I have been shooting wildlife images for approximately 30 years, professionally for 13 years and digitally since April, 2004 when I purchased the Canon 1D MkII. Since then I have used a number of Canon DSLRs including the Canon 1D MkIII, Canon 40D and Canon 5D MkII which I wouldn’t be without.
This is not an in depth review (if you want this take a look at www.dpreview.com) but the initial views of a working photographer on the cameras AF system and file quality. Following the controversy that surrounded its predecessors AF system my first thoughts were how well would this perform. Birds in flight must be one of the biggest challenges any cameras AF system has to cope with as their flight is often erratic with sudden changes in speeed and direction. Couple with this their small size compared to a sportsman or racing car and you will soon appreciate that when it comes to speed and accuracy of the AF system there is little or no room for error. If it can work well in this environment I think it is safe to say it will be fine for almost any application.
For this test I took a trip to Gigrin Farm at Rhayader in Wales where they have a Red Kite (very agile bird of prey) feeding station where once feeding starts you have almost 2 hours of non-stop action. My Canon 1D Mk1V was used together with a Canon 500mm f4L USM IS lens (EF 1.4x extender used occasionally) which in turn was mounted on a Gitzo 3 series carbon fibre tripod and Wimberley Head version II. Shooting in RAW and AI servo I left my C.Fn III–2 AI tracking sensitivity on default and C.Fn III–8 on 2 the surrounding AF points and Picture Style on Neutral. All other custom functions that might affect the AF system were at camera default.
In this challenging environment my first impressions of the Mk1V AF system was very favourable. The first thing I noticed compared to its predecessor was that the Mk1V rarely lost focus, even when the active focusing points were momentarily not covering the subject matter. I am not saying that every frame would have been critically sharp, but I could count on one hand during the two hour session the times that the camera hopelessly lost focus and this was probably my error. Even when this happened the camera would not lock out, just a quick release and back on the AF button again and I was back in business. Even with busy similar colour backgrounds the camera tracked its subject faithfully. (Update – I have recently been working with Hobby (a small fast and agile falcon) feeding over water and where the background was quite close to the subject (contrast between the blue/grey back of the Hobby and the water was quite low) I found that to use anything other than just the centre AF sensor, which is very difficult to keep on a small fast bird, meant I frequently lost focus to the background. To be honest this is no more than I would have expected and I had Nikon users sat either side of me using D700s and they had the same problem – sometimes we expect a little too much.)
Hobby – Canon 1D Mk1V with 500mm f4 IS at iso 800 f5 1/4000 and cropped to a little under half frame giving a file size in 8 bit of 20mb
Hobby – same techs file size 28mb
My success rate that afternoon in Wales was much higher than usual with close to 50% sharp to pin sharp usable images. Of the remaining 50% most were only just out of focus and many of these I could put down to user error as your technique is an important factor when photographing moving subjects and mine is not the best. Often in the past when photographing fast moving birds I have captured the bird on the edge of the frame where it is not covered by any of the AF points and it has been pin sharp, yet the next frame where the bird is in the middle of the frame and covered by the AF points is soft. I was always quick to blame the the cameras AF system but this is often classic user error because if you cannot pan or follow your subject smoothly and accurately (not easy) then your cameras AF system not only has to predict the movement of your subject but also has to factor in your panning errors. A difficult and often impossible task for any cameras AF system. On static or near static subjects I had no problem with close to a 100% success rate.
Red Kite feeding – Canon 1D Mk1V 500mm f4 IS at iso 400 f6.3 1/1600 almost full frame
For those readers who feel a 50% success rate is not that impressive I would remind you that of the remaining 50% many were down to user error and when compared to the moving subject matter Rob Galbraith covers in his reviews flying birds are considerably more difficult – I remain impressed by the AF performance.
File quality for a 1.3x crop camera with a 16.1 megapixel sensor is high. Many photographers have said that the noise in the Mk1V RAW files is about the same as those in the MkIII – this is true when you view files from both cameras at 100%. However what you need to remember is that the Mk1V has 60% more pixels and although the pixels are smaller Canon has managed to make the pixels in the 1D Mk1V a little less noisy than the MkIII. When you consider there are 60% more pixels on the same size sensor that is quite an achievement. To sum up if you were to print identicle images from the MkIII and Mk1V the higher resolution of the Mk1V would oversample each pixel giving an improved pixel to noise ratio so when comparing final print output you would see that the Mk1V is an excellent performer and close to one stop better than the MkIII. You can read more about sensor performance if you visit www.dxomark.com
Red Kite feeding – same techs only 100% crop with no noise reduction.
I do very little printing but as far as supplying images for books, high quality magazines and photo libraries the quality is fine to iso 1600 and acceptable at iso 3200 beyond this the images are very usable for many applications but the fall off in quality is quite high which is only to be expected.
I am not going to go into detail as to how the camera handles other than to say the layout is similar to previous Canon 1 series cameras with a few tweaks and handles extremely well.
To sum up I am very pleased with the overall performance of the 1D Mk1V – the AF is accurate, responsive and stable. The file quality for a 16 megapixel camera on a x1.3 crop sensor is excellent and at the time of writing the best available. My initial reaction when the specifications for the Mk1V were announced was that I would have preferred just 12 megapixels with better noise performance. However with action photography composition is usually something you think about later and having 16.1 megapixels to play with is a real bonus when it comes to final composition as you can really crop an image and still have a very high res file. At this time my only real negative comment about the 1D Mk1V is the price.
I hope you have found my observations useful and if you are considering purchasing a Mk1V then may I suggest you visit
Park Cameras my preferred dealer for price and service. I have been a customer of theirs for over 25 years.