The new Canon 1DX mark2

IMG_1807Been playing with couple of new toys lately and the most notable of these is probably the new Canon 1DX mark 2.

It was introduced couple of months ago and it is not on the shelves yet, but we should be seeing it coming within couple of weeks.

I had it in my hands very briefly when it was released, but now two weeks ago Canon was very kind to offer a full testing day in Denmark with it and I  had  24 hours of quality time with the camera. I was expecting a lot from it – and it delivered. It so totally did.

Lot of people will be writing in depth analysis on this in the weeks to come, but here are some intial feelings I got. I won’t get into the specs and comparisons; you can read them elsewhere.

I’ve used the EOS 1DX since it was launched – and in its own class, I’ve always considered it the best camera ever made.  And no, I do not contradict myself as some of you might have heard me raving about the 5Dmrk3… If I do my own projects or basically anything else than sports, 5D3 is my favorite tool. Relatively lightweight, solid and rugged and I just love the silent mode, audio out, etc.  And I can carry several bodies without being totally beat in the evening after a long day on the job.

But: if you need ultrafast autofocus, superfast continuous drive and straight out of cam transmission or if you shoot sports  for  your living, it is the X  what you want.

It is a perfect camera, the only downsides I see are the weight and the price… both about the double of an 5D3.

Still images

As a stills camera, it is (again) a big step foward. And while the specs might not hit you right on the face as something totally new (it’s kind of hard to make the best of the best even better…), the additional features – compared to the previous generation- are spot on.

I love the silent mode, now similar to the 5D3. I love the fact that GPS in integrated (it is very hard to integrate a satelite transmission inside an titanium alloy body, and Canon solved this by adding it right on top of a viewfinder). The reception is very sensitive, in the image below we are c. 5 meters underground in a cellar (it is actually an old underground water reservoir turned into an exhibition space called the Cistern in Copenhagen) and having the GPS on each image shows the coordinates when I open them in Lightroom.

If you wonder what on earth is that is on the picture,  it is a projection of a flying dove on a screen of mist at 16 000 asa. The low light capacity of  X2 is rather impressive. Shot with servo autofocus which I find pretty amazing as it was very dark and the image was just a flash of light on a thin wall of tiny waterdroplets.

And here are the coordinates – 55°40’10” N 12°31’30” E – just to show off that the GPS really worked underground.

I was very impressed by the autofocus. The speed is 14 fps (and with the mirror raised 16 fps) and when you set the camera to track a subject… it REALLY manages to do that in full 14 fps speed. Looking thru the viewfinder you could see how the red focusing points moved across the viewfinder when my subject moved.

Also, the buffer is increased so you can push the shutter down at the beginning of the 100m dash and keep it down all the way to the finnish (God, one has to start using ear protection on the shooting platforms in the track competitions).

And if you are shooting jpgs, you can pretty much keep the shutter down for the whole day – changing batteries of course every now and then – as the shutter is rated to 400 K.

(That was trying to be ironic. Don’t try it, it makes no sense and you end up ruining your new camera… :-) )

BN4I7276-2I also thought I knew all about these cameras there is to know – I’ve used all the models ever since 1D was first introduced. But live and learn… and thus RTFM.

Because I at least was not aware that the AWB comes in two flavors. You cannot select them both on the LCD but when you go to the menus, there is a choice (see the image).

Talking of whitebalance, the new X2 allows five presets to be stored in the camera. Real nice if you e.g. shoot in same sports arena continuously and want to maintain consistent color in your images. Even more important if you are looking for consistency in your video, as with video your post processing options are more limited than with still images.

And here is a tip you might not have known (works with both X and X2): if you want to select custom WB, select it on the LCD, push the lock-button on the back, take an
image of anything neutral (10% coverage of the center in the viewfinder is measured so you don’t have to fill the full frame) and voilà, your custom WB has been set.

Video

IMG_1812The changes in the still mode are impressive – subtle but impressive – but subtle does not cover it when we start talking about video. Full 4K video up to 60fps and 120fps in full HD. You can read about the bitrates etc. in other forums; but the bottom line is they are more than adequate for 99% of us using this camera and should you need more, you have the option for a clean, uncompressed output to an external recorder.

I hate the word “gamechanger” – too many things have been described by it. But there are two things in X2 which totally justify it.

First one is the DPAF i.e. the dual point autofocus. I shoot most of my videowork with a C100 which has is it – and almost all of my video focusing relies on it. Yes I know, true pros do manual focus or hire a focus puller to do that for them… I don’t have the budget and my 54 year old eyes do not exactly love the small screens on the back of the cams. DPAF is a blessing.

EVFs and monitors are nice but often cumbersome. I use them both occasionally, but for the most part, I rely on the DPAF and use my thumb to set it on and off.

And now the 1D X2 has the same system. I tested it and I was impressed by the accuracy and the speed it was able to track an erratically moving target. When I get my own X2 I will run it side by side with my C100 and see if there is a difference, but my initial impression is that they are on a par.

4K SloMo video with super AF on the best still image camera in its class in the world… plus all the glass I have on the shelves in the studio… that to me – as much as I don’t like the word – is a gamechanger. Apart from multicam shoot and doing groceries, this baby can handle almost anything I can think of doing professionally. With a full sensor it is a perfect camera for my multimedia work. And with 4K you get both medium and closeup shots during an interview, when you are delivering your work in HD resolution.

And a tiny detail: yes, the 3.5mm audio out is included. Don’t remember how many times I’ve told Canon how idiotic it was NOT to have it on their flagship – and it seems like they have listened.

And talking of connections: USB3 (instead of USB2) as the filesizes tend to get very big especially with high def video.

The second and a total WOW-experience to me was the stills crab from video. You can shoot video and afterwards in the camera take a stills crab from the footage. Once you get the hang of it, it is very intuitive and going thru a lot of footage is a breeze. In some cases it might actually be much faster  going thru videofootage than going thru a extensive series of still images. And while 14 fps is impressive, 60fps (producing a 4K still) is even more so. Yes, naturally CR2 or DNG is better than JPG, but for the most of the work we do, you cannot tell the difference. Or try yourself…. Below are two images. First one is a DNG converted into an JPG, the second one is JPG out of 4K stream.

 

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And here is a close-up comparison of the two images. Yes, there is a difference. Like, there has to be… but I have very hard time seeing it. And 99% of cases your client does not need the dynamic of the RAW… but they do immensely appreciate that your image is delivered to publication in seconds and and it is exactly (to the temporal resolution of 60 times per sec.) the peak action they were hoping to get.

And I can just see the photographers playing with this thing next time they are covering e.g. skeet or trap… when you get the projectile leaving the shotgun… or the casing jumping out of the rifle in the biathlon race exactly as you wanted to have it always, but it was such a game of luck.

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Explosions, fire… what else could you ask for from a perfect field testing day? Well, you have to include fast cars and beautiful women… and we did.

Looking at the last collection of images… brings totally new dimensions to the concept of hotwaxing?

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