Canon didn't allow Nikon to enjoy the limelight for too long after all, announcing the forthcoming release of its new EOS 1D Mark IV professional D-SLR camera before the fanfare that accompanied Nikon's D3S had even died down. As well as slightly improving the huge ISO range of the D3S, Canon looks to have seized the opportunity to further raise the standard a little by opting for a 16.1 Mp sensor and 1080p high definition video.
Comparison with Nikon's earlier ISO ground-breaker is inevitable, as it was first out of the news release starting blocks and anything that comes after is bound to undergo spec for spec scrutiny. And a good place to start is with that impressive ISO sensitivity range heralded by the D3S only days ago.
How low can you go?
With the EOS 1D Mark IV, the standard ISO range has been set to between 100 and 12,800, ever-so-slightly better than the D3S. Boost it up a notch or two and the Canon increases to ISO 50 to 102,400 which is again an improvement on Nikon's 100 to 102,400 range, making the headline-grabbing low light capability the same in both models.
Canon's new offspring has a slightly smaller CMOS sensor (27.9 by 18.6mm) than the D3S (36 x 23.9 mm) but offers 16.1 megapixels as opposed to 12.1 and a 1.3x crop instead of 1.2. Both models offer a 3:2 aspect ratio, RGB color filter array and a built-in low pass filter.
Canon's new 45 point autofocus system with 39 cross-type sensors should provide photo journalists with numerous opportunities to capture fast-moving objects. The D3S, by comparison, benefits from a 51 point autofocus system with 15 cross-type sensors.
Canon has slotted the Mark IV's continuous shooting capabilities slap bang in the middle of the D3S's 9 frames per second (fps) and 11 fps in DX mode with a maximum of 10 fps. Whereas Nikon grants the user a burst buffer of 130 shots in JPEG or 48 in RAW, Canon settles on the very capable but not as impressive 121 and 28 respectively.
The higher the better
Each model has its own lens mount, image processor and internal cleaning system - details of which can be found on the product websites. Where the EOS 1D Mark IV is sure to grab some press real estate is by offering full 1080p high definition video over Nikon's 720p choice. Whether current media or website outlets require full HD is neither here nor there, the simple fact is that it's now on the table and potentially gives the Mark IV a broader spectrum of customer appeal .
Both companies claim to have made noticeable image quality improvements, with the Mark IV's circuitry having been upgraded to improve noise reduction. The Canon also features something called the Auto Lighting Optimizer system which automatically adjusts brightness and contrast on-the-fly whilst images are being processed by the camera. This, says Canon, should lead to much less time being spent on post-processing of images.
They both sport a bright 3in anti-reflective TFT LCD screen with 920,000 dots and 100% frame coverage, but the D3S offers a slightly better 170 degree viewing angle. Connectivity options on both models are also comparable with HDMI mini output, USB 2.0 and wired remote all being present.
Wireless file transfer is a nice additional option from Canon via the WFT-E2 II A wireless file transmitter accessory. And both are powered by Lithium-Ion batteries, the LP-E4 in the Canon and the EN-EL4a in the Nikon.
On your marks
The Mark IV is smaller than the D3S at 156 x 156.6 x 80 mm (6.2 x 6.2 x 3.1 in) and weighs less too, 1180 g (2.6 lb). It's also being offered for a few hundred dollars less than Nikon's model, at an estimated retail price of USD$4999 (body only). The Nikon has a bigger sensor, a slightly greater viewing angle and a larger burst buffer. But the Canon offers more megapixels, a slightly better ISO range with equally impressive low light capabilities and 1080p full HD video.
Nikon's raspberry blowing seems to have been short-lived, Canon's EOS 1D Mark IV has caught up and in a few areas even overtaken the D3S on specs. Which will reign supreme is a tough call to make, I guess we'll just have to keep a close eye on what's hanging from the shoulders of photo journalists in the near future to find out. The Mark IV is scheduled for US release in late December.