Hands on with Canon's EOS-1D X full-frame DSLR
First look 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.
Next year's model: Canon's EOS-1D X
If you were a wildlife or sports shooter, the crop-frame Canon EOS-1D Mark IV was the obvious choice: 16.1Mp, 10fps and enough focus points to allow the most hapless photographer to latch on to passing athletes or wildlife. Alternatively, studio photographers could opt for the full-frame EOS-1DS Mark III with 21Mp – the same as the EOS-5D Mark II – in a full-height body with 19 cross-type AF points.
The problem was, opting for either meant compromising. With the EOS-1D Mark IV you were losing image quality, as comparison tests with the Nikon D3s often showed. Or, if you went for the last-generation EOS-1DS Mark III, you were losing a significant amount of speed - its fastest pace of 5fps comparing poorly to the D3S’ 9fps.
Compare and contrast: EOS-1D Mark III (left), EOS-1D X (right)
Canon has simplified things enormously with the EOS-1D X. There is now just one camera at the top of Canon’s pile, and this is it: a full-frame, high speed monster, designed to rob Nikon of its head of steam in the professional DSLR market.
The headline news is that Canon has resisted chucking more megapixels at its new hulk. The Nikon D3s is fêted by photographers for its low-noise performance, and Canon can ill-afford to produce another camera that doesn't keep up, so resolution has been sacrificed in favour of image quality.
Dual Compact Flash slots: taped in to prevent card sneaky swapping to grab shots from a pre-production model
Even so, the files produced are 5184 x 3456, which on my 18Mp EOS-60D translates to around 25MB RAW files, so there will still be plenty of opportunity for workflow bottlenecks. The dual Compact Flash and SD card slots of previous EOS-1D variants are gone, replaced instead with twin Compact Flash sockets, hidden behind the same latch-operated, weather-sealed door.
Next page: Dark matters
Touch screen controls make no sense when the camera is held against your face. Unless you have a particularly agile tongue.
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
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.
I bought all my digital cameras because they look cool and not because they take good pictures or are good cameras.
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.