Canon 1DX Mark II Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Realistic saturation levels with very good hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links above to compare ISOs, and click to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon 1DX Mark II produces images with saturation levels that are slightly less pumped than most cameras at default settings. Dark reds are boosted the most, with orange, dark greens and dark blues pushed a little, while cyans, yellow and light green are slightly muted. The mean saturation of 106% (6% oversaturated) at base ISO is a little lower than average these days, though real-world images still look quite pleasing. Mean saturation is fairly stable across the native ISO range, varying from a maximum of 107.2% at ISOs 800 and 1600 to a minimum of 106.2% at ISO 51,200, however saturation fell off at extended high ISOs, to a low of only 93.9% at ISO 409,600. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Canon 1DX Mark II produced pleasing, natural-looking Caucasian skin tones in our tests when using Auto white balance in simulated daylight. Darker skin tones show a small nudge toward orange, but lighter tones are more pinkish and healthy-looking. Manual and especially Daylight white balance are a bit too warm and yellow. Good results with Auto, though. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. As we've come to expect from Canon, the 1DX Mark II's hue accuracy is very good when manual white balance is used (as it always is for these results), and is much better than average. There are the usual shifts in cyan toward blue (though actually quite small), red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow to green, but all are fairly minor. Average "delta-C" color error at base ISO is 3.8 which is better than average. Delta-C color error increases with sensitivity, but remains better than average except at the highest extended ISOs. Hue is "what color" the color is.

Click to see E1DX2FAR2I00100.JPG Click to see E1DX2OUTBAP2.JPG Click to see E1DX2hSLI000100NR2D.JPG
See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto and Incandescent settings both struggled with household incandescent lighting, though Manual white balance worked well. Slightly higher than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.7 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.7 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.7 EV

Indoors, under incandescent lighting, the Canon 1DX Mark II's default Auto and Incandescent white balance settings struggled, producing very warm reddish or orange/yellow color casts. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon among cameras we've tested, but disappointing nonetheless. The Canon 1DX Mark II does however have a White Priority option for Auto white balance that should result in more neutral color balance, however we did not test that mode in the lab. The Manual setting produced accurate results. The Canon 1DX Mark II required +0.7 EV exposure compensation for this shot, which is slightly higher than the +0.3 EV average among the cameras we've tested. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Realistic color, though with somewhat high contrast under harsh lighting. Average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

The Canon 1DX Mark II produces pleasing, accurate colors outdoors with Auto white balance, although some may think default saturation is a touch too accurate and not as vibrant as some cameras. The 1DX II required +0.7 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face bright, about average for our"Sunlit" portrait shot. The Canon 1DX Mark II's default contrast is a little high, producing some washed-out highlights and dark shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the shot above left, though the camera's Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority settings help with high contrast scenes like these. See below for examples of this. The Far-field shot (above right) looks a bit cool, but exposure is quite good with the camera only blowing out a few highlights. There are some very deep shadows, however they are quite clean and detailed.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
~2,550 lines of strong detail from JPEG , about the same from ACR-converted RAW.

Strong detail to
~2,550 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,550 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,550 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
~2,550 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

Our laboratory resolution chart showed sharp, distinct line patterns up to about 2,550 lines per picture height horizontally and to about 2,550 lines vertically. Some may argue for higher numbers, but lines begin to merge at this resolution, and some aliasing artifacts in the form of moiré patterns can be seen as low as 2,100 lines. Extinction of the pattern occurred at just over 3,400 lines. An Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR2 file shows similar resolution as the in-camera JPEG, though it also produced more moiré and false colors. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images with default sharpening, but with noticeable sharpening artifacts. Minor detail loss due to noise reduction processing at low ISOs.

Using default sharpening
settings, the Canon 1DX II's JPEG
files are quite sharp, but with
some noticeable sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon 1DX Mark II's 20-megapixel full-frame sensor captures good image detail for its resolution when coupled with a sharp lens, but while images taken at default settings are sharp, they contain obvious sharpening halos around high-contrast edges, as shown in the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some minor detail loss due to noise suppression in darker areas and in areas with low contrast, perhaps just a little more than we're accustomed to seeing from a full-frame digital SLR at base ISO these days. Still, not a bad performance, with very low chroma noise. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

In-Camera JPEGs: Standard vs Fine Detail Picture Style setting
The Canon 1DX Mark II is the fourth EOS DSLR to offer the new Fine Detail Picture Style first seen on the Canon 5DS/R and then on the 80D. Below is a comparison with the default Standard Picture Style.

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail

In the table above, we compare the Canon 1DX Mark II's default Standard Picture Style setting (left) to its new Fine Detail preset at base ISO. Like the 5DS/R and 80D, the Canon 1DX Mark II offers users much more flexibility in sharpening than other EOS models, allowing you to adjust not only the "Strength" (from 0 to 7) but also the "Fineness" (0 to 5) and "Threshold" (0 to 5) operators. We believe these parameters correlate to unsharp mask options for strength, radius and threshold available in photo editing software such as Photoshop, although we don't know what the equivalent units might be.

The Fine Detail Picture Style preset boosts the Sharpness Strength operator one notch (to 4 out of 7) while dialing down the Fineness (1/5) and Threshold (1/5) operators to their minimum compared to Standard which defaults to Sharpness: 3/7, Fineness: 4/5 and Threshold: 4/5. The result is improved, more natural-looking rendering of fine detail along with less obvious sharpening halos than the default Standard setting. However, noise is more visible in flatter areas, and contrast is lower, making the Fine Detail image appear to have less "pop". There also appear to be minor differences in color, even though Color Tone, Saturation and Contrast settings are identical between these two Picture Styles presets. Given the flexibility in settings, though, you may be able to find a better combination than the defaults compared above.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon 1DX Mark II produces sharp JPEG images with good detail for a 20-megaxpixel sensor, but with visible sharpening halos. With a good RAW converter, additional detail can often be extracted with fewer sharpening artifacts. See below:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 via DNG Converter 9.6 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (300%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the default JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf and pink swatches where the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine. Fine detail in the mosaic crop is also improved, but as is often the case, the conversion isn't as clean and smooth looking, with more noise that can be seen for instance in the flatter areas of the bottle crop. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff. And, as expected, sharpening halos aren't nearly as strong as the default camera output. Still, not bad in-camera default JPEG processing, but as usual you can do noticeably better by shooting in RAW mode and using a good RAW converter.

ISO & Noise Performance
Excellent high ISO performance.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600 ISO 51,200 ISO 102,400
ISO 204,800 ISO 409,600

Images are very clean and detailed up to ISO 400, with only very minor reductions in image quality as ISO rises within this range. Image quality drops gradually and predictably between ISO 800 and 12,800, with progressively stronger noise and smudging due to noise reduction, though fine detail is still pretty good up to ISO 12,800. At ISO 25,600, we see more noticeable luma noise as well as some chroma blotching especially in darker areas, though images still contain some fine detail. ISO 51,200 is quite noisy but the noise "grain" is relatively fine and tight, and detail is fair. Image quality starts to drop off rapidly at ISO 102,400 and above with much stronger luma noise obliterating fine detail, visible noise reduction artifacts, and more noticeable chroma blotching. Saturation also falls off at the highest ISOs.

Still, excellent high ISO image quality overall. See the Print Quality section below (when available) for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this image at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have since started shooting at f/8, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Somewhat high default contrast limits dynamic range in JPEGs, however HTP and ALO options do a great job of dealing with tough lighting. Excellent low-light performance.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

The Canon 1DX Mark II produced some washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the test shots above, thanks to its somewhat high default contrast. The mannequin's face was too dim at the default and +0.3 EV settings and too many highlights were blown with +1.0 EV, so we preferred the image with +0.7 EV exposure compensation. This resulted in some clipped highlights in the shirt and flowers, but not as many as we've seen from most prior Canon models, and shadow detail is very good with low noise levels. And pretty much all the clipped highlights were easily recoverable from the matching CR2 file, indicating very good dynamic range from RAW files. Bottom line: While the Canon 1DX Mark II's default tone curve still results is more clipped highlights than we'd like to see in this shot, its sensor delivers very good dynamic range with low noise in the shadows, which results in better usable dynamic range when working with RAW files.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)


Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon 1DX Mark II's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option did an excellent job of preserving highlight detail with very little impact to shadows as shown below. (Mouse over the Off and On links to load the corresponding thumbnail, histogram and crops.) 

Highlight Tone Priority (0 EV)
HTP
Setting:



Off


On

Highlights
Shadows
(Levels boosted
to reveal noise.)
Histogram

Both shots above were captured at the same exposure, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the second shot which necessarily increases the ISO to 200; part of how HTP works. Although few highlights were blown at default exposure, the result is still evident in the histograms and thumbnails above, clearly showing the superior highlight preservation when HTP is enabled. If you look closely at shadows (the levels in shadow crops above are heavily boosted to reveal noise that would be difficult to see otherwise), you'll notice an increase in noise and a slight decrease in detail is the price you pay when ISO is boosted from 100 to 200.

Far-field Highlight Tone Priority (0 EV)

Above you can see Highlight Tone Priority at work in our Far-field shot. As expected, highlights are toned-down preserving the few that were lost without HTP enabled, but interestingly, midtones and lighter shadows were boosted.

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like previous Canon EOS models, the 1DX Mark II offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Automatic Lighting Optimization (0 EV)

As you can see above, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones in the histograms to the right, brightening them while leaving highlights pretty much as is, with the High setting producing a much better exposure. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

Far-field Automatic Lighting Optimization (0 EV)

Above is the effect of ALO on our Far-field shot. As you can see, it operates mainly on the shadows and midtones, leaving highlights pretty much intact.

HDR
Being a pro camera, the Canon 1DX Mark II does not offer an in-camera HDR feature like more consumer-oriented EOS bodies.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Canon 1DX Mark II's dynamic range (in orange) to its predecessor, the 1DX (in yellow), and also to its closest competitor, the Nikon D5 (red). You can always compare other models on DxOMark.com.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Canon 1DX Mark II's dynamic range is markedly improved over the 1DX at low to moderate ISOs, with a peak of about 13.5 EV versus 11.7 at base ISO. Dynamic range remains higher than its predecessor up to about ISO 3200, above which they are closely matched. Still, it's a very welcomed improvement at low to moderate ISOs.

In an interesting turn of events, the Canon 1DX II's dynamic range is also significantly better than the Nikon D5 at base ISO (13.5 vs 12.3 EV), and remains better than the D5 up to ISO 3200, above which the D5 is up to about 2/3 EV better, until they closely match at very high ISOs.

Bottom line: While dynamic range isn't quite as good as some other full-frame models that aren't capable of the performance offered by this pro DSLR, the Canon EOS 1DX Mark II nevertheless offers class-leading dynamic range, with very significant improvements over its predecessor and main competitor at low to moderate ISOs. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Canon 1DX Mark II for more of their test results and additional comparisons.


  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc
No NR
ISO
100
Click to see E1DX2LL0001003.JPG
2s, f2.8
Click to see E1DX2LL0001007.JPG
30s, f2.8
Click to see E1DX2LL0001007XNR.JPG
30s, f2.8
ISO
3200
Click to see E1DX2LL0032003.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see E1DX2LL0032007.JPG
1s, f2.8
Click to see E1DX2LL0032007XNR.JPG
1s, f2.8
ISO
51200
Click to see E1DX2LL0512003.JPG
1/250s, f2.8
Click to see E1DX2LL0512007.JPG
1/15s, f2.8
Click to see E1DX2LL0512007XNR.JPG
1/15s, f2.8

Low Light. The Canon 1DX Mark II performed very well in our low-light tests, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even with the lowest native sensitivity setting (ISO 100). As expected, noise increases as ISO goes up and light levels go down, but luminance noise is quite low and fine-grained at ISO 3200, and chrominance noise is well-controlled. Luma noise is a bit high at the maximum native ISO of 51,200, particularly when noise reduction is minimized (right column in the table above), however chroma noise continues to be very well-controlled and images are still very usable. We no longer test extended ISOs in our low-light tests.

We didn't detect any significant issues with hot/bright pixels even when long-exposure noise reduction was disabled and high-ISO NR was minimized (right column), where you'd expect to see them. We didn't see any signs of heat blooming either, nor any significant banding (fixed pattern noise) in very deep shadows, a welcome improvement over Canon's previous generations of sensors.

Color balance was fairly neutral with Canon 1DX Mark II's Auto white balance setting, just a touch cool at the one foot-candle light level, but a bit warm at the lower 1/16 foot-candle light level.

LL AF. The Canon 1DX II's AF systems were able to focus on our challenging low-contrast AF target down to well below the 1/16 foot-candle level with both the optical viewfinder (-2.9 EV) and in Live View mode (-4.1 EV), which is very good. With our new high-contrast AF target, the camera was able to focus down to -6.0 EV with the optical viewfinder and down to -8.0 EV in Live View mode, which is excellent. The Canon 1DX II doesn't have a built-in AF illuminator, but can utilize the illuminator found on most compatible flash units.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Digital SLRs like the Canon 1DX Mark II do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality

High-quality prints up to 30 x 40 inches at ISO 50-400; Nice 8 x 10 inch prints all the way up to ISO 25,600; and a 4 x 6 inch print just squeaks by at ISO 102,400.

ISO 50/100/200/400 prints all look practically identical and altogether quite excellent up to a whopping 30 x 40 inches and beyond. Despite its 20-megapixel sensor, the Canon 1DX II is capable of making impressively large prints. At 30 x 40 inches, slight pixelation is visible upon close inspection, but at a normal viewing distance for prints of this size, they look great. Colors are very rich in this range of ISOs, as expected. We saw an ever-so-slight softening of very minute details in the ISO 400 30 x 40 inch print, but not to a degree as to impact print size, in our eyes.

ISO 800 images show just a hint more noise, but it's mostly confined to the shadows -- and even then, it's very minimal. Prints up to a sizable 24 x 36 inches are still very good, with lovely fine detail.

ISO 1600 prints look very similar to ISO 800 ones, with only a bit more shadow noise. Fine details are still crisp, and colors are vibrant and saturated. As such, we're happy to call the print size at 24 x 36 inches here as well, as the subtle increase in noise does not impact print quality all that much.

ISO 3200 images begin to display a slight drop in detail due to noise, though not to a very significant degree. The noise itself is increasingly visible in the shadows. Still, the camera is able to make nice, large prints up to 20 x 30 inches.

ISO 6400 prints show a bit too much noise for us to confidently call them at 16 x 20 inches, so we're playing it safe at 13 x 19 inches. A 16 x 20 inch print could certainly be used for less critical applications.

ISO 12,800 images display stronger, more visible noise, but detail overall, up to an 11 x 14 inch print, looks very good. Again, for less critical applications, you might be able to get away with bumping the print size up by one.

ISO 25,600 prints top out at 8 x 10 inches, as noise has become quite strong reducing fine detail at larger sizes.

ISO 51,200 images appear surprisingly clean when you stop at 5 x 7 inch prints. Noise, otherwise, is very much an issue at this ISO level, however colors still appear quite vibrant in our test prints.

ISO 102,400 prints are very noisy, but the 1DX II manages a usable 4 x 6 inch print. Any larger, noise and a lack of fine detail are very problematic.

ISO 204,800/409,600 images, while perhaps useful if you simply need to "get the shot," are just too noisy and lacking in fine detail for print making.

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.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer. (See our Canon PRO-1000 review for details on that model.)

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate