back to article Hands on with Canon's EOS-1D X full-frame DSLR

Canon’s top-end DSLR range has long been a slightly confusing place. The EOS-5D, both Mark I and II cameras, were self evident – slower, very high-quality stills models for studio photographers on a budget. The high-end, featuring EOS-1D variants was baffling, though. Canon EOS-1D X full-frame DSLR camera Next year's model: …


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  1. hammarbtyp Silver badge


    That is one ugly camera.

    One thought however is choosing auto focus points is one area where a touch screen would make a lot of sense

    1. Some Beggar

      Touch screen controls make no sense when the camera is held against your face. Unless you have a particularly agile tongue.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        re: Unless you have a particularly agile tongue

        that'll make an interesting twist on the model shoots where the scantily clad female model is using a camera as a prop

      2. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        Fair point, but...

        It wasn't clear whether you could set the autofocus points via the viewfinder and even if you can that cannot be an easy process.

        Its just a feeling that any process needing a joystick would be easier with a touchscreen.

        1. Real Ale is Best

          Not a professional, are you?

          With a camera of this size and weight, you will not want to be trying to hold it in one hand framing the shot, while poking a touch screen.

          The controls bulk of the controls are designed to be used with the camera to you face as you look through the viewfinder.

          Those front buttons? Essential to access functions specific to your use of the camera that are not available on other buttons. I have mine set to flash value lock and exposure bracketing.

    2. Volker Hett

      No, a touch screen wouldn't make sense. You keep those cameras to your eye while shooting.

  2. Peter Galbavy

    looks nice but no longing here ... for once

    I've owned a number of Canon DLSRs over the years (since the D30) and I've had my 1DsIII for about 3 1/2 years now and setting aside the absence of video - which is not my thing anyway - I am still very happy. Looking at the new 1DX I am impressed but that sense of longing and "how can I affford it?" isn't there this time. Phew. For professionals - as opposed to just keen amateurs like me - this will be a nice top of the line model and good luck to Canon...

    PS For those who are not pros, remember its all about the lenses in the end.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm not a pro, or am I? Anyway...

      I'd say even before the lenses the thing that matters the most is the grissly sinuey hunk of meat behind the camera, i.e. the photographer themselves, and the only way they will get up to scratch is lots of practice. A cursory glance around Flickr will show amazing pictures created on the most humble of equipment.

      I just wish these **full frame** digital SLRs weren't so huge, admittedly this is something from the film days too (the EOS 3 and EOS 1/n/v weren't exactly small either) -- and this is one reason I still use my Olympus OM2ns all the time, they're small and fit my small hands.

      I know there's micro 4/3rds but there's trade off there too.

      Note to self: Subscribe to the notion that a professional photographer hulks around massive man-cameras with paparazzi zoom lenses :)

      That said, I still use a Minolta Autocord and that's not that small. But it is light!

      Oh well whatever, the most important thing remains the photographer and their vision whether they use a little Canon Ixus or a Nikon D3x

      1. A knight who until recently said "Ni!"

        The size isn't related to the sensor, there were plenty of smaller bodies back int he film days too after all.

        My wish is that the bodies be a bit heavier than they are. It's got nothing to do with "man cameras" or "paparazzi zoom lenses", just that on occasions when I have to shoot wildlife handheld I want 2 things - partly that camera buttons are well spaced enough that I can reliably press ONE without looking for it and mainly to bring the centre of gravity towards my head and away from the very heavy glass my main work demands. The nearer me the centre of gravity is, the lower ISO I can get away with.

        You're right to point out that great images can come from all types of equipment, but not all equipment will last 12 hours a day, 7 days a week in any weather conditions you can throw at it.

    2. Volker Hett

      For me it was the 5D where digital broke even with film. Still have my first one and don't feel a need for the new model. Two of my friends are photojournalists, one paparazzo and one motorsports, and I can borrow all sorts of lenses, flashes and 1d bodies, but for me the old 5d with a f2 35mm is all I want :)

      Add a battered old f3.5-4.5 24-85 in silver (!) which I bought used for the beach some 10 years ago when I had the D60.

      But for my professional friends, the 1D-X will be something they long for, 24x36 sensor with APX speed in one body. Less to pack and faster to change from quality to speed.

    3. Ru


      Also, these days you can just grab yourself a 5D2 and a 7D for less money than a 1D and still have pretty good performance and a backup camera to boot. Unless you're a working photographer who uses their camera every day, the 1D whatevers aren't worth the cash anymore.

      And yes, lenses are where its at. My 'how can I afford it?' thoughts are mostly directed at the 200-400 F4...

  3. MJI Silver badge


    I need a new camera, as my film SLR is about 40 years old and playing up.

    However I have NO IDEA what I would buy, they have confused the focal lengths as they do not use 35mm equivalent sensors.

    Sometimes I think it would be easier to get my camera repaired and stock up on slide film. And just use video camera stills (6.1MP) for digital stills.

    1. John Miles

      re: my film SLR is about 40 year

      have you tried likes of ebay - old film slrs probably won't cost a lot and could work out cheaper than getting one fixed

      but personally I'd say jump to digital - What make? if it is one of the makes where the film lenses work on a DSLR and you have lots of lenses - then it is worth getting.a DSLR that takes the lenses (though the crop moves each lens towards telephoto )

      otherwise look on

      1. MJI Silver badge

        My lenses

        Tamron Adaptamatic so not exactly new.

        My 200mm telephoto though is excellent.

    2. stucs201

      re: MJI

      If the crop factor of digital sensors bothers you that much just make sure you get a 'full frame' model. These *do* use 35mm side sensors. There's a few to choose from, including the one reviewed here...

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Cropped sensors

        So what size are they?

        Won't they make it difficult to use 35mm system lenses?

        1. stucs201

          re: cropped sensor DSLRs

          They're very close to APS-C sized sensors. Canon and Nikon are slightly different to each other, nbut not very much. Nikon has a crop factor of 1.5, Canon's is 1.6. In both cases they can use the same lenses as their film bases ancestors (Nikon going right back to ancient manual lenses, Canon not so far back since they changed mounts when they introduced autofocus). The use of a lens designed for a larger sensor (or piece of film) has two main effects:

          1) The image circle projected by the lens is bigger than it needs to be. This can be a positive since lenses which might have had slight vignetting problems are now bright across the whole i image. On the downside you're possibly carrying more glass than you need to be. Both Canon and Nikon have smaller lighter lenses designed specifically for the smaller sensors at those focal lengths where a saving can be made.

          2) Framing is as if you were using a longer focal length than the real focal length. Multiply the focal length by the crop factor to get the equivalent. So a 50mm prime goes from being your 'normal' lens to a mild telephoto 80ish mm, which makes a nice portrait lens. A 35mm wide angle prime becomes a nice 'normal'. With zooms its not worth worrying so much, zoom till the framing is right, but you'll find lens changes being required at different times than you're used to.

          Alternatively just get a full frame digital.

    3. Paul Docherty

      Why not buy a full-frame DSLR?

      Okay, so the Canon 5D mkII is pretty amazing, but also pretty expensive. So have a play with a second-hand 5D mkI. I bought a great example for £800 last year, with only 3k shutter actuations. Feels just like my EOS 500N film SLR, but with so much more flexibility. And 13 MP is a decent enough resolution.

      No video on the 5D mkI, but I couldn't care less.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Only do it if you want, don't feel you have to

      Digital is good and bad...

      Digital is great as you get to try out ideas in the field but this leads to a blase attitude of "I'll shoot another dozen shots." or worse the " I'll fix it later in post-production."!

      With film you have to understand your kit and hone your skills as you have to have the confidence to know that whats on that reel is right, after 40 years you have those skills.

      I have a mate who swears by film for beginners! He refuses to recommend digital to beginners as he says they will simply start firing off shots, hoping to get it right and always knowing there's another shed loads of shots you can get on the card. You don't have learn how to take photos with digital, stick it on auto and let the computer sort it out. With film you have to understand it much more and take time to learn as every mistake must be learned from as it costs you in time and money.

      I shot film from the age of 5 ( an old Kodak 110 box my Nan gave me! ) until I was about 34. I finally moved over to digital about 5 years ago and I must admit I like the instant feedback digital gives me, it does mean you can be creative in the field but there's something very mechanical and almost divorced. Film is tangible it's the product of a process, the stages of which you control right through the chain. Digital has a bit in the middle where you've made the decision and pressed the shutter and then a software engineer in Japan decided what's best for you, then you get the images home and you have to start correcting those designer's ideas sometimes, LOL!

      If you enjoy film, don't drop it simply because you feel you have to, drop it if you really believe there is a reason. Digital kit is bloody expensive, you want to approach 35mm size you're looking at full-frame and new 5D MkII body starts at £1500, then you're going to need Canon L-series lenses at starting prices of around £1000 each if you want f/2.8.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Thanks everyone

        APS - I remember that monstrosity. I always thought it was a very stupid idea.

        Don't say that APS actually hit SLRs - that beggars belief.

        As to movie mode - happy with HDV

  4. Peter Depledge

    It's nice, but..

    I'll still hang on for the rumoured 5d mk3.

    Oh, and the max iso is 512000 ( well it was on the one I played with).

    And large sensors give you shallower depth of field for your movies.

    @ hammar:

    Cameras are tools, well at this level anyway. looks doesn't really come into it, and a touch screen for focus selection is no good when its against your face.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I went through this about 3 months ago. My beloved wife and part-time financial controller gave the all clear for me to go for a full-frame and I umm'd and arr'd for 3 weeks about whether to get the 1D MkII ( second hand ), the 5D MkII or make do with the 550D I owned and wait for the 5D MkIII to be announced. In the end I just thought seriously about what the MkIII would have, best guess might be a better burst rate, higher ISO and much better quality video mode. None of those bother me in the least. I shoot exclusively landscapes usually with NDs so almost always shooting slower than 1/20, I never shoot higher than ISO 200 ever, and never even used the video mode on a DSLR in 6 years of shooting them.

      In the end I just bought the MkII and it has just blown me away! I've never used a camera that felt so right in every respect. Every camera I have used prior to it has had compromises, you give up something in favour of something else, not with the MkII. It's a dream to use and the quality is just stunning. Best move I made getting the MkII and I am glad I am out and about now with it rather than waiting around for Canon to get their collective finger out and release the new model.

      When I see my hero David Noton shooting a 5D MkII with the same lenses and filters I have, I know there is only one thing that's going to improve my shots, making sure I keep getting out and about, rain or shine and keep practising.

  5. UkForest
    Thumb Up

    Here comes the Bride...

    Brilliant article...

    As a Wedding Photographer I've been waiting for what seems like an age for the updates to the 1D & 5D lines. Now that the 1Dx is here it looks like they've addressed a huge number of areas brilliantly. Just a shame it's not practical for Weddings!

    Lets hope the 5Dx (or whatever they'll call it) gets updated in the same manner.

    Oh, and it's SO good that they've decided to concentrate on ISO performance rather than Megapixel increases...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sometimes it's good to drool

    I look at this camera, which probably has usable ISO 12800 and I'm reminded that with my kit (a two year old Olympus E-30, perhaps the last DSLR I'll own now I've embraced mirror-less), I try to avoid going over 800 and crave faster glass because of that. How the other half live .......

  7. Some Beggar


    I'm a little surprised that they've only gone from 12 to 14fps by removing the whole mirror-flapping re-focusing step between shots. Presumably they've just hit a data bottleneck at that point. In which case we're disturbingly close to leapfrogging 4K video cameras with a DSLR.

  8. Ol'Peculier
    Thumb Up


    The first Canon EOS I used was the original EOS 1 (film back then!)

    Although I've never been a professional photographer, I was able to attend a fair share of premier football league games and rugby matches on a weekend with one and a 600 F4, Not bad for their IT guy!

    Unfortunately, this has left me spoilt when it comes to cameras, I'm still able to borrow 1D's whenever I want, and the glass to go with it. Knowing these things are waterproof and drop proof is a godsend, and well worth the dosh.

  9. James Pickett

    I still think that clanky mirrors are a bit of an anachronism. And why no SD card - are they too small for professional photographers (who clearly need big hands to lug the camera and lenses about)?

    Still, if Santa's reading, I wouldn't complain...

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      No SD cards? Not because they're too small, but because they are too poxy. If you look at the ratings Sandisk give the two types of cards it becomes clear that CF cards are far more hardy which makes sense in a camera built like a tank that will get used in all sorts of conditions.

    2. A knight who until recently said "Ni!"

      The problem with SD cards is that they can break easily when you're in a rush or swapping cards a lot, I've seen it a few times myself on my 1D.

      The other problem is recovering data - in my experience, and that of several specialists I've spoken to, you can recover data much more reliably from compact flash than SD.

      Aside from a semi-transparent mirror how else are you going to see exactly what the lens sees? A digital viewfinder isn't what anybody wants and Canon tried the semi-transparent fixed mirror years ago - boosted frame rates but at the expense of so much light that it's never been seen again.

      Interesting to note that the 1N-RS, the film model with such a mirror, could only shoot 10fps...

    3. Some Beggar

      SD vs CF

      Byte for byte, CF cards are generally "better" for a slightly vague definition of "better". And with a camera of this size, the additional space for CF cards doesn't really have much impact.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      CF cards can take a beating

      I have broken quite a few SD cards over the last few years, usually the little tiny little casings break on the leading edge into the camera, leaving the PCB exposed, not good. A CF card is built like a little black-box and take a fair amount of punishment, relatively speaking. One of those little things I really appreciated moving up to a full-frame, super-fast UDMA CF cards that can take a little beating from a cack-handed sod like me!

    5. Real Ale is Best

      Its about the data rate

      CF cards are still faster, than SD, and this is very important when you are shooting 14fps with a high megabyte picture.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    It sounds all fine and dandy...

    ... But Canon's already cocked up with a focus problem. On apertures smaller than f5.6 (like with an f4 lens and a 1.4x extender), autofocus dies.

    Lovely. Not. See for details.

    I'll stick to my 5D MkII until that's sorted then. Nice review though, Dave.

    1. hexx

      i don't see this as a problem, honestly. Canon doesn't sell any lens which has max aperture of f/8. and yes, you can argue that adding 1.4x extender to f/5.6 lens or 2x extender to f/4 lens will result in max aperture of f/8 but quite frankly photographers who will use this camera are pros or very wealthy enthusiasts who can afford 400mm/600mm lenses without using extenders so this is not a problem and it isn't unique to 1Dx only. this apply to 'cheap' telephoto lenses with extender olnly which reduces maximum aperture.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        But you're very wrong there. Pros still use extenders. Which is why it needs to be questioned (and already has been).


        1. hexx

          yes, on f/2 and f/2.8 lenses and 1.4x on f/4 lenses

          1. Rune Moberg


            Well, with a 1D-II a 1.4x extender on a 500/4, a good exposure was challenging unless the subject was sunbathing. Even with IS, a fast shutter speed can be vital.

            Given a significantly higher usable ISO rating, it is not unreasonable to desire using a 2x extender with that very sharp lens.

            However, given a manual focus body, I doubt it would be easy to gain pixel perfect focus under the same conditions. Decent AF at f/8 might be tricky to achive and could lead to some undesirable tradeoffs.

  11. hexx

    looks pretty good, canon catching up with nikon. thanks god they've given up on that 'more mega pixels' BS and focused on what's important - IQ and speed. thats' what pros need. i still believe they will release 5DMK3 with 24MP to satisfy 5D users which mostly use it for landscapes and in landscapes you would benefit from MP but also you need a good glass so your sensor doesn't outresolve your lenses. I sitll think the best (or the most universal) cam for the price (for still photography) is nikon D700, excellent low light performance, fast, excellent DR, relatively small.

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      An interesting point with regards glass. I've read articles from some landscape guys complaining that the cameras themselves are now so good that they struggle to get good enough glass to stick in front of them such that lenses like the 17-40L weren't good enough and the 16-35L II was required.

      1. hexx

        yes, my friend returned 5DMK2 twice because photos were coming out a bit 'soft'. then we tried few lenses and discovered that the 'softness' was caused by his sigma. he bought 17-40L and problem is gone. will suggest him to check that 16-35L II.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yep had the same problem, luckily I had a Sigma and new L-series lens to hand and I could see straight away that the 5D MkII was not the problem, the Sigma was shooting "soft". Simply dumped it second-hand market and the just need to save a little more to fill the gap with another new piece of Canon glass. Sometimes worth taking the lenses back to a Canon centre and having them tune the glass to the correct settings as the factories don't always get it right, they're in a hurry to push the products out the door.

  12. photochapdave

    Peter - the max ISO needs to be set in a custom settings menu which is why H2 might not have been available on the 1dx you tried. It is there!

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fsckin ugly

    Says it all

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I agree

      I bought all my digital cameras because they look cool and not because they take good pictures or are good cameras.

  14. Zog The Undeniable

    It's a big black blob

    I'm not enthused by the looks of any DSLR but this is one ugly mother. In t'olden days SLRs of this size had a huge motordrive slung underneath, which sort of justified the bulk (the Canon F1 high-speed model actually shot film FASTER than the 1Dx records pixels, almost 30 years ago).

    What's impressive here is that Canon has done it without a pellicle mirror. Like the special F1, though, this is really for sports pros and everyone else might as well buy a 5D II at 1/3 the price.

  15. Andrew eaton

    An intresting move

    I have been using canon full frame for a long time now since the EOS1DS and have added the MK II and MK III to my collection.

    each revision has given me lower noise, higher rez and better screens and a few added problems

    The higher rez has given me greater detail to work with in editing and greater sharpness in large prints, but it magnifies handshake and lens imperfections. i have found with my MK III if i am not using my lenses at their sweet spot (aperture and distance to subject) they can look a bit fishy.. this is only have canon L series lenses. i always thought the ever increasing rez was a ploy to get us to buy new lenses... lol I also work with a phaseone IQ180 which at 80mpix pins you in a corner with shutter speed/available light, handshake and big files to work with. But this is the fun of the job.. :-)

    I’ve always thought the frame rate is irrelevant for me and seen the odd "photographer" use it to do photography by numbers... (once i was asked by one photographer "how many photo's do you take a year, i took 150,000 last year" so i find the merge of the D and DS range a slightly odd as editorial/fashion/advertisement photographers’ don’t need frame rate and sports/photojournalists don’t need full frame or high rez...

    The high ISO range is a bonus, but I have often found good spot metering and a f1.2 lens has negated the need. I have repeatedly seen high ISO used where the photographer can’t meter properly or they are using a cheap lens.

    I have been waiting for the DSmk IV for a long time thinking it would be a bit better for my needs but now the X has come out i am not sure weather to add the X to my collection and retire my MKII. It has now done 60k shots but with only a gain of 2 mpix the only thing which would be nice is the HD video. Will be interesting to have a close look at the results from the new sensor and I’m sure CPS will be inviting me for a demo (I didn’t make it to Pro Solutions for the launch) however at this point I’m not feeling the £5k is worth spending…

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