Saturday, February 11, 2012

HANDS ON: Canon EOS-1D X (sample images and video) 9-16-12 update


****** SEE MY REVIEW HERE *****


View sample images here and videos on how to use this cool new camera.

At Photo Plus Expo in New York last week I had the pleasure of sitting down with Canon Advisor of Technical Information Chuck Westfall and a reporter from Rangefinder Magazine to discuss the Canon EOS-1D X (press release article).

I’ve suffered through the pains of the 1D Mark III, but I’ve enjoyed my 1D Mark IV despite its few warts. I’ve also had this strong desire to take a 1D Mark IV, 1Ds Mark III, 5D Mark II, and 7D and mix them all up to create the perfect camera. From what I’ve seen so far, it seems that is what Canon appears to have done and I couldn’t be happier. Everything I love about all of those cameras is present in the X (and much more), yet all of the frustrations and limitations of them appears to have been addressed.

Sensor Details Still Leave Room For Concern

Canon says this sensor offers a 6.95 pixel pitch (µm) compared to 6.4 for the 5DM2 and 5.7 for the 1DM4 (see more comparisons here). This is very important because if you imagine photons as rain as illustrated here, then the pixel pitch is like the size of the bucket catching the rain. The bigger the pixel pitch, the better the image quality – sort of. For example, the original Canon 1D had a 10.9 pixel pitch, but many other modern advancements in sensor technology make its images far inferior to those of a 1D Mark IV so when comparing pixel pitches you need to think about the generation to which the camera belongs. In this generation, 6.95 is great, but still smaller than the 8.4 found in the Nikon D3s. This would make one wonder if this is really the D3s killer that the Canon shooters like myself hoped it would be, or if we still be lusting for the next Nikon flagship camera that will replace the D3s.

With a sensor that is effectively the same size as the D3s, yet nearly 6 megapixels more packed into each image, the big question is going to be about image quality – especially at higher ISO’s. Canon claims that with in-camera JPEG’s the image quality will meet or exceed what is seen today in the 1Ds-Mark III/5D Mark II. That’s a tall claim, but my hands on experience at the Expo seems to indicate this is true. I was unable to test the RAW performance, which Canon naturally acknowledges isn’t as improved as JPEG, but was unable to commit to how much of an improvement due to the pre-production nature of these bodies. Time will tell if it is simply a match to the D3s or if they will be competitive with the D3s replacement.

Sports Shooters Will Be Pleased

My unscientific testing yielded 52 full-size RAW frames
in 12fps burst mode before the buffer started to stutter

When I read about the 12fps performance of this camera I was excited – especially given the larger image size – but I was also worried as my 10fps performance of the 1D Mark III & IV has always been significantly limited by its puny buffer. In my early testing with what I was told was a slow CF card, I was able to get 52 full-size RAW frames in burst mode before the buffer started to stutter. That’s up from 30 in the 1D Mark IV, so that’s promising given the significantly larger file sizes. However, I would have really loved to have seen that number closer to 100 for RAW. RAM is pretty cheap, so I’m always frustrated there isn’t a way to add RAM or do something to overcome this limitation. With that gripe aside, the 52 RAW frames is going to be usable enough in most practical scenarios so this is a welcome relief. This also means that sRAW or JPEG only shooters will find themselves with an endless supply of buffer for sports shooting.

I didn’t have enough time to test buffer flush performance, but the Mark IV smoked the D3s (see here) so I’d expect the X to be the fastest camera on the market in this measurement.

Of course, the biggest problem with prior Canon 1D cameras wasn’t FPS performance – they were the leaders at 10fps RAW – it was the usability of the AF system. When used properly, the Canon pro AF system was unbeatable and it could give you a ton of in-focus images. However, when used improperly (which was VERY easy to do) it could be a disaster and lots of images would be out of focus. The reality was that just like a pro photographer must know the triangle of setting ISO, aperture and shutter speed to get a good photo – Canon shooters had to know how to coordinate four different AF settings to get a good result. Despite my attempt at writing a guide to help with this problem, the truth is that many still failed to get the most out of the system – myself included. This has left IV owners envying 7D owners zone system.

AF Point Selection is RADICALLY improved
and features enhancements over the 7D zone system

Fortunately Canon has added that system to the X (see above) along with many other autofocus improvements. The net result of this is that the new system is less prone to user error. The advanced ability to change these settings still exists, but presets have been added with additional help information to aid photographers in quickly knowing which setting to use for a variety of common situations. I think these changes will help photographers maximize the potential of the system. One example is shown below in the new 5 page AF menu that features help with a press of the Info button:

Auto Focus gets 5 pages of AF menus
On the first page are 6 different case presets
to help dialing in the correct AF results

Here’s a table that shows some pretty crude shots of each of the case settings (all of which are customizable and feature help when you press the info button):

Case Settings will be a welcome addition to newbies
as well as existing 1D owners confused by the AF system

14fps Super High Speed

Yes, it can do 14fps but don’t get too excited…

Make no mistake, this is a 12fps camera despite the presence of a 14fps super high speed mode. The reason why I say this is because during the 14fps mode the mirror is left up so you can’t see through the view finder and the AF are fixed. In addition, it only supports JPEG so its pretty useless in most scenarios. Sure if you have a fixed point to focus on and want to bang out the most shots possible (which is the case in skiing sometimes), this might be useful, but I think most will find it frustrating to use. That said, I’m sure some will be glad to see this added but I doubt I’d ever use it.

Only the REAL AF Points Are Shown Now

Another huge improvement is that the confusion about what AF points worked with what lenses has been removed. Before you would always see the same number even if some were not active for the lens you were using. The X will only show you the focus appoints that apply to your lens and more cross type sensors have been added to improve the accuracy of subject tracking.

Wedding Photographers Rejoice – Low Light Nightmares Addressed

One of my frustrations with my 1D Mark IV was that its low light auto focus performance was mediocre at best (worst than the 5D Mark II’s antiquated system). As a result it wasn’t a very good camera for situations like concerts, night clubs, etc… which is really where you want a high ISO pro camera. It seems that the advancements in metering with the new 100,000 pixel RGB metering sensor and its dedicated DIGIC 4 processor and a leap from 63 metering points to 252 will result in far fewer scenarios where you push the shutter release and nothing happens because it can not meter the contrast and/or acquire focus.

Canon has also made significant strides to not only catch up with the mighty Nikon D3s (the current high ISO noise champion), but from what I saw in these early cameras it possibly has surpassed it. The formerly useless ISO 12,800 is now usable and appears to look at least as good as what ISO 1600 looked like on the 1D Mark IV. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any of my own images for closer scrutiny elsewhere, so the judge is still out on this. At a minimum it seems that Canon has matched the Nikon D3s and is definitely 2 stops better at high ISO performance, but I think it is higher than that. It certainly seems to be a camera where 12,800 and lower all seem like very usable ISO’s from what I saw.

Videographers Rejoice

While video files are still limited to 4GB, Canon has come up with a seamless scheme for allowing multiple video files to be created and transparently stitched together for a maximum of 29 minutes and 59 seconds of its highest quality HD video per individual clip. This coupled with improvements in additional compression modes will be a welcome relief to many videographers.

The biggest improvement in HD video has now been improved to prevent any moiré (i.e., that annoying effect you get when videoing someone in a herringbone suit) as well as better compression. Video will also now embed a time code which will be a big benefit to cinematographers.

I had a chance to sit one-on-one with Hollywood Director of Photography, Shane Hurlbut, and he was thrilled about the video improvements. He felt like Canon addressed his major pain points he faced when filming his upcoming movie, Act of Valor, with the 5D Mark II.

Multiple Exposures On A Single Frame Now Possible

In the film days you could take multiple shots on the same frame of film by simply not advancing the film after the shot. Nikon added this feature a long time ago to their cameras, but it has been missing from Canon. I’m pleased to say that Canon has addressed this by adding an advanced version of this feature.

Built-in Chromatic Aberration Correction

Per lens chromatic aberration correction is built in

While this feature was available for select Canon lenses in DPP before, its now possible in camera where people will actually use it. Woohoo!

Battery Change

One interesting change is that due to safety regulation changes in Japan, a new battery has been introduced. The good news is that your old 1D Mark III & IV batteries will work in this camera, and the new batteries will work in your older cameras. They are the same size but have a different charger which is backwards compatible. It’s rare for camera companies not to screw us over by changing the battery size, so it was a relief to see Canon care enough not to do that here.

Other Random Notes

A new stand-alone Quick Menu button is nice to have in low light

  • An Ethernet cable can transfer data from the X to your PC at speeds up to 300mb/sec
  • Bracketing now goes from +/-3 to +/-5 scale with the same maximum number of bracketed exposures. This will help with the new built-in HDR processing as well.
  • Button redundancy is greatly improved with a joystick and front buttons being repeated for easy access in both portrait and landscape mode
  • The scroll wheel has a really nice rubbery tactile feel that is much nicer than all current Canon cameras
  • Dual compact flash instead of CF/SD
  • The EOS-1D X allows users to save up to 3 sets of customized camera settings that can be selected via the mode button and main input dial. They're listed on the LCD data panel as C1, C2 and C3. This puts the 1D X on a par with other current EOS bodies above the Rebel series in terms of its ability to store user-registered custom camera settings.

Other improvements include a much nicer feel for the scroll wheel, an easier to use joystick controller, programmable redundant front camera buttons. I was also happy to see Canon finally do away with the SD card slot and go to dual Compact Flash slots.


If I had to summarize one theme of Canon’s work on the 1D X it has to be “we’ve heard you”. Canon as done so many things to catch up with the Nikon D3s and D3x as well as extending its lead in video. Of course if they just did that then there would be little to be excited about, but I’m pleased to say that this is just the beginning. In fact, I’d probably put you to sleep if I listed everything here and I’m sure I have only discovered the tip of the iceberg.

Of course one difficult situation Canon has put me in is that they’ve finally built the camera I hoped I was getting when I made the leap to get my 1D Mark III, but they’ve priced it to be as insanely expensive (yet still cheaper than a 1Ds Mark III). I have a fear of ending up with the state-of-the-art promise only to be disappointed with a nightmare performance like I had with the Mark III. Fortunately, I’ve been assured by Canon that I’ll get a better chance early next year to give one of these cameras a test drive to give you my honest opinion on this camera. From everything I’ve seen so far I’m afraid I need to make a lifestyle change so I can start saving for this camera, but I’m also so pleased at what I’m seeing that I might be putting both my 1D Mark IV and 5D Mark II on the market to help pay for it.

Make no mistake, if this camera is stable and works as advertised, this is the greatest camera Canon has ever made. It appears to be well worth the upgrade for any Canon shooter with an existing pro body. Everything I’ve seen show signs of greatness and frustrated Nikon D3 and D3x owners might want to start planning for a platform change this Spring. Canon has finally listened so I’m very pleased I didn’t make the move to Nikon. Thank you Canon!

For more information, see my press release article or visit Canon USA's web site.

Preorder Info

Canon made it very clear that this camera still isn’t out of development yet, so the earliest we could hope to see it is March 2012. If history repeats itself, then that date could really end up being summer 2012 because the 1D Mark IV was supposed to be out in November/December of 2009 yet it didn’t start getting distributed into the channel until February 2010. In fact, those without connections or good luck were lucky to see them by summer of 2010.

As of the time of this writing, no legitimate online reseller I know of is taking true pre-orders (meaning you are guaranteed a spot in line when they come in). Click here to pre-order at B&H when they begin taking orders (perhaps by the time you read this).

More Expo Hands On Reviews

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My information was obtained by a hands-on experience of PRE-RELEASE versions of the EOS-1D X, so my facts and those who I spoke with at Canon are subject to change prior to the final release. I’ve made every attempt to share the facts as they are known now and to confirm with highly reliable sources. If any information here is proven to be inaccurate or misleading, I’ll update the article immediately so check back for updates.

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KevinMPhoto said...

Can you explain your feeling on how loud the shutter/mirror is on the 1Dx.

I shot with a 1Dmk3 and would like to know. Does it make about the same amount of noise.

Thanks, said...


In normal usage there's still sound but it doesn't seem to be as loud as before. You still get a mirror slap just like before.

FYI: One of the autodrive modes is silent on the Mark III and up. Have you tried that before? It's not really silent but it's very good. It dampens the sound of the mirror slap.

Anonymous said...

Built in HDR? I haven't seen that mentioned anywhere? said...

Go to the press release under Multiple Exposure Modes. This can be used to do an effect similar to HDR software where you can overlay different exposures for an HDR-like effect. Tone mapping is not built in nor is the ability to get to a true 32-bit HDR image, but this is what other products market as built-in HDR and what I mean by that.

Anonymous said...

One feature I like on the Canon 5D Mark II is the C1 C2 C3 settings on the mode dial. It allows for very quick switching from one aperture shutter speed ISO drive mode etc combination to another. The 1D X doesn't have a mode dial. Does the menu system provide quick switches as described above? Thanks in advance. said...


When I first got my 1D-Mark III I thought about things like the lack of a dial on the pro bodies like you are doing. Once you own a pro body you realize how poor of a design it is to have a dial at all. With pro bodies they focus on hard usage and things like dials that can be bumped or broken are eliminated. Now the custom setups you are referring to for C1-C3 are not directly available on the pro bodies, but there are a ton of settings that don't exist on your 5D Mark II that make the pro bodies so much more enjoyable (to the point that the 5D Mark II feels like a toy). You can save all of your custom settings to your CF or SD card as well as the three registration positions it offers to accomplish effectively the same thing, but it isn't as straightforward as it is on the consumer cameras.

It takes about a whole day or two of using the pro body before you realize that a lot of thought and user feedback have gone into making these bodies idiot proof. Of course, the 1D X takes it to the next level because the things that were super annoying (like no redundant joystick for portrait mode) have been fixed to make it the most user friendly body Canon has ever made.


Anonymous said...

Ron, on the front of the camera, on tho opposite side of the lens from the lens release button are four things that look like buttons. What are they? Thanks in advance. said...


Those buttons are 2 sets of programmable buttons. Currently cameras have a Depth of Field Preview button that few people use, so Canon decided to allow people to program that button to something else and add one more. The first two are for landscape orientation and the other two are for portrait orientation so you can easily access them no matter how you are holding the camera.

This is just one of the many usability features that Canon added that really shows they thought about how people will really use these cameras!

Dan said...


Any comments on how the dynamic range stacks up against the 1Ds Mark III? Or the 1D Mark IV?

René said...

In Canon's technical description, the PC interface is described as "Hi Speed". Is this USB 2.0 or 3.0?

Thank you for your interesting report :-)


Anonymous said...

What are you trying to say here?

" Canon claims that with in-camera JPEG’s the image quality seen today in the 1Ds-Mark III/5D Mark II will be the level of quality seen at up to ISO 1600 in the 1D X. "

What ISO levels are compared?? said...

Update to my Nov comment above - . The EOS-1D X now allows users to save up to 3 sets of customized camera settings that can be selected via the mode button and main input dial. They're listed on the LCD data panel as C1, C2 and C3. This puts the 1D X on a par with other current EOS bodies above the Rebel series in terms of its ability to store user-registered custom camera settings.

Pompo Bresciani said...

I wish the outermost AF were cross points; instead the crosspoint one to the left and right AF areas are "once column" before the outhermost ones...

You said "Canon claims that with in-camera JPEG’s the image quality seen today in the 1Ds-Mark III/5D Mark II will be the level of quality seen at up to ISO 1600 in the 1D X. "

In other words 1DsMark III/5D Mark II set at what ISO will match the ISO 1600 1DX? That is not a complete sentence...:) said...

Canon claims that with in-camera JPEG’s the image quality seen today in the 1Ds-Mark III/5D Mark II will be the level of quality seen at up to ISO 1600 in the 1D X.

I agree that after re-reading that it sounds confusing.

The 1D Mark IV was a smaller sensor than the full-frame 1Ds Mark III / 5D Mark II. The image quality of the full frame sensor was superior to the smaller sensor 1D Mark IV, so since this a replacement to the 1D Mark IV the comment here is to acknowledge that this camera will offer the sports performance the 1D Mark IV with the full-frame quality of the 1DM3/5DM2.

The 1DM4 was superior in high ISO noise, but low ISO noise was superior on the 1Ds3 & 5DM2 so the other claim here is that this camera will meet or exceed that quality.

I haven't had a chance to do a deep analysis of RAW performance, so I can't make an official claim of the full ISO peformance of this camera.

Click the link at the top of the aritcle to see in-camera JPEG performance. said...

I've reworded that sentence as a lot of people were confused by it. I think my fingers and brain weren't on the same page there.

Maxis Gamez said...


Did you ask if the camera will not AF at F/8? (500mm + 2X)using long lenses with Teleconverters?

Thank you for such wonderful update!

Ole C. Salomonsen said...

I am curious, do you know what memory card was in the camera? As I am a little dissapointed with the buffer only reaching 52 RAWs until stopping. I have read the Nikon D4 could shoot up to 9seconds at 11fps before filling up the buffer. But as I understand the buffer of the D4 has not increased from the D3s, only offload speedd due to faster memory cards (XQD).

Hence I suspect (hope!) Canon only reaching 52 could be due to a slower CF card. Currently XQD cards are capable of 125MBps and Lexars new UDMA7 CF card are capable of 150MBps.

Another thing that sounds dissapointing is "only" 300Mbps on the 1Gbps LAN port. I was already preparing for creative possibilites with the 1Gbps LAN port powererd by dual Digi5+. It seems dual Digic5+ is not powerful enough??

Ole said...

I'll respond to many of the comments here later, but one I want to address right away is Ole C. Salomonsen's buffer performance comment.

I'm going to call BS on the data you have on the D4 as I don't believe that is reality with full-frame raw images. I'll be testing the D4 so I'll find out for sure, but here's what I saw with the D3s:

Ole C. Salomonsen said...

Ron, thank you for your reply.

I've read from 70-110 RAW images will fit the buffer on the D4 until it stops.

This article claims 9 seconds (which is close to twice what you recorded on the 1DX):,-faster,-easier

I hope it is BS though, and I am looking forward to you testing it!

I did preorder the 1DX, but good thing the D4 is delayed so that I can compare RAW files to the 1DX before making final decision.

Of course kinda expects Canon to fix the f/8 autofocus issue, and hoping for clean video out HDMI like D4.

Thank you for an interesting article, and looking forward to your findings on the D4.


John said...

Can the programmable buttons in front of the camera be used to disable the flash firing temporarily, just like the Nikon? said...

John - I haven't ever had a need for that feature (I just flip the flash switch off), so I didn't look for that when I had access to this camera.

Many of the technical question asked can be answered via the links in the article and this link on Canon Europe's site.

tho opposite side of the lens from the lens release button are four things that look like buttons. What are they?
Those are your dreams come true - it's two pair of redundant buttons (one for portrait orientation and one for landscape orientation) that are programmable to a subset of features. You no longer waste a spot for DOF preview if that's not important to you (but it's still there if you want it) and can now program it for useful stuff like switching between One Shot and AI Servo focus modes (which most people don't fully realize how critically important this is - this is HUGE).

Dan - The Dynamic Range seems to be an incremental improvement, but it was pretty darn good with the 5D Mark II & 1D Mark IV. I haven't used a final production unit or examined the raw's so it's still too early to make a final call. I will say that it doesn't appear to be as revolutionary as Fuji's EXR technology which still just blows me a away, but this is way better image quality so it's all about give and take.

Maxis - I have an open question out to Canon on this one and haven't heard back. This is pre-production and I had no access to that kind of gear so I can't say. The latest rumor I've heard is that it is planned as something that will be addressed in firmware, but it's unclear if that will be the firmware that ships with the camera or not - or if this is a false rumor.

Ole - Remember, I was using a pre-production camera with a cheapo CF card - not a UDMA 5 or greater. Per my other comment I think the Nikon claim is BS and doesn't apply to full-frame images, but I'd suspect that UDMA 7 will be supported as the 1DM4 supported 6 before anyone else did.

I've worked in the IT industry for 20 years and even on expensive server class system's its rare to find a hard drive and controller pair that can do 300mbps (and no consumer grade system ships with that performance really - despite the bogus specs). Even HD video can easily be transmitted realtime at a rate lower than that, so I can't fathom how it will hinder you in any way.

Anonymous said...

but the nikon d4?
i mean i would like to read a compare between the new 1dx and the d4


Ole C. Salomonsen said...


Yes that is my point, we know the 1DX does officially fully support UDMA7 with 175MBytes/s write speed. So that could explain it you using a cheapo CF card. Buffer should empty faster, and maybe extend a little with a proper UDMA7 CF card. As of today I think the Lexar Pro 1000x are the fastest available at 150MBps.(145MBps write)

Still hope you're right on the D4 vs the 1DX, and I know the 1D4 was faster emptying the buffer than the D3s.

Bugs me that the LAN port is "only" capable of 300Mbps (are you sure??) even with all the computer power and the Gigabit port.

(I do a little different photography than most people, and I could really see the benefit of a 1Gbps LAN port with up to 125MBps write speeds to a larger external storage device).

From what I have learned the D4 "only" has a 100Mbps LAN port so no competition from it there regardless.


Anonymous said...

You say this camera has caught up to the Nikon D3s and D3X but what about the Nikon D4? Is it in the same league as that?

Avenk said...

Hi from what I see the 1Dx doesn't have the mode dial like the 5D2. So how do you change the mode on the 1Dx? I've been curious about this for a while now. said...

i would like to read a compare between the new 1dx and the d4

I'm working very hard to make this happen. B&H has promised to get me a D4 as fast as possible, so I suspect I'll get a chance to test it before I can test the 1D X. I'm working as hard as I can to get Canon to get me a unit from the first batch of production bodies to compare with the D4, but only time will tell if that happens. said...

Avenk said...

from what I see the 1Dx doesn't have the mode dial like the 5D2. So how do you change the mode on the 1Dx?

Thank God it doesn't - the mode dial is a poor design that rotates too easily (unless you have the 60D design or an upgraded 5DM2/7D with the 60D design - $100 upgrade). It also doesn't meet the durabilty requirements of a pro camera used in the field.

1D bodies have buttons on top (look carefully at the photos) so you can push the button and then rotate the dials to get the value you want. You can even enable bracketing that way so there's lots of flexbilty that's quickly changable (when you want and near impossible to accidentially change) without taking your eye out of the viewfinder.

I hated the design at first because I was used to the knob, but now I can't stand the knobs. You'll love it once you get used to it.

The other advantage of this design is that you can optionally disable modes you don't care about. For example, if you only shoot Av and M, then you can disable P & Tv so that when you rotate through the selections you only see Av & M.

Ron said...


Bugs me that the LAN port is "only" capable of 300Mbps (are you sure??) even with all the computer power and the Gigabit port.

I was using a pre-production unit and that's the figure I was given by Canon. I don't know if this is a hardware limiation or something that could be addressed in firmware though.

Like I said though - most shipping hard drives claim 3GB/s etc... but when you measure their performance you are lucky to get 10mbps due to slow controllers that aren't cache'd and other limiting factors. Even my smoking fast DroboPro with 8 6GB/sec drives and an iSCSI connection is lucky to get 45mbps, so I really don't see this as a real limitation in real world use.

Maxis Gamez said...


Did you get an answer about the f/8 question I asked you?

Thank you for everything you've done for us! said...

Hi Maxis,

Sadly Canon won't comment on it, so I can't say. My gut tells me that the current delays are due to Canon making some last minute changes to make sure this is the best Canon pro body ever, so I'd say don't get too stressed until the final product is out. Until then it's all just speculation anyway as nobody legitimate that I know of has got their hands on a final production unit yet.

There will be units that I assume are production units that will be shown in Chicago and Atlanta this weekend and next weekend, but this isn't something we'll likely know until people like me get their hands on one.

Ron said...

Maxis, here's some bad news:

The absence of f/8 AF on the 61-point AF system of the 1D X and 5D Mark III is a design issue that cannot be addressed by a firmware update. This was a tough choice for the engineers, but they felt they had to make it in order to improve the overall performance of the AF system.

Anonymous Source (high confidence)

Linda said...

What is a viable option for the 1Dx since it's not compatible with the Flex TT5 Pocket Wizard? said...


The 600EX-RT is the way to go. It's much more reliable than anything I've used from Pocket Wizard and works brilliantly. I highly recommend it.

Be sure to see the additional links at the bottom of the article which show more about how it works and what it can do. The new ST-E3 is brilliant too (but the ST-E2 was crap).