GIVEN THE EOS-1D X MARK II ALSO replaces the EOS-1D C, it has some heavy-duty video capabilities, although it’s still a bit hard to see it being preferred to the EOS 5D Mark IV for videography unless the extra durability is needed. And this could well be the reason why -1D C isn’t continuing as a stand-alone line… especially as Canon also offers the hugely capable dedicated Cinema EOS models.
As it happens, the -1D X II was actually Canon’s first D-SLR to offer 4K video recording followed by the 5D IV, although the latter ended up in many reviewers’ hands before it. And, unlike the 5D IV, it can record the Cinema 4K resolution of 4096x2160 pixels at the higher frame rate of 50 fps which represents a massive bit rate of 800 Mbps. There’s also the choice of 25 or 24 fps speeds, both delivering a healthy 500 Mbps. Like the 5D IV, the 4K frame direct 1:1 crop from the middle of the sensor so there’s no scaling involved (eliminating related artefacts), but there is a focal length magnification factor of just over 1.6x… i.e. close to ‘APS-C’ (but Canon’s EF-S lenses can’t be used on this body).
DCI 4K video is recorded in the MOV format with Motion JPEG compression which is easier to handle in postproduction, but means very big files and the need for speed hence Canon recommends using a CFast 2.0 memory card (actually it’s essential at 50 fps). Likewise for shooting Full HD video at 100 fps (we’re just quoting the PAL speeds here, but the NTSC frame rates are also available) for quarter-speed slow-motion footage which obviously has applications when shooting sports action. Full HD footage at the standard frame rates can be recorded with the choice of ALL-I intraframe compression or the less space hungry IPB interframe regime. There’s also the option of using the MP4 format for Web-based applications. There’s no 4.0 GB file size limitation so the theoretical maximum clip length is 29 minutes and 59 seconds at the standard speeds, and just under seven-and-a-half minutes for the slow-mo clips. As with the EOS 5D IV, the HDMI connector only delivers a 2K output (8-bit 4:2:2 colour) while the camera records 4K internally, but not the other way around. Canon offers a ‘4K Frame Grab’ function which delivers an 8.8 megapixels still from the 4K footage, effectively giving you 50 fps continuous shooting, but there isn’t the same scope to exploit this as Panasonic provides with its ‘4K Photo’ modes.
The built-in microphone is mono – presumably on the basis that nobody is likely to use an internal mic for serious shooting – and there’s both a stereo input for connecting an external mic and an output for monitoring headphones. Audio levels can be manually adjusted and both a wind-cut filter and an attenuator are provided.
Most of the processing functions for still photography are also available for video recording, including the ‘Picture Style’ presets, the ‘Auto Lighting Optimiser’ dynamic range expansion and ‘Highlight Tone Priority’. Exposures can be preset via any of the ‘PASM’ control modes and the Auto ISO range is 100-12,800 for 4K shooting, 100-25,600 for 2K. Neither the ISO 50 nor 409,600 extensions are available.
Continuous autofocusing is via the ‘Movie Servo AF’ mode with the options of face detection and subject tracking. Furthermore, the tracking speed and sensitivity can be adjusted as per still photography and the ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ is impressively fast… especially in concert with the later ‘STM’ (stepping motor) lenses. Convenient focus pulling can be performed via the touchscreen, but again unlike the 5D IV, no other adjustments – although a ‘Quick Control’ screen can be configured to allow for faster on-the-fly adjustments to key settings. Manual focus assist is via a magnified image (either 5x or 10x), but there isn’t a focus peaking display or, for that matter, any zebra patterns. No flat picture profile or timelapse recording either. These are quite serious omissions as far as the pro video-maker is concerned and given that both Panasonic and Sony offer superior mirrorless packages, Canon’s big gun will struggle to compete. What’s more of a pity is that the still photographer who’s drawn to EOS-1D X Mark II’s considerable capabilities as a still camera – especially in the areas of sports and news gathering – will find it less competent if they then want it to work as a video camera.
one each for the horizontal and vertical grips – which are used for manual selection of the focusing point and various navigational duties.
The menu system is the same tidied-up version that has been in use since EOS 7D Mark II with, primarily, a more manageable custom menu, although the -1D X II still has a total of 35 functions packed in there. Curiously, although touchscreen controls are provided, they’re only available in live view so, for example, navigating the menus is still done conventionally via a combination of the input wheels and the multi-controller. Canon is sticking doggedly with a non-scrollable arrangement which means if you want to progress from one page to the next, you have to use another control. It’s also necessary to first press the ‘Set’ button in order to bring up sub-menus and settings rather than the more conventional right-click.
Unlike with the 5D IV, touch operations also aren’t available with the ‘Quick Control’ screen. Perhaps Canon thinks users of the EOS-1D X II are likely to be more conservative, but again it’s a feature which would seem tailor-made for this camera given it promotes more efficient control in the heat of battle. On the plus side, the ‘Quick Control’ screen is customisable so it only needs to include what’s really needed… but navigation is conventionally via the front input wheel. Incidentally, a total of 11 external controls are customisable.
The monitor itself is fixed – to preserve structural integrity – and is an 8.1 cm TFT LCD panel with a resolution of 1.62 megadots. It’s adjustable for brightness, but unlike on the 5D IV, not for colour balance. In addition to the ‘Quick Control’ screen, it can be set to show camera settings (in various configurations) or an ‘artificial horizon’ dual-axis level indicator.
The live view screen can be configured to include a real-time histogram (for either brightness or RGB channels), the grid patterns, level indicators, a set of status indicators, or just the image alone. The review/replay screens include a highlight alert, basic capture info or a thumbnail image with either a luminance histogram or the RGB histograms. The playback modes include pages of four, nine, 36 or 100 thumbnails, zooming up to 10x and a slide show function with adjustable image display times plus a repeat function. No touchscreen controls here either.
Speed And Performance
Loaded with a SanDisk Extreme PRO 128 GB CFast 2.0 memory card, the EOS-1D X Mark II is capable of delivering its maximum speed capabilities and is indeed impressive. A sequence of 202 JPEG/large/fine files was all over in 14.288 seconds – and sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before – giving a shooting speed of 14.13 fps… and this is actually with continuous AF/AE adjustment.
The typical file size in this test sequence was 6.0 MB. It’s fast, but it’s noisy too, given how much the mirror is belting up and down in that time so what about the silent continuous shooting option? Well, it isn’t completely silent, but it’s much, much quieter and here the camera is still reasonably quick too – a sequence of 122 best-quality JPEGs captured in 24.464 seconds giving a shooting speed of 4.98 fps… a couple of full-35mm D-SLRs aren’t much quicker overall without trying to keep the noise down. Incidentally, the live view shooting isn’t all that quiet either because the focal plane shutter is still rattling away at up to 16 fps.
As with the Nikon D5, autofocusing is the EOS-1D X Mark II’s party trick and it’s incredibly responsive, fast and unerringly accurate. It doesn’t need much of a contrast edge to lock onto a subject and there’s plenty of scope for adjusting the selectivity. The tracking is very reliable, even with erratically moving subjects and the low-light sensitivity is exceptional. That you can shoot at 14 fps with continuous AF is also remarkable, and Canon has added further practicality via a decent-sized buffer memory… because at this speed it doesn’t take long to generate a substantial amount of data. Our test sequence of 202 bestquality JPEG represented 1.2 GB and the camera will shoot longer… actually up to around 300 before slowing down. Better still, the ‘strike rate’ of sharply focused frames is very high. And it’s also worth noting here that excellent AF performance continues when shooting
in live view. You can’t help thinking that the ‘Dual Pixel CMOS AF’ technology has set Canon up nicely for the big move into high-end mirrorless.
There’s no question the various sensor sizes have a resolution ‘sweet spot’ – around 16 megapixels for Micro Four Thirds, 20 MP for ‘APS-C’ and around 35 MP for full-35mm – but 20 MP also works just as well on the bigger sensor arguably giving a better balance of sharpness, sensitivity, dynamic range and noise levels. The higher signal-tonoise ratio delivered by the bigger pixels gives the -1D X II a significant boost in terms of its high ISO performance – another big plus for sports shooters who still need fast shutter speeds and lots of depth-of-field even in low-light situations – so even at ISO 6400, images still exhibit plenty of definition and detailing with great colour saturation and contrast. You can push on to ISO 12,800 or 25,600 and still get very useable files, especially for magazine work or online usage. At the lower ISOs, best-quality JPEGs look very crisp with a wide dynamic range and excellent colour fidelity across the spectrum. And it helps here that the new 360k pixels RGB metering system is also very reliable in any lighting conditions. Of course, the ‘Creative Style’ presets allow for the tweaking of sharpness, colour and contrast.
Importantly too, JPEG performance isn’t the ‘poor cousin’ here because Canon understands that high- volume shooters don’t often use RAW… especially if images are being transmitted directly from the camera.
The –ID X II’s JPEG performance is superlative, but RAW capture goes a step further in terms of dynamic range, high ISO performance and noise levels… which can all be further exploited when there’s time for post-production.
In today’s market, the EOS-1D X Mark II is much more of a specialised camera with high-speed photography applications clearly its forte, but here it is without peer. Everything works cohesively to this end. It’s a pity the touchscreen implementation is so limited given the efficiencies it could bring to in-the-field operations, and this is really now more about conservatism in the design department rather than in the marketplace. That said, the conventional control ergonomics are pretty good and the customisation options allow for the camera to be configured for rapid adjustments and confirmation.
AF performance, continuous frame rates, buffer size and high ISO image quality all combine to give the -1D X II awesome capabilities as a sports/ action camera with all the ruggedness needed to deal with the demands of shooting in often challenging situations. It’s the D-SLR equivalent of putting an F1 racing engine in a Land Rover Defender. There’s also no getting away from its size and weight (or cost, for that matter), but given it’s likely to spend a lot of time on the end of a big telephoto lens, this is probably less of an issue for its target audience than for others. For the time being. It’s hard not to see mirrorless eventually making more sense here, but right now the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II represents the ultimate in pro-level D-SLR design.
... autofocusing is the EOS1D X Mark II’s party trick and it’s incredibly responsive, fast and unerringly accurate. It doesn’t need much of a contrast edge to lock onto a subject...
The EOS-1D X Mark II is much more of a specialised camera with highspeed photography applications clearly its forte.