Keeping up with Nikon, Canon announces the Canon 1DX Mark II pro DSLR sports camera

Written by Gary on February 3rd, 2016

Last week I blogged a short post on Nikon’s new flagship pro sports dSLR, the Nikon D5.

Pro sports/wildlife shooting is now one of the few reasons to buy a dSLR over a mirrorless camera, the other main reason is high resolution, image quality with more shallow DOF capabilities but Sony have addressed this with their Sony A7R II, and pros wanting to segregate themselves from the dSLR crowd in terms of image quality bragging rights will buy medium format cameras for this work.

Today Canon has announced its update to their flagship dSLR, the Canon 1DX Mark II which will cost around $US5999 and then if you want to use its 4K or 120fps HD video or burst rate for 170 RAW images (12secs),  you will need to shell out for some of the new CFast CF 2.0 memory cards at around $1000 each for 256Gb.

Although I own the Canon 1D Mark III pro sports dSLR and a number of pro Canon lenses, I will not be shelling out this amount of money as I am not a pro sports or wildlife photographer who can justify this – personally I am waiting for Canon to bring out a full frame mirrorless with sensor based IS and fast CDAF plus PDAF similar to the Sony A7R models, but at a reasonable price and full compatibility with the Canon system such as their flashes.

Canon 1DX Mark II specs:

  • overall design has changed little from previous 1D models which allows pros to migrate without handling issues
  • rugged, heavy (1.5kg). fully weather-sealed camera with large battery (but if use older LP-E4N battery, the burst rate drops to 12fps) with improved grip
  • shutter rated at 400,000 cycles
  • 20.2mp dual-pixel (for Live View AF) full frame sensor
  • two Dual DIGIC 6+ processors to capture 4K video and shoot continuously at up to 16 fps
  • burst rate: 14 fps with AF, and 16fps with mirror lock up  and locked focus and exposure (not sure why you would do this to get minimal extra burst rate though!)
  • native ISO of 100-51200, expandable to 409600
  • new 61-point AF system has 41 cross-type sensors and 24% larger frame coverage than the 1DX and f/8 capability on all points
  • AF sensitivity in low light has been doubled from EV -2 to EV -3 at the center AF point when the camera is set to One-Shot AF
  • improved AI Servo III+ predictive AF algorithm for better accuracy
  • optical viewfinder now has continuous red illumination of all AF points within the camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder II
  • updated metering system to 360k-pixel RGB+IR sensor which improves face detection (for metering and AF point selection) and subtract tracking
  • it seems iTR face detection in OVF mode now better detects the eye or cheek as prior models tended to focus on noses which was useless, and it better detects partly obscured faces – it is still erratic in AI-Servo mode for tracking a face but that is to be expected as it is early days in this technology
  • improved fixed LCD to 3.2″ Clear View II LCD with 1.62 million dots and now touch enabled but only for AF point selection in Live View
  • video:
    • 4K video at 60p, 30p, 25p, 24p, or 23.98p  using the M-JPEG codec (requires CF2.0 card for more than a few seconds footage)
    • 1080HD at 120p, 60p, 50p, 25p, 24p, or 23.98p
    • dual pixel sensor allows C-AF in video while touch LCD allows focus point changes
    • no native focus peaking or zebra patterns
    • no Log Gamma option
    • ‘clean’ signal out via HDMI port for 1080 only (not 4K)
    • mono mic
    • headphone jack
    • mic jack
  • new built-in GPS (with an e-compass)
  • new Digital Lens Optimizer to help correct aberrations in-camera
  • improved post-shot in-camera Raw processing
  • radio TTL remote flash as with 1DXx
  • USB 3.0 or Ethernet ports (increased from 100Mbps to 330Mbps)
  • CFast card slot (NOT compatible with CF cards!)
  • CF card slot
  • new LP-E19 lithium-ion battery CIPA rating 1210 shots
  • 1530 g (3.37 lb / 53.97 oz)
  • 158 x 168 x 83 mm (6.22 x 6.61 x 3.27″)
  • optional WiFi via Canon’s $600 WFT-E8 wireless file transmitter

A few issues:

  • longest timed shutter speed still only 30secs (like Nikon) unlike Olympus which allows 60secs which is more useful for astro work
  • flash sync only 1/250th sec (like Nikon) while Olympus has 1/320th sec
  • no electronic shutter 20fps mode like Olympus and others
  • exposure compensation dial does not work in Manual exposure mode with autoISO – need to go to menu systems!
  • Auto ISO and exposure compensation in manual mode is NOT possible in movie mode
  • still no sensor based image stabilisation
  • still no closest eye detect AF (although metering system can detect eyes and put AF point on them, but perhaps one day the Live View mode may get it)
  • Dual Pixel AF isn’t available for continuous AF in stills shooting in Live View mode but is for movies!
  • high risk of putting a memory card into the wrong slot causing damage to card or the camera
  • 4K mode is 4096 x 2160 pixels wider than 16:9 DCI 4K aspect ratio and only captures in less efficient Motion JPEG format, but perhaps this is used to allow 8.8mp frame grabs
  • continuous silent drive mode is not all that silent

 Compared to the Nikon D5:

  • faster burst rate of 14fps not 12fps
  • dual pixel sensor for improved Live View AF
  • better video
  • much less AF points – 61pts with 41 cross compared with Nikon’s 153pts including 99 cross type
  • subject tracking may not be as good as Nikon’s 3D tracking – have to wait for more tests
  • only 6 WB presets vs 12 on the Nikon (probably not important for most)
  • LCD screen not as good – 1.6m dots vs 2.4m dots and limited touch utility
  • battery life much worse – 1210 shots vs Nikon’s 3780 shots
  • heavier at 1530g vs Nikon D5’s 1415g
  • built-in GPS instead of optional add on with Nikon’s GP-1A GPS unit

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