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Canon EOS-1D X review: Canon EOS-1D X

Designed for sports and demanding professional photographers, the Canon EOS-1D X is an excellent SLR that will not disappoint.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
Expertise Wearables, smartwatches, mobile phones, photography, health tech, assistive robotics Credentials
  • Webby Award honoree, 2x Gold Telly Award winner
Lexy Savvides
8 min read

The 1D X has taken its time to reach production, first being announced in October 2011. As cameras finally hit store shelves for professionals around the world, much of the fanfare has been subdued by releases like the Nikon D4, which hit the market first.


Canon EOS-1D X

The Good

Excellent low-light capabilities. Vertical grip configuration is comfortable and effective. Quick, effective autofocus. Incredible burst shooting speeds. Weatherproof body.

The Bad

Two hands required to change shooting mode. Wi-Fi connectivity requires a separate module. No USB 3.0 interface. No headphone monitoring.

The Bottom Line

Designed for sports and demanding professional photographers, the Canon EOS 1D X is an excellent SLR which will not disappoint.

Canon has chosen to replace the full-frame 1Ds Mark III and APS-H 1D Mark IV with a single camera, the 18-megapixel full-frame 1D X, which uses dial Digic V processors.

Make no mistake, this camera is an extreme photographic machine for professionals. If the ridiculous continuous frame rate doesn't give that away, then the price tag certainly will.

Design and features

Befitting a camera of its class and stature, the 1D X is dust- and splash-proof, coming with a rugged fit and finish to ensure a robust user experience. It's made of magnesium alloy, which is sturdy and will stand up to the tough conditions a sports and professional SLR lives through, with weatherproofing to seal the deal.

The camera has two main grips, one for regular landscape shooting and the other, a close replica for portrait shooting. Grips ensure that the body sits firmly in the hand, with buttons and dials all within easy reach. Access to AF-ON, exposure lock and shutter buttons are available in both shooting configurations. Even though the 1D X is a beast of a camera, the ergonomic feel doesn't make it seem all that cumbersome.

The rear of the camera houses a 3.2-inch, 1.04-million dot LCD screen, which is bright and easy to see in daylight situations as it offers a 170-degree viewing angle. Like other Canon high-end models, a control wheel with a Set button at its centre gives access to menu options and shooting controls.

Dual CompactFlash slots are hidden under a locking door at the back. The slots offer four functionalities for shooting: single card recording; overflow control; separate recording of different sized images to each card; redundancy recording (or RAW and JPEG on either card).

The 1D X has a ridiculous native ISO range of 100-51,200, that promises a lot when it comes to low-light performance. Fortunately, the firmware update, which was released in October 2012, makes the AF points far more visible when shooting in dim situations. Without the firmware update, the points are black (rather than the regular glowing red).

Anyone familiar with the 5D Mark III will feel right at home on the 1D X, as the menu systems and options are pretty much the same. Dual joysticks provide a tactile, firm response when moved. One usability quirk is the fact that you have to use two hands to adjust shooting modes between PASM; one to press the mode button and the other to turn a dial. The viewfinder is big, bright and efficient, offering 100 per cent coverage.

Canon offers a top and rear LED panel for displaying and adjusting shooting options. Also, within the menus, Canon has provided an actuation (shutter) counter, so you don't need to take it for a service to get this figure.

The 1D X is compatible with a wireless transmitter and GPS unit, though unfortunately, we were not supplied with one for review. Also on the connectivity front, expect a 3.5mm microphone jack, HDMI, remote port and also an Ethernet jack. The 1D X does miss out on a headphone jack for monitoring audio during and after recording.


In this section, we'll discuss the use of the wired LAN functionality of the 1D X. Unfortunately, we were not supplied with a wireless adapter, so we cannot comment on its performance. However, functionality should be similar.

The 1D X gives you access to four main functions when connected via Ethernet: FTP transfer; download and tethering through EOS Utility; WFT Server for download and tethering through a web browser; and viewing images on a DLNA TV using the camera as a media server.

EOS Utility gives you a number of different connectivity options once the Ethernet link has been established.
(Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CBSi)

Like the Nikon D4, the Canon 1D X doesn't have a DHCP server built-in, so for automatic configuration that's plug-and-play, you will need to plug the camera into an intermediary device, such as a router with a DHCP server. Otherwise, you need to set a static IP address on both the camera and the computer manually.

Once the Ethernet link to your PC has been established, the 1D X keeps the connection alive.
(Credit: CBSi)

Once the camera has been configured and can be seen by the computer, the EOS Utility can access the camera in a number of ways, to pull down images or to tether. The tethering option works exactly the same as when the camera is connected via USB, allowing access to exposure control, a preview image and fine-tuning autofocus. When we tested the tethering functionality using Live View, it was efficient and very quick, with only a very small amount of latency noticeable.

Using Live View and the 1D X tethered over Ethernet.
(Screenshot by Lexxy Savvides/CBSi)

Compared to

Nikon D4 Canon EOS-1D X
16.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor 18.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
3.2-inch, 920,000-dot LCD 3.2-inch, 1,040,000-dot LCD
51-area AF (15 cross-type) 61-area AF (41 cross-type)
Full HD video (1080p) Full HD video (1080p)
Ethernet connectivity, Wi-Fi (with optional adapter) Ethernet connectivity, Wi-Fi (with optional adapter)
One CF, one XQD card slot Dual CF card slots


General shooting metrics (in FPS)

  • Start-up to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
    Canon EOS 1D X
    Nikon D4

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed

  • 12
    Canon EOS 1D X
  • 10
    Nikon D4
  • (Longer bars indicate better performance)

The 61-point AF system performs incredibly well in a range of shooting situations. All the focusing controls are found on a dedicated page in the camera's menu system and are similar to the options provided on the 5D Mark III. Users get the choice between six cases for AF situations, from a multi-purpose scenario, through to specific settings for fast-moving subjects. When it comes to tracking fast-moving subjects, like kids and skateboarders, the 1D X is in a class of its own.

In One Shot mode, the 1D X locks on to subjects and focuses accurately almost every single time. There were very few situations where the camera didn't find the correct focus on standalone shots, and when it didn't, it was really just down to user error. AI Servo performance was a little different, accurate around 95 per cent of the time on our moving subjects. Given the extreme burst rate of the 1D X, you will definitely get the shot you desire, even if not every single frame is focused tack sharp.

Unlike the near-silent shooting mode on the 5D Mark III, the 1D X's quiet shooting mode is still rather audible.

Continuous shooting on the 1D X is tailored for sports and action photographers. Its 12fps burst rate is simply unmatched, and when shooting in full resolution JPEG, the camera doesn't skip a beat — it just keeps taking as many shots as your card can handle. When shooting a burst of RAW, Canon quotes a maximum of 38 frames before slowing down. The 1D X can hit 14fps, though this is without autofocus and with the mirror locked.

With a 600x CF card, we just missed this mark, getting to 30 frames before the camera would pause to clear the buffer. It then takes approximately 15 seconds to clear this burst, though you are free to take more shots during this time. We're sure that with an even speedier CF card, we could have easily hit Canon's target.

Canon rates the battery at 1120 shots, and the shutter for 400,000 cycles.

Image quality

As to be expected from Canon's premium SLR, image quality is excellent. The 1D X produces beautiful, smooth looking images at its lower ISO levels, with the cleanest results (as expected) up to and including ISO 800.

At ISO 3200 there is really the first indication of any sort of noise from the 1D X when shooting JPEG images. In conjunction with the two lenses we were provided for evaluation purposes, the 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.2 L, the 1D X produced excellent results in the majority of shooting situations.

Like to shoot in low-light? The 1D X laps it up. Exposure: 1/1000, f/1.4, ISO 6400.
(Credit: CBSi)

Colours are vibrant, not over-saturated and appear consistent with results from other Canon cameras, such as the 5D Mark III. Dynamic range is very good, though just eked out overall by the Nikon D4 from our tests. RAW files produce plenty of usable detail to get the best out of each exposure, but when it comes to low-light/high ISO shooting, the 1D X holds its own in its JPEG files as well. Noise control in the 1D X is simply excellent. Even at the highest native ISO reach of 51,200, images are still perfectly usable, and with a touch of noise reduction in post, incredibly good.

Shots taken at the highest native ISO level of 51,200 look excellent. Even the noise appears film-like, with very little colour shifts (100 per cent crop inset).
(Credit: CBSi)

White balance is very good under outdoor and indoor lighting, with only a very slight orange colour cast in fluorescent situations. Any casts are easily corrected in post-processing, and we found that it was pretty rare to have to adjust temperature or white balance in post. Having not tested the 1D Mark IV, we were unable to compare image quality between the two cameras to provide a closer comparison.

Video quality

The 1D X offers a number of different resolutions and formats for video shooting, the same as the 5D Mark III. 1080p recording is available at 24 or 25fps (All-I or IPB), 720p at 50fps (All-I or IPB) or VGA resolution at 25fps (IPB).

Video shooting is a little different on the 1D X than from other Canon SLRs. First, movie shooting needs to be activated for use in Live View from within the menu system. Then, expanded focus works in a similar way to the 5D Mark III, with the zoom button located underneath the screen, and magnification performed using the control dial. To start and stop recording, the M-Fn button just next to the shutter button takes the place of the regular Set button.

The full ISO range is available for video recording, and so too is manual exposure. Audio and exposure settings can be tweaked during recording using the silent control pad inside the rear dial.

The 1D X produces very nice looking video, as to be expected given its pedigree and the lineage from the 5D range. The images are sharp (though to some extent, this will also depend on the quality of the glass in front of the sensor) and there is only a small degree of rolling shutter visible.

Canon 1D X street test from CNET Australia on Vimeo.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/1600, f/2.8, ISO 1600

Exposure: 1/100, f/3.5, ISO 400

Exposure: 1/640, f/2.2, ISO 400

Exposure: 1/80, f/1.4, ISO 400

(Credit: CBSi)


Designed for sports and demanding professional photographers, the Canon EOS-1D X is an excellent SLR that will not disappoint users who expect the most from their equipment. The only obvious omission for anyone looking to shoot professional-grade video on this SLR is the lack of headphone monitoring — a real shame, as it had appeared on the 5D Mark III.