Canon EOS 1D Mark IV review

The Canon EOS 1D Mark IV, the latest evolution of Canon’s DSLR line, was released in December 2009. Along with the higher resolution 1Ds Mark III, the IV is the faster-shooting member of Canon’s one, two punch for professionals and serious amateurs (really serious given the $4,999 USD MSRP at that time). The camera’s predecessor, the 1D Mark III, remains on the Canon website at the time of this review (at a relatively bargain-priced $3,999), but the IV has some significant specification differences to consider when deciding which camera is the better deal. Resolution is up to 16 megapixels (a 60% increase) on a nearly identically-sized APS-H sensor that produces a 1.3x crop factor (35mm film equivalent) for the about 50 Canon EF lenses that can mount on the body. Dual Digic 4image processors support 14-bit data conversion, the 10-frame per second (fps) continuous shooting rate carries over, and 1080p HD video at various frame rates has been added. Oh, and the ISO sensitivity range goes from 100 to 12,800 nominally, with a low (L) stop at 50 and three additional stops on the high end (H1, H2, H3) that ring up at 25,600, 51,200 and 10,2400 respectively – simply the widest range of ISO sensitivity for any Canon camera yet.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Price

The new AF system is described as Canon’s most advanced to date, featuring a 45-point AF sensor with 39 cross-type points and an all-new AI Servo II AF mode featuring “improved algorithms that help improve stability, reliability and focus, no matter the situation.” That cross-type point count is more than twice that of the Mark III. The 3.0 inch LCD monitor is the same size as the Mark III, but with enhancements to improve clarity and sharpness. There are memory card slots for CF Type I/II as well as SD/SDHC media.
Canon includes an eyecup, neck strap, stereo AV and USB cables, battery and charger, instruction manual, and CD-ROM software with each camera, which is available as a body only.

We had two lenses available for use with the IV, the new hybrid stabilization L series 100mm macro (which is the subject of its own review on this site and the stabilized L series 24-105mm f/4 zoom which ended up getting most of the work by virtue of its variety of focal lengths.

Build and Design

The Mark IV is a large, heavy DSLR, festooned with buttons and controls. It has the taller body that accommodates the larger battery found in professional-level equipment and always seems to elicit the “that’s some camera – are you a professional?” type comments from onlookers. Materials, fit, and finish keep with the lofty price of admission to adopt the Tag IV.

The body is weather-resistant thanks to 76 gaskets and seals that surround the buttons and seams, and when paired with most “L” series lenses and/or the Canon Speedlite 580EX II, the entire system also remains weather-resistant. Coming home to southern California from the Winter Olympics in Whistler, B.C., we opted to drive most of the way on the more scenic U.S. Highway 101 rather than the interstate. Much of the trip was spent in winds of 25 to 35 mph (gusting to 50) and heavy rain, and the Mark IV was used often for photo ops. Even protecting the digital camera and lens as much as possible from wind and water while limiting time outside in the inclement weather, it was comforting to know the camera was hardened against the possibility of an errant raindrop getting in someplace it shouldn’t.

Ergonomics and Controls

Most folks will know right away if they need or don’t need a Mark IV based on specifications or even price alone, those of you still on the fence could start your decision-making process by just picking the camera up. If the weight doesn’t scare you off, the ergonomics should help win you over. It’s big and heavy, but Canon has done a nice job of contouring the grip portion of the body to the right hand. When I’m just walking around, I tend to carry the camera rather than sling it over my shoulder, and the Mark IV hold stays pretty comfortable for extended periods. The proximity to the raised portion of the body adjacent to the monitor seemed to interfere with moving from menu to menus and I’d get inadvertent selections of menu items rather than the next menu. A much better option was to use the main dial to move between menus. Folks with smaller fingers might be fine, but my hand is average size, so I can’t imagine anyone with big hands having an easy time using the multi-controller for menus work. I also don’t care for the on/off switch location, which basically requires a two-handed grasp on the digital camera to operate that involves holding the camera with the proper hands and flipping the change with the left.
For vertical format shooting, the camera has a second set of controls and a shutter button arrayed at the bottom right of your body (which becomes the top right when you shoot vertical) so the user doesn’t have to wrap the shooting hand over the very best of the body to reach the regular shutter button.

Shooting information and settings are displayed on the top or bottom LCD panels as well as the 3.0-inch monitor, which depend on individual camera settings. External buttons or settings permit fairly quick access to many settings likely to be useful when shooting on the fly.

Performance

It won’t come as any surprise that the 1D Mark IV is a fast camera – this is Canon doing fast as well as it possibly can. It may be a commercial proposition, rather than a cost-no-object engineer’s fantasy, but speed is what the 1D IV exists for and it’s hard to imagine Canon doing anything that might undermine the prowess of its prestigious, flagship model.

Check Out: Best Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Lenses

Verdict

A lot has already been saying about the 1D Mark IV, both by people who have tested it and those who have tried to weigh it up against the D3S and that kind of nit-picking makes it easy to overlook what an astonishing camera it is. And looked at from a neutral perspective, both it and the Nikon are unmistakably the best sports cameras that modern technology allows.

Its talents are usually slightly different to those of D3S but its strengths will be a great asset to many people – the smaller sensor that prevents it competing at the very highest ISOs delivers the kind of extra reach that many touchline shooters will appreciate. Frankly, there’s more to both digital cameras than just their high ISO performance and, while the Tag IV isn’t the very best higher ISO camera on the market, it’s still an exceptionally good one. From the point-of-view of the tasks it was built to tackle, there is nothing that can touch the detailed, high-resolution images that it can deliver ten times a second.

Check Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Price and Bundles 

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