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Canon 1D Mark IV

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Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Overview

Reviewed by Mike Tomkins, Shawn Barnett,
Andrew Alexander and Zig Weidelich
Review Date: 10/25/2010

The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV is a direct replacement for the company's previous 1D Mark III model, and supplements that camera's functionality with improvements in a number of areas. Perhaps most significant are the use of a new 16.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, and the use of dual DIGIC 4 image processors, which together allow both an increase in image resolution, and allow a huge step up in the camera's ISO sensitivity range while maintaining the 1D's 10 frames per second framerate.

The Canon 1D Mark IV also gains a significantly upgraded autofocus system, a higher-resolution LCD display with improved reflection / glare resistance, and this year's must-have feature: high definition video capability. Other changes of note include support for UDMA CompactFlash cards, Peripheral Illumination Correction, a new generation of Canon's Auto Lighting Optimizer technology, and quite a bit more besides.

Pricing for the new Canon 1D Mark IV is set at US$4,999.00, with a ship date of late December 2009.

 

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Preview

by Mike Tomkins, Shawn Barnett
and Andrew Alexander

The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV features a rugged professional grade magnesium alloy body with 76 gaskets and seals for weather and dust resistance, over a magnesium alloy inner body. Weight of the body without a lens attached has increased just slightly by one ounce, to around 42.6 ounces (1,180 grams), with the weight gain being attributed to the new LCD display. The camera weighs in at 49 ounces or 1,390 grams with battery and CompactFlash card.

Progression. The Canon 1D series has established quite a legacy. The following table sets out the progression of the series, and sets out the salient changes in the new Mark IV model. The 1D series has always used the APS-H format -- an imaging sensor that's 28.1mm wide by 18.7mm tall. The Mark II saw the conversion from a CCD sensor to a CMOS sensor, and while the Mark III version offered Live View functionality, the Mark IV is the first 1D with a movie recording mode. Except for the model number badge, the only real change that differentiates the 1D Mark IV from its predecessor externally is the presence of a new microphone grill on the front panel, used to record audio.

  EOS 1D EOS 1D
Mark II
EOS 1D
Mark II N
EOS 1D
Mark III
EOS 1D
Mark IV
Release Date: 2001-12-31 2004-04-01 2005-09-14 2007-04-30 2009-12-31
Weight: 55.9 oz
(1,585g)
54.9 oz
(1,555g)
55.0 oz
(1,560g)
47.8 oz
(1,355g)
49.0 oz
(1,390g)
Imaging Sensor (Megapixels): 4.15 8.2 8.2 10.1 16.1
Auto Focus Type:  45-point TTL-AREA-SIR with CMOS sensor  45-point TTL-AREA-SIR with CMOS sensor  45-point TTL-AREA-SIR with CMOS sensor 19-point cross type (plus 26 Assist AF points) TTL-AREA-SIR AF-dedicated CMOS sensor 45 user selectable points (39 f/2.8 cross-type) TTL-AREA-SIR AF-dedicated CMOS sensor w/ AI Servo II
LCD Size (inches): 2.0 2.0 2.5 3.0 3.0
LCD Resolution (pixels): 120,000 230,000 230,000 230,000 920,000
ISO Rating Max: 3,200 3,200 3,200 6,400 102,400
Metering Modes: Centerweighted averaging, Center Spot, AF-linked Spot, Multi-Spot  21-zone evaluative, partial, center spot, AF-linked spot, multi-spot, center-weighted average  21-zone evaluative, partial, center spot, AF-linked spot, multi-spot, center-weighted average  63-zone: AF linked evaluative, 13.5% partial, center-weighted average, 3.8% center / AF / multi spot   63-zone: AF linked evaluative, 13.5% partial, center-weighted average, 3.8% center / AF / multi spot 
Continuous Mode Rate (fps): 7.70 8.10 8.50 9.91 9.95
Live View N/A N/A N/A Yes, MF only Yes, 3 AF modes + MF
Movie Mode N/A N/A N/A N/A 1920x1080@30/25/24
1280x720@60/50
640x480@60/50

Backstory. Theories abound concerning the release of the EOS 1D Mark IV. For sports shooters, the autofocus performance of the 1D Mark III proved to be unreliable. Four months after the release of the 1D Mark III, Nikon released its game-changing D3, with Canon trying to salvage its position by offering numerous firmware and hardware upgrades (including a servicing program to replace a faulty focusing sub-mirror). Despite these updates, the camera was said to be inferior in performance to that of the previous 1D Mark II N. (One of the most definitive reporting sources of the entire 1D Mark III focusing saga can be found at Rob Galbraith's website.) The Internet came to life with stories far and wide of Canon shooters switching over to other systems. If you pore over Canon's historical release dates in the 1D series, a new model comes out in the first quarter every three years; the 1D Mark IV came out six months "ahead of schedule."

Sensor. Inside the 1D Mark IV's body, Canon has coupled a newly designed image sensor and dual DIGIC 4 image processors that together bring improvements in a number of areas. Approximately equivalent in size to a frame of APS-H film, the Mark IV's RGB-filtered Canon CMOS image sensor has an effective resolution of 16.1 megapixels, and a total resolution of 17.0 megapixels.

The imager has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, and yields images to a maximum resolution of 4,896 x 3,264 pixels in both JPEG and 14-bit CR2 Raw formats. Lower-resolution options include 4,320 x 2,880 pixels (JPEG only), 3,672 x 2,448 pixels (M-Raw only), 3,552 x 2,368 pixels (JPEG only), and 2,448 x 1,632 pixels (JPEG or S-Raw).

Perhaps indicating the company's confidence, Canon is stating that noise levels in Raw data from the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV should show a noticeable improvement over those of the previous model, at equivalent sensitivity. Canon says they achieved this through of a number of design changes to the new CMOS imager.

For one, the ratio of light sensitive to non-light sensitive area for each pixel has been increased, although the boost in resolution means that each pixel is now 5.7 microns, down from the 7.2-micron photodiodes in the Mark III sensor. Other changes include a new amplifier design that improves the signal to noise ratio, deeper photodiode wells that improve dynamic range, the use of gapless microlenses that are also closer to the photodiode surface to improve light gathering efficiency, and the selection of more efficient materials for the color filter array.

Sensitivity. By default, the Canon 1D Mark IV offers sensitivity ranging from ISO 100 to 12,800 equivalents. A custom function expands this range to include ISO 50 at the low end, to ISO 102,400 at the high end, matching the highest ISO of Nikon D3s. The lower limits are unchanged from those of the Mark III, but the maximum sensitivities are vastly higher than the standard ISO 3,200 and expanded ISO 6,400 of the 1D Mark III. Indeed, the Mark IV offers the widest ISO range of any Canon EOS digital SLR to date, which is an especially impressive step forward when one considers the simultaneous increase in sensor resolution from the 10.1-megapixel 1D Mark III.

DIGIC 4. In addition, JPEG shooters will gain the benefits of Canon's current-generation DIGIC 4 image processing, instead of the DIGIC III processing of the 1D Mark III.

Frame rate and buffer. Like its predecessor, the Canon 1D Mark IV is capable of burst shooting at up to ten frames per second. Despite the increase in resolution, large/fine JPEG burst depth has actually increased slightly to 121 frames, from the 110 frames achievable with the Mark III. Raw shooters will find burst depth has decreased by a couple of frames, with 28-frame Raw or 20-frame Raw+JPEG bursts possible. (These are Canon's figures.)

Lens mount. Like its predecessor, the Canon 1D Mark IV accepts Canon EF, TS-E, or MP-E lenses -- but not the EF-S lenses designed for the smaller APS-C sensor format.

Vignetting. The EOS-1D Mark IV includes Canon's Peripheral Illumination Correction function, which aims to correct for vignetting or light fall-off with certain Canon lenses.

Dust control. To combat the adverse effects of dust on image quality, Canon's EOS Integrated Cleaning System is retained from the Mark III design. Dust adhering to the low-pass filter over the image sensor is shaken free using ultrasonic vibrations, and is captured by an absorbent material around the filter's perimeter. The locations of any stubborn particles that remain can then be mapped and tagged in the headers of both JPEG and Raw images for automatic or manual removal using Canon's bundled Digital Photo Professional software.

By default, the ultrasonic dust removal process is triggered for several seconds whenever the camera is first powered on, although this can be disabled, and the process triggered manually at the user's discretion. In either case, a touch of the shutter button immediately stops the dust removal process and returns the camera to normal operation should an unanticipated photo opportunity present itself.

Autofocus improvements. Canon has given its autofocusing system a significant overhaul for the EOS-1D Mark IV. While the total number of focusing points is unchanged at 45, the number of cross-type points has more than doubled. Where the Mark III offered 19 cross-type points, no less than 39 of the Mark IV's 45 points are high-precision (f/2.8 compatible) cross-type points. In addition, where the Mark III's 26 remaining line-sensitive AF points were available as assist points only and hence weren't user selectable, the 1D Mark IV provides for user selection of all 45 points.

An interesting side note concerns those cross-type sensors. In the EOS 1D Mark III, the center point functioned as a cross-type sensor not only at f/2.8, but also at f/4. This is still true in the Mark IV, but with certain lenses or combinations of lens plus teleconverter, the same is true of all the other cross-type points. The precise list of lenses and combinations for which all 39 points can function in high-precision mode is as follows:

  • EF 17-40mm f/4L
  • EF 24-105mm f/4L IS
  • EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS w/ Extender EF 1.4x II
  • EF 200mm f/2L IS + Extender EF 2x II
  • EF 300mm f/2.8L IS + Extender EF 1.4x II
  • EF 400mm f/2.8L IS + Extender EF 1.4x II

AF working range is unchanged from the Mark III, being rated at -1EV to 18EV at ISO 100 (73F / 23C). Interestingly, though, Canon is describing AF performance in both low-light / low-contrast and bright light as being improved, although without detailing precisely how.

The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV's AF modes include both one-shot and servo, with the latter earning the new designation AI Servo II AF, thanks to several changes to the underlying algorithms. There's no longer a delay between the subject beginning to move and AI Servo AF beginning to track and predict the focus position. Should an obstacle pass between subject and camera, or the AF point slip off the subject, then the camera will initially continue tracking based on the last calculated subject trajectory. Should the photographer leave the AF point off the subject for a longer period, the camera will begin to drive the focus point towards the new position, but will do so more gradually than was previously the case, rather than suddenly snapping focus to the background. If the subject suddenly changes its trajectory, the AI Servo II AF system now ignores the initial result and waits until it has two matching results before the focus point changes, reducing the likelihood that an error will suddenly throw the lens off focus.

Canon has also added a second claw-like mirror stopper mechanism to the AF submirror, supplementing the mirror stopper on the main mirror as featured in the 1D Mark III design. This should help to provide a steadier image that will allow the AI Servo II AF mode to make better focusing decisions during high-speed burst shooting.

Viewfinder. Images are framed on the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV's fixed eye-level pentaprism viewfinder, whose design is unchanged since the Mark III. As you'd expect in a camera aimed at professional use, the viewfinder offers 100% coverage both horizontally and vertically. The active AF point is indicated in the viewfinder, which also includes a display that provides a wide range of variables including ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, aperture, and more.

Magnification is 0.76x (-1 diopters with a 50mm lens at infinity), and -3.0 to +1.0 diopters of adjustment is available with an eyepoint of 20mm. A built-in eyepiece shutter is a nice touch, preventing ingress of light when your eye isn't against the viewfinder (which could potentially cause metering issues), without the need for a fiddly and easily lost external viewfinder cover.

Perhaps one of the smallest changes most welcomed by shooters both pro and amateur alike is the modification of the viewfinder eyecup. On previous models (the "Eb" model), the eyepiece was fairly easy to remove, so easy in fact that it tended to fall off during casual transport. The eyecup has now been modified with a catch added on each side, so that it must be "squeezed" to be removed. The new "Eg" eyecup is apparently compatible with the Mark III, as well as the 7D camera.

Display. Beneath the viewfinder eyepiece, the Canon 1D Mark IV provides a 3.0-inch LCD with approximately 920,000 dots of resolution, equivalent to a VGA (640 x 480) pixel array with three dots per color. That's a significant step up in resolution from the 230,000 dot (~320 x 240 x 3 dots per color) display on the Mark III, making the screen much better for judging focus accuracy.

The panel is what Canon refers to as a Clear View II LCD type, and is the same model that first appeared in the EOS 7D digital SLR. Coverage is 100%, and in addition to the increased resolution, the panel also offers improved resistance to glare and reflections thanks to an optical acrylic resin layer between the cover glass and LCD surface. The cover glass has also been upgraded, and is now made from scratch-resistant tempered glass rather than the acrylic plate used in the Mark III.

Live View. Like the 1D Mark III before it, the Canon 1D Mark IV also offers a Live View mode, although the higher resolution LCD and a change to the focusing capabilities should make the function rather more useful. Where the 1D Mark III's earlier generation of Live View required the use of manual focusing, the Canon 1D Mark IV allows three autofocusing options in Live View mode, as per other recent Canon digital SLRs.

The first of these is what Canon refers to as Live Mode AF, whereby the camera applies contrast detection algorithms to the data streaming from the image sensor. This allows focusing without interrupting the live view, but has the disadvantage that it is significantly slower to achieve a focus lock, which makes it less useful for handheld photography, or when shooting moving subjects. The second mode is Face Detection Live Mode. As you may expect, this mode detects and focuses on human faces. If more than one face is detected, the multi-controller can be used to select a different face. Alternatively, in what Canon refers to as Quick Mode AF, the mirror is briefly dropped to allow an autofocus operation using the camera's phase detection autofocus sensor. This mode offers quick autofocusing, but with the disadvantage that there is an interruption of the live view stream during the AF operation.

As with the Mark III, the 1D Mark IV's Live View mode also offers a selectable 5x / 10x magnified view of the selected focusing point when the photographer elects to focus manually. The Canon 1D Mark IV can also overlay grid lines on the live display to help with framing, and depth-of-field preview is possible both in Live View or with the optical viewfinder.

Metering. As you'd expect on a digital SLR aimed at professionals, operating modes on the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV include Program AE (with Program Shift), Aperture-priority AE, Shutter-priority AE, and Manual. Metering is performed with a 63-zone sensor, and modes include AF-linked evaluative, 13.5% partial, or 3.8% spot metering. The spot-metering point can either be locked at the center of the image frame, or linked to the AF point. In addition, the 1D Mark IV supports multi-spot metering, with up to eight spot meter readings in a row being combined to determine a single exposure that best captures the various metered subjects.

The metering range for the Canon 1D Mark IV is from 0 to 20EV (ISO 100, 73F / 23C, with the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens). Up to three stops of positive or negative exposure compensation are available, in one-third or one-half EV steps, and the Canon 1D Mark IV can also automatically shoot 2, 3, 5, or 7 bracketed exposures within the same range.

Shutter. The Canon 1D Mark IV's vertical travel focal plane shutter is controlled electronically, and allows for shutter speeds from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds in 1/3-stop increments, plus bulb. The Canon 1D Mark IV offers a two- or ten-second self timer, and includes a Canon N3-type remote terminal connection.

ALO. The Canon 1D Mark IV includes a new generation of Canon's Auto Lighting Optimizer technology, which offers the same preset positions (Disable, Low, Standard, or Strong) as in past cameras. The effectiveness of the function is said to have been improved, though, and it is also now available for the first time in manual exposure mode.

White balance. The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV offers ten white balance modes which include Auto (as determined by the image sensor), five presets, five Custom white balance settings (set in-camera), five Personal white balance settings (set from an attached computer), and finally the ability to specify the color temperature directly in the range of 2,500 to 10,000 Kelvin. It's also possible to fine-tune white balance with +/- nine steps of blue/amber or magenta/green bias, or to bracket white balance with three consecutive shots (but not both together).

Flash. There's also both a hot shoe and PC sync terminal for external flash connection, with X-sync at 1/300 second when using EOS Speedlite flash strobes. With other shoe-mount flashes, X-sync is at 1/250 second maximum, and with studio strobes at 1/60th second. Flash metering choices are E-TTL II, evaluative, or averaged. Three stops of positive or negative flash exposure compensation is available in 1/3 or 1/2EV steps.

Canon says that the algorithms for E-TTL II in the 1D Mark IV have been refined, so as to take greater account of distance information from the attached lens and hence reduce the influence of the background, improving exposure accuracy when shooting a small subject with a wide-angle lens.

HD Movie mode. Another area of significant change in the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV is its new high-definition video capture mode. The functionality is largely similar to that from the EOS 7D digital SLR, providing for recording of movie clips up to four gigabytes in size, which are saved using AVC / H.264 compression in a .MOV container.

Resolution and frame rate options include 1,920 x 1088 pixels (23.976, 25, or 29.97 frames per second), 1,280 x 720 pixels (59.94 or 50 fps), or 640 x 480 pixels (59.94 or 50 fps). The numerous different frame rates match various broadcast television formats etc., removing the need to transcode to the intended output frame rate after capture, and the available frame rates will depend on whether the camera is set to NTSC or PAL mode.

The Canon 1D Mark IV's movies include 48KHz audio, recorded either with a newly added monaural microphone on the camera's front panel, or via an external microphone attached to the camera's standard 3.5mm stereo jack. No control is offered over audio levels when recording, however. In addition to the new microphone on the front of the camera body, the 1D Mark IV also retains a rear-panel microphone used for the camera's voice memo function, as well as a rear-panel speaker that caters to both video and voice memo modes. The Canon 1D Mark IV's HD video mode would not be complete without an HDMI-out port, so that was included as well.

It is possible to perform a contrast-detect autofocus operation during movie recording; however Canon recommends against doing so on the basis that the AF operation will be noticeable in both the video and audio portions of the recording. Exposure can be controlled either automatically or manually, with all of the camera's extremely wide range of ISO sensitivities available, except for the expanded ISO 50 setting. When recording using manual exposure, it is possible to set the ISO sensitivity directly, or to leave this under the camera's control while manually specifying the aperture and shutter speed.

Limited in-camera video editing is possible, with the ability to trim the start or end of a video clip in one-second increments, and save the result as either a new file, or overwriting the original.

Much like the previous EOS 5D Mark II, the EOS-1D Mark IV provides the ability to capture a still image during movie capture by pressing the shutter button, with the still frame being recorded both as a separate image, and also placed into the video stream at the point of capture rather than leaving blank frames. Video capture itself is triggered by first placing the camera in Live View mode, then pressing the FEL button to start or stop video recording.

Custom Functions. Several custom functions have been added to the EOS-1D Mark IV which bear mentioning. The first relates to video recording, altering the previously described behavior in one detail. Through a custom function, it is possible to set the camera to remove the two-step process that requires the photographer to first enter Live View mode before the FEL button can be used to start movie recording. With this custom function set, the FEL button can instead simultaneously start live view mode and begin movie recording all in one step.

There are also several new custom functions relating to the EOS-1D Mark IV's autofocus system, which should make the camera rather more versatile. A new addition to the AF Point Expansion function allows the user to select any AF point as a starting point, and have the camera automatically track the subject beginning from that point, across any other AF point. The currently active point is indicated in the viewfinder, and also shown in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software.

The 1D Mark IV also offers a spot AF custom function like that in the EOS 7D, which acts similarly to single-point AF, except that it reduces the size of the AF point. This can be useful when shooting overlapping subjects -- for example, an animal in a cage -- but can also make it harder to obtain a focus lock, especially when hand-holding the camera or shooting moving subjects.

Finally, a EOS-1D Mark IV custom function relating to AI-Servo AF allows separate selection of focus-lock or shutter-release priority for the first shot in a burst, and subsequent shots. This allows the photographer to decide, for example, that the timing of the first shot is more important than whether the camera has determined a focus lock, but that for subsequent shots precise focus is more critical than burst speed.

Storage. The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV can store still images as Adobe RGB or sRGB compressed JPEG files, 14-bit .CR2 Raw files, or both file types simultaneously. Images are stored on either CompactFlash or Secure Digital cards, with one card slot available for each type. For CF, both Type-I and Type-II cards are supported, as are UDMA Mode 6 cards. SD support includes the faster and higher-capacity SDHC types.

It is possible to copy files between cards in-camera, and several options are available that allow the EOS-1D Mark IV to duplicate images on both cards simultaneously, to separate file types by flash card slot, or to select one card as an overflow for use when the other card is filled to capacity.

Connectivity options include USB 2.0 High-Speed data transfer, and NTSC / PAL standard definition video output.

Battery. The EOS-1D Mark IV's power comes courtesy of an LP-E4 lithium-ion rechargeable battery, the same type as that used in the EOS-1D Mark III. Battery life is rather lower, though, due to the increased sensor resolution, and the attendant increase in processing that this brings. Where the Mark III was rated to yield 2,200 shots on a charge (73F / 23C), the EOS-1D Mark IV is rated for 1,500 shots on a charge in the same conditions.

 

Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
Shooter's Report

by Andrew Alexander

I had the pleasure to shoot with the Canon 1D Mark IV for several weeks, with a variety of lenses. Though my primary focus was on the camera's new video recording mode, I also took the opportunity to test the Canon 1D Mark IV in a variety of scenarios for which the camera was intended, such as sports. The primary emphasis of this report assumes that the reader has had some experience with shooting a pro-level camera (and perhaps the Canon EOS 1D Mark III in particular), but where appropriate, we'll be describing specific features.

Ergonomics. The Canon EOS 1D Mark IV is the definition of a professional camera body: solid and ruggedly built. If there was any doubt of this, its three-pound weight--without a lens attached--should remind you of this fact. Despite the weight, the Canon 1D Mark IV is extremely comfortable in the hand, with great attention to detail being paid to where your fingers and thumbs naturally come to rest in order to operate the camera's controls. The camera is only slightly less comfortable to operate in the portrait orientation, as your thumb tends dig into the side of a less-gracefully sculpted AF-on button. It's a minor complaint, as this is not a camera you'll realistically be shooting with one hand, and thus the weight gets distributed between both your hands. Speaking of minor points, one thing I very much like about the 1D Mark IV is its eyepiece: it protrudes 3/8-inch out from the LCD screen, meaning there is ample room to park your nose.

The Canon 1D Mark IV features strap mounting lugs where you'd expect them, on the top left and top right sections, but there's also a third strap mounting lug on the bottom of the camera, for use in connecting a hand strap. This is a nice touch because most third party systems rely the camera's tripod mounting socket to attach a hand strap; using such a hand strap in conjunction with a tripod becomes a bit of a pain. The tripod mount is a standard 1/4-20 screw size, but there's no alignment hole for locking a tripod mounting plate into position.

The last comment about camera ergonomics is unavoidable: Using the Canon 1D Mark IV in movie recording mode is especially tricky. Since the inception of the EOS-1 series as a film camera, it has been conceived, designed, refined and improved from the ground up as a stills-shooting device, and not as a video camera. Accordingly, holding a three-pound camera with arms outstretched as focus is judged on an LCD screen is challenging for more than the shortest of clips, especially if a lens of any weight is employed. For serious movie recording, this isn't the camera you want. However, this fact has provided fertile ground for the manufacturers of third-party accessories, and a whole industry has built up around improving the dSLR as a video shooting platform.

Controls. There are over two dozen buttons, dials and switches to manipulate on the Canon 1D Mark IV: if you've never used this model before, you're going to have to invest some time in getting to use them. Canon has a "tried and true" design implementation for its controls, with additional buttons appearing as an evolution to the overall design. In terms of the actual usability of the controls, the compliment I will pay the Canon 1D Mark IV is that there is no doubt involved here: there's just the right amount of "click" to the buttons and dials that let you know when the control is being used. You won't accidentally be pushing a button or turning a control wheel, unless you really mash the camera.

Generally, the buttons that are going to be used most are within convenient reach of all fingers and the thumb. In my experience with the Canon 1D Mark IV, there are two exceptions to this statement. The first concerns the top-right control buttons for LCD illumination, exposure compensation, and ISO speed selection: these buttons are just too far away from where my index finger is falling, requiring me to either use my other hand to select the appropriate button, or more likely, requiring me to adjust my right thumb position so I can stretch my finger over where it's required. I see some empty space on the "shelf" where the main dial and Flash Exposure Lock button are located: why can't these buttons show up there? It could be that Canon's user interface engineers have determined that it's too confusing or crowded to put any extra buttons there. I'm no engineer; all I know is, my fingers can't reach those buttons comfortably from where they are naturally encouraged to rest. Those who have been shooting Canon pro and semi-pro SLRs for years will no doubt be used to these buttons in this location.

The second awkward placement isn't quite as frustrating: in the portrait orientation, the Canon 1D Mark IV's FE-L button is below left of the main dial, while in the horizontal orientation, it's above left of the main dial. If you rely on Flash Exposure Lock for your photography, you'll have to adapt to this difference, but I also found that in the portrait orientation the button is just a bit too far away from the main dial to be comfortable: I had to stretch my finger a fair bit to get there. In the regular orientation, it's perfectly placed.

The multi-controller (known popularly as the "joystick") was introduced in the Mark III model to supplement the Quick Control dial, and its operation is unchanged in the Canon 1D Mark IV. In the Mark II model, it was a fairly cumbersome process to pan horizontally and vertically through zoomed-in images in Playback mode, requiring use of both the Quick Control dial and the Main dial; the multi-controller performs this function a bit more intuitively, leaving the Quick Control dial to move backward and forward through the images. The Main dial performs a similar function, but moves backward and forward in groups of ten.

The Canon 1D Mark IV offers multiple methods for performing the same function; this is either good or bad depending on your point of view. For example, selecting an autofocus point. The operation is commenced by pressing the AF Point selection button (the third "thumb" button), which brings up the selection screen, both on the main LCD and a more basic view in the viewfinder. The multi-controller allows you to move directly to the point you'd like to select; the quick control dial scrolls through the points vertically. The main dial scrolls through them horizontally. Confirming your selection is performed by pressing either the shutter button or the "SET" button in the middle of the Quick Command dial; pressing the joystick in either resets the autofocus selection point to the central point, or toggles between the central point Automatic Selection, if it's already in the center. In this particular example there are several ways to accomplish the same objective, and Canon has wisely chosen to augment the functionality rather than change it, allowing Mark II users who didn't adopt the Mark III a way to dive in to the Canon 1D Mark IV.

Menus. Canon uses a standardized menu structure for choosing and selecting the hundreds of options available to modify the performance of the 1D Mark IV. The menu is engaged by pressing the "Menu" button, which brings up Menu options subdivided into nine groups along the top of the LCD screen. This is another case where the camera's two types of controllers provide alternate methods of navigating and selecting the menu functions: the main and quick control dials allow horizontal and vertical navigation through the menu structure, with the "SET" button of the Quick control dial providing selection and confirmation of menu choices. Alternately, the Multi-controller offers the same navigation, and pressing the multi-controller offers the same selection and confirmation functionality as the "SET" button. Different strokes for different folks. Pressing the "Menu" button retreats backwards in the menu structure.

The camera's menu layout is divided into five sub-menu groups: Shooting (Red), Playback (Blue), Set-up (Yellow), Custom functions (Orange), and My Menu (Green). I won't spend a lot of time on the dozens of individual menu settings, other than to say that everything is essentially where you would expect to find it. My one criticism would be that there's no integrated help system in this deep menu structure. While I recognize that this is a professional camera, I can't imagine it would take much work to link the "Info" button to an on-demand system which pops-up a short description explaining what a particular setting does. This would not only create an easier learning curve for the Canon 1D Mark IV, it would allow the photographer to leave the manual at home.

The Custom Functions menu allows the user to fine-tune the operation of the camera with over sixty specific functions. If there were any doubt remaining concerning the nature of this camera as a professional tool, one need only need look at the Custom Functions settings to put those doubts to rest. Everything from lens focusing micro-adjustment to the character of certain buttons can be altered with these settings, to allow the shooter to customize the camera's operation to meet their specific needs. One complete subgroup, with nineteen custom functions, exists solely to adjust the operation of autofocus. All of the Canon 1D Mark IV's settings can be saved to a file on a memory card, so that you can take your settings with you from camera to camera.

New custom functions relating to autofocus bear special attention, as Canon has devoted a great deal of attention to allowing the photographer to customize the camera according to their needs.

Custom Function1D Mark III1D Mark IVChange
AI Servo 1st/2nd image priorityC.Fn III-3C.Fn III-33: Release/Tracking priority: allows the camera to prioritize focus tracking over shooting speed.
Lens AF stop button functionC.Fn III-6C.Fn III-67: Spot AF: only showing up on super telephoto IS lenses, the camera allows the lens-based button to temporarily switch to a single AF point.
AF expansion with selected pointC.Fn III-8C.Fn III-83: All 45 points area: added due to the increase from 19 to 45 AF points in the camera. Initial focusing is performed on the manually selected AF point, combined with the surrounding eighteen focus points. In the AI Servo AF mode, the camera will track focus with all 45 focus points as the subject moves through the frame.
Multi-controller while meteringN/AC.Fn III-9New to the 1D Mark IV, with this setting active the photographer may select the AF point directly without first pressing the AF point selector button (+).
Selectable AF pointC.Fn III-9C.Fn III-10The Mark IV switches the order around a bit, changing the default '0' setting to 45 points. The number of selectable points can be limited to 19 (as seen in the Mark III), and a new option to select just 11 points. The inner and outer 9 points settings remain.
Switch to registered AF pointC.Fn III-10C.Fn III-112: Only while * is pressed, adds an extra layer of button pushing to ensure the AF point doesn't get accidentally switched.
AF-assist beam firingC.Fn III-14C.Fn III-152: IR AF-assist beam only, restricting the AF assist to flash units that have an infrared assist beam.
Orientation linked AF pointN/AC.Fn III-16New to the Mark IV, the orientation sensor in the camera can detect when it is being used in portrait or landscape orientations, and automatically switch to a different registered AF point.

Shooting. The Canon 1D Mark IV isn't really a camera you buy for casual shooting: it's a professional tool, purpose-built to offer class-leading autofocus performance. It's about putting the subject in focus in the widest range of shooting situations possible, consistently. To that end I had to actively seek out a scenario that would provide a challenge for the camera. Thanks to my professional photographer friend Leon Switzer, the Mark IV ended up shooting two pro sporting events: a Harlem Globetrotters basketball game, and an exhibition soccer match featuring Italian team AC Milan.

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A sequence of five images shot at the AC Milan-Impact de Montreal exhibition soccer match. 400mm f/2.8L (effectively 520mm on the Canon 1D Mark IV), 1/500s, f/2.8, ISO 2,500. Images © 2010, Leon Switzer.

Neither of us had used the Canon 1D Mark III to a great degree, and certainly not enough to be considered fluent in the eccentricities that demanded the updates that appear in the Canon 1D Mark IV. In general, with L-glass lenses mounted, the autofocus of the Mark IV springs into action, finding focus extremely quickly and confidently. For single-shot focus where both the shooter and the camera had the time to consider what we wanted to focus on, Leon didn't note any difficulty in achieving perfect focus almost all the time. Indeed, in Playback mode, it was clear that when an image was out of focus it was because the autofocus sensor wasn't properly placed on the subject. In AI-servo mode however, he did encounter some focusing issues, but the caveat to be made up front is that this is a camera with more than a handful of options for fine-tuning autofocus performance, and we only had it a short time; this is a camera that demands trial and error to suit to your individual shooting style, and it may be that with the proper settings dialed in, you wouldn't have the same issues we had.

The 1.3x crop factor of the APS-H sensor makes for a perfect working distance when shooting basketball; with the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L mounted, the long end becomes 260mm, which is just enough to get a nice tight shot of the basket. For regular court action, zoomed out to 70mm (effectively 91mm) gives a wider field. Of course, if the action gets too close, you're reaching for the second body with a wider lens attached--if you have the time. Leon usually shoots with the 5D Mark II, and found that the main advantage of the Canon 1D Mark IV is its substantially higher frame rate of 10 frames per second in Continuous High mode. This is extremely fast, especially when compared with the ~4 frames per second of the 5D Mark II, and Leon found that he had the luxury of choosing the exact moment in critical moments compared to hoping he had something he could use.

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A sequence of five images shot at a Harlem Globetrotters exhibition basketball match. 70-200mm f/2.8L (effectively 91-260mm on the Canon 1D Mark IV), ISO 3,200. Images © 2010, Leon Switzer.

Leon found that the auto white balance wasn't quite right, particularly during the soccer match with stadium lighting. Instead, he dialed in a custom white balance and shot RAW, so he could fix it in post. For his shots he shot wide open at f/2.8, at 1/500 second, and let the ISO adjust to get properly exposed images; this resulted in ISO speeds of between 2,000 and 2,500. Looking at the images, there is hardly any noise to speak of, which he found quite impressive.

The new predictive autofocus feature of the Mark IV did not work well for Leon; he found he had to turn it off because it was not functioning as he expected. Instead, he used regular AI servo continuous focus with a fixed autofocus point, which worked perfectly for him. Specifically, he noted that when soccer players approached him, as long as he kept the autofocus point on a player, the camera would maintain focus perfectly. With predictive focus tracking enabled, he found the camera would seek to focus on something other than what he intended; essentially, he was fighting with the camera. He readily admitted he didn't have time to figure it out, but did think that if there was a quick selection button which allowed the user to enable or disable it, it could become a useful, if infrequently used function--at least for his shooting style.

To examine the predictive autofocus tracking function in greater detail, I arranged a side-by-side test between the Nikon D3 and the Canon 1D Mark IV. Both cameras were equipped with a 70-200mm f/2.8 image-stabilized lens, and set to use the same equivalent shooting settings. It wasn't a completely fair test, as the D3 did not have the buffer upgrade of the D3s, meaning the D3 could take just over 20 photos before its buffer would be filled; the 1D Mark IV, by comparison, could just keep shooting and shooting.

With all the autofocus options of the Canon 1D Mark IV, it took us a while to get to a point where we were seeing predictive autofocus tracking in action, but eventually we did see it. Canon promotes this predictive autofocus tracking system similarly to Nikon: as the subject moves across the field of view, the camera automatically finds the subject, focuses on it, and changes focusing points automatically as the subject moves from one to the next. In practice, we found that we never really observed a completely successful example of the camera tracking focus. By contrast, the Nikon D3 had no trouble exhibiting this function.

For test subjects we decided to shoot moving cars, which travel in a more or less predictable direction, tracking them as they passed. In all cases, we attempted to focus, and maintain focus, on the front headlight closest to us. The results of our testing were quite mixed: the number of variables in our limited testing were difficult to isolate, so these results can hardly be considered definitive. However, there were some obvious and important conclusions that we drew.

Tracking focus - regular focus. In this case, we shot ten vehicles as they passed in front of us. Our target was the headlight closest to us, and we tried to track the camera so that the headlight was consistently visible (obviously, when the car passed by completely, the headlight was no longer visible). Here is one example of the shots acquired, including commentary for each shot. For this test, the following settings were used:

Canon 1D Mark IVNikon D3
AI Servo tracking sensitivity: SlowFocus Tracking with Lock-On: Long
AS Servo 1st/2nd image priority: AF Priority/Tracking priorityAF-C Priority: Focus
AI Servo AF tracking method: Main focus point priorityDynamic AF Area: 51 points (3D-tracking)
Lens drive when AF impossible: Focus search onAF Point Selection: 51 points
AF expansion with selected point: All 45 points area

Canon 1D Mark IV
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Nikon D3
Image:
01/20

An auspicious beginning; a pole in front of both focus points. The Canon has slightly better focus, but the focus sensitivity settings on both cameras prevent them from re-focusing.

We didn't notice until well after we had left the shooting area that the 1D Mark IV hadn't been set with predictive focus enabled, whereas the D3 had been used with the 51-point 3D focus tracking, making for an unbalanced comparison. As it happened, we actually got better results with Main focus point priority compared to Continuous AF track priority (as we'll explore next). In this example, and many others like it, the Canon 1D Mark IV did exceptionally well with Main focus point priority enabled, tracking focus correctly throughout dozens of images. However, as the above images show, the camera didn't expand its AF range as specified by custom function III-8 (AF expansion with selected point) even though that was set to "All 45 points area."

Tracking focus - predictive focus. In this case, we shot vehicles as they passed in front of us. Again, our target was the headlight closest to us, and we tried to track the camera so that the headlight was consistently visible. Here is one example of the shots acquired, including commentary for each shot. For this test, the following settings were used:

Canon 1D Mark IVNikon D3
AI Servo tracking sensitivity: SlowFocus Tracking with Lock-On: Long
AS Servo 1st/2nd image priority: AF priority/Tracking priorityAF-C Priority: Focus
AI Servo AF tracking method: Continuous AF track priorityDynamic AF Area: 51 points (3D-tracking)
Lens drive when AF impossible: Focus search onAF Point Selection: 51 points
AF expansion with selected point: All 45 points area

Canon 1D Mark IV
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[06] [07] [08] [09] [10]
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Nikon D3
Image:
01/19

Both cameras start off in focus, though the D3 has chosen a new focus point well away from the initial point.

We can say one thing for sure: the Canon 1D Mark IV is very definitive and blazingly fast when it decides to refocus. In image #15 above, the image is in focus: images #16 and #17 are out of focus, but #18 is back in focus. These four images were all taken at 16:53:49, and there are actually five other images in this series with the same timestamp, meaning that the between images #15 and #18, the camera refocused in a few tenths of a second. Generally though, it's hard to know exactly what to make of these results: they're indicative of the 1D Mark IV's overall performance in each of the tests (some sequences had more shots in focus, some had less, but it was rare that we noted a sequence of absolutely in-focus images throughout). It may be that we didn't set the right combination of custom functions, or use the camera properly. By contrast, the Nikon D3 just seemed to work without fuss. More importantly, you had a sense that you knew what it was focusing on, that it was responding to your direction; the 1D Mark IV seemed almost erratic in comparison. With the Nikon, while it certainly wasn't perfect (it would wander off on its own from time to time) more often than not it was maintaining a focus lock on the subject I had chosen. With the Canon 1D Mark IV, it seemed to be very reluctant to leave the central focus point.

What we can say is that when it worked, predictive focus seemed to work very well. But when predictive focus didn't work, it was unclear what the problem was, and more importantly, how to correct it. This is clearly a camera that is designed with the most advanced autofocus technology and algorithm Canon can muster, but the question is, is it becoming so advanced that it is too difficult for the end user to master? Professionals coming to this system will be well-advised to test and practice with it thoroughly before using it in critical situations.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Printed Results

Printed JPEGs with all settings at their defaults and ISO at 50 yield very sharp 20x30-inch prints with good color and high contrast.

ISO 100 shots are ever so slightly softer at 20x30, but the difference requires squinting, and it's difficult to be sure there's any difference at all.

ISO 200 images also look superb at 20x30.

ISO 400 files also look just great at 20x30.

ISO 800 files--holding this pro camera to a higher standard here--look better at 16x24, but they're also quite amazingly good at 20x30.

ISO 1,600 shots show the slightest hints of grain in the shadows, but are still quite remarkable at 16x24. Difficult patterns like the red leaf fabric and Pure Brewed label start to soften slightly, but not badly.

ISO 3,200 files show more grain, more softness, but are still quite good at 16x24.

ISO 6,400 images show enough noise and noise suppression softening for a reduction to 13x19 inches. Contrast is also increased, with very dark darks, and deepening shadows. The red swatch is really starting to distort as well.

ISO 12,800 shots start to show salt and pepper noise in the shadows, and the red swatch is blurry, but overall it's good at 11x14 inches.

ISO 25,600 is a little dicey at 11x14 inches, looking more like a colorized B&W, with a slight hint of chroma blotches in the shadows and solid colors. Reducing to 8x12 inches makes a more usable print. Darks continue to deepen.

ISO 51,200 shows more chroma noise and grain, but it's not a terrible appearance at 8x12. Still, it's more up to the standard we look for printed at 5x7 inches.

ISO 102,400 has even more chroma noise and grain, looking more like a very festive birthday cake with sprinkles, and darks are essentially clipped blacks. It's usable at 4x6, but not excellent. I'd take it and remove the color with a filter, though.

RAW is obviously where you'd want to start for optimum quality from ISO 3,200 up, but the potential is huge. Overall it's another impressive performance from a Canon pro camera.

 

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Basic Features

 

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Special Features

 

In the Box

 

Recommended Accessories



 

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Excellent 16-megapixel sensor with very low noise and superb detail
  • Dust removal technology reduces sensor cleaning chores
  • High-resolution 3.0-inch LCD makes checking focus and composing in Live View an excellent experience
  • Status display includes more detail
  • "My Menu" allows for customizable menu items
  • Fast image transfer eliminates the need for a card reader
  • Excellent grip for most hand sizes
  • Live View mode is great when shooting from odd angles
  • Live View works from computer via cable or WiFi (with Canon WFTE2 II wireless file transmitter)
  • Interchangeable focusing screens
  • Picture Styles makes choosing and customizing color modes fast and easy
  • Compatible with over 50 lenses and accessories
  • Uses both CF and SD memory cards
  • AF Point memory recalls a fixed focus point when camera is rotated
  • Large buffer depth allows for many followup shots, though it fills fast at 10 fps!
  • Highlight detail is well preserved at default settings
  • Highlight Tone Priority makes it even better
  • Adjustable Auto Lighting Optimization
  • Images are sharp, but not oversharpened, and noise suppression is kept well under control
  • Noise suppression is also adjustable
  • Color is very accurate, with only red being a little off, which consumers generally like
  • Auto white balance handles most situations very well
  • High ISO images are impressive, all the way up to ISO 3,200
  • Print quality is excellent, making sharp 20x30-inch prints
  • RAW images can easily produce even larger prints
  • Great shot-to-shot, shutter lag, and cycle time numbers
  • RAW files are very clean
  • AF microadjustment
  • Vignetting correction
  • HDMI Output
  • Full HD Movie mode
  • Automatic white balance much too warm in incandescent lighting
  • Battery capacity is reduced from the larger screen and dust off system
  • No integrated help system for menus
  • Predictive autofocus tracking is not always reliable, very complicated
  • Some luminance and color noise at ISO 3,200 and 6,400; very noisy at 12,800 and above

 

As the company's more popular professional camera in terms of units sold, Canon's 1D Mark IV came a little early in its development cycle with two major improvements, along with a resolution increase. Movie mode was important to compete with the Nikon D3S, giving Canon professional photographers the ability to shoot video when necessary, as well as stills. And a new approach to the 1D Mark IV's autofocus system was required to address the extreme difficulties many sports photographers had with the 1D Mark III's AF system. Of course, adding the 16-megapixel sensor allows the 1D Mark IV to keep up with the semi-pro and consumer cameras below, while offering improved high-ISO performance.

Overall, the 1D Mark IV's improvements are a success. Movie mode is complete enough for the main purpose of capturing video clips for news, and with the great success of the 5D Mark II, cinematographers already have a full-frame camera better suited for full-scale video production. Adding some control over audio would be an improvement worth making. Autofocus, while not quite as accurate as the 1D Mark II N, is noticeably improved, certainly better than the 1D Mark III. And despite the smaller pixel pitch on the higher-resolution sensor, the Canon 1D Mark IV still manages to improve its high ISO performance over the 1D Mark III. The Nikon D3S still outdoes the 1D Mark IV at the higher ISOs, but this is a great step up.

In most other respects, the Canon 1D Mark IV is a remarkably capable camera, fit for news, sports, and many other types of professional photography. Its fast frame rate of 10 frames per second make it excellent for action, yet its higher resolution makes it great for portrait or other work. Printed results tell most of the story, outputting 16x24-inch prints at ISO 3,200. The Canon 1D Mark IV is built like a tank, is very well sealed against the elements when used with the right lenses, and its controls and menu system are very easy to use. The new tempered LCD glass also makes the 1D Mark IV more durable than ever.

The Canon EOS 1D Mark IV is one fine professional digital camera, and a clear Dave's Pick.

 

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