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Canon EOS 1D X Digital Camera Review

canon20121004aa.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Keith Parsons  


March 2012 saw the much anticipated arrival of Canons flagship professional DSLR the Canon 1D X, a move perfectly timed for the London 2012 Olympic games. The 85 Associated Press photographers covering the Olympics were armed with the brand new 1D Xs. They were also backed up by 50 remote controlled 1D Xs placed in unique positions such as underwater to ensure all angles were covered. Some incredible imagery emerged from the Olympics and it would be safe to say you have already seen plenty of images shot on the 1D X.


Scrapping the previously used 1DS (Studio) and APSH streams the range has come together with an incredibly specced full frame workhorse of a DSLR in the 1D X. Whilst the camera looks largely the same as previous 1 series bodies, its features such as a completely new 61 point AF system and 3 image processors are what propel this camera into another level altogether.


Appearance & Functionality

The camera body itself is rather large and this is due to the bigger battery (LPE-4N) and battery grip design found in 1 series cameras. Though to be honest the size of the body is refreshing especially if you have recently been using a number of smaller bodied cameras. You can really get a feel for the camera and the ergonomic design feels both natural and comfortable. Add to this the ability to flip the body straight into a portrait position and you really have a camera featuring some practical design principles.

As a pro body the 1D X has to adhere to some rough shooting conditions. During testing we were subject to Melbourne’s notoriously unpredictable weather. The camera got drenched, although the body is sealed to prevent major water leakage and all of the buttons have visible rubber sealing resulting in us feeling perfectly at ease in the wet.

canon20121004ab.jpgThe layout of the cameras buttons may seem overwhelming at first although there is a fair expectation if you are purchasing a 1D X it is likely not your first DSLR. You will find that if you grip the camera with two hands that the majority of the buttons can be reached without a lot of movement. This will likely speed up as time goes by. The main differences between regular bodies and the 1D X body is the obviously present battery grip. When you switch into the portrait position you will note the separate AF, shutter speed and shutter release controls, furthering the speed at which you can operate the camera.

Shooting is available in Manual, TV, AV, P, Pc1 and Bulb modes and each is accessed with ease by using the mode button found on the top of the camera. Exposure metering has also been improved on the 1D X with a DIGIC 4 processor dedicated solely to metering. A first for Canon and indeed the industry. We found that the metering was incredibly responsive and accurate beyond anything witnessed before and this is testament to the concept of a stand alone processor designed for metering.

An impressive feature of the 1D X is its continuous shooting capabilities. With the support of its dual DIGIC 5 processors, 16 channel CMOS sensor and redesigned mirror system you are able to shoot 14 fps at full Jpeg and an astounding 12 fps in RAW! Though many cameras have claimed to be able to shoot fast speeds very few actually do due to a lack of sensor power and fewer still come close in the RAW department.

Another highlight of the 1D X comes in the form of its redesigned AF system that features a new separate menu designated for customisation. The 61 point AF system is certainly the most sophisticated AF system Canon have released with more options than most would ever dream of needing. The low light and low contrast sensitivity of the AF system is remarkable and a clear step ahead of its competitors. Though the real winner is the superb AF tracking capabilities all of which can be manually customised based on tracking sensitivity and the particular subjects acceleration or deceleration.

canon20121004ac.jpgThere has been quite a lot written about a few of the features found in the 5D Mk 3 that have been omitted from the 1D X. The 5d Mk 3s quick file rating system is not found in the 1D X and press photographers may see this as a slight annoyance, although files can be marked in the playback menu. The other notable omission on the 1D X is the 5D Mk 3s in camera HDR editing. Although I believe Canon have decided here that professional photographers do not use HDR effects often enough to warrant clogging the cameras menus. They may also be making a statement that quick hit HDR toning is a dying fad that is better left to more subtle usage in controlled post processing.

Alongside the release of the 1D X Canon have announced some specific accessories with the WFT-E6 wireless file transmitter and GP-E1 GPS receiver. The wireless transmitter allows for the transfer of images via a LAN network. However if the wireless option does not suit there is also a cabled LAN output on the 1D X body. The GPS receiver follows the trend in smaller cameras that now record movement, longitude, latitude and elevation although the WFT-E6 also records direction the camera is facing when each images is taken, even when pointed vertically.

Battery technology has long been known to trail advances in camera technology although the 1DX features its smaller LP E 4N battery that will last for a whole day shoot (Reduced with substantial video usage). The 1DX also arrives with the double charging dock, allowing for simultaneous battery charging with a second battery (not included). The final item of note is the addition of dual CF card slots rather than the previously used 1CF 1SD option. This will allow professional shooters to shoot high volumes of both video and stills without really needing to change CF cards for days.


Image Quality

The Canon 1D X utilises a 18.1 megapixel CMOS sensor that in full RAW will give you a file at 5184x3456px. Whilst the Nikon D800 beats the 1DX on resolution I begin to wonder when enough resolution is enough! Especially as the rule tends to be the more megapixels the harder the noise is to control. Files are incredibly detailed and sharp on the 1D X and are among some of the best quality digital files I've had the pleasure to lay eyes upon. White balance is spot on and with Canons trusted picture style settings Jpeg files look great right off the camera.

canon20121004ad.jpgPeople often wonder why a Canon 1D X series full frame is priced so much higher than the much lauded and affordable 5D mk3 series and what the key differences are. Well speaking in image quality terms the main difference lies in the size and sharpness of the cameras pixels. Whilst both sensors are identically sized the 1D X has a pixel micron size 1.25 microns larger than the 1D markIV and .55 microns larger than the 5D mk3. This may not seem significant but make no mistake when coupled with the cameras dual DIGIC 5 processors this has drastic effects on the cameras ability to produce quality files that drastically reduce signal to noise ratio.

We shot some test images around 25,000 ISO hand held in the dead of night and found that noise was often hardly visible! The ability of the camera to be pushed right up to its ISO expansion setting around 200,000 ISO will allow you to photograph moving subjects with minimal light, though it must be said once you push into the expansion ISO level some serious colour shifts occur. It cannot be stated enough just how good the 1D Xs sensor really is.


View sample street test images Set #1 on our Facebook page. 



The 1D X features the same LCD screen as the 5D mk3 although this is by no means a negative aspect. The LCD has been updated from the 1D mkIV and 5D mk2 to now feature  1,040,000 dot resolution across its 3.2 inches. As expected the LCD can be adjusted for brightness although as with most LCD screens suffers a little under harsh sunlight.

The cameras viewfinder provides 100% scene coverage as every decent viewfinder should. The accompanying eyepiece feels rather comfortable and I would imagine would go some way in reducing fatigue when shooting for days on end.



The announcement of Canons C series professional large sensor video camera range had many people thinking the life of DSLR video is perhaps stalling. Although many reviewers have since been praising the 1D Xs incredible video sharpness especially against the 5D mk3 and it would appear DSLR video is long from dead.

Almost many of the gripes associated with early DSLR video have been rectified with the 1D X. This includes a number of audio monitoring options and the inclusion of two compression settings with the ultra low compression All-I option or the standard IPB. The 1D X is also the first Canon DSLR that has the option of file splitting, which allows video recording up to 29 minutes across multiple files. The only thing that would have set an incredible benchmark would have been the inclusion of 1080p 60fps shooting although this would obviously negate the C series somewhat.








It must be said that when paying upwards of $7000 for a camera body you are making a serious investment although I doubt there would be anybody out there who bought this camera and didn’t feel like they had spent their money wisely. This is a professional top of the range workhorse stills and video camera and it delivers on performance in every aspect.

The upgraded sensor is an absolute beauty, the ISO performance is incredible, the AF is perhaps revolutionary and the build quality is exquisite and I really cannot recommend the 1D X highly enough as a professional level camera.




Accessories Used During Testing:

Tamrac Evolution 8 / 5788l Bag 

SanDisk Extreme Pro 90MB/s CF Card


Recommended Retailer:

View / Buy The Canon EOS 1D X Now  


Appearance rating 5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
5 stars
Video quality
4.5 stars
Lens quality
LCD screen (Rear)
4.5 stars
Value for money 4 stars
Street Price - Body Only $3,999.95
Effective Pixels 18.1 Megapixels
Sensor Type
CMOS 36 x 24 mm sensor
Image Sizes 5 Sizes / 1 Aspect Ratio
Lens -
Lens Mount
Resolution Settings: Stills JPEG: (L) 5184x3456, (M1) 4608x3072, (M2) 3456x2304, (S1) 2592x1728,
RAW: (RAW) 5184x3456 (M-RAW) 3888x2592, (S-RAW)2592x1728
Resolution Settings: Video 1920 x 1080 (29.97, 25, 23.976 fps) intra or inter frame
1280 x 720 (59.94, 50 fps) intra or inter frame
640 x 480 (30, 25 fps) inter frame
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds Shutter Speed: 1/8000 sec – 30 Sec, bulb, sync speed 1/200 sec.
Shutter Release: 59ms shutter-release time lag
Shutter durability: Approx. 150,000 cycles 
ISO Auto (100-51200), 100-51200 (in 1/3-stop or whole stop increments)
ISO can be expanded to L: 50, H1 102400, H2 204800
LCD Monitor 8.11cm (3.2") Clear View II TFT, approx. 1040K dots
Coverage: Approx. 100%
Viewing Angle (Horizontally/Vertically):  Approx. 170°    
Coating: Anti-reflection and Solid Structure    
Brightness Adjustment: Adjustable to one of seven levels
Viewfinder Type: Pentaprism   
Coverage (Vertical/Horizontal): Approx. 100%   
Magnification: Approx. 0.76x¹   
Eyepoint: Approx. 20mm (from eyepiece lens centre)   
Dioptre Correction: '-3 to +1 m-1 (dioptre)   
Focusing Screen: Interchangeable (12 types, optional). Standard Focusing Screen Ec-CV   
Mirror: Quick-return half mirror (Transmission: reflection ratio of 40:60, no mirror cut-off with EF600mm f/4 or shorter)
Flash No
Hot Shoe Yes
White Balance Type: Auto white balance with the imaging sensor    
Settings: AWB, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, White
Fluorescent light, Flash, Custom, Colour Temperature Setting.
White balance compensation:
1. Blue/Amber +/-9
2. Magenta/ Green +/-9.    
Custom White Balance     Yes, 5 setting can be registered   
WB Bracketing: '+/-3 levels in single level increments
3 bracketed images per shutter release
Selectable Blue/Amber bias or Magenta/ Green bias
Self Timer 2s + remote, 10s + remote
Stills Format/s
JPEG: 10 compression options (Exif 2.3 compliant) / Design rule for Camera File system (2.0),
RAW: RAW, sRAW (14bit, Canon original RAW 2nd edition),
Digital Print Order Format [DPOF] Version 1.1 compliant
Video Format/s MOV (Video: H.264 Intra frame / inter frame, Sound: Linear PCM)
Video Recording Time/s -
Storage Type - External 2x CompactFlash Type I/II (incompatible with Microdrive) (UDMA 7 compatible)
Storage Type - Internal
Connectivity Hi-Speed USB, video output (PAL/ NTSC) (integrated with USB terminal), HDMI mini output (HDMI-CEC compatible), Extension system terminal (for WFT-E6/GP-E1), External microphone (Stereo mini jack), RJ-45(gigabyte ethernet)
Power Source AC Adapter Kit ACK-E4, Battery charger LC-E4N, Car Battery charger cable CG-570 (use with LC-E4)
Battery Options Rechargeable Li-ion Battery LP-E4N (supplied), 1xCR2025 for date & settings
Battery Life Approx 860 Shots
Dimensions 158mm (W) x 163.6mm (H) x 82.7mm
Weight 1340g
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