It felt like Christmas last week. The Canon 1DX Mark II I ordered for work arrived and boy am I excited!
Canon 1DX Mark II First Impressions
This isn’t a review per sey, as I haven’t had enough time with the camera to offer a fair opinion. I’ve shot with various cameras over the past few years, including the 1DX2’s predecessor, the 1DX. So for the time being, I’ll share my Canon 1DX Mark II first impressions.
What gets me excited
|14fps||For the type of fitness work I do, having a high frame rate gives me more options within a range of movement which will allow me to work faster.
|Huge buffer||I get really annoyed when the buffer on my current camera is filled and it slows down. I don’t see this happening with a buffer of 170 RAW images.|
|Better autofocus||From what Canon is saying, AI Servo is more accurate, the 61 autofocus points are spread out wider and are more sensitive in dark conditions. Anything that delivers more in-focus shots is welcome.|
|Lower noise||If the rumours I’ve heard are true, Canon has finally caught up with Sony sensors in the noise category. I’m hoping that there’s less noise at high ISOs like I’m used to with my Nikon cameras.|
|Higher ISO||Although I don’t tend to use super high ISOs very often, it’s always good to have something like ISO 409,600 up your sleeve when the need arises. Unfortunately it’s still 3 stops less than the ISO 3,280,000 of the Nikon D5…|
|Slowmo video||I love the look of slowmo video and often shot at 50fps at 720p with my 5D. Now I can go even slower at 100fps (or even 120fps).|
|4K video||For me, being able to shoot 4K video is all about the ability to crop down to 1080p to make it seem like I have two cameras set up when I’m only shooting with one.|
|CFast card||Downloading images can take forever. I should be able to speed up my workflow with 540MB/s CFast cards (compared to the fastest 160MB/s CF cards).|
What I’m not so excited about
|16fps in live view||For the type of work I do, I don’t see myself ever using this feature.|
|Built in GPS||I can see some photographers loving this feature. I just see it as a battery drain.|
|20.2 Megapixels||This is the same as my 5D, so I won’t be getting any extra cropping capabilities or detail.|
As you’d expect, it’s build like a tank and almost as heavy. I can’t speak to the water resistance of the weather sealing quite yet, but I already feel more comfortable bringing it into adverse conditions than with any other camera I’ve owned.
The button placement is very similar to the 1DX, but for some reason I feel like I can more easily reach the buttons I want (maybe my mind is playing tricks on me). I really like that they’ve updated the live-view button to work like the one on the 5D Mark III. The grip is easy to hold and feel very stable in both landscape and portrait orientation.
I like that the strap is a bit longer than other cameras I own, because it allows me to carry the camera across my shoulder and still be able to bring it to my eye. This might not be possible for everyone.
The Canon 1DX Mark II has a new higher capacity battery, the LP-E19 that should last longer. Canon was nice enough to allow photographers to use the older 1DX battery LP-E4N in the new camera (with some loss of features).
Overall the camera feels incredible responsive, likely due to the Dual Digic 6+ processors. I never feel like I have to wait for it to be ready to shoot.
Canon 1DX II for Photography
This camera is an ideal solution when shooting in adverse conditions where you need incredible fast autofocus and a high frame rate. 20.2 megapixels is enough for most applications and gives a margin of error for handholding compared to higher megapixel cameras.
Looking through that big, bright viewfinder and being able to see the constantly lit focus points means it will be easier to compose and make sure I’m focusing where I want to. There’s a lot of information you can include in the viewfinder so that you never need to take your eye away from the viewfinder if you don’t want to (although I’d still love to see a live histogram in the viewfinder someday).
The customisation options get it pretty close to having the perfect layout. Since having the right controls is so important to me, I always change what buttons do from factory settings. I’ve changed them so that I can access all of the important settings with my hands in “shooting position” except for continuous Drive mode.
Surprises so far
- Flickr mode worked excellently (evenly lit exposures) the two times I’ve tried it. It didn’t slow down the frame rate noticeably.
- The 1,620K dot LCD screen is crisp making it easier to see critical focus before you get the files onto a computer.
- I can easily reach all of the important controls even though my hands are on the smaller side.
- ISO 6400 looks similar to what I’m used to seeing at ISO 1600, that’s a 2 stop improvement (I’ll have to do some more testing to make sure).
I got up early before my first official shoot with the Canon 1DX Mark II to test out its low light capabilities. Here’s some shots from that short walk:
From what I can see, the image is virtually noise free with very minimal noise reduction applied. The RAW image is incredible clean for ISO 800.
There’s still some noise with noise reduction applied, but at the level I’m used to at ISO 800. When I shoot at ISO 1600 with my 5D Mark II, it is noticeably more noisy than what I’m getting out of the 1DX2.
That’s pretty clean. Similar to what I’m used to getting at ISO 1600. What if I bump up the noise reduction even more?
Impressive stuff right?
Without being able to draw any scientific conclusions, here’s what I’m seeing.
- Overall, the noise profile is better than any Canon cameras I’ve worked with.
- In low light conditions, the 1DX2 sensor is at least 1 stop better than the 5D2.
- In brighter conditions, the 1DX2 sensor is at least 2 stops better than the 5D2 (I don’t have examples I can share yet, but from the two shoots I’ve done so far, I’m seeing a trend).
I think this is because Canon have managed to greatly reduce their senor (electronic) noise. Since shot noise isn’t dependent on the sensor, that will still cause noise in many of the situations I shoot. Just blame it on the physics of light!
Canon 1DX Mark II Video
The 1DX Mark II is an amazing videography tool even though it’s first and foremost a stills camera. Beyond the specs, the continuous autofocus with touchscreen functionality changes the game for me.
I usually shoot video handheld and have to pull focus by hand. This invariably creates vibration as I turn the focus ring. With the Canon 1DX Mark II, I’m able to pull focus as easily as touching a point on the screen, and it smoothly transitions between the two points (you can even choose the transition speed).
Even better when shooting people, you can use the face detection to choose a face and it will follow that face as it moves through the frame. I can now do camera movements without worrying that I’ll lose focus. So awesome!
Surprises so far
- You can’t choose “slowmo” from the quick menu, you have to dig into the full menus. Unfortunate.
- Sound recording is disabled during slow motion recording.
- You cannot take photos while you’re recording a video, although you can get an 8.8 megapixel image from a 4K video recording.
- Dual Pixel AF is a joy to use.
Who is it for?
Honestly, this camera isn’t for everyone. Most photographers could get away with a lesser camera. However if you need:
- High frame rates & a big buffer
- Accurate & fast autofocus
- Low light capabilities
- Slow motion & 4K Video
- A camera body that can handle the elements
Then the Canon 1DX Mark II would be an excellent choice. I think it’s going to be amazing for the work I do.
Anyone shooting things that don’t move much (like food photography or landscapes) and need a higher resolution would be best served with camera like the Canon 5DR or Nikon D810 and use the money you’ve saved on lenses.
Once I get a bit more experience with the Canon 1DX Mark II under my belt, I’ll put together a more thorough review. In the meantime, if you have any specific questions or want me to test something for you, please let me know in the comments below.