Can the coming Canon 1D Mark IV win back those who switched to Nikon?

Adding a Nikon to my gear bag means I am no longer a Canon only photographer. My main camera is now a Nikon. So what will it take to get me back to Canon?

There are many roads that got me to where I am, a gear bag full of Canon L lenses and a Nikon as the head camera. What happened? Will the tables turn again?

I’d like to replay the road that got me here, the how, what, where, when and why. To start with, Canon basically wrote the book on high quality sensors for digital SLR cameras. Apparently Nikon read the book and took it to heart and beat Canon at it’s own game. Can Canon rebound – but of course. Japanese companies do something that American companies don’t often do, they take turns with the ball, and all this is under the watchful eye of the Japanese government.

No, there is no 1D Mark IV to announce, but what would the next camera have to be to get photographers like me back on board with Canon? PMA is here – so it is natural to be thinking about it.

There are 3 huge areas of importance for active shooters, high ISO, detail, and focus. Canon has basically owned the high ISO game since the original D30. For the record, I started with the original D30 and lived thru almost all the Canon cameras since. The only 2 cameras i have never owned or used is the original Canon EOS 1D and the Canon 1Ds. But thru the years they have all been here, the D30, the D60, 10D, 20D, 1D Mark II, 1D Mark IIn, 30D, 40D, 5D, 1D Mark III, 1Ds Mark III, and the 5D Mark II.

Nikon D3 1/320 Nikkor 70-200 f/10

Canon had 12 chances and 8 years to keep me Canon, and in the end they failed for me. Does this mean I will never own a Canon again – of course not. It also does not mean that Canon is a bad camera, they are quite good! Why did I leave? Actually I didn’t – i added.

Adding a new camera like a Nikon D700 or one of the D3 bodies is not an option for many photographers as I know many guys (and gals) in my group of friends and acquaintances that sold off all their Canon gear and went totally with Nikon. First things first, Canon whetted my appetite and Nikon satisfied it. It was Canon’s game to lose, and surprisingly they did. The final straw was when my camera shop allowed me to have a Nikon D3 and a brand new (replaced the original) 1D Mark III at the same time. I kept the Nikon D3.

The big things are high ISO abilities, and until the Nikon D3, no other camera company had a prayer in this arena. Canon owned high ISO abilities with both lower noise levels and greater detail. As all the other brands went higher in ISO settings, the noise flooded in and the details washed out.

The trouble is Canon seemed to get a little too comfortable with their dominance and took the approach that sensor performance trounced features and quality. Meanwhile, other companies like Nikon, Pentax, Konica-Minolta (now Sony) had no choice but to offer features to offset the weakness of the high ISO sensor response.

Suddenly Nikon broke that “glass ceiling” and handed the world the best high ISO abilities along with detail retention and Canon literally was caught with their old proverbial “pants down” cliche. And Nikon had been practicing for 8 years on dumping more and more neat and fun things into their bodies. The choice of Nikon to put out a richly packed D3 camera along with Canon’s choice to release a 1D Mark III that was the talk of the town – until the D3 arrived – broke Canon’s 8 year winning streak. Canon chose to be a little timid in the megapixel count, the feature count, the overall perceived value when compared to the D3. And the unplanned focus problem that surfaced but Canon into the hole.

You think Canon would have learned, or maybe they simply did not have enough time to react, but the fantastic new Canon 5D Mark II – as good as it is – repeats Canon’s strategy of better sensor with less features. Is the 5D Mark II a bad camera? Goodness no, don’t freak out on me here. The 5D Mark II is Canon’s best offer to date, with a sensor better than their flagship camera, a video mode that left a lot people in awe, and one of the better focus systems of late.

But when comparing it to what Nikon has, there’s a problem. The 5D Mark II was here for just a few weeks, when all it did was open my eyes to what a wonderful print 21 megapixels makes, but left me wanting for more camera. The 5D Mark II left, the D3X arrived. What will it take for Canon to win me back???

Canon 5D Mark II 1/80 50mm Canon f/1.4

It wouldn’t be all that hard actually, but Canon will need to break some past habits and key in on some very specific points. First, all the new 2008 and 2009 cameras are now top of the line in terms of image quality. yes, one is king, but the others are not far behind. The D3X tops everything out there, both in performance and quality. The price is right, the nonsense I read on the internet about the price of the D3X being too high is actually quite humorous because they all are from artists with nice big round sun hats, cameras tripoded, traveling the neighborhood, the countryside and the world looking for fantastic landscape and scenic shots. Heck, I do that too, but the world does not revolve around static photography, and everything cannot be measured by what the static photographers want, need, or vote upon as a price for a camera. The D3X is the ONLY camera where all things meet in one body. If that’s what you need, there is only one game in town, and it comes at a price. Static photography has a lot more choices, including medium format, lucky fellas.

To get me to look and want a Canon camera again Canon must take a camera like the 1D Mark III and make some changes and add some stuff. I’ll present a list of what the new camera should look like and why I would want it. Most of these things are not static photography oriented but action photography oriented, you know, photographers that shoot in the real world where there are people, children, events, news, weddings, living rooms with low light, grand kids and pets that move so quick you can hardly keep up even if there was no camera hiding your face.

The camera to win me back would need some big things, and for goodness sakes – sweat a few details too Canon – would ya. Here is the list:

Take a 1D Mark III body and do the following things;

Naturally expected to be in the next camera:
• New high res LCD like all the rest (expected here, not anything unusual).
• Digic 5

Focus is now the most important feature.
I say this respectfully, but I want a focus system that works. No more sloppy soft images. Face detection is in it’s send, third and fourth generations in point’n shoots. Unleash the power of the big grand DSLR with a face detection system that does 2 things:
Mode 1 – completely automatic face detection.
Mode 2 – face detection based on my selected focus point – putting emphasis on that area of the viewfinder.
Increase from 19 focus point cross sensors to 23 focus point cross sensors.
Canon needs to find out where the sloppiness is happening in their focus systems. Forget the 1D Mark III issue, that’s mostly over, all the Canon’s, all the way back to the Canon D30 deliver that famous soft focus look. Is it because Nikon (and now Sony) use a CCD sensor for focus and Canon uses a CMOS for focus?? If so, change it. if not, get rid of the trademark Canon soft focus once and for all. Nikon is so sharp it bites. Why?? I don’t know, but I now shoot with the Nikon. Win me back with a killer focus system Canon. Canon is the biggest, they can do it.

D3X Nikkor 70-200mm

Megapixels – yes, bigger is better, but give me some control.
Okay, bigger actually is better. But smaller still has a life. I’d like a an 18 megapixel full frame camera with 6 or 7 fps, and also to have that delicious 1.3 crop too, at 9 or 10fps at around 12 to 13ish megapixels. Nikon gives me 12, Canon should take it up a notch. Don’t take the timid road and skimp out on the megapixels, Canon did that once with the 1D Mark III and Nikon came along and spanked them. Don’t let that happen again.

High ISO is where I live – give me the good stuff.
A lot of us now live at high ISO levels. The 1600 Club compares cameras based on high ISO performance as this is really important now days. Canon has excelled at high ISO, that is their main game. Play it again, and win it. The 18mp camera should deliver jaw-dropping high ISO response along with detail. I think this is one of Canon’s easiest chores. How many people have read the report that said Canon could have done a lot better but “marketing” department choices would not let them? Don’t let this become a reality, deliver the goods. I don’t really believe that story, but just thought  I’d mention it.

• Okay, here is where Canon stumbles.
• Can I set the shutter speed to 1/125 and the f stop to 2.8 in manual mode and have the camera run the ISO for me? Nope. Nikon can.
• Can I press the center SET button and see a 100 percent view zoomed in on my active focus point? Nope. Nikon can.
• Can I press a button easily while shooting is in progress and the camera drops into spot metering? Nope. Nikon can.
• Can I press and hold a button and defeat the flash for in instant ambient image while shooting? Nope. Nikon can.
• Can I limit the lowest shutter speed to force the ISO to start rising? Nope. The Nikon can. (the 1D body has a touch of this – 5D Mark II – NO)

Include new Custom Function setting to cause the AF assist light in the hot shoe flash unit to come on a LOT sooner, or a lot less – your choice.

1 Button 1 press White Balancing – put a Max or gray card in front of the lens – press once and the WB is set instantly.

D3X Nikkor 50mm 1.4G at f/1.6

• Allow more items in “My Menu” or add more “My Menus”. Customization is so important to mold a camera to our individual needs.

The next pro camera Canon releases needs to be above the normal predictability of Canon that their track record has trained us to expect.
I hope Canon takes the good stuff out of the back room and puts it front and center where people who already have had an “affair” with Canon would be lured back by offering some solid no nonsense forward thinking features. Here’s hoping Canon will engage their team of engineers and think-tank personnel and create a camera body to lure folks back to Canon.

While there is no 1D Mark IV to announce, with PMA here, there’s hope. And if not at PMA, them maybe during summer of 2009, if not then – Nikon will have a wide open window for quit a long time and Canon will really need to bring out something above the expected.

Peter Gregg

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