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Canon 1DX Mark II Review – Amazing New 4k DSLR EOS Camera

by on May 8, 2016
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Overview

The EOS-1D X Mark II is Canon’s latest flagship DSLR. It comes from a tradition of high level, professional grade performance and continues that trend. In fact, the 1D X Mark II boast the title of the world's fastest DSLR, shooting at an insane 14 frames per second with full tracking autofocus and auto exposure for every frame. The camera is also capable of running at 16fps in live view when both focus and exposure are locked. For professionals who shoot moving targets, like sports and action, the 1D X Mark II will make your job a whole lot easier.

The 1D X Mark II certainly isn’t a dynamic hybrid camera capable capturing both professional level stills and video. It may be one of the best DSLRs you can buy for professional photography, but it leaves a lot to be desired in the video department. Just like the 1D X, the 1D X Mark II still lacks focus peaking and zebra warnings. Both of these features are included in Canon’s Cinema EOS cameras, which are aimed at professional film makers.

Overall, this camera is serious contender for the top spot in still image quality, but if you need a camera capable of taking top notch stills and video, I would look elsewhere. However, if you’re sole focus is still photography, this is one of the best DSLRs you can get your hands on. Also, if you’re thinking about upgrading from the 1D X, the 1D X Mark II has plenty of new features to justify the move.

The Good

If you’ve been using the 1D X, you will be very familiar with Canon’s outstanding 61-point AF system. The already excellent module has been updated in the 1D X Mark II. It now provides 24% more vertical coverage and also increases the central AF area by 8%. This update also makes the center AF point sensitive down to -3EV in one shot AF. This will give the 1D X Mark II significantly better low light performance, excellent for wedding and event photographers.

Using a CFast card, the 1D X Mark II can capture almost as many Raw files in a burst as the 1D X could handle with JPEGs. What this means for professional photographers is shooting in RAW will result in almost no performance cost, other than the need for the extra storage. The 1D X Mark II removes one the primary drawbacks of shooting in RAW.

A small, but important feature to some, that the 1D X Mark II also picked up is a headphone jack. This an important element for monitoring sound levels during video recording and was missing in the 1D X.

Mark II (3)

Check the Price of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Digital SLR Camera Body on Amazon:

4.5 - 3 Reviews

The Bad

As good of a camera as the 1D X Mark II is, it still has it’s share of flaws.

The first issue is with autofocus. On the 1D X Mark II, there is not a quick way to transition between automatically selecting a starting AF point and manually selecting one in continuous AF tracking. To do this, you’re required to dig through the menus to choose this option. Sure, this isn’t a big deal to some photographers, but there are others who will want this ability. It would be great for those who want to manually select their subject by selecting an AF point and initiating focus with it, but then quickly switch to an auto mode to respond to a fast changing environment.

The 1D X Mark II allows you to use Auto ISO in manual exposure mode and lets you you use the exposure compensation to set the target brightness. However, the issue is that the +/- exposure compensation button on the top plate won’t work in manual mode. You’re required instead to customize a different button to set exposure compensation, or take your eye away from the viewfinder and dig through the menu. This doesn’t make any sense when there is a dedicated exposure compensation button available.

There are two card formats supported in the 1D X Mark II, CompactFlash and CFast. This is undoubtedly an attempt by Canon to maintain backwards compatibility but the result is less than desirable. The issue is that CompactFlash and CFast cards are similar in appearance but incompatible when placed in the incorrect slot. The main slot on the 1D X Mark II is for CFast cards and a secondary slot is included for those who still prefer CompactFlash.

The concern is that the two could easily be confused during the high pressure situations the 1D X II will undoubtedly be used in. It seems the chances of jamming a card into the wrong slot on the camera, or card reader for that matter, are higher than necessary.

While the biggest update to the 1D X II’s video capabilities is the addition of 4K, Canon made some interesting choices in this department. 4K footage can only be captured using the Motion JPEG format at a wider than the standard 16:9 DCI 4K aspect ratio (4096 x 2160 pixels). Both choices are odd. The more common All-I H.264 compression would have been more efficient and the 16:9 ratio is usually preferred for most applications.

Many professionals will raise an eyebrow at these oddities, but Canon’s thought process makes a bit of since when considering the 1D X Mark II includes the ability to grab 8.8MP frames from its 4K files. This makes the choice to save every frame as an individual JPEG more sensical, but it does indicate Canon’s focus on still images compared to video with this camera.

Furthermore, the 1D X Mark II can only output 1080 video over HDMI, further evidence that Canon doesn't expect, or want, it to replace one of its more video-centric models.

Final Thoughts

For 1D X users, the improved autofocus, CFast card addition and some other tricks covered below make the 1D X Mark II worth the upgrade. All in all, the 1D X Mark II is one of the best professional DSLRs on the market. The impressive high speed autofocus make it ideal for photographers capturing motion, and the CFast addition makes shooting in RAW more fluid than ever.

While not aimed at professional cinematographers, the 4K footage produced by the 1D X Mark II is still high quality and a nice upgrade over the 1D X as well.

Specs
  • Sensor Type/Size: CMOS, 36 x 24 mm
  • Lens Mount: Canon EF
  • Camera Format: Full-Frame (1.0x Crop Factor)
  • Pixels: Actual 21.5 Megapixel, Effective 20.2 Megapixel
  • Max Resolution: 5472 x 3648
  • Aspect Ratio: 3:2
  • Memory Card Type: CFast, CompactFlash
  • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100-51200 (Extended Mode: 50-409600)
  • Shutter:
    • Type: Electronic & Mechanical
    • Speed: 30 - 1/8000 second,  Bulb Mode
    • Continuous Shooting: Up to 16 fps
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3"/158.0 x 167.6 x 82.6 mm
  • Weight: 3.37lb / 1530g CIPA, with battery and memory card

Mark II (2)

Accessories
Canon WFT-E8A Wireless File Transmitter

Another item that could have been included in “The Bad” section is that the 1D X Mark II doesn’t feature internal Wi-Fi. A strange choice in this day and age, but you can pick up the WFT-E8A Wireless File Transmitter designed by Canon specifically for the 1D X Mark II.

This transmitter makes it easy to set up wireless transfers with the camera, and the transmitter supports 802.11a for fast and secure connections over a LAN network using both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz signals. Canon knows its customers better than I do and perhaps Wi-Fi isn’t used as frequently as I would assume, but the need to purchase a separate accessory just to have Wi-Fi capability on a professional grade DSLR seems strange.

SanDisk - 128GB Extreme PRO CFast 2.0 Memory Card

A memory card is obviously required for the 1D X Mark II and the benefits of using a CFast over the traditional CompactFlash are worth it, especially if you shoot in RAW. With data read speeds of up to 515 MB/s and write speeds of up to 440 MB/s the Extreme PRO CFast from SanDisk is one of the best choices.

The Extreme PRO is capable of capturing RAW images in blazing burst mode on the 1D X Mark II. Additionally, the enhanced transfer rates are nice for offloading files to your computer.

Lenses

Canon knows a thing or two about producing quality lenses. It’s no surprise that some of the company’s own are the best choice for the 1D X Mark II.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens

This redesigned EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens is exceptional for optical performance for a professional standard zoom lens. The lens features one Super UD element and two UD elements which minimize chromatic aberrations in the periphery at wide-angle and also reduce color blurring around the edges of the subject. An optimized lens coatings also helps produce fantastic color balance and minimizes ghosting.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens is one of the most acclaimed lenses in the Canon EF line. It improves on the previous model with superior performance, increased speed and optical quality. This lens is constructed using one fluorite and five ultra-low dispersion optical elements which result in exceptional sharpness and reduced aberrations. The lens also features an ultrasonic focusing motor which delivers fast, smooth and silent autofocus action, ideal for use with the 1D X Mark II.

Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens

The EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM Lens from Canon lens is a wide-angle prime lens that delivers crisp, sharp imaging and quality performance at every settings. The wide maximum aperture of f/1.4 is ideal for use in low-light environments and is great for creating a shallow depth of field to produce a quality bokeh effect. This new version is a bump over its predecessor due to the addition of two high-precision aspherical elements, which correct aberration including curvature of field and distortion. The new lens elements also features an anti-reflective sub-wavelength coating that helps minimizes ghosting and flaring across the lens surface.

Highlights

OneShot: On the 1D X Mark II, you can set a custom control to switch between AI Servo and AF. This allows you to quickly transition between single and continuous AF, and also between two AF modes commonly used. For example, you can switch between single point AF vs. using all 61 points. This is great for quickly adapting to changing environments.

Shooting through Flickering Lighting:The 1D X Mark II is the first professional camera to implement the ability to shoot through flickering lighting. With this camera, you can shoot at high shutter speeds without getting the sporadic dark and off-color frames common under vapor, fluorescent and some LED lighting. This is ideal for photographers who shoot indoor or night sporting events.

There are only consumer cameras like the Canon 5DS, 7D Mark II and Nikon D500 have this ability. No pro competitors, not even the Nikon D5, can do this today.

In-camera Post-processing:The in-camera Raw post-processing has been significantly improved in the 1D X Mark II. The camera can now apply all the corrections previously performed by Canon's Digital Photo Professional software in-camera as a post-processing option. This allows you for lens-specific distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration and color blur to be corrected internally.

GPS:The 1D X Mark II also has a built-in GPS. If you appreciate having location metadata for you photos, it’s nice that you won’t need to add that information yourself if you’re using the 1D X Mark II.

Backwards Compatibility:As well as offering a similar look and feel as the 1D X, the Mark II offers a good amount of backwards compatibility. One primary example is that the Mark II features a new battery, but it still supports the LP-E4 batteries used in the 1D X. This is a nice touch if you are upgrading to the 1D X Mark II from its predecessor.

However, keep in mind that the two batteries have different functionalities. Reverting to the older battery packs will limit the maximum continuous shooting rate back to the 12/14fps rate offered by the original 1D X, rather than the increased 14/16fps rates the Mark II is capable of. The new battery also has an increased capacity.

Mark II (4)

Overall Performance

Most of the story with the 1D X Mark II revolves around the improved autofocus. The 1D X was already top-notch in this regard and the 1D X Mark II pushes even further.

A unique autofocus feature is being able to have your AF points constantly illuminated. Your selected AF point is conveniently separated by red-lit square brackets, and the other AF points are indicated by red dots. You can select between two brightness levels to control how bright the red points appear.

The metering sensor on the 1D X II also received a major performance boost and now features a resolution of 360,000 RGB+IR pixels. This makes it the highest resolution metering sensor I’ve seen, and it should result in highly accurate metering. The sensor also enables the camera's unique anti-flicker shooting feature, covered below in the “Highlights” section.

But again, the high resolution metering sensor circles back to the camera’s autofocus system. The new sensor allows for massive improvements to the AF system by finding faces and recognizing objects, which then in turn tells the AF system what points to use to follow them. Canon calls this iTR although its more commonly referred to as subject tracking.

Pricing

The Canon 1D X Mark II is available for a suggested retail price of $5,999, but for a limit of time if you order the camera from B&H.com, they will include a 64GB CFast 2.0 card and Reader for no additional charge.

Check the Price of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Digital SLR Camera Body on Amazon:

4.5 - 3 Reviews

Positives
  • Outstanding 61-point AF System
  • Blazing Fast Raw Shooting in Burst Mode
  • Can Shoot Through Flickering Lighting
  • Solid In-camera Post-processing Capabilities
  • Good Backwards Compatibility Options
  • Exceptional Metering Sensor
Negatives
  • No Internal Wi-Fi
  • 4K Footage Limited to Motion JPEG Format
  • Confusing CFast/CompactFlash Card System
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Bottom Line
 

The 1D X Mark II is a solid upgrade for 1D X users. You will immediately appreciate the improved autofocus system and CFast enables incredible RAW shooting speeds. The 1D X Mark II will be an easy transition for prior Canon DSLR users, and is one of the best DSLRs on the market for any professional photographer.

The only major drawback is the limited 4K video options. But if you are planning to use your next DSLR for professional 4K film making, 1D X Mark II is an excellent choice.

Check the Price of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Digital SLR Camera Body on Amazon:

4.5 - 3 Reviews

 
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