Hands-on: Canon’s 1D X Mark II DSLR is a wonderfuly powerful beast
Canon's 1D cameras have been the go-to choice for many news, sports, and wildlife photographers for around 15 years, and it looks like the new 1D X Mark II will be just as popular thanks to its impressive autofocus system, 14 fps continuous shooting, and 4K video recording. We recently spent a bit of hands-on time with the camera at the UK Photography Show 2016, to see what users can expect when it starts shipping.
The Canon 1D X Mark II is something of a monster. The professional DSLR is as big and heavy as any full frame camera you're likely to come across, but that's to be expected, and indeed many of the pro photographers who need the long battery life and flexibility to switch between landscape and portrait orientations wouldn't have it any other way.
Build-quality is up there rivaling any other camera, including the Nikon D5, which we said felt like it could stop a bullet. The solid camera will also feel instantly familiar to current Canon shooters. While the rear monitor is now a touchscreen, it doesn't move, which is probably a good thing given the way cameras like this tend to get thrown around.
However, like everyone else who picked up this camera, the first thing we wanted to do when it was in our hands was hit that shutter button and see what it's like to shoot at 14 frames per second with the mirror clattering along at pace. Instantly, we could hear a difference between this and the 12 fps of the Nikon D5. This sound will be music to the ears of photographers for whom shooting at speed can be the difference between getting the shot and missing it. The Canon also has the option of shooting at 16 fps in Live View mode.
Autofocus is another area in which the Canon 1D X Mark II delivers blistering speed. In our tests the 61 point system (with 41 cross type) was able to lock on to a subject almost as fast as we could press the shutter. The camera feels significantly quicker than the Canon 1D X or the likes of the 5Ds. We'd say the Nikon D5 felt like it had a very slight edge and focused marginally quicker, but this was at different stands, at different times, with different lenses, so not an at all scientific observation.
Either way, the Canon 1D X Mark II does appear to have an advantage over the Nikon when it comes to the various autofocus modes which can be deployed depending on your subject. The autofocus can really be tailored to your subject, and it's nice and easy to switch between settings. Using the right autofocus mode can have a massive impact on the number of keepers you will end up shooting, so this is a serious consideration.
The 20-megapixel sensor of the Canon 1D X Mark II is paired with Dual DIGIC 6+ processors to allow an ISO range of 100 to 51,200 (expandable to 409,600), letting you shoot in just about any lighting condition. As to whether you'll ever shoot at ISO 409,600, the Canon representative suggested it might come in handy for shooting a wedding in a cave, so there you go. The performance at more reasonable ISO levels looks good, if slightly below the Nikon D5, though again we were comparing different shots and on different monitors, so make of that what you will.
One feature which will be of interest to wedding photographers in particular is the auto white balance modes of the 1D X Mark II. The camera can now be set to Ambience Priority, where it retains some of the warm color tones from artificial light sources, or White Priority which eliminates most of the warmth from tungsten lighting. When we were being shown this feature there were several wedding snappers oohing and saying how much time this will save them in editing, one even said he was upgrading to the camera based on that feature alone.
While we won't go into too much detail about image quality, we weren't allowed to take away shots to look at, there's a marked improvement (as you'd expect) over the original 1D X. While resolution has been increased from 18 to 20-megapixel, it's still going to deliver images of a manageable size for those who need to use them quickly and don't want to get bogged down with massive files.
The video recording options of the Canon 1D X Mark II also now make it a viable option for videographers, even if it doesn't do Canon Log Gamma, which is a reason for some to opt for the Canon Cinema EOS line. 4K video is possible at DCI 4,096 x 2,160 up to 60/50 fps or Full HD 1080p at up to 120 fps, and as far as we could tell by looking at the back of the camera, it's just as good as you would expect.
Use of Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus (AF) technology, along with the new touchscreen, also opens up more possibilities than some other video-shooting DSLRs. We were particularly taken by the ability not only to touch the rear monitor to adjust focus points, but also the option of setting focus pull speed, so you can set whether you want a fast or slow transition between focus. It simply works, and works great.
With an asking price of US$6,000 body-only, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is mostly going to get snapped up by working pros (along with the odd well-heeled enthusiast). For them it will be a solid work-horse which will be able to deliver the goods whether shooting stills or video. While we'd like to spend longer with the camera, from our quick hands-on we'd say the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is probably the best all-round DSLR we've ever used.
Product page: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II