The big boss is back for round two: the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II is the company’s top-end full-frame DSLR, which will replace both the original 1D Xand video-focused 1D C models. But being unveiled approximately a month after Nikon lifted the lid on its D5, has Canon still got the smarts to remain king of the pro market?
Having handled the 1D X II there’s a whole lot to like about it. Not that it’s particularly different to the original: the large scale body is almost identical, albeit for some rear thumbstick design and texture changes; an extra “bump” on its head courtesy of a built-in GPS module; and, tucked away, a CFAST cardslot, sat alongside a more conventional CompactFlash port.
Plenty more has changed, of course, as would be expected of a top-notch pro camera, but at first glance the autofocus system seems to be one and the same 61-point arrangement as found in the earlier 1D X. Sure, the layout is the same, but it’s all about new tweaks and nuances.
First is the Ai Servo III+ continuous tracking system which utilises the gyros in image-stabilised lenses to help predict tracking movement. Let’s say you’re shooting out on a racetrack where there’s a sharp bend – you follow the curve of the road but the camera doesn’t know to predict this because, until now, it’s not been able to judge speed of movement. By using the gyro information it can predict when your physical movement is slowing down or speeding up, in which direction, and predict where the subject and, therefore, active autofocuspoints ought to be headed. Clever stuff.
Second, all 61-points are sensitive to f/8 – which will be handy if you’re using a 2x converter and are forced to use a smaller aperture (21 of these AF points are cross-type to said sensitivity).
Speed has seen a boost too, with a 14fps burst mode now in place securing its position as the fastest full-framer on the market. It’s like firing off a machine gun with he kind of shutter clatter as a result, but as the camera can shoot 170 consecutive raw & JPEG files at full resolution there’s little chance of missing that special moment – ideal for sports photographers. There’s 16fps available if the mirror is locked, also available in live preview; Quiet Mode is a little quieter than the original 1D X and now capable to 5fps.
We tested the camera’s write speed and with a CFAST card on board, even at 2500x, write times are super-fast, so the chances of getting buffer clog-up are practically nil. Having shot 72 frames in raw & JPEG the buffer cleared in around 1-second.
The 1D X Mark II’s autofocus systems comes in two distinct flavours, because the new 20.2-megapixel sensor at the heart of the 1D X II is the first Dual Pixel CMOS AF sensor to appear in a full-frame camera. That means it has phase-detection photodiodes that can be used to focus when in live preview only – it’s not available when shooting via the viewfinder. And, as live view systems go, it’s as quick as them come in the DSLR world. We’d like to see more detail with focus point size adjustment in this mode though.
Interestingly Canon has even added touch-sensitivity to the rear LCD screen, which is only available for use when in live preview or movie mode – accessed via the dedicated button/dial combo on the rear this time around – for simple press-to-focus focus adjustment. We think it’s about time such a feature made its way into a pro camera, particularly a camera proficient in video capture, despite the lack of a vari-angle bracket for easier waist-level work. Can’t quite have it all we suppose.
Video is certainly an area the 1D X II elevates, hence it standing-in as the 1D C replacement too. It’s possible to shoot 4K at 60fps (in 17:9 DCI cinema standard) for up to 29-minutes 59-seconds at 800Mbit/sec without limit to file size (compression is 8-bit 4:2:2 rather than 10-bit colour though; and there’s no clean HDMI out offered). If that sounds like a recipe for overheating then a “heat pipe” has been designed to dissipate heat around the camera to stop the sensor getting too hot. Just don’t expect the CFAST card to remain cool.
At this stage we can’t comment on stills or video quality, as we’ve not been able to take any sample shots away with us from our hands-on experience. There is some interesting information about the new sensor, however, which has on-sensor analogue-to-digital conversion for a shorter circuit path, which in turn, Canon claims, means less heat and lower image noise – but specifically at the lower ISO sensitivities.
In addition there’s a brand new light meter with three times more resolution in the Mark II than original 1D X. That’s useful for gauging colour, but also gathering a bigger picture to detect for things such as light flicker as exhibited by some tubes. Sounds like the 1D X II is always one step ahead.
In the EOS 1D X Mark II Canon hasn’t reinvented the wheel, but tweaked an already successful professional DSLR into an even faster, more proficient model. If speed is what you want then, once again, Canon pips Nikon to the post with the fastest available burst mode. The inclusion of GPS is a great touch, too, and 4K video smarts will appeal to another audience (although the lack of clean HDMI out is an oddity).
It doesn’t come cheap, of course, with a body-only price tag of £5199 seeing the 1D X II as among the priciest of DSLR cameras on the market. That’s head-to-head with the Nikon D5’s same price tag, so it’s battle of the big guns for pro pole position in 2016.