It’s here – my thoughts on the new Canon 1DX MkII

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Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet


For the past week or so I’ve been lucky to get a chance to shoot Canon’s new flagship camera – the EOS 1DX MKII.

As many of you know, I used the previous version of this camera extensively on the AIR project in conjunction with the Canon 5Ds.     I came to call the 1DX the “king of the night” for it’s incredible low light performance.   It seems Canon has continued to push the envelope with this camera in that area and added quite a few significant features.

The big question these days with any camera it seems is:   is this a still camera or a video camera – given the wild moves towards motion that the industry has taken over the last several years.

I’d say the 1DX MKII lives comfortably in both worlds right now.

First, with 14 frames a second and C-Fast 2.0 cards, this thing is a monster in terms of still camera capabilities.   As you’ll see on this sequence of surfer Tom Dosland wiping out and falling from the lip of a 40-foot-wave at JAWS in Maui, this camera produces quite a sequence of frames on peak action.

Frankly you almost feel like you’re shooting a film with a mechanical camera at this point – and good luck trying to fill the buffer with the new speedy cards.   In this case I was using the Sandisk 128GB Sandisk C-Fast 2.0 cards which were literally hot to the touch when I ejected them from the camera.

This sequence was shot with the Canon 800mm 5.6 and the AF didn’t miss a lick.   My only regret is not having shot a little looser on what were what some describe as the waves of the decade at JAWS.

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo sequence by Vincent Laforet


I shot two days at Jaws and nearly 8,000 frames (I was trying to demonstrate the sequence potential of the camera for Canon so I shot unusually heavily) and of the approximately 9 hours of shooting, the AF only veered off momentarily for one sequence out of nearly a hundred.   Quite impressive.

Here are a couple of additional images I shot of a diver off of South Point on the Big Island yesterday.   The resolving power of this camera is incredible (looks like a groundbreaking sensor)  and quite visible on the face of the rocks…




Other than the built-in GPS functionality which allows you to track your path, and of course to collect GPS data while you shoot and embed them in each still frame, the biggest surprise were 3 new video functionalities.

First, the camera has built in AF with face recognition for video and a touch screen display.   And it works pretty solidly.   Although surfing isn’t quite a torture test for an AF system (although it does have to be quite precise) I can’t recall a single sequence where it failed me.   It just worked…

The comes the 4K video which results in nearly crystal clear video on an Apple MacBook Retina display.   I’d love to see a Canon Log feature added to this camera at some point, as the dynamic range of the video is quite impressive.   I’m not going to claim that it rivals that of RAW format high end cinema cameras, but for an SLR it’s quite excellent.

The two big surprises for me were that the camera shoots 60 fps at 4K (around an APS-H sensor focal length equivalent for 4K), and 120 fps at 1080p.     And that’s a significant bump in frame rates – notably for a DSLR.


I expect to come back and post some video samples from Hawaii and JAWS in the coming week, but the clips are so large that I’m going to have to wait to get back to the mainland and faster internet speeds to upload them at this point.

Overall I’m extremely impressed with this camera.     It’s as with all Canon 1D series bodies built like a tank and ready to be exposed to almost any series of conditions you throw it at.

The AF performance, the frame rate both still and in motion are quite impressive.   And the GPS, touch screen AF, live view and customizability of functions are welcome additions to what was already the very definition of a “workhorse.”

And lastly a nice surprise was the battery performance.   As is often the case with prototypes, I was only able to get one battery.   With live view, constant AF on a 200-400mm, and a combination of still + mostly video shooting on the second day, the camera was able to last nearly 4 hours of use (with period shut downs to conserve battery.)   That’s impressive.   As a still camera I think it’s safe to assume this camera would survive heavy use for an entire day if not more – but I haven’t been able to do a formal “scientific” test.

Lastly – with the high ISO performance come exceptional results in the “middle” ISO area.   During daytime and normal levels of sunlight, I found myself shooting a 800-1250 ISO and 1/4000th of a frame and f/8 on the 800mm f5.6.   This is the first camera to let you shoot past f 5.6 with all AF sensors from Canon and achieve excellent AF results – but most importantly the quality of the frames at that high ISO is exceptional: they look no different to my eye to what I would have expected at 200 ISO just a few years back.

Incredibly impressive low light performance too – here’s a 50mm f1.2 at 1.6 with a  10 second exposure at 6400 ISO –  shot at 12,500 feet elevation!




Below is detailed list of specs for the new Canon 1Dx MKII camera:



  • 20.2MP CMOS Sensor
  • Dual pixel CMOS AF in Live View
  • Dual DIGIC6 + processor
  • ISO100-51200 (extendable to ISO range 50 to 409,600)
  • Continuous shooting 14 frames / sec.
  • Live View mode at 16 frames / sec – high-speed continuous shooting new mirror drive system to allow the (at 16 frames / sec.)
  • Continuous shooting possible number is 170 frames in RAW and Unlimited in JPEG
  • 61-point AF system, which range is expanded. 41-point cross-type
  • AF is -3EV correspondence
  • AI AF accuracy and motion tracking was improved Servo AF III + – 360000 dot metering sensor.
  • Video at 4K up to 60fps.
  • Full HD (1080p) up to 120fps.
  • 4K video can be recorded to internal CFast2.0 Media
  • Movie Servo AF – LCD monitor 3.2 inches, 1.62 million dot. Touch panel for AF point for video shooting.
  • Camera digital lens Optimizer (DLO).
  • Lens aberration correction.
  • Diffraction correction
  • CFast2.0 and Compact Flash dual card slot
  • GPS built-in – 2-axis electronic level
  • USB3.0 terminal, HDMI terminal
  • Size of 158mm x 167.6mm x 82.6 mm
  • Weight 1340g