Compared to...

Having had the sports arena to itself for several years, the arrival of Nikon's D3 represented serious competition for Canon. The D3's AF performance and excellent high-ISO results gave Canon's 1D series the kind of competition it hadn't really ever faced. As such, there's only really one camera that it makes sense to compare the 1D Mark IV to for those few people who haven't yet committed to a system - Nikon's reworked D3S.

We'll also have a look at how it compares to its predecessor, the 1D Mark III, for those people still deciding whether to replace their existing camera. Finally, we'll be comparing it to Canon's APS-C flagship, the 7D - this may not the 45 AF points or 10 frames per second capability of the 1D Mark IV but it does offer sophisticated AF, good build quality and greater nominal resolution in a considerably smaller, cheaper package. We think enough people will be considering it as an alternative or a back-up body to make it worth including in the review.

Differences versus the D3S

The main difference between the 1D Mark IV and the Nikon D3S is clearly sensor size and pixel count. Nikon has chosen to re-work much of the imaging pipeline, though has stuck with the highly-regarded 12MP full-frame design from the D3 while Canon has upped the pixel-count on its smaller, APS-H sized sensor to 16MP.

Nikon is characteristically tight-lipped about the precise changes but the performance difference suggests everything from the microlenses through to the JPEG engine, via the signal circuitry has been optimized. Canon, meanwhile, has managed to narrow the circuitry on its latest chip, allowing it to fit more 1D Mark III-sized photosites onto the Mark IV's APS-H sensor, promising the same pixel-level performance as the older camera from each of its 16 million pixels.

The sensor size also has a knock-on effect on viewfinder size. The Nikon has a larger viewfinder than the Canon because although the 1D IV offers slightly greater magnification, its smaller sensor means it has a smaller area to magnify in the first place.

The number of lenses and situations in which you can make use of the two cameras' cross-type autofocus points also differs, with the Nikon's 15 points available with all lenses with a maximum aperture of F5.6 or faster, while the Canon's 39 cross-type points are limited to F2.8 and faster lenses and 20 of those are only available when manually selected. But in just about every other respect the two cameras go toe-to-toe.

Canon EOS 1D Mark IV

Nikon D3S
(body only)
US: $4999 [check price] US: $5199 [check price]
Sensor • 27.9 x 18.6 mm CMOS
• 16.1 million effective pixels
• 17 million total pixels
• 36 x 23.9 mm CMOS
• 12.1 million effective pixels
• 12.98 million total pixels
Body Magnesium alloy Magnesium alloy
Dust reduction • Low pass filter vibration
• Dust data removal (requires Digital Photo Professional)
• Low pass filter vibration
• Dust reference image (requires Capture NX2)
Native image size 4896x3264
(3:2 ratio)
4256 x 2832
(3:2 ratio)
Video 1080p @ 30, 25 or 24 fps, 720p at 60 or 50 fps 720p @ 24 fps
FOV crop 1.3x 1x
Live view Yes Yes
File formats • RAW/sRAW (14 bit)
• JPEG (10 levels)
• RAW (lossless or lossy comp, 12 or 14 bit)
• JPEG (3 levels)
Auto focus • 45 area TTL
• 39 Cross-type sensors (with F2.8 or faster lenses when points are manually selected)
• Range: -1 to +18 EV
• Contrast detect AF in live view/video mode
• 51 area TTL
• 15 Cross-type sensors (with F5.6 or faster lenses, at all times)
• Range: -1 to +19 EV
• Contrast detect AF in live view/video mode
AF illuminator Via external flash Via external flash
Metering sensor • 63 zone sensor
• 0 - 20 EV working range
• 1005 pixel RGB sensor
• 0 - 20 EV working range
EV steps 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV
Sensitivity • ISO 100 - 12800
(extendable to 50-102,400 equiv)
• ISO 200 - 12,800
(extendable to 100-102,400 equiv)
Auto ISO Yes, restricted to ISO range chosen for manual selection User definable maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed
High- ISO NR Yes (4 levels) Yes (4 levels)
Shutter speed • 30 - 1/8000 sec / Bulb
• 1/250 sec Flash sync
• 30 - 1/8000 sec / Bulb
• 1/250 sec Flash sync
Max Continuous
10 fps at full resolution 9 fps (up to 11 fps in DX format or manual focus)
Viewfinder • Pentaprism
• Eyepoint 20 mm
• Frame coverage 100%
• Magnification approx 0.76x (with 50mm lens)
• Pentaprism
• Eyepoint 18mm
• Frame coverage 100%
• Magnification approx 0.7x (with 50mm lens)
LCD monitor • 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 920,000 dots
• 3.0 " TFT LCD
• 920,000 dots
Other features • Auto Lighting Optimizer
• New Servo II AF system
• Orientation linked AF points
• Custom 'My Menu'
• 'Silent' single frame advance
• On-demand electronic level
• GPS with optional GP-1
• In-camera RAW conversion
• Custom 'My Menu'
• 'Quiet' single frame advance
Storage • Compact Flash/SD/SDHC card • Dual Compact Flash card slots
Software • ZoomBrowser EX
• EOS Utility
• Digital Photo Professional
• Nikon Transfer
• ViewNX
Dimensions 156 x 157 x 80 mm (6.2 x 6.2 x 3.1 in) 160 x 157 x 88 mm (6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4 in)
Weight (no batt) 1180 g (2.6 lb) 1240 g (2.7 lb)