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.
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
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.
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.
- 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
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.
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 CameraLensRentals.com 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 CameraLensRentals.com (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.