Friday, July 20, 2012

First Look: Canon EOS-1D X with Real World Shots (Firmware 1.0.2) - Thanks CameraLensRentals.com!

Canon EOS-1D X purchased from CameraLensRentals.com
The unboxing moment for my Canon EOS-1D X
purchased from CameraLensRentals.com

Thanks to my friend Barry Jackson at CameraLensRentals.com (review), my wish to own the 1D X has come true, but would it be all that I hoped for? Read on to get my first impressions.

First Impressions of the camera body

This camera feels a bit more bulky than my 1D Mark IV, but the menus and features are very similar to the 5D Mark III (with the 5D Mark III being better and easier to use). I was a bit disappointed with the loss of the HDR menu item (although the multiple exposures feature seems to be a way to get yet WITHOUT auto alignment), and the lack of a SD slot now means no EyeFi support.

The new rear camera LCD feels larger and better overall, and the new redundant buttons are a welcome addition that took me only a few seconds to get used to.

I was glad to see the addition of WB button, but horrified to see that quick menu doesn’t allow me to change file formats (from raw to jpeg, etc…). Sure I can go to the smaller display and use the new button next to it to change those modes, but that’s cumbersome and requires me to use the light button (which results in a new hideous orange instead of the classic green backlight found on other bodies).

My biggest disappointment is that this cameras mirror slap is fairly noisy – way more so than my previous 1D Mark III or 1D Mark IV. Even in silent mode, it’s kind of noisy. The 5D Mark III is much quieter which really makes it the better choice for wedding photographers (or others who need a stealth camera).

I also find that I get a different look out of this camera (especially with a ring flash) than I do with the 1D Mark IV, and I kind of like that 1D Mark IV look better. This camera produces amazing saturated and sharp images that are ready to print right out of the camera, but even with the raw files my default processing workflow has to change which could be unsettling for some photographers.

Perhaps my biggest surprise is that the in-camera metering – especially using Auto ISO in manual mode – is brilliant! This camera has a dedicated processor for metering (not found on the 5D Mark III) and metering can follow the AF point (not possible on the 5D Mark III), so I was getting great exposures all night long (whereas the 5D Mark III tends to be about one stop too dark with auto ISO in manual mode).

Sample Photos

I have a dedicated gallery of images I’ve taken with the 1D X here. Except where noted on in the captions, all of these images were taken handheld. All images from July 19 and the bookshelf shots were all taken with the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. All images included are the original in-camera JPEG files at compression 10, sRGB colorspace, Standard picture style and Low noise reduction (except for bookcase which used the camera default settings).

The following flower shots were all hand-held and used auto white balance (AWB) with spot focusing and metering following the AF point. Most were shot in M(anual) mode with auto ISO except where noted in the ISO of the originals. No flash was used – only ambient tungsten light. Click to view the originals.


ISO 25,600


ISO 25,600


ISO 25,600


ISO 20,000


ISO 20,000


ISO 12,800


ISO 10,000


ISO 6400


ISO 5000


ISO 4000


ISO 3200


ISO 2500


ISO 640

Yeah, WOW! If you aren’t impressed by that, then I’d like to see your unprocessed in-camera JPEG’s of what you think is a better camera, because I haven’t seen anything that has impressed me this much.

I haven’t done deep analysis yet, but it sure as hell feels like a lot better dynamic range and way lower noise than the already excellent 5D Mark III. You sure as heck aren’t going to get these kind of results with the noise monster D800 and even the D4 didn’t impress me as much with its kettle shot (see my review).

I’ll be shooting and co-teaching with Bryan Peterson this weekend (last years workshop), so I hope to get a chance to put this camera through its paces this weekend.

Bookshelf Photos

Comparisons to come in a future article, below are a few to wet your appetite. All in-camera JPEG shots below were taken with the 1D X mounted to a RSS BH-55 head on a Gitzo GT1541  with camera default settings using a 70-200mm lens set to 100mm at f/8 and ISO 100 using mirror lockup and a 10 second timer. Exposure was set to the required value to get a proper exposure, and IS and AF were turned off after focus was achieved on the first shot.

Click for original
ISO 100


Screen shot of 100% Crop at ISO 100 RAW file
DPP 3.11 with Neutral Picture Style and no NR or Sharpening

Click for original
ISO 25,600


Screen shot of 100% Crop at ISO 25,600 RAW file
DPP 3.11 with Neutral Picture Style and no NR or Sharpening


ISO 51,200


Screen shot of 100% Crop at ISO 51,200 RAW file
DPP 3.11 with Neutral Picture Style and no NR or Sharpening

The screen captures were taken from DPP to see what the images REALLY look like, whereas the JPEG’s are Canon’s default processing which I find to be excellent. Lightroom 4 will read and decode the RAW files, but it’s clear that their not spot on yet with their default reverse engineering of these files.

For the anal retentive folks out there, here’s my DPP settings for each of the RAW files screen captured above:

Wondering where all of the 1D X’s have been?


iPhone shot (at night under tungsten light) of the 1D X menu when I turned the camera on

Me too!

This camera has frustrated me quite a bit as I learned about it last October and have been lusting for it ever since. I ended up with number 953 according to my serial number, so where are the others? My guess is that the startup screen says a lot – London! With the Olympics stating this month, Canon had to get these cameras to the Olympics and have them ready to perform.

I’m pretty frustrated that Canon USA – even up until last week – was telling me that they didn’t have any of these cameras and that there was nothing they could do to help me to get one. Even Adorama and B&H let me down and couldn’t get me one in a timely matter, yet there were plenty stories on the web of ordinary consumers getting one. This was a total fail on Canon’s part and something that will limit how much free advertising I give them on this blog in the form of review coverage.

About the $6799 (USD) Price Tag – Is it worth it?

I had my first chance to use a Canon EOS-1D X on October 27, 2011. I wrote about that experience in my popular article HANDS ON: Canon EOS-1D X (sample images and video) 2-11-12 update which was featured on CanonRumors.com. I was so impressed with what I saw that I literally sold a car and saved the cash so that I’d be able to buy this camera when it came out. Thanks to my friend Barry Jackson at CameraLensRentals.com (review), my wish to own the 1D X has come true, but would it be all that I hoped for? Now that the amazing 5D Mark III is out  and I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing the D4 & D800 – would I really be satisfied with Canon’s flagship DSLR?

As a formerly very happy 1D Mark IV owner (also purchased from CameraLensRentals.com 2.5 years ago), I really was wondering if I should just keep the 5D Mark III and be happy with my 1D Mark IV. My 1D Mark IV had served me well for a wide number of events, including my dream to shoot the Seahawks with legendary sports photographer Rod Mar. As a result, I was really wondering if I could be happy taking a pass on the EOS-1D X.

Based on what I’m seeing in my first day testing (and I have a lot more to do before I draw my final conclusion), I’m pretty excited about what I’m seeing. The test unit I had in New York last year was able to bang out 52 RAW files at 12fps before choking (with the lens cap on and ISO 100), but this bad boy is getting 71 whereas my 1D Mark IV could only muster 45 under identical conditions with the same lens and memory card.

In my real-world test using my bookcase shot (so that lossless compression and complex JPEG thumbnail generation comes into play), I set my cameras to 1/30 sec at f/4 using ISO 6400. With the same lens and memory card I was able to get 49 RAW files (in 12 fps mode) with a 17 seconds buffer flush (i.e., red light off) versus 30 RAW with a 16 seconds flush for the 1D Mark IV. This is a great real world improvement!

Little tests like these and the previously mentioned image quality improvements really have me excited about this camera. However, $6799 USD is a shitload of money for a camera – especially when you consider the fact that the Nikon D4 is only $5999.95. Time will tell if this camera really seems to be worth parting with that much cash to get the state of the art DSLR that Canon has to offer right now.

Conclusion

I’m pretty happy with what I’m seeing thus far from this camera as the sample images blew me away. With in-camera processing, ISO 51,200 is totally usable, but the RAW is a little rough so I’d probably limit myself to 25,600 when possible. I’m very comfortable with this ISO though (which definitely feels at least 1 stop better than the 5D Mark III).

Stay tuned to this blog while I do a little more testing and report back some basic comparisons to other cameras I’ve reviewed like the D4, D800 and 5D Mark III.

Ordering Info

I purchased my 1D X at at CameraLensRentals.com (tell then ronmartblog.com sent you if you do too), but you can also buy one at Adorama, B&H and Amazon.

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More Info from Canon

Disclosure

I purchased this camera from CameraLensRentals.com with my own money. If you make a purchase using some (links – not all) in this article, I may make a commission.

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