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Canon 1D MK IV

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#1 Charles Papert

Charles Papert

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 01:11 AM

On the heels of the wildly successful Canon 5D MK II and its recently released little brother, the 7D comes the 1D MK IV, Canon's flagship DSLR with 1080p video capabilities that move beyond the "wow" into the "holy cow". Unlike the 5D, which is somewhat hobbled with no 24p capability and a host of quirks (some of which were fixed in a firmware upgrade, others which will likely not be resolved in this model), the 1D has all of the improvements of the 7D and ups the ante considerably besides.

The many specs of the camera that relate to the still side are of interest to certain folks here and will be easy to find on the web, but since this forum is devoted to motion pictures, I'll just stick to the video side of the 1D. It has a 1.3x crop factor compared to the full frame 5D, which is between the 1.6x factor of the 7D (which itself was similar to 35mm cine). It's a nice balance for those who seek a bit shallower depth of field than the 7D but found the 5D really tough to consistently pull sharp images. I shot a short film last weekend and my ace focus puller did an admirable job considering; still, there are plenty of soft moments even with a consistent 5.6 stop, poor fellow.

The "wow" factor of the 1D comes from the sensitivity of this camera. It's good two stops faster than the 5D; this means that one can shoot images in low light that appear brighter to the camera than to the eye, without significant noise. It's a jaw-dropper.

About 10 days ago I joined Vincent Laforet (the photographer who broke the 5D's video possibilities wide open with his short film "Reverie" last year) and a team of others to test prototypes of the 1D MK IV. Vincent's notion was to shoot a short film in purely available lighting in downtown LA. I had a limited time frame that I could work with them, which was compounded by an extended and highly frustrating build in the early evening (no opportunity to prep before the shoot). I discovered that the composite video out on the prototype wasn't yet active, and the HDMI to HD-SDI converter we had procured was looking for 5vDC, something I only discovered after feeding it 12v (oops). With those output options exhausted, my only option was to mount an outboard HDMI monitor on my little running rig (aka Nimblecam). I emptied out my entire box of "Lego" but found myself consistently one widget short to securely jerry-rig the monitor onto the Nimblecam, no matter what approach I tried.

After a solid hour and a half of thrashing around, I finally got something going by combining a cheese plate, a tiny c-clamp and a reviled Noga arm trapped into place with a phalanx of button-head screws (yet the final pivot on the arm still failed me in a highly mocking fashion every time I tilted the rig far enough forward--there's no place for Noga arms on Steadicams in my book). My good-natured focus puller Michael Kleiman and I finally met up with the group as they skulked around downtown LA with no permits, stealing shot after shot with stunts, vehicle chases and the Griptrix electric vehicle. On the oft-shot 6th St. bridge, I was to somehow attempt to keep up with the youthful and gazelle-esque talent as he sprinted across the wake of the picture car and threw himself over the side (even with an absurdly, delightfully light rig, he beat me every time). Watching the monitor as we dialed the lens open to find an exposure, the sodium vapor lighting of the bridge exploded and the black asphalt turned literally white, like the surface of the moon or infrared photography. That's when my jaw dropped. We were shooting at 6400 ASA and once the proper exposure was set, the image was beautiful, unique, astonishing.

Certainly there are still serious issues with these Canons: the ergonomics are dodgy, the codec is not ideal, they can overheat if run too long. PL lenses present issues due to the proximity of the mirror (although they can take a Panavision mount just fine), so we are often stuck with still lenses that, while optically impressive, lack the interface we are used to. But considering that even this new camera is still well under 5 digits and knocks the socks off any of the "serious" HD cameras for sensitivity, this is heady stuff and a clear indication that the "digital revolution" is finally beginning to earn that moniker on a visual level (and not just as a poor, compromise-ridden substitute for film).

Have a look for yourself at: http://blog.vincentl...-camera-action/.
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#2 Sydney Seeber

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Posted 20 October 2009 - 04:11 AM

I find the ergonomics with this camera are better than the 5 & 7D for handheld, something I do a lot, lot more than steadicam... My favorite element of this is the wet weather capabilities. I do a lot of extreme condition shooting and many professional still cameras have always had this capability, but I've always had to garbage bag and duct tape the hell out of my video cameras... I never trusted the 5D in wet weather, but a Canon rep told me a few weeks ago that this camera will survive a quick dunk in the river, as well as several lenses in their line... I haven't tested that theory and find it a bit doubtful, but even halfway there is better than any video camera I've ever used without a cover. Jell-O video is noticeably improved over other DSLRs as well with this. We'll have a middle-of-the-road codec for the forseeable future with these cameras simply because all of these companies share technology and don't want to cannibalize other very lucrative markets, (Sony Nikon Canon Panasonic JVC) but I find it decently gradeable, and MUCH better than AVCHD and of course HDV... Get ready for a seemingly endless parade of new DSLR and similar cameras as these companies branch out into several market segments. It's barely just begun
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