by Philip Greenspun; created 1997
Site Home : Photography : Canon EOS IX
This is a real camera. It might take toy APS film, but it is well made, clad in stainless steel, and really feels solid. The Canon IX is heavy and has a real metal lens mount that takes any standard Canon EOS lens.
So why don't I love this camera? Because if I want a heavy solid camera and lens, I already own a Canon EOS-5 body and 70-200/2.8 lens. The IX punishes me with 90% of the size and weight of my 35mm system but with only 56% of the negative size. Nor does it deliver fully the promise of APS.
There is no control wheel on the camera back so metered-manual mode is awkward, requiring the use of a shift button and front control wheel to change the aperture. Exposure compensation also requires this shift/front-wheel move. So it really isn't a substitute for the EOS-5, which has the best user interface of any camera I've ever used.
There is no way to select the number of prints desired, as permitted by the APS. With a Minolta Vectis S1, I can look at my four friends in front of the Eiffel Tower and press the PRINT button to instruct the minilab to make 5 copies. The Canon IX has no provision for writing this portion of the APS magnetic area.
Canon seems to be scoring hits consistently in the "will this impress the chicks?" department. My friend Kleanthes reports that his Canon ELPH APS P&S attracts women and the first thing my neighbor Kathy noted about the IX was that it looked a lot better than the Minolta Vectis. I hadn't been out in public with the IX for more than five minutes before an attractive young woman came up and said, "that's a nice looking camera."
Because Canon decided to retain compatibility with EOS lenses, the IX is essentially a hand grip for what was already one of the biggest lens mounts in the industry. The EOS mount is way bigger than the Nikon F mount, for example, which is why Canon can build some interesting wide angle and superfast lenses that Nikon can't.
My hands, which are about average size for a guy, don't fit that well around the IX. The whole affair is just a bit too small. But it isn't so small that one can stuff the IX with a 24-85 lens into a coat pocket. And the weight of a lens big enough to cover a 35mm frame plus the IX is enough to make your neck aware at all times that you're carrying a camera. You'll still need a point-and-shoot if you want to throw a camera into your street clothing and forget about it.
Canon seems to have let its SLR guys design their APS SLR. Minolta seems to have let their P&S guys design their APS SLR.
The viewfinder is reasonably kind to eyeglass wearers. The standard view is for "H" format (4x7 prints). Masking for the C (4x6) and P (4x10) formats is done via LCD cross-hatching. If you aren't looking carefully, you might think you're getting something in the frame even though you aren't. On the other hand, because the masking is translucent, you get a little bit of warning before your subject comes into the frame. In any case, the full H format frame is being recorded on film; you can override your choice when you make reprints.
There is no substitute for a ring ultrasonic motor. Once you've gotten used to the Canon EOS system and the ring USM lenses, everything else seems like Rube Goldberg. With a 24-85 USM zoom mounted, the IX focusses like a professional tool. There are three AF sensors spaced out horizontally. You can pick a sensor manually or let the camera's computer figure out which one is best (the computer is usually right).
The camera does not seem to hunt like a Minolta Vectis. And even if it did hunt a little bit, you wouldn't be able to tell because the ultrasonic motor isn't audible.
When you are truly unhappy with the camera's focus decision, just hold the shutter release down halfway and grab the manual focus ring on the lens. Then take your picture.
One of my favorite 35mm EOS body features is the ability to move AF to the exposure lock button on the back of the body. Then you can get focussing assistance from the camera when you positively ask for it but the camera doesn't run wild with the AF motors as you are trying to release the shutter. The IX doesn't have this feature and it is a shame. In fact, the IX doesn't have the custom function configurability of the 35mm EOS bodies. I guess they did this to simplify the user interface but I miss the flexibility.
You can use standard Canon EOS flash equipment with the IX. You can set flash exposure compensation from the body. Flash exposure is measured through-the-lens using 3 sensors linked to the AF sensors. So if you or the computer chose to focus using the rightmost sensor, the flash exposure will be biased toward what's happening underneath that sensor. With the newest EX flashes, the camera will let you lock the flash exposure on an off-center subject, then recompose your photo. I'd rather have the Nikon D system, especially for fill-flash work.
With EX flashes, the EOS IX will do both high-speed sync (up to 1/4000); otherwise the maximum sync speed is 1/200th. The built-in flash covers wide angle lenses down to 22mm but does not zoom and is therefore extremely wimpy. This flash might make a nice fill light if you were using an off-camera flash, but of course Canon's flash control system is too primitive to do anything other than disable on-camera flashes when you're trying to use even a single accessory flash. Canon should copy the Minolta system of using the on-camera flash to wirelessly control off-camera flashes.
Canon built this camera for me. I own $12,000 of EOS lenses and flashes and other detritus. The IX is a quasi-professional-grade body that will work with all the stuff that I own. However, I owned $20,000 of lenses for my Rollei 6008 (a 6x6cm SLR that takes 120 film). I never said "Gee. I wish I could use all of these big heavy lenses on my Nikon." I carried the Nikon precisely when the Rollei system seemed too big and heavy.
If a client came to me and said "I need you to do this job and deliver the results in APS format", this would be the camera. However, I can't really ever imagine a client asking for APS and I really wouldn't want my wide angle lenses to turn into semi-wides. On the fourth hand, there is nothing to stop Canon from introducing a line of lightweight lenses that only cover the APS format. They'll still have that big EOS mount at the back but at least they won't be so heavy.
Text and pictures (c) Copyright 1991-1995 Philip Greenspun