I recently had the opportunity to check out a Canon 1DX for a week. I shot a couple of college basketball games with it and photographed some waterfowl at wildlife areas. In short, it’s a very good camera. Here are my basic conclusions.
1. Handling and operations: This camera feels great in your hand , albeit somewhat heavy. The camera controls are laid out intuitively and anyone used to a 1D series will be be right at home. Most necessary controls are selectable via buttons, with a couple of notable exceptions. The older 1D cameras could change the picture quality setting via a button below the LCD. That function has been removed in the 1DX. Like all other Canon cameras, mirror lockup has to be accessed via a menu as well. The other small flaw in the handling is that when using the vertical grip, it’s a little too easy to move the shutter speed setting while in manual mode, particularly annoying if you’re using a strobe. Otherwise, this a tank that handles like a BMW.
2. Speed and performance: The 1DX is a blazing fast camera. It can shoot at 12 FPS which is more than enough for sports and wildlife. Aside from the full frame sensor, the autofocus system is the major update in the 1DX, and it is fantastic. Once the camera locks on, it rarely loses focus. It is amazing to see how many shots in a row the camera can take sharply in focus. The camera gives the user 6 presets to choose from, varying the acquisition speed and other variables. The one thing that isn’t perfect about the 1DX’s new focusing system is that it does not always lock on to focus instantaneously. This is particularly true with small items such as ducks flying. The camera failed to lock on even during a few sequences during a basketball game. Overall, however, the performance of the autofocus system, even with a 400 f4 and 1.4 x converter, is truly amazing when compared to the previous models.
3. Image quality: Image quality is typical of Canon sensors. The 1DX takes really sharp and contrasty files. Its one big drawback is dynamic range. Here in snowy Colorado this is something of an issue. Expose for the sky, and the snow is whited out. Expose for the snow, and sky is too dark. This is mostly fixable in RAW processing but can present some issues. I would also say that the 1DX underexposes slightly. Color balance is great.
4. Battery life: At over 2000 shots per charge, battery life is excellent.
5. High ISO: Wow! There is no issue with noise up through ISO 6400. It is great for sports and low light portraits.
6. Comparison to 5DMKIII: The 5D is very comparable is many respects to the 1DX. The focusing system on the 5D seems to acquire focus a little quicker but also loses focus more often. That extra Digic processor is definitely doing something on the 1DX. The 5D has a quieter shutter but isn’t in the same league speed wise. The 1DX gives you more confidence that the shot won’t be missed. I read a post on another site that the 1DX doesn’t offer wildlife shooters any advantages. I would disagree. The ability to shoot 12 FPS and keep focus consistently locked on is a a definite advantage. Image quality is very similar between the two cameras. The 5D is good to about 4000 ISO as opposed to 6400 on the 1DX. The 5D’s jpegs look better to my eye but there is virtually no difference when looking at RAW files. The built-in vertical grip on the 1DX is nice but the extra bulk can be a disadvantage as well. All in all, Canon has developed two really good cameras.