Canon loads EOS-1D X with new tech, hopes, and dreams

The new pro dual-grip body consolidates the EOS-1D Mark IV and EOS-1Ds Mark III into a single full-frame, fast-shooting model.

Canon USA

The tl;dr on Canon's new pro camera: Yowza.

Canon's celebrating the 10th generation of its EOS-1 pro body with an overhaul, both of the hardware and the line itself. A consolidation of the fast, sports shooter with the high-resolution full-frame camera, the EOS-1D X replaces both the full-frame 1Ds Mark III and the APS-H 1D Mark IV with a single, double-grip full-frame model with fast continuous shooting. The price most closely resembles the 1Ds, though, at $6800.

That opens a big gap between the please-replace-it-already 5D Mark II and the new top of the line. And I suspect that when a 5D Mark III eventually surfaces (probably not until next year), it's going to be a lot more expensive--in part because of a weak dollar and the increased costs associated with the various natural disasters that have plagued production in Asia, and in part because Canon could probably get away with it. Especially if it incorporates some of the whizzy new technology (assuming it all works as advertised, of course) that's in the 1D X.

Where to begin? On the outside, you'll find an updated control layout, with some extra buttons joysticks designed to streamline shooting with the vertical grip. On the inside, there are new autofocus and autoexposure systems in addition to the de rigueur new sensor with an enhanced dust-reduction system. It has an entirely new shutter mechanism. There are new features, including a 1000BaseT Ethernet port, 3 custom settings groups (finally!), and a nine-shot multiple-exposure mode.

Basically, it's a whole new camera. Check out the basic specs before I get into details:

  Canon EOS-1D Mark IV Canon EOS-1D X Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III Nikon D3S Nikon D3X
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.1-megapixel CMOS
8-channel readout
14-bit
18-megapixel CMOS
(2-line, 16-channel readout)

14-bit
21.1-megapixel CMOS
14-bit
8-channel readout
14-bit
12-1-megapixel CMOS
12-channel readout
14-bit
24.5-megapixel CMOS
12-channel readout
14-bit
27.9 mm x 18.6 mm 36 mm x 24mm 36 mm x 24mm 36 mm x 23.9mm 35.9 mm x 24mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.3x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
Sensitivity range ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 12,800/ 102,400 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 51,200/ 204,800 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 1600/3200 (exp) ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 12,800/ 102,400 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 1600/6400 (exp)
Continuous shooting 10fps
26 raw/85 JPEG
12fps
n/a
(14fps JPEG only, locked mirror)
5fps
12 raw/56 JPEG
9fps
n/a
5fps
n/a
Viewfinder
magnification/ effective magnification
100% coverage
0.76x/0.58x
100% coverage
0.76x/0.76x
100% coverage
0.76x/0.76x
100% coverage
0.70x/0.70x
100% coverage
0.70x/0.70x
Autofocus 45-pt
19 cross type
61-pt High Density Reticular
n/a
45-pt
19 cross type
51-pt
15 cross type
51-pt
15 cross type
AF exposure range -1 - 18 EV -2 - 20 EV -1 - 18 EV -1 - 19 EV n/a
Shutter speed 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/300 sec x-sync 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync (est) 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability 300,000 cycles 400,000 cycles 300,000 cycles 300,000 cycles 300,000 cycles
Metering 63-zone TTL 252-zone RGB 63-zone TTL 1,005-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II 1,005-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II
Metering exposure range 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV (est) 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical Optical Optical
Video H.264 QuickTime MOV 1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p/ 25p/24p; 720/60p/50p
None H.264 AVI
720/24p
None
Rated estimated max HD video length 4GB
(approx 12 minutes)
4GB
(29m59s)
n/a 2GB n/a
LCD size 3 inches fixed
920,000 dots
3.2 inches fixed
1.04 megadot
3 inches fixed
230,000 pixels
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
3 inches fixed
921,000 dots
Memory slots 1 x CF (UDMA mode 6), 1 x SDHC 2 x CF (UMDA mode 7) 1 x CF (UDMA mode 6), 1 x SDHC 2 x CF (UMDA mode 6) 2 x CF (UMDA mode 6)
Wireless flash No No No No No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 1500 shots
(2300 mAh)
n/a
(2450 mAh)
n/a
(2300 mAh)
4200 shots
(1900 mAh)
4400 shots
(1900 mAh)
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 6.4 x 6.2 x 3.3 6.1 x 6.3 x 3.1 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4 6.3 x 6.2 x 3.4
Body operating weight (ounces) 41.6 (est) n/a 45 (est) 43.7 (est) 43 (est)
Mfr. Price $4999 (body only) $6800 $6999 (body only) $5199.95 (body only) $7999.95 (body only)
n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Ship date January 2010 March 2012 November 2007 November 2009 December 2008

While the 18-megapixel sensor is a resolution step back from the previous full-frame models, Canon says the reduced resolution was necessary to obtain the sports-level continuous-shooting speeds--one of the primary drivers of the historical separation of the line into two bodies. The company claims that the better noise performance which results from what sounds like on-chip noise reduction and the new dual Digic 5+ processors means you'll be able to scale up images sufficiently to make up for the missing 3 megapixels. It's also supposed to deliver less moiré and fewer color artifacts in video. The sensor has 6.95-micron photodiodes, compared with 6.39 microns for the 5DMII and 5.7 microns for the 1DM4, which helps, too. An updated dust-reduction system--Ultrasonic Wave Motion Cleaning--consists of new fluorine coating on the UV filter plus an undulating rather than shaking movement the company claims works better to dislodge fine dust particles.

The new sensor, as well as the new shutter and mirror systems, also factors into the ability to maintain the same continuous-shooting speed as its APS-H predecessor. It's got a two-line, 16-channel readout for faster recovery, and the dual processors theoretically allow it to maintain burst rates at higher ISO sensitivities than before (and not get bogged down in the noise reduction). The shutter uses lighter weight carbon-fiber blades; that plus support for an electronic first curtain (Live View Silent Mode) and a new, spring-mounted mirror mechanism, both intended to reduce vibration and increase speed.

The AF system ratchets up the complexity. Dubbed High Density Reticular AF, it's increased to 61 points, with different configurations depending upon where a point is on the grid. There's a line of 5 crossed diagonal lines in the center, which are sensitive to f2.8; the 21 center lines are paired and sensitive to f5.6 and there are 20 outer points sensitive to f4. The exposure range under which the AF system works has also expanded by 2 stops, one on each end. You can configure the point selection the same as on the 7D. Compulsive microadjusters will now be thrilled that you can profile 2 focal lengths for each zoom lens.

Autoexposure gets an overhaul as well. It uses a new 1000-pixel RGB AE sensor supplemented by a Digic 4 processor that enables all sorts of enhanced capabilities. The sensor is broken down into 252 zones; the camera exploits them all in good light, and in dim light bins them down to 35 zones.

Like Nikon, Canon now uses the AE system to bolster the operation of the AF system. The Intelligent Tracking and Recognition (iTR) option for AI Servo III adds color and face detection (thanks to the Digic 4) to hopefully improve continuous-shooting AF accuracy, if not speed. AI Servo III will also allow you to control tracking sensitivity and acceleration/deceleration.

While the video system doesn't introduce any new frame rates, there are some welcome improvements. Time code! (Free run or rec run.) All-I encoding! (as well as IPB.) It will automatically start a new clip without dropping frames when it hits the 4GB barrier--which you'll need if you use the All-I encoder. A touch ring on the control dial lets you more quietly change shooting settings, and audio levels can now be adjusted while recording. If you connect multiple cameras via Ethernet, you'll be able to sync the internal clocks for time-code accuracy.

The camera retains the same nice viewfinder as the previous models, but updates it with the overlays and readouts that debuted in the 7D. Though it sports a new, higher capacity battery, the older batteries will still work in the camera--the old charger won't work with the new battery, however.

Along with the camera, Canon's announcing new versions of its Wireless File Transmitter (WFT-E6A) and GPS add-on (GP-E1). The WFT adds support for 802.11n and is dust-and-weather resistant; so's the GPS device, which adds an electronic compass to log directionality in addition to coordinates.

Those are only the highlights. There are tons of other changes to look forward to, both in the feature set and the interface.

There's always a downside, though. I could see some sports shooters potentially annoyed by the decision to drop the APS-H format; after all, lens purchase and usage decisions have been made around the 1.3x crop factor, which means you're forced to shoot at an effectively shorter focal length (full-frame) or an effectively longer focal length but lower resolution in a crop mode. (I'm not sure if there's a 1.3x-equivalent shooting mode.) Plus, upgrading to the new AF/AE system is probably going to cost you about $1,800 more than you expected.

Then, of course, there are likely the commercial photographers who don't necessarily want the faster burst or the fancy AF system, but would have liked a higher-resolution full-frame sensor with some AF/AE and design improvements. But you may luck out with the next 5D iteration. Whenever that comes.

One thing that doesn't surprise me is the long gap between announcement and shipping. After the 1DM4 autofocus brouhaha, I suspect Canon is giving itself some time to seed units with its potential audience and get the bugs worked out before releasing it to the masses. After all, you don't want angry sports photojournalists tweeting that your AF failed during the Summer Olympics.

 

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