This Page is dedicated to the Canon 1DX Mark II. Here you will find information about how to set up the camera, ISO performance, a settings guide, video tutorials and any reviews that I do.
I hope that you enjoy your new camera!
The 1DX Mark II is a phenomenal tool for image making. To ensure that you get the most from your new camera you must be sure to first set it up correctly!
The purpose of this guide is to help you to set up and understand the features, functions and settings of your new 1DX Mark II. I have tried my best to simplify things and make the choices clear. In some cases the best setting is an obvious one. Other times there are options based on personal preferences. In each case I have tried to make this clear and provide the information that you need in order to get the absolute most out of your new camera.
This guide is for you if you want to:
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TOP 5 VIDEO FEATURES FOR NATURE PHOTOGRAPHERS
ISO 800-6400 - 1DX II
ISO 800-6400 - 7D II
ISO 6400-51200 - 1DX II
ISO 6400-51200 - 7D II
ISO 1600-12800 - 1DX II
ISO 1600-12800 - 7D II
MORE 1DX II SAMPLE FILES - 100% CROPS
MORE 1DX II SAMPLE FILES - 100% CROPS
ISO 6400 - 25600
ISO 6400 - 51200
RAW IMAGES - CLICK TO DOWNLOAD
RAW IMAGE SETS - CLICK TO DOWNLOAD
I am a very practical photographer when it comes to making equipment choices. I make decisions based on what “tools” will allow me to capture better images of the subjects that I covet most – birds. I am also primarily a field photographer. That is, rarely do I sit in blinds or shoots in controlled scenarios where subject distance is under the control of the photographer. For these reasons effective focal length is the primary concern for me when choosing a camera body. The APS-C camera bodies have always been my choice when it comes to photographing birds – even given their limitations in controlling noise.
The Canon 7D series of cameras have worked great for me over the past 7 years and I have traveled throughout the New World Tropics photographing birds in a wide variety of scenarios. With this said, I will also be the first to admit that there are some major downfalls and limitations when it comes to the ISO performance and dynamic range of these cameras. There is no doubt that noise, dynamic range and overall image quality continues to be the Achilles heel of the APS-C camera.
When I am out photographing birds in the dimly lit rainforest I find myself reluctant to push the ISO past 1600 on the 7D mark II. Meanwhile I’ll see images that were taken on a 1DX shot at ISO speeds 2 or even 3 stops higher that look just as good if not better. I will admit that I am constantly torn as to whether or not I should buy one.
I often think about how amazing it would be to have a camera that was a combo of the best of both worlds. Wouldn’t it be incredible to have a camera that incorporates the reach of a crop body with the ISO capabilities of a full frame camera? My absolute dream camera would be one that had the ISO capabilities of the 1 series bodies but the 1.6 crop factor of the 7D II. Even if it had a dramatically reduced megapixel count. Alas we have to make choices in life and such a camera does not yet exist.
So the real question for me here is whether or not I could accept paying the money for a 1DX II and knowing that most of the time I would be using it with a 2x teleconverter on. Now that the camera supports all focus points past f/8 is this a better option for overall versatility and image quality?
B&H Photo Video was kind enough to lend me this new camera to test out. Even though I only had the camera for a week or so I tried to get a good feel for it and gather the information required for me (and others thinking about similar equipment decisions) to decide whether or not the steep price tag of this body is worth it. That is - will it lead to better images of the subjects I am after.
I hope that you find a few tidbits of information in this review that will help you make the best decision for your particular needs.
** Note - I wish I would have had a 1DX to compare to the 1DX mark II for this review. Unfortunately I did not. Instead I am largely looking at the features of this new camera and if it is worth the jump from a 7D II.
FEATURES AT A GLANCE
A quick summary of the new 1DX Mark II features:
When it comes to the image quality of Canon’s flagship camera you kind of have to expect the performance to be exceptional. For one thing the 1DX was already pretty incredible!
Unfortunately I didn’t have a 1DX to compare the files against. But I can say that it is pretty crazy what this camera can do at ISO 6400. Even ISO 12800 is VERY usable with proper exposure in the field and good processing technique.
Just for fun I even shot some images at ISO 51200. After processing they look pretty darn good. Would you think the image below was shot that high???
It will be interesting to see how the new 1DX II compares to the Nikon D5. In the last 5 years or so Nikon has definitely been beating Canon when it comes to dynamic range. Their Sony sensor technology is just incredible. Stay tuned for the DXO sensor scores which I imagine will be out shortly (link at bottom of page).
**Note that I have included several RAW files from this test that are available for download if you would like to form your own conclusions (see links below).
With that said I didn’t notice a huge difference from my 7D II in this regard. Camera companies always boast new and improved AF capabilities. They are pretty hard things to measure though. What I can say is that the camera is very fast to acquire focus and works as it should. If you are using the 1DX II and you aren’t getting sharp bird in flight shots it probably isn’t the cameras fault!
4 consecutive frames of an Oystercatcher flying past. All on the money!
The really interesting new feature when it comes to autofocus is that the camera now supports focussing to f/8 with ALL points. This of course means that you can slap a 2x converter on your 600mm f/4 and still have total functionality. Very nice!
So what does this mean for focal length for small birds? How does it stack up against the 7D mark II?
The maximum focal length on the 1DX II is basically 600mm + 2X = 1200mm. I have never found the 2X converter to be particularly usable on the 7DII. So let’s say that we are comparing the 7DII with a 1.4x on = 1344mm. Based on these focal lengths the 7DII would have 12% more magnification. This translates into 25 % more pixels on the subject than the 1DX II.
Or if you want to get mathematical:
Put another way you would have to crop all of your 1DX II images by 25% to achieve the same size as the 7DII. Furthermore you would be shooting at f/8 instead of f/5.6.
You have to also consider that the 2X DEFINITELY slows focus down.
Ultimately while the 1DX II has the capability to overcome the 1 stop difference from f/5.6 to f/8 it does not come without its own challenges.
SIZE IN THE FRAME - 1DX II vs 7D II
CUSTOM CONTROLS AND AUTOFOCUS SETTINGS
As we saw in the 7D II and 5DS the new 1DX Mark II has the ability to customize autofocus settings to several buttons based on how you shoot. Many bird and wildlife photographers for example have long been assigning “back button focus”. Doing so allows the user to allocate the AF-ON button to control the autofocus and the shutter button as the release mechanism. This setting has the advantage of allowing the user to focus, recompose the shot, and then trip the shutter at the pivotal moment without having to re-acquire focus. The 1DX mark II takes such settings a whole lot further. Now the AF-ON and AE Lock buttons on the back of the camera can be assigned specific autofocus capabilities. You can literally configure any autofocus setting to one of these buttons and have two completely different scenarios based upon how and what you shoot.
Below is a quick look at how I have configured my two autofocus buttons:
OTHER NEW FEATURES
In addition to the features of the new sensor and new autofocus capabilities the 1DX Mark II introduces several other improvements. The camera is said to have better weather sealing, has a higher resolution LCD screen, and the shutter is now rated to 400,000 actuations. The new model also incorporates built in GPS functionality and now offers two memory card slots (one compact flash and one CFast). It also features a new video switch.
Another excellent new feature is the ability to set up a custom quick control menu. This allows you to totally customize the "Q" button to have all your favourite settings at your fingertips.
Finally, a very cool and highly customizable “intelligent” viewfinder is now offered that allows for virtually all of the major camera settings to be immediately available in the viewfinder (as we have seen in the 7D II and 5DS).
As should come to no surprise to Canon shooters the new camera is loaded with upgraded video features. Canon has clearly set out to be the industry leader in this realm and the new 1DX II keeps them there!
Probably the most exciting new video feature is the ability to record full 4K video at 60 fps. DSLR cinematographers are jumping up and down I am sure!
The camera is also capable of full HD video at 120 FPS. This is really awesome because you can now capture really good slow motion footage.
Not surprisingly the 1DX II features the dual pixel technology that now allows us to use servo focussing in video mode. In addition you can now use the touch screen to focus exactly where you want as the subject moves around. This is very handy indeed.
Another nice feature is that there is now a switch to quickly switch to video mode (as there has been in the 5D and 7D series for the past 2 generations). This makes it that much easier to quickly switch from stills to video and start recording. I'm glad that they added this to keep all of their cameras consistent.
This ability to capture 4K video has also made it possible to pull still images from the video footage and save them on camera. You can only create jpgs. But they are of VERY impressive quality. For those split second moments you can now just record a video and pull a usable still. You essentially have a 9MP camera that can shoot at 60 FPS. This is pretty incredible!
VIDEO FRAME GRAB FROM 4K (CLICK TO DOWNLOAD)
The above is a frame grab from the 4K video. It is pretty impressive!
The blue line shows the 4K video crop compared to the full frame.
GUIDE TO VIDEO:
Not everyone is interested in video. But personally I really enjoy shooting movie clips of the birds that I photograph so I am always happy to see new and improved functionality in this camera. I think that as the video functionality of digital SLR cameras, and the proliferation of sites like YouTube, continues to advance we will see a lot more people shooting videos as part of their portfolio.
If you are interested in learning more about using the video capabilities of your DSLR check out my guide - Video Simplified.
WHO IT’S FOR
WHO IT’S NOT FOR
To be perfectly honest it’s a difficult question and as I type this I’m not 100% sure. There is no question that this is an incredible piece of equipment. When I look at my own shooting needs though what scares me is the lack of reach that comes along with a full frame body. I know that 90% of the time I would be using this camera with a 2x teleconverter on. In past renditions of the 1 series bodies the central point focusing capabilities made this option quite unattractive. But now we have all of the focus points available to us. In my testing the camera did perform well with the 2x converter on even in the dark forest. But when it comes to dynamic flight images I have to believe that all that extra glass will certainly slow down the performance of this camera.
I would imagine that I would have a 7D II in my bag for field photography and the 1DX II would be in there for when I was either:
So it is a tough call!
I am certainly drooling over the chance to be able to go into the rainforest with a camera capable of shooting usable images at ISO 6400, 8000 and even beyond.
But here’s something to consider. You can now pick up a used 1DX which has virtually the same ISO performance (not fully tested) for under $3,000.
I would love to have all of the AF points active and the 4K video features. But to be honest at this point those two features aren’t worth the extra $3k to me. I could sell one of my 7D II’s for at least $800 and pick up a used 1DX for low light performance, AF capabilities and frame rate. This could be a nice $2,000 upgrade for me.
That might just be what I will do. But I need some more time to consider. I also want to see more of the data that comes out comparing the sensors of the 1DX vs the 1DX II. If they are similar in terms of noise performance and dynamic range I think I would have a very hard time pulling the trigger on the new body. If the new 1DX shows a stop of ISO improvement and dynamic range over the old 1DX then i just might be convinced to go for it!
What I can say for the time being is that this camera is a fantastic tool for image making.
Remember that a camera body is just a tool. At the end of the day learning how to use the camera, to understand light, to learn about the behaviour of your subjects and to improve your post processing skills will all lead to better images than a new camera will.
So get out there and enjoy the experience of being a wildlife photographer and of being out in nature! After all that is really what it is all about.
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GUIDE TO POST PROCESSING:
GUIDE TO VIDEO:
CANON DIGITAL LEARNING CENTER:
DxO SENSOR SCORES: