Video is fast becoming a standard function in medium and high-end DSLRs from most manufacturers now, and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV offers Canon's most sophisticated implementation to date, with the same baseline specifications as the EOS 7D. These include 1080p resolution and a choice of frame rates, from 30, 25 or 24fps (depending on which video standard, NTSC or PAL, you've selected). This is in contrast with the Nikon D3S - the 1D Mark IV's nearest competitor - which features 720p video recording at a fixed 24fps. The Mark IV also offers a 720p option at 60 or 50fps, again dependant on video system.

Despite offering extensive manual controls, current DSLR video modes can not quite keep up with dedicated camcorders in many areas. On the other hand though, the ability to shoot movies with a large sensor (and the shallow depth of field that this brings with it) and interchangeable lenses will appeal to a large number of budding videographers. The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV can also be used with an external microphone, which distances it from lower-end models with built-in mics that tend to capture only the sound of the operator and AF motor.

Video specification

The 1D Mark IV offers HD video capture at 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080P) at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second or 1280 x 720 pixels (720P) at 60 or 50 frames per second. The built-in internal microphone captures monaural audio. There is a socket for a 3.5mm external microphone that allows recording of stereo sound. There is also an option to edit the beginning and end of a movie in the camera, making the 1D Mark IV a basic video editing, as well as capture, device.

Sizes 1920x1080: 30/24 fps (NTSC), 25/24 fps (PAL)
1280x720 (HD): 60 fps (NTSC), 50 fps (PAL)
640x480 (SD): 60 fps (NTSC), 50 fps (PAL)
Audio 44.1kHz Mono (Internal Mic), Linear PCM
Format .MOV MPEG-4 AVC, H.264
File size 5.5 MB/sec (1080P), 5.5 MB/sec (720P), 2.8 MB/sec (VGA)
Max file size per clip 4GB, max duration 29min 59sec,
Running time 12 min for 1080P, 12 min for 720P, 24 min for VGA

Using Movie Mode

Although the headline specifications are the same, the EOS 1D Mark IV doesn't offer exactly the same video implementation as the EOS 7D. The EOS 7D features a dedicated switch to change from other shooting modes to movie mode. Once you've changed the position of the switch you press the Start button to start/stop video recording. Still images can be taken at any time by pressing the shutter button. A half-press of the shutter button or a press of the AF-ON button will trigger the AF. AE lock is possible as well.

The EOS 1D Mark IV, on the other hand, has no such dedicated switch, and to initiate video recording you must first set up the correct live view mode in the settings menu. Once this is done, activating Live View primes the camera to shoot video, and filming commences when the FEL button is pressed (you can set up FEL to both start Live View and movie recording but again, only if you have live view set to movie mode).

This two-stage system is oddly labor-intensive compared to the EOS 7D, and can inevitably result in lost video opportunities if you happen to have the camera set to the wrong Live View mode at a crucial moment. It seems likely that Canon wanted to maintain as close to ergonomic parity with the EOS 1D Mark III as possible, but we can't help thinking that this is a missed opportunity to make video shooting easier.

When the shooting mode is set to M you can adjust shutter speed and aperture via the control dials and also set the sensitivity manually. In all other modes exposure is controlled automatically. Video can also be captured at ISO settings right up to the maximum ISO 102,400 (equivalent) which may make the 1D Mark IV attractive to photojournalists in a tight spot, under pressure to get moving as well as still footage of breaking action.

Movie mode displays

To enable movie shooting you must first switch live view mode to 'Movies' mode in the settings menu. Live view then gains two horizontal bars marking the edges of the 16:9 aspect ratio that movies are shot in.
The settings menu is also the place to change the movie shooting parameters. If 'Video System' is set to NTSC the camera will shoot at 30 or 60fps, in PAL the choices are 25 and 50fps. 24 fps (actually 23.98fps) is always available. Canon has refined its playback options, including a variable speed slow-motion playback option and this simple video editing mode. The two end points of the video can be defined with the choice of saving to a new file or replacing the original.

Video quality comments

Video output from the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV is very good. Like the EOS 7D and 5D Mark II it produces high quality HD footage with fairly smooth motion even at the 1080p resolution. As always, though, it pays to view/edit video footage on as powerful computer as possible, otherwise you may find playback isn't as smooth as it should be.

The APS-H sensor of the EOS-1D Mark IV allows you to create interesting shallow depth of field effects in video mode which are beyond the capabilities of conventional video cameras, but purists may still prefer the results from the larger-format EOS 5D Mark II. Unlike the 5D Mark II when it was first released, the 1D Mark IV offers manual controls which allows you to better gear your settings towards the type of scene/motion that you are capturing (manual controls were later added to the 5D Mark II via a firmware update).

When recording video in low light and using higher sensitivities the image gets noisier. This is of course what you would expect, but the EOS 1D Mark IV does quite well in this respect, and due to the smaller image sizes in video mode compared to stills the noise never becomes really intrusive until the ultra-high ISO settings (realistically, ISO 25,600 and higher). When capturing video in the lower resolution 720p mode we also noticed some oversharpening and 'jaggies' on some scene elements, but it's a really minor issue, and only become noticeable when individual frames are viewed (or the video footage is viewed in slow motion). The effect is not noticeable at the full 1080p resolution.

Like pretty much all other video-DSLRs the 1D Mark IV can suffer from distortion caused by its rolling shutter. The readout of the sensor means horizontal lines of the image are scanned, one after another, rather than the whole scene being grabbed in one go. The upshot is that verticals can be skewed if the camera (or the subject) moves too fast - the top of the image has been recorded earlier than the bottom, so vertical lines can be rendered as diagonals. On the 1D Mark IV this effect is pretty subtle compared to some of the worst offenders that we've seen, but it is there if you move the camera fast enough and go looking for it.

On the positive side, transition from bright to dark scenes works smoothly and quickly, and there are no obvious exposure 'jumps' as the camera adjusts the gain and/or aperture either. All in all, this represents excellent performance.

Sample video 1

1920x1080, 25 fps .MOV file. 13.4 sec. 75.2 MB

Sample video 2

1920x1080, 29.97 fps .MOV file. 12.1 sec. 67.4 MB

Sample video 3

1920x1080, 23.98 fps .MOV file. 5.0 sec. 26.1 MB

Sample 4

1920x1080, 23.98 fps .MOV file. 7 sec. 28.9 MB

Sample 5

1280x720, 60 fps .MOV file. 6.3 sec. 34.5 MB