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Photographers bless improved Canon autofocus

Early reviews of Canon's 1D Mark IV SLR by professional photographers indicate Canon could be on its way to shaking a reputation for sub-par autofocus.

After testing Canon's newest professional SLR, professional sports photographer Brad Mangin offers praise for the camera's autofocus system that's as lavish as the scorn he heaped upon the model's predecessor.

Mangin tested the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV at a football game, and his overall assessment published on his blog doubtless was music to the ears of designers at the Japanese camera maker: "This camera performed flawlessly...Canon should be able to keep long-time (and heavily invested) users like me happy with the new Mark IV."

The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV
The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Canon USA

Perhaps not so pleasant to hear was his excoriation of the earlier model. "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," said Mangin, whose customers include Sports Illustrated. "With the Mark IV, it was do or die for Canon."

He shot with Canon's 400mm f2.8 lens, sometimes with a 1.4x teleconverter, in bright sunlight. "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," Mangin said.

His assessment of the 1D Mark III jibes with that of Rob Galbraith, a photographer who extensively chronicled his gripes with the SLR's autofocus system in 2007. Mangin said two others photographing the game using the earlier EOS-1D Mark IIN were relieved that the Mark IV performed well.

Another photographer to get an early model of the 1D Mark IV to test is Jens Dresling, a Danish photojournalist. He also praised the autofocus, judging by a translation of his views that indicates the camera focused well both with wide-angle and telephoto lenses.

The $5,000 EOS-1D Mark IV is Canon's first full-on professional SLR that can shoot video, but it also shoots 10 still frames per second for conventional photography. The 16.1-megapixel sensor can shoot up to ISO 12,800 at a regular setting and up to 102,400 in its extended range setting.

Its sensor is an unusual intermediate "APS-H" size that measures 27.9 by 18.6mm. That's about halfway between the full-frame sensors of most high-end SLRs and the APS-C sensors on Canon's mainstream SLRs. Larger sensors are more expensive but enable better low-light performance and a wider dynamic range.