Canon 1D X Mark II Review

 
Camera Reviews / Canon Cameras / Canon EOS i First Shots
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Resolution: 20.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 35mm
(36.0mm x 24.0mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 51,200
Extended ISO: 50 - 409,600
Shutter: 1/8000 - 30 seconds
Dimensions: 6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3 in.
(158 x 168 x 83 mm)
Weight: 54.0 oz (1,530 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 04/2016
Manufacturer: Canon
Full specs: Canon 1D X Mark II specifications
20.20
Megapixels
Canon EF 35mm
size sensor
image of Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Front side of Canon 1D X Mark II digital camera Front side of Canon 1D X Mark II digital camera Front side of Canon 1D X Mark II digital camera Front side of Canon 1D X Mark II digital camera Front side of Canon 1D X Mark II digital camera

Canon 1DX Mark II Review -- Hands-On Preview

by
Preview posted:

Updates:
02/01/2016: Downsized pre-production gallery images posted

05/02/2016: First Shots with a production model posted

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

In the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, Canon debuted their latest professional DSLR, the 1D X. Now, here we are on the eve of 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 1D X 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 1D X Mark II is a continuation of that trend, though there's a bit more image resolution to go around this time.

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).

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Prototype Gallery Image

400mm f/2.8L IS II USM: 400mm, f/5, 1/160s, ISO 200
Note: Image was shot with a pre-production sample.

(Downloads of high-res versions are not yet available. Click for a larger, but not full-resolution image)
.

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).

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

...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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Prototype Gallery Image
24-70mm f/2.8L II USM: 24mm, f/5, 1/800s, ISO 200
Note: Image was shot with a pre-production sample.
(Downloads of high-res versions are not yet available. Click for a larger, but not full-resolution image).

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

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Prototype Gallery Image
400mm f/2.8L IS II USM: 400mm, f/2.8, 1/2000s, ISO 200
Note: Image was shot with a pre-production sample.
(Downloads of high-res versions are not yet available. Click for a larger, but not full-resolution image).

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Prototype Gallery Image
24-70mm f/2.8L II USM: 24mm, f/11, 1/160s, ISO 200
Note: Image was shot with a pre-production sample.
(Downloads of high-res versions are not yet available. Click for a larger, but not full-resolution image).

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Prototype Gallery Image
24-70mm f/2.8L II USM: 24mm, f/7.1, 1/640s, ISO 200
Note: Image was shot with a pre-production sample.
(Downloads of high-res versions are not yet available. Click for a larger, but not full-resolution image).

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

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.

Canon 1D X Mark II Review -- Product Image

 

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