During the past couple of weeks I have been playing with new toys – or tools, more like it. Canon Finland was kind enough to lend me the new EOS 1DX and the 5Dmrk3 to play with for couple of days.
No, this is not a test, just simple first impressions.
Canon EOS 1dX
In as few words as possible: the best camera I have ever held in my hands. I shot one period of the final of our national hockey series with it and I was totally sold. Before you ask: there is a simple reason why I did NOT shoot the 2nd and 3rd period. When you are working under such pressure (9 pages plus video plus edit and c. 1,5 hours to the deadline after the game,) you do want to work with tools you master totally intuitively. In my case, that is 1Dmrk4’s.
Focusing was amazing. No, make it amazing plus as 1Dmrk4 is amazing already.
12 FPS… I was shooting jpg only. The camera was preproduction model and I promised Canon I would not show RAW/Full Res files – as these cameras tend to evolve all the way up to the release date. Besides: at the time of my testing the latest ACR did not support this model.
I ended up shooting c. 600 frames in one period – all razor sharp (apart from my own mistakes, naturally).
I would estimate that the camera has 2-3 stops advantage over the previous model in terms sensitivity. I shot up to 12 800 asa with no noticeable loss of quality, up to 1/1250th sec on 400mm 2.8 IS (the new model). Absolutely stunning. And, if you ever shot hockey in Finland you might know that the Lahti rink is pretty disgusting…
I did shoot video, but I have yet to analyze the footage. What is interesting is the choice of inter versus intra coding, i.e. is the information coded into each image separately or as a larger GOP (Group of pictures). Eventually,there is most probably no visible difference in quality, but the large GOP takes much less disk space – but then it comes with the downside that it has to be transcoded in the post. The “intra-flavor” footage has a bit stream of c. 90mb/sec which is pretty impressive – the best AVCHD can do – if I remember correctly – is 24mb/sec..
Naturally you do have the framerates 24,25,30,50 and 60; the higher speed only for 720p though. 50/60 fps is real cool if you want to do beautiful slow-mo effects. I tried slowing down 60fps to 20% with FCX optical flow and it was just stunning.
A nifty little addition in shooting video is that the cam now generates timecode, both in Rec Run and Free Run flavors.
You can convert RAW into jpg within the camera, which is really cool if you want to send directly out of the cam with no computer in between. What is missing is the opportunity to crop in the camera. I informed Canon about this and they immediately sent the feedback to Japan… and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this functionality in a firmware update even prior to the release of the camera.
The UI (i.e. menus and buttons) has changed a lot and I seriously advise anybody picking up this camera to familiarize themselves with the manual first. Seriously: RTFM as they say. There are lots of new functions, there are several new buttons which you can program yourself to perform the functions most essential to your style of shooting. And these buttons are available in both horizontal and vertical position of the camera, reachable without your hand leaving the handle.
The CF/SD has given room to CF/CF which is good in a sense that it makes your card management easier (you only need CF’s) – but it comes with the downside: you cannot use Eye-Fi cards as such. You can use them with adaptors, but there has been some issues with these adaptors and they are hard to come by – at least in Finland.
Is the price tag of 6500 – or whatever it will be – justified? Well, depends on how thick your wallet is and what do you shoot for your living. I personally made a decision of getting two of these to replace my 1Dmrk4’s -but only after a very serious consideration (more about this in the conlusion). With the rate our daily press is dying one really has to consider each investment seriously…
Basically at the moment: the price of the new X is about the double of a used mrk4 in mint condition… and you really cannot make two times a better camera than mrk4 – as it already is an awesome piece of work.
Most importantly one should never forget: getting the latest toy in the market does not make you a better photographer. With the risk of offending somebody, I would say that the majority of people are probably not using more than 10% of the technical potential their present camera has to offer.
If I was impressed with the X, I was totally blown away with the new 5D. Absolutely my choice of camera if I were doing reportage, weddings or “normal” photojournalism instead of sports. So many things have been taken to the next level: sensitivity, focusing, weather sealing…
You can get two of these with the price of one 1DX and they also weight about the half of an X.
As there are already many reviews online, I will not babble too much about this toy. Two things which I totally adored: the silent mode (single shot). Man, it is quiet. I really can see people doing e.g. weddings etc. going totally bananas about this. Another one was the addition of an SD-slot – AND integrating the Eye-Fi controls into the menu. I did not test it – I do have an EYE-Fi card presently in one of my point and shoot cams – but that is really great news. As one of my personal arguments in favor of 5D series (what I refer to as “small cams” as opposed to my “standard tools”) is weight and size, it is real nice you can use eye-fi with relatively low cost and no added bulk.
Will I get this camera? Presently no. I have three 5D’s of previous generation and I use them mainly for remotes and for basic journalistic/videowork when working abroad, when minimal weight and size of the equipment is essential. Yes, I would love to to have better focusing and added sensitivity – but I don’t think that would make my photography/journalistic storytelling any better. Not worth 9000€ (price of three of these) better anyway.
What seems to escape people talking about cameras – or whatever the newest hype is about …. is the fact that e.g. the introduction of 5Dmrk3 did NOT render 5Dmrk2 into an obsolete piece of junk. It’s still very much the same amazing camera it was yesterday (at least in terms of price/value ratio). Which leads me to my actual point of this post…
Not much of a review, right? As I said, this was only my first impressions. But I want to share something which really struck a chord the other day – and which also sort of explains why I don’t go on and on about the technical aspects and finesses of these.
I was reading Adam Westbrook’s Inside the Story -and something Felix Clay said there has been ringing in my head. If you are an avid reader of this blog, you might remember that I have mentioned Felix once earlier in connection with a piece he made for the Guardian about two years ago.
Anyway, as an advice to photographers and visual storytellers he shared the following words of wisdom:
“You have to tell a story. If you dont’ you’ve not completed what you set out to do and you’re merely creating a montage of pretty pictures, or worse, just showing off the ability of the equipment to do what it is designed to do – and anyone can do that.”
I could not agree more. They are just tools.
“Anyone can do that”.
Exactly.They are not the core of what we do. My most essential “upgrade” presently as a visual storyteller has nothing to do with a camera, it is not a new lens…it’s something else. And I would like to argue that this is something we should pause and think about.
You might have heard my mantra: ” The three most essential elements of multimedia and visual storytelling: the story, the story, the story…”
I realized my babbling started circulating in all kinds of cameraforums pretty fast. Common theme in these discussions often is “what kind of set up should I have – like should I have one 1X and one mrk4 and then I have my 7D…” etc.
A word of personal advise: you have to stick to one model only – i.e. all of your 1-series cams and all of your smaller cams should be identical. Otherwise when you are working tired, under pressure you are bound to mess things up because the controls/menus are not where your fingers remember them to be.