Canon EOS 1D Mark IV Review: Part III – Video

In the third part of the Canon EOS 1D Mark IV review, I examine the video feature. Sceptics might say that the traditional video camera industry has been there for years, so how does it matter if the video or filming function is added to a digital SLR.

When a filming option was included in the 5D Mark II for the first time, it caught the imagination of people. It became so popular that it even surprised Canon. Canon had to come up with firmware upgrades to 5D Mark II to fine-tune its video capture.

Keeping these in mind, let us evaluate the pros and cons of video in the 1D Mark IV. Since most of our readers are primarily still photographers, I am including information about filming as well as how to adapt your Mark IV for filming.

1. Sensor size:
The sensor size of the 1D Mark IV is several times larger than the sensor in a video camera. Due to the large sensor, the depth of field is very shallow. So it helps in giving you control over how much area you want in focus and the bokeh that you get is nice. In comparison, the video cameras have got a small sensor and virtually everything will be in focus, so to speak. So it doesn’t give you that film look where a subject is moving in or out of focus.

Due to the smaller sensor size in the video cameras, the effective focal length of your lenses increases by a factor of 7. So your 300mm lens acts like a 2100mm lens. So it becomes very difficult to capture wide angle views like the ones you capture with your DSLRs.

2. Low light Performance
The low light performance of these DSLRs is phenomenal as compared to the films. The high ISO abilities of the 1D Mark IV is very good and one can easily use the ISO up to 3200 and also at ISO 6400 if required. That means you have a better chance of capturing those scenes when the animals are more active. One can virtually shoot in near darkness. That pushes the boundaries of film making.

3. Size and weight

The size of a DSLR is less and you are able to shoot in cramped environments. So if you are in a cave, still you can use a wide angle lens and capture the image or film.

4. Lens choice:
You can use all your existing Canon lenses from your wide angle to your super telephoto lens.

5. Files:
The Full HD files of Canon 1D Mark IV (1980x1080 p) is future proof (at least for the next half a decade) as the broadcasters are still at a lower resolution level.

6. Unninterrupted Recording time:
The camera can record continuously for 12 minutes or 4GB whichever is earlier. This is due to the file format and not a Canon problem. Though this may not be a problem for most of the commercial advertising or film makers as each take rarely lasts that long. However, for a wildlife filmmaker, at times the scene may last longer.
7. Ergonomics:
As mentioned in the first part of the review of the 1D Mark IV, the DSLRs are primarily meant for shooting still photography. So you see through the viewfinder. However, for shooting video, you need to see through the LCD at the back of the camera. That necessitates camera to be placed or held in front of you depending upon your eyesight. Try holding a camera at a distance from you to look through the viewfinder, and then you will quickly realise that handholding becomes out of question. In sharp contrast, a video camera has been designed for a shoulder mount or to be held by hand with the LCD screen swiveling at any angle you want. I am sure Canon will come out with a swiveling LCD, but I don’t expect it soon.

a. LCD Viewfinder:
So to shoot video using the 1D Mark IV or any other such DLSRs with video capability, you need to use a LCD viewfinder like Zacuto, LCDVF, and Hoodloupe etc. These viewfinders attach to the back of your LCD and then you can press it to your eye and see through it like the way you see through the viewfinder of your camera. This also gives you another point of contact and hence stability. Of course, the primary benefit is to get the right focus, as the Mark IV or any other DSLR cameras with video capability don’t have full auto focus capability. The cost of the LCD viewfinders can vary from 100 USD to 400 odd USD.

b. Follow Focus:
If you thought focusing would be easy, as some of you may have tried manual focusing a few times while shooting stills, then you would be in for a rude shock. Rotating the focusing ring to get a smooth focus is not the easiest thing in filming. Switch on the live view and then try rotating the focus ring and you will get the idea. You may need to invest in a follow focus unit. An innocuous looking follow focus can set you back by a thousand odd dollars. And if you dream of shooting Hollywood quality films with your 1D Mark IV, then you have to invest more for a unit with much closer tolerances than a typical Zacuto and the cost spirals upwards to several thousand dollars.

8. Time Code:
There are also certain things that are needed in a video camera. For example, time code. If you are shooting a scene with multiple cameras, then timecode becomes necessary to sync it. Also, it helps you in noting the precise point where the interesting scene is. So you can note it and cut the scene later at those points. I am not expecting our readers to shoot with multiple cameras and sync later. So this may not bother them much.

9. Tripod/ support:
I use a Gitzo GT3530LS carbon fibre tripod and a Wimberly V2 head. Unfortunately, when you attach your Canon 1D Mark IV and the heavy EF 400mm f2.8 L IS lens weight 5.3kgs on it, you will quickly realise that though this is a great combination for still photography, it is not good enough for filming. If you are shooting in a windy situation and filming, then there would be jitters in your video. In still photography, you can discard one shot, however, when filming the entire sequence gets ruined. Also when you are panning your camera, you realise that the panning is not smooth. You then realise that the Wimberly V2 is not up to the mark, as you need a fluid head.

So what does that mean in terms of costs? If you have a weak heart, then you are advised not to read further.

A good quality fluid head like an OConnor (1030HD) will cost you about 5500 USD ie. upwards of two lakhs of rupees. A relatively cheap Miller DS-20 Fluid costing about 1100 USD will also work for people, if you don’t have stringent requirements. Ofcourse, you can use the Manfrotto 519 costing around 800 US dollars.

Add to this the price of a tripod.

If you thought, wildlife photography was costly, then wildlife filming is like breaking the bank.

10.Matte Box:
What is a matte box? Can you recollect seeing a rectangular box in front of the video cameras? Why do I need to use it? I already have a lens shade, so why do I need it?

Well, you will discover that your existing lens shades would be inadequate in certain situations. Recently, I was filming with my 400 f2.8 L IS and despite the lens hood in shooting position; I still ended up with flickering lights.

A matte box will also help in attaching special effects filters and neutral density filters. Of course, if you are shooting with a long telephoto lens, then you need to buy specific drop in filters. A matte box and French flag can cost you upwards of 1000 USD.

a. Built in Microphone:
The Mark IV has got a built in microphone. However, if you plan using the built-in microphone, then you will be in for a rude shock. The built-in microphone will pickup the noise of the Image Stabilisation, noise made while changing your aperture ring etc.

b. Autogain:
To compound the issue, there is a feature called Auto Gain. It will automatically change your sound levels. Now, you will ask how does that matter?

Imagine, you filming a Crested Serpent Eagle on a tree. Suddenly, it calls. The autogain feature immediately lowers the sound levels, so the ambient sound level will drop down and you will hear the call, and after the call stops, the ambient sound level will be brought up again and you will hear it. That would sound pretty unnatural.

c. Audio Output:
Canon hasn’t provided an audio output from the Mark IV. That means you are unable to plug in your earphone and listen to the sound as it is being recorded.

So what is the solution for audio issues?

d. External Microphones:
There is no way out but to buy external microphones. They come in all shapes and sizes depending upon your quality requirements and budget. It can vary from couple of hundred dollars (like the a Rode microphone) to a few thousand US dollars like the Schoeps SuperCMIT at 4750 USD. I have settled on a Sennheiser MKH 416. I think last week the price got reduced to 1000 USD.

You should remember that the super cardiod microphones cannot pick sounds from several hundred feet away. Film makers use Foley in those situations. In case you want to record interviews, then you may need to pick up a Lavaliere microphone.

e. Mixer:
You would need an amplifier/mixer to connect your microphone and then the output can be recorded in a sound recorder or plugged straight into the camera. Plan at least about 400 odd USD for that.

f. Sound recorder:
The cheapest sound recorder with professional XLR inputs can cost you about 300 USD (Tascam DR100). If you want a much better quality like the ones used by Hollywood fellows, then you have to buy Sound Devices or a similar brand costing several thousand dollars.

g. Head phones:
You need to monitor the sound that is being recorded. So you need closed microphones. A popular Sennheiser one can cost you about 90 USD and upwards. Remember, that it is not advisable to use a noise cancelling microphone, as you certainly want to hear any noise that is creeping into your recordings.

Well. Now you will tell me that it is better not to buy the Mark IV, as filming for some is the path to bankruptcy. Frankly speaking, you need not invest 10000 US Dollars immediately. If you don’t have a fluid head, then try to film with your camera in a locked down position. That is lock all the knobs of your camera and take short clips without attempting to pan. Change your focal length and try to tell your story. Also, there are some cheap clones made by some Indian and Korean manufacturers.