Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Review

If getting the shot is of utmost importance to you, a Canon 1-Series body should be a high-ranking option on your very short shopping list. Canon 1-Series bodies have long represented the pinnacle of camera performance and reliability. Proof of such photographer trust can been seen by simply viewing the gear in use during important-to-the-media events. When heavy media coverage is present, such as at the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Cup, etc., Canon 1-Series cameras will have a very high percentage representation. So much so that Canon pinned their most recent Super Bowl representation figure at over 70%, with most EOS cameras being 1-Series models. By simply watching the sidelines of similar events, it is easy to see the most prominent camera choice of those challenged to capture some of the world's most-widely-valued images.

While the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II was at the referred-to Super Bowl in only very limited numbers (minimally, Peter Reed Miller was using one), its predecessor, the Canon EOS-1D X was a dominant choice. The 1D X had been the best sports/action/media camera Canon (and arguably, anyone) has ever introduced. It was built tough, had an incredible AF system, had a crazy-fast frame rate and delivered excellent image quality.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Lens

The 1D X arrived (to those who preordered early) just in time for coverage of the London 2012 Summer Olympics. If the 1D X's performance, including image quality, was good enough for events such as this one, it was likely good enough for your events. The 1D Mark X II arrived in good quantity with considerably more lead time ahead of the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics and it is a solid upgrade to the 1D X.

How the camera name is derived: In competition, "1" is usually the spot you want. It is the same in Canon's DSLR lineup: The single digit "1" means top-of-the-line, best available, or as I like to say: "You're-going-to-love-it!" The "D" means "Digital" (yes, there were 1-Series film SLR cameras). The "X" represents a "crossover" that took place, representing the merging of the 1D and the 1Ds product lines. The "X" also initially represented the Roman numeral 10, representing the 10th generation of Canon pro cameras - starting with the F1 of the 70s. While the latter representation no longer works (we're at XI), the eXtreme referral still does. The naming approach Canon often gives to a new version of an existing higher-end model line camera is to add a Mark number reference, a "Mark II" in this case.

Let's look at what the 1D X Mark II is all about:

Summary of Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Features

  • 20.2 megapixel, 5472 x 3648px, 35mm Full Frame Canon CMOS sensor
  • Extremely fast 14 fps continuous shooting for up to 170 RAW frames, 16 fps in Live View
  • 4K 60P and Full HD 120P video with Movie Servo AF via Dual Pixel CMOS sensor
  • 4K Frame Grab for 8.8 mp still JPEG images from 60 fps capture
  • Improved 61-point High-Density Reticular AF II with expanded coverage
  • Up to 61 AF-points supported at f/8 max aperture
  • AF working range down to EV -3
  • Continuous red illumination of up-to all AF points within the camera’s Intelligent Viewfinder II
  • Improved AI Servo III+ predictive AF algorithm
  • Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors
  • ISO 100-51200 with expansion down to 50 and up to 409600
  • 360,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor with enhanced precision and performance
  • Flicker Mode adjusts shutter release timing to avoid flickering light issues
  • 3.2" (8.11cm) Clear View LCD II, approx. 1,620K dot LCD with limited touch capability
  • Customizable Quick Control Screen
  • Large, bright pentaprism viewfinder with approx. 100% coverage and 0.76x magnification
  • Dual-Axis Electronic Level with optional dedicated viewfinder display
  • Built-in GPS
  • Magnesium alloy body with Canon's most dust and weather resistant DSLR design
  • Shutter durability rated up to 400,000 cycles
  • Distortion Correction, Diffraction Correction and Digital Lens Optimizer available for in-camera aberration correction
  • Dual memory card slots supporting one CF (UDMA Mode 7) and one CFast (2.0) memory card
  • Super Speed USB 3.0 for high-speed tethering and image/movie transfer, Gigabit Ethernet support
  • New Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E8
  • New LP-E19 Battery Pack with LP-E4N and LP-E4 compatibility

Sensor and Image Quality

The 1D X Mark II receives a new imaging sensor with a modest increase in resolution. Here is a comparison chart showing manufacturer specifications:

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsViewfinderDLA*
Canon EOS 70D1.6x22.5 x 15.0mm4.1µm5472 x 364820.2 .95x98%f/6.6
Canon EOS 7D Mark II1.6x22.4 x 15.0mm4.1µm5472 x 364820.2 1.0x100%f/6.6
Canon EOS 6D1.0x35.8 x 23.9mm6.54µm5472 x 364820.2 .71x97%f/10.5
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm4.14µm8688 x 579250.6 .71x100%f/6.7
Canon EOS 5D Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.25µm5760 x 384022.3 .71x100%f/10.1
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.6µm5472 x 364820.2 .76x100%f/10.6
Canon EOS-1D X1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.9µm5184 x 345618.1 .76x100%f/11.0
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV1.3x27.9 x 18.6mm5.7µm4896 x 326416.1 .76x100%f/9.1
Canon EOS-1D Mark III1.3x28.1 x 18.7mm7.2µm3888 x 259210.1 .76x100%f/11.5
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.4µm5616 x 374421.1 .76x100%f/10.2
View the full Canon EOS-1D X Mark II specifications to compare additional cameras.

Obviously, Canon can build higher resolution sensors. By implementing a 20 megapixel imaging sensor in this camera, Canon is telling us that more resolution is not needed for this camera's intended purpose, or at least not needed at the expense of frame rate and high ISO performance. As discovered with the 50 mp Canon EOS 5Ds and 5Ds R, a higher density sensor increases the challenge of capturing a sharp image, a challenge not necessarily appreciated by those working fast and without need for ultra-high resolution.

The 1D X II's 2 megapixel increase in resolution (see comparison) is nice and makes slightly more cropping possible while still meeting most media requirements.

While the resolution upgrade was rather easy to visualize prior to having the camera, I was quite anxious to see how the new sensor performed in terms of noise. Not obvious on the chart above are the improvements in sensor technology (including onboard circuitry) implemented by the 1D X II. My optimism was also fed by the new Extended ISO H3 409600, allowing shooting in 1/2 as much light as was possible with the 1D X. Of course, I didn't expect that extreme ISO setting to be usable, but with a 1-stop increase at the high end, it seemed logical that the lower ISO settings should be more noise-free.

The ISO noise testing is usually a high priority for me when evaluating a new camera and I wasted no time in determining how the 1D X Mark II performs.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II ISO Noise

The site's "Standard" color block noise test results include no noise reduction – a key factor that may cause the results to appear dissimilar to those seen elsewhere. Since noise reduction can be applied to any image during post processing, what matters most to me (what differentiates cameras) is how clean the base/RAW images are. While noise reduction can improve an image, noise reduction can be (usually is) destructive to fine detail. I generally apply light noise reduction only when needed and only during post processing.

When using the comparison feature of the noise tool, let your eyes tell you the results. The even colors found in these test charts makes noise very apparent relative to most real life subjects as detailed subjects will far better hide noise. If you can't readily pick out the difference in any color block comparison, it is unlikely that you will be able to recognize the difference in real world results.

For example, here is the 1D X II compared to the 1D X at ISO 3200. I see a slight 1D X Mark II advantage over the 1D X in this comparison, but the difference is not going to have much, if any, effect on your photography. The differences between these cameras at lower ISO settings are even less, and the 1D X Mark II advantages at higher ISO settings are slight until very high ISO settings are reached.

The base ISO setting (ISO 100 with the current EOS models) is always my preferred setting for low noise. Not all situations accommodate ISO 100 and the 1D X II provides 12 stops of higher light sensitivity settings for those situations in addition to extended ISO 50. ISO settings between 100 and 51200 are available in 1/3 stop increments with the extended ISO settings being available in full stops only. The three highest ISO settings are referred to as extended, with H1, H2 and H3 referencing ISO 102400, 204800 and 409600.

Noise increases as ISO settings go up, but ... this camera is an extremely good performer in this regard. Even at ISO 800, noise is barely perceptible. By ISO 3200, you are going to notice some noise, though ISO 3200 images are very usable to me. Noise levels at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800 are becoming more annoying, but ... these images are still decent with some noise reduction added, especially when viewed at less than 100% resolution. I photographed a soccer game under the lights soon after getting the 1D X II and utilized ISO settings up to 32000. Even at that upper level, with noise reduction applied, images were quite usable at smaller output sizes.

At ISO 51200, 1D X Mark II results start getting ugly. Noise overwhelms the subject as the SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio) becomes low. Uses for ISO 51200 images are limited. With three stops of extended ISO settings remaining above ISO 51200, one can guess that results are going to go downhill rapidly and they do. ISO 409600 sounds amazing and marketing will surely capitalize on this "capability" (debatable), but that amazement will turn to bewilderment when you look at images captured at this ISO setting. Just because the feature is present doesn't mean that you should use it. Perhaps the art crowd will find something about ISO 409600 images usable, but ... I don't see myself ever using it or the two settings below it.

Regarding high ISO noise, you can have smooth, or you can have detailed. Pick one. While not as black and white as that scenario implies, the amount of noise reduction applied to an image requires consideration of the overall concept. Also, the amount of noise reduction ideally applied to an image is not necessarily consistent with the ISO setting. You may find that some subjects take noise reduction better than others. As a generalization, I prefer a low amount of noise reduction when higher ISO settings are used.

The "RAW Low NR Light Sharpening" result set in the noise tool shows results I may choose during post processing. This result set was captured in RAW format, the Standard Picture Style was selected, and Sharpness was set to "1" (very low). Aside from the low noise reduction, these images are processed identically to the default Standard noise result set. There is little difference showing in these results until ISO 800.

The difference made by low noise reduction becomes quite noticeable at ISO 800, and increasing so at higher ISO settings. Here is an ISO 12800 comparison. Notice how the letters and numbers remain similarly readable in the noise-reduced image as in the image without noise reduction. Browse through the other ISO settings, letting your eyes create your own opinions.

There are six additional with-noise reduction test result sets loaded in the noise tool for the 1D X II. All 6 are captured using Canon's default "Standard" Picture Style in-camera with the default amount of sharpening applied. Three sets are JPG-captured and three are RAW-captured (processed in DPP). Within each of these three sets are in-camera-selected Low, Standard and High ISO noise reduction samples. Readily apparent to me is that Canon is still applying too much sharpening to the Standard Picture Style by default. The halos around the color blocks should not be there.

Fortunately, all of Canon's EOS cameras provide a wide range of noise reduction, sharpness and other image quality setting adjustments, enabling you to dial the results into perfection. That these settings can be adjusted in-camera is particularly important for those requiring compressed JPG format images right out of the camera (without using the camera's own RAW image conversion capabilities).

A pair of "STD Pushed * EV" result sets are provided to show how increasing RAW image brightness by one or two stops affects the noise levels. With similar results provided for the 1D X, a pushed ISO noise comparison can be viewed between these two cameras. I doubt that you will find the difference to be significant, but both cameras handle the brightness increase well.

Also provided in the noise tool are many "Exposed * EV" result sets for the 1D X Mark II. These images were over or underexposed at capture and adjusted to the standard brightness during post processing. These results would be similar to getting the exposure wrong during capture, increasing brightness of shadow detail or recovering highlight details.

In general, underexposing an image results in increased noise in the adjusted image and shadow details may be lost. The risk of overexposing an image is that higlight detail can be lost. While there is benefit to being able to pull out highlight and shadow details, if I miss an exposure by 2 stops or more, I feel like I have failed my job as a photographer.

The 1D X II results show that underexposing by 3 stops at ISO 100 will mean little additional noise in the results. The noise difference grows rapidly as the ISO setting increases. The difference is quite obvious at ISO 6400. As mentioned, overexposing an image has a very positive effect on noise levels, but once highlights become clipped, overall image quality suffers.

Exposing to the right, overexposing so that the histogram chart moves to the right of the ideal final histogram, is beneficial as long as the highlight detail is not lost. I shoot with the low-contrast Neutral Picture Style selected in camera. This setting gives me a histogram on the camera's LCD that best shows me the exposure lattitude afforded me by particular scenes. Especially when shooting still or near motionless subjects, I set the exposure to be pushed toward the right side of the histogram, but not stacked against the right side (unless I determine that is needed to for a particular scene). Exposures are corrected in post processing and, with the high SNR, images are optimized for overall quality. If there is movement in the frame, a faster shutter speed may be a better choice than modest overexposure and if shooting JPGs in-camera, the proper final exposure should be used.

With 15 result sets and 13 test results per image for the 1D X Mark II alone, the noise comparison tool holds hours of fun. I preloaded that URL with a comparison I think you will find interesting.

Overall, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II's image quality is superb. I haven't found anything reasonable to complain about.

File Size and Media

The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup with a moderately-high amount of detail taken with the referenced Canon EOS DSLR body.

Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:(MP)100200400800160032006400128002560051200102400204800409600
Canon EOS 70D(20.2)25.125.726.527.729.331.133.335.939.5    
Canon EOS 7D Mark II(20.2)25.525.926.727.728.930.632.735.137.941.0   
Canon EOS 6D(20.2)25.325.626.026.727.929.230.933.135.338.642.5  
Canon EOS 5Ds(50.6)64.765.766.969.272.576.681.688.1     
Canon EOS 5Ds R(50.6)65.266.467.669.873.077.281.988.4     
Canon EOS 5D Mark III(22.3)28.629.029.530.331.633.135.337.840.644.749.2  
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II(20.2)24.624.925.326.026.827.929.131.033.436.338.440.844.7
Canon EOS-1D X(18.1)23.723.924.324.825.726.727.929.731.834.537.441.3 
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV(16.1)22.022.222.823.424.325.326.728.530.834.235.9  
Canon EOS-1D Mark III(10.1)13.013.313.814.515.316.417.8      
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III(21.1)25.626.527.429.031.033.4       
Canon RAW file sizes increase with: 1. Resolution 2. Bit Depth (14-bit is better/larger) 3. Detail (noise adds detail, so high ISO file sizes increase). Memory and disk are cheap - just buy more.

Canon was forced to make a big decision regarding the memory card formats supported in this camera. That the current EOS-supported memory card formats (SD and CF) were not fast enough to consume the data this camera can produce forced a move to a faster storage format. Canon's decision was to provide a CFast 2.0 Memory Card slot alongside a conventional CF memory card slot.

At review time, the fastest CF card available has a max. write speed of 155 MB/s and the slowest CFast 2.0 card I found has a max. write speed of 240 MB/s. CFast cards with considerably higher write transfer rate specs are available (445 MB/s for example) and the spec allows for over 600MB/s. CFast 2.0 read speeds (not as critical in-camera) are even faster than the write specs.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Memory Card Door Open

In older 1D-Series models (such as the 1Ds Mark III), the dual memory card slots were an SD and CF combination. Having two different card formats available allows photographers to choose their preferred card type and often preserves a prior investment, but having a pair of the same card type can be better for workflow. The 1D X had a pair of CF card slots. The 1D X Mark II takes us back to the combination of two card types, preserving the CF investment of 1D X users upgrading to the 1D X II while making provisions to consume the extreme data rate this camera can produce.

When recording to CF while shooting video at 4k, expect the camera to fill the buffer very quickly even with a fast CF card in the slot. The downside to CFast cards is that, at review time, they are rather pricey and few people have a CFast 2.0 Memory Card Reader (though the camera can be directly-connected to the computer).

As CFast cards garner higher sales volumes (implementation in the 1D X II is certainly going to help), I expect their prices to move downward. I generally recommend buying plenty of capacity and many cards to permit a backup strategy utilizing card rotation (until you are able to get the images safely into your formal backup strategy including off-site storage). But, my CFast card plan is to start out with a pair of high capacity cards with my CF cards providing backup utility if needed. Then I'll watch for deals to fill out the kit. Easing the transition to CFast cards is the 1D X Mark II premium kit that includes a SanDisk 64GB card and card reader (this kit is a very good deal at review time).

Files can be written to both cards simultaneously (for redundancy) or sequentially (for increased capacity). Just to clarify, two of the same card type cannot be used at the same time. While the CF and CFast cards are identical in size and shape, and the slots appear the same, they are not interchangeable in use and keyed to prevent the wrong slot from being used. Nice is that the CFast format does not include the many-pinned connector for expected higher reliability.

My opinion is that Canon should have put a pair of CFast card slots in the 1D X II. I want the benefit of the faster card format and don't want to maintain two different card formats including separate card readers.

A side note is that there appears to be a missing piece to the CFast standard. The SanDisk CFast card that came in my 1D X Mark II premium kit inserts into the camera with the brand label to the right (seems backwards to me) and brand-label-up into the also-included SanDisk CFast card reader. A Transcend CFast card I also have inserts into the camera brand-label-left as I am used to (same as the CF cards) and also fits into the Transcend card reader brand-label-up. I can see SanDisk card difference leading to minor confusion, something that is not needed during the heat of the moment.

Frame Rate, Buffer Depth, Shutter Sound

We all thought that 12 frames per second was incredibly fast and I had a hard time imagining what an additional 2 fps would do for me. Well, it didn't take me long to get used to that difference and it is noticeable. This camera is awesome for catching the perfect peak action moment.

Here is a comparison table of Canon specifications:

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter LagVF Blackout
Canon EOS 70D7.040/6515/1665ms97ms
Canon EOS 7D Mark II10.01303155ms100ms
Canon EOS 6D4.573/125014/17<60ms 
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R5.031/Full12/1459ms125ms
Canon EOS 5D Mark III6.065/16k13/1859ms125ms
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II14/16 140/Full/Full  59/73/170 36-55msn/a
Canon EOS-1D X12/141803836-55ms60ms
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV10.01212840-55ms80ms
Canon EOS-1D Mark III10.01103040-55ms80ms
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III5.0561240-55ms80ms
View the full Canon EOS-1D X Mark II specifications to compare additional cameras.

The three figures for the 1D X II in the buffer depth column refer to a standard CF card, a UDMA 7 CF card and a CFast 2.0 Card respectively. Like the frame rate, these numbers are quite impressive. The 1D X II, without a UDMA 7 rated CF card, can capture 50% more frames before filling the buffer than the 1D X, nearly twice as many with a UDMA 7 CF card and you are going to have a seriously big image selection job if you attempt to fill the buffer while using CFast 2.0 cards (perhaps bigger than this table implies – read on to learn why).

If 14 fps is not fast enough for you, go into Live View and shoot at 16 frame per second (AI Servo AF is not supported at 16 fps). Want faster still? Technically, using 4K video Frame Grab, the 1D X Mark II can capture 8.8 mp JPEG images at up to 60 fps.

To look at the 14 fps rate from another perspective, the 1D X II is consuming resolution that is only .9 mp less than the 1Ds Mark III at a rate only 1 shy of 3 times faster than that model was capable of. The only EOS full frame bodies with substantially more resolution than the 1Ds Mark III are the 5Ds and 5Ds R.

To test the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II's 14 fps drive mode and 170 RAW file CFast buffer depth, I configured the camera to use ISO 100, a 1/8000 shutter speed (no waiting for the shutter operation), a wide open aperture (no time lost due to aperture blades closing) and manual focus (no focus lock delay). The lens cap remained on (insuring a black file and the smallest file size) and a freshly-formatted fast memory card was loaded.

Using a Transcend CFast 2.0 Memory Card (CFX650 256GB with Max. Read/Write Speed: 510/370 MB/s), the 1D X Mark II captured an incredible 14 frames per second ... until I got bored holding the shutter release down over 6 minutes later! The 14 fps converts to 840 fpm and, in 6:01.35, I had an extremely impressive 5,068 RAW images on the CFast card. With this card installed, the camera never filled its buffer and there is no waiting required to review images just taken (this can be important, especially when the next shot may come at any moment).

Live View bursts captured at 16 fps are also amazing with no buffer full state reached, though this method has reduced utility (no AF).

Using a Lexar 64GB Professional 1066x UDMA 7 Compact Flash Card (Max. Read/Write Speed: 160/155 MB/s), the 1D X Mark II reaches a buffer-full state at 104 RAW frames (well above the rated 73 frames).

Using an old SanDisk Extreme III 30MBs non-UDMA CompactFlash Card, the 1D X Mark II reaches a buffer-full state at 75 RAW frames, still well-above the 59-frame rating. While this buffer capacity may seem good enough, the noticeable amount of time required to clear the buffer will disuade use of these older cards.

These buffer depths should be considered best-possible for the referenced cards and your in-the-field results may vary, but as is often the case, a fast memory card makes a big difference with this camera.

Seeing the results of 14 fps helps to create perspective. Drag your mouse over the labels under the following image for a visual look at this frame rate (2 examples provided).

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II 10 fps Burst Example - Horse Galloping

Responsive seems like an understatement when describing this camera overall, but especially responsive is the shutter release. Press the shutter release and the camera immediately snaps into action. The reponse is immediate and the sound confirms this.

A range, 36-55ms is listed for the 1D X Mark II's shutter lag spec. The 55ms spec is for the standard shutter release and the Custom Functions menu (tab 7) allows for a shortened shutter release lag time to be selected. While the 55ms lag time is extremely short, shorter is always better in this regard, right? Why not make the 36ms lag time the default and only option? Guessing that there must be a penalty paid for the shorter release time, I asked Canon CPS if there any disadvantages for selecting the shortened shutter release lag time. Their reply was:

"Normally the shutter lag adds some stabilization to counterbalance the motion of the shutter. Shortening the lag might introduce subtle vibrations when firing the shutter repeatedly. That's probably not something you'll notice in most cases, but you can try doing tests in the continuous burst mode while moving around the camera from one subject to the next. Try doing that test with the feature on and off and see if you notice a difference."

"A longer lag time also reduces the possibility that the shutter will get out of alignment after thousands of shots over an extended period of time. In most cases the default option should be fine, and more than fast enough to work in a variety of situations. When you're shooting in situations where it's useful to have the camera be as responsive as possible though, then you may wish to go with a shortened shutter release time."

Canon's 1-Series bodies are so fast that I've never felt the need to use the shortened release lag setting.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Sounds

The sound of this camera in burst mode is something akin to a motor running, and it is going to garner some attention in quiet environments (the 1D X also did at 12 fps). For a more subdued sound, choose Silent mode. While Silent mode does not come close to meeting the definition, the mirror raising with the shutter release press and lowering when pressure is released from the button results in a somewhat quieter operation. New to this camera are silent continuous drive modes as found in the 5Ds and 5Ds R. Live view can be utilized for quieter operation and for the ultimate silent shooting, record in video mode and use the previously-mentioned 4k Frame Grab feature.

Following are links to MP3 files capturing "The Sounds of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II".

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II One Shot Mode
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Burst Mode
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Burst Mode Extended Version (the full 6 minutes)
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Live View Burst Mode
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Silent Mode
Burst Comparison: 80D, 7D Mark II, 1D X Mark II and 1D X

Camera sounds were recorded using a Tascam DR-07mkII Portable Digital Audio Recorder with record levels set to 50% at -12db gain and positioned 1" behind the rear LCD.

Autofocus

I say it all the time, but it is a very important concept and bears repeating: If the photo is not properly focused, the best camera and lens image quality in the world is not going to save that image. A camera's image quality simply doesn't matter if the subject is out of focus. Of critical importance for the primary audience for this camera, and especially for sports/action and wildlife photographers, is autofocus accuracy.

In this regard, the predecessor 1D X proved impressive. Canon U.S.A.'s Chuck Westfall calling the 1D X Mark II's AF system a "massive upgrade" featuring "much improved performance" was encouraging, but it was hard to believe that the 1D X Mark II's new 61-point High-Density Reticular AF II system was going to be substantially better.

The 1D X, 5Ds and 5Ds R share the 1 DX Mark II's AF point count of 61, but the AF point spread as seen in the viewfinder shows that this is not the same system. The top to bottom measurement of the AF points has increased 24% in the left and right-most AF point groups and 8% in the central group. A greater AF point spread is especially helpful when tracking a subject in motion, permitting more-ideal framing while holding a focus point on the subject.

Another 1D X Mark II improvement is the 1 stop better low light AF capability, now rated to EV -3 in One Shot mode. Being able to focus in 1/2 as much light as with the 1D X should not go un-noticed by those shooting in light-starved venues. This camera's center AF point will focus on a label (with the necessary contrast) in light levels calling for a 20-second exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 200 using the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. I could barely see the label. The light level at the subject was too dark for my Sekonic Litemaster Pro L-478DR Light Meter to measure with the limits of this meter being reached about 1/3 of the distance from the light source (a cracked door in a dark room) where a .63 LUX reading, equivalent to -2 EV ISO 100, was taken. Do not expect AF to be fast at this extremely low light level, but it works.

Another big 1D X Mark II AF improvement is seen in the viewfinder. While Canon's translucent LCD viewfinders and the information they can provide (such as grid lines) are really nice, some requested the ability for AF points to light up in red as found in older 1-Series models such as the 1D Mark IV. Those bright red illuminated AF points were very obvious and especially valuable when working in low light conditions.

With the 1D X Mark II, you now get the intelligent LCD dispay and the red illuminated AF points. Along with ambient auto-brightness levels, the AF point brightness menu option allows for additional configuration levels: Normal or Brighter. For detailed information on this feature, visit the CDLC's article here. Note that only AF point(s) are illuminated in red with other configurable displayed information shown in black (I'd like the electronic level to be illumated also). The 1D X II's selected AF points stand out very noticeably and were especially helpful when photographing a black bear in low light (example below). This is a great feature.

When the 1D X was introduced, wildlife photographers in particular were disappointed to learn that AF was no longer supported for f/8 max aperture lens combinations (a lens plus an extender). Canon listened and corrected that shortcoming via a firmware update, enabling the center AF point to act as a cross-type point with the four neighboring AF points acting in assistance. Apparently, f/8 AF took on new-found importance and now, the 1 DX Mark II supports f/8 max apertures at all 61 individually selectable points with all 27 central AF points providing cross-type AF support. Version III extenders are required for this functionality and most current lenses are fully supported, though there are some limitations as noted here.

The EOS Canon EOS-1D X Mark II's AF Area options are Spot AF (reduced size single point), Single-point AF, AF Point Expansion w/ 4 points (single point plus 4 surrounding points in "+" configuration), AF Point Expansion w/ 8 points (single point plus all 8 surrounding points), Zone AF (a large group of center, left, or right AF points) and Auto AF point selection (all 61 AF points active).

When using auto AF point selection options, the 1D X Mark II can utilize face and color tracking. While this is not Canon's first DSLR to utilize this technology, it is the best I've used and it is impressive. The focus points selected give faces preference and tracks them within the designated focus point spread.

All of those features are great, but accurate focus performance in the field is what matters most. Focus accuracy rules. One shot focus accuracy is seldom a problem for EOS DSLRs and this camera very quickly acquires focus and reliably hits its mark in One Shot AF mode even in very low light conditions. Take for example this black bear shot well after sunset at ISO 8000 (equivalent). Black hair is very good at absorbing AF-required light, but that didn't slow the 1D X Mark II down.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Black Bear Sample Picture

AI servo AF, predicting the point of perfect focus on a fast-moving subject at the precise moment the shutter opens, is a big challenge to cameras. And, it is a much bigger challenge to evaluate than One Shot AF mode. Multiply the infinite combination of lighting (amount, size and spectrum), environment (temperature, humidity, air clarity) and subjects (color, contrast, size, shape, speed and direction) possible by the wide range of configurable AF settings and it becomes clear that exhaustive testing of AF performance is simply not a realistic endeavor.

The 1D X II arrived deep into my spring sports schedule and I immediately put it to work shooting, primarily, soccer and track & field. Shooting subjects that are familiar to me is a great way to baseline test a camera and roughly 5,000 sports images captured by review time provided great data. I shot many events in conditions ranging from direct sunlight on a very warm day to light rain at night (under the lights) on a full-on-winter-like night.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Track Sample Picture

With an incredible frame rate, this camera has very little time to make focus determination decisions in the short period of time that the mirror is down. Fortunately, the speed of light is fast and so are the 1D X II's dual DIGIC 6+ processors. The results this camera is producing are notably better than any camera I've used to date. The 1D X was really good, but the 1D X Mark II surpasses that performance noticeably. It's really amazing.

As with the 1D X and 5D III cameras, the 1D X Mark II's AF Configuration Menu permits significant configuration of the AF system's tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking, and AF point auto switching. But, the results I'm getting with the default settings are so good that I haven't touched these settings on the 1D X II.

I mentioned that the fast burst rate and deep buffer could create a post processing nightmare, but ... the very high in-focus rate makes the job a lot easier. Simply scan through the images in the burst and verify those with the ultimate subject positions for sharpness. Since most are, the rest of the images in the burst can be quickly deleted. The selection task takes less time than before. The hit rate has been superb.

Dual Pixel CMOS AF Explained

Originally introduced with the EOS 70D and later implemented in the EOS 7D Mark II, Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF has arrived in the 1-Series, making the 1D X Mark II the first full frame camera to support this technology. Dual Pixel CMOS AF utilizes the imaging sensor for fast and precise phase detection AF when the mirror is raised, such as in Live View (One Shot AF only) or during video recording (Movie Servo AF). Each pixel on the sensor does double duty, providing information needed for phase detection AF while performing its primary color and brightness detection function.

The 1D X II has received an updated version of DPAF that is claimed to be twice as fast as the versions found in its predecessors. And, that figure seems right to me. While still not quite as fast as the conventional phase detection AF system, this DPAF system trails by only a very small amount.

The focus technology used by this camera's DPAF is also impressive. With (limited) touch screen LCD capabilities, the 1D X II permits the LCD to be touched on the subject and the camera immediately focuses on that subject and then tracks that subject (in Face+Tracking mode). This technology is especially useful for video recording, allowing subjects to be tracked around the frame and allowing a different subject to be easily selected and tracked.

The 1D X II's Dual Pixel CMOS AF covers approximately 80% of the sensor area and is compatible with most EF lenses and lens combinations with a max aperture of f/11 or wider. While most lenses will change focus relatively smoothly while recording video, the built-in microphone will pick up the lens' focusing sounds very clearly as they make quick, short focus distance adjustments. The clunking sounds picked up by the camera's mic are harsh and unacceptable for movie audio (an external mic is needed). STM lenses (though not the pancake-style STM lenses available at review time) will provide a much better video AF experience, especially from an in-camera sound perspective. At review time, the only full frame compatible non-pancake option is the Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. This was a lens I thought was introduced before its purpose – it now has one.

The bottom line is that I totally welcome Dual Pixel CMOS AF arriving in the 1-Series line.

Video

Fortunately for video shooters, many of the 1D X II's upgrades focused squarely on the needs of filmmakers. As just discussed, the EOS-1D X Mark II features a Dual Pixel CMOS sensor, allowing for excellent Movie AF Servo results in video mode.

In a highly anticipated move, the 1D X II is the first Canon DSLR since the EOS-1D C to feature 4K video recording. But while the 1D C could only film at 24/25 fps in 4K, the 1D X II can record 4K video at 60 fps as well as achieve a very impressive 120 fps in Full HD 1080p video capture. Key features – including Dual DIGIC 6+ processors and a new heat-transfer technology (which routes excess heat to the battery compartment where it dissipates via a specially designed heat pipe) – allow the 1D X II to handle the processing load that results from filming at such high frame rates.

While on the topic of frame rates, here is the full list of available NTSC and PAL recording resolutions and frame rates:

4096 x 2160 (4K - 17:9, cinema standard, slightly wider than UHD, roughly APS-H center pixel-to-pixel readout)
59.94p/29.97p/24.00p/23.98p (with NTSC)
50.00p/25.00p/24.00p (with PAL)

1920 x 1080 (Full HD - 16:9)
119.9p/59.94p/29.97p/24.00p/23.98p (with NTSC)
100.0p/50.00p/25.00p/24.00p (with PAL)
*119.9p/100.0p in Full HD quality High Frame Rate movie only

Recording file types include .MOV for both 4K (Motion JPEG, Audio: Linear PCM) and Full HD (MPEG4 AVC / H.264 variable [average] bit rate, Audio: Linear PCM) with an additional option of .MP4 format in Full HD (MPEG4 AVC / H.264 variable (average) bit rate, Audio: AAC). 4K videos are encoded in the Motion JPEG standard with ALL-I, IPB and IPB (Light) encoding available in Full HD .MOV and .MP4 formats, though the availability of those options depends on the specific file type and frame rate selected.

The value of being able to record 4K video at 60 fps cannot be understated, even if your typical output is only Full HD 1080p. The additional resolution captured in 4K recording is substantial. The illustration below demonstrates the difference between Full HD and 4K resolutions.

4K vs FHD Resolution Comparison

If outputting to 1080p, you can easily downsample the 4K video (with very slight cropping on the right and left sides), crop the frame to provide a tighter angle of view, or even pan your FHD video within the confines of the 4K captured frame. You can also mimic zooming in and out of a scene to add even more production value to your 1080p movies.

Of course, creating 4K content is the primary benefit of purchasing a 4K-capable DSLR. 4K video offers more than 4x the resolution of Full HD, allowing for beautifully sharp and detail rich movies that will remain impressive on resolution-hungry devices. Note that a CFast memory card is strongly recommended for 4K video recording.

Recording 4k at 59.94 fps or 50.00 fps requires 800Mbps of bandwidth and generates 5.7 GB of data per minute.

Recording 4k at 29.97 fps, 25.00 fps, or 23.98 fps requires 500Mbps of bandwidth and generates 3.5 GB of data per minute.

Another benefit of 4K video results from the way the files are encoded – Motion JPEG, or M-JPEG. In MPEG4 encoding (typically utilized in DLSRs), key frames are identified and the changes that occur in subsequent frames are recorded. The benefit of MPEG4 is that file sizes are relatively small. In M-JPEG encoding, however, each individual frame is separately compressed into a JPEG file. The benefit of this format is that you can grab a high quality still image from any frame in a 4K file and save it as a separate image file in-camera. This allows a photographer select the precise moment for the still image selection with a relative burst rate equal to the video frame rate, a selection that traditional burst sequences could easily miss. In other words, the 1D X II is able to capture 8.8 MP still photos at 60 fps compared to 20.2 MP photos at 14 fps (or 16 fps in Live View with AF/AE lock) with traditional burst shooting. The downside, of course, is that M-JPEG encoded 4K movies require a significant amount of storage space and will likely require more post-processing time to isolate the best frames (capturing the JPG is easy once selected). Note that the captured JPG image is in the recorded aspect ratio (not 3:2).

Clean, uncompressed Full HD output is available over the camera's HDMI port. Unfortunately, the 1D X II does not support 4K output via HDMI. Audio can be recorded via the camera's built-in microphone or via a 3.5 mm stereo microphone terminal-attached mic (no audio is recorded when high frame rates are selected). A headphone jack with audio level controls is provided for audio level monitoring.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Touch Screen Demonstration

In a first for 1-series cameras, the 1D X II features a rear LCD with limited touch screen functionality. While not as full featured as touch screen LCDs found on the consumer grade Rebel DSLR cameras, the 1D X II's LCD allows for touch focus, making focus acquisition and transition easier in video mode (only One Shot focus is supported in Live View). The "limited" functionality of this camera's touch LCD – and the fact that it does not feature tilt or rotation – is the result of Canon's dedication to keeping the 1D X as durable as possible and to avoid inadvertent setting changes.

With all of the effort Canon put into this technology, anything short of impressive would have been disappointing and ... I'm not disappointed. The video quality is beautiful. While the 1D X II's video capabilities are very easy to use, the full potential is of course up to your skills and creativity. And, realizing the full benefit of the 4k output requires a display/TV and/or computer with the required resolution and power to display it.

Exposure/Metering System

Metering systems continue to get better and the 1D X Mark II's 360,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor is a significant upgrade from the 1D X's 100,000-pixel RGB sensor. This new system claims improved facial and wildlife tracking capabilities and provides information to the Intelligent Tracking and Recognition (iTR) AF system and, as I mentioned above, this system works very well.

A feature I impatiently waited to have in a 1-Series body is Canon's Flicker Mode. When photographing under flickering lights using a fast shutter speed, each frame can have a different brightness and both different and uneven white balance. Check out the just-referenced link for more information on that challenge, but here are five images captured in a 1D X II 14 fps burst at an outdoor soccer game shot under the lights on a Division II university field with Flicker mode disabled.

Light Flicker Example

The exposures are the same (1/1600, f/2.8, ISO 8000), but the brightness of the images are obviously different. Those captured during the dim cycle of the lights will need to be brightened in post processing and increased noise levels will be noticed. These results are actually quite good compared to those to some I've came home with from other venues.

Because the 1D X Mark II (and other cameras with this feature) can detect light flicker (including showing a flicker detection indicator in the viewfinder) and adjust the shutter release timing to coincide with the brightest light levels, their resulting images have significantly higher quality. Here is another examples using the fluorescent lights in my basement.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Flicker Avoidance Example

It is interesting to see how these results align with the soccer field example, with every second image being effected. Shutter speed (1/1000 used for this example) and focal length (70mm used here) both make a difference in the results, especially in how the without-flicker-avoidance images appear, with both determining how much of the frame is covered during the dim period of lighting. With the flicker-avoidance feature turned on, the results are not perfectly evenly colored in this example, but they are much better and all are similar. In a normal detailed scene, the remaining imbalance is not usually noticed.

There is a noticeable decrease in frame rate when Flicker mode is enabled, which is not surprising after seeing every second frame being affected. With Flicker mode enabled, my soccer event pictures from this night were, as far as I could notice, all properly exposed. This feature can be extremely valuable to those shooting important events under such lighting. And, the reduced post processing time is also a big value. For those shooting in JPG format, the Flicker mode feature is practically a requirement.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Viewfinder

Viewfinder

Canon EOS 1-Series bodies have always had differentiatingly large, bright, 100%-view, all-glass pentaprism viewfinders with plenty of nose relief from the LCD and the 1D X Mark II follows suit.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Viewfinder Diagram

Once again we see the translucent LCD being used with even more options available including the extremely valuable dedicated electronic level indication. The 1D X could show camera level indication in the viewfinder, but that display utilized AF points and the display reverted back to AF point functionality as soon as the shutter release was partially pressed. The optionally always-on level indication is extremely valuable when focusing and recomposing or while tracking action in AI Servo mode. The straightness of my results with the 1D X II are improved. Goals, light poles, fences and other vertical lines in the background of my sports images are notably straighter on average.

Interesting is that the information below and to the right of the 1D X II viewfinder is shown using OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology vs. the traditional LCD display. This technology should deliver better extreme cold weather performance and provides (modestly?) greater contrast for better visibility in challenging conditions.

The advantage offered by the 100% view delivered by the 1-Series viewfinders should not be underestimated, especially when creating JPGs for immediate consumption. There is no guessing where the frame edges really are during composition.

The valuable optionally-enabled LCD grid is once again featured and optional replacement focusing screens are supported. With the grid display natively available, I have not found need of an alternative focusing screen and finding a compatible focusing screen may prove challenging.

Canon 1D-Series cameras continue to feature an eyepiece shutter, enabling the viewfinder to be closed with the simple throw of a lever. The diopter adjustment is fully covered by the eye cup, meaning that adjustments are not inadvertently made.

Tour of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

If you have used any 1D-Series camera, you will feel at home with the 1D X Mark II in your hands. If you have used the 1D X, you will feel especially comfortable with the 1D X Mark II right out of the box. Overall, there were few changes made to the exterior of this camera.

Back of the Camera

Look hard, but you will not find a lot of back-of-the-camera change to talk about.

Camera Back View Comparison

The 8-way Multi-Controllers (joysticks) have a new shape that I find to be easier to use than the 1D X's thin joysticks. The Live View button gains a surrounding switch to select between video recording and Live View (works great). The button to the left of the small LCD traded places with its icon (making it easier to reach with the left thumb), and the vertical grip AF-ON button has moved upward to better match the horizontal grip's button spacing.

The Menu and Info button once again take up their Canon-standard positions on the top-left. A row of four function buttons line up below the LCD with the right-most button notably able to record voice memos that attach to images. The row of four buttons across the top-right include the Live View/Video selection lever surrounding the Start/Stop button, AF-ON for back-button AF capability, Exposure lock and AF point selection.

While not noticeable in these comparison images, the LCD is different. The size and type remain the same as found in Canon's latest EOS models, a 3.2" (8.11cm) Clear View LCD II LCD with no gap between the protective glass cover and the LCD unit. This technology eliminates the air-glass interface, reducing refraction and reflection. The difference made by this technology is very obvious and the 1D X II LCD is easy to see even in bright light.

Canon Clear View LCD II

The 1D X Mark II's big difference from the prior-similar LCDs is increased resolution, to approx. 1,620K dots (900 x 600px) vs. 1040K dot LCD (720 x 480px) resolution found on the 1D X and in recent EOS models. Fully-zoomed-in images look great on this LCD.

Some time ago, Canon changed the image review zoom method, moving this feature from the "+" and "-" buttons to a zoom mode button with the top dial used to zoom in or out. While I think both of those options should be available, a change I want to see even more is for the playback and zoom modes to have independent memories for the information displayed in the respective modes. I shoot with the RGB histogram being displayed on the LCD for exposure checking. But, when I zoom in to make the image consume the full LCD (to better check composition), I must press the Info button to clear the remaining shot information from the display. Back to shooting, I am required to press the Info button twice to again see the histogram. I want the standard playback to keep the histogram displayed and I want the zoom button to show no information over the image. And, I want to be able to toggle back and forth between the two without having to press the info button. If I change my mind, remember what I changed it to.

Top of the Camera

Aside from the GPS bump on the top of the viewfinder, there is little change on the top of the camera.

Camera Top View Comparison

The .2" vertical growth caused by the GPS addition is minor and, in use, it is barely noticeable. If your 1D X is tight in its case, that .2" might be annoying. I sometimes store camera bodies in a cabinet drawer. While the 1D X and prior 1-Series bodies fit in that drawer upright, the 1D X II does not.

With Canon's 1-Series cameras, you are leaving the training wheels behind. Gone is the top dial full of mode options. Those moving up to the 1D X Mark II may lament the absence of the mode dial, but ... someone considering this camera likely doesn't use most of those modes anyway. With the dial gone, there is one less item that can be broken or leak water if the unfortunate happens.

The 1-Series button method for changing modes requires very little acclimation and works well. Press the mode button and roll the dial until your preferred mode, including one of 3 custom programmed modes, is selected. While the full-auto A+ mode is missing, the "P" (Program) mode (yes, some like to think of it as "Professional" mode) is there for nearly-mindless photography when needed.

There are no creative modes. There are no creative filters. And, brace yourself, "Food mode" has once again been excluded from the 1-Series. You must understand how to create desired special effects yourself.

Many additional function buttons are found on top of the camera, providing quick access to camera setting changes. Notable are the ISO and M-Fn buttons that are tactilely easy to find even while the camera is pressed to the eye. Also worth noting is that the M-Fn button on the vertical grip has moved into a new location, matching the location of the main grip button. While not visible from the top, the four programmable custom function buttons found on the front of the camera are also worth mentioning.

Side of the Camera

The 1D X Mark II has received some "port"-side changes. Let's do the visual first:

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Side Views

The ports available are, clockwise starting at the top-left, the system extension terminal (for the WFT-E8A mentioned below), Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 terminal, HDMI mini out and Audio/Video OUT/digital terminal (now USB 3.0), PC terminal, headphone out (new) and external microphone IN.

Gone from the left side of the camera is the N3 wireless remote port. This port has taken up residence on the other side of the camera, just above the vertical grip On/Off switch.

Size of the Camera

Canon's 1-Series cameras are the largest and heaviest in the EOS lineup. However, if one adds a battery grip to a more standard-sized body such as one of the 5D or 7D-series bodies, much of the size and weight differences disappear. Optional battery grips can be removed to reduce size and weight as desired, but none are as rock-solid as a 1-Series body when attached.

Those used to a small and light DSLR such as the Canon Rebel line are going to find the 1D X II very large and heavy. Those used to mid-sized camera, especially those with battery grips, will not find the transition such a big one. Most will quickly acclimate to the new camera body format without issue (especially when its performance is realized).

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon EOS 70D5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1"(139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5mm)26.7 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 7D Mark II5.9 x 4.4 x 3.1"(148.6 x 112.4 x 78.2mm)32.1 oz (910g)
Canon EOS 6D5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8"(144.5 x 110.5 x 71.2mm)26.6 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0"(152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm)32.8 oz (930g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark III6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0"(152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm)33.5 oz (950g)
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II6.2 x 6.6 x 3.3"(158 x 167.6 x 82.6mm)54.0 oz (1530g)
Canon EOS-1D X6.2 x 6.4 x 3.3"(158 x 163.6 x 82.7mm)54.0 oz (1530g)
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 157 x 80mm)48.5 oz (1374g)
Canon EOS-1D Mark III6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 157 x 80mm)47.6 oz (1349g)
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III6.1 x 6.3 x 3.1"(156 x 159.6 x 79.9mm)49.5 oz (1404g)
View the full Canon EOS-1D X Mark II specifications to compare additional cameras.

One of the reasons that I personally shoot with Canon DSLRs is because of their ergonomics. I can use them for long periods of time for days on end and not be bothered by the grips. The 1-Series bodies are the best of all in this regard. Though subtle changes have taken place over the years, overall, the 1-Series bodies change little in regards to shape over the various models. My 1D X L-bracket remains compatible with the 1D X Mark II.

Durability

Sensitive, but really tough.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Magnesium Alloy Chassis

The 1D X Mark II features a magnesium alloy (strong but light) body cover with a magnesium frame inside and the greatest weather sealing available, with over 70 gaskets and seals. While my preference is to use a rain cover when photographing in the rain, rain does not always come when we are ready for it. Rain is also not the only source of liquid our cameras may be subjected to and we are even less likely to be ready for these exposures. Having sealed gear can save the day, shoot, trip, etc.

If you are frequently capturing significant numbers of frames (especially at 14 fps), a shutter rated for a high number of actuations becomes important. The 1D X II's 400k rating is tops, matching the 1D X rating.

ModelShutter Durability Rating
Canon EOS 70D100,000
Canon EOS 7D Mark II200,000
Canon EOS 6D100,000
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R150,000
Canon EOS 5D Mark III150,000
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II400,000
Canon EOS-1D X400,000
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV300,000
Canon EOS-1D Mark III300,000
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III300,000

The 1-Series bodies deliver best-available durability and are most-able to survive the bumps and bruises of full-time use. Professional photographers are expected to deliver results and there is a line of photographers waiting to take their place if they do not produce. This camera is built with that professional duty in mind.

But, sometimes things go wrong and what a professional then needs is a fast turnaround repair service (or a loaner). Canon Professional Services (USA at least) is there when needed with fast turnaround and loaner gear (if required). I use this service infrequently, but I can count on it being there for me.

Additional Features

The 1D X Mark II is the first 1-Series body to feature a built-in GPS, housed under the bump on top of the viewfinder. Images can (optionally) be tagged with the camera's GPS coordinates at the time of capture. Even if you are not interested in having your image capture coordinates stored, you may find the ability of the GPS to precisely maintain the camera's time to be helpful.

When the 1D X Mark II was announced, I strongly hoped that its sensor would stay cleaner than the 1D X sensor did. That, of course, would not be hard to achieve as the 1D X sensor seemed to be dirty every time I checked it. My hopes were high, based on the fact that my 7D II and 5Ds/5Ds R sensors rarely need cleaned, but that my 1D X II arrived with a little glob of something that required multiple wet cleanings to fully remove was not a good start. That a camera as amazing and complex as this can be delivered with something stuck to the sensor seems illogical to me. I will be monitoring the sensor dust issue closely. That I most often shot with my 1D X at wide open apertures means that the dust was seldom a real issue for me and it will unlikely be a problem with the 1D X II.

Battery

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II has a new battery and it warrants some discussion. The Canon LP-E19 battery pack has a 10% higher capacity (2700 mAh) than the LP-E4N being replaced. Both this battery and its LC-E19 charger share a red stripe and much of the battery is a different color for ease of identification – helpful since they appear very similar in design to what they are replacing.

Interesting is that this battery and the LP-E4N are forward and backward compatible, though the 1D X II's max frame rate drops by 2 fps when using an LP-E4N and the LP-E19 requires the LC-E19 for full charging. Learn more about the new battery at the CDLC here.

The LC-E19 is rated for approx. 1,210 shots, up from the 1D X's 1,120 rating with LP-E4N batteries. That I could capture 5,068 images in a single burst without a big drain on the battery shows that experience can vary greatly from these ratings, especially when high speed burst is being used. My currently installed battery has captured 904 images with 60% battery life remaining. Later I captured 4,983 photos at a dirt track race with 43% battery life remaining and 5,645 shots completely drained a battery while photographing whitetailed deer in Shenandoah National Park. I will seldom need a second battery to cover even a large event with this camera. Shooting video of course depletes the still photo count potential significantly.

The camera's battery menu informs of the type of battery in-use, the remaining % of capacity, the shutter count since last charge and the battery's recharge performance.

Dedicated Accessories

The most popular 1D X II-dedicated accessory is likely going to be the Canon Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E8A. The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is shown below with the Canon Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E8 attached.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E8A

With a WFT-E8A Wi-Fi transmitter attached, the 1D X can be remotely controlled via the Canon Camera Connect app on compatible iOS and Android devices. If the smart device moves out of the WFT-E8A's range, video recording remains uninterrupted and the smart device will simply reconnect with the WiFi transmitter when the devices are once again close enough for communication. A WFT-E8A transmitter makes remote shooting easy; the accessory will prove popular with those professionals who need to place cameras in unique locations for the ultimate shot or need to get images delivered immediately.

The WFT-E8A's improvements include significantly faster transfer rates (433 Mbps vs. 150 Mbps), though the older WFT-E6A remains supported on the 1D X II.

Accessories

When you buy a Canon DSLR, you are buying into an incredible family of lenses, flashes and other accessories. The array of available accessories is large enough to cause a pro to select the Canon system for this reason alone. The camera body (or multiple bodies as is more frequently the case today) is the base your system is built on and a lens is the next essential piece of kit. The lens is also a very important part of the kit – important is that it does not become the weakest link in the image capture and quality.

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is not available in a kit that includes a lens. Most will not consider this a beginner's camera and a high percentage of 1D X II bodies will be purchased by photographers who already have a kit of lenses, negating the importance for a lens in a kit. Which lenses do I recommend? Review the Canon general purpose lens recommendations page to find the most up-to-date list of best lens options, but the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens is an excellent first choice for this camera. Then add, minimally, a telephoto zoom lens and a wide angle zoom lens to your kit.

The 1D X Mark II is compatible with Canon's N3 wired remotes including the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 and Canon Remote Switch RS-80N3. These are very useful accessories.

Browse the reviews section of the site to find many more compatible accessories including flash systems, tripods & heads, cases and much more.

Price

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, like the 1-Series cameras before it, lives at the top of descending-sorted price list. If you want the best performance, there is a price to pay for it. Not hard to say is that price will be the limiting factor for sales of this camera. Also not hard to say is that a solid percentage of professional photographers will find this camera worth the price.

This camera will also be incorporated into a significant number of enthusiast kits. There are a significant number of non-professional photographers with adequate resources to acquire the 1D X Mark II and enough passion about their images to make the 1D X II investment. When one looks at all of the time, effort and cost that parenting involves, having a pro-grade camera to capture lasting quality memories can be justified by even "just" parents.

Wrap Up

Keeping a full review of the incredibly-feature-laden 1D X Mark II concise, yet complete, is a difficult balance to find and this review is not a complete description of every 1D X Mark II feature available. Canon has published an intimidatingly-huge owner's manual (a link to the manual is provided with this review) that highlights all of the features found on this camera and explains their use. My recommendation is to read the manual, go use the camera, and repeat.

The 1D X Mark II used for this review was purchased online/retail.

Alternatives

Let us first answer the question "Should I buy the EOS-1D X Mark II DSLR camera?" Based on my experience, the only reasons to buy a different EOS model are:

  • The 1D X Mark II price is too high
  • The 1D X Mark II is too heavy or too big
  • The higher resolution of the 5Ds and 5Ds R are desired

Those who need sports camera performance but not able to afford the 1D X Mark II should consider the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. The 7D II is essentially a baby 1D X (Mark I) in the smaller APS-C sensor format with some additional features added (including DPAF, electronic viewfinder level and Flicker Mode) and a slower frame rate. Keep in mind that a full frame camera can create a stronger background blur than an APS-C camera used in the same situation. The 7D II, without the battery grip installed, also takes care of the smaller size and lower weight need. The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II vs. 7D Mark II specification comparison will prove helpful to those making this decision.

For a very significantly higher resolution at an offsettingly similar slower frame rate, the Canon EOS 5Ds and 5Ds R are extremely capable bodies. The 5Ds R is currently my first choice camera for capturing most subjects with subjects in fast action being a big exception. The 5Ds and 5Ds R bodies are priced substantially lower than the 1D X II and without the battery grip installed, are significantly smaller and lighter. The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II vs. 5Ds specification comparison will prove useful for this decision.

With the huge volume of the older 1D X model in circulation, many are going to be determining whether or not an upgrade to the latest iteration is worthwhile. Check out the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II vs. 1D X specification comparison to fully compare these cameras, but here is a list of some of the 1D X Mark II vs. 1D X differentiators:

  • 20.2 mp, 5472 x 3648px sensor vs. 18.1 mp, 5184 x 3456px sensor
  • 14 fps for up to 170 RAW frames (or a lot more) vs. 12 fps for up to 38 RAW frames
  • 16 fps in Live View vs 14 fps
  • 4K 60P, 1080 120P video with Dual Pixel CMOS AF vs. 1080 30p with no Movie Servo AF
  • 4K Frame Grab for 8.8 mp still JPEG images from 60 fps capture vs. not available
  • Improved 61-point High-Density Reticular AF II with expanded coverage vs. 61-point AF
  • Up to 61 AF-points individually selectable at f/8 max aperture (21 cross-type) at f/8 vs. center AF point only
  • AF working range down to EV -3 vs. EV -2
  • Continuous red illumination of all AF points vs. no
  • Improved AI Servo III+ predictive AF algorithm
  • Center spot metering of approx. 1.5% viewfinder at center vs. 2.5%
  • Dual DIGIC 6+ Image Processors vs. Dual DIGIC 5+
  • ISO expansion to H3 409600 vs H2 204800
  • 360,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor vs. 100,000-pixel RGB
  • Flicker Mode vs. no
  • Silent Continuous High and Low shooting modes vs. no
  • Approx. 1620K dot LCD (900x600px) with limited touch-screen vs. 1040K dot LCD (720x480px)
  • Dual-Axis Electronic Level with dedicated viewfinder display vs. non-dedicated display
  • Built-in GPS vs. optional GP-E2 GPS Receiver
  • Distortion correction, Diffraction correction and Digital Lens Optimizer in-camera vs. no
  • CF and CFast memory card slots vs two CF slots
  • USB 3.0 vs USB 2.0
  • Headphone jack v. no
  • Supports Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E8 and WFT-E6 vs WFT-E6
  • Ambience priority/White priority AWB vs. Ambience AWB only
  • Customizable Quick Control screen vs. fixed

If you are a serious photographer shooting indoor action, this camera's flicker mode alone can be worth the upgrade price. Many of the other line items listed are quite valuable to a serious photographer. Still, the 1D X is a very capable camera and if none of the above 1D X Mark II advantages appeal to you, keeping the 1D X that you own may make sense.

If you need 4k video capability, the 1D X II is your camera. That is, unless you need Log Gamma. In that case, consider the Canon EOS-1D C. And when you see the price of that camera, you may have second thoughts about needing Log Gamma (even after a major 1D C price drop).

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Front View

Summary

My expectation that the 1D X II was going to be worth the upgrade from the 1D X was very high. That I sold my 1D X at 1D X II announcement time made clear my confidence that this would the best sports/action camera ever. I have no regrets – the 1D X II exceeded my expectations. To me, it was worth the upgrade.

The 1D X Mark II is directly targeted at professional use where speed, reliability and bringing home the best possible image are important. This use includes sports, wildlife, fast action, reportage, weddings, events, media and wire service use in the toughest environments. If getting the shot matters, this is the camera I want in my hands. That this camera is so fun to use makes getting that all-important shot a great all-around experience.

Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

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My Recommended Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Retailers

Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my own purchases. Get your Canon EOS-1D X Mark II now from:

B&H Photo
Adorama
Amazon.com
Beach Camera or BuyDig.com
the Canon Store (new)
(Using the links on this site to make any purchase provides support for this site)
Rent the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Do you need/want the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II for only a short period of time? Or, would you feel more comfortable buying after having a hands-on trial period? Consider renting. Renting is fast and easy. The rental companies I recommend below are excellent to work with. Schedule your rental now:
LensRentals.com
LensProToGo
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