Points in Focus Photography

Canon Announces the EOS-1D Mark 4

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20091020_loRes_1dmkiv_3qToday Canon introduced the EOS 1D Mark 4, the fourth generation in their professional cameras aimed at low light and action photographers. As I’m writing this, information is just starting to trickle in, but from what I’ve seen the 1D Mark 4 isn’t nearly what I was expecting.

What is apparent to start with is that the 1D mark 4 looks to fix many of the deficits of the 1D mark 3 and put Canon back in the running with Nikon in the high ISO noise performance game.

ISO

Like the D3S that was just announced a few days ago, the Canon EOS 1D Mark 4 supports ISO sensitives up to ISO 102,400 in expanded mode. The base ISO range is from 100 to 12,800, with H1 (25,600), H2 (51,200) and H3 (102,400) expanded options as well as a Lo (ISO 50) option.  I think again, like the D3S, the EOS 1D Mark 4 is a camera where expanded ISOs, at least the high ones, are no longer absolutely necessary for low light shooting.

That said, the ISO 3200 shot from Canon Japan (Sample 5) looks pretty solid to me.

Sensor Size

Canon has chosen to relegate those of use that choose 1D cameras to 3rd class status again, with another APS-H sensor camera. For the moment, the 1D-IV provides a slight advantage in reach over the 1D-III and 5D-II but that will likely change when the 1Ds-IV is announced.

Simply put, the APS-H sensor disadvantages 1D users on both ends of the spectrum. Our wide angle lenses aren’t as wide as they could be, and our telephoto lenses doing generally get any more reach when compared to the full frame 1Ds of the same generation. In the case of the 1D-III and 1Ds-III, a 10.1 MP crop from a 1Ds-III had more “reach” than a full frame image from the 1D-III.

Auto Focus

What the 1D-III taketh, the Mark 4 giveth back; that seems to be the story with the new AF system.

The 1D Mark 3 had removed the ability to select all 45 auto focus points, and that comes back in the mark 4. While I’m not fully sure that it’s necessary to be able to select every point individually, it’s certainly a welcome removal of a seemingly arbitrary limitation.

That said, the EOS 1D-4 supports the following autofocus point selection modes:

  • 19-point mode (same points as the 1D-III lets you select)
  • 11-point mode
  • inner 9 points
  • outer 9 points

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In addition the new AF system has a lot more cross type sensors, 39 to be exact but only with f/2.8 and some f/4 lenses.  The whole system is specified as follows:

  • The center AF point is horizontal-line sensitive with lenses (or lens + TC combination) f/8 and faster
  • All 45 AF points are horizontal-line sensitive with lenses f/5.6 and faster
  • 39 AF points are cross sensitive at f/2.8  and with some f/4 lenses.

The f/4 Lenses that the 39 cross types points are compatible with are:

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

One thing I would have liked to seen though was a few more AF points cross sensitive at f/4 or better yet f/5.6–say like the 11 points in the 11-point selectable grid.

While I understand that Canon assumes that most photographers using an EOS 1 body are also using fast lenses, there are those of use who aren’t using f/2.8 lenses simply because they don’t exist (there is no 600 f/2.8 and even if there was one I certainly wouldn’t want to carry it around). Even more frustrating is that their big super-telephoto primes, the 500 f/4 and 600 f/4, aren’t supported either.

Speaking of bringing back the past, the mark 4’s AF system allows for the selection of more than 1 AF point as well. In addition, like the Mark 3, the AF area can be expanded. Also like the Mark 3, the adjacent 2 and surrounding 6 points can be included. Unlike the Mark 3, the new system also has an option to expand out to the surrounding 18 points.

Of course all the good stuff always comes with odd limitations.

For example, the Mark 4 has a Spot AF mode similar to the Spot AF mode in the EOS 7D. In spot AF mode, a much smaller area of the AF sensor is used, causing the AF system’s area of sensitivity not to extend as far from the AF box shown in the viewfinder. However, unlike the EOS 7D, where Spot AF is usable on all lenses, Spot AF on the 1D Mark 4 is limited to lenses with an AF stop button.

Viewfinder

There was a lot of talk about the Mark 4 having a fixed mirror and shooting 12 FPS. I didn’t care for the idea. In my opinion a fixed mirror would eat too much light making the 12 FPS a rather poor trade off. Fortunately, Canon agreed, the EOS 1D Mark 4 has a moving mirror so all the available light can reach the sensor.

What is, however, noticeably absent is the fancy new LCD viewfinder from the EOS 7D. That means no fancy on demand gird lines which I think is a bit of a loss.

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Body

I’ve been meaning to work on a series of articles discussing the ergonomics of Canon’s cameras, the EOS 7D takes probably one of the best designs a step further. I had hoped the EOS 1D Mark 4 would bring the EOS 1 series in line or at least remove some of the major nits I have with the design.

However, that was not to be the case. Canon has kept the Mark 4’s ergonomics almost identical to those of the 1D Mark 3. That means, for example, bracketing is still accessed by pushing both the mode and AF/drive buttons; flash exposure compensation is still placed on the left side of the body not on the right which it could be changed with out repositioning your hands.

Nor have they added any new controls, like the 7D’s very cool video/live view selector. This is a bit of a downer, as that looked like probably the best way to go. The FEL button is reprogrammable and can start video recording but simply isn’t as elegant, and still leaves the Live view to piggy backing on the set button.

Video

This has been Canon’s thing. Since the release of the EOS 5D II, Canon has been going whole hog to provide a flexible well integrated video solution, and the video in the EOS 1D Mark 4 seems to live up to that standard.

It provides the same level of flexibility the 7D does, with options for 1080p30 and 1080p24 (NTSC) and 1080p25 (PAL), 720p60 (NTSL) and 720p50 (PAL), and 480p60 (NTSC) or 480p50 (PAL) recording settings. The movies are stored using the H.264 codec in a MOV container.

In addition full manual exposure is available, as well as center weighted metering for auto exposure.

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Other Stuff

How does auto exposure and flash exposure micro adjustments sound? I’m not sure how useful they’ll be but it certainly is something new.

Buffer, the buffer is a bit anemic. The 1D Mark 3 had a 30 frame RAW buffer, the Nikon D3S has room for 48 RAW images. The Mark 4 actually drops the buffer size 2 frames to a 28 frame buffer. Rather disappointing, considering that memory is so cheap these days.

Thankfully, Canon didn’t change the battery again. The Mark 3 bodies introduced the LP-E4, and the Mark 4 uses the same LP-E4 battery as well.

Conclusion

While it may not be as flashy or sexy as the Nikon D3S came off as being; the EOS 1D Mark 4 looks to be a very solid camera that should put a high end Canon shooter in a pretty good position.

So long as the noise is managed well at high ISOs, and it appears to be the case in the ISO 3200 image linked above, the increase in resolution will help provide a nice boost to image size and quality. The 4896×3264 pixel files will produce a 10×16 print at 300DPI (higher than necessary at large print sizes IMO) or a 16×24 at 200 DPI.

The only down side apparent right now is the $4,999(Affiliate Link) expected street price, $1,000 higher than the 1D Mark 3 currently retails for.

Preorder the EOS 1D Mark IV from Amazon.com(Affiliate Link)

Canon EOS 1D Mark 4 Product Page

Images Courtesy of CanonUSA

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