*UPDATE as of May 2013* I own 3 of these bodies and they are all workhorses. They get me through absolutely everything I come up against.
With my photographic needs growing significantly towards the end of 2012 and with the expectation of bigger things to come in 2013 I felt like my equipment was holding me back a big. I love Canon, and I’d love Canon even more if I had about €4,000 to spend on equipment. But like most, I don’t have that kind of money. I had needs that my equipment wasn’t meeting and I had a budget of €500. Things weren’t looking good. I had expected to end up sticking with my current equipment but I looked around and found a great deal on a 1D Mark IIN which I instantly snapped up and haven’t regretted since. In fact, I’m considering buying another.
Why the 1D Mark IIN?
Well, simply put… the Mark II felt too dated and the Mark III was a bit too expensive with a few too many AF worries. I was specifically after a 1-Series body, for the build quality, the dual card slots and the AF system. As much as I love the 5D Mark II it just wasn’t fit for my needs, it has the benefits of low light performance and image quality but I just needed to get away from the 9 point AF system (well, only the centre point has ever been useful on any of these 9 point systems). The Mark IIN looked like it was the one, it fit all my needs, it fit my budget and it had very few drawbacks. So I went ahead and picked it up.
How does it perform?
I’ve used it on quite a few occasions now and I am extremely impressed with it. It produces fantastic images at all ISO values (actually, I don’t think I’ve had the camera below 800 ISO yet!). I’ve shot fireworks, a concert, rugby matches and some night time street shots since I got the camera. ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 are extremely clean compared to the same settings on the Canon 40D, 60D and 500D. They equal the quality of the Canon 5D Classic and ISO 3200 on the 1D Mark IIN is slightly worse than ISO 3200 on the 5D Mark II. (I’m excluding the 5D Mark III, 1D Mark IV, 1DX etc. because, if you have the money for them then you wouldn’t be reading this post…).
1/60th, F/2.8, ISO 3200
It’s snappy to focus. Better than any Canon DSLR I’ve used before. In lower light situations, the 40D/60D are quicker to start up but the 1D Mark IIN is quicker to find focus and it’s better at finding focus in low light situations. I shot a 4 hour long battle of the bands concert and there were only 3 occasions throughout the whole night that the 1D had trouble finding focus and that was mainly my fault. If you know to look out for the high contrast areas then it’ll be easy to lock focus 99% of the time. The constant changing stage lights didn’t put the camera off once. Music photography is by far one of the hardest jobs a photographer can get, you really need to be able to rely on your equipment to pull through for you.
The 45 point AF in the 1D was phenomenal. Every point, including the non-cross-type points locked on very easily. I stayed in one shot AF for the entire gig as that’s my shooting preference and I didn’t have a single out of focus image from the entire night. The 1D rendered the colours lovely and they were a pleasure to edit. I’ll mention now that all these images were shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom 4, no noise reduction was added to any of them (I went back and checked). The dynamic range of the 1D at 1600 ISO and 3200 ISO surpassed that of the much newer 60D and the full frame 5D Classic.
1/320th, F/2.8, ISO 1600
1/200th, F/2.8, ISO 1600
1/80th, F/2.8 ISO 3200
Regarding the editing of the RAW files: you can increase the exposure by about a stop but then the image falls to pieces. This is to be expected. Here’s a black and white image which I pushed and pulled to extremes to get just the way I wanted it, I boosted the exposure by about 2 stops and drastically increased the blacks and clarity to get the exact silhouette look I was after:
1/1000th, F/2.8, ISO 3200
However, when kept within its limits the camera’s RAW files hold up very well during the edit process.
1/640th, F/2.8, ISO 1600
1/100th, F/2.8, ISO 3200
So, I mentioned how the AF performed in one shot, how about in AI Servo? Equally as brilliant. I photographed a Leinster Schools Senior Rugby match and I didn’t get a single out of focus shot that wasn’t my fault. I got a total of 3 out of focus shots because I selected the wrong point or focused on the wrong thing (I was still trying to get used to the AF system at this point). At no point did I have to think about the AF, I set it to back button focusing (my preference) and just held it down without letting go. At no point did I have to give the AF any thought. Tracking was exceptionally good and the camera was not easily tricked. Even when the ball passed in front of players faces there was no noticeable hiccup in the AF. I’d imagine if you set the tracking speed faster in the custom functions you might encounter some problems here, but I had it set to standard and it was perfectly fine. I shot during the rugby match with the Canon 300mm F/4L non-IS and the Canon 70-200mm F/2.8L non-IS so AF was spectacular as per usual with those lenses.
1/800th, F/4, ISO 800
1/1000th, F/4, ISO 800
I left AF point expansion off when shooting with the 300mm. It didn’t feel natural to me, probably because I’m not used to it yet, but the camera handled the action fine without it. I was able to keep up with the players by moving the AF point myself. The dual dial system is a bit tricky to get used to compared to the newer joystick method of selecting AF points but I now prefer it, it’s much easier than the joystick for people like me with big fingers.
1/1000th, F/4, 800 ISO
1/1250th, F/2.8, 800 ISO
1/1250th, F/2.8, 400 ISO
It’s fantastic. I love it, it’s a workhorse of a camera. The files it produces are superb, the 8mp sensor is more than most people will need, it will print as big as you could ever want (unless you’re a studio photographer, in which case I doubt you’d be interested in this camera). The smaller file sizes are much more friendly towards CF cards though, the buffer clears quicker than with bigger files (like with the 40D or 7D), due to the buffer clearing quicker it’s easier to get longer bursts at the 8.5 FPS the cameras offers. A Lexar 8GB 200x CF card gives me a good 3 second burst of RAW files on full speed before it slows down. An even faster card wouldn’t have this problem, I just have no need for faster cards at the moment.
In terms of IQ, it is far beyond any current APS-C sensor camera offered by Canon. I would rather buy a 1D Mark IIN than a 7D. The IQ of the 1D matches that of the 5D Classic, the 5D Mark II is a bit better, especially at high ISOs. It really benefits from the full frame. I love the 1D Mark IIN and I think it is a very good choice in 2013 if you’re on a budget. Other cameras around it’s price range would be a 650D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 60D, 5D Classic – it performs better than each of those models in it’s own way. The AF is far beyond that of the 5D Classic, and the image quality (as well as other features like the AF) is far beyond that of any APS-C offering.
1/10th, F/4, 800 ISO
1/1000th, F/4, 640 ISO
1/1600th, F/2.8, 400 ISO
1/1000th, F/2.2, 800 ISO
-Fantastic Image Quality
-Brilliant 45 point AF system
-Dual card slots
-100% Coverage Viewfinder
-Smaller file sizes allow for cheaper CF cards (like 200x as opposed to the 600x needed for similar speeds with a 7D)
-Big and heavy
-Big battery (twice the size of the 1D Mark III/IV battery and about 3/4 times the size of the 5D/7D/xxD batteries)
-2.5 inch LCD screen, not as high quality as current screens (doesn’t bother me, it’s still a brilliant screen)
-Only goes to 3200 ISO
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