And then there was one – one Canon EOS 1-Series DSLR body. The Canon EOS-1D X. The “1” means top-of-the-line, as-good-as-it-gets, #1, you’re-going-to-love-it. The “D” means “Digital”. And the “X” represents the “crossover” that has taken place – representing the merging of two product lines – the 1D and the 1Ds lines.
The “X” also represents the Roman numeral 10, representing the 10th generation of Canon pro cameras – starting with the F1 of the 70s. Or eXtreme.
Canon 1-Series bodies have long been an ultimate choice for professional and enthusiast photographers of all levels and pursuits, with price typically excluding less-serious photographers from ownership. Professional and enthusiast photographers, historically (since the digital era) have chosen between the 1D and 1Ds lines – or they have owned both. Most recently, sports and action photographers most frequently have chosen the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV because of its fast 10 fps frame rate, while portrait, architecture and landscape photographers, along with anyone else requiring ultimate resolution and/or a large full frame sensor, have most frequently chosen the only-5-fps Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III.
I have been part of the latter group, though I regularly used my 1Ds III bodies for sports – because I love the shallow depth of field look it gives my sports images. As I began writing the first looks segment of this review, my first 1Ds Mark III body was 3 days beyond its 4th birthday. I have loved this camera, but there are a lot of new features available on newer Canon EOS DSLR cameras that the 1Ds III did not have – and that I was desirous of.
In my Dec 23, 2010 What I Want from Canon for Christmas news/blog post, I requested a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark IV with “… the latest DSLR features (horizon level, better LCD, HD video …) to be added to it.” “Increase the resolution and frame rate too”, I requested.
As the dust settled on the long-anticipated full frame sensor format 18.1mp Canon EOS-1D X DSLR announcement, I was repeatedly being asked the question “Are you excited about the new Canon EOS-1D X?” The ONLY reason my excitement for this excellently-spec’d camera was being questioned was because the 1D X has fewer megapixels than the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III it replaces.
As I said before, I had personally chosen the 1Ds III over the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV as my primary camera because of the full frame sensor format advantage and the higher resolution it delivered. Otherwise, I consider the 1D IV a better camera overall.
So, the 1D X retains the full frame sensor format that I strongly want but gives up 3mp of resolution. I expected to be able to notice the difference that 3mp makes – and I can.
The site’s ISO 12233 resolution chart tool allows the 1D X’s image quality to be compared to many other Canon EOS DSLRs from a resolution/sharpness perspective. Here are some preloaded comparisons, starting with the 1Ds III comparison:
What I see first is that the Canon EOS-1D X, as expected, delivers very sharp images. The resolution chart images (and the noise sample images below) are processed in Canon’s Digital Photo Pro using a sharpness setting of only “1” (very low). Still, 1D X image sharpness looks great.
The 1D X’s full frame sensor especially shines in comparison to the APS-C sensor format 7D. The 1D X also compares quite favorably to the APS-H 1D sensor format Mark IV. The higher resolution full frame sensor DSLRs (5D II, 5D III and 1Ds III) show an advantage in resolution.
If you have read any of the site’s other recent Canon EOS DSLR camera reviews, you will recognize the following color block test that clearly shows and compares sensor noise. Click on the color block image below to view a pair of image quality comparisons between several current-at-this time DSLR cameras. This comparison was previously featured on this page, but has been moved to its own page to avoid (especially for mobile users) the large file download required.
If you read the image quality discussion on that page, you can skip down to the emboldened “beyond superb image quality”.
This test gets us as close as possible to the image quality delivered directly by the sensor. And there are a lot of comparisons that can be made. If you can’t see a noise difference in a particular comparison, it is unlikely that you would see a difference in your actual images. Note also that you might see the differences more easily if you zoom in your browser’s view (typically CTRL-+ with CTRL-0 to return).
An obvious observation that can be made is that the 1D X goes where no Canon DSLR has gone before (and has gone where we didn’t even dream of in film days) – to ISO 204800. As usual, I wouldn’t use the highest ISO setting in any of the recent DSLRs unless it was an emergency (perhaps with a gun held to my head). There once again is more noise than detail at the highest setting – there is no hope in reading all but the largest words in this example.
By ISO 51200, I can start reading some of the black text on this chart and even more is readable at 25600. I still would not want to use these settings for any project requiring high image quality – but they are indeed available for the situation that warrants their use. The 1D X does deliver noticeably cleaner images at these ultra-high ISO settings than any Canon DSLR has delivered to date. And noticeably less noise at the lower, more-used ISO settings as well.
Noise at ISO 12800 remains a touch strong for my taste, but ISO 6400 results are not too bad – closer to what the 1Ds III and 5D II delivered at ISO 3200. Even when up-rezzed to 5D III image dimensions (the “1DX>5DIII” results), the 1D X retains a noise advantage over these also-impressive DSLRs.
The 5D III competes most strongly with the 1D X as of 1D X review time. The 1D X has retains the low noise advantage even when up-rezzed to the same pixel dimensions – especially at the higher ISO settings. And the 5D III image is slightly sharper in that comparison (this difference is better seen below).
Noise reduction is a highly variable setting that can be applied to your taste with you software of choice. The “1D X NR” results show Canon DPP’s default noise reduction enabled. Noise reduction is very destructive process (it does not always properly differentiate noise from subject), but the high ISO results look much better with noise reduction enabled.
Canon claims 2 stops of noise improvement in the 1D X over the already very good EOS-1D Mark IV. Unfortunately, you will need to shoot in JPEG format to see the full 2 stop advantage. The significant processing power in this camera and the algorithms it uses are able to deliver better in-camera noise reduction. I’m not planning to change my workflow from RAW to JPEG due to this better in-camera processing, but I definitely appreciate the improvements in the RAW image quality.
Below is another comparison example that includes fine details. These samples were taken from the same shot and processing as described above. Fine details better-show resolution and better-hide high ISO noise.
There are a lot of conclusions that can be made from the above comparisons, but … the 1D X performance is looking very good from both resolution and noise standpoints. The 1D X wins the overall high ISO noise competition and the 5D III retains a modest resolution edge.
I don’t like giving up resolution (from my 1Ds III bodies), but 18mp is still a lot to work with and more than most applications need – 3mp is not a great loss. So, even if I don’t gain my wish-list line item resolution upgrade with the 1D X, I do not lose anything of big significance in this regard.
Image quality is always at the top of my list in camera selection, but the 1D X offers a tremendous number of benefits beyond superb image quality. Let’s back up and look at the big picture.
The 12fps frame rate is soooo drool-worthy – just listen to this. Better LCD, improved self-cleaning sensor, impressive new AF system, built-in electronic level, better auto white balance, vastly improved auto exposure, HD video … the entire list of feature improvements is huge. The significanly-lower-than-the-1Ds-III’s-market-entry-price-tag is also greatly appreciated. The 1Ds III was $8,000 while the 1D X hit the streets at $6,800.
1D owners now have the blazingly fast frame rate (faster than any 1D before) they need and all will have the advantage of the large full frame sensor’s low light performance along with all of the other advantages this most-advanced-to-date DSLR offers.
When the 1D X was first released:
The new Canon EOS-1D X, unlike previous 1D-Series DSLRs, would not autofocus when using lenses or lens combinations with an f/8 max aperture. Chuck Westfall (Canon USA), through Arthur Morris, confirmed this: “AF is unavailable on the EOS-1D X if the maximum aperture reported to the camera through the electronic lens mount is smaller than f/5.6.”
This is of course was (key word) disappointing to many extender users. Canon does not currently have a bare lens with a max aperture narrower than f/5.6, but adding a 1.4x extender to an f/5.6 max aperture lens results in an f/8 max aperture lens that will no longer AF. And, adding a 2x extender to an f/4 max aperture lens results in an f/8 max aperture lens that also will not AF.
The largest group of photographers affected by this change were, probably, bird photographers (such as Arthur Morris) – who have been dealt a double blow with the 1D X. Bird photography typically needs the most reach possible – through both lens focal length and sensor density. Increasing focal length via extenders had been limited (for autofocus to function) and the 1D X has a less-dense sensor than either of the previous 1-Series models.
Significant update: Canon EOS-1D X Firmware Update Version 1.1.1 has now enabled center-AF-point-only autofocusing with f/8 maximum aperture lens + extender combinations – just like the prior 1-Series bodies. Woohoo!
Continuing … the 1D X is amazing. It is characteristic for Canon to list what they feel are the key specifications for a new DSLR. Here are the key specifications from Canon’s perspective.
- 18.1 Megapixel, Full-frame CMOS sensor
- 61-point AF with up to 41 cross-type AF points
- Zone, Spot and AF Expansion Focusing modes
- DUAL “DIGIC 5+” processors plus DIGIC 4 processor dedicated to AE functions
- 12fps shooting with 14fps super High Speed continuous
- ISO 100 to 51,200 as standard, ISO 50 to 204,800 with expansion
- 100,000-pixel RGB AE sensor
- +/- 5 Stop Exposure Compensation
- 55ms shutter lag, 36ms via ‘Shortened Release Lag’ Custom Function
- Full HD Movie shooting with ALL-I or IPB compression
- 29mins 59sec clip length in Full HD Movie
- Timecode setting for HD Movie shooting
- Transparent LCD viewfinder with new focusing screen
- 8.11cm (3.2″), 1.04 million pixel Clear View II LCD Screen
- Improved EOS Integrated Cleaning System (EICS)
- Dual CF Card slots
- Silent control touch-pad area
- Full-frame CMOS sensor
This review already shared a series of image quality comparisons. Here is the information behind the technology that delivers that image quality.
|Canon PowerShot G1 X||1.9x||18.7 x 14.0mm||4.3µm||4352 x 3264||14.3||f/6.9|
|Canon PowerShot G12||4.7x||7.4 x 5.6mm||2.7µm||3648 x 2048||10.0||f/4.3|
|Canon PowerShot G9||4.7x||7.6 x 5.7mm||2.5µm||4000 x 3000||12.1||f/4.0|
|Canon EOS M||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.3µm||5184 x 3456||18.0||f/6.8|
|Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.3µm||5184 x 3456||18.0||.87x||95%||f/6.8|
|Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.3µm||5184 x 3456||18.0||.85x||95%||f/6.8|
|Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.3µm||5184 x 3456||18.0||.85x||95%||f/6.8|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.3µm||5184 x 3456||18.0||.85x||95%||f/6.8|
|Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.3µm||5184 x 3456||18.0||.87x||95%||f/6.8|
|Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.7µm||4752 x 3168||15.1||.87x||95%||f/7.5|
|Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.3µm||5184 x 3456||18.0||.80x||95%||f/6.8|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D||1.6x||22.2 x 14.7mm||5.2µm||4272 x 2848||12.0||.80x||95%||f/8.3|
|Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D||1.6x||22.2 x 14.8mm||5.2µm||4272 x 2848||12.2||.87x||95%||f/8.3|
|Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D||1.6x||22.2 x 14.8mm||5.7µm||3888 x 2592||10.1||.81x||95%||f/9.1|
|Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D||1.6x||22.2 x 14.8mm||5.7µm||3888 x 2592||10.1||.80x||95%||f/9.1|
|Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D||1.6x||22.2 x 14.8mm||6.4µm||3456 x 2304||8.0||.80x||95%||f/10.2|
|Canon EOS 300D Digital Rebel||1.6x||22.7 x 15.1mm||7.4µm||3088 x 2056||6.3||.80x||95%||f/11.8|
|Canon EOS 70D||1.6x||22.5 x 15.0mm||4.1µm||5472 x 3648||20.2||.95x||98%||f/6.6|
|Canon EOS 60D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.3µm||5184 x 3456||18.0||.95x||96%||f/6.9|
|Canon EOS 50D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.7µm||4752 x 3168||15.1||.95x||95%||f/7.5|
|Canon EOS 40D||1.6x||22.2 x 14.8mm||5.7µm||3888 x 2592||10.1||.95x||95%||f/9.1|
|Canon EOS 30D||1.6x||22.5 x 15.0mm||6.4µm||3504 x 2336||8.2||.90x||95%||f/10.2|
|Canon EOS 20D||1.6x||22.5 x 15.0mm||6.4µm||3504 x 2336||8.2||.90x||95%||f/10.2|
|Canon EOS 10D||1.6x||22.7 x 15.1mm||7.4µm||3088 x 2056||6.3||.88x||95%||f/11.8|
|Canon EOS 7D||1.6x||22.3 x 14.9mm||4.3µm||5184 x 3456||18.0||1.0x||100%||f/6.9|
|Canon EOS 6D||1.0x||35.8 x 23.9mm||6.54µm||5472 x 3648||20.2||.71x||97%||f/10.5|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark III||1.0x||36.0 x 24.0mm||6.25µm||5760 x 3840||22.3||.71x||100%||f/10.1|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark II||1.0x||35.8 x 23.9mm||6.4µm||5616 x 3744||21.1||.71x||98%||f/10.2|
|Canon EOS 5D||1.0x||35.8 x 23.9mm||8.2µm||4368 x 2912||12.8||.71x||96%||f/13.2|
|Canon EOS-1D X||1.0x||36.0 x 24.0mm||6.9µm||5184 x 3456||18.1||.76x||100%||f/11.0|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark IV||1.3x||27.9 x 18.6mm||5.7µm||4896 x 3264||16.1||.76x||100%||f/9.1|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark III||1.3x||28.1 x 18.7mm||7.2µm||3888 x 2592||10.1||.76x||100%||f/11.5|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark II N||1.3x||28.7 x 19.1mm||8.2µm||3520 x 2336||8.2||.72x||100%||f/13.2|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark II||1.3x||28.7 x 19.1mm||8.2µm||3520 x 2336||8.2||.72x||100%||f/13.2|
|Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III||1.0x||36.0 x 24.0mm||6.4µm||5616 x 3744||21.1||.76x||100%||f/10.2|
|Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II||1.0x||36.0 x 24.0mm||7.2µm||4992 x 3328||16.6||.70x||100%||f/11.5|
* Learn more about DLA (Diffraction Limited Aperture)
As already noted, the 1D X gets a full frame sensor, but delivers a slightly lower resolution than the 1Ds III (and the much lower-priced 5D Mark II). But the 1D X’s sensor has some clear advantages over these older cameras’ sensors – explaining the improved image quality seen earlier in the review. Capturing all of the light reaching the sensor is the first order of business for a sensor, and the 1D X CMOS sensor is the first announced Canon full frame sensor to make use of gapless microlens technology to insure that all light is directed into a pixel well. The 1D X has 21% larger pixels and which are now much thinner – bringing the photodiodes closer to the sensor surface. There is basically no change in the low-pass filter from previous models. These design improvements contribute to the 1D X’s image quality.
Converting the captured light becomes the next order of business. The 1D X sensor deploys new photodiode construction that results in an improved photoelectric conversion rate and, along with improved transistors inside the pixels, a better signal-to-noise ratio. These improvements, along with advancements in image processing algorithms, provide a wider dynamic range, reduced noise and reduced moiré patterning and false color – which equate to better overall image quality.
The 1D X sensor requires 16-channel readout (with two-vertical-pixel simultaneous readout – 1.4x faster than the 1D IV) to attain its highest-available frame per second rate of 14 fps (requires the mirror to be locked up).
With dual DIGIC 5+ processors and a DIGIC IV processor, the 1D X is a computing powerhouse. DIGIC 5+ processors deliver 3x faster image processing performance than the DIGIC 5 processor and 17x faster image processing performance than the DIGIC IV processor. In comparison, the 1D IV has a pair of DIGIC IV processors – which have approximately six times more processing power than each of the two DIGIC III processors found in the 1Ds III. It is hard to wrap one’s mind around the 1D X’s computing performance improvement over its predecessors.
The high-performance processors allow improved in-camera high ISO noise reduction without a reduction in frame rate or burst depth. This processing power also enables improved image quality in additional ways. In addition to Peripheral Illumination Correction, the 1D X now features in-camera Chromatic Aberration Correction, removing color fringing and halos around high contrast edges.
The 1D X’s processing power is used for improved image quality in relation to white balance, Automatic Picture Style (new), autofocus, exposure and Auto Lighting Optimizer. The DIGIC 4 processor is utilized exclusively in conjunction with a new 100,000-pixel RGB Metering Sensor and EOS intelligent Subject Analysis System (EOS iSA System) that analyses the color, brightness, motion, contrast and distance information of a scene. The 252 metering zones (the 1D IV has 63) along with new subject/scene recognition capabilities (including color and face detection) make a difference in most/all auto image quality settings – including auto flash exposures.
The new Auto Picture Style is designed to be especially effective with nature and landscape images (including those taken at sunset). I currently shoot in the Neutral Picture Style because of the low-contrast histogram it gives me and usually process using the Standard Picture Style as my basis. Someday I’ll get time to try out APS, but I haven’t needed it enough to date to try it.
Auto Lighting Optimizer (ALO) is said to be improved with the promise of “better results when shooting sunsets, highly saturated scenes or scenes with highlights that could be easily over-exposed”. Again, I don’t use ALO.
An improvement I strongly looked forward to with the EOS iSA System is improved auto white balance accuracy. The 1Ds Mark III auto white balance turns in a very red/orange/yellow tone under low color temperature light sources such as common tungsten lights. Canon made big AWB improvements starting with the Canon EOS 7D, and the 1D X now bests the 7D’s capabilities. Noticeable AWB improvements are said to have been made for portrait or sunset scenes. By far the biggest AWB difference I see from my 1Ds III is indeed under tungsten light where the 1D X delivers a very accurate AWB result.
In dark environments, the 1D X shifts down to using 35 zones for more accurate exposures.
A new imaging option enabled by the DIGIC 5+ processors is the ability to shoot multiple exposures, stacking between two and nine separate frames to create one single final image. Stacking settings available are Additive (like Multi-Exposure with film cameras – requires each frame to be underexposed), Average (automatically underexposes images for stacking), (Comparative) Bright (emphasizes bright areas) and (Comparative) Dark (eliminates bright areas).
When I first read “multiple exposures”, my mind immediately jumped to in-camera HDR – and I got excited. Only to be disappointed as HDR is not an ME option. Reality is that I do not see myself ever using the 1D X multiple exposure feature. And with HDR as part of Digital Photo Pro, I do not need the in-camera HDR feature either.
Sensor dust is a big detriment to image quality – I have spent a huge number of hours removing sensor dust from my images. Canon has made many advances in self-cleaning sensor technology since the 1Ds Mark III was introduced and I anxiously awaited for these advances to land in my daily-use DSLR. The 1D X EICS (EOS Integrated Cleaning System) unit is more advanced than any previous unit – now using Ultrasonic Carrier Wave Motion Cleaning to roll (instead of scattering) dust particles down the anti-dust Fluorine coated filters in front of the CMOS sensor.
Ironically, my 1D X was delivered with one of the dirtiest-from-factory sensors I’ve seen yet. I was able to clean the sensor with only a Rocket Blower, so the issue was only a minor one. It is not unusual to receive a DSLR with dirty sensors, but for this price of this camera, I expect the sensor to be clean out of the box. Note that this is not only a Canon problem. I’d be embarrassed to tell you how long it took to get a Nikon D3X to stop splattering oil on the sensor (I used over $100 worth of cleaning supplies on that one).
Unfortunately, I continue to find this sensor with dust on it – and have had to use sensor cleaning swabs to remove some of it. I’m hoping that this is just a break-in issue and that once all of the dust is removed from the camera chamber, I will no longer have this problem. But I’m definitely not impressed so far.
Long term use update: This sensor continues to collect dust more rapidly than most cameras I’ve used to date. If frequently shooting with a narrow aperture, this camera will prove frustrating in this regard. If shooting with mostly with a wide open aperture as I do (primarily for sports action), the sensor dust seldom becomes visible.
Critical to good image quality is accurate autofocus. Canon concedes that “Autofocus systems in general have reached a point where they have plateaued in performance.” And they set out to break the barriers. From the Canon EOS-1D X AF system description details, it appeared that they had succeeded. From my experience with the 1D X AF system, I know that they have.
“The EOS-1D X includes a brand new 61-Point High Density Reticular AF, the most sophisticated DSLR AF system Canon has ever released.”
“To achieve the goal of optimum AF in diverse situations and lighting conditions, the EOS-1D X makes use of far more than just an autofocus sensor, as previous cameras have done. Instead data is collected from the 61-point AF sensor, the auto exposure sensors, an AF correction light-source detection sensor and, with certain lenses, a panning detection gyro sensor. While these sensors provide a benefit to One-Shot AF shooting, the major benefit is found with AI Servo, where they can help identify the subject by not only contrast, but also color.”
The images below show the 1D X AF point layout along with that of several other Canon EOS DSLRs.
The 1D X AF sensor is larger than any previous 1D/1Ds body. The vertical measurement remains 8mm, but the horizontal measurement increased from 15mm (1D Mark IV and 1Ds Mark III) to 19mm. Regardless of how dense the AF points are, it is the overall spread that often has more importance to me – as I typically often make use of only a few of the points anyway. For one example, the increased horizontal spread is going to allow placement of an AF point on a person’s head at a closer focus distance in vertical orientation. The more-rectangular layout is unique compared to the diamond and oval layouts EOS owners are used to.
The 1D X was announced long before the 5D III, but the 5D III hit the streets long before the 1D X. The 5D III received what is essentially the same AF system. After spending lots of time behind the 5D III viewfinder, I can say that I’m loving the new AF point layout – and as expected, especially the larger spread it provides.
I am finding the dense pattern more useful than I expected – especially because of the accuracy these points are delivering. And, I am finding that I like the rectangular shape more than I expected to like it. I am better able to frame non-centered subjects while not needing to use a focus-and-recompose technique – which of course does not work in AI Servo (continuous) AF mode.
I’ll let CPN describe the AF points:
“To improve focus accuracy, all 61 AF points feature a dual-line zigzag arrangement, as seen on three AF points within the EOS 7D. This arrangement provides the best aspects of both increased pixel pitch for finer precision and increased AF tracking speed with extra data points, without any of the drawbacks of either solution alone, allowing for both fast and accurate AF.”
“Five of the central AF points, arranged vertically down the mid-line of the frame, function as Dual-Cross type AF points with lenses featuring an f/2.8 or faster maximum aperture (as seen on the central AF point of the EOS 7D). This means they are also arranged with a diagonally orientated AF point in an ‘X’, plus a conventional horizontally and vertically arranged AF point, like a ‘+’, offering increased focus precision.”
“With lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/5.6, or faster, the central bank of 21 AF points will all function as cross-type AF sensors, and the left and right banks of 20 AF points each will act as cross-type sensors at f/4 and f/5.6.”
“An advantage of the increased focus sensitivity is the ability to detect extreme defocus and correct accordingly. By using the whole AF sensor, where every point is vertical line sensitive at f/5.6 or greater, the lens can be refocused much more quickly than before. As part of this increased sensitivity, the EOS-1D X can now focus in even lower light levels than the EOS-1D Mark IV. Using a single central AF point with an f/2.8 lens, the EOS-1D Mark IV could focus in light levels of EV -1. However, the EOS-1D X is able to focus in EV -2, which is the equivalent of shooting under the light of the full moon.”
The 1D X AF sensor is much more sensitive to small changes in contrast than previous models, promising significantly enhanced Low-contrast AF. Superior focusing precision is also promised.
The Canon EOS-1D X, featuring new EOS iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) AF options (not found in the 5D III), no longer must rely solely on the AF sensor for determining the proper focus distance. The 1D X can make use of data provided by the AE sensor and its DIGIC 4 processor to improve focus tracking in AI Servo mode.
In its default mode, the 1D X utilizes phase/contrast detection AF information for AF – looking for the area of greatest contrast. I hesitate to use the word “conventional” to describe anything about the 1D X AF system, but phase/contrast detection is what has been the technology used by EOS DSLR AF for many years.
To prevent the AF system from jumping to another subject (perhaps another object/person with higher contrast), the 1D X, in a second mode, can detect and track the color and/or the face of your initial subject – adjusting the selected AF point to follow the intended subject. I have been watching for the improvements this feature is said to deliver, but … I’m not yet seeing a dramatic improvement over the 5D III in this regard. Both cameras have incredible AF systems.
The 1D X’s 61 AF points result in a greater AF point density compared to the Canon EOS-1D IV’s 41 AF points. Along with having more AF points to manually choose from, the 1D X’s AF point density results in increased focus precision – especially when tracking moving subjects.
Like the Canon EOS 7D, the 1D X features six AF point selection modes: Spot, Single Point, Single Point with surrounding four points, Single Point with surrounding eight points, Zone selection and Automatic AF point selection (all AF points active). Spot AF activates a smaller section of the selected AF point for more precise focusing. Spot AF is not recommended for tracking action or for use in very low light scenarios. In Spot and Single Point AF selection modes, the viewfinder will visually indicate that a non-cross-type AF point is selected by flashing the selected AF point.
In AF point expansion modes, the 4 or 8 AF points surrounding the selected AF point are used to assist in subject tracking. In Zone AF mode, one of nine zones is selected and the 1D X will automatically select the AF point to be used within the selected zone.
Autofocus point selection can be orientation-specific. Separate AF points can be selected to correspond to the camera being positioned grip up, grip right or grip down.
But I love the orientation-specific AF point selection feature. Using a big prime, I can track an athlete in horizontal orientation using perhaps an AF point about 1/3 from the left. As the subject approaches and begins to fill the frame, I flip the camera to vertical orientation and one of the top-most AF points is immediately ready to focus on the athlete’s head.
Page 76 in the EOS-1D X owner’s manual begins lists of lenses that have reduced dual cross-type AF capabilities, from Group A – H. Interesting is that the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens, even with its f/2.8 aperture, can only utilize the center AF point as a dual cross-type point. The list of lenses that support no dual cross-type points is quite large – mostly f/4 max aperture lenses and lens + extender combinations. The 800 L lands in Group F, supporting only 47 AF points. Canon EF 1200mm f/5.6 L USM Lens owners will be disappointed with their group G placement – supporting only 33 AF points. The Canon EF 180mm L USM Lens also lands in this elite group.
The 1D X’s AF settings are, as expected, highly customizable. Canon EOS DSLR AF settings historically are accessed via a custom function menu, but on the 1D X, they are promoted to a full menu tab – and many sub-tabs. These menu options take some time to learn to an efficient level, but now that I’ve been using them, I really like the new way of presenting the options. Configuration settings include tracking sensitivity, the acceleration/deceleration of tracked subjects and AF point auto switching.
New with the 5D III and 1D X are AF presets. To reduce complexity of the 1D X AF system, Canon provides six preconfigured (and changeable) AF “Case” settings (with icons representing their intended purpose) for common shooting scenarios.
Case 1 (default) is for general purpose shooting.
Case 2 is designed for situations where the subject may move away from the AF point momentarily.
Case 3 will allow you to instantly focus on subjects that enter the AF point area.
Case 4 is designed for subjects that change speed or direction rapidly.
Case 5 is designed for use with automatic AF point selection, Zone AF and AF Point expansion and subjects that move erratically, up and down or left and right.
Case 6 is like a combination of both ‘Case 4’ and ‘Case 5’ and is for subjects that change speed abruptly and move erratically.
The Canon EOS-1D X receives an upgraded predictive AI Servo autofocus algorithm. One stated change is that the initial subject will continue to be tracked even if the AF point is not on the subject for a short period of time – or if an object passes in front of the subject.
Using an attached Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens or Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens, the 1D X is able to detect both horizontal and vertical panning motion. If panning motion is detected, obstacles panned across will not cause the AF system to lock onto them. I have heard reports of the 1D X having in-camera gyros, but Canon USA does not indicate the presence of such gyros in their press release and has also confirmed their lack of presence to me.
“The increased sensitivity of the focus system has also allowed for faster predictive focus measurements.” “In previous EOS cameras there was a warm-up period while the AF system began tracking.” No warm-up period is necessary with the 1D X.
The 1D X is also improved by light source detection. This is how CPN describes this feature:
“As first seen in the EOS 7D, the EOS-1D X features a light source detection system to improve focus accuracy under artificial lighting. Because of the higher resolution of the AF sensors, chromatic aberration within the optics could lead to focus errors because the different colours of light waves are focused at slightly different distances. However, because the camera is able to determine how much red/green or blue/green light there is in a scene, the AF system can adjust for any potential chromatic aberrations that may occur within the AF system. While this is useful in all shooting situations, the greatest benefit will be seen when shooting under artificial lighting.”
CPN also described the 1D X’s AF system durability:
“AF system materials used have been chosen to withstand high and low temperatures equally well, as well as conditions of high humidity. The sub-mirror of the AF system has also been modified from an elliptical shape, as found in the EOS-1D Mark IV, to a flat surface in order to provide higher AF stability.”
A properly AF-calibrated camera/lens combination is a requirement for accurate autofocus. AF tuning through AF Microadjustment has been available on the better Canon EOS bodies for many years now, but the 1D X takes AFMA a step forward. The 1D X is now able to automatically (or optionally, manually) detect the serial number of the mounted lens, and therefore, it can differentiate between multiple copies of the same lens. This means that multiple copies of the same lens model can be individually calibrated to a single 1D X body. I know that this feature is not going to mean much to most individuals, but it can mean a lot to agencies, schools and other organizations that have a large pool of cameras and lenses available.
What might be more important to individuals is that the EOS-1D X now allows separate AF Microadjustment for both the wide angle and the telephoto settings of a zoom lens.
Note that firmware version 1.0.2 installed on the initial-shipping 1D X bodies has a bug the causes AFMA to not remember the settings it was programmed for.
As I said early in this review, the originally-released 1D X firmware did not permit AF with lenses and lens combinations that report an aperture narrower than f/5.6. To be more clear, f/8 max aperture lens plus extender combinations would not AF on the 1D X. An f/5.6 lens with a 1.4x extender or an f/4 lens with a 2x extender would not AF on the 1D X. This is, I feared, was perhaps the end of that era. I have to admit that was surprised by this design decision.
Canon EOS-1D X Firmware Update Version 1.1.1 has restored f/8 AF capabilities to the 1D X. There was a lot of celebrating on that day.
Current EOS-1D and 1Ds owners should prepare for a bit of a learning curve when using the Canon EOS-1D X’s new AF system. The benefits of this incredible AF system should far outweigh any effort required to learn how to use it efficiently.
My AF performance expectations for the 1D X were high after reading the product announcement, but they soared after using the excellent 5D Mark III. I expected no less from the 1D X than the 5D III delivered, and my expectations were definitely met/exceeded. I am struggling to see obvious 1D X advantages (including the face recognition) over the 5D III, but feel like I am seeing slightly more AF speed from the X. Regardless, both cameras perform extremely well.
One shot AF is consistently extremely accurate. I used many lenses with the 1D X, focusing especially on combinations that create a focus-error-highlighting shallow DOF. The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Lens can always be counted on to bring home great images – here is one sample captured with this lens:
The 1D X AF remains very accurate even in very low light levels. If there is even a little contrast under the focus point, even in very low light levels, the 1D X will focus on it.
AI Servo remains the big challenge for AF systems, but the 1D X is the camera to base your action-shot career on. I frequently use similar AF examples (and hope that they do not become old to you), but a challenging AF subject that I am familiar with lets me better compare the AF performance between cameras and lenses. Since my spring sports have long ended and my summer sports schedule is practically empty, I created (with my “volunteers” – I volunteered them) some sports action to challenge the 1D X with.
I also employed the usual fast-moving horses for additional challenges. I’ll share a burst sequence taken from one of the horse action sessions below. I can easily say that, between the frame rate and impressive AF system, this camera is better suited for action sports than any camera I’ve used to date.
Review update: After shooting sports (including cross country and soccer) for an entire fall season, I can easily say that this camera’s AF system performs significantly better than any DSLR I’ve used to date. I’m thrilled with the 1D X AF performance.
The 1D X is all about speed, precision and durability. Let’s talk more about speed.
The Canon EOS-1D X takes the blazing fast 10 fps frame rate of the 1D IV and adds 2 fps to that number for an incredible 12 fps frame rate. The sound of a 12 fps is simply awesome. It is sure to make you smile – and sure to capture the perfect moment of the action you are shooting.
The 1D X has the option to add another 2 fps to that figure for 14 fps. At this burst rate, the 1D X records only JPG images and the mirror remains locked up during capture. I find myself less excited about the 14 fps capability since I most typically use fast burst for capturing action. Capturing action typically means that the subject is moving and that I need both the viewfinder and fast phase detection AF to track the action. With the mirror locked up, the viewfinder is not usable and AF does not function.
Enabling the incredible frame rates required some design changes. Dedicated motors (two of them) are now used to drive the mirror and shutter. “To ensure high-precision AF, the mirror and sub-mirror are arrested by an absorption mechanism with four stoppers to reduce rebound and vibration during operation.” This mechanism will also yield a more stable viewfinder image at high frame rates.
My testing with a Lexar Professional 1000x 32GB UDMA-7 CompactFlash Card blew away Canon’s 38 max RAW frame burst figure – with 54-55 frames captured every time – at a rate of about 11.7 fps. Stepping down to a UDMA-6 CF card produced the same number of frames in a burst.
This is what 12 fps looks like (roll your mouse over the number labels below the image):
These 26 images represent just slightly over 2 seconds of time – the horse is moving fast. These images were brightened by .25 stops over my manual camera exposure settings (the sun was setting). They were otherwise untouched – Standard Picture Style and AWB. The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 L IS II USM Lens was used for these captures.
Are you shooting at 6 fps (the 5D III’s performance)? Pick your favorite shot of the 26 presented above. If the number is odd, you capture the evens with your DSLR. If your number is even, you get the odds. Murphy’s law of course. Doubling the frame rate is significant and can help significantly when working with a fast moving subject – and can help avoid frequency issues preventing the ideal capture.
Make no mistake – the 12 fps frame rate delivering 54+ shot bursts combined with an incredible AF system can create a post processing nightmare if your subject is not moving fast. I shot the racing horse and rider for about 45 minutes in the sweet light just before sunset. Most of that time, the horse was resting (it was nearly 100°F out) and walking back to make another pass. I captured well over 1,000 images that were nearly all focused precisely where they should be (though I frequently caught bouncing horse ears in my selected AF point when the distances became close). The 1D X’s AF is so fast that it had no problem jumping forward from the rider’s head to the racing horse’s head within neighboring 12 fps captures at close distances. It’s that fast.
I probably spent 3 or 4 hours going through the shots from that session alone to select the above example for this review.
If the subject is moving quickly, you will simply select the ideal pose for the keeper. And you probably will have that perfect pose in the set – bat-on-ball, air show opposing crossover, runner’s perfect stride, finish line being crossed, soccer player taking a shot, proper flying bird wing position.
Another great use for the fast frame rate is handheld HDR (High Dynamic Range) captures using AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing).
While the 1D X continues to offer the Silent mode that the previous 1-Series bodies had, it is not close to the low noise level of the 5D III’s redefining Silent mode. Those requiring near silent capture will want the 5D III behind their lens.
Here are Canon EOS-1D X MP3 sound clips for your review.
Also fast is the responsiveness of the shutter. Being able to precisely time the shot is extremely important for a professional photographer. The 1D X has a shutter lag of only 55ms and, with the Shortened Release Lag custom function enabled, certain lenses mounted and certain aperture settings (typically wide open) in use, can be shortened to an even more impressive 36ms.
Releasing the shutter on the 1D X is akin to pulling the trigger of a fine target rifle. There is an immediate crisp/sharp report with no vibration following. There is noticeably less vibration than with the 1Ds Mark III.
The available shutter speed range is 1/8000 to 30 sec. as well as bulb. The 1D X’s X-sync speed is 1/250 sec.
Interesting is that the 1D X is not the first Canon SLR to reach 14 FPS. In 1984, Canon introduced the fixed/Pellicle mirror F-1 High Speed Motor Drive Film Camera that was also spec’d at 14 fps. This camera, with its two huge 24v power packs, was huge. And you would spend most of your F-1 High Speed shooting time reloading film.
The 12 fps frame rate will tear through memory card capacity in a hurry. Here are the representative file sizes for the RAW color block comparison images shown earlier in the review.
The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup with a moderately-high amount of detail taken with the referenced Canon EOS DSLR body.
|Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:||(MP)||100||200||400||800||1600||3200||6400||12800||25600||51200||102400||204800|
|Canon PowerShot G1 X||(14.3)||19.1||19.6||20.2||20.9||21.7||23.1||24.9||26.2|
|Canon EOS Rebel SL1||(18.0)||23.7||24.2||24.8||25.8||27.1||28.7||30.8||33.4||37.2|
|Canon EOS Rebel T4i / T5i||(18.0)||24.1||24.5||25.2||26.1||27.6||29.0||31.1||33.7||37.4|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i||(18.0)||25.5||25.9||26.6||27.5||28.7||30.3||32.4||34.9|
|Canon EOS Rebel T2i||(18.0)||25.5||25.8||26.5||27.4||28.6||30.2||32.3||34.9|
|Canon EOS Rebel T1i||(15.1)||20.6||21.0||21.5||22.4||23.4||25.0||27.1||29.8|
|Canon EOS Rebel T5||(18.0)||25.4||25.9||26.6||27.5||28.8||30.2||32.5||35.1|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3||(12.2)||17.8||18.0||18.3||18.9||19.7||20.6||22.0|
|Canon EOS Rebel XSi||(12.2)||15.4||15.9||16.6||17.5||18.7|
|Canon EOS Rebel XS||(10.1)||10.4||10.6||10.9||11.3||11.9|
|Canon EOS 70D||(20.2)||25.1||25.7||26.5||27.7||29.3||31.1||33.3||35.9||39.5|
|Canon EOS 60D||(18.0)||25.2||25.6||26.2||27.0||28.3||29.9||32.2||34.8|
|Canon EOS 50D||(15.1)||20.3||20.7||21.3||22.1||23.2||24.7||26.7||29.5|
|Canon EOS 7D||(18.0)||24.1||24.5||25.3||26.2||27.3||28.6||30.7||33.2|
|Canon EOS 6D||(20.2)||25.3||25.6||26.0||26.7||27.9||29.2||30.9||33.1||35.3||38.6||42.5|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark III||(22.3)||28.6||29.0||29.5||30.3||31.6||33.1||35.3||37.8||40.6||44.7||49.2|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark II||(21.1)||26.9||27.1||27.7||28.6||29.7||31.3||33.6||36.7||41.2|
|Canon EOS-1D X||(18.1)||23.7||23.9||24.3||24.8||25.7||26.7||27.9||29.7||31.8||34.5||37.4||41.3|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark IV||(16.1)||22.0||22.2||22.8||23.4||24.3||25.3||26.7||28.5||30.8||34.2||35.9|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark III||(10.1)||13.0||13.3||13.8||14.5||15.3||16.4||17.8|
|Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III||(21.1)||25.6||26.5||27.4||29.0||31.0||33.4|
Canon RAW file sizes increase with: 1. Resolution 2. Bit Depth (14-bit is better/larger) 3. Detail (noise adds detail, so high ISO file sizes increase). Memory and disk are cheap – buy more.
Being able to consume the data generated by 18.1mp RAW images captured at 12 fps requires fast processing. As discussed earlier, this camera employs dual DIGIC 5+ processors. These processors are fed by 4 four-channel Analogue-Digital convertors consuming the CMOS sensor’s 16-channel readout. The EOS-1D Mark IV has 4 two-channel Analogue-Digital convertors in comparison.
Just after I standardized on SDHC cards for my 1Ds Mark III bodies (primarily for use in my laptop’s built in card reader), the 1D X comes out with two CompactFlash card slots (the recent 1-Series bodies had both CF and SDHC slots). DIGIC 5+ processing power allows the 1D X to fully utilize UDMA 7 CompactFlash memory cards for a sustained write speed of up to 167MB/sec. The 1D X will write to both cards simultaneously for redundancy or is able to write to the second card upon filling the first.
Canon’s 1-Series bodies have always received the most rugged build quality and the 1D X continues this tradition. Designed for reliable operation in harsh environments, the 1D X sports a magnesium alloy body shell and internal structure that protects and provides a rigid, solid feel. Note that “rigid” is especially helpful when shooting from a tripod – lesser cameras show a noticeable amount of flex when locked down on a tripod.
Utilizing “76 seals around buttons and body joints to help keep water and dust out of the internals”, the 1D X “features the same dust and drip-proof construction” as the 1D IV – which again, is best-available in a Canon EOS model. Canon uses push buttons in the 1-Series bodies for improved weather sealing along with quicker operation and fewer accidental changes over dials.
Durability extends to shutter mechanism – the 1D X receives an EOS record shutter durability rating of 400,000 actuations. I have replaced two 1Ds III shutter assemblies – hopefully I will have to replace zero 1D X shutter assemblies.
|Model||Shutter Durability Rating|
|Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D||n/a|
|Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700D||n/a|
|Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D||n/a|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D||n/a|
|Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D||n/a|
|Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D||100,000|
|Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200D||n/a|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D||n/a|
|Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D||100,000|
|Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D||100,000|
|Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D||50,000|
|Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D||50,000|
|Canon EOS 70D||100,000|
|Canon EOS 60D||100,000|
|Canon EOS 50D||100,000|
|Canon EOS 40D||100,000|
|Canon EOS 30D||100,000|
|Canon EOS 20D||50,000|
|Canon EOS 7D||150,000|
|Canon EOS 6D||100,000|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark III||150,000|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark II||150,000|
|Canon EOS 5D||100,000|
|Canon EOS-1D X||400,000|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark IV||300,000|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark III||300,000|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark II N||200,000|
|Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III||300,000|
|Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II||200,000|
The size of the Canon EOS-1D X is increased very slightly from the 1D Mark IV. I didn’t notice the difference when I first picked up the camera – it felt very familiar to me. And even with a 1D X and 1Ds III side-by-side, the size difference is hard to detect. The 1D X feels like the 1Ds III and 1D IV bodies – which is a very good thing.
I really like the feel of these cameras – both horizontal and vertical grips feel similar and very comfortable in my medium-sized hand even after long term continuous use. The vertical grip lacks the added bulk some battery grips add.
While the 1D X did not get the better thumb grip that the 5D III received, it does get some additional overhang below the shutter release to help secure the grip.
|Model||Body Dimensions||CIPA Weight|
|Canon PowerShot G1 X||4.6 x 3.2 x 2.6″||(116.7 x 80.5 x 64.7mm)||18.8 oz (534g)|
|Canon PowerShot G12||4.4 x 3.0 x 1.9″||(112.1 x 76.2 x 48.3mm)||13.7 oz (389g)|
|Canon PowerShot G9||4.2 x 2.8 x 1.7″||(106.4 x 71.9 x 42.5mm)||12.9 oz (365g)|
|Canon EOS M||4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3″||(108.6 x 66.5 x 32.3mm)||10.5 oz (298g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D||4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7″||(116.8 x 90.7 x 69.4mm)||14.4 oz (407g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel T5i / 700D||5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1″||(133.1 x 99.8 x 78.8mm)||20.5 oz (580g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel T4i / 650D||5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1″||(133.1 x 99.8 x 78.8mm)||20.3 oz (575g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3i / 600D||5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1″||(133.1 x 99.5 x 79.7mm)||20.1 oz (570g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel T2i / 550D||5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4″||(128.8 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)||18.7 oz (530g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel T1i / 500D||5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4″||(128.8 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)||18.6 oz (527g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel T5 / 1200D||5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1″||(129.6 x 99.7 x 77.9 mm)||16.9 oz (480g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel T3 / 1100D||5.1 x 3.9 x 3.1″||(129.9 x 99.7 x 77.9mm)||17.5 oz (495g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel XSi / 450D||5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4″||(128.8 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)||18.4 oz (522g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel XS / 1000D||5.0 x 3.8 x 2.4″||(126.1 x 97.5 x 61.9mm)||17.5 oz (497g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel XTi / 400D||5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6″||(127 x 94 x 65mm)||19.9 oz (564g)|
|Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D||5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6″||(127 x 94 x 64mm)||19.0 oz (539g)|
|Canon EOS 70D||5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1″||(139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5mm)||26.7 oz (755g)|
|Canon EOS 60D||5.7 x 4.2 x 3.1″||(144.5 x 105.8 x 78.6mm)||26.6 oz (755g)|
|Canon EOS 50D||5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9″||(145.5 x 107.8 x 73.5mm)||29.1 oz (826g)|
|Canon EOS 40D||5.7 x 4.4 x 2.9″||(145.5 x 112 x 73.5mm)||29.5 oz (836g)|
|Canon EOS 30D||5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9″||(144 x 105.5 x 73.5mm)||28.1 oz (796g)|
|Canon EOS 20D||5.6 x 4.2 x 2.8″||(144 x 106 x 72mm)||27.5 oz (781g)|
|Canon EOS 7D||5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9″||(148.2 x 110.7 x 73.5mm)||32.2 oz (914g)|
|Canon EOS 6D||5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8″||(144.5 x 110.5 x 71.2mm)||26.6 oz (755g)|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark III||6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0″||(152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm)||33.5 oz (950g)|
|Canon EOS 5D Mark II||6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0″||(152 x 113.5 x 75mm)||31.9 oz (904g)|
|Canon EOS 5D||6.0 x 4.4 x 3.0″||(152 x 113 x 75mm)||32.0 oz (906g)|
|Canon EOS-1D X||6.2 x 6.4 x 3.3″||(158 x 163.6 x 82.7mm)||54.0 oz (1530g)|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark IV||6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1″||(156 x 157 x 80mm)||48.5 oz (1374g)|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark III||6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1″||(156 x 157 x 80mm)||47.6 oz (1349g)|
|Canon EOS-1D Mark II N||6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1″||(156 x 158 x 80 mm)||55.5 oz (1574g)|
|Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III||6.1 x 6.3 x 3.1″||(156 x 159.6 x 79.9mm)||49.5 oz (1404g)|
|Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II||6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1″||(156 x 158 x 80 mm)||55.2 oz (1564g)|
If small and light are on your DSLR shopping requirements list, the 1D X is not for you. I personally appreciate this camera’s mass when shooting. It is easy to hold it steady – and again, feels rock solid.
If you are moving to a 1-Series body from one of the Rebel series cameras, you are going to be in for an adjustment. However, if you are using one of the mid-sized bodies (such as the Canon EOS 50D or the Canon EOS 5D Mark II) with a battery grip, the size and weight difference is not so significant.
Be ready for another big change when first looking into the 1D X viewfinder. Canon EOS 1-Series bodies have always had differentiatingly large, bright, 100%-view, all-glass pentaprism viewfinders with plenty of nose relief from the LCD, and in many regards, the 1D X viewfinder is similar to the 1Ds III. But the 1D X viewfinder unmistakably like no 1-Series viewfinder before it.
“The translucent LCD [as seen in the 7D and 5D III] allows the camera to display more essential information within the viewfinder, including the 61 AF points, Zone, Spot or Expansion AF points and a grid when required.” Seeing 61 focus point reference squares (when selecting an AF point) is a bit overwhelming at first glance. Fortunately, the viewfinder display is highly configurable, including the option to turn off all information display, via the menu options controlling it.
In dim light, red LEDs light the viewfinder LCD display for easy visibility. These red LEDs can optionally be set to always be on or off using custom functions.
Canon notes that “Compared to the viewfinder found on the EOS 7D, the one found in the EOS-1D X has been designed for usage in harsher environments and it will function substantially better in temperatures below 0°C.” Canon also notes that, “With the camera turned off the display will appear milky due to light scattering, but once the camera is powered on the display becomes clear.”
The advantage offered by the 100% view delivered by the 1-Series viewfinders should not be underestimated. WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get. No guessing where the frame edges really are during composition.
The 1D X remains compatible with Ec-type interchangeable focusing screens. I use Canon EC-D Laser Matte w/ Grid Focusing Screens in my 1Ds III bodies. However, the 1D X’s viewfinder LCD grid negates my need for this focusing screen. And so does the viewfinder horizon level feature.
Note that the 1D X in the image comparison below appears to afford less nose relief than the 1D III body, but the Canon-supplied image was simply shot from a slightly different angle which gives the illusion that the eye relief has been reduced on the new model. And don’t underestimate the advantage of the extra nose relief provided by the 1-Series bodies.
Click on the labels below the above image to compare the various DSLR camera models.
As you surely noticed, there are no Mode dials on the 1-Series bodies. As I mentioned before, buttons allow quicker operation, fewer accidental changes, better weather sealing, less susceptibility to damage – and buttons consume less vertical space – than dials. A button press followed by a rear/top control dial change is typically used for camera setting changes including mode selection.
The 1D Mark IV had a total of 5 modes available including Bulb. The Canon EOS-1D X includes those 5 modes and adds the 3 custom shooting modes (C1, C2, and C3) we have seen on lower end DSLR models. The C-Modes allow you to store a set of camera settings for quick recall. New with the 1D X is that setting changes made while in any of the C modes will update the stored settings and will be recalled when the camera is again switched to that specific C mode – or when the camera is awakened or powered up if the Custom shooting mode Auto update set menu option is enabled.
Found on consumer and entry-level pro camera models but missing on the 1D X are the Basic Zone pre-defined modes, “CA” (Creative Auto) mode and the fully-automatic point and shoot green square mode. With ISO set to Auto, the available “P” (Program) mode provides the 1D X near-fully automatic functionality.
The 1D X gains a button on the top. The ISO and +/- buttons have moved to the right to make room for the new-to-the-top WB (White Balance) button. To avoid button confusion during the heat of the shoot, the ISO button has a welcomed new, distinguishing shape.
Replacing the FEL button on both grips is one of the new, programmable Multi-function (M.Fn) buttons. You will find another pair of M.Fn buttons (M.Fn2) on the front of the 1D X. In the “No Lens” example in the front view image of the 1D X earlier in the review, you will see two pairs of buttons – and you will see that the old Depth of Field Preview button missing. Each of the button pairs features an M.Fn button and a DOF Preview button – one pair for each grip orientation.
Using the Custom Control settings menu, the 1D X M.Fn button can be programmed for one of 8 functions: FEL, AE Lock, AE Lock (hold), One touch image quality setting, One touch image quality (hold), Dual-Axis electronic level activation, Start movie recording and C-Mode access.
Using the Custom Control settings menu, the 1D X M.Fn2 button can be programmed for one of 13 functions: Switch to registered AF Point, Switch to registered AF Function, AF Off, One Shot AI-Servo, IS Start, One Touch Image Quality Setting, One Touch Image Quality (hold), FEL, AE Lock, AE Lock (hold), DOF Preview, Dual-Axis electronic level activation and Start movie recording. The M.Fn2 button can optionally be disabled.
Here is a visual comparison of the back of many Canon Digital SLR bodies.
The first 1D X back-of-the-camera change that jumps out at me is the dual Multi-controller setup. Now a Multi-controller is convenient to thumb access in both grip orientations. This is a very positive design change. Less positive is the narrower shape of the Multi-controller itself – I’m having more trouble getting the direction I want from it. Hopefully this is just an acclimation issue.
Moving the memory card door release was necessitated by the addition of the second Multi-controller. The new door release is slightly smaller than the previous version, but it remains very usable. Being directly under my thumb while using the portrait grip is not ideal – but the design is rather flush and really is not a big deal.
Most of the normal buttons are present on the back of the 1D X, but most of their locations are changed at least slightly and their sizes are, in some cases, increased slightly. Especially obvious is that the smaller of the two rear LCDs has traded positions with the bottom row of buttons. I find these buttons now easier to reach with my left thumb.
Notice that the blue magnifying glass icons have disappeared from the two top-right-most buttons on the back of the 1D X? As I first experienced with the Canon EOS 5D III, the image zoom feature as present on every EOS DSLR that hit the streets prior to the 5D III has been revamped.
Image playback is as it has been, but zooming from the default playback view now requires the magnifying glass button to be pressed. You can skip the playback button and go directly to the zoom view. The view you see after pressing the magnify button is one of many that can be configured in the Magnification menu option (including 10x magnification). Zooming in or out from this point requires the top dial to be turned. This change has been driving me crazy with the 5D III, but I find the button location on the 1D X to make this design modestly easier to use. I don’t understand why the new playback zooming feature could not be simultaneously provided with the old.
Scrolling through a magnified image is very fast (using the Multicontroller/joystick).
Unlike the 5D III, the 1D X retains the right-thumb-reachable power switch location that I much prefer.
The Canon EOS-1D X becomes the first 1-Series body to get a Quick Control button. Pressing the Q button while in shooting mode will bring up the Quick Control Screen where camera settings can be accessed and adjusted quickly and easily without having to use the menu or look at the top LCD panel.
Pressing the Q button while in playback mode will present an overlay with applicable options – including new-for-a-1-Series-body RAW processing. Software exposure compensation, white balance, Picture Style, color space, Auto Lighting Optimizer, High ISO NR, Peripheral Illumination Correction, Chromatic Aberration Correction and the output dimensions and quality of the converted JPEG can be selected prior to processing.
Pressing Q while the menu is displayed will jump to the next menu tab.
“Like the EOS 7D, the EOS-1D X features the ability to modify the control layout to suit your needs using the Custom Controls function. This allows you to map the function to each button on the camera and change what the Main Dial, Quick Control Dial and Multi-controller adjust during use.” A “Lock” setting on the power switch allows, via menu selection, the Main Dial, Quick Control Dial or Multi-controller to be locked – preventing accidental changes.
I’m excited to have a Dual-Axis Electronic Level available in the 1D X. This feature is especially helpful when photographing landscape and architecture – or any other situation where you want a level camera. This feature is also especially helpful in very low light scenarios when the horizon and other level-indicating features are not easily visible. The electronic level is available on the rear LCD (presenting a nice graphic of the camera’s state of levelness) or in the viewfinder (using AF points to indicate state of levelness). I often use the viewfinder level even when shooting action handheld or from a monopod – to level the camera just before beginning to shoot.
The 1D X’s electronic level, when shown on the rear LCD, is spec’d to show 360° of roll and +/-10° of pitch in 1° increments. Accuracy is reportedly +/-1° at up to +/-10° and +/-3° between +/-10° and +/-45°.
I frequently use a Hot Shoe Spirit Level when shooting landscape. Unfortunately, these are not always as accurate as I would like – and may be accurate in one installation position only, or may be accurate in only certain DSLR hot shoes. It will be much more difficult to physically lose the 1D X level, to forget it or to accidentally put it through the washing machine.
As expected, Canon’s flagship DSLR receives Canon’s best LCD – the Clear View LCD II. The Clear View LCD II measures 3.2″ (81.1mm) and has 1.04 million dot resolution compared to the 1D IV’s relatively new 3″, 920,000 dot resolution. The aging 1Ds III has a 3″ LCD but only 230,000 dot resolution. The 1D X LCD is beautiful and extremely important to me is that it display a very easy to read (even in bright sunlight) histogram.
“The [LCD] construction is the same as the unit on the EOS-1D Mark IV, with no gap between the protective glass cover and the LCD unit. With no gap, there is no air-glass interface, so refraction and reflection is reduced. The surface of the glass cover also features the same anti-reflective coating.”
The rear LCD is of course used for menu setting changes as well as reviewing captured shots. The 1D X menu looks more overwhelming than prior models (except perhaps the 5D III) and will require some adjusting to. Found in the menu are 31 Custom Functions (mostly the same as the 1D IV) divided into 6 sections:
C.Fn 1 – Exposure
C.Fn 2 – Exposure
C.Fn 3 – Drive
C.Fn 4 – Display/Operation
C.Fn 5 – Operation
C.Fn 6 – Others
New options are available for Custom Control and Custom Shooting Modes. The ability to change the function of the Protect Button to apply ratings to images is now available. Available drive modes (Single, High Speed, Low Speed, Self-timer 10sec, self-timer 2sec, Single Silent, and 14fps super High Speed) can once again be restricted using the Custom Function menu.
Not new, but a feature worth mentioning is the unique ability of Canon’s 1-Series bodies to record 30 second voice memos to captured images. This is an excellent way to remember information pertaining to a photo – including the names of the subjects. Audio is recorded at 48KHz, or, new with the 1D X, an 8KHz sampling frequency for smaller file sizes can be selected in the Custom Functions menu.
And the rear LCD is of course used for shooting video.
New for a 1-Series body is the inclusion of a Movie/Live View button, conveniently located to the right of the viewfinder. Less surprising is that the 1D X, like most other Canon DSLRs introduced since 2008, starting with the ground-breaking Canon EOS 5D Mark II, has HD video capabilities. The 1D X incorporates all current video features and adds new ones. Here is a rundown of the 1D X video specs:
Available recording sizes and frame rates are: 1920 x 1080 (30, 25, 24 fps) (actually 29.97, 25, 23.976 fps), 1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps) (actually 59.94, 50 fps) and 640 x 480 (30, 25 fps) (actually 29.97, 25 fps). The .MOV file format is used with the H.264 codec and new, selectable IPB (Bi-directional compression) or ALL-I (Intra-coded Frame) compression methods. IPB offers a higher compression rate by compressing multiple frames together while ALL-I compresses each frame individually – allowing for more precise editing. ALL-I compressed footage will be about three times larger (but requires less computing power) than IPB compressed footage.
Now supported in 1D X video is the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) timecode standard of Hour:Minute:Second:Frame (0-29 for 30 fps) with four options (and more sub options) for this counter. A drop frame count menu is available to compensate for counts when using frame rates such as 29.97 fps.
With its ability to start new video files during filming, the 4GB /12 min HD Movie clip limit has now been surpassed. “Legal reasons” (to fall below the EU’s higher tax rate video camera designation) now limit the maximum total HD clip length to 29 minutes and 59 seconds.
Video exposure control is via Program AE or fully Manual exposure. ISO 100 through 51,200 are available as well as ±3 stops of exposure compensation in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments.
Audio recording options are the internal microphone capturing 16bit mono sound or the 3.5mm stereo input jack – both recording at 48KHz. Manual audio level control is available (64 levels) and features a live audio level meter displayed on the rear LCD during filming. The audio recording level is now able to be adjusted (along with shutter speed, aperture, ISO and exposure compensation) during filming using the new Silent Control Function located inside the Quick Control Dial – a capacitive touch pad.
Both chromatic aberration and peripheral illumination correction are now available in 1D X video.
The 1D X video focusing option is listed as “Same as Live View Shooting”. Plan on using manual focus.
The 1D X’s video quality is impressive. And especially is the vast selection of high quality lenses available for this video recording.
Unlike all Canon EOS DSLRs before it, the 1D X features an error log that, not surprisingly, tracks all camera errors. These logs will give Canon Service better information for diagnosing problems. “With the status log, there is also a counter that keeps track of the number of shutter release cycles.” Selecting the System status display menu option in the Tools menu shows the Release Cycles. I highly welcome the 1D X’s odometer, but I’m not sure many of us will reach even close to the 400,000 shutter actuation rating of this camera – thus reducing the value of the feature.
The ports available on the 1D X are, clockwise from top left, the system extension terminal (WFT-E6 or GP-E1 mentioned below), the new Ethernet RJ-45 terminal, the HDMI mini out and Audio/video OUT/digital terminal, and the external microphone IN terminal and remote control terminal (N3 type) and PC terminal.
The system extension terminal port cover protrudes somewhat at its hinge. Being hinged on the inside (if possible) would make the design more flush. I’m sure that I will not notice this minor issue once my L bracket arrives.
The new Gigabit Ethernet LAN port accepts an RJ-45 connector for direct cabling to a network similar to the slower LAN port on the 1D IV’s WFT-E2 II. Image transfer and camera control capabilities are the same as those in the WFT. Supported are: FTP Transfer (upload images to an FTP server), EOS Utility (remotely controlled shooting and image upload), WFT Server (control and browse the camera directly from a web browser), Media Server (connect to a DLNA-compatible device such as HD TVs for payback) and Time Sync (new).
First available on the 1D X, the Multi Camera Time Sync Function allows multiple cameras to have their times perfectly synchronized. Having synchronized times allows photos taken with multiple cameras and by multiple photographers to be sorted chronologically.
Shown above are the new Canon GP-E1 GPS Receiver and the Canon WFT-E6A Wireless File Transmitter. The Canon WFT-E6A Wireless File Transmitter is shown installed in a 1D X system extension terminal below.
The GP-E1 GPS Receiver features an electronic compass and GPS signal receiver, allowing location information to be added to the EXIF data for each image.
Featuring 802.11a/b/g and n (new, faster) compatibility, the WFT-E6 Wireless File Transmitter with a Bluetooth module extends the LAN port capabilities to wireless remote locations. While the GPS and WFT units cannot be installed simultaneously, geotagging is still optional through the use of an external Bluetooth GPS.
The Canon EOS-1D X utilizes a new, slightly higher capacity battery, the Canon LP-E4N Battery Pack. The Canon LP-E4N Battery Pack is both forward and backward compatible with the Canon LP-E4 Battery Pack found in the recent 1-Series bodies. Utilizing a larger number of smaller cells, the LP-E4N capacity increased from 2300mAh to 2450mAh. A new battery charger, the Canon LC-E4N, is required to fully charge the new batteries. The LC-E4 charger will charge LC-E4N batteries to only about 90% capacity.
Here are the battery specs from Canon Inc:
Viewfinder shooting at 73°F/23°C Approx. 1120 shots
Viewfinder shooting at 32°F/0°C Approx. 860 shots
Live View shooting at 73°F/23°C Approx. 290 shots
Live View shooting at 32°F/0°C Approx. 250 shots
For reference, the LP-E4 + 1D IV combination is rated at 1500 shots.
My first fully charged LP-E4N gave me 2,862 shots with 11% battery remaining (the battery menu option keeps track of this for you) for an estimated 3,215 shots for a fully drained battery. This figure sounds extreme, but how you use the camera makes a big difference in battery life. Using burst mode significantly extends the shot capacity of the battery – probably 1,600 or so of these first charge shots were taken in burst mode.
My second LP-E4N charge gave me 1,816 shots with 47% battery remaining for an estimated 3,863 shots for a fully drained battery. A very adequate figure but again with a good percentage of shots captured in burst mode.
The 1D X is not currently available in a with-lens kit. The 1D X is not a starter camera for most people and therefore, many 1D X buyers already have one or more lenses. So, if you do not have a lens already, a lens is a required 1D X option.
The general purpose lenses I recommend most highly for this camera at review time are the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM Lens. The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM Lens has been announced and will be an even better choice than the 24-70 L I.
If you need to stop action in low light or to get the shallowest DOF possible in the 24-70mm range, one of the 24-70 L lenses should be your choice. Otherwise, the 24-105 provides a longer focal length range in a smaller/lighter package – and has image stabilization. A host of prime lenses can also handle general purpose needs for this camera.
Then add a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II USM Lens to your kit.
When you buy a Canon DSLR, you are buying into an incredible family of lenses and other accessories. One of these lenses is just the start.
The support provided by Canon’s USA division is excellent (I have no experience with the other Canon divisions but generally hear similarly positive stories of most of them). When I call for support, I get an intelligent person who sincerely wants to help me with whatever my question or problem is. Repair service, though I don’t frequently need it, is fast and reliable. Join CPS (Canon Professional Services) for extremely fast repairs.
As usual, this review does not cover nearly all aspects and features available on this camera. I highly recommend reading the (massive 420 page) owner’s manual (link at the top of this review).
When the Canon EOS-1D X was announced, I fully expected it to become the ultimate Canon DSLR selection. It was sure to be a great upgrade from any Canon EOS DSLR made to date. The 1D X was announced on October 18, 2011 and was scheduled for March 2012 availability. Instead of a 1D X, March 2012 brought us both a Canon EOS 5D Mark III announcement (March 2, 2012) AND delivery (Mar 22, 2012 for me personally). It was not until July 5, 2012 that my first 1D X body arrived.
In the meantime, the 5D III, with a higher resolution sensor, similar (amazing) AF system and 50% lower price tag, grabbed the hearts of MANY photographers. In selecting your DSLR, you will want to look carefully at the advantages of both DSLRs. Here is a list:
Canon EOS-1D X Feature Advantages Over the EOS 5D Mark III
- More advanced metering system (100k pixel, 252 zone RGB vs 63 zone iFCL)
- EOS iTR AF (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF including facial recognition)
- Frame rate is 2x faster (12 fps vs. 6 fps)
- Higher frame burst rating (RAW: 38 vs. 18 rated / 54 vs. 33 tested)
- AF point-linked spot metering and Multi-spot metering
- Faster AF driven by more powerful battery pack (with select Canon L lenses)
- EV 0-20 Metering range (vs. EV 1-20)
- Higher native ISO settings available (51200 vs. 25600)
- Higher expanded ISO settings available (204800 vs. 102400)
- Less high ISO noise
- Faster X-sync speed (1/250 vs. 1/200)
- Dual DIGIC 5+ processors plus DIGIC 4 processor dedicated to AE functions
(5D III has a single DIGIC 5+ processor and a non-specified AF-dedicated processor)
- Higher battery life rating (1,120 vs. 950 shots)
- Higher shutter durability rating (400,000 vs. 150,000 cycles)
- Higher viewfinder magnification (.76x vs .71x)
- Shorter viewfinder blackout time
- Viewfinder provides more nose relief from LCD (less nose spots on LCD)
- Has a viewfinder shutter
- Built-in Ethernet Port
- More advanced self-cleaning sensor
- Better Weather Sealing
- Built in vertical grip
- Accepts optional focus screens
- 7 LCD brightness levels (vs. 3)
- More custom functions (31 vs. 13)
Canon EOS 5D Mark III Feature Advantages Over the Canon EOS-1D X
- Price (a big advantage for most of us)
- Higher resolution (22.3 mp vs 18.1 mp)
- In-camera HDR mode
- Headphone jack
- Lighter weight with lighter battery
- Compatible with Canon wireless infrared remotes such as the RC-6
- Much quieter silent mode
If you see one or more must-have 5D III features, you can go directly to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III review. Otherwise, the Canon EOS-1D X is likely the ideal camera for you.
Though price will keep it out of reach of many, the 1D X is an ideal tool for photographers in all disciplines – and the ultimate tool for photojournalists and sports/action photographers who absolutely cannot miss a shot. When you must capture the shot, regardless of the shooting conditions and subject speed, the 1D X is the ultimate camera to do it with.
While I expect a significant portion of 1D X owners to be professional photographers, I am sure that not all 1D X DSLRs will be purchased by such. Included in the non-professional category will be parents with other careers who value capturing never-going-back-to family moments even more than for-pay photographs.
The upgrade from any of Canon’s APS-C/1.6x bodies to the 1D X is a huge one – and of course, the cost to trade up is reflected in this upgrade.
Those wanting excellent image quality and not needing the incredible AF or frame rate performance may find the Canon EOS 5D Mark II to be an acceptable option – especially from a cost perspective.
Those needing a fast frame rate but not able to afford the 1D X should look next at the Canon EOS 7D. Though its image quality will not be a match for the 1D X, the 7D offers a good AF system, advanced features and a very good frame rate – for a far more affordable price.
At review time, I’m planning to make the 5D III and 1D X both part of my kit.
The 1D X is all about speed, precision, durability – and of course, image quality. I find the Canon EOS-1D X to be a more revolutionary camera upgrade than I have seen for a while. As such, the 1D X is impossible to find at review time – and I suspect it will remain so for many months to come.
I’ve said it before and I mean it no less now – there is not much better than getting a significant upgrade to your favorite and most-used piece of kit.
Jan 8, 2014 Update: Canon has improved the EOS-1D X’s capabilities in Firmware Update v. 2.0.3. Here are some of the details of this upgrade:
- Auto focusing performance under low-light conditions has been enhanced when performing focusing before shooting in AI Servo AF mode. The enhancement comes from the improvement in tracking capability for the first image in the low-light conditions.
- The number of release parameters settings for the “AI Servo AF 2nd image priority” AF function has been increased to enable improved AF tracking in low light or maintain consistent high frames rates during continuous shooting.
- The number of parameters for acceleration/deceleration tracking in the AF Configuration Tool will has been increased.
- Exposure compensation can be performed when using manual exposure and ISO Auto.
- The minimum shutter speed limit for ISO Auto has been increased with shutter speeds up to 1/8000.
- A new function to keep the exposure constant by altering the ISO or shutter speed in manual exposure, when the aperture value changes when zooming or changing lenses has been added.
- A new option has been added to orientation linked AF point to enable only the AF point to switch as you change orientation rather than both AF point/ AF area settings
- A new option to continue to use the previously manually selected AF point as the initial starting AF point when switching to 61-point automatic selection has been added.
- New customization of the Exposure metering and AF controls has been added for more flexibility.
- The number of possibilities for controls to switch between one-shot AF and AI Servo AF using custom controls has been increased.
- A function has been added to allow the playback and review of protected images only.
- A phenomenon has been fixed in which the white balance may be disturbed by the timing of the shutter release when the drive mode is single shooting and a flash (E-TTL)is used.
Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! – Bryan.