I respect and admire Rob Galbraith but I am beginning to think he’s got a tiny burr up his you know what when it comes to Canon.
Rob pretty much single-handedly pulled the covers on Canon’s 1D MK III’s poor autofocus performance. Canon tried to ignore Rob but soon, it became obvious he was right about the Canon’s problems and Canon eventually sort of acknowledged the issue.
Fast forward to the new Canon 1D MK IV. Rob recently posted a long review of the new camera’s autofocus here – http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-10048-10484.
While Rob admits that the Canon 1D MK IV’s autofocus performance has improved, he also claims the camera is not reliable enough to depend on it in a professional setting.
Now Rob and I aren’t THAT far apart on this issue. He says the Nikon D3s offers better autofocus. I agree. But he also says that the D3s is “trustworthy and dependable enough for us to be confident using it for peak action sports” and that the Canon is not. Here is where I disagree. I shoot fast-moving birds every day. And the action is very comparable to shooting fast action sports.
While I purchased the Canon to shoot video, I have been testing its stills capabilities for reportage here on Photofocus and elsewhere.
In my tests, the Canon 1D MK IV is indeed reliable. Remember that I have shot extensively with the D3 and the D3s. I made the switch to Nikon FROM Canon about two years ago because of the 1D MK III AF. After shooting the D3, I bought five D3 bodies and then replaced them with five D3s bodies. So when I make the comparison, it’s based on actually owning and using the bodies day in and day out, not just testing them over a weekend.
I have two 1D MK IV bodies in hand and two more in the studio back home and one on order. You can bet I wouldn’t commit $25k to bodies that won’t autofocus well. On location in Florida I have made countless sequences of shots using the Canon that were in tack sharp focus.
Look at the three shots I’ve uploaded in this post. All are fast-moving birds and all are sharp. As were all the images in the sequences I shot of these birds. Note the one shot of the bird flying directly at me. This is always the hardest shot to get in focus and the Canon did it just fine.
I believe that there are cases when one particular camera/lens combo won’t perform as well as another. And certainly I know that technique is almost always a factor. Using either the Nikon or the Canon systems, certain lenses will provide better results than others. So I think it’s impossible to judge the camera without factoring in the lens/camera combo. I also believe it’s impossible to judge the quality of the images without knowing the experience of the shooter.
In conclusion, I don’t think Canon has completely caught up to the D3/D3s autofocus, but I do think that it’s close enough that technique and lens choice can make the margin negligible. I also think there’s no reason to assume you can’t trust the Canon 1D MK IV autofocus – based on my own extensive use of the camera in the last three weeks I’m convinced it focuses just fine.