Canon 1DMkIV sports review

Our thanks to Tony McDonough for reviewing the new Canon 1DMkIV at this years Hopman Cup. This is what he has to say.

Tennis is a challenging sport, and I have a great respect for those photographers who can actually shoot it. The ball travels at close to 200 km/hr. and the lighting (at least in Perth is pretty low-indoors ) as if that isn’t enough, there are lots of unpredictable movements as the players endeavour to return the ball; a perfect sport to try out Canon’s new Mk IV.
I picked up the Team Digital test camera, early on a Monday morning.
I was intending to do an assignment shoot with this camera. that is not tell you the weight, frames per second etc. If you need those numbers then the Canon web site has that information. I wanted to see how the camera would work for me; how it handled the mixed lighting of a stadium; if the focus works in the real world; and to get some real images, not lit with a strobe; and how the focus holds up at 2.8.

The first thing was to set the camera up to shoot — focus, ISO etc.
Wrong. The match started pretty much as I arrived at the venue so no time to do anything really, I set the ISO to 1600 as I was sitting down.
Shooting at 1600 was a boon I even tried pushing it to 2500 ( I usually try to keep to 1250 ISO).

I also set the camera to shoot Raw, because I wanted to see the files as they where shot, without the cleaning a jpg file would have given me.

My first impression of the camera was that it felt good to hold, solid. It seemed a little larger than the Mk III but not too much. The dials and buttons are in the same places, or if not the same then close by.

The focus, from what I could feel and see did seem to be quicker and more €œdetermined € than my old Mk III, which for today was relegated to back-up.

The colour balance was on auto, and all of the other setting where not changed.

I didn’t micro adjust my lenses, or play with the menu (especially the focus page) I just left it as is, but I did shoot on manual .

I shot static serves, backhands, forehands, and the occasional lunging dive, although the focus didn’t keep up with some of the more erratic dives, but to be fair most if not all cameras would have the same problem. In fact to give an idea of how fast the action is there is movement at 1/1000 of a second in most frames.

First off, I had a higher percentage of sharp images compared to the Mk III, yes I know all about the MkIII problems, but my camera has never had those issues. Yes it was an early model, and it has had all the firmware upgrades and mirror-box fixed, and to date it is still a good performing camera, but even so the Mk IV just seemed more confident and sure footed when it came to focus.

(A word of warning though, the Mk IV is a camera, it will not save you if your technique is wrong. You still need to put in your fair share of work if you want the results. Believe me I learnt this the hard way with another camera when I was younger).

After covering the women’s singles I raced back to my laptop and started down-loading. Then, the much harder, much faster, men’s singles.

The results were everything Canon said they would be the 1600 ISO looked closer to an 800 ISO and the 2500 looks like the older 1600 ISO. I found the files looked strong and even sharpening in Bridge didn’t seem to detract from their pleasing look. Although someone showed me a file from another camera and that file looked much smoother, which confused me for a while, then I realized — we were comparing a jpg file (other make) to my raw canon file. I assume that if I had shot jpgs, the noise reduction stuff or whatever they use, would have kicked in and given a similar result, unfortunately I had deadlines and I couldn’t test my theory.

Going to higher ISO’s the obvious happens, more noise, but still usable, even at the top end of the scale: there was noise in the shadows and blacks but it also looked like it would clean up with something like Noise Ninja certainly very usable in newspapers.

The file size helped as well. Having 16 Megapixels sure helps when you need to crop an image.

I think given time to sort out the camera for my €œstyle € the Mk IV would perform a bit better , but straight out of the box it kept up with a fairly rigorous workout.

What do I think of it as a working camera ? I have a budget to buy one as soon as stock arrives.

I must thank Canon and Team Digital for helping and getting the camera to me.

Our thanks again Tony we will let you know as soon your 1D arrives.