Field Review: Canon 1D Mk IV (Day 6)

Quack quack! One of the subjects that Canon 1D Mk IV users will be shooting is wildlife. What better subject to shoot than a cute widdle duckling running across a pond in Central Park? So how did it do to track the little guy?

Equipment Used

Canon 1D Mk IV

80-200mm F2.8 L (Yes, I’m aware that this lens is essentially as old as I am. You’d be amazed how sharp it still is though. Coupled with the 1D Mk IV’s new autofocus, I think most users will be amazed.)

Hypothesis

The Canon 1D Mk IV’s new autofocus system is much more complex than the old system’s was. Though it doesn’t seem to be as advanced as that on the 7D from my testing so far, it should still be able to keep up with a moving object very well. If it is like Nikon’s D3s then it will be able to track the subject through the movement of the frame from one side to another.

Autofocus Test

To do this test, I set the Canon 1D Mk IV on one autofocus point on the right side of the frame. Additionally, I went into the custom settings and set AF tracking to a priority in AI Servo and also set tracking sensitivity to be the fastest. High continuous shooting was also selected.

As the chick ran from the left to the right, the focusing points did not switch to track its movement. This is a bit of a shock as this feature is on the Nikon D3s and even on much lower priced cameras like the Olympus EPL-1.

Because of this failure, the technique to keep the point on the moving chick was implemented. As the chick moved, I panned the lens and camera to keep the point on the chick. The 1D Mk IV coupled with the old L zoom lens without USM was able to stay sharply on it.

Gallery

Conclusions

This sounds like a very standard test—and you’re right. This is what sports and wildlife photographers have been doing for years. The focusing system was able to stay sharply on the little duckling for a wide majority of the time. Had the new 70-200mm F2.8 II been attached to the camera, even better results would probably have been achieved.

It is interesting to note the major differences in the Canon 1D Mk IV’s autofocus system and that of the Nikon D3s. If a focusing point on the left is selected and the photographer places that point on his/her subject, and the subject moved to the right of the frame the focusing system is usually able to keep it tracked totally. Of course, a bit of work is required from the photographer but it does work very well and extremely intelligently. That said, it can be concluded that Nikon’s autofocus system is smarter than Canon’s. This is also evident in the previous night when I shot the portrait photographer’s meetup in near darkness. When a similar situation faced the D3s at a concert, it performed like a champion.

Now here’s the monkey wrench: If a photographer is great a panning with the 1D Mk IV then this shouldn’t be too much of a problem at all. The reason is that most photographers just need to stay locked onto their target throughout the frame. The 1D Mk IV does this very well. For what it’s worth, both systems need to be used differently.

Further, the Canon 1D Mk IV does feel a bit faster in terms of locking onto a target than the Nikon does.

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