Canon EOS 1D X review

The news is out and I wont bother retyping all the specs as I am sure you read them already. Instead, I would like to go over some of the points to see what this announcement really means for both photographer and videographers.

As a photographer

Canon EOS 1D X
Canon EOS 1D X

Nothing surprising here: improved ISO, shutter speed, less noise, more and faster focus points Spock would not be impressed. They call it the best camera Canon ever made, of course! It is their latest flagship product! Did you really expect them to step backward?

Actually, they did in some regard: the pixel count is going down in the name of bigger pixels. It is interesting to see Canon following the approach Nikon did with the D3. Problem is: Nikon came out later with a 24mp sensor which offered an even better sensor. So it is possible to get high ISO, low noise, high dynamic range while keeping a high pixel count.

Now the stupid feature: in camera HDR! The guy who had the idea to put this in the camera should be fired! I don’t know a single person who shoots HDR who would accept that a computer does all the composition automatically. There is one exception to this: if the end product is a RAW image, but from what I understand it is going to be a compressed JPEG.

As a videographer

Instead of taking another leap forward, the 1Dx is more of a refinement. While a lot of wedding and sport videographers will complain about the lack of [email protected], anyone who really cares about image quality will be happy about the moire and jello effect improvements.

The addition of time code and edit friendly compression formats are nice but not quite what people would have expected. Especially since the newest version of Premiere and FCPX can edit native H.264 now. Why didn’t they get their inspiration from what is done with Magic Lantern? There is a reason why most non Canon sponsored filmmakers use it!

I have not been able to find anything about the video out capabilities but I would be highly surprised if it was a clean HD feed while recording. But hey, we can always hope!

Will history repeat itself?

The 1Ds MrkIII will be remembered as the camera which, while providing some decent incremental gain, did not gain a lot of traction because it was quickly made obsolete by its (cheaper) alternative: the 5DMrkII.

Will it be the case with the ESO 1D X vs the 5DMrkIII? A lot of people were expecting more significant improvements in the video department from a pro level camera, especially since the 5DMrkIII is expected any time soon.

This put us in an interesting situation: Canon has to make the 5DMrkIII significantly better than the MrkII version while keeping it under the ESO 1D-X. I have a few theories about this but I will leave them for an upcoming post.

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do … I’m not professional photographer and I don’t need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better …

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  • It’s a beautiful camera with stunning specification which might finally be what a lot of professional photographers have been hoping Canon would produce. To have a camera that can cover weddings, sports and wildlife is a great thing. I’ve had to use a mixture of the 1DmkIII and 5DmkII bodies to get the coverage that I needed meaning everything was doubled up, bodies, batteries, chargers etc.

    The specifications are yummy…. I can’t wait to hear 14fps firing off (OK only 12 if using AF), the 10 of the mkIII already sounds great, so this should be amazing! Also, to play with the higher ISO settings could make a huge world of difference in certain church wedding situations as well as sports when the light is getting low. I’m just waiting to see the real life shots and if ISO 6,400 and 12,800 is really usable for large prints this will really be a winning camera. It will also mean emptying my pockets and getting a couple :)

    Sure, sports/wildlife shooters have lost the 1.3x crop, but that’s nothing major to most people considering this sort of investment as you just put on longer glass. Nikon shooters have been doing so for a long time and the results have been stunning.

  • Is it in-camera HDR? The specs say “multiple exposure”; in other words, take more than one image in a frame. From the press release: “The camera can combine up to nine individual images into a single composite image” There’s a difference between HDR and compositing.

    I know some Nikon cameras for some time have been able to take more than one exposure in a frame (there’s a famous portrait of Steve Martin taken by Joe McNally). So I thought Canon was adding this feature. It doesn’t sound like in-camera HDR to me. Wouldn’t it have said so if that was the case?

    • admin

      maybe my interpretation is bad, we will see, but my first reaction was HDR without tonemaping.

  • Hugo de Payns

    Hi there,

    I am a bit surprised that you are surprised… this is a pro DSLR for mainly press and travel journalists. This is not a gadget and new super features thing. The prize and the look, the whole concept is not for everyday Joe. The lower pixel count is not a problem but is acutally addresses the needs of those who it is designed for, and lets be honest, for most uses it is more than enough. The higher pixel count will certainly come and Canon will blow most of the things out of the water. Just as the 1D was for press and 1Ds for Studio mainly, they will come back with a replacement for high pixel junkies. And who says, that it cannot be named 1Dsx or what ever, who really cares what it will be called. It will take care of the higher pixel needs of the market.
    But back to the 1DX: This is not a camera for everyone and for every use.
    So, just by looking at the specs, there is no room for disappointment, but only excitement what Canon has in stock for the other areas of photography/videography. And I am very sure that they have some nice surprises.

  • May

    My impression is that a higher megapixel 1D series camera is probably in the pipeline and the 1Dx is pretty much a to be deemed a 1D Mark IV upgrade, albeit a groundbreaking all purpose camera.

    True, there are pro’s and cons when comparing from both 1D and 1Ds. But hey, the 1Dx indicates we a have a new line of camera here. Not something we should really complain about.

    Fingers crossed this multi-exposure feature can spit out an editable composite file.
    Such as a 32bit TIFF? Maybe not, but I can’t see that it would be a RAW composite, because my understanding is that RAW files are essentially generated from only a single sensor reading.

    We’ll see…

    • admin

      From what I understand, the 1D-X will replace both 1D and 1Ds, so yes, some people will complain about the pixel count if they can’t get enough pixel to work with. Of course Canon mitigate this by saying that the image quality is so good that you can blow up the picture to huge size for printing. But this is not the point, most people (like me) who need high mp count sensor dont need them for printing but for processing the image: the more pixel you have to work with, the better result you will get.

      I am sure this is a great camera, I am just wondering where they will fit the 5DMrkIII given the 1D-X specs.

  • May

    Thinking about it further, Harry’s interpretation is probably correct. The Multiple Exposure capability, will probably be much like a Multiple Exposure function on a film SLR. Meaning the film/sensor is exposed multiple times for one shot. So yeah, in that sense, there’s no reason that a RAW composite could not be made.
    Whether or not it allows for HDR effects, it will be a really cool feature for getting creative in all manner of ways.

  • As a press release service and press distribution website (, we work with and see all types of images, cameras and bodies. As far as images within a press release, the 18mp of the new Canon 1D X are much more than enough. In fact, if one requires more than 18mp (which is perfectly capable of printing up to 48″, perhaps they should be looking for a medium format type device. Nice to also see the improved 400,000 cycle shutter, and an improvement on blackout. Hopefully, time to deliver will actually be end of March! Lets keep our fingers crossed. I know our journalists will love this camera. Great combination of speed, autofocus and decent enough megapixel for print. Lets see what the real world tests return though.

  • Bengt Nyman

    A little more about the 1DX multiple Exposure:
    “It’s possible to combine up to nine separate exposures into a single composite image, in-camera. Four compositing methods are available: Additive, Average, Bright, and Dark, and the results can be reviewed on the LCD monitor. If you’re not happy with the results of the most recent exposure, there’s a helpful single-step Undo function. In addition, it’s possible to use an existing raw image as the foundation for a multiple exposure stack.”
    The options Additive and Average appear pretty self explanatory. As far as Bright and Dark your interpretation is probably as good as mine.

  • May

    @Bengt – I imagine Bright and Dark will likely be similar to the Layer function in Photoshop, each respective exposure will accentuate either the lighter or darker areas.

  • Bengt Nyman

    I suppose we will get a more specific description in one of the coming reviews.

  • Bengt Nyman

    Hello May,
    You may already have figured this out but your expression”accentuate” does not tell the story:
    Let’s take a typical problem exposure: An abandoned brewery interior with the copper fermentation tank in perfect exposure, the clouds above the missing roof are washed out and the sign on the floor in front of the tank is in dark and noisy shade.
    Now choose ME Bright and re-shoot the scene for proper exposure of the wispy clouds in the sky.
    Then choose ME Dark and re-shoot the scene again for desired exposure of the sign on the floor; “Coors since 1873” in faded Kodacolor. The in-camera firmware now stitches together a perfect compound exposure of the entire scene. You can review the result after each exposure and delete the last one if you don’t like it. You can accumulate up to nine exposures in the same image.
    No, this is not conventional HDR, it’s better than HDR, because you can still create separate images for later HDR. But I doubt that you ever will with this capability right in the camera.

  • yourt

    Mmhh… a site named “canonon5dtips” and what I would almost call flaming-hate blog article?
    being admin of such a site, you could have read all about the different multi-exposure settings and their link tot CS layers. in stead of bashing it as worthless HDR. As for the pixelcount, I understand your thinking… but then again: Canon has its 5D with a higher high ISO pixelcount. What strikes me most is the fact that you consider the new AF as being a small advance, HELLO? If this bugger works, with its separate processing power, 100.000 RGB sensor, loads of cross points, it will be amazing. Not to mention people are complaining about the lame AF on previous 1D’s and even on 5D, 7D, 50D,… compared to Nikons AF where you can combine spot exposure and AF point.
    As for filming (I’m not into that): I thought the rush was on Canons 5DII, so I think they have something here. They should however have looked at what Magic Lanteren does. No prob, ML will probably follow up on the newborn FF’s (1Dx and 5DIII). Or maybe – another surprise – the launch a 9D crop camera. I’d like to see a 5DIII 8fps, 61 point AF, 24MP or so. With simple multi-exposure possibilities.

  • admin

    @yourt I based my opinion on the info available. We will have to see the implementation to know what the multi-exposure really does.

    I did not say the new AF to be a small improvement, I consider it to be an expected improvement. And seriously, this is just an incremental improvement if you compare it to the Hasselblad True Focus. The 1D are supposed to be bleeding edge technology while most of this camera features and (good) incremental improvements.

    I am sure some people will say the new ridiculously high ISO is ground breaking, well, Canon is known to exaggerate the ISO value of its camera so until we can compare it to the 3Dx, I will refrain from commenting.

    Finally, regarding your ‘dream’ camera, it will never come out simply for the reason that it is too close in spec to the 1D.

    I never said the 1D-X was a bad camera. I am sure it is awesome, it just lack ground breaking new features that a lot of people where expecting (ex: full & clean HDMI out).

    As soon as it is out (or maybe even before? ;-) ), I will test drive one and repport on it.

  • Bengt Nyman

    It is probably appropriate that an admin takes a low profile in second-guessing and pre-criticizing a new product. Especially on a brand name site.
    I do worry about whether the advertised 1DX ISO range is exaggerated or realistic. However the facts that Canon is keeping the 1DX pixel count to a very realistic number and that they have added six times the noise processing power speaks for a large step forward in quieting the images. Be it two or three full stops better than the 5DII it will be very useful and very welcome!
    I would like to see as much of that as possible in my new 5D bodies.

    Any prejudice against multiple exposures is probably based on exaggerated HDR images produced in the interest of exploring its limits. A tasteful application of selective multiple exposures can be nothing but a great tool to augment great photography.

  • yourt

    @admin: point taken; Reminds me of the Iphone 4s welcome. Concerning upper edge technology: in MF, Phase one does an excellent job, but for even twice and more the money you throw in you get horrible AF, limited ISO,… (talking about Mamiya/Phase one/Leaf). Not familiar with the Hassie, but those things seem to keep on serving another market.. Focus and recompose programming, not exactly the AF that would keep track @10fps in a racetrack driveby. Aimed on modelling, glamour, fashion, landscape,…. let’s say “posed and composed”.

    As for a new 5D… forget I wished for a 24 MP.: I’ll go for the old sensor, but then I want full 61 AF, digic 5s and the rest… ;-P.

  • JanL

    As an HDR photographer myself, I do agree with you that processing HDR inside a camera by presets arent really something pro HDR shooters would use a lot. However, after testing new 5Dmk3 now for a week, I have to say that HDR mode can be helpful for those wanting to have quick HDR pictures of objects like real estate or nature in challenging lightning conditions. 

    However, I do believe that Canon should have differiate the HDR modes more by enabling more powerful effect on those presets that really want to offer more unrealistic picture feeling. Now it seems that there isnt a lot of difference between three art modes and the only real difference is when shot with Emboss mode, but this in my mind is truly something I wouldnt use ever.

    There is a point anyway behind this feature. Its quick to use at site, no after editing needed and it can actually process quite nice pictures if you dont expect to have those animation like high saturation HDR effects but more or less use realistic bracketed exposures as way to get more dynamic range in difficult conditions.

    At least this is the case with 5Dmk3 and dont know what 1Dx has, but it would be unlikely that it would differ at all. Ive already suggested that it would be fantastic if Canon or third parties could come up with downloadable HDR presets with different effects, but this might be too much to ask.

    • Good point Jan, absolutely agree with you.