I spent eight weeks in Indonesia recently, during which time I shot over 4,000 pictures of Balinese long-tailed macaques - their scientific name is Macaca fascicuiaris - with an EOS-1D Mark IV DSLR.
The monkeys are smaller than chimps and the big males have really big teeth, so it can be a little bit dangerous photographing them! When you are tracking the monkeys they change direction quite quickly – and the tracking of the EOS-1D Mark IV worked perfectly here.
The most noticeable thing with the EOS-1D Mark IV is that the AF is different to the EOS-1D Mark III. In my opinion the autofocus on the new camera works much better than the Mark III – the tracking is faster, easier, and it holds the autofocus on the monkeys perfectly. It is really fast and you can get six to 10 frames in focus very quickly.
For me autofocus is very important in low contrast shooting situations – for example, last year I had problems shooting an albatross in the Antarctic because of the low contrast situation. The Balinese macaques have the same colouring as the temples and temple walls that they often scale, so the cross-type AF points on the Mark IV work really well with f/2.8 zoom lenses when you’re shooting in low contrast – that’s a big advantage. The 10 frames per second shooting speed of the camera helps you to track well and out of 30 shots well over 90% are perfectly in focus.
On this latest shoot I worked at up to ISO 12,800 - even at that speed some of the results would be suitable for high-resolution reproduction in books. It can depend on the background as to whether an image will work at ISO 12,800 but the Mark IV works perfectly for book quality up to ISO 6400 – it is amazing. This is very important to me as much of my work is for books. To be honest I probably wouldn’t have shot beyond ISO 1600 on the EOS-1D Mark III if I was planning for the images to be used in a book, so this is a great improvement.
Mostly I don’t use Noise Reduction. I take all my photos in RAW and I’ll shoot ISO 6400 for a book without NR, or a maximum of ISO 12,800 with NR, which is fine for newspaper or magazine reproduction. I prefer really sharp contrast at ISO 6400. My Picture Style is neutral, with all points set to zero. If I feel there is not enough colour I will make a small adjustment but, for me, neutral is best. In automatic mode 98% of the time it works but if you have shadows at the front and the sun behind you can get White Balance problems. If the image is too blue I switch to manual to make it warmer.
I do miss a full frame camera a little when I’m shooting with a wideangle lens, but I have to say that the 1D Mark IV’s viewfinder is perfect for me. Also, I was really impressed with the camera’s LCD screen, which seemed almost the same as a calibrated computer monitor in terms of colour.
For me the colours with this camera were neutral. The fur on the young macaques is darker grey, and the older ones are grey and white - the colours looked perfect to me. It’s hard to capture greys accurately, but I felt the Mark IV did this perfectly.
I use lots of the EOS Custom Functions in my work and it’s important for me to put in the settings for the inner and outer nine AF points. When I was shooting a group of monkeys I’d use the inner nine points but mostly I’d use the outer nine points. I like the fact that you can also put up to six of the Custom Function settings into My Menu and then I can change the settings really quickly. This is great for me as I mostly use around four or five different shooting settings.
Biography: Thorsten Milse
© Ralf Bauer
German-born photographer Thorsten Milse has photographed wildlife around the world since 1990. His images have been published in famous wildlife publications including BBC Wildlife magazine, GEO, and Nature’s Best Photography and he is a previous winner of BBC Wildlife Photographer of the year in the Animal Behaviour category. A Canon Ambassador since autumn 2008, Thorsten’s book on Namibia’s Skeleton Coast was published in February 2010.