Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3S – Autofocus Performance [Part 4]

Canon  1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3s

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I provided an introduction to this autofocus evaluation, as well as a brief overview of the Canon 1D Mark IV and Nikon D3S AF systems.  In Part 3 of this series, I looked more in-depth at images captured during basketball games with the 1D Mark IV and D3S. If you have not read the previous installments in this series, you can do so now by clicking the links below:

  1. Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3S – Autofocus Performance [Part 1]
  2. Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3S – Autofocus Performance [Part 2]
  3. Canon 1D Mark IV vs. Nikon D3S – Autofocus Performance [Part 3]

In Part 4 below, we will look more in-depth at images captured during a track and field event with the 1D Mark IV and D3S.

All images below were captured at the same track and field event.  During the event I primarily used a single telephoto lens for each camera, although some images may have been captured with 70-200mm models.  The lenses used include the following:

My primary goal while shooting the track event was to test the closing subject autofocus tracking ability of each camera.  As a result, I focused on capturing long bursts of images during sprints and other events.

The Canon 1D Mark IV performed markedly better at these events than it did during basketball coverage.  Looking back at the images I captured at the event,  it is difficult to discern a difference in the performance of each camera.

With both the 1D Mark IV and D3S, I captured several series with multiple consecutive images in focus.  Likewise, there were a number of images in the middle of other series wherein both cameras failed in autofocus tracking.

In many cases where the D3S failed in its focus tracking, it appeared to be slightly lagging behind the subject – with a handful of obvious misses where the camera focuses on the background.  Whereas, the 1D Mark IV would more often fail by shifting focus a significant distance from the subject.  Of course, both cameras failed to focus in other ways; however, these appeared to one of the more common trends of out of focus shots with each camera.

To download any of the images below for personal inspection and evaluation purposes only, right-click on the image and choose “Save image as…”

Nikon D3S Sample Series

In the following series, you can see where the Nikon D3S AF tracking lagged behind the subject a bit as the subject got closer to the camera.  As the camera attempted to reacquire the subject, it completely missed the subject in favor of the background for one frame.  Not a regular occurrence by any means, but it just goes to show that even the D3S is not invincible – particularly in tough, back-lit situations.

The D3S performed admirably in some of the toughest AF tracking conditions – men’s 100M sprints with back lighting.  They don’t really set these races up for photographers.

One more short series – I think this was the women’s 800M finish.

Canon 1D Mark IV Sample Series

In the following series, you’ll see a brief lapse from the 1D Mark IV AF tracking as it focuses on the background instead of tracking the subject in the 100M hurdles.  After the miss though, the 1D got back on the mark and successfully tracked several more frames of the subject.

Some 100M men’s sprints.

Final Thoughts

As far as track and field goes, I feel like I could take either camera out on a given day and capture just as many keepers with one as I could the other.  Unlike basketball coverage, the 1D Mark IV held its own against the D3S out on the track.  In fact, some of the back-lit conditions seemed to adversely affect the D3S’ AF tracking more so than the 1D Mark IV.

With regard to the lenses, the Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR II and Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM are phenomenal lenses.  They are silent, fast and sharp as tacks.  As you can see from some of the above images, however, a 400mm lens would be more ideally-suited for some of the track and field events.  Still yet, the resolution of both cameras (and the 1D Mark IV in particular) allows liberal cropping of sports action images, which often appear in newspaper print or low-resolution web usage.

The Canon 1D Mark IV and Nikon D3S are available from Photography Bay’s trusted retail partner, B&H Photo, at the following links:

Canon 1D Mark IV at B&H Photo

Nikon D3S at B&H Photo

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