Equipment

LensRentals Reviews the Canon 1DX Mark II

Back in February, Canon announced an update to their pro level camera systems with the 1DX Mark II. With a brand new focusing system, and 4K video features, the Canon 1DX Mark II left a lot of fanboys drooling, despite the costly price of $6,000. Alongside the drooling fanboys were a long list of skeptics. With the Canon 5d Mark IV remaining a rumor for years now, is this the next camera that people should succumb to? Is this what the future looks like for Canon? Well, I was able to get my palms on the new system, and test it for myself.

Features Breakdown

Canon-1dx-MarkII-Review-1

The Canon 1DX Mark II is an upgrade from the predecessor in the Canon 1DX in just about every single feature. A small bump from 18.1MPs to 20.2MPs adds a little more resolution to this speedy system. And speedy might be an understatement; at 16fps per second (a 2fps bump from the 1DX), the Canon 1DX Mark II is the fastest shooting DSLR on the market, easily beating the competitor Nikon D5’s 12fps. But the speed doesn’t end there. Utilizing the CFast card technology, the buffer feels completely limitless, allowing 170 RAW images in burst mode, taking only a second to be ready to fire off another 170 images continuously. Though these are numbers posted by Canon…as I easily shot over 200 images on a CFast card without stopping the 16fps even once (Using a Sandisk Extreme Pro 128GB card). Literally, everything I threw at this camera, is handled it with confidence…leaving me to believe, that this is the best DSLR ever made.

1DX-MarkII-vs-1DX-1

But the feature list doesn’t end on the photography side of the system. Packed into the Canon 1DX Mark II is 4K functionality. That’s right, 4K footage is able to finally come out of a DSLR, and from my initial tests, the footage looks good. Additionally, the battery also seems endless (I took over 2300 photos on it, and it still sat at half life when I was finished), and the focus, well the focus, is incredible; but we’ll get to that.

Build Quality

The build quality of the Canon 1DX Mark II is something you’re likely not familiar with if you’ve stuck with the Canon 5D Mark III and similar systems. With full weather sealing throughout the camera, this camera just feels more robust that the smaller systems developed by Canon. While I’m always concerned when I have my Canon 5d Mark III by the windy beach, I’m not sure there is anything, aside from maybe a monsoon, that could make me concerned if this camera can hold up. After all, this camera was originally developed for journalists traveling to remote parts of the world, and sports photographers who need the reliability of a system that can really take a beating.

Focusing System

Perhaps the most impressive feature within the Canon 1DX Mark II comes with the new focusing system. This systems focusing system is fast and accurate, like, really fast and accurate. To properly test the focusing, I decided to take the 1DX Mark II out to Malibu, California, and photograph some of my friends on their motorcycles, as they speed around corners going 50mph. To up the ante, I brought along a non-Canon lens, with an extremely long focal length, the beloved Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Edition. The longer focal length meant that in tight crops, you’re definitely going to need to an incredibly fast focusing system to catch up with your moving subject, and accuracy to adjust as needed. So how’d it do? Spectacularly.

When shooting at 14fps (the max speed without mirror lockup), I found that 95% of the photos I took were keepers, even when shooting at 400mm and longer. On average, the first photo would be out of focus as the system would still be locking onto the subject, from then on, nearly every photo was properly tracked and focused with ease. The focusing system on this camera actually made me delusional with my expectations, and it wasn’t until I went back to my Canon 5d Mark III that I really learned to appreciate the new system in the Canon 1DX Mark II. Much like the frames per second, this system is unneeded for 95% of photographers. But those who do need it can expect to be wowed.

1DXMarkII-Testing-Images-Small1DXMarkII-Testing-Images-21DXMarkII-Testing-Images-3

Low Light Performance

No one really expects the Canon 1DX Mark II to be a low light monster, as it’s built for speed more than high ISO clean files. That said, I did find the higher ISO files to be pretty impressive. For me personally, I’ve always commented on how I want more Low ISO options, and I, like most photographers, never really shoot above ISO 3200, because I usually have the lenses or other equipment where high ISO isn’t necessary.

But when testing out the new 1DX Mark II, I found myself to be quite impressed with how high it can go. For one, the focusing system also provides better low light focusing performance, allowing you to focus on things even in the dark. Even at -3 Exposure Value, I found the 1DX Mark II able to focus on objects quickly, and without the need for seeking (as my Canon 5d Mark III often needs to do). The focusing was fast, and the images are clean. I’ll let you be the judge, though, and have provided some high ISO images below.

1DXMarkII-12800ISO-Test-11DXMarkII-25600ISO-Test-21DXMarkII-51200ISO-Test-3

Video Features

Canon provided the icing on the cake with the Canon 1DX Mark II with the announcement of 4K video at an impressive 60fps. It also comes standard with 1080p, at 120fps, which is equally impressive for video guys out there. As for me, I’m not really a video guy yet, just a photographer experimenting with it from time to time. So I took the liberty to capture some video footage, in low light and present it here for you all to judge. But before getting to the video footage, I do like to point out that one of my favorite underdog features of shooting video with the Canon system came with the touch screen focus. For years, I’ve complained that touch screens don’t belong on DSLRs, but, I think I get it now. The touch screen allowed me to easily adjust the focus on the system and have it lock onto various subjects while shooting.

If you want to download the 100% unedited clip, you can do so here. (4K 60fps ISO 51,200).

Price

The biggest downfall of this system comes with the price of it. At $5,999, it’s not cheap by anyone’s standards but is quite easily the best system Canon has ever built. Does it have a purpose for everyone? Probably not. But for those who need the speed of this camera, I suggest you hand over your Canon 1DX’s now and swap them out for the Mark II version.

What I Liked

  • Incredible Focusing System
  • Impressive High ISO Capabilities
  • 4K Video output at 60fps
  • Robust Build Quality

What Could Be Improved

  • Price (Cause you know, I want my cake and eat it too)

 

Overall, the Canon 1DX Mark II is without a question, the best Canon camera I’ve ever used. The images looked great, the speed of the camera is unbelievable, and the build is unparalleled. Canon took what everyone loved about the Canon 1DX classic, and improved it on every single level, and managed to do it and keep it cheaper than the Nikon competitor (which in my opinion, is not as good). If you’re a sports photographer, this is your Ferrari. The Canon 1DX Mark II is now available for rental for as low as $21 a day.

Author: Zach Sutton

I’m Zach and I’m the editor and a frequent writer here at Lensrentals.com. I’m also an editorial and portrait photographer in Los Angeles, CA, and offer educational workshops on photography and lighting all over North America.

Posted in Equipment
  • Michael Clark

    At any ISO the DR is limited, among other things, by full well capacity. At each stop increase, the effective full well capacity is halved (because due to the increased amplification of the analog signal coming from the sensor, 1/2 as many electrons produced by photons striking the sensor will result in the same maximum value as that allowed by the previous stop). Differences in pixel size can have different effects on DR and S/N ratio. This is one reason it is possible for one camera to have better S/N ratio at a particular ISO and the other to have better DR. Perhaps the pixel pitches/surface areas are different. Perhaps the silicon wafers used to make the sensors are built on different die sizes which affects full well capacity as well.

    At high ISO the chief consideration is S/N ratio, because in LOW LIGHT the most pressing concern is not full well capacity, it is keeping the signal above the noise floor.

    At low ISO the main concern is DR, because that is where one is usually shooting high dynamic range scenes where one must be concerned with both very bright highlights and darker shadows.

    The only reason one would be more concerned with DR than S/N ratio at ISO 25,600 is if one were shooting in bright enough light to be more concerned with full well capacity and not blowing out the highlights than with keeping the signal higher than the noise floor. As you just said, “good light at ISO 25K is a strawman argument.”

    So why do you keep insisting on using that straw man argument to prove that the D5 is “better” than the 1D X Mark II because it has 0.57 Ev higher DR at ISO 25,600? Even though the 1D X Mark II has better S/N ratio (15.2db) than the D5 (14.2db) at ISO 25,600.

    DR doesn’t really matter to an actual photographer in the kind of light that requires one to use ISO 25,600. S/N ratio is what matters in such light. DR matters in bright light with scenes that also contain deep shadows.

    Carl, the actual test results show that the 1D X Mark II has a better S/N ratio than the D5 at EVERY ISO setting above 200. Just look at the charts at DxO.

  • Carl Eberhart

    Dude I’m not talking about base ISO, I’m talking about at higher ISO…it is YOU who is blind, look again. Low light doesn’t mean the DR goes away, so your “good light at ISO 25k” is not only a strawman argument, it’s not even valid…get over yourself fanboy…

  • Michael Clark

    I may or may not be very bright. But you are apparently blind if you can’t look at the charts at DxO and see which camera has more DR and SNR @ISO800. Canon 1D X Mark II – 11.7 Ev. Nikon D5 – 10.85 Ev. That’s a 0.85 Ev advantage to the Canon. @ISO1600 1D X Mark II – 11.01 Ev, Nikon D5 – 10.73 Ev, That’s a 0.28 stop advantage to the Canon.

    At base ISO the Canon has a 1.24 Ev advantage, . The greatest advantage the Nikon has over the Canon anywhere between ISO 100 and ISO 409600 is at ISO 25600 with a 0.57 Ev difference.

    So the moral of the story is, If you normally shoot between ISO 100 and ISO 3200 the Canon has significantly higher dynamic range. If you shoot at ISO 25600 most of the time, the Nikon is your camera.

  • Carl Eberhart

    Because the D5 has MORE DYNAMIC RANGE above ISO 800 and all the way up I guess? You’re not too bright are ya?

  • Michael Clark

    The other thing you have to realize is that, all else being equal, a 20MP camera will not look as good when pixel peeping at 100% as an 18MP camera will – because you are magnifying the 20MP image by over 11% more to view each pixel at the same size.

  • Michael Clark

    I can’t speak of the comparisons between the 1D X and 1D X Mark II because I’ve never owned either and have only shot with a 1D X a few times but not shot with a 1D X Mark II.

    But I did notice that when I first upgraded from the 5D Mark II to the 5D Mark III I didn’t like the images I was getting from the III as well as what I was getting from the II. That was until I figured out that the recipes I was using to process my raw files from the II had to be tweaked a bit to get the same “look” with raw files from the III. I had to add a bit of garlic and subtract a bit of salt, so to speak, to get the same taste. Once I had been processing the raw files from the III for a couple of months and learned the subtle differences in the sensors, I’ve been happier with the images shot with the III. Eventually I’ve even learned how to tweak the in camera adjustments (mainly WB correction, contrast, and sharpening) differently so that I get better jpegs straight from the III than what I had learned to get from the II.

  • Michael Clark

    Carl, have you actually looked at the raw test numbers? The ONLY ISOs for which the D5 has higher SNR than the 1D X Mark II are below ISO 200. The Canon has more SNR than the Nikon at every ISO above 200.

  • Carl Eberhart

    How can you say it has better signal to noise ratio when it has about a 1/3 stop less dynamic range? Maybe not at ISO 200, but what fool is buying either of these bodies to shoot at ISO 200?

  • Michael Clark

    The 1D X Mark II has better S/N ratio than the D5 at every ISO above 200. How can you say the D5 has lower noise at high ISO than any other stills camera on the planet? Do you not consider the 1D X II a stills camera?

  • Michael Clark

    Wildlife shooters may use ISO 6400 in *marginal* light.

  • Eric Calabros

    Wild life shooters

  • Michael Clark

    The D5 has slightly higher DR in good light at and above ISO 6400. The 1D X II has better SNR everywhere above ISO 200. Who uses ISO 6400 in good light?

    http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Canon–EOS-1D-X-Mark-II-versus-Nikon-D5___1071_1062

  • Michael Clark

    Here’s your “balance”. 1D X II vs. D5 vs. 5DIII

    Click “Measurements–>SNR 18%—>Print (or screen) and tell me how much the D5 is better at High ISO in low light. Who cares which has more DR at high ISO in good light? No one in their right mind would shoot at high ISO in good light!

    http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Canon–EOS-1D-X-Mark-II-versus-Nikon-D5-versus-Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-III___1071_1062_795

  • Cesjr86

    I disagree that it is a waste. As a wedding photographer you want the camera that offers the best ISO capability possible and the 1Dx2 is that camera within the canon lineup. As far as studio it isn’t necessary but if it is what you have for weddings why wouldn’t it also be your studio cam.

  • holzphoto

    Interesting. I was in Costa Rica last month, and several bird/wildlife photographers had the 1D X II with them. Their observation was the f/8 at multiple focus points was nice, but the 1D X was not as sharp nor as good at high ISO as the original 1D X.

  • Carl Eberhart

    No offense to you Zach but I’d like to see Roger do a review / comparison between the 1DX2 and the D5, specifically on the autofocus performance. I for one am disappointed that the AF sensor does not have more AF points. It does not seem like a new design, but rather a revamping of the previous one.

  • Carl Eberhart

    I agree Mr. Stairway to Heaven (inside joke assuming you’re a zeppelin fan)…I have been a Canon fanboy but am opening my eyes to both brands. I do wonder if anyone truly unbiased and skilled, will do a rigorous real world comparison between the AF performance of the 1DX2 vs. the D5. I’ve been surprised so far by the comparison that showed the 1DX2 had better dynamic range at low ISO than the D5. Not surprised at all that the D5 has lower noise at high ISO than any other stills camera on the planet. Was very surprised by how much of an improvement the D5 was on the already stellar D4S, though.

  • Count Zepplin

    http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Nikon-D4s-versus-Nikon-D4-versus-Canon-EOS-1Dx___945_767_753
    http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Canon-EOS-1Dx-versus-Nikon-D3s-versus-Nikon-D3___753_628_438

    Canon 1Dx (2012)
    vs
    Nikon D5 (2016) Nikon D4s (2014), Nikon D4 (2012), Nikon D3s (2009), Nikon D3X (2008), Nikon D3 (2007)

    Now, that doesn’t mean the Nikon D3/4/5/ are better cameras, but it does show why lots of landscape photogs use Nikon D800 series cameras.

  • Count Zepplin

    Ooops! Sorry 😀

    Yeah, a purely specs comparison usually doesn’t capture how well it can perform.

  • Eric Calabros

    D5 has higher DR at higher ISOs. Not high as A7S, but still high.

  • Keyzer900

    Zeppelin. “…just trying to bring some balance” Well, your supplied dxomark url compares the new Nikon D5 to the Canon 1D Mark II released in 2004 🙂 Sensor scores aside I’m sure both systems perform great.

  • Sebastián Santos

    Better dynamic range the D5? mmmm, I think that the fanboy here is not the reviewer….

  • Count Zepplin

    Nikon D5 has 14fps with mirror lock-up (12fps with continuous AF), vs. 16, and 14fps, and can do 200 frames in RAW with XQD cards. Comparisons also show it has better ISO and dynamic range performance, and its AF system can go down to -4EV, though whether that makes any difference in real use is up to the user, I suppose.

    …just trying to bring some balance to this article. I don’t want to sound like a whiny Nikon user (though I do use a D810 and D7000), but this article reads like it was written by a Canon fanboy.

    Sources:
    http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/dslr/d5/spec.htm
    https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/products/details/cameras/dslr/eos-1d-x-mark-ii
    http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Nikon-D5-versus-Canon-EOS-1D-Mark-II___1062_431

  • Omesh Singh

    Ferraris are lightweight and agile. The Bugatti Veyron is more powerful and ultimately faster, but is a heavy beast. I would think the 7D-II is more Ferrari-like whereas the 1DX-II is more Bugatti-like.

  • Keith Reeder

    Eh?

  • Keith Reeder

    “a friend who is wedding and studio photographer has one”

    What a waste of a camera!

  • Y.A.

    Hopefully some of this tech trickles down to the rest of the lineup. For most photographers 16 FPS would be like skeet shooting with a machine gun… but better AF and buffer management are always nice.

  • I love my 1DXII. Best camera I’ve ever owned, and perfect for my shooting needs. This camera produces exceptional files and it is rock solid.

  • Omesh Singh

    “If you’re a sports photographer, this is your Ferrari…”

    I think you are Bugatti Way-wrong.

  • jojo

    got my hand on it this week too. a friend who is wedding and studio photographer has one.
    unbelievable camera… fantastic speed and quality….just too expensive for me.
    i wait for the 5D MK4

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