I’ve had the 1DIV for almost exactly a year, and 40,000 shots later I have some more thoughts on the camera. Not only is it Canon’s fastest camera, but I’d also argue it’s the best all-around camera in their current lineup. I’ve grown so accustomed to the incredible speed and control I have. Compared to previous cameras, the noise is much more randomly distributed and there is no banding, as I have noticed at higher ISOs with the 5DII. I’ve photographed birds at ISO1600 without hesitation and could probably go higher, assuming cropping was within reason and I had enough feather detail.
Initially I thought the AF was a bit slower than the MkIII. While that is probably still true for the initial lockon time, with some custom function customization the AF is incredibly fast and surefooted. While I developed more skill handling the very quick, but twitchy MkIII AF, I’d prefer the more stable and predictable, if slightly slower MkIV AF system. I’m sure some of the skills I acquired handling the MkIII have translated into better results with the IV – I’ve been able to track flying birds in conditions that I would have easily lost focus with the MkIII, and have standardized on using left/right point expansion, with the surrounding point expansion only being used with a large or slower subject, or if it was being photographed against a clean background like a blue sky.
Image quality is excellent, and the 16MP makes for a reasonable amount of resolution and more leeway with cropping. I find it rare that I’m reaching for my 5DII these days; even with the extra 5MP resolution, the IV’s out of camera file’s colour and white balance just looks so much better, and also needs almost no tweaking in post. Couple that with the amazing speed and AF advantages of the 1DIV, and you can see why I have hardly used my 5DII since then.
I do give the 5DII credit for being smaller and lighter, and having an AF system that is a bit more precise if trying to focus on a small subject against a busy background. It’s actually remarkably surefooted, and while tracking in some cases can be as good or better than the MkIV, it can’t compete for fast action. Full frame is of less importance to me when photographing birds and wildlife, although for travel or landscapes it would be an advantage.
Bottom line: anyone want to buy my 5D Mark II?
I’ve now owned the new 1D Mark IV for about 3 weeks, and have shot approximately 6000 frames with it. Overall I’m quite happy with the body, and here are some more specific thoughts.
Battery life: It is noticeably much shorter than the 1D III, perhaps no better than 2/3 of the Mk3 battery life, using the same battery. When photographing on a cold winter’s day, I definitely have to swap batteries well before the end of the day, while I never had to do so with the Mk3. Certainly some of this can be attributed to the LCD, which has more current draw to support the far higher resolution, and the fact that I like leaving the info screen displayed on the back LCD at all times. It certainly beats having to look at the top of the camera for a quick glance at what settings you’re using. I get a maximum of about 1500 shots per charge, when previously I have gotten 3000+ with minimal image review.
Ergonomics: I found it very strange that the body is essentially identical to the Mk3 series. While that camera had very well-thought out and user-friendly ergonomics, I wish they would have included some of the 7D features. For instance, the 7D can switch AF modes by hitting the AF button, then FEL to toggle between modes (single point, expansion, zone etc). On the IV I wish it was possible to do something similar to change between different expansion levels. Currently, you have to go into the camera menu to toggle between none, left/right, surrounding or all 45 point expansion., which is not feasible to change while looking through your viewfinder, and it’s caused me to miss shots. The IV shares a similar LCD to the 7D, and it is sharp and accurate, though slightly deceiving in terms of brightness – it would have been nice if it had auto brightness as some other bodies do.
AF: This is the section everyone wants to read due to the problems with the 1D III. While I had no major issues with the III, I can say that the IV is definitely better. Tracking against busy backgrounds is hugely improved, and initial acquisition speed is just as zippy as with the III. I also like the fact that the 24-105/4, 70-200/2.8IS + 1.4x and 300/2.8IS + 1.4x now focus using the cross-type AF points, of which nearly all are now cross type. One thing that I immediately noticed was how well the camera tracked with expansion points enabled. I typically shot without expansion with the III, especially against busy backgrounds, but with the IV it actually helps to keep them enabled and gives you more leeway in how accurate you have to track the bird. If I had left them enabled on the III it would have focused on the background, but here it actually helps maintain the focus – a big plus in my books. I still find that 45 point AF is not the best choice unless you have a large subject or a clear sky, but it is still improved from the nearly unusable 45 point mode on the III. I can safely say I’ve gotten shots with the IV that I would not have earlier, as the AF just holds onto the target so well.
Image Quality: While the images may seem a touch softer at 100% view, that is not entirely a fair comparison with the resolution increase to 16MP, as you should now compare that to about 116% view on the III. I’m quite satisfied with the image quality, and the resolution is great for more cropping latitude, and 16MP on a 1.3x crop is probably about as high as is possible without compromising high ISO image quality. It’s great to be able to crop a vertical shot out of a horizontal capture and still be left with 7MP. The high ISO improvement is not nearly as much as Canon claims, but there is an improvement. Keep in mind that I rarely shoot above ISO1600 for bird photography, and from what I’ve heard the higher ranges are the ones that have seen the most improvement. AWB has improved substantially, and is bang on in nearly every circumstance.
Here are several photos to show the AF tracking.