So in quick response (not even a week later) to the Nikon D3s, Canon reveals their 1D IV. Much like Nikon, the big news is the ISO range (100-12,800, with 50-102,400 extended). The body and frame rate stay about the same. They do up the megapixels to 16 (not a bad move but not a great move either), add in 1080p (love that, but wish the camera were full frame), and other refinements.
It sounds good. But so did the 1D III, which hasn’t faired so well for Canon.
Continue after the jump, and you’ll get some links to more info and specs, including some videos on the 1D (boring, except for the fact that you might recognize the host if you were at all interesting in throwing a Microsoft Windows 7 party. That’s right. . . a party for an operating system), and more importantly a video made with the 1D.
And of course you can find all this on the net. Most likely you will find them before you find me. But if you found me, you’ll also get my take on both camera systems. Of course, all this is speculative since I don’t own either of the new cameras, just a few of the older 1D III’s and D3′s.
More after the jump (and I mean a lot more. I wrote way too much).
First, the bad. Canon has two videos on the 1D IV image quality and Autofocus, both found on the Canon Digital Learning Center Site. But if you have a second, check out the Windows 7 Party videos. The same guy is the host here. Epic Fail, Canon.
But Canon was smart enough to get Vincent Laforet (of Reverie fame) a few 1D IV’s, and he put out another video to intro the camera: Nocturne. Enjoy. Did you notice (if you clicked) that the Digital Learning Center Site looks a little unfinished? No clue why, but that’s weird. Anyhow, their Canon USA site looks complete. Check it out for more info. And of course, Rob Galbraith breaks the announcement with a few pages, images, specs, and other information. In fact, I don’t buy anything except as a rumor until he announces it as real.
So, looking at the specs and features, you can see that Canon really tried to match or surpass Nikon, offering the same or better feature set with more megapixels, and even a better MSRP (4999 vs 5199). On paper at least, the horse race is very even. But as I said before, the ID III was also impressive when the specs came out (remember, at the time the D3 was months away, and Canon was handily beating them on high ISO image quality), and really put the screws to Nikon. Once it came out however, the technical marvel of the 1D III was overshadowed heavily by reports of less than stellar autofocus. And then Nikon came out with the D3. And slowly but surely, we saw photographers switching from Canon to Nikon.
So in announcing the 1D IV right on the heels of the D3s, Canon is trying to keep up, and perhaps regain some users back. While announcing quickly so as to avoid losing more users was a smart move, their efforts to announce seem hurried. And the biggest problem I have with them? They never admitted problems with the 1D III, so they’re not endorsing their 1D IV as anything other than having “improved AF”. So it’s definitely buyer beware if you want to get a 1D IV.
All that aside, I have an interesting choice to make. I can go either way and get tremendous ISO performance, HD video (24fps 720p with an awesome full frame sensor, or 30fps 1080p video with a sorta awesome 1.3x crop sensor), and a big file, which honestly, after 10 or so mp, was more than enough since I don’t shoot panoramic landscapes or anything. But what about the intricacies of each camera, and their detailed feature set. They do things differently, and so you have to pick a side.
If my main interest was 1080P video, then the 1D IV really makes a statement. It’s not the full frame sensor of the 5D, but the high bitrate and quality of the image is insane. If I need video but it doesn’t have to be anything more than 720P, then the D3s and it’s full frame sensor would give you that awesome cinematic DOF that people loved so much about the 5D II.
That full frame sensor is so hard not to love. The D3s has it, and it’s very much like the old high speed film cameras, which is why so many people loved the D3 when it came out. If you want full frame, you just want it, and the D3s makes sense. Of course, if you need the reach of a crop sensor camera, that 1D IV turns your 300 or 400 mm lenses into 390 and 520mm lenses, which helps on the various large fields of play, or for wildlife shooters.
Nikon certainly had the advantage when it came to flash. Even when Canon was trouncing them in high ISO image quality, Nikons iTTL was remarkably better than Canon’s eTTL (and eTTL II). But with ISO 12,800, is that going to matter as much anymore? Well of course, but it just won’t be as necessary in low light situations. You’ll still want it for creative purposes, and in that case, Nikon still has the edge.
Nikon seems to like making a button for everything. Everything. The D3 has buttons to change the usual shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. But they also have buttons to change the sensor crop, white balance, image quality, autofocus mode, bracketing, image exposure mode, etc. It’s awesome if you want access to the most used features quickly, but it can be overwhelming. Canon makes a cleaner camera, with less buttons, each having multiple screens for features. It’s interesting, but sometimes the most important features are often buried in menus. You can create your own menu, which is great, but it does take time to do that. Honestly, I prefer the buttons, but I wouldn’t sacrifice image quality over it. It’s a push if you ask me.
Optics are very important. Nikon has the advantage of something like 50-80 years of lenses being compatible to some degree with all their cameras. This means you can pick up good glass for cheap, if you’re willing to shoot manual focus and exposure. This is great if you’re setting up remotes. With Canon, their old FD mount lenses won’t work without an adapter that is not sold anymore. Is this a big deal? That’s your call. But I had to mention it.
Current lens lineup? Canon has more primes available. 24 1.4, 35 1.4, 85 1.2. Can you live without those? No? Well you know your answer. But Nikon seems to excel at making zooms. the 14-24 2.8 image quality can’t be explained. You just have to see it for yourself. Their 24-70 and 70-200 are both excellent. Nikon also makes the 200-400 4, a zoom Canon has no answer for. In daylight, attached to a D300, it’s a 300-600mm effective lens, and very sharp. Put it on a D3 and you get a very usable 200-400mm range for most sports. Both have the usual assortment of super telephotos. 200 2, 300 2.8, 400 2.8, 500 4, and 600 4. But Nikons telephotos are much more expensive. However they do have a 5 year warranty, vs Canons 1 year.
VR vs IS. Under normal circumstances, I prefer IS. VR seems jumpier to me, and doesn’t always seem to engage. Both have standard modes where you shoot at a low shutter while not moving. Canon’s second mode only inhibits camera shake across one plane, thereby allowing you to improve panning shots. While I don’t do these a lot, it’s a common technique for sports photographers. Nikon’s second mode is for shooting from a vehicle while trying to maintain a low shutter. If you’re on safari, awesome. Otherwise, when could you use this?Aside from that, like I said, I really do prefer IS to VR. Canon’s been at it longer, so I sorta expect them to be better at it.
Image quality. Nikon is amazing at high ISO, but Canon is no slouch. And Canon can go down to ISO 100 normally, and seems to have amazing quality in detail at those ISO’s compared to Nikons files. It’s not that the D3 files aren’t any good, they’re just not as crisp. If you shoot a lot of daylight work, there’s something to a Canon image. But if you shoot in poorly lit environments, the D3 really had no equal. The ID III was good, but the D3 was just better. This may even out with the newer cameras matching at high ISO, but until I shoot some samples, I can’t say.
AF. As I said before, the 1D III has had consistency issues with it’s AF. If this weren’t true, I probably never would have considered shooting Nikon. Even now, having both, I have to say the Canon AF is faster, but wilder. The Nikon AF is much more deliberate, so it’s slower, but once it pegs its mark, it sticks to it. The 1D III is always thinking, perhaps too much, so it finds initial focus amazingly fast. After that, it’s a crapshoot. The D3 is funny, in that if it can’t find focus, it will sometimes get stuck hunting. I’ve often had to “reset it” by focusing on something very close or very far to quickly start it up again. Hard to explain but if you have a D3 you might know what I mean. Still, it’s been much more consistent and that’s very important. Enough so that I don’t know what to think of the improved 1D IV autofocus. I want it to work. I want it to be excellent. But I just don’t know, and until I use one, I won’t know.
Overall, I have to say that it all depends on the 1D IV autofocus. If it’s as inconsistent as the III, then I can’t imagine people jumping into it, and more people will switch over to Nikon. But if you held out, and waited for the IV, and it comes through, there’s no point in switching (unless you really want full frame and high fps).
And one last note: I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in the prosumer range. The improvements on both sides will trickle down to the smaller cameras, and soon we’ll have these cameras, like a 60D or a D400 that will be able to shoot ISO 3200 that looks like ISO 800. If you’re shooting in reasonable lighting a lot, it almost makes sense to see this new technology trickle down, and rather than get 1 1D IV or D3s, get 2 or 3 of these other cameras, and have a more complete kit for the same price.
Amazing. I still remember when I had a 1D and thought it was amazing that I could shoot 4mp at 8fps with ISO 1600. I still miss the file from that camera. 4 meg RAW files are so easy to deal with.
So, now that this all came out in 2009 instead of 2010, I can’t wait to see what happens in 2011.
Comments, questions? Feel free to reply or email me.