images across the film and not lengthwise.

Eastman filed a patent for this format but in 1902 a court invalidated that patent and thereafter anyone could make use of this film design. It was probably the collapse of that patent that allowed 35mm to become entrenched as the world standard. Although 35mm film was used in still cameras as early as 1908 the first commercial use was in 1913 and it did not become widely used until Oskar Barnack of the Ernst Leitz company brought out his Leica camera in 1924.

Barnack felt that the image area occupied by a horizontal image across the film strip was too small for quality still images and he turned the image to run lengthwise on the strip making the image larger. It was in fact 24mm by 36mm. Each image was bounded by eight sprocket holes as the length of the image was now double that of the transverse image used in motion pictures.

Using 35mm film before 1934 was difficult because the photographer usually had to hand load film into light tight cassettes that could be loaded into the camera. This put 35mm film out of reach of most amateur photographers. 

In 1934 Kodak packaged strips of 35mm film and sold them already in cassettes and they called this format “135 film”. The name stuck. With the problem of having to hand load film into cassettes solved the popularity of 35mm film grew as the cameras became more sophisticated and by the early 1960’s it was the most popular format in the world with amateur photographers.

Skip forward now to the introduction of the electronic image sensor. (It serves our purpose to simply point out that these devices depend on magic and other dark arts to work.) Developers of digital cameras have not felt a need to stay with the 35mm, or “full frame”, image size. As a result, various devices have different sized sensor depending on the target market, the size of the device, or the desired image quality.

However, because the full frame image has been a standard for so long, photographers have learned to judge everything based on that image size. With the new digital sensors they developed the “35mm equivalent focal length” which was used to indicate the field of view of a lens in a manner consistent with the earlier practice. This was necessary because there are so many sensor sizes and a standard way of referring to field of view was needed. The 35mm equivalent focal length of a particular lens-sensor combination is the focal length that one would see with a 35mm film camera to obtain the same angle of view.

The 35mm equivalent is obtained by multiplying the actual focal length of the lens by the crop factor of the sensor. The higher end Canon cameras have three sensor sizes; the full frame sensor with a crop factor of 1, the APS-C sensor with a crop factor of 1.6 and the APS-H sensor with a crop factor of 1.3. So if we are using a camera with an APS-C sensor, such as the 60D, and we attach an EF 50mm prime to it, the field of view we get will be the same as for a 50mm x 1.6 = 80mm lens on a full frame camera.

It would appear that Canon is in the process of phasing out the APC-H size which will leave the full frame sensor for the professional and nearly professional photographer and the APS-C for the amateur photographer.

With the EOS system Canon brought out their EF line of lenses which were able to cover a full frame image with acceptable sharpness and vignette characteristics. These lenses will work with the smaller sensors but they will have effectively a narrower field of view.

With the APS-C sensor it was not necessary to cover such a wide area with good image and so lens could be made smaller and lighter and maintain acceptable image quality over the area of the smaller sensor. Recognizing this, Canon came out with their EF-S lenses. They will only fit on a camera with an APS-C sensor, unlike an EF lens which will fit on both full frame cameras and APS-C cameras.

It goes without saying that the Canon rangefinder cameras, the F series, A series, T series, EE series, were all full format cameras and so their lenses are suitable for EF lens cameras, except for flange distance which makes that difficult to impossible.

However, on a full frame camera with a short flange distance, such as the Sony a7 or a7R, the Canon lenses such as the FD series can function perfectly well, in some degree of manual mode of course. No doubt Canon will be coming out with a similar body on which to mount the old lenses. (Otherwise I will be buying a Sony as my next major camera!)

Various Models of EOS Digital Cameras

Here is a table of EOS Digital Cameras in chronological order. Cameras I have acquired are highlighted in blue color.

Europe N. America Japan Release mPixel Sensor
 D30 D30 D30 2000 4Q 3.1 APS-C CMOS
 1D  1D 1D  2001 4Q  4  APS-H CCD
 D60  D60 D60  2002 1Q  3.3  APS-C CMOS
 1Ds  1Ds 1Ds  2002 4Q  11.4  Full Frame CMOS
 10D  10D 10D  2003 1Q  6.3  APS-C CMOS
 300D (Silver) Digital Rebel (Silver) Kiss Digital (Silver) 2003 3Q  6.3  APS-C CMOS
300D (Black) Digital Rebel (Black)
 1D Mk II 1D Mk II 1D Mk II 2004 2Q 8.2 APS-H CMOS
20D 20D 20D 2004 2Q 8.2 APS-C CMOS
1Ds Mk II 1Ds Mk II 1Ds Mk II 2004 4Q 16.7 Full Frame CMOS
20Da 20Da 20Da 2005 1Q 8.2 APS-C CMOS
350D Digital Rebel XT Kiss Digital N 2005 1Q 8 APS-C CMOS
1D Mk II N 1D Mk II N 1D Mk II N 2005 3Q 8.2 APS-H CMOS
5D 5D 5D 2005 4Q 12.8 Full Frame CMOS
30D 30D 30D 2006 1Q 8.2 APS-C CMOS
400D Digital Rebel XTi Kiss Digital X 2006 3Q 10.2 APS-C CMOS
1D Mk III 1D Mk III 1D Mk III 2007 2Q 10.1 APS-H CMOS
40D 40D 40D 2007 3Q 10.1 APS-C CMOS
1Ds Mk III 1Ds Mk III 1Ds Mk III 2007 4Q 21.1 Full Frame CMOS
450D Rebel XSi Kiss X2 2008 1Q 12.2 APS-C CMOS
1000D Rebel XS Kiss F 2008 2Q 10.1 APS-C CMOS
50D 50D 50D 2008 3Q 15.1 APS-C CMOS
5D Mk II 5D Mk II 5D Mk II 2008 4Q 21.1 Full Frame CMOS
500D Rebel T1i Kiss X3 2009 2Q 15.1 APS-C CMOS
1D Mk IV 1D Mk IV 1D Mk IV 2009 4Q 16.1 APS-H CMOS
7D 7D 7D 2009 4Q 18 APS-C CMOS
550D Rebel T2i Kiss X4 2010 1Q 18 APS-C CMOS
60D 60D 60D 2010 3Q 18 APS-C CMOS
600D Rebel T3i Kiss X5 2011 1Q 18 APS-C CMOS
1100D Rebel T3 Kiss X50 2011 1Q 12.1 APS-C CMOS
1D X / 1D C 1D X / 1D C 1D X / 1D C 2012 1Q 18.1 Full Frame CMOS
5D Mk III 5D Mk III 5D Mk III 2012 1Q 22.3 Full Frame CMOS
60Da 60Da 60Da 2012 2Q 18 APS-C CMOS
650D Rebel T4i Kiss X6i 2012 2Q 18 APS-C CMOS
6D 6D 6D 2012 4Q 20.2 Full Frame CMOS
100D Rebel SL1 2013 1Q 18 APS-C CMOS
700D Rebel T5i Kiss X7i 2013 2Q 18 APS-C CMOS
70D 70D 70D 2013 3Q 20.2 APS-C CMOS
1200D Rebel T5 Kiss X70 2014 1Q 18 APS-C CMOS
7D Mk II 7D Mk II 7D Mk II 2014 3Q 20.2 APS-C CMOS
5DS/5DS R 5DS/5DS R 5DS/5DS R 2015 1Q 50.6 Full Frame CMOS
7D Mk II 7D Mk II 7D Mk II 2015 1Q 20.2 APS-C CMOS
760D Rebel T6s 8000D 2015 1Q 24.2 APS-C CMOS
750D Rebel  T6i Kiss X8i 2015 1Q 24.2 APS-C CMOS


Perhaps a better way to compare the various models is to lay them all out in a chart by year and grouping them as to target audience.

Canon EOS Digital Cameras

The EOS Digital Cameras in the Collection

Digital EOS cameras are still in use and so their prices are generally higher. The older cameras are bound to come down in price and it is never a good investment to buy something that will go down in value, unless of course, you have a use for it. For this reason I am slower to acquire the digital models.

Canon D30
Canon EOS D30
May 2000
Canon D60

Canon EOS D60

March 2002
Canon Digital Rebel XT Camera

Canon EOS 10D

Feb 2003 thru Aug 2004
Canon Digital Rebel XT Camera

Canon EOS 20D

Intro September 2004
Canon Digital Rebel XT Camera

Canon EOS Digital Rebel

also the 300D or Kiss Digital
August 2003
Canon Digital Rebel XT Camera

Canon EOS Rebel XT

also the 350D or Kiss N
Feb 2005 thru 2006
Canon Rebel XTi

EOS Digital Rebel XTi
also the 400D or Kiss Digital X
2006 thru 2007

Canon Logo I am not in any way connected to or supported by Canon. I chose their camera line and have stayed with it. I cannot recall why. But a Nikon camera is fine technology and takes a wonderful picture. So too with Sony and the others. But I have been happy with Canon and so I have begun my collection here. One day I may add other brands to my range interest. But that is for another day.