Canon fix looks good for SLR's 'black dot' glitch

The company releases new firmware that "improves and mitigates" a problem that could blemish images from the 5D Mark II camera. My test shows favorable results.

Updated at 8:25 p.m. PST with preliminary test results, and at 10:36 p.m. PST with another photographer's results.

Canon on Wednesday released new firmware for its EOS 5D Mark II camera that the company said "improves and mitigates" the "black dot" problem that marred some images from the high-profile, high-end SLR.

Version 1.0.7 of the 5D Mark II firmware software is downloadable from Canon's Web site. (I encountered some dead ends on the site, but eventually found the 9MB download on the U.S. site at this address.)

I've just run some tests. My preliminary opinion is that there's grounds for optimism that the firmware indeed seems to have taken care of the problem. See the shots below taken at ISO 800 and 3,200, magnified to three times regular size.

This scene of San Francisco by night, taken with a 5D Mark II using the new version 1.0.7 firmware, shows no evidence of the black dot problem.
This scene of San Francisco by night, taken with a 5D Mark II using the new version 1.0.7 firmware, shows no evidence of the black dot problem. Stephen Shankland/CNET News
Increasing the ISO to 3,200 amplified the black dot problem, but here, too, it appears to be a non-issue.
Increasing the ISO to 3,200 amplified the black dot problem, but here, too, it appears to be a non-issue. Stephen Shankland/CNET News

Unfortunately, I don't have any test images that would let me show before-and-after comparisons, but the photos I just took look to me like the kinds where I saw black spots before. I could pretty reliably predict what types of shots would produce black spots.

Given the limits of my test, I'd welcome 5D Mark II owners to share their own findings in the comments section below.

Andrew Yip, who tested and detailed the black dot earlier, also was pleased after testing the firmware and publishing results on his blog.

"It looks like the black dots problem is fixed," Yip concluded. He also published before and after versions for more direct comparisons.

The 5D Mark II, a $2,700, 21.1-megapixel, full-frame camera that can shoot 1080p video as well, debuted in late 2008, but the black dot problem quickly surfaced when people photographed subjects such as Christmas tree lights and buildings at night. The issue showed up in generally darker shots with very bright regions; immediately to the right of the bright area a black patch was sometimes visible when the picture was viewed up close or printed large.

The firmware deals with another problem, vertical bands, sometimes occurred as well when shooting images in sRAW1, a quarter-size size raw image format, Canon said.

Those using Canon's Digital Photo Professional and Picture Style Editor software should update to new versions of those programs, too, Canon said. Using the older versions with the new firmware can imbue dark, low-contrast areas of a photo shot in sRAW1 or sRAW2 with a magenta tinge, the company warned.

Canon 5D Mark II 'black dots' problem.
These magnified close-ups that Stephan Hoerold took with his Canon 5D Mark II show lights on a building at night. The dark spots appear to the right of the very bright areas. The three shots show images taken at ISO 100, ISO 200, and ISO 3,200. Photo used with permission. Stephan Hoerold

Here are the full release notes from Canon:

Canon's 5D Mark II SLR
Canon's 5D Mark II full-frame SLR Canon

What has changed in Firmware Version 1.0.7?

It improves and mitigates the following image quality phenomena.

"Black dot" phenomenon (the right side of point light sources becomes black)

When shooting night scenes, the right side of point light sources (such as lights from building windows) may become black. The phenomenon may become visible if the images are enlarged to 100% or greater on a monitor or if extremely large prints of the images are made. This firmware improves and mitigates this phenomenon.

Vertical banding noise

If the recording format is set to sRAW1, vertical banding noise may become visible depending on the camera settings, subject, and background. The firmware improves and mitigates this phenomenon.

Why is it required to update the Digital Photo Professional and Picture Style Editor software?

If the existing software applications are used to display sRAW1 and sRAW2 images that were captured by a camera with Firmware Version 1.0.7, dark, low-contrast areas in the images may appear slightly magenta. If the updated software applications are used to display sRAW1 and sRAW2 images, the color of the images will appear normal, regardless of the camera firmware version.

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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