Monday, November 22, 2010

Canon 1D-Mark IV New Users / Shoppers Guide (Links updated 11-21-11)

Here’s my recommendations on how to get started with your Canon 1D Mark IV which is the most amazing piece of camera equipment I’ve ever owned. However, it is also a very advanced system which needs input from the photographer on your intent in order for its AF system to perform its best (just like for exposure we must set the ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed).

A friend of mine just bought my favorite camera along with the new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens and asked me how to get the most of this combo, so I thought I’d publish that email for others to enjoy. This is by all means not meant to be a 100% comprehensive list, but it is a great starting point.

Video Instructions

Before you put the battery in this camera, go to this page and watch some videos here on Canon's website. These videos can also be put on your iPod, iPad, iPhone, etc.. as well as in your camera for playback on the LCD, so you can enjoy them anytime. I HIGHLY recommend these!!!! 

#1, #8, & #13 are must watch videos. Don’t even try to use it without having those videos memorized <g>

Latest USA Firmware & Software

This link may break at some point, but as of this writing you can pick up the latest updates to your software and camera firmware here.

I HIGHLY recommend that you install the latest version of DPP– it is the best RAW processor on the planet for the 1D Mark IV (way better than Adobe Camera Raw in my opinion). It will ask you for your disc from your box, so don’t lose that disc!

Great PDF from Europe

There’s also THIS killer PDF I got from the Olympics on the 1D Mark IV. You can find it in other languages here via the Downloads link.

Enjoy the Best AF System on Earth

If you are shopping then I’d really appreciate it if you purchase your 1D Mark IV using my links in this article, but if you’ve already bought one then thanks for visiting and please come back here for more info and to use the links/discounts when making future purchases!

I am puzzled by Rob Gailbraith’s results he experienced with the 1D Mark IV as I did not have his poor experience at the Olympics so I can only conclude that he had a defective unit or there was an error in the camera settings.

I have found that when you set the following custom function settings properly (all of which should be reviewed before any shoot just as you would review ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed) then high AF success is indeed possible. Here are the key values you must understand and know when/how to use when using AI Servo Auto Focus on this camera:

  • AI Servo tracking sensitivity (C.Fn III – 2)
  • AI Servo 1st/2nd img priority (C.Fn III – 3)
  • AI Servo AF tracking method (C.Fn III – 4)
  • AF expansion w/selected pt.(C.Fn III – 8)

I have programmed these for the back of my camera’s favorites menu so I can get to them quickly (and wish Canon would do that by default). Using the information in the sections above and below this one, I have had great success in setting them to the correct complementary values to get a high number of in-focus frames.

Cheat Sheets

Here's some good pocket articles that are really good to have printed out (double-sided) and keep in your bag if you run into trouble.
At a minimum print this one double-sided and put it in your bag as it is a must have resource!

Peter Read Miller’s Settings

Here’s some of Peter Read Miller’s (Canon Explorer of Light) thoughts & settings (some of which I don’t agree with and aren’t applicable to every scenario). This isn’t a one setting and forget it camera, so don’t use just these settings and expect 100% accuracy – it’s not gonna happen!

Ron’s Custom Function Settings

At the time I got my camera I listed my settings (which change depending on the conditions) in this article, but here’s how I have things set today. This is just an FYI, not something you should think is a guide to tell you how to always set your settings. I only list the values that are non-zero, everything else is set to 0.

C.Fn I
  • 3 – * (Enable H3 & L)
  • 6 – 2
  • 7 – 1
  • 8 – 2
  • 10 – * (I disable Center-weighted average as I prefer Partial instead)
  • 1 – 1
  • 2 – 1
  • 5 – 1
  • 2 – * (Most often set to Slow, but you need to think about this on every shoot)
  • 8 – 1
  • 9 – 1
  • 10 – 1
  • 11 – 1
  • 12 – 2
  • 14 – 1
  • 16 – 1
  • 8  – 1
  • 14 – 1
  • 16 – 1

Geek Stuff

If you are a geek and like technical info then you’ll love the whitepaper and this article as well as all the other good stuff on Canon’s Digital Learning Center.

1D Mark IV versus the other camera bodies

My Which DSLR Should I Buy? article is very popular but I have a hard time keeping it up to date. Here’s some current thinking as of 11/22/2010 which you can consider to be my latest thoughts (unless my DSLR article gets a newer update):

Canon 7D vs 1D Mark IV

One question I get asked a lot is should I get the 7D or the 1D Mark IV and my answer is quite simple – if you care about the best image quality then the 1D Mark IV is the only choice between those two bodies. If you care about ease of use, the 7D is the best camera body Canon has ever made and the AF system is much more idiot proof. With that said, I don’t own a 7D but I do own a 1D Mark IV, so that tells you where my priority lies.

The upcoming 1D x (click for my preview) promises to marry the best of both worlds and drastically simplify the in-camera use of this complex AF system.

Canon 1D Mark IV versus Nikon D3s

Another question I hear often is should I get a Nikon D3 or D3s or the 1D Mark IV and I can tell you that both Nikon pro bodies are excellent and far superior to the Canon 1D Mark III. If you don’t take the time to learn the Canon AI Servo AF system you’ll fail to get the results you desire, so from that standpoint I think the Nikon bodies are easier. They have a slight edge in performance at the higher ISO’s and they are much better at recovering data from underexposed regions when shooting in RAW.

I think the Canon 1D Mark IV AF system is superior and has no equal, but its complexity can be frustrating to the newcomer. I also prefer Canon’s ability to recover data from overexposed shots (which I think it does better than Nikon) and its auto white balance performance. I seriously considered the Nikons after my 1D Mark III experience and had the luxury of using the D3s at the Olympics, but in the end I’m very satisfied with my decision to get a Canon 1D Mark IV. I also think that the 1D Mark IV performance is superior in real world usage which is amazing considering the larger higher quality image you get from the 1DM4 over the D3s.

Canon 1D Mark IV versus Canon 5D Mark II

I get this question a lot too which is apples versus oranges unless you are talking about video, for which the 1D Mark IV still has an edge but the 5D Mark II can be considered more disposable if you are doing risky shots where you might lose a camera body. I own a 5D Mark II and use it for most of my portrait work (which you can see detailed in my Photographer’s Notebook) . However, sensor quality-wise in the real world the 1D Mark IV feels like the same quality as the 5D Mark II with the outer edges of the sensor trimmed off for the 1.3x crop factor. Both are excellent and perform extremely well up to ISO 6400. I prefer the 5D Mark II for low light indoor scenarios and I only use it when I’m mounted on a tripod, but beyond that I always use my 1D Mark IV.

Parting Thoughts

If you own or plan to buy this amazing camera, I highly recommend you consider Canon’s new 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens which may be expensive but it is a steal for the image quality, image stabilization (IS) and blazing fast autofocus performance you get with it. When I used it for the first time at the Olympics, I was blown away at the killer results I got at 200mm @ 1/15 sec handheld and it’s done that time and time again with my 1D Mark IV. I can’t recommend it enough, and for those who have the older version and say there isn’t much difference that’s pure bullshit. Anyone who says that either hasn’t used the new lens or is just frustrated that they can’t buy the new one as it’s very close in performance quality to the $5000+ Canon 200mm f/2L IS USM which I rented from and consider it to be the best lens Canon has made to date (although the new 300 & 400mm f/2.8’s (see preview here) seemed to one up it when I saw them in New York).

If you are a blog reader who uses my links regularly to make purchases or has made donations, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this amazing camera!


I may get a commission if you use the links in this article to make a purchase. I purchased my Canon 1D Mark IV with my own money from (see details here) and as of the time of this writing I have no influence, sponsorship or pull with Canon’s camera division. I did this article strictly as a FYI for friends as am getting asked for this info more often lately. It is greatly appreciated if you support this blog by using my links when making your purchases. Contact me if you find a cheaper place and if it is factory authorized I can probably get you a link! If you are unable to use my links, please consider making a donation if you found this info to be useful.

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The opinions provided are of Ron Martinsen alone and do not reflect the view of any other entity


Steve Todd said...

Nice site! As a Canon SLR/DSLR user since 1976, I totally agree with your assessment of the 1D4. I wrote similar comments back in February on its complexity and the need for much study and experimentation to get the most out of this great new machine. I find it interesting to read blogs and coments on other sites by people expecting the 1D4 to operate like a high priced, point and shoot? I guess they missed the point that it is a "Pro" camera! I enjoy mine so much, the other bodies (5D, 5DII and 7D) sit in the safe most of the time. In fact, I'm trying to figure out how I can afford a second one right now...guess I'll have to trim the fleet a little first!

Anonymous said...

My Mark IV arrived yesterday. When attached to any of my Canon lenses or extenders, the camera lens mount doesn't seem to make a good connection. It can rotate a millimeter or two. Is this normal for this camera or should it be sent to Canon for repairs? said...

I would contact Canon. I haven't experienced that.

Julian said...

For a recent and interesting article, this has many broken links - I guess canon have changed their site. It's a bit frustrating so any chance of updating the links? said...


Thanks for letting me know. I wasn't aware of the broken links. That's very annoying!

I'll post an update after I track down the correct links.

Ron said...


Thanks for bringing this to my attention - I've updated the article with new links.


Anonymous said...

How do you put the EOS-1D Mark IV On-Camera Tutorials on your iphone? said...


Simple - you just visit Canon's web site from your phone and watch them there. I think when you view them that QuickTime offers a way to save them to DropBox (free) if you have that installed. If not, then you can just save them to DropBox on your computer and access them on your phone using the DropBox app. said...

Matthew writes:

I had the 1D4 since late 2010 and have been enjoying it. I am not a professional but an enthusiast. I use it to shoot birds a lot and find most of the literatures talks about the AF for sports type of activities. Shooting BIF posts a different challenge than shooting sports. I had some good results with the AF but find it frustrating from time to time. I wonder any reader has any useful guide in setting the AF options for BIF.

I hear your frustrations and agree that is a subject that isn't covered very well in any guide. However, if you read between the lines you can see what the settings do and apply that directly to birds.

With birds you will often track one bird (let's ignore flocks) so your AF Tracking should be set to THE SLOWEST setting. I know this doesn't sound right, but what this setting does is control how fast the AF point will jump from one subject to the next. You don't want a tree branch or another crossing bird to take the AF focus, so that's what you are doing by setting this to SLOW.

You can usually get by with a single AF point and not need to use the adjacent (unless the bird is moving fast and far away, but even then all 45 is usually too much - just use the left/right surround points).

However, another problem is that if the bird lands you can't be in AI Servo anymore. You must be in One Shot mode, but that's tricky to do in a hurry (althought the 1D X solves this problem). The good news is that if you are using a big lens that has a button on it (i.e., 400 f/2.8L) you can program that button in the custom settings to switch between AI Servo and One Shot quickly. If you do that then you fix one of the biggest failure points because AI Servo is ONLY for moving objects and fails miserably for stationary objects.

There's tons more I could say, but those basic tips will generally address your biggest issues. The last tip also eliminates the need to use the AF On button for focusing so you can get a higher percentage of hits when you just lay down on the shutter release button while tracking a subject (in AI Servo mode).

"Experts" out there will contradict this advice because few understand how this system works so they apply logic that works for the pre-Mark III generation cameras (and the Mark III sucked). However, I've found time and time again that using the system as it was designed (and as I've discussed) can yield a much higher success rate than what I've seen by dues paid pros who apply their own ways to work around the technology.

P.S. Sorry Matthew for accidentally deleting your comment.

Matthew said...

Wow, thanks for the prompt response. I will certainly try your suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ron,
Since you own both cameras - what do you think of a used 1D m4 vs a new 5DIII assuming both can be had for the same money?

I have a 7D and shoot sports for about 1/2 my photos, but I'm moving into more portrait stuff. I love the 7D but hate the IQ with ISO above 800.

Ed said...


The 1D Mark IV is an excellent camera - so much so that I haven't tried very hard to sell mine as I refuse to let it go for an unreasonable price.

The 5D Mark III has the superior sensor and many great features, but if you need a rapid burst mode then the 1D Mark IV is the way to go. If you can live with the burst mode of the 5D Mark III then it's better in every other way (except for the extra features you'd get in a 1D series body).

If I were a sports photographer with a 7D then I'd go for the 1D Mark IV. If I was a casual sports shooter and did other stuff most of the time (i.e., I didn't need the rapid burst mode) then I'd get the 5D Mark III.