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Canon brings video, improved autofocus to EOS-1D Mark IV

The latest iteration of Canon's pro sports shooter incorporates HD video, a boost to the autofocus system and the requisite sky-high maximum sensitivity of ISO 102,400.

Canon USA

With the winter Olympics looming on the horizon, Canon's announcement of an update to its pro sports-shooting mainstay, the EOS-1D series, comes as little surprise. While the buzz will probably center around the incorporation of a similar video-capture engine to that of the 7D, (thanks to slick, promotable-at-launch pro videos like this) or the incredibly high max sensitivity of ISO 102,400 (like the D3S), neither of those matters much if it can't deliver on its core mission of fast, accurate autofocus (AF) and low noise in the midrange sensitivities.

The reputation of the EOS' AF system has taken a beating over the past couple of years, and Canon seems to have pulled out the stops to redeem itself--of course, only time and testing will tell if it's succeeded. On paper, though, with more cross-type AF points, enhancements to improve low-light/low-contrast AF, and an update to its predictive AF tracking algorithms, it has the potential to outpower the veteran system in the D3S.

Here's where it stands on the key specs:

  Canon EOS-1D Mark III Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Nikon D3S
Sensor (effective resolution) 10.1-megapixel CMOS 16.1-megapixel CMOS 21.1-megapixel CMOS 12.1-megapixel CMOS
28.1 x 18.7mm 27.9 x 18.6mm 36.0 x 24.0mm 36.0 x 23.9mm
Magnification factor 1.3x 1.3x 1.0x 1.0x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 3200/6400 (expanded) ISO 50 (expanded)/100 - ISO 12,800/102,400 (expanded) ISO 50 (expanded)/100 - ISO 1600/3200 (expanded) ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 12,800/102,400 (expanded)
Continuous shooting 10 fps
30 raw/110 JPEG
10 fps
26 raw/121 JPEG
5 fps
12 raw/56 JPEG
9 fps
36 raw/82 JPEG
magnification/effective magnification
100% coverage
100% coverage
100% coverage
100% coverage
Autofocus 19-pt AF
all cross-type
45-pt AF
39 cross-type
45-pt AF
19 cross-type
51-pt AF
15 cross-type
Metering 63 zones 63 zones 63 zones 1,005 pixel 3D color matrix
Shutter speeds 1/8000 to 30 sec; 1/300 sec max flash X-sync 1/8000 to 30 sec; 1/300 sec max flash X-sync 1/8000 to 30 sec; 1/250 sec max flash X-sync 1/8000 to 30 sec; bulb; 1/250 sec max flash X-sync (1/8000 focal plane sync)
Live View Yes Yes Yes Yes
Video (highest resolution) None 1080p at 30fps (720p at 60fps) H.264 QuickTime MOV None 1280x720 at 24fps MJPEG AVI
LCD size 3 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches fixed
920,000 dots
3 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches fixed
920,000 dots
Shutter durability 300,000 cycles 300,000 cycles 300,000 cycles 300,000 cycles
Battery life (CIPA rating) 2,200 shots 1,500 shots 1,800 shots 4,300 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 6.1 x 6.3 x 3.1 in. 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4
Body operating weight (ounces) 47.3 47.9 (estimated) 50.0 50.4 (estimated)
Mfr. Price (body only) $3,999.99 $4,999.99 $6,999.99 $5,199.95

As is usual, in conjunction with increasing the resolution Canon has tweaked the sensor design to combat noise. In this case, that means improving the coverage of the microlenses for maximum light gathering and making the photodiode wells deeper. Canon bumps to two Digic 4 image processors, up from the Digic III, to maintain its 10fps burst rate at the higher resolution.

In addition to the increase in AF points, Canon has made them more configurable. As with Nikon, you can choose subsets of the group or expand points around the selected one, though I don't believe it allows you to clump them the way Olympus' AF system allows--one of my favorite capabilities. (You can find a complete feature list on Canon's site.) However, it does allow you to preset three selected single-focus points, one for each orientation of the camera (two vertical, one horizontal), that it automatically switches to. That sounds kind of neat.

Canon also announced a new wireless transmitter the WFT-E2 II A that only works with the Mark IV (which might peeve some people who have a variety of Canon bodies), though it has some nice features like support for Bluetooth (to link with geotagging accessories).

The EOS-1D Mark IV is slated to ship at the end of December. If the universe is feeling benevolent, I'll have one to test soon after--a (hopefully) hot camera to warm up those cold midwinter days.