Field Review: Canon 1D Mk IV (Day 3)

The Canon EOS 1D Mark IV‘s autofocus and ergonomics were tested in a quick and dirty street portrait session around midtown in NYC. In a quick summary, the camera isn’t perfect ergonomically or in use of focus. Image-wise, it’s really, really quite good in great lighting.

Editor’s Note: All photos and text in this posting is under ownership of Chris Gampat, the editor of this blog. All photos may only be republished with his permission. You may make a request by sending an email to chrisgampat[at]


Equipment Used

Canon 1D Mk IV

85mm F1.8


Let’s get the great things out of the way—the camera feels wonderful in my hands. For photographers that like to walk around and wrap the strap around their wrist then keep shooting, this camera was made for you. The grips on both sides are very comfortable. But that doesn’t mean that everything is all okay in Canonland.

Switch the camera to the vertical position and try to change the aperture—you’ll see that there is a slight problem with this. With my hands, I can’t reach the thumb dial that quickly. Also, I wish there was a little back joystick so that one can adjust the focusing point. Instead, you need to hold the camera from the side grip and adjust that way.

Something else that did annoy me a bit was the lack of a meter in the top LCD screen. The photographer is only able to see their shutter speed and aperture as well as their ISO in terms of metering. The visual meter itself would have been a nice add-in—let alone something that many photographers and cameras have standard on them to begin with. In this way, the 1D Mk IV is a bit weird.

At the time of writing this, the 7D is still the street portrait king.


The one-shot autofocusing is tack sharp. If your images aren’t, then there is either a problem with your lens or your technique. Perhaps you’re moving the camera a bit too much?

Once you use AI Servo, things start to change a bit. It takes some extra time for the camera to focus accurately in this mode. The problem is that one doesn’t even hear the lens moving at all or a confirmation beep most of the time.

Also, if you want a moving target to be tracked in the AI Servo focusing mode, this needs to be unlocked in the special menu system. I didn’t know this in my previous tests and that just worked with my Canon EOS 7D automatically. What is nice though is that the sensitivity of the tracking can be dialed up or down. As it is, I’m going to need to do much more testing with it to make a final conclusion as to how it works.

As it is, I’m actually still preferring the focusing from the Nikon D3s. It’s still early in the game though.

Image Quality

It’s good. It’s really good. At this level, one can only expect that. If you’re buying this camera, you really shouldn’t be worrying about image quality as much as you are about the other features: such as autofocusing abilities, HD video, ergonomics, etc.

Part of this is the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8, which is a stunningly sharp lens for the money.


Failed Video Attempt

For some odd reason when trying to record video here, the audio came out a bit messy and with lots of static. I couldn’t really figure it out but I know from later recording in the field review that it was fine. Perhaps there was some weird interference where I was standing? I was in Times Square for some of it after all.

In a situation like this. It was always great to have external microphones on you. If you were shooting something very professional then you might want to get Azden Sgm-2x Xlr 2 Barrel Shotgun Mic, Rode Deadcat Microphone Wind Muff, and an  On Stage Stands 7701B Tripod Boom Microphone Stand. Otherwise, the Rode Shotgun Mic that I usually recommend is always worth it. You also may want to get a BeachTek DXA-5Da for better audio monitoring.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.