Last night Canon unveiled its much anticipated top-of-the-line DSLR, the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II. Packing very powerful features aimed at sports and wildlife photographers, the Canon 1D X Mark II is a direct competitor to the recently announced Nikon D5 DSLR. Canon developed a brand new 20.2 MP CMOS sensor with Dual Pixel AF technology for improved low-light performance and phase detection focusing in live view mode (via the rear LCD touchscreen), dual DIGIC 6+ processors to provide more throughput for both 4K video and the insane 16 fps continuous frame rate, a revamped 61-point AF system with 41 cross-type sensors, a brand new 360k-pixel RGB+IR metering system, built-in GPS capability and a rugged, fully weather-sealed magnesium alloy body. Without a doubt, this will be one powerful speed demon, the best of the breed in the Canon world. And with its MSRP of $5,999, it is $500 less than what Nikon is asking for its flagship D5. Let’s take a look at the Canon 1D X II in more detail.
Canon 1D X Mark II Overview
While not much has changed on the outside (aside from the flash hotshoe area that now houses a GPS), Canon has made quite a few modifications to the Canon 1D X Mark II when compared to its predecessor. First of all, the sensor got a slight resolution increase, going from 18.1 MP to 20.2 MP. Not a huge increase, but still helpful to have for getting closer to the subject through cropping. While the base ISO sensitivity range stayed at 100-51,200, Canon pushed the boosted ISO maximum by one full stop to 409,600 and promises better overall noise performance. In addition, the sensor on the 1D X II is the first Canon full-frame DSLR that incorporates Dual Pixel AF technology, which basically puts phase detection AF capability right on the sensor, as some of the mirrorless cameras do, to provide very accurate focus capabilities. Sadly, while this sounds like a great idea, the implementation of it seems to be half-baked, since it does absolutely nothing for normal shooting – it only works in live view mode. Still, incorporating phase detection pixels on the sensor is better than not doing it at all in my opinion, because the feature would work for single shooting in live view mode and for tracking subjects when recording videos:
Speaking of videos, the Canon 1D X Mark II does a much better job than the Nikon D5 does, because it features 4K video recording up to 60 frames per second and the recording limit is basically the size of the memory card, whereas the Nikon D5 is limited to puny 3 minutes of 4K video shooting. At the same time, Canon still wanted to protect its high-end cinema video cameras and limited the 4K video recording capability to 8-bit video recording and only 1080p output via HDMI. No C-Log profile, no zebra, no neutral settings for videographers, making the 1D X Mark II quite a stripped down tool for professional video needs. Sadly, 4K video is also taken pixel-to-pixel from the sensor, which means that there is no down-sampling advantage involved – the 4K footage will be cropped, just like it is on the D5. Interestingly, the 1D X II has a touchscreen LCD now too for live view AF…
Where Canon really goofed up with the 1D X II in my opinion, is the memory card slots. While Nikon is heavily pushing the very fast XQD memory, putting dual XQD memory slots on the D5 (with the dual CF alternative), Canon decided to go with one CFast 2.0 slot and one CompactFlash slot. It is already clear that CF is the old technology worth phasing away – the future is with CFast and XQD, so leaving one old CF slot is pointless in my opinion. Either way, the future 1D X iteration will have dual CFast slots and we know that, so why bother including something that people need to move away from? The CF slot is very limiting on the 1D X II – not only does it limit the buffer of the camera, but it also limits the 4K video recording capabilities.
In terms of autofocus system, while the 1D X Mark II still has a 61-point AF system as on the 1D X / 5D Mark III / 5DS/R, the AF system has gotten some improvements. The coverage of the AF points is now larger – the vertical coverage in the center area is expanded by 8%, while the horizontal coverage is expanded by 24%, as seen below:
In addition, AF points can focus at f/8, so you can expect all 61 AF focus points to work with lenses coupled with teleconverters. When shooting in One Shot AF mode, the center focus point is sensitive down to -3 EV. While that’s not as good as what the Nikon D5 can do (-4 EV in the center focus point), it is still better than the -2 EV sensitivity of its predecessor. Lastly, Canon is finally giving the proper AF point illumination on the 1D X Mark II, which means that the focus point can continue to stay lit in red color when focusing.
The 1D X Mark II breaks the world record for being the fastest shooting DSLR in history, thanks to its insane shooting speed of up to 16 fps. While normal shooting with AF engaged is limited to 14 fps and you can only achieve 16 fps with AF locked, that’s still 2 fps faster than what the Nikon D5 offers. The trick with the fast speed lies in the battery though – the old LP-E4N battery limits shooting to 12 / 14 fps, so you will need to use the newly developed LP-E19 battery that provides not only more fps juice, but also approximately 10% more capacity.
The metering system on the 1D X Mark II also got a big boost. While the original 1 DX featured a 100,000-pixel RGB metering sensor, the new 1D X Mark II has a 360,000-pixel RGB metering sensor to provide more accurate metering and better subject and face tracking when shooting in live view mode.
I also love the fact that Canon included a built-in GPS. While it might not be a super useful feature for sports shooters, it is a very welcome addition for wildlife and landscape photographers. Not that the 1D X Mark II is the optimal tool for landscape photography needs, but I hope Canon starts including this important feature on all future DSLRs, including the upcoming 5D Mark IV. I wish Nikon did the same on its DSLRs!
Here is a first look video presented by our friends at B&H Photo Video:
Overall, the Canon 1D X Mark II looks like one heck of a camera for Canon shooters. I will write a separate article comparing the 1D X Mark II features to the Nikon D5, but you can already see that the two have both very strong features to compete against.
Official Press Release
Below is the official Canon press release:
Delivering Precise and Reliable Performance with Versatility for Any Photo or Video Professional
MELVILLE, N.Y., February 1, 2016 – Rising to meet the rigorous and evolving demands of professional photographers and videographers, Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging, is proud to announce the new EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR camera. With a new 20.2 megapixel 35mm Full Frame Canon CMOS sensor and Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors, the EOS-1D X Mark II professional digital camera delivers stunning image quality and speed. Combining the ability to capture high-resolution still images at speeds up to 14 frames per second as well as stunning high-definition video up-to-4K 60P featuring Canon’s proprietary Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus (AF) technology, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II camera becomes the ideal camera for any professional image creator.
The new flagship Canon EOS-1D X Mark II features several firsts for EOS cameras including:
- Newly developed 20.2 megapixel 35mm Full Frame Canon CMOS sensor;
- Continuous shooting speeds of up-to-14 frames per second (fps) with Auto Exposure (AE) and predictive AF for viewfinder shooting and up to 16 fps in Live View mode;
- Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors that transfer image data at extremely high speed for extended bursts during continuous shooting – up-to-170 consecutive RAW images at 14 fps. When shooting JPEG images you’re only limited by memory card capacity
- Capable of shooting 4K 60P and Full HD 120P video with Dual Pixel CMOS AF;
- Enhanced wireless functionality (with the optional accessory Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E8) that supports the new high-speed IEEE 802.11ac standard and the ability to easily transfer photos and videos to compatible smartphones using Canon’s Camera Connect app;
- Digital Lens Optimizer to help correct aberrations in-camera (a feature that previously required post-processing on an external computer);
- Improved 61-point viewfinder AF with expanded coverage and all AF-points selectable and supported to a maximum aperture of f/8;
- Improved AI Servo III+ predictive AF algorithm for better accuracy;
- Continuous red illumination of all AF points within the camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder II.
- Compatibility with both CF and CFast memory cards for optimal performance and versatility.
The Ultimate EOS Camera: Continuing a Legacy of High Speed and Performance
Building on the success of the Canon EOS-1D X professional digital camera, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II camera is designed to deliver high-performance, speed, and image quality, with improved comfort for professional photographers. In addition to the new 20.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors, the new EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR camera includes an improved 61-point High-Density Reticular AF II system with all AF points selectable by the user (and up to 41 cross-type points depending on the lens in use). The improved AF system includes expanded coverage that supports AF at maximum apertures up to f/8 with all 61 points for high precision autofocus even when using EF super-telephoto lenses with an EF extender. The camera also boasts excellent dynamic range and reduced color noise compared to its predecessor throughout its standard ISO speed range of 100 – 51,200. Expansion ISO speeds of 50, 102,400, 204,800 and 409,600 are also available. A first for the Canon EOS-1D series, this camera also features a 360,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor with enhanced precision and performance compared to its predecessor, improving facial recognition and tracking, as well as nature scenes. Additionally, the advanced AE system can detect and compensate for flickering light sources such as sodium vapor lamps that are often used in gymnasiums and swimming pools. When enabled, this anti-flicker system automatically adjusts shutter release timing to help reduce disparities in exposure and color especially during continuous burst shooting.
For filmmakers and photographers looking to do more than still photography alone with a DSLR camera and EF lenses, the EOS-1D X Mark II camera offers high resolution DCI 4K video at frame rates up-to-60p, with smooth movie recording to an in-camera CFast 2.0 memory card. An additional card slot supports standard CF memory cards up to UDMA 7. The built-in headphone jack supports real-time audio monitoring. Two additional EOS ‘firsts’ include 4K Frame Grab and 120p Full HD recording. The camera’s 4K Frame Grab function allows users to isolate a frame from recorded 4K video and create an 8.8 megapixel still JPEG image in-camera. When combined with the EOS-1D X Mark II’s high-sensitivity full-frame CMOS sensor, the new camera’s ability to record Full HD video at frame rates up to 120p will allow videographers to produce high quality slow motion video even in extremely low light. To make video shooting even more intuitive, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II camera’s touch-screen LCD allows videographers to select the camera’s AF point before and during video recording with Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which provides responsive, accurate and quiet camcorder-like video autofocus to DSLRs.
“The innovations within Canon’s new EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR camera clearly set a new standard for professional cameras,” said Yuichi Ishizuka, president and COO, Canon U.S.A., Inc. “In developing the EOS-1D X Mark II camera, we looked to incorporate user-requested performance enhancements to bring professional photographers the ultimate EOS camera, a camera that has matured and been developed to meet their evolving needs.”
“Having f/8 capability on all 61 AF points is a tremendous benefit to wildlife photographers,” noted nature photographer and Canon Explorer of Light Charles Glatzer. “In order to capture tight shots of animals without disturbing them, I frequently have to use very long lenses—sometimes with an extender attached, which further diminishes the aperture. The improved AF allows me to frame the shot exactly the way I envision it, without having to compromise.”
“This camera is a huge step forward,” remarked acclaimed photographer and Canon Explorer of Light Damian Strohmeyer. “Shooting sports in a gym at 8,000 ISO, it looked as good as 800 ISO from a generation or two ago. The images are tack-sharp, and the autofocus just doesn’t miss. I’ve been amazed by what I’ve seen so far.”
“The autofocus was awesome,” agreed Peter Read Miller, sports photographer and Canon Explorer of Light. “The higher frame rate coupled with the speed of the CFast card was a definite advantage. It just never buffered out, even shooting RAW.”
The new EOS-1D X Mark II camera also offers a built-in GPS receiver with compass for precise geo-tagged information of latitude, longitude, elevation and direction. This is especially valuable to wildlife photographers and photojournalists who need to track their locations, as well as providing sports photographers the ability to sync a multiple-camera setup with extreme accuracy and precision. It is also possible to use the camera’s built-in GPS to automatically sync the camera’s time to the atomic clock, an invaluable feature to professionals. An improved grip also makes the camera easier for photographers to hold and maneuver while shooting. In response to feedback from professional EOS users, the AF points in the EOS-1D X Mark II camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder II can be illuminated in red for improved visibility, especially when shooting in dark locations. AF sensitivity in low light has been doubled from EV -2 to EV -3 at the center AF point when the camera is set to One-Shot AF, enabling the camera to autofocus in extremely dark shooting conditions such as a moonlit nightscape. Viewfinder AF coverage has also been increased for greater compositional flexibility.
As with all EOS-1D series cameras, the EOS-1D X Mark II’s rugged construction and magnesium alloy body is weather resistant. The camera also features improved controls and more in-camera image quality enhancements than ever before, including a Digital Lens Optimizer function offering high quality aberration correction which can now be achieved without an external computer. This feature makes it easier for professional photographers to deliver finished files to their clients, especially in situations when access to a personal computer is impractical or inconvenient.
The estimated retail price for the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is $5999 (MSRP) for the body or $6299 for the Premium Kit which includes a 64 GB CFast memory card and card reader. The new camera is scheduled to begin shipping to authorized Canon USA dealers in April 2016. For more information and the full list of product specifications, visit Canon USA
Additional Product Images
Below are additional images of the Canon 1D X Mark II. You can click on each to open a large version: