Canon 1D X Mark II Review
|Full model name:||Canon EOS-1D X Mark II|
(36.0mm x 24.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 51,200|
|Extended ISO:||50 - 409,600|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 seconds|
6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3 in.
(158 x 168 x 83 mm)
|Full specs:||Canon 1D X Mark II specifications|
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Canon 1DX Mark II Review -- Now Shooting!
by William Brawley
Preview posted: 02/01/2016
02/01/2016: Downsized pre-production gallery images posted
05/02/2016: First Shots with a production model posted
06/06/2016: Gallery Images with production model posted
06/13/2016: Performance page posted
06/22/2016: Field Test Part I posted
07/05/2016: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality Analysis posted
08/18/2016: Field Test Part II posted
In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, Canon debuted their latest professional DSLR, the 1D X. Now, here we are amidst another summer Olympics, and Canon once again is pulling out the stops for its massively powerful, top-of-the-line EOS camera, the aptly-named Canon 1D X Mark II.
Describing 1D-series cameras usually conjures up adjectives like "beast," "monster" or "king," and the Canon 1DX Mark II is no exception with top-notch specs for both still shooters and video creators alike. Historically, the straight 1D-series cameras (as opposed to the "1Ds" models) were more about speed and performance than sheer resolution, and the 1DX Mark II is a continuation of that trend, though there's a bit more image resolution to go around this time.
If you're looking for our full Canon 1DX III overview, please click here to jump further down the page.
Canon 1DX Mark II Field Test Part II
The flagship pro sports shooter heads out of its element in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island!
By Mike Tomkins | Posted: 08/18/2016
In our first Field Test of the Canon 1DX II DSLR, my colleague William Brawley put this pro shooter through its paces, giving it quite a workout at rugby and soccer games and scoring some really great shots.
In the process, Will confirmed that this camera really lives up to its billing with great ergonomics, oodles of scope for customization, and absolutely blazing performance in general, especially in the autofocus and burst capture departments. He also came away thoroughly impressed by the 1DX II's image quality.
It's off to the sea in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island
We could pretty much have left it at that and wrapped our review as was, but a superb shooting opportunity presented itself that would give us the chance to see how the 1DX II took to some rather less fast-paced subjects.
At a press event in Rhode Island, Canon gave journalists including myself the chance to shoot alongside accomplished round-the-world sailor, pro photographer and Canon Explorer of Light Onne van der Wal, whose jaw-droppingly beautiful marine imagery is equally at home in a glossy megayacht brochure or hanging on an art gallery wall. And as well as the opportunity to learn from Onne's considerable nautical photography experience, we also had access to boatloads of high-end Canon glass, not to mention various accessories for use with the 1DX II.
It was simply an opportunity to good to pass up, and so we're pleased bring you our second and final Field Test of the Canon 1DX Mark II!
A whole lot of camera, the Canon 1DX II is packed with controls, features and customizability
There will inevitably be a little repetition here, as while Will had already written our initial Field Test, this trip to Rhode Island was to be my first opportunity to handle the 1DX II. And it was something of a baptism of fire: I literally received the camera only an hour or so before heading out for the first shoot.
No question, there is a lot to learn here. This is a professional tool, and like most such tools the 1DX II is not just packed with external controls, it's also extremely customizable and configurable. To the newcomer, that can translate to a pretty steep learning curve, but for the experienced shooter it means the camera comes to fit you and your needs like a glove.
It's testament to the fact that Canon has put a lot of work into honing the designs of its 1D-series cameras that I was able to figure out the basics pretty quickly, despite the complexity of this camera. Pretty much straight out of the box -- well, out of the camera bag, as Canon had already unpacked and bagged all my gear in time for my arrival -- I was able to get sharp, well-exposed shots.
In between subjects, I familiarized myself with the menu system and tweaked some of the settings to my liking. If you're interested in a rundown of the main controls and how they differ from other higher-end Canon EOS cameras, you'll want to read the first Field Test, as Will already covered much of this.
Built like a tank and with the heft to match, this is a very durable pro tool
Perhaps the first thing I noticed, though, is the 1DX II's tank-like nature, and I mean that in a couple of ways.
The Canon 1DX II is an extremely solid, high-precision camera indeed, with not even the slightest hint of flex, creak or weakness anywhere. Every control has a good feel to it, and every joint and seam is perfectly aligned. And it all feels like it will stay that way.
More than a few times over the years I've heard folks joking about cameras you could use to hammer in tent pegs: Well, the Canon 1DX Mark II is unquestionably such a camera, offering the durability and dependability that pros crave.
But it's tank-like in another way, too: It's also a fairly large and heavy camera, especially with an equally high-quality, durable optic mounted. I've shot with plenty of high-end pro gear over the years, but they aren't my daily shooters. There's a lot more consumer and enthusiast gear out there to review, after all.
By the end of a couple of days shooting with the 1D X II, almost all of it handheld and with some fairly heavy glass to boot, I was actually getting some occasional muscle spasms in my hands and arms. Shooting with high-end gear like this gives you quite a workout, and gives me a healthy respect for the pros like Onne who do it on a daily basis, year-round. (Doubly so from the rolling deck of a boat, constantly adjusting your position to try and keep your framing steady.)
If you're new to the 1D-series, you'll get used to the weight. And similarly high-grade gear from rivals is pretty similar in size and weight, so it's not out of the ordinary. It will take just a little getting used to for those moving up from enthusiast-oriented gear, though.
A really great selection of lenses for a photography cruise on Newport Harbour
Our first day's shooting started onboard the beautifully-restored 1969 motor boat M/V Gansett, as we sailed around Newport Harbour shooting photos of the many interesting yachts and motorboats we passed, and familiarizing ourselves with all of the gear. As well as the lenses in our own personal kits, there were quite a few more optics to choose from.
In all, I shot with six different lenses on the two-day trip. By far the majority of my shots were taken with the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, with the next most-used optic being the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM. I found these a very nice and versatile pairing, with the two together accounting for about three-quarters of my shots.
The 70-200mm is, admittedly, fairly heavy. (It was the second-weightiest lens I shot with on the trip, behind the 400mm f/4.) But it provides greast image quality and very worthwhile image stabilization. I'd certainly have preferred the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM over the 24-70mm f/4, as the latter isn't as bright and also gets rather soft in the corners on full-frame bodies, but sadly that lens wasn't available to me.
Of the remaining four lenses, I shot with the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM and Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM the most frequently, opting for either of these two optics about equally often. The 100mm f/2.8 Macro obviously is great for close-ups, but I used it even more for portraits and just as a short tele lens. (Yes, the EF 70-200mm is probably about as good as -- if not better than -- the 100mm Macro at the same focal length, but it weighs twice as much, so switching to the 100mm gave me some respite every now and then.)
The 400mm f/4, meanwhile, is a really impressive optic -- it's hefty, yes, but still light enough to be feasibly shot handheld even paired with a heavier body like the 1DX II. And it's pretty nicely balanced, which helps.
I rounded out my shooting with the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM and Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L. The latter in particular I'd love to have gotten to shoot with more, but hadn't anticipated its availability and didn't have a tripod with me. Coming to grips with an unfamiliar tilt-shift lens handheld. And the 11-24mm f/4 was a great choice when I really wanted a wide, wide view of my scene, but I tend to prefer shooting a bit more tightly-framed, so it wasn't used as much as some of the others. That's not a knock on the lens, though, so much as a commentary on my shooting style.
Testing performance with a high-speed powerboat shoot
With some early shots under our belts, it was time for something a bit more challenging. Onne had arranged for a friend with an extremely fast powerboat from Outerlimits to meet us for some high-speed passes. I mounted the 70-200mm for this shoot, figuring it'd give me some space to zoom out if the powerboat came closer to ours than I'd anticipated, but would also would give me a fair bit of reach if it was further away as I was expecting.
I considered dropping the shutter speed for a blurred background -- something of a trademark of Onne's own work -- but with only a few passes in which to get my shots with an unfamiliar camera, and not having tested my high-speed panning chops for a few months either, I decided to err on the side of caution instead. I dialed in a shutter speed of 1/4,000-second in Shutter Priority mode to freeze the action and let rip.
From memory, we were told that the powerboat's top speed was somewhere around 70-80mph, and it was passing pretty close to our own boat, giving the 1DX II's autofocus system quite a workout. It proved more than up to the task, keeping the powerboat in focus pretty much all of the time. Of course, that's no surprise -- this is a pro camera, after all, and the boat was a reasonably big subject that wasn't moving very erratically.
Still, I came away impressed because the closing speed and amount of panning required to track it were both very significant, and yet the 1DX II handled it with aplomb.
Shooting a yacht race with the Canon 1D X Mark II
A yacht race was starting in Narragansett Bay, and we arrived just as the boats were getting ready.
For something which seems very peaceful at first glance, with yachts moving near-silently through the water, the start of a race can be a pretty exciting thing. You can't cross the start line even one second early, but it's to your advantage to be as close as possible to the start line -- and moving as quickly as possible -- in that final second before the race gets underway.
And more than that, it's also advantageous to be in a position where other sailboats are caught in the dirty wind that's just come off your own sail. (And equally, not to let another yacht put you in that same position.)
What this means is that in the final minutes before the race starts, there's a whole lot of frantic jockeying for position -- and then at the last moment, the racers are all unleashed almost side-by-side. That made for some great photos, and we too had gotten the M/V Gansett very close to the start line.
I started off shooting with the 70-200mm lens, but quickly decided that even as close as we were, the 400mm was the better bet. It let me frame the yachts much more tightly, and increased the foreshortening so that each boat seemed to be almost touching the one behind it.
The incredible performance of the 1DX II really paid dividends here, because it let me rattle off bursts of exposure-bracketed shots in raw+JPEG format really quickly, without concern for my buffer depth. That gave me the opportunity to try different framing and lenses without having to wait for the camera to catch up, and without the yachts getting away from me.
Even for a relatively sedate and predictable subject compared to the soccer and rugby which Will had shot, the speed of the 1DX II was a very freeing thing. And the really bright, roomy optical viewfinder really gave me a strong feeling of connection to my subject.
Overall, I was very pleased indeed with how my shots from the yacht race came out. Canon had some of its imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printers on hand, and I had several of my images printed up at 17 x 22-inches which show great detail, even from quite close up.
Bear in mind that all of my images in this review are straight as they came out of the camera; I lightly edited these before printing, and they really pop. They're going to look great once framed and hanging on my office wall!
Race over, and time for a cruise to the Castle Hill Lighthouse
Having spent a good hour or so following the yachts around their course, the race reached its end. And with the sun fast approaching the horizon, we moved on perhaps a few miles to the Castle Hill Lighthouse. It's a very photogenic structure which dates back to the 1890s, and we'd be back here again tomorrow to round out our trip -- but from an entirely different perspective.
For this first evening, we visited the lighthouse from the water, passing the stunning Castle Hill Inn on the way. The late afternoon light gave it a lovely warmth which the Canon 1DX II picked up quite nicely, as you can see in the shot below.
The lighthouse itself was, if anything, even prettier. Rising from the rugged, rocky coastline on this beautiful, sunny day, it gave a sense of solidity and permanance that I rather doubt it entertains in the depths of a powerful storm -- but yet it's somehow clung limpet-like to these rocks for 125 years and change already, so I doubt it'll be going anywhere soon.
I must have taken many dozens of shots of the light from various angles as we approached and then passed it on the M/V Gansett, but hands-down my favorite was that at left. By virtue of managing not to include any other buildings in the background, it gave the scene a feeling of remoteness that most of my other shots lacked. Plus I rather liked this composition.
And with that, it was time to return to the dock for dinner, our first day's shooting at its end. No question about it, I was really, really enjoying shooting with the 1DX II, even if my arms were starting to call uncle from holding aloft a fairly heavy camera and lenses all day long on a moving boat.
There would be no concerns about rolling decks for the following day's activities, though, as we'd be entirely confined to land for the remainder of the trip.
A downtown stroll in beautiful Newport, Rhode Island
Bright and (reasonably) early the next morning, we met after breakfast for a walk around Newport, Rhode Island's historic downtown. And I have to say, I'm rather jealous of Rhode Islanders, because this is one seriously pretty town.
Speaking to Onne, I learned that much of that beauty came thanks to one individual, a lady who had made it her life's work to find colonial buildings at risk of demolition, and then have them moved to (and restored in) Newport. The world needs more people like her, because the result was very photogenic indeed.
Wanting to reduce my load since I'd be on my feet for most of the day -- and knowing that most of my subjects would be up close anyway -- I limited myself to just the 24-70mm for this morning shoot, and then dropped by the hotel room to add the 11-24mm and 100mm Macro lenses before we continued on for a harborside stroll in the nearby Newport Shipyard, which combines both a busy commercial fishing dock and a marina packed to the gills with gigantic, multimillion-dollar megayachts.
With more subjects on hand that had plenty of detail right into the corners, this gave me a nice chance to take a look at the Canon 1DX II's image quality. And we also made an unplanned stop at the Trinity Episcopal Church, whose current building dates all the way back to 1726.
Here, staff kindly allowed us inside and even upstairs, into a section usually reserved for parishioners. Shooting inside the dimly-lit interior of this stunning, historic building gave me a chance to look at higher sensitivities as well.
Excellent image quality for its class, even at higher sensitivities
And as Will found in his first Field Test, I came away pretty impressed with what I saw. As a camera aimed primarily at sports shooters and others who need absolutely top-notch performance, the 1DX II not surprisingly isn't the highest-resolution camera in Canon's EOS lineup.
Even the entry-level Rebel T6i and T6s will give you slightly higher sensor resolution, while the higher-end EOS 5DS and 5DSR offer two-and-a-half times the pixel count. But that's not really the point: These higher-res Canon DSLRs simply can't hold a candle to the 1DX Mark II's performance, nor to its pro-grade build.
And while it doesn't have the resolution of some of its siblings, the Canon 1DX II does a great job with what it has. At least, so long as your lens is up to the task, anyway. With the 24-70mm f/4 mounted, things could get fairly soft in the corners wide open, but with a better-performing optic attached, the 1DX II captured plenty of the finer details, even if higher-res cameras could have held onto a few more besides.
Now, I should note at this point that with the subjects on offer, I didn't need to roam anywhere near as high as the 1DX II's upper sensitivity limit of ISO 51,200-equivalent, let alone its expanded limit of ISO 409,600-equivalent. You'll see a fair few higher-sensitivity shots in Will's first Field Test, not to mention among our carefully-controlled lab samples.
I went up into the ISO 10,000's though, and saw nothing more than fairly minimal noise with a nice tight, film-like grain pattern. And from some playing around at higher sensitivities in the hotel room, I'd say I'd be happy to stray as high as ISO 25,600-equivalent without worries, and perhaps even to ISO 51,200-equivalent or higher if I had the time to shoot raw and then process my images using DxO Labs' excellent PRIME denoising tool in recent DxO Optics Pro releases.
Sadly, the end of the trip was approaching all too quickly. With our morning and afternoon's shooting over -- and you can see quite a few more of my shots from both days' shooting in the gallery, incidentally, beyond those I've selected to accompany this article -- it was time to head back to the ocean for one final shoot. And here too I would learn something more about the 1DX II, although this time it was a little irksome.
An unnecessary limitation in multiple exposure capture
Our last shoot was back at the Castle Hill Lighthouse, as I alluded to earlier. This time, though, we were shooting on land, having made the trek down to the light from the adjacent Castle Hill Inn.
Having chosen my composition, I wanted to really blur out the waves crashing on the rocks beneath the lighthouse, but with sunset approaching, I knew we'd have to leave a fair bit before darkness fell. We had quite a bit of clambering across the rocks to do, after all, and only a few flashlights between us. And I didn't have a neutral density filter with me to lengthen my exposure, either.
I dropped the sensitivity to its extended lower limit of ISO 50-equivalent, and closed the aperture down as far as I dared without unnecessarily softening the image, but there was still too much light left to do more than fairly subtly blur the wave motion. Multiple exposure mode was the answer, but I found myself surprised by a maximum limit of just nine frames in multiple exposure shooting. I could understand such a low limit in a consumer DSLR, as it'd be too easy for amateurs to burn through their shutter life without understanding that such a thing is even possible.
But with a rated life of 400,000 shutter cycles in this pro-grade camera, that's not really a concern. I could work around this very short limit by taking advantage of the fact that you can combine multiple exposure mode with raw file capture, and that each multiple exposure series can be started from a previously-captured raw exposure. Selecting the final raw exposure from the previous multiple exposure series -- and then using this as the starting point for another nine-shot series -- circumvented this low limit.
This did indeed get me some really ethereal, foggy-looking waves down at the waterline, just as I'd hoped for, although the shots didn't make the gallery as I couldn't frame the image without people in the foreground, and I felt their shadows too distracting. But managing more than a nine-shot exposure was an unnecessarily convoluted process, and difficult to do without subtly jostling the camera and changing the composition, leading to an ugly double image. (I was shooting each exposure with a cable release I'd borrowed, incidentally, but this only lets you trip the shutter remotely, and not control the menus.)
I'd love to see Canon relax this limit in the future, as it would make for a rather more versatile multiple exposure mode. But then I'd guess that many photographers will never use the feature in the first place, preferring instead to merge their exposures on the desktop. And really, if that's the biggest concern I could find in my time with the 1DX II -- well, it's not much at all, really. Especially knowing that it can indeed be worked around, even if it requires some jumping through hoops.
Video samples coming soon -- watch this space
One thing I didn't really get the chance to do during my time with the Canon 1DX II was to shoot some sample videos. (Well, that's not quite true. I shot a fair few, but with the subjects on offer, they weren't really intended for public consumption. Clips from a rolling boat deck or of predominantly static scenes in old Newport, the harborfront or the lighthouse wouldn't have proven the most informative. And on my return home, I didn't have access to the quality glass necessary to complement the 1DX II body.
With the camera now back at IR headquarters, I've asked my colleagues to chip in with some sample videos. In the meantime, suffice it to say that -- albeit with less than ideal subjects -- I found video image quality to be very good, especially in 4K mode. And the touch-screen display is absolutely superb for controlling autofocus, especially when coupled with the ability to select the speed at which focus transitions occur. (You can also control this separately for pre-capture AF adjustments and those made during capture.) With slower focus drive speeds, the transitions are very smooth and cinematic.
As I said, though, watch this space for a little more on video capture coming shortly!
Closing thoughts on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
No question about it, the 1DX II is an absolutely spectacular camera. I've had a whole lot of fun shooting with it, and could I justify the pro-grade pricetag, I'd pick one up in a heartbeat. I'm not a regular sports shooter, though, and that's clearly the target market for a camera like this. But if you're looking for a DSLR which prioritizes absolutely spectacular performance first and foremost, and is also built to last while providing top-notch image quality for years to come, the Canon 1DX II should be at the very top of your shortlist!
Canon 1DX Mark II Field Test Part I
Big & bulky but oh so fast: The 1D X II hits the sidelines
As a long-time Canon user, I've had a chance to use a number of different Canon cameras, including a brief time with a beat-up, old 1D Mark II N that I purchased as a backup camera. Most of the time, though, I've stuck with smaller cameras, like the 7D and 5D Mark II. The old 1D Mark II N was big, heavy, had an outdated battery and tiny, low-res LCD screen, but it was built like a tank, had fantastic autofocus and still took excellent photographs for what was then about a six year old camera.
Since that time, I sold off that trusty 1D and haven't had the need for a $5-6K 1D-series professional DSLR for my personal, non-professional photographic pursuits. As a now-hobbyist photographer, a 1D-series camera is way more camera than I need, but when it came time for us to review the new 1D X Mark II camera, you better believe I jumped at the chance.
Being Canon's latest and greatest flagship camera, one designed for lightning-fast performance and speedy AF, I wanted to test the 1D X Mark II under more appropriate conditions than what I typically go for. Cue a handful of emails requesting media credentials for a variety of local sports teams. So, for this first installment of our Canon 1D X Mark II Field Test, in addition to discussing my take on the camera's handling and design, I put the 1D X Mark II to the test photographing both soccer and rugby, which offered a variety of fast-paced, fairly unpredictable subjects.
Canon 1D X Mark II Image Quality Comparison
A close-up look at how Canon's flagship compared to its rivals
Here we present crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Canon 1DX Mark II image quality to its predecessor, the 1DX, as well as to its closest competitor, the Nikon D5. We've also included the Canon 7D Mark II and Nikon D500, since they offer the top frame rates currently available from pro-level Canon and Nikon APS-C DSLRs (~10 fps), as well as the Samsung NX1, which is capable of 15 fps.
NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Canon 1DX II, Canon 1DX, Canon 7D II, Nikon D5, Nikon D500, and Samsung NX1 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Canon 1DX Mark II to any camera we've ever tested!
Canon 1D X Mark II Print Quality
How will your photos look on paper?
Print quality and image quality are similar but not identical, because what you see on a print isn't always the same as what you see on the screen. Our print quality analysis answers the important question: "Just how big can I print my photos at higher sensitivities?"
The Canon 1DX Mark II manages a fantastic showing in our print department, despite packing a modest 20-megapixel full-frame sensor that's obviously designed for speed rather than resolution. It certainly won't get any awards for sheer resolving power, considering the 36-50-megapixel full-frame cameras out there today, but it nevertheless manages some surprisingly large prints -- up to at least 30 x 40 inches -- at up to ISO 400. As ISO sensitivity rises, the 1DX II remains thoroughly impressive, even managing a nice 11 x 14 inch print all the way up to ISO 12,800. Even when the ISO reaches six digits, the Canon 1DX II is able to make a usable print, a 4 x 6 at ISO 102,400. However, the top two ISOs beyond this should be avoided for prints, as they are just too noisy.
Canon 1DX II Review -- Overview
by William Brawley
Preview posted 02/01/2016
Ultimate EOS: new sensor, faster processors & more
Sporting a newly developed 20.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, the 1DX II offers a slight bump up from the 18MP resolution of the original 1DX and is similarly spec'd in that regard compared to its major competitor, the 20.8-megapixel Nikon D5. The Canon 1DX II features a fixed optical low-pass filter on the image sensor to help guard against moiré patterns and other aliasing artifacts. Coupled with a pair of all-new image processors, the new DIGIC 6+ to be exact (up from the dual DIGIC 5+ setup of the 1D X), the new "Mark II" version can chew through full-resolution images at up to 14 frames per second (up from 12fps) with auto exposure and predictive autofocus when using the optical viewfinder. And photographers can push the speed even faster up to 16fps when using Live View (an increase from 14fps on the original model).
This new sensor and processor setup also offers improved expanded ISO capabilities. While the native sensitivity range remains unchanged at ISO 100-51,200, the Canon 1DX II offers a higher expanded ISO up to ISO 409,600. According to Canon, a priority was put on capturing and resolving better shadow detail with higher ISOs, so we're anxious to see how a production version tests in the lab. According to Canon, the new sensor and processor should exhibit better dynamic range and color noise characteristics over its native ISO range than the original 1DX.
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II also brings over the flicker detection system of the 7D Mark II, which helps avoid differing color and exposure within a frame, or during a burst of frames. Though usually imperceptible to the human eye, cameras can often catch the on/off cycle of certain types of artificial lighting, especially when shooting a fast burst of continuous frames. The Canon 1DX II can detect and subtly adjust the timing between each continuous frame in order to capture shots at the optimal lighting level. For sports photographers, particularly those shooting indoor sports under artificial lighting, being able to avoid poor exposures due to flickering lights is a very helpful feature.
61-point AF with improved tracking, better in low-light and at f/8...
Top-notch autofocus performance is a crucial feature of Canon's 1D-series cameras, and the new 1D X Mark II offers a number of improvements, including the reintroduction of a past feature thanks to user demand. The Canon 1D X Mark II builds upon the 1D X's 61-point AF system with an expanded AF point coverage area. And similar to the earlier Canon 6D, the 1D X II's central AF point is sensitive down to -3EV -- an increase from -2EV of its predecessor -- which allows the 1D X II to autofocus in exceptionally dark conditions (think moonlight-level of darkness).
In the original Canon 1D X, all 61 of its AF points were sensitive down to apertures of f/5.6 and only a center AF point (with four expansion points) was sensitive at f/8, but now the new 1D X II offers focusing down to f/8 for every AF point -- excellent news for users of long telephoto lenses and teleconverters! The Canon 1D X II AF system has a total of 41 cross-type AF points in its array with five dual cross-type AF points, 20 cross-type AF points down to f/4-5.6, 21 cross-type AF points at f/5.6, and 20 horizontal-line sensitive AF points at f/5.6.
The camera also features a new and improved AI Servo III+ predictive autofocus algorithm, which aims to improve speed and accuracy for fast-moving subjects. Additionally, the EOS iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) system has been improved thanks to the 1D X Mark II's all-new 360K-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor (a first for a 1D series camera). The refined iTR system, which uses face recognition and color information to enhance AF tracking, should offer improved precision and better tracking performance compared to the earlier 1D X.
There are a total of seven AF point selection modes, including two AF point expansion options with either four points surrounding a central point or eight surrounding AF points. There are also two Zone AF configurations, a smaller nine-segmented mode or a Large Zone AF option with all points divided into three large groups of active AF points.
...and red AF points in the viewfinder are back!
Though it may seem like small change, many pros clamored for their return and Canon obliged -- red AF points are back! Through the viewfinder, red-colored AF points can now be set visible at all times, and at two adjustable brightness levels. The original 1D X had visible yet black-colored AF points in the viewfinder (they only illuminated red when adjusting the AF point). The AF point(s), however, remained black or non-illuminated during normal shooting, which could make them difficult to see, especially in darker shooting conditions. The reintroduction of red illuminated AF points is, therefore, a welcomed change.
Robust in-camera RAW processing with Digital Lens Optimizer
Normally reserved for post-processing after the fact on a computer for Canon EOS cameras, the new 1D X Mark II has a built-in Digital Lens Optimizer function. Borrowed from Canon's Digital Photo Professional imaging software, the 1D X II can now apply lens-specific diffraction compensation as well as chromatic aberration correction, distortion correction and peripheral illumination correction in-camera. This is potentially a big time-saver for the professional photographer, especially news and/or studio photographers who often rely on delivering finished files directly from the camera and soon after capture. As part of the 1D X II's in-camera RAW processing, DLO corrections can be applied during JPEG conversions, which is a much faster workflow than dumping memory cards of images, sorting and then converting RAW files into images using a computer. All four types of lens aberration corrections can also be applied to JPEG files as the images are being shot.
The 1DX II also features Canon's Fine Detail Picture Style as first seen on the 5DS and 5DS R. This real-time option lets you sharpen JPEG images similar to how unsharp mask works in Photoshop, with much superior results than the default Canon sharpening algorithm.
Shooting fast with CFast
In an interesting shift compared to the 1DX, the new 1DX Mark II features one UDMA 7 CompactFlash Type 1 slot and one CFast 2.0 slot rather than dual memory card slots of the same type. The newer CFast-format memory cards, according to Canon, are seeing faster adoption rates in the marketplace compared to other high-performance storage formats, such as XQD memory cards for example. The use of CFast 2.0 memory cards in the 1D X Mark II, given their much faster read- and write-speeds, therefore allow for increased performance for stills and video capture.
While using either a CF UDMA 7 card or CFast 2.0 card, the 1D X Mark II has an unlimited buffer capacity for JPEG files -- in other words, the buffer is limited only by the capacity of the memory card. However, for RAW or RAW+JPEG modes, buffer capacity differs depending on memory card type. With a CFast 2.0 card, the RAW buffer is a very generous 170 shots, according to Canon's numbers, while a UDMA 7 CF card "only" allows for 73 shots. RAW+JPEG offers an 81-shot buffer with CFast 2.0 and 54 frames with CF UDMA7 cards.
First full-frame camera with Dual Pixel CMOS AF
The updated 20-megapixel full-frame sensor in the 1D X II is more than just a standard CMOS chip with a higher resolution; it's the first full-frame sensor with Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. Dual Pixel CMOS AF with its on-chip phase-detect autofocus sensors not only helps for super-quick autofocusing for Live View still image shooting, but also for quick, accurate and smooth AF operation for videos.
If you're not yet familiar with Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology,
jump over to our special in-depth look this technology from our Canon 70D review.
During our brief hands-on time with a Canon 1DX II prototype, Live View focusing was blazingly quick thanks to the Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology. For still shooting, autofocus felt nearly instantaneous upon half-pressing the shutter button, and for video, focus adjustments appeared smooth and cinematic.
4K video makes its way to a more affordable EOS camera
Video recording has been a staple of EOS cameras for years now, and despite being a flagship EOS camera, the original 1DX was still lacking on a few sought-after video features. A prime example being, if you needed video resolutions beyond 1080p, you needed to jump to the pricey Cinema EOS line with either the similarly-sized 1D C or the top-of-the-line C500 video camera to get 4K video recording.
With the Canon 1D X Mark II, you can now shoot Cinema 4K video (4096 x 2160 aka DCI 4K) at up to 60fps, which is great for high-resolution footage of not only action, sports and other moving subjects, but also pretty much anything else. The camera also offers DCI 4K video at 30fps (29.97), 24fps (23.98) and true cinema-centric 24.00fps. (PAL frame rates of 50p and 25p are also available.) Interestingly, there's no UHD (3840 x 2160) option.
4K video is captured in Motion JPEG format, for all frame rates, and offers a high-quality bitrate of approximately 800Mbps for 60p and 500Mbps for the lower framerates, according to Canon's specs. Given the high data rates for 4K/60p footage, Canon recommends using CFast memory cards for 4K capture. The 1DX II also offers a 4K Frame Grab option in Playback mode, which allows you to pull 8.8-megapixel still images from a 4K video.
For 1080p video, the Canon 1DX Mark II is capable of a slow-motion-friendly 120fps, making it an even more capable camera for a variety of filming scenarios. The 1080/120p video mode is only offered in .MOV format with ALL-I compression for the best possible image quality (approximately 360Mbps bitrate). All other 1080p video framerates in MOV mode are offered in ALL-I or the space-saving IPB compression schemes.
Full HD video is also available in the standard array of slower framerates, from 60fps (59.94) down to 23.98fps (and true 24.00fps for cinematic work, as well as PAL options). Mobile device- and web-friendly .MP4 video is also offered at 1080p resolution in a variety of frame rates from 60p to 24p (and PAL) with IPB compression. IPB Light compression (approx. 12Mbps) is also available for 1080/30p (or 25p) video.
Although some pro-level video features like focus peaking or zebras are still not available, and video recording to an internal memory card has a maximum time limit of 29:59 per clip, the Canon 1DX II does offer clean, uncompressed 4:2:2 -bit HDMI out with audio (with no time limitation when not recording internally), but only at Full HD resolution. Simultaneous internal recording at up to 4K and 1080 HDMI streaming is however possible. Plus, in addition to the stereo microphone input seen on the original 1D X, the "Mark II" now also features a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack, which can be used to monitor audio during video capture.
Hands-on with the characteristically big & beefy 1D X Mark II
As with other 1D-series cameras, the Canon 1D X Mark II is as rugged as they come for an EOS DSLR, and the build quality is top-notch. The camera is built around a durable magnesium alloy chassis that features the highest level of dust and weather-sealing that Canon offers on an EOS camera with higher-grade environmental protection than the 5D- and 7D-series cameras. The Canon 1DX II even has a mag-alloy mirror box, and its shutter mechanism is rated for 400,000 actuations -- with a built-in shutter counter like the earlier 1DX.
The look and feel of the Canon 1DX Mark II is classic 1D-series quality. Yes, the camera is heavy at about 3.4 lbs (1.53 kg) body-only, but its characteristic "built-like-a-tank" construction ensures it can withstand the wear and tear of daily use that a professional photographer or videographer will throw at it. This camera is built to last.
And though it may look like another 1D-series camera, there are a few small but notable new features that are making their way to a 1D-series for the first time. One minor tweak to the external design is a slightly thinner handgrip. The camera's characteristic full-size handgrip with integrated vertical grip can make for a rather thick handgrip, which can be a bit cumbersome for users with smaller hands. Canon tweaked the design of the grip to be slightly thinner, making it easier to wrap your hand around the camera. It's a very subtle change, but when comparing the 1D X II to the original side-by-side, the new design is noticeable and quite nice -- it's not drastic enough to negatively affect users with larger hands, in our opinion, but it simply makes the camera all the more secure in the hand.
Moving to the rear of the camera, the Canon 1D X Mark II is the first 1D-series model to feature a touchscreen LCD. The 3.2-inch TFT LCD display features 1.62-million dots of resolution and seven levels of brightness adjustment. The display is fixed, and not articulated in any way for the sake of durability (we're told the touchscreen capability itself has no effect on durability of the screen). In use, the touchscreen works very well. It's very responsive and tap-to-focus to select new focus points and set subject-tracking all works smoothly and easily.
While many other touchscreen-capable cameras, including Canon models, usually allow for the use of the touchscreen to operate a number of functions including navigating menus and changing settings, the 1D X II opts for a much more simplistic approach. The touchscreen is only active when selecting an AF point during live view shooting or in movie mode, otherwise the touch functionality is disabled. For long-time 1D owners, the standard Canon menu system and UI are operated just as before with physical controls -- so picking up the 1DX Mark II should feel right at home for those accustomed to its predecessor.
Brought over from the 5DS and 5DS R cameras, users of the "Q" Button for Canon's Quick Control interface now gain the ability to customize this layout and what settings and other information are displayed.
Wi-Fi has yet to be built-in on a 1D, but GPS now comes standard
Looking at the top of the camera, one will certainly notice the small "hump" at the top of the pentaprism housing. This is for the 1DX Mark II's new built-in GPS receiver. In a professional workflow, GPS functionality can be quite useful. For instance, for wildlife photographers and photojournalists, GPS metadata can help keep track of locations. Sports photographers can sync multiple cameras more easily and accurately. Users can even automatically sync their cameras' time with the GPS system's atomic clock. In professional shooting scenarios, such as press and event photography in particular, where metadata is critical for editors, wire services, and for simple organization, the addition of GPS functionality can be a nice benefit.
Though there isn't built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, the 1D X Mark II debuts with an updated wireless transfer accessory called the WFT-E8 (seen in the above image). This small optional accessory now offers 802.11ac wireless connectivity for faster transfers of photos and videos to connected mobile devices using Canon's Camera Connect app (iOS/Android). For wired connectivity, there are upgrades in this area as well, as the camera now includes a USB 3.0 port rather than USB 2.0. There's also a built-in 1000BASE-T Ethernet port.
Other minor exterior tweaks include a wider, easier to operate multi-direction joystick button on the rear of the camera and a new Live View/Movie Mode toggle switch, which is similar to that on the 5D-series and 7D-series cameras.
New battery offers lots of shooting time
The Canon 1D X Mark II comes with a new rechargeable lithium-ion batter pack, the LP-E19. Similar in shape to the 1DX battery pack, older batteries from earlier 1DX cameras are compatible in the 1DX II, but not vice versa. According to CIPA testing, when using the optical viewfinder, the 1DX II's battery should allow for between 1020-1210 or thereabouts (depending on the ambient temperature). Battery life drops dramatically though for Live View shooting, with approximately 240 shots per charge at 32°F (0°C) or 260 shots at 73°F (23°C).
Pricing & Availability
As with the previous 1D X, the Canon 1D X Mark II is being sold body-only. Set to become available in April 2016, the Canon 1D X Mark II has an estimated retail price of US$5,999, which is a sizeable reduction compared to the original 1DX's $6,799 launch price. Canon is also offering a "Premium Kit" configuration for an MSRP of US$6,299 that includes a 64GB CFast 2.0 card and card reader.
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