1D Mark IV Battery Vastly Underrated?

The new Canon 1D Mark IV is the latest in the long line of drool-worthy Canon SLR’s that reaches back to when the EOS-1 series film camera was released in 1989 (admittedly Nikon’s F-series has been around since 1959 but for my purposes it’s a moot point).  Historically the batteries that have powered Canon’s professional line of DSLR’s have been admirable to say the least: my old 1D Mark II would outlast my equally-as-old Blackberry through the Coachella weekend (back when Blackberry’s were in), and the Mark III exhibited the same prowess years later.  When my new 1D Mark IV arrived I was eager to find a time to really give the battery a run for its money.  I knew it would be good, but I never expected this LP-E4 battery would outlast every other camera battery I have ever used.

Over the past few months I’ve been experimenting with timelapses.  I have become acutely aware of how quickly a camera battery can deplete when tethered. My 5D would average between 500 and 700 frames per battery (or about 25 seconds when compiled into a 24fps timelapse).

I thought last night’s Sleep Piece #3 would stretch what the battery could do: a four hour nighttime timelapse (10 second exposures every 30 seconds) followed by a second, two hour long timelapse in the morning.  I let the battery charge from 4AM through 5AM and then setup the camera for the morning timelapse: a 1/25th exposure every 10 seconds.

Now, each session rendered just short of 500 frames, well short of the reported 1500-frame cap of the LP-E4 battery.  I don’t know the exact power usage of longer exposures (1″ and longer) but I figure the sensor was active for approximately 80 minutes over the evening and the battery was still ready for more (which makes me want to experiment with single-frame long exposures).

This morning, before relegating myself to the sweet agony of sleeping in a hot bedroom, I set up a timelapse in the kitchen to track the movement of the sunlight.  I let exposures go every 5 seconds on aperture priority (shutter speeds averaged 1/125th) and went to sleep.

2928 frames later, the battery was still showing two out of the four bars.  Admittedly the battery graphic is an incredibly inaccurate measurement and I was still so tired when I woke up that I didn’t check the percentage.  Regardless, I started this timelapse without recharging the battery from the second Sleep Piece #3 clip.

So, in my subjective and non-scientific experience, the LP-E4 battery in the Canon 1D Mark IV fired the shutter nearly 3,500 times and still wasn’t drained.  A couple of caveats: autofocus was not used, I was shooting JPG’s (smaller file sizes reduce write times and should reduce battery drain), Live View was used for initial focusing for a total of maybe 3 minutes.  For those interested in this kind of thing I was using Breeze System’s DSLR Remote Pro for tethering control.

Wow.  Unless I’m missing something, Canon has drastically underrated their LP-E4 battery.  I would imagine Canon errs on the side of prudence and underrates their professional batteries but I am absolutely floored at the performance of the LP-E4.

05/16/2010 Update: I set the camera up last night to shoot exposures until the battery died and came out with just short of 2000 frames.  This time the captures were normal RAW files, writing both to the SD card and the MSI Wind.  There are a handful of permutations remaining!

09/19/2010 Update: Shot all day at a western horse derby from 8am-3:30pm.  No shot was longer than 1/1600.  The following picture was taken at 2:14 (300 frames before the end of the day).  Clearly this does not make a solid case for the underrated LP-E4, but it is indicative of the kind of use I’ve been putting it through (and the kind of battery performance I have been seeing).

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