There are some amazing tools for the working photographer today. Technology is moving in leaps and bounds, with sensor developments, on chip software systems, and scientific advancement providing new tools for image capture. The real issue at hand is what can you term good enough for your photographic needs?
This is a tough question, and can only be answered by each individual photographer. The key I think is to look at the rational best use requirement, and irrational emotional response that we have as shooters to find a happy medium. In my case however, I have found again & again, that 12 to 16 megapixels is the “sweet spot” for my own workflow – requiring less storage, and less computational power to crunch through while producing amazing results in digital and less frequently print form.
Even in the advent of 4k screens becoming more prevalent, I find that I don’t usually need to display larger than 2.5 – 3K pixels when sharing my work with clients & friends. With the majority of my photography consumed digitally I find the output of even the “lowly” 4MP Nikon D2H to be a stunning and sharp (this will be addressed in a future blog post).
For those who recall, Canon took the world by storm with their full frame 1DS mark II, at 16MP, which was used to shoot all kinds of real world print work, and effectively supplanted the 35mm film format for fast turnaround magazine work. 16 megapixels was already overkill for newspaper work, since the resolution once printed on newsprint becomes much less. In any event, when I was shooting action & sports, I settled into the colors provided by the Canon 1D mark III, but had a real need to crop full field sports, thus when brand new I bit the bullet and bought the 1D Mark IV at full MSRP, in 2010 (about $4999).
I’ve had this camera since then, so 9 years as of this writing, and apart from some finish loss around the edges where it rubs on its strap while hanging, the camera operates flawlessly. I also have worked through a number of lens combination, but these days find the majority of my work done with either the venerable Canon 70-200 F2.8 L, or the 50mm F1.8 STM lenses.
I actually used to use the original 24-70 F2.8L, and others, but found them optically wanting, and not up to the resolution of the two I have kept in my bag for over 10 years as well.
The technical specs of the 1D Mark IV can be found all over the place (a simple google search will find them), the key portions are: awesomely fast auto focus, Canons last APS-H format sensor (1.3x crop), and screamingly fast processing & dual card slots.
Looking through the viewfinder is a pleasing experience, with easily identified focus points, and good magnification. Over the years I’ve swapped my focusing screen for the precision Matte (EC-A screen I think) which allows for easier focus when manually focusing fast adapted lenses. Personally I think a split screen would be easier at this point (my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be) but I digress.
After the 1D Mark IV series, Canon merged the bodies of the 1DS studio version, and the high speed 1D, into the 1DX – so for those who want that extra reach provided by the 1.3X crop sensor as I did, I recommend finding a 1D of this vintage.
About the sensor, nothing but good things to say, and I’ve actually been spoiled, since the noise performance is better to my eyes than many of the newer APS-C cameras which have arrived since. This looks like the natural effect of jamming so many pixels onto the same sized silicon wafer. To be fair there are great recent small size or DX sized sensors with wonderful dynamic range. All I’m saying is that to my eyes, the results from my 1D Mark IV’s APS-H sensor show better sharpness, and more pleasing noise at high ISO’s in pictures of people than the recent rebel t6/t7 series, but your opinion may vary. I’ll actually be posting an article on sensors – old vs new, and how some old sensor having cameras have plenty of life in them. The bottom line: great tonality, color, resolution, and dynamic range.
Following the debacle of the focusing issues & mirror box issues with the 1D Mark III, the redesign of the focusing system of the mark IV is nothing short of incredible. There is a learning curve to be sure, and there are numerous resources (including a white paper from Canon *LINK*) for setting the parameters of the focus system for all kinds of action. I can sum it up like this, if you can see it in the viewfinder you can track it, simple as that. The focus system can be fine tuned and is built for fast action sports, but will perform just as well when auto-focusing during portrait sessions with fast glass, and will nail it every time.
With an average file size from 19-23MB in uncompressed RAW (CR2) or 2-5MB Jpeg, the images created are manageable to store and process in your favorite photo editing software, be it Adobe, Capture one, On1, or even DXO. The best advice for files themselves comes from an older guide on the camera (or maybe it was the 1D mark III): try out the in camera JPEG engine, it may just be good enough for you.
There are custom settings galore, and I encourage you to explore the manual thoroughly, and alternate views on the subject from photographers of the time period (remember this camera is still 10 years old or so).
More to follow, however for the moment I can say without a doubt if ever you have the chance to use a Canon 1D Mark IV do so without hesitation and let it “get out of the way” for you to create something truly wonderful.