Canon EOS-1D X


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    Canon EOS-1D X

      In summary

      Arguably, the EOS 1D X is Canon's most versatile camera to date and there are few situations in which it won't shine. Sports and wildlife photographers will relish the new AF system, high burst speeds and clean films at high sensitivity settings. (With a caveat to photographers who use extender lenses, as explained in the full review.)

      Landscape and architectural photographers will benefit from the camera's wide dynamic range and the weatherproof body you can take anywhere and use in all kinds of weather. They may also be able to extract more and cleaner detail from shadows in contrasty shots.

      If budgetary considerations are foremost, the IDX is priced out of the reach of many keen photographers. And it may not be the best option for most of them. The EOS 5D Mark III will give you a higher resolution sensor and similar focusing and video capabilities for approximately half the price.

      Photographers looking for great image and video quality who don't require high frame rates will probably be satisfied with the 5D Mark III - particularly if they're bushwalkers. It's considerably lighter and has higher resolution, although it's not nearly as rugged as the 1DX. And, if you're still looking for 'full frame' and prepared to wait a month or so, there's the up-coming EOS 6D to consider.

      For photographers who want fast burst capture speed but can't afford the high cost of trading up to full frame, the EOS 7D supports 8 fps and costs roughly a quarter of the price of the IDX. But it doesn't offer the same ruggedness and weather sealing and the 1D X's AF system is on a completely different level.

      Canon's post-purchase support is excellent and professional photographers who join CPS (Canon Professional Services) can access prioritised repairs from a network with facilities in most parts of the world. Whichever camera you select, you probably can't go wrong.

      Buy this camera if:
       - You want a versatile, professional DSLR camera with a tough, weatherproof body.
       - You require fast and accurate focusing, high burst speeds and a generous buffer capacity. 
       - You would appreciate the jack for fitting a stereo microphone for video recordings.
       - You could make use of the extended sensitivity range for still photography and video capture.
       
      Don’t buy this camera if:
       - You’re not prepared to explore and use the multitude of user-adjustable functions this camera offers.
       - You require automated exposure modes.

      Full review

      When we published our detailed 'First Look' at Canon's EOS-1D X camera last October we didn't think it would be almost a year before we received a production-level camera to review. The delay was partly a result of Canon pre-announcing the camera so photo agencies and the like could include it in their purchasing plans for 2012 and partly to steal a march on Nikon, which announced its D4 in January.

      The Canon EOS-1DX with the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens that was used in our review. (Source: Canon.)

      Both cameras hit the market in enough volumes and with adequate time for photographers attending the London Olympic Games to become familiar with them. And both cameras are now on sale in specialist shops. We provided a comparison of the two cameras in Issue 51 of Photo Review Australia magazine.

      Rather than re-hashing the information provided in the  'First Look', we've decided to cut to the chase and focus upon the handling characteristics and performance of the new camera. For this review, we received a production-level camera body plus two lenses: the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM. We also used our Canon EF 24-105mm and EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM DO IS for some test shots to gauge handling with a longer zoom lens.

      Handling
      As befits a professional camera, the EOS-1D X is large and relatively heavy.  At a glance, it looks a lot like the EOS-1D Mark IV but is two millimetres wider, 7.6 mm taller and 2.8 mm deeper and weighs 160 grams more. Whether you'll notice these differences is debatable but they provide reassurance that the camera's magnesium alloy body frame will withstand the most demanding conditions.

      The larger monitor is at least partly responsible for the increase in body size. Few photographers are likely to complain about its higher resolution and improved visibility, thanks to Canon's Clear View II technology, a high resolution of 1.04 million dots and its anti-reflective construction. This screen is bright and sharp and usable outdoors, even in bright sunlight.

      The grip, though large, is comfortable to hold and places the fingers within easy reach of the most frequently-used controls. Without substantially changing the layout from the 1D Mark IV, Canon has configured the 1D X to make it easy to adjust exposure, check the depth of field, switch between focusing modes and change the ISO settings without having to take your eye from the viewfinder. 

      The rear panel of the EOS-1DX showing the new Live View/Viewfinder button (circled in green) and Quick Control button (circled in red). (Source: Canon.)

      The new Live View/Viewfinder button (circled in green in the illustration above) makes it easy to toggle in and out of live view mode, as the need arises. And, given this is a complex camera, some photographers will appreciate the  Camera Guidance feature, which is displayed when the Info button is pressed. The new Quick Control button consolidates the most frequently-used functions into a standardised screen that's similar to those in other EOS cameras, further facilitating access.

      Canon has retained its basic viewfinder design in the new camera, which provides 100% field-of-view coverage with 0.76x magnification and a 20mm eyepoint. This means you can see precisely what you're shooting, right out to the edges of the frame, an advantage when accurate framing is required.

      In low light levels, the viewfinder is lit up by red LEDs to improve visibility and you can switch them on or off via the Custom functions menu. (When the camera is switched off, the view through the finder appears slightly cloudy but it becomes clear when power is switched on.)

      The data overlay, which has been ported across from the EOS 7D and 5D III, includes an AF status indicator that shows when focusing is taking place. You can also see the shooting mode and the ISO display has been updated to allow for the camera's full sensitivity range.

      In live view mode, photographers can take advantage of three framing guide overlays: a 3x3 grid, a 24-segment grid or a 3x3 grid with diagonals. You can also display a grid and an electronic level in the viewfinder to help prevent camera tilt.

      The menu system is similar to the 5D III's and benefits from logical organisation that provides quick access to the multitude of camera settings. It's divided into six sections, covering Shooting, AF, Playback, Set-up, Custom functions and My Menu.

      Navigating the menu is straightforward; you simply press the Menu button to display the menu screen and then use the Quick Control button and main dial to tab between pages. Pressing the Quick Control button takes you to the next tab in the menu, while turning the main dial lets you select a secondary tab. Settings are locked in by pressing the Set button.

      While the Custom Functions are split among six sub-menus, as in the EOS-1D Mark IV, the IDX provides a couple of new options. You can now change the function of the Protect button to apply ratings to images. You can also limit the maximum burst length to between two and 99 shots and restrict the drive modes available via the AF/Drive button.

      One new feature many professional photographers will appreciate is the inclusion of error logging, which automatically records all camera errors. These logs can provide service technicians the information they need to diagnose and fix any problems quickly and get the camera back in use.

      The log also includes a counter that tracks the number of shutter releases. Whether this is relevant depends on how close you're likely to come to the rated 400,000-cycle rating for the camera.

      Focusing
       All focusing controls are now gathered together in one five-page section on the second tab of the camera's menu, making it easier to access settings and apply changes. Like most EOS cameras, the IDX supports four focusing modes: One-Shot AF, AI Servo AF, AI Focus AF and Manual focusing. AF area selection settings are similar to the EOS 7D and include Spot, Single Point, Single Point with surrounding four points, Single Point with surrounding eight points, Zone selection and Automatic AF point selection.
       With a larger AF point array and more sensor points to choose from plus a separate DIGIC processor dedicated to the system, you'd expect an improvement in autofocusing performance from the new camera. In practice, we weren't able to measure any capture lag, either with or without pre-focusing.

      A simulated view of the EOS-1DX's viewfinder screen, showing the 61-point AF sensor array plus the directions of sensitivity for all AF points. (Source: Canon.)

      Having all 61 AF points able to detect horizontal contrast plus the central 21 cross-type points sensitive in vertical and horizontal directions at apertures of f/5.6 or smaller improves precision with most lenses. A big gain for faster lenses comes from the five high-precision diagonal cross-type points in the centre of the array that can use apertures to f/2.8.

      Unfortunately, bird photographers who use Canon's EF1.4xII and EF2xII extenders will be disappointed if they reduce the effective maximum apertures of lenses to a point where autofocusing is no longer supported. Unlike earlier 1D-Series DSLRs, the IDX will no longer autofocus, for example, if you add a 1.4x extender to a lens with a maximum aperture of  f/5.6.

      On the plus side, sports photographers will benefit from improved tracking sensitivity in the AI Servo AF mode, particularly with respect to subjects that change speed rapidly. They should also welcome the new EOS iTR AF (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition Auto Focus) system that enables photographers to direct where the camera will focus on the basis of user-determined face and colour information. Face detection is given the highest priority, but when the system can't lock onto a face, it will search for colour information.

      When using all 61 points in the array, the system defaults to the centre point unless you select and register another point. However, Tracking AF can work from any pre-selected AF point and you can use the AF point auto switching slider in the Case settings (see below) to adjust switching sensitivity to follow subject movement.

      This setting takes effect in the 61-point automatic selection AF mode as well as with the manual selection modes for AF point expansion and Zone AF. If you switch out of the 61-point auto mode and later switch back, the last-used point is 'remembered'.

      Zone AF is handy for photographing subjects moving towards the camera as it will prioritise the nearest subject element. It worked well in our rather limited tests and should increase the number of successful shots for sports and wildlife photographers.

      The first page in the 1DX's AF sub-menu includes the same pre-programmed 'case' settings as the EOS 5D Mark III.  These pre-sets cover most predictable situations, ranging from totally static subjects to ones that move unpredictably and you can adjust tracking sensitivity, acceleration and deceleration, AF point switching and AF point selection.

      Assistance is provided by Smart AF Adjustment, which automatically modifies camera and lens focus and saves the settings to ensure focusing is optimised for each combination of body plus lens. This feature should be welcomed by photographers who use multiple camera and lens combinations.

      We found the IDX's Tracking AF to be very fast and accurate and the one shot AF mode caused instantaneous lock-on even in extremely low light levels. For example, with the two prime lenses supplied with the review camera, we were able to lock onto subjects instantly on a moonless night using only faint illumination from street lights.

      High ISO Performance
      We found Canon's claim that high ISO files from the IDX are two f-stops cleaner than the EOS 1D Mark IV to be valid. In fact, we were surprised at the amount of detail in shots taken at the highest standard-range sensitivity setting (ISO 51200), which were the cleanest and least noise-affected we've seen to date from any camera.

      JPEG files recorded as long exposures at night were totally noise-free up to ISO 3200 and you had to look hard to find noise in images captured at ISO settings between 6400 and 12800 in similar conditions. Between ISO12800 and ISO 25600 there was a small increase in visible noise, which became progressively more obvious by ISO 51200. Granularity was obvious in exposures at ISO 65535 (the highest the camera permitted in expansion mode) but shots were clear enough to be used at small output sizes if necessary.

      Shots taken in the 14-bit CR2.RAW format at ISO 6400 were as clean and noise-free as JPEGs shot at ISO 400 with the 5D Mark II, while those captured at ISO 25600 were usable at up to A4 size. At higher sensitivities raw files were slightly cleaner than JPEGs and produced usable results for modest output sizes.

      All this means you'll obtain more successful hand-held shots in more widely varied situations than ever before. Can you leave your tripod behind? Not really; there will always be situations where a tripod is needed but the IDX will improve your success rate dramatically in situations like tracking fast-moving animals or birds through a dimly-lit forest. 

      Movies
      Switching to movie recording is much simpler in the 1DX than it was on the EOS-ID Mark IV. On the page four of the shooting menu, you select the LV stills/movie tab and turn the quick control dial to select movies.  You may also wish to enable exposure simulation and silent live view shooting before moving on to select the movie size and recording format. (The silent mode is quiet – but not as quiet as the 5D III's silent mode.)

      Setting the camera to the P or Bulb modes engages the auto-exposure control. The next step is to focus the scene and press the M-Fn button beside the shutter release to start recording. A red dot is displayed in the top right corner of the screen to show a clip is being recorded. To stop recording, simply press the M-Fn button again.

      If you want to control aperture or shutter speed settings, you can select the Av or Tv shooting modes and you can lock exposure values by pressing the AE lock button. The 1DX can't autofocus continuously like a camcorder so focus is normally locked on the first frame in each clip. You can re-focus while a clip is being recorded by pressing the AF-ON button.

      Zooming during a clip is not recommended as it can change the focus – and also exposure values. Clip lengths are limited to 4GB, after which a new file will be created.

      Like the 5D III, which has essentially the same movie capabilities, the IDX uses contrast-detection AF in video mode. A 3.5 mm stereo input jack enables users to augment the built-in monaural microphones to record soundtracks in stereo with a reasonable amount of presence and 64 levels of manual audio control are available, along with a live, on-screen level meter display.

      If you want to adjust recording levels while shooting a movie clip – or change aperture, shutter speed, ISO or exposure compensation – this can be done silently with the capacitative touch pad control in the quick control dial. In-camera corrections for chromatic aberration and peripheral illumination are supported in movie mode.

      Like the 5D III, the1DX produces impressive video footage. Choosing between these cameras is a matter of your budget and whether you need a totally silent recording mode or just suppressed camera sounds.

      Movie soundtracks recorded with the built-in microphones on the review camera were among the clearest we've heard from any camera we have reviewed, regardless of whether the camera was set up for monaural recording (like the 1DX) or equipped with stereo microphones. This suggests plugging in a stereo mic would deliver outstanding soundtracks.

      Continuous Shooting and Timing
      There's not a lot of difference between the speed ranges of the IDX's two continuous shooting drive speeds. The High speed setting supports burst rates of between two and 12 frames/second (fps), while the Low speed mode covers between one and 11 fps. At the maximum speed in each mode, the highest sensitivity is ISO 20000.

      You can increase the burst speed to 14 fps if you shoot only JPEGs and lock up the mirror but, again, ISO  is restricted to below 32000. In addition, focusing is locked on the first frame in the sequence and you can't see the action as you shoot because the viewfinder is blocked.

      In our tests, the camera was able to record 34 frames in three seconds with both JPEG and CR2.RAW capture using an 8GB Lexar Professional 300x UDMA CF card, which is close to specifications. Processing of both bursts was completed within two seconds of the end of each burst.

      The review camera powered up almost instantaneously and shot-to-shot times were as fast as you could press the shutter sequentially. No measurable delay was recorded between when the shutter button was pressed and the image was recorded, regardless of whether the lens was pre-focused. Image processing times were less than half a second.

      Performance
      Our Imatest testing was conducted with the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, which was supplied with the review camera. CR2.RAW files were converted into 16-bit TIFF format for analysis with the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw (v. 7.1) with no additional tweaking of image parameters.

      Imatest showed JPEG files had well-controlled saturation, giving photographers scope to tweak colour intensity to suit individual requirements. Skin hues, reds and blues were almost spot-on but slight colour shifts were recorded in the orange/yellow band and greens showed suppressed saturation. These problems were corrected in raw files, where most colours were very close to the mark and mean saturation was almost normal at 99.79%.   

      For both JPEG and CR2.RAW files, Imatest showed the camera capable of meeting resolution expectations for an 18-megapixel camera. JPEG resolution was only slightly above expectations but raw files were well above.

      Resolution remained high at ISO settings of 400 and above then began a gradual but steady decline as sensitivity was increased. As expected, raw files maintained a measurable advantage across the camera's sensitivity range, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.
       

       
       Auto white balance performance was a slight improvement on the EOS 5D III's. For JPEG shots, the auto white balance setting failed to completely remove the orange cast of incandescent lighting but the residual warm bias that remained was easily corrected in-camera and also in post-capture editing.

      Shots taken under fluorescent lighting showed no apparent colour cast. The manual pre-sets over-corrected slightly but it was easy to pull colours back into line with the in-camera adjustments provided. CR2.RAW files had plenty of scope for adjustments post-capture.

      Conclusion
      Arguably, the EOS 1D X is Canon's most versatile camera to date and there are few situations in which it won't shine. Sports and wildlife photographers will relish the new AF system, high burst speeds and clean films at high sensitivity settings. (With a caveat to photographers who use extender lenses, as explained above.)

      Landscape and architectural photographers will benefit from the camera's wide dynamic range and the weatherproof body you can take anywhere and use in all kinds of weather. They may also be able to extract more and cleaner detail from shadows in contrasty shots.

      If budgetary considerations are foremost, the IDX is priced out of the reach of many keen photographers. And it may not be the best option for most of them. The EOS 5D Mark III will give you a higher resolution sensor and similar focusing and video capabilities for approximately half the price.

      Photographers looking for great image and video quality who don't require high frame rates will probably be satisfied with the 5D Mark III - particularly if they're bushwalkers. It's considerably lighter and has higher resolution, although it's not nearly as rugged as the 1DX. And, if you're still looking for 'full frame' and prepared to wait a month or so, there's the up-coming EOS 6D to consider.

      For photographers who want fast burst capture speed but can't afford the high cost of trading up to full frame, the EOS 7D supports 8 fps and costs roughly a quarter of the price of the IDX. But it doesn't offer the same ruggedness and weather sealing and the 1D X's AF system is on a completely different level.

      Canon's post-purchase support is excellent and professional photographers who join CPS (Canon Professional Services) can access prioritised repairs from a network with facilities in most parts of the world. Whichever camera you select, you probably can't go wrong.

      Buy this camera if:
       - You want a versatile, professional DSLR camera with a tough, weatherproof body.
       - You require fast and accurate focusing, high burst speeds and a generous buffer capacity.
       - You would appreciate the jack for fitting a stereo microphone for video recordings.
       - You could make use of the extended sensitivity range for still photography and video capture.
       
      Don’t buy this camera if:
       - You’re not prepared to explore and use the multitude of user-adjustable functions this camera offers.
       - You require automated exposure modes.

      SPECS
       Image sensor: 36 x 24 mm large single-plate CMOS sensor with 18.1 megapixels of effective resolution
       Image processor: Dual DIGIC 5+
       A/D processing: 14-bit
       Lens mount: Canon EF
       Focal length crop factor: 1x
       Image formats: Stills – JPEG, CR2.RAW, mRAW, sRAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies – MPEG-4 (Video: H.264, Audio: Linear PCM) with support for ALL-1 and IPB formats
       Image Sizes: Stills – JPEG: 5184 x 3456, 3456 x 2304, 2592 x 1728; CR2.RAW: 5184 x 3456; mRAW: 3888 x 2592, sRAW: 2592 x 1728; Movies: Movies - 1920 x 1080 at 60 / 30 / 25 / 24 fps; 1280 x 720 at 60 / 50 fps; 640 x 480 at 60 / 50 fps
       Image Stabilisation: Lens-based
       Dust removal: New 'carrier wave' vibration-based self-cleaning sensor unit
       Shutter speed range: 30 to 1/8000 sec. plus Bulb, X-sync at 1/300 sec.
       Exposure Compensation: +/-5 EV in 1/3- or 1/2-EV increments
       Exposure bracketing: AEB +/- 3EV in 1/3-stop or ½-stop increments
       Self-timer: 2 or 10 second delay
       Focus system: TTL phase detection AF sensor with 61 selectable AF points (incl. 41 cross-type points); sensitivity to f/4 for all points, f/2.8 for central points); Orientation linked AF point selection and AF point registration; AI Servo II AF algorithm; Automatic point-of-focus compensation for spectral source variation; Spot AF; Subject Tracking AF available
       Focus modes: One-Shot AF, AI Servo AF, AI Focus AF, Manual focusing (MF)
       Exposure metering: RGB AE sensor plus DiG!C 4 image processor dedicated to AE; TTL full-aperture metering with Evaluative, centre-weighted average, partial (approx. 8% of viewfinder at centre) and spot (approx. 3.5% of viewfinder at centre) modes
       Shooting modes: P, A, S and M plus My Settings menu, programmable with up to three sets of settings
       Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Def. 1 - 3
       Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
       Custom functions: 31 (up to 10 can be registered to function buttons)
       ISO range: ISO 100 to 51200 (expandable to L: ISO 50  and H2: ISO 204800)
       White balance: Auto, Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, White fluorescent light, Flash), Custom, Colour temperature setting (2500-10000K); White balance correction and white balance bracketing features provided
       Flash: External only
       Sequence shooting: Max. 14 fps with mirror lock-up (JPEG only); 12 fps for Raw files; buffer capacity 120 Dual slots for CompactFlash cards (Types I & II, UDMA compatible)
       Viewfinder: Optical pentaprism viewfinder with 100% FOV coverage, 0.76x magnification,  interchangeable focusing screens, dioptre adjustment of -3.0 to +1.0 dpt
       LCD monitor: 3-inch Clear View II LCD Screen with 920,000 dots plus anti-reflection & smudge-resistant surface 
       Live View Modes: Quick, Live & Live Face Detection AF Modes
       Data LCD: Yes
      Playback functions: Single, Single + Info (Image-recording quality, shooting information, histogram), 4-image index, 9-image index, image rotate possible; Playback zoom: 1.5x to 10x; jump by 10 or 100 images, jump by screen, by shooting date, by folder, by movie, by stills; highlight alert; histogram; movie playback enabled (LCD monitor, video/audio OUT, HDMI OUT)
      In-camera raw processing: White balance, Picture Style, Auto Lighting Optimiser, High ISO noise reduction, JPEG image quality, colour space, corrections for brightness, peripheral illumination, distortion, chromatic aberration; resizing possible
      Interface terminals: Hi-Speed USB, Video OUT, HDMI, 3.5mm jack, remote control terminal (N3-type)
      Power supply: LP-E4 rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 1120 shots/charge with viewfinder or 290 shots/charge with LiveView
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 158 x 163.6 x 82.7 mm
      Weight: 1340 grams (body only)

      TESTS

       JPEG images

       
       Raw images converted to 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw 7.1.

       
       

      SAMPLES

      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

      30-second exposure at ISO 100, 50mm focal length, f/1.4.

       

      20-second exposure at ISO 800, 50mm focal length, f/3.2.
       
       

      15-second exposure at ISO 3200, 50mm focal length, f/5.6.
       
       

      10-second exposure at ISO 6400, 50mm focal length, f/6.3.
       
       

      10-second exposure at ISO 12800, 50mm focal length, f/9.
       
       

      6-second exposure at ISO 25600, 50mm focal length, f/10.
       
       

      6-second exposure at ISO 51200, 50mm focal length, f/14.
       
       

      4-second exposure at ISO 102400, 50mm focal length, f/16.
       
       

      85mm focal length, ISO 4000, 1/100 second at f/1.4.
       
       

       85mm focal length, ISO 51200, 1/125 second at f/1.6.
       
       

      Auto Lighting Optimiser with strong backlighting; 85mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/5.
       
       

      300mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/8.
       
       

      65mm focal length, ISO 320, 1/60 second at f/9.
       
      .

      Still frame from video clip recorded in the ALL-I mode with 1920 x 1080 pixels at 30 fps.

       

      Still frame from video clip recorded in the IPB mode with 1920 x 1080 pixels at 30 fps.
       
       

      Still frame from video clip recorded in the ALL-I mode with 1920 x 1080 pixels at 25 fps.

      Still frame from video clip recorded in the IPB mode with 1920 x 1080 pixels at 25 fps.

       

      Still frame from video clip recorded in the ALL-I mode with 1280 x 760 pixels at 50 fps.

      Still frame from video clip recorded in the IPB mode with 1280 x 760 pixels at 50 fps.

      Still frame from video clip recorded in the IPB mode with 640 x 480 pixels at 30 fps.
       
      Additional image samples can be found with the reviews of the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lenses.

      Rating

      RRP: n/a; Average Retail Price (body only): AU$7699; US$6800

      • Build: 9.5
      • Ease of use: 8.8
      • Autofocusing: 9.5
      • Image quality JPEG: 9.5
      • Image quality RAW: 9.5
      • Video quality: 9.0

      BUY

        No