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Canon goes for a personal best with new action-photo flagship

The EOS-1D Mark II offers 4K video, 14fps continuous shooting and a new autofocus system.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
6 min read

There are very few differences between the 1D X and the 1D X M2 bodies. Among them are the upgrade to USB 3.0 and the addition of a headphone jack, as well as a more modern Live View control.


Working action photographers with a heavy investment in Canon equipment should get ready to start their engines -- search engines that is, as you begin the research to determine whether it's worth the cost of upgrading to the next generation of the company's EOS-1D pro camera. With Canon's first full-frame dual-pixel CMOS and the company's first 4K-video implementation outside its Cinema EOS models, the EOS-1D X Mark II looks like a combination of the four-year-old 1D X and the more recent 1D C, with some important enhancements. It retains the exact same body control design and layout, with some minor changes, but everything else has been updated.

When it ships in April, the camera will cost $6,000 for the body or $6,300 for a kit with a 64 GB CFast memory card and card reader. Those directly convert to roughly £4,160/£4,360 and AU$8,450/AU$8,880. From a price perspective, at least in the US that puts it in line with the last-generation Nikon D4s ($6,000, approx. £4,000, AU$7,000) rather than the newer D5 ($6500, £5,200, AU$9,000), though that $500 difference doesn't amount to much if you're planning on making the huge switch from one system to another.

Shop for Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (body only)

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What's new

  • Sensor and image processing. The 1DXM2 debuts with the company's first full-frame dual-pixel CMOS implementation, using a 20-megapixel version of the sensor. The camera jumps from dual Digic 5+ to dual Digic 6+ image processors, which helps eke out another stop of sensitivity in its expanded range, up to ISO 409600. There's been no increase in the camera's standard sensitivity range, though the update to the newer image processor probably delivers better noise reduction in its core range. Canon also claims that the predictive tracking autofocus has been tweaked for improved accuracy, and the company has added its software lens-correction technology (Digital Lens Optimizer) for in-camera processing.
  • Autofocus and metering. The dual-pixel CMOS has on-chip phase-detection for autofocus, making this a completely different AF system from the earlier model, adding a stop more AF sensitivity at the center in low light. The new system allows for better highlighting of AF points in the viewfinder, so you can set it up to behave more like the consumer dSLRs. Canon has increased the spread of the AF points to cover 24 percent more area on the top and bottom of the frame and 8 percent on the sides. And all of them are user-selectable for focusing and available for focusing up to f8 (rather than just the center points). It also uses a new version of Canon's RGB+IR metering system with a 360,000-pixel sensor.
  • Hardware features. One of the camera's dual-card slots has been updated to CFast-standard CompactFlash, and Canon has increased the throughput speed its Ethernet port to 330 megabits per second. It now includes a built-in GPS, a long-awaited feature. While it can use the older battery, Canon has also designed a higher capacity battery for the camera. No built-in wireless, however there's a new optional dual-band wireless transmitter, the WFT-E8A. Other hardware changes include a full USB 3.0 connector and the addition of a headphone jack.
  • Performance. Continuous shooting now maxes out at 14fps, 16fps in Live View; since the camera lacks an electronic shutter, silent shooting drops it to 5fps. Hitting the maximum number of frames -- 120 raw, 81 raw+JPEG and unlimited JPEG -- does require using the new battery and a CFast card.
  • Video. The one place in which Canon sort of leapfrogs Nikon is with the addition of DCI 4K recording (4,096 x 2,160). Nikon only does UHD (3,840x2,160), and Canon has a 120fps HD mode for slow motion (also its first implementation of high frame-rate HD) while Nikon tops out at 1080/60p. However, because Nikon records UHD, it supports 4K HDMI out, while Canon can only output clean HDMI for HD. The 1DXM2 incorporates a touchscreen, but that's only to provide touch autofocus while shooting video. The camera also introduces in-camera 4K frame grab, for pulling 8MP stills from the video.

My take

It looks like there's enough here to entice speed-first 1D X users or folks with older Canon models who've been waiting to upgrade. But the move to the dual-pixel CMOS seems a little disappointing from a photo quality and sensitivity perspective, as is the limited bright-light autofocus sensitivity. Additionally, while of course the autofocus system works with any EF lens, the dual-pixel CMOS technology is optimized for smooth Live View/video autofocus with Canon's stepper-motor series of lenses (denoted STM). But there are stilll no pro-level -- fast, full-featured and weather sealed -- STM lenses, and there's only a single full-frame option, the 24-105mm f3.5-5.6. Plus, I wonder at the camera's inability to record UHD 4K, which is usually a useful addition; I bet it shows up in a firmware update down the line.

Comparative specs

Canon EOS-1D X Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Nikon D5
Sensor effective resolution 18.1MP CMOS
20MP Dual-Pixel CMOS
Sensor size 36 mm x 24mm 36 mm x 24mm 36 x 24mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF Yes Yes Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 50 (exp)/100 - ISO 51200/203800 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 51200/ISO 409600 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 102,400/ISO 3,280,000 (exp)
Burst shooting 12fps
unlimted JPEG/38 raw
(14fps in Live View)
unlimited JPEG/170 raw
(16fps in Live View)
200 raw
(14fps with exposure and focus fixed on the first frame, mirror locked)
(mag/ effective mag)
100% coverage
100% coverage
100% coverage
Hot Shoe Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus 61-pt High Density Reticular AF
21 center diagonal to f5.6
5 center to f2.8
20 outer to f4
61-pt phase detection
21 cross-type at f5.6
20 cross-type at f4 and f5.6
20 horizontal at f5.6
5 dual cross-type at f2.8 and f5.6
61 to f8; 21 cross-type
99 cross-type
(15 cross-type to f8)
Multi-CAM 20K
AF sensitivity
(at center point)
n/a -3 - 18 EV -4 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync (1/8,000 sec x-sync with FP shutter)
Shutter durability 400,000 cycles 400,000 cycles 400,000 cycles
Metering 100,000-pixel RGB with 252 zones 360,000-pixel RGB+IR with 216 zones 180,000-pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering III
Metering sensitivity 0 - 20 EV 0 - 20 EV -3 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 QuickTime MOV
1080/30p, 25p, 24p; 720/60p, 50p
QuickTime MOV: Motion JPEG
DCI 4K (4,096 x 2,160) 2160/60p @ 800Mbps, 30p, 25p, 24p; H.264 1080/120p
H.264 QuickTime MOV 4K UHD/30p, 25p, 24p
Audio mono; mic input mono; mic input; headphone jack stereo; mic input; headphone jack
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 29m59s n/a 3 minutes
Clean HDMI out No Yes (HD) Yes
IS Optical Optical Optical
LCD 3.2 in/8.1 cm
1.04m dots
3.2 in/8.1 cm
Fixed limited-use touchscreen
1.62m dots
3.2 in/8 cm
Fixed touchscreen (playback only)
2.4 million dots
Memory slots 2 x CF (UDMA mode 7) 1 x CF (UDMA mode 7), 1 x CFast (2.0) 2 x XQD or 2 x CF
Wireless connection Optional
(Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E6A)
(Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E8A or WFT-E6A)
(via WT-6A or WT-5A adapter)
Flash No No No
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 1,120 shots
(2,450 mAh)
1,210 (VF), 260 (LV)
(2,700 mAh)
3,780 shots
(2,500 mAh)
Size (WHD) 6.2 x 6.4 x 3.3 in
158 x 164 x 83 mm
6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3 in
158 x 168 x 83 mm
6.3 x 6.3 x 3.7 in
160 x 159 x 92 mm
Body operating weight 54 oz (est.)
1,530 g (est.)
54 oz (est.)
1,530 g (est.)
50 oz (est.)
1,405 g (est., with XQD cards); 1,415 g (est., with CF cards)
Mfr. price (body only) $4,600
£4,200 (est.)
$6,000 $6500
Release date March 2012 April 2016 March 2016