Canon Announces EOS-1D x Pro Body
October 19th, 2011
Canon yesterday announced a new pro body, the EOS-1D x, that represents the fusion of the 1D and 1D s bodies. Highlights include an 18 MP full-frame sensor, superior high ISO performance, an all-new AF system, improved white balance and metering, a 12-14 fps shooting speed, and dual CF card slots. With all of these new and enhanced features, the price has moved up significantly from the 1D Mark IV’s price point; $6,800 to be exact.
The new autofocus system has 61 AF points, compared to the Mark IV’s 45 points. More importantly, with an f/4 lens, 41 of the 1D x’s 61 focus points are of the more sensitive cross-type variety (all but the black focus points below). In contrast, on the Mark IV only a single focus point (the center one) is cross-type with an f/4 lens. If you put a 1.4x extender on your f/4 supertelephoto lens (resulting in an f/5.6 maximum aperture), 21 of the new body’s focus points remain cross-type (the focus points in the red box below). The Mark IV drops to zero cross-type points. Five points in the center have additional AF sensitivity when used with an f/2.8 or faster lens (the column of 5 blue points in the red box). Here are a few other enhancements to the 1D x’s AF. The AF coverage area is expanded on the left and right of the frame, there is improved low-light and low-contrast AF performance, and both color and face detection can now be incorporated into the AF algorithm. Canon claims that AF can now be achieved when shooting in moonlight. I think we’re going to see some definite real-world AF performance improvement, and I’m looking forward to putting this new body through its AF paces.
I should also mention that access to AF features is greatly enhanced in the 1D x; the camera borrows some excellent features from the 7D. Canon added a multifunction button to both the horizontal and vertical controls; that button can be used to choose the AF point selection mode (spot, single point, single point with surrounding 4 points, single point with surrounding 8 points, zone selection, and automatic AF point selection). These selections can now be made without taking your eye out of the viewfinder; previously you had to go into one of the custom function menus on the rear LCD screen to make these changes. Spot AF was fairly clumsy on the Mark IV, but couldn’t be easier to select on the 1D x. Autofocus functions now have their own menu tab, no longer appearing as a custom function submenu; descriptions and examples of each menu item are displayed on the LCD.
High ISO performance is reported to be 2 stops better than the Mark IV; if true this opens up a new world to bird photographers using Canon gear. I have no doubt that Canon had the Nikon D3s in its sights when it designed the 1D x. I have high hopes that the 1D x will outperform the D3s with its high-ISO noise levels. Dynamic range is also said to be wider than before.
White balance accuracy has been significantly improved, especially when photographing portraits and sunsets, and when photographing under low color temperature light sources. Metering zones have been increased 4x, from the Mark IV’s 63 to 252 in the 1D x. The metering system is now able to detect both color and the presence of faces in a scene.
For those of you who like to microadjust your lenses, Canon has a few new feature for you. You can now set microadjustments for both the wide angle and telephoto focal lengths of your zoom lenses. If you have multiple copies of the same lens, the microadjustment tool now stores settings by lens serial number.
The viewfinder has identical specs to the 1Ds Mark III, but they’ve added a translucent LCD screen like the one found in the 7D. This new screen is built to withstand much colder temperatures than the 7D’s.
Canon has added a Quick Control button to the back of the camera that functions in the same way that the 7D’s does; camera settings can be quickly and easily viewed and adjusted from a single screen. There is a also a Custom Control screen that allows you to map functions to the various buttons on the camera, just like on the 7D.
You’ll also find that there are now 3 available custom shooting modes (C1, C2, and C3). These allow you to memorize 3 commonly used groupings of camera settings. As an example C1 could be Av mode, one shot AF, spot AF, single shot mode, f/8, 1/1000, and ISO 400. C2 might be manual exposure, AI servo AF, focus point expansion, high speed drive, f/5.6, 1/2500, and ISO 800. With the push of a button all of these settings will be changed automatically.
There are many other new and improved features, but these are some of the biggies.
The 1D x is an impressive camera body to be sure, but what are its drawbacks? Probably the single most important drawback is that the 1D x is no longer able to autofocus at f/8. This means that you won’t be able to use a 2x on the 400 DO, 500, or 600 and get AF. You can also forget about the 800 with a 1.4x. Many bird photographers are up in arms over the loss of this feature. There’s no doubt that it’s nice to be able to AF at extreme focal lengths, but in all honesty 99.99% of my images are taken with maximum apertures of f/5.6 or larger. If sacrificing f/8 AF results in a substantially higher keeper rate for my other frames, it’s a sacrifice that I’m willing to make (but I’ll be keeping my Mark IV, which does AF at f/8). Next up is the megapixel count of the sensor. An 18 MP full-frame sensor produces outstanding images when you can fill the frame with subject. But let’s say you want to crop your image down to APS-H size. You’ll be left with only about 11 MP, a sizable drop from the Mark IV’s 16 MP and closer to the Mark III’s 10 MP. People are concerned about the how the image quality will hold up to cropping, since the loss of the 1.3 ‘crop factor’ sensor is going to result in more cropping by bird photographers. I have precious little experience with full-frame bodies in bird photography, but the full-frame Nikon shooters seem to do pretty well with their 12 MP sensors. The 1D x has 50% more pixels than the D3s. The last issue that looms large is the price. I’ve never had a problem spending big bucks on quality glass because it holds its value over time. Camera bodies depreciate like cars do (fast and furious); this isn’t as important when the bodies are reasonably priced, but I won’t be too happy to see my $6,800 body lose $3,400 in value in 2 years.
I had planned on upgrading both my 500mm and 600mm lenses this year, but I’m now starting to question whether my 500 will see much use on a full-frame body. Thank goodness Canon put the new 600 on a diet and brought the weight down to that of the current 500; they also trimmed 3 feet off of the MFD of the 600, giving it the same close focus as the current 500mm lens.
The EOS-1Dx will be available in March of next year.