A tough and speedy shooter adds more pixels and gets more sensitive.
Built To Last
As is always the case with Canon’s 1D series, this is one solidly built camera. A magnesium- alloy shell ensures that it can stand up to a beating, while the shutter is rated to last for 300,000 cycles. All connectors, except the hot-shoe, find their home behind tight rubber covers, and the card slots (one each for CF and SD) are covered by a tight-fitting door you open with a switch. The hot-shoe is surrounded by a plastic rim to seal that connection when you’re using one of Canon’s newer Speedlites, which have rubber around their feet.
The controls are made for quick changes, and there are plenty of dedicated buttons for various functions, as well as customizable buttons you can set to your preferences. Canon hasn’t made any major changes to the body design, so anyone familiar with the Mark III will feel at home with the Mark IV.
The 3-inch LCD got a boost to 920,000 pixels, so image playback and live-view shooting are both more pleasant. But the contrast AF in live view is still slow, and the process of using the standard phase-detection AF in this mode remains a clunky affair involving a momentary flip down of the reflex mirror. (That’s typical— the only DSLR maker to have licked this problem is Sony.)
In our field tests, handling and controls proved fast and fluid. The duplicated buttons near the thumb are a nice touch that came in handy when selecting focusing points or using AF-On to activate AF. The placement of the rear control wheel is spot-on, and when you change from the main grip to the vertical grip, it’s basically in the same place, making for very comfortable operation whichever orientation you choose.
And, while the Mark IV’s grips are well designed, with a divot for your middle finger in horizontal and a ridge for leverage in vertical, shooters with small hands may prefer the grip on the Nikon D3S, which is more intricately sculpted and gives you a little more leverage when panning.
Video in the Mark IV, essentially the same as in the Canon EOS 7D, can record HD footage at up to 1920x1080- pixel resolution at your choice of 30, 25, or 24 fps, or 1280x720 pixels at either 60 or 50 fps.
Footage is stored as MOV files using H.264 compression, and sound can be recorded either through the built-in monaural microphone or an external mic, thanks to the stereo minijack audio input.
There’s also a mini HDMI output in case you want to watch your video—or view still images—by connecting the camera straight to your TV (if your TV has such an input).
The Buying Decision
Despite its slightly slower AF, the EOS 1D Mark IV is a worthy follow-up to the Mark III. In our opinion, it can’t quite keep up with the Nikon D3S. But the decision comes down to what type of shooting you do most— and of course, whether you’re already invested in one system or the other.
If you need full 1080p video recording in your DSLR or the versatility of ISO 50, for instance, this is the better camera for you. If you frequently shoot in low light, though, the Nikon’s ability to focus in less than a second even at the dimmest level in our test (EV –2) will win you over.
This is a tight race between two excellent machines.