Finally, Canon gets it right with Mark IV
Posted on December 29, 2009
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, 1/2500 @ 4.0, 200 ISO. 400mm lens with 1.4x converter. Josh Morgan #84 of the San Francisco 49ers runs with the football during the game against the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California on Sunday, December 27, 2009. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
I had the chance to shoot with the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV this past Sunday. Considering all of the focusing problems with their previous top-of-the-line professional camera, I decided to give it a proper test-drive at the Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers NFL game at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
The camera had a big white sticker on the front with “SAMPLE” written in black letters. It was loaded up with firmware version 5.8.5.
I have been waiting for over two years to be able to shoot with a Canon camera that I could really depend on, so this test was going to be a real confidence-builder for me. It might sound obvious, but I really need a camera that is capable of delivering sharp pictures. To do my job as a sports photographer, I can’t be distracted by paranoid chimping all the time, worried if my pictures were sharp or not.
This camera performed flawlessly.
To be brutally honest, I found the Canon EOS-1D Mark III to be a complete disaster. I consider it to be the biggest lemon professional 35mm camera in modern photographic history. I have a considerable investment in Canon cameras and lenses, and was reluctant to jump-ship to Nikon.
With the Mark IV, it was do or die for Canon.
The Mark IV felt good in my hands and I felt confident with it attached to a 400mm 2.8 lens and a 1.4x converter (if the action was farther away). We were blessed with that classic Candlestick Park screaming Winter sunlight and I spent most of the game shooting from the front-lit end zone to take advantage of the great light. This is the easiest light in thew world for a camera to focus in and the Mark IV did not disappoint.
In comparison, using a Canon Mark III with a 400mm lens and a 1.4x converter in this exact same situation was not an option. The results were embarrassing and upsetting. However, the new Mark IV seemed to like working with the 400mm lens and 1.4x combination and delivered some very nice, tack-sharp images.
Depending on how far I was away from the action, I shot part of the game with just the 400mm lens and part of the game with the 1.4x converter. It did not seem to matter much either way as my pictures were sharp with, or without, the converter. I’ve included a 19-picture motor drive sequence (below) of Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson running right at me with the football. This was shot with just the 400mm lens. All images are full-frame. Not every frame was sharp (but most were) – and some of that was my fault as he was moving very fast and it was difficult keeping him framed properly.
The more I shot the more confidence I had. Each time I chimped (using the gorgeous new and improved screen) everything was looking real good. It was becoming quite funny as I was joking with friends during the game (both still using older Canon EOS-1D Mark IIN bodies) that all my pictures were sharp! They kept asking me after every play if my pictures were sharp. There was a funny vibe at the ballpark on Sunday as many photographers were asking me about the camera and hoping so hard that the Mark IV would actually work.
I’ve also included a slide show (above) of a 16-picture motor drive sequence of San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Josh Morgan running right at me with the football. This was shot with the 400mm lens and the 1.4x converter. All images are full-frame. Every frame in this sequence is tack sharp.
Sure, the Canon Mark IV can do many more things than take sharp pictures at a football game. It has many crazy custom functions that I did not use. It does video that I do not care about right now. I simply need a camera that will make sharp pictures. The files are big and amazing.
I shot RAW plus large jpeg and did not get a chance to look at my RAW files because I do not have any software that is capable of reading them (yet). For the techno-nerds out there, I am including an actual RAW file from this camera, shot during this game so you can download it and see the quality for yourself.
The photograph below is a full-frame image of Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton throwing a pass on the run. If you click on the image you will be able to download the original RAW file from my server so you can study it yourself.
Unfortunately I had to ship my Mark IV back to Canon yesterday. The camera is supposed to be released for sale very soon (first reports were that it would be on sale a few weeks ago but that never happened). You can bet that Canon will have an army of people in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics in February loaning out hundreds of Mark IV’s.
Canon should be able to keep long-time (and heavily invested) users like me happy with the new Mark IV.
I look forward to going to the ballpark and being able to relax knowing that I can keep my head in the game and not worry about cameras that can’t focus. 2010 is going to be a good year for Canon users.