Canon EOS 1D MkIV Review
The Canon EOS 1D Mark IV is the latest in Canon’s 1D series DSLRs. The 1D series is unique in its use of an APS-H format sensor (28.1×18.7mm). The sensor is larger than APS-C and so can yield higher image quality, but is smaller than full frame, which means that the file size is smaller and the reflex mirror can be smaller and lighter and so the camera can operate at higher speeds (10 frames per sec). The high speed operation of the 1D series cameras has made them the first choice for many sports and action photographers. Like other 1D and 1Ds series cameras, the EOS 1D MkIV has an integrated grip with a second set of controls for vertical shooting, a high capacity battery pack, high strength construction and the body is weather-sealed for operation outdoors in the rain.
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1D MkIV Major Features
- New 16.1 Megapixel APS-H CMOS sensor
- 10 frames per second continuous shooting
- Up to 121 large JPEG images in a single burst
- New 45-point wide area AF with 39 cross-type sensors with f/2.8 sensitivity
- New upgraded AF system designed for high speed tracking of moving subjects
- High-speed Dual DIGIC 4 processors for fast operation and high image quality
- 12,800 high ISO expandable up to 102,400
- Full HD movie recording at 30, 25 and 24 frames per second (fps)
- 3.0" Clear View II LCD with Live View mode
- Durable dust and water resistant body with 76 rubber seals
- 1/8000s shutter with 300,000 cycle rating and 1/300s sync
- Size: 6.1 × 6.2 × 3.1 in./156 × 156.6 × 79.9mm
- Weight: 1180 g / 41.6 oz (2.6 lbs)
The EOS 1D MkIV is a large camera. The integrated grip and high capacity battery significantly increase the size of the camera body when compared to an EOS 5D MkII and it’s much bigger than something like a digital Rebel T2i. The 1D MkIV wouldn’t fit in either my LowePro Off Trail bag or my LowePro Mini-Trekker backpack. It’s also pretty heavy at just over 2.5lbs in weight—and that doesn’t include a lens!
Of course the size and weight are related to the sturdy construction required for serious professional use. The grip is integrated for reasons of strength and reliability. With an integrated grip there are no concerns over body-to-grip contacts or dust and moisture ingression, plus there’s no weak mechanical coupling to fail if the camera is dropped or otherwise abused. The chassis of the 1D MkIV is all metal of course and is environmentally sealed using 76 different rubber seals and gaskets. All this adds to the bulk of the camera.
The 1D MkIV is a serious professional tool for photography. It’s not a camera you’re likely to try to slip in your pocket (or even hang around your neck) while going for a casual stroll in the park.
The control layout of the 1D MkIV is similar to that of other 1 series cameras (including film cameras). Operating mode is set via push buttons and the main control wheel rather than depending on a dial. Again this is related to durability and reliability. There’s no rotary dial to knock off if you drop the camera and it’s easier to weather-seal a button than a rotary dial. On the left side of the camera are the control buttons for setting the shooting mode, AF mode, drive mode, metering mode and flash exposure compensation, as well as buttons for displaying the menu on the rear LCD and selecting the info displayed.
Over on the right side are the top mounted control buttons for LCD illumination, ISO setting, exposure compensation and FEL. The FEL button is located next to the shutter release and also controls multi-spot metering and starts and stops the movie mode in live view. Buttons on the top right of the back control exposure lock, AF zone selection, AF start/stop and also control the image magnification in playback mode. These buttons (along with the shutter release) are duplicated on the lower right side of the grip so that they are available (and similarly positioned) when shooting in vertical (portrait) mode.
The viewfinder assembly (pentaprism and optics) is essentially the same as that used in the 1D MkIII. It has 100% coverage with approximately 0.76x magnification and a 20mm eyepoint, A dioptric adjustment of -3 to 1 diopters is built in and there is an eyepiece shutter to block off light during long exposures. The focusing screen is the Laser-matte Ec-C IV (the same as is used in the EOS-1D Mark III). It provides a clear image for easy focusing, excellent brightness, low “grain” and a natural looking background blur. It can be replaced by any of the series 1 Ec focusing screens if desired.
The viewfinder display is split into two parts, one horizontal display below the screen and the other vertical and to the right of the screen. The vertical display shows metering (including flash metering) and exposure compensation in 1/3 stop steps from +3 to -3 stops. It also shows indicators for JPEG and RAW file recording, maximum burst count and battery level.
The horizontal display shows the usual EOS parameters including shutter speed, aperture, ISO, highlight tone priority, shots remaining, flash status, metering mode, focus confirmation and white balance correction.
The viewfinder screen itself shows the central circular area covered by the spot meter as well as an outline of the area covered by the AF zones).
The 1D MkIV features a 3-inch LCD monitor with approximately 920,000 dots (VGA res), a wide (160°) viewing angle, high brightness and low power consumption. Colors and color reproduction have been improved over the EOS-1D Mark III and natural-looking images close to the sRGB color space are obtained.
The material used for the protective cover has been changed from a plastic to reinforced
glass to prevent any force applied to the protective cover from reaching the LCD panel
through the optical elastic material. The new cover is also much more scratch resistant.
The EOS-1D Mark IV’s LCD screen has an anti-reflective coating and a smudge-resistant coating and this is coupled with internal technology which also reduces internal reflections. This results in a high contrast image which is easier to see even outdoors in sunlight.
There is a small monochrome LCD below the main color LCD which is used to display various items of camera status. There are indicators to show which type of media cards are in use, the white balance settings, the size and type of image recording (RAW, JPEG), information on file and folder numbers and indicators associated with wired and wireless LAN connections.
The top mounted LCD displays the usual EOS data including shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, shots remaining, battery status, ISO setting. metering, drive and AF modes, HTP and AEB status and mirror lock up status.
Operation and Timing
I tested the 1D MkIV using a SanDisk Extreme Pro CF card rated at 90MB/s. This card is UDMA 6 enabled and it’s currently one of the fastest CF cards available.
The camera was set to 1/500s, ISO 100 and focus was fixed. In RAW mode the buffer held 32 frames recorded at 10.0 frames per second (fps) before the shooting rate slowed. After the buffer filled the frame rate averaged about 3.5 fps.
When the ISO setting was increased to ISO 3200 and all other settings left the same, the buffer filled after 23 RAW images at 10.0 fps. After the buffer filled the average rate dropped to around 2 fps.
At ISO 100 recording RAW + JPEG (highest quality and resolution) images, the buffer held 19 frames shot at 10.0 frames/sec after which the average frame rate dropped to around 2.5 fps.
Recording JPEG images at ISO 100 the frame rate was 10.0 fps. The buffer still hadn’t filled after 20 seconds (200 frames), which is where I gave up!
Both shutter lag and viewfinder blackout time are very short. Too short for me to measure. Canon quote values of 55ms shutter lag and 80ms mirror blackout time and those sound like reasonable numbers. There is also a custom function which can shorten shutter lag to approximately 40 ms when the lens is set to its maximum aperture.
ISO and Noise
The EOS 1D MkIV has an ISO range of 100-12,800 without expansion. When expansion is enabled via a custom function, there are additional ISO settings of 50 (L), 25,600 (H1), 51,200 (h2) and a remarkable 102,400 (H3). There’s also an auto ISO function which can also be customized with the photographer’s choice of upper and lower limits between ISO 100 and ISO 12800. Auto ISO functions in manual mode, so the photographer can set shutter speed and aperture and the camera will select the appropriate ISO setting for optimum exposure.
The actual photosensitive area of the 1D MkIV pixels is the same as that of the 1D MkIII, despite the higher pixel density (16MP vs. 10.1MP). This was accomplished by more efficient use of the sensor area by maximizing the photosensitive area of each pixel as well as the use of an improved fabrication process that yields a sensitivity gain. In addition a gapless microlens and higher transmission Bayer matrix color filter further improve light capture. So in spite of a higher pixel density (and therefore a smaller pixel size), the 1D MkIV shows a lower noise level than the 1D MkIII.
Noise at low ISO settings is virtually absent and in fact stays very low indeed up to ISO 1600. At ISO 3200 things are still very good though some noise is visible. Even at ISO 12800 image noise is acceptable for many applications. Once ISO goes into the expanded range things get worse. ISO 25600 is noisy but not too awful, but at ISO 51200 noise is clearly degrading the image and at ISO 102400 noise and image degradation due to noise reduction makes this strictly an “emergency only” setting. The image samples on the right are 100% crops from a test chart shot at ISO settings from 100 to 102400 so you can see the effects for yourself.
I’d say that the noise level of the EOS 1D MkIV is pretty similar to that of the EOS 5D MkII through ISO 6400 and is at least one stop better than the noise level of the EOS 7D. At ISO 12800 and 25600 the 1D MkIV shows the lower noise than the 5D MkII.
Like all the professional 1 series EOS cameras, the 1D MkIV does not have any built in flash capability. There are several reasons why a pop-up flash isn’t used. First lack of space in the pentaprism area and second, better weather-sealing since a pop-up flash gives more areas for water and dust penetration. A pop-up flash is also susceptible to damage so a sealed pentaprism unit leads to a tougher camera. There is the standard EOS hotshoe and a PC flash connector. Maximum sync voltage is 250v and maximum sync speed is 1/300s for small compact flashes. Sync speed may be slower with large studio flash systems. Flash exposure microadjustment is provided.
There is no built in wireless flash control. A wireless master speedlite or wireless flash controller must to mounted to the hot shoe for wireless flash control.
Autofocus operation has been something of a thorn in the side of Canon when it comes to the 1D series cameras, or more specifically the EOS 1D MkIII, which preceeded the EOS 1D MkIV. While some users were delighted with the AF and had no problems, others found fault with operation with AF tracking of moving subjects under certain sets of conditions. Canon offered repairs on the sub-mirror assembly of some cameras which had a problem and several firmware updates were issued to address AF tracking issues. Canon also recalibrated the AF system on some cameras returned to them for AF tracking problems.
Despite these issues, many photographers had no problems and the AF system of the EOS 1D MkIII was very, very good under most conditions and the camera was widely used by professional photojournalists. It wasn’t 100% perfect 100% of the time, but nothing ever is.However the problems got a lot of press and the reputation of Canon took a bit of a hit in some quarters.
Given the legacy of the controversy concerning the 1D MkIII, it’s likely that Canon put a LOT of work into developing the AF system of the EOS 1D MkIV. Again most users seem to be very happy with it. I was certainly very happy with it and I’d say it’s the best AF I’ve ever used—but there are still some voices out there claiming tracking AF isn’t perfect.
The 1D MkIV AF system is quite complex. It has 45 zones, 39 of which can be manually selected. 19 zones are used when the camera auto selects the AF point, All 39 zones have cross sensitivity. The center AF zone is a cross type with vertical AF sensitivity up to f4 and horizontal sensitivity up to f/8. That means that lenses up to f/8 (e.g. f/4 with a 2x TC) can be autofocused using the center AF zone (horizontal sensitivity only). The other AF zones have vertical sensitivity up to f/2.8 and horizontal sensitivity up to f/5.6, which means they act as cross sensors for lenses f/2.8 and faster and horizontal sensors for lenses slower than f/2.8.
However (and I did warn that the AF system is complex), the following lenses—although f/4 maximum aperture—allow the 39 AF zones to act as cross sensors, even though they are not f/2.8. Don’t ask me how or why…
- EF 17-40mm f/4L USM
- EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
- EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM + Extender EF1.4x II
- EF 200mm f/2L IS USM + Extender EF2x II
- EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM + Extender EF1.4x II
- EF 400mm f/2.8L IS USM + Extender EF1.4x II
Canon goes in to say “During manual AF point selection, the six single-axis AF points (or 26 AF points during automatic AF point selection) other than the 39 cross-type AF points will work as horizontal line-sensitive sensors at maximum apertures up to f/5.6. They have the same detection performance as the EOS-1D Mark III’s assist points working at maximum apertures up to f/5.6. The two AF points at the immediate top and bottom of the center AF point have improved detection performance and precision due to the doubling of the number of lines for the f/5.6 sensor”. Like I said, complex.
Even when you’ve understood all the hardware, you have a choice of several custom functions which can be used to tailor the AF system to your exact liking. You can select the number of AF zones used, the sensitivity to interference from objects moving between the camera and subject, whether AF or drive speed or tracking has priority for the first frame in a continuous sequence, You can also select which (if any) AF points come into play and assist if the chosen AF point loses focus on the subject. For a beginner, the number of options would probably overwhelm them.
Autofocus microadjustment is provided enabling fine tuning of focus, which can be stored on a lens by lens basis, or the same adjustment can be applied to all lenses.
There are no standardized tests for AF operation as there are resolution tests. AF depends on the light level, the contrast level of the subject, the speed at which the subject is moving, the direction in which the subject is moving, the consistency of subject motion (smooth or jerky), how well the photographer keeps the subject in the AF zone and so on. It also depends just how the photographer has setup the AF system, which includes selection of AF zones, whether the first shot is set to shutter or focus priority, what the sensitivity to brief obstruction of the subject is and so on. The whole AF operation of the EOS 1D MkIV is highly customizable.
So I’m not going to really comment on just how good the AF system is, mainly because I’m not really qualified to do so. The only people who can pass judgment on it are working sports professionals who shoot thousands of action shots every week with different cameras (including the old 1D MkIII). Only those with such extensive experience are really in a position to pass judgment on whether Canon have gotten it right.
As I said, my experience with the AF system was very positive. AF was fast and accurate. I did some tracking AF tests at 10 fps on moving cars, with the cars moving at around 30-40 mph, and a Canon EF 300/4L USM lens. I also looked at the situation where the subject is partially obscured by a closer object to see if the AF system could hold focus lock on the moving subject (and it could!). I really can’t fault the AF system, but as I said, I’m not a sports professional and I simply don’t have enough experience to make meaningful comments on how well the AF does compared to the 1D MkIII and other cameras optimized for high speed work such as the Nikon D3. For those comments you’ll have to look elsewhere. In the tests I did do I can say that I found the 1D MkIV AF to be fast and accurate and I had no complaints about its ability to track moving subjects.
The 1D MkIV uses the same 63-zone metering sensor as the 1D MkIII but different firmware is used to optimize correlation with the 45 AF zones of the MkIV. The usual modes are available: Evaluative, Partial (13.5%), Spot (3.8%) and Center-weighted averaging. The evaluative metering algorithm has been tweaked for more accurate results. The E-TTL II flash metering algorithms have also been tweaked for better exposure by using distance information to minimize the influence of the subjects clothing color, size etc.
A spot averaging mode is provided where you can take up to 8 spot metered readings and the exposure will be set to their average value.
As might be expected, I didn’t find any problems with metering in normal use of the camera. The vast majority of shots were very well exposed. However, if your tastes differ from those of the Canon engineers, standard levels for metering and flash exposure can be adjusted by the user. The standard metering levels can be changed with AE microadjustment in 1/8 EV steps over a range of +/- 1 EV and flash exposure can be similarly adjusted using FE microadjustment.
Normal exposure and flash exposure compensation is possible over a 3 stop range in 1/3 stop steps.
In live view mode focus via contrast detection or phase detection is possible. Phase detection (“Quick” AF mode) requires the mirror to be flipped up and uses the focus system that is used for still images, but it is fast and accurate. Contrast detection ("Live"AF mode) is done using the live image and does not require the mirror to flip down but it can be rather slow (though it is faster than on the EOS 5D MkII due to firmware changes). A face detection mode is also available, which also uses contrast detection. The AF zone used for contrast detection can be user selected if desired.
By default, Live View is selected and deselected by pressing the “Set” button in the center of the quick control dial. The LCD image can be magnified by 5x or 10x to assist when using manual focus.
Video Sidebar Section by Theano Nikitas
DSLR video has been steadily improving ever since Nikon introduced the D90, the first video-enabled DSLR in August 2008. The Canon EOS 1D Mark IV’s video capabilities are, perhaps, the best on the market to date.
Like the EOS 7D, the 1D Mark IV offers full, 1080p HD video with selectable frame rates. When recording at 1080p full HD, users can select from 30p (actual rate is 29.97 to conform with the North American NTSC TV standard) or the more cinematic 24p. At 1280 × 720 (HD) and 640 × 480 (SD), video is recorded at 60p. (Frame rates differ slightly for countries using PAL.) The ability to select frame rates allows the user to have a little more control of the final look and feel of the movie.
Of course, one of the benefits of DSLR video is the affordability of lenses vis-à-vis professional video cameras. For less than the cost of a pro video camera, DSLR video users can purchase a DSLR body and an assortment of lenses, which provides a wealth of creativity by allowing users to choose a specific angle of view and depth-of-field.
With the 1D Mark IV’s manual exposure controls, photographers can further enhance their creative vision. In M (manual) mode you can select aperture and shutter speed; otherwise, the camera automatically sets the exposure. Video clips shot on Program exposure looked pretty good, with the camera keeping up with changes in lighting.
If you plan to set the shutter speed, the general rule of thumb is that the shutter speed should be no more than twice the frame rate. This is particularly important when shooting moving subjects to keep their movements smooth (faster shutter speeds may result in more “jerky” movements).
Although it’s easiest to start out with the camera choosing the exposure (in all modes except manual), shooting in manual allows you to set the ISO speed. Regardless of the exposure mode, you can take advantage of the 1D Mark IV’s extraordinary high ISO speeds up to 102,400 by setting “Highest ISO speed” to H1, H2 or H3 (102,400). This allows the camera to access those low light sensitivities even when shooting automatically.
Shooting video with the 1D Mark IV is a little more labor intensive than with the 7D. The most efficient way is to set the FEL button (which sits above and to the left of the shutter button) to activate Live View and simultaneously begin shooting video otherwise it’s a two-step process of activating Live View and then pressing the FEL button to begin movie capture.
Autofocus has, from the beginning, been a challenge for DSLR video shooters. It’s still not as seamless as a camcorder, with its continuous AF, but it’s getting better. The 1D Mark IV’s AF-ON button can be used for AF (although it’s best to use this before shooting or at the very beginning of the clip and not during since the change in AF—particularly if the lens has to “hunt” for focus—will be visible). With DSLR video, the best option is to use manual focus. Before you start shooting, you can enlarge the image on the LCD so you can easily focus the lens. It’s a little tougher to adjust focus while shooting but it can be done with a little practice.
Overall, the 1D Mark IV’s video is quite good, even using automatic exposure. Yes, there’s some “jelly roll” when panning quickly but, frankly, I don’t know how often one would need to pan fast enough for this aberration (which is common among all or most DSLRs) to occur. You will see some noise when pushing the ISO to its upper levels but that’s to be expected. However, you can probably shoot up to ISO 6400 without too many ill effects.
When prepping to shoot video there are a couple of other things to keep in mind. The 1D Mark IV’s sound capture isn’t bad but in at least one clip, a mild breeze sounded more like a 70mph hurricane blowing through and the camera only records monaural sound with its built-in mic. There is a built-in wind noise filter, which is supposed to suppress this noise, but I’m not sure how well it works. Unless you’re going to create your own soundtrack for every video you create, it’s best to invest in a good stereo mic (the 1D Mark IV can record stereo but only with an external mic).
Also look into some sort of stabilizer system (turn off the IS on your lens if it has one). I was able to handhold the 1D Mark IV with a 24-105mm lens but some of my clips would have been smoother had I had a rig to help.
Be sure to use a high capacity, high speed CF card. The camera is UDMA-compliant so check out some of the UDMA cards from SanDisk and Lexar. I shot using a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro UDMA 6 card. Regardless of which card you use, there is a 4GB limit on any video clip (due to limitations of the FAT 32 file system) and there is also a 29m 59s limit of clip length, even if the 4GB limit isn’t reached.
And, finally, check out some of the videos posted on vimeo.com—especially Canon’s The Story Behind the Still HD video contest. If you’re not excited about shooting DSLR video now, the videos shot for this contest will surely inspire you. -Theano Nikitas
Peripheral Illumination Correction
While Canon has offered peripheral illumination correction (also known as vignetting correction) in DPP when doing conversions from RAW image files for quite a while, the 1D MkIV can apply the same corrections to in-camera JPEGs when certain Canon lenses are used. The camera has a database of about 20 Canon lenses. The Canon OS Utility software can be used to check which lenses are in the database and to add others for which the data is available.
Self Cleaning Sensor
The sensor cleaning system of the 1D MkIV includes a “fluorine coating” on the low pass filter (I presume this is a fluoride coating, since fluorine is a corrosive gas). This is said to provide “better dust resistance”. The sensor uses an ultrasonic shaking mechanism to shake any dust particles off the low pass filter when the camera is turned on and off. The position and size of any dust stuck on the sensor can also be saved as reference “dust delete data” and this data can be used for removal of dust spots using post processing with Canon’s DPP software.
Highlight Tone Priority
The EOS 1D MkIV includes a highlight tone priority (HTP) setting. This reduces the clipping of bright highlights. It appears to work by using a nonlinear amplifier gain setting to the sensor data, which effectively could be considered to be the equivalent of shooting the highlights at an ISO setting about one stop slower than the shadows. HTP can be used with ISO settings from 200 to 12800. HTP can be effective at increasing highlight detail, at the possible cost of slightly noisier shadows.
Note that HTP is applied to the image before the RAW file is saved, so it’s one of the few functions that can’t be applied during RAW conversion. Functions like noise reduction, peripheral illumination correction, white balance etc. are not applied directly to the RAW file (only to JPEG files) and can be performed later in DPP, whether or not they were selected at the time of shooting.
Auto Lighting Optimizer
The Auto Lighting Optimizer function analyzes the image and can optimize the brightness and contrast to improve the image (e.g. it can correct for dark subjects in back light situations). There are 4 levels: off, low, standard, and strong. This function can also be applied to RAW images during post-exposure processing using Canon’s DPP software.
The effect of the auto lighting optimizer is subtle. On some images, it makes no difference at all, while with others the effect is small but noticeable, even on the “strong” setting.
The 1D MkIV can use either CompactFlash (CF) or Secure Digital (SD/SDHC) memory cards. The 1D MkIV can take advantage of the extra speed of UDMA 6(Ultra Direct Memory Access mode 6) enabled cards. The ability to use UDMA 6 means that the 1D MkIV can take full advantage of the fastest cards available. Currently the fastest cards are rated at 90MB/s but the 1D MkIV will be able take advantage of cards rated at up to 133MB/s when they become available.
The two cards can be used in a number of different configurations, just as with the 1d MkIII. Still images can be written to either of the cards, or to both simultaneously (video can only be written to one card at a time). There is also an option to write RAW files to one card and simultaneously write JPEGs to the other.
Note: any CF memory camera can utilize both UDMA and non-UDMA cards. If you use a non-UDMA card in the 1D MkIV it’s just fine, but data transfer to the card will be a little slower. If you use a UDMA card in a camera like the EOS 5D that does not have UDMA support, it will be fine too, but it won’t be able to take advantage of the UDMA transfer protocol.
The EOS-1D Mark IV’s power source is the same lithium-ion LP-E4 Battery Pack as that of the 1D MkIII. Communication between the camera and the LP-E4 Battery Pack enable the battery’s remaining capacity to be displayed in one of six levels by the battery check icon shown on the top LCD panel, in the viewfinder (during metering), and on the [Battery info.] menu.
Canon’s standard testing suggests that the bettery should be good for about 1500 shots at 73°F or 1200 shots at 32°F. In Live View mode those numbers are significantly reduced to 270 and 230 shots respectively. In video mode the battery should be good for about 2h 40m of shooting at 73°F (though there is a 30m or 4GB limit—whichever comes first—on any single video clip).
The supplied battery charger can charge two LP-E4 packs simultaneously.
Where to Buy
Photo.net’s partners have the Canon EOS 1D MkIV available. Buying via this link helps support photo.net.