Another setting is dedicated to subjects that accelerate or decelerate quickly. If autofocus wasn’t complicated enough for you before, run out and buy the 1D X immediately.
If you don’t like to dig through menus while you shoot, you’ll love all the customizable controls on the 1D X’s body. You can assign custom functions to 11 different buttons, dials, or joysticks, five of which are duplicated for a seamless transition between portrait and landscape orientation. A custom controls menu accessed through the quick menu offers a diagram of the camera to help you keep track of all of those controls as you assign them.
This level of customization is key to a camera of this level. It, along with ruggedness and a top-level imaging engine, are why you’d shell out the big bucks for a body like the 1D X, and Canon definitely delivers on all of these fronts.
It also delivers on ergonomics. While small-handed users will probably prefer the generously sculpted grips of Nikon and Sony models, Canon did introduce a slight inward angle to the inside portion of the 1D X grip that makes it feel more secure than some of its older pro bodies.
The angle of the shutter button has also been changed ever so slightly, such that it is actually easier to press than the one in the EOS-1D Mark IV. The company says that this was done to combat repetitive motion issues, and we’re sure that pro Canon shooters will be grateful. We also appreciated the responsiveness and texture of the new joystick buttons, a delight to use.
Another luxury of a 1D-level camera: the viewfinder. A 100% accurate, bright pentaprism finder lets you frame images with precision. Until you’ve used a perfectly accurate finder like this one, you’ll never appreciate the ability to use the entire 35mm image frame to tell your story. And once you have, you may never want to go back to a cropped finder. As with any piece of photo gear, the more options at your disposal, and the more control you can exert over the image, the wider your vocabulary as a photographer can become. In this sense, the 1D X is like an unabridged dictionary.
Videographers will find a choice of intra-frame ALL-I or inter-frame IPB compression. The former maintains the integrity of each frame of the video and compresses them separately so that you can extract a single frame without trouble. The latter has a much better compression ratio, resulting in smaller files, but uses key frames and the differences from them to pack up the data. This makes it harder to pull out one frame at a time.
Both of these capture choices yield extremely high-quality video. But Nikon’s D4 one-ups Canon a bit here by offering an uncompressed video stream from its HDMI port that can be sent to an external recorder.
If you’re extremely serious about shooting video (which might raise the question of why you’re looking for a DSLR in the first place instead of one of Canon’s EOS Cinema cameras), this may make a difference to you. But if you’re essentially a still shooter looking to add video to your repertoire, the 1D X will deliver all you need.
The Bottom Line
Canon has yet again created a truly amazing camera with the EOS-1D X. From the first weekend we got to shoot with it, when we came home with a dozen keepers, up until the last frame we shot for this test, it was simply a pleasure to use.
We’ve touched on the most important parts, but there’s also Ethernet connectivity, a stereo mic input, and plenty of other features, such as multiple-exposure capability and audio note taking, that we just couldn’t go into detail about here.
Suffice to say that the 1D X is every bit the imaging powerhouse that all 1D-series cameras have been in their time.
Evidence of just how right Canon got the 1D X is how well it stacks up to Nikon’s excellent D4. While some years have led us to rank one Canon or Nikon supercamera over the other, in this case the two are so evenly matched that we can’t declare a clear winner.
Photographers who are entrenched in either system, of course, should just trust the glass and accessories they’ve got, and upgrade to the new models as they see fit. But anyone looking to enter a system at this level will have a tough choice. If you’re a dedicated video shooter, you might pick the D4. If you feel you need faster bursts than 10 fps, then clearly the 1D X would be your gun. Otherwise, you might consult a flipping quarter—you’ll win, whatever side comes up.
IMAGING: 18.1MP effective, full-frame CMOS sensor captures images at 5184x3456 pixels with 14 bits/color in RAW mode.
STORAGE: Dual CF slots store JPEG, CR2 RAW, and RAW + JPEG files.
BURST RATE: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode), up to 180 shots at 12 fps; RAW (14-bit), up to 38 shots at 12 fps; RAW+JPEG, up to 17 shots at 12 fps. using a UDMA mode 7 card.
AF SYSTEM: TTL phase detection with 61 selectable focus points (41 cross-type); single-shot and continuous AF with predictive focus tracking. Tested sensitivity down to EV –2 (at ISO 100, f/1.4).
LIVE VIEW: TTL phase-detection or contrast-detection autofocus.
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 1/8000 to 30 sec, plus B (1/3-, or 1-EV increments); 400,000-cycle rating.
METERING: 252-zone TTL metering with 100,000-pixel RGB sensor; evaluative, centerweighted, partial (approx. 6.5% of viewfinder) and spot (approx. 2.5% of viewfinder). EV 0–20 (ISO 100).
ISO RANGE: Normal, ISO 100–51,200 (in 1/3-EV increments); expanded, ISO 50–204,800.
VIDEO: Records at 1920x1080 at up to 30 fps; 1280x720 at up to 60 fps; in H.264 MPEG-4 MOV format with selectable IPB or ALL-I compression; built-in mono microphone; stereo minijack input; maximum clip length: 29min. 59 sec.
FLASH: No built-in pop-up. Hot shoe with E-TTL II autoflash; flash sync to 1/250 sec.
VIEWFINDER: Fixed eye-level pentaprism.
LCD: 3.2-in. TFT with 1,040,000-dot resolution; 7-step brightness adjustment.
OUTPUT: USB 2.0, mini HDMI video, Ethernet up to 1000BASE-T, composite video and analog audio.
BATTERY: Rechargeable LP-E4N/LP-E4 Li-ion, CIPA rating 1120 shots (with optical viewfinder); 290 shots (with live view).
SIZE/WEIGHT: 6.2x6.4x3.3 in., 3.4 lb with a card and battery.
STREET PRICE: $6,799, body only.
VIEWFINDER TEST: Accuracy, 100% (Excellent); Magnification, 0.7X (Very Good).