Canon 1DX - Review

Canon announced the new 1DX on the 2nd March 2012. After a very long period we received one of the first ones that came into South Africa. This document is to see how well the camera performed in the field and with our in-house tests.

 

TEST RESULTS

We looked at the camera’s AF system and how well it tracks and focuses. The ISO, we compared it against the 5D MkIII, 1D MkIV, Nikon D800 and D4; and lastly the resolution. So let’s look first at the AF system.

 

AF FOCUS

Canon has had some bad press about their AF systems in the 1D MkIII, it improved with the 7D and 1D MkIV, but did not win too many critics over. They really stepped up their game with the 5D MkIII, so lets see how well the new 1DX does. The 1DX has the same specifications as the 5D MkIII but also has the new iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) Auto Focus system that uses colour and face recognition to help track moving subjects. They increased the dual cross AF sensors and increased the cross type AF points, and spread them further out towards the end focusing points and increased the total AF to 61. Now, what is important to note here is that the dual cross AF sensors only work with lenses with a maximum aperture of f2.8 and faster. The 41cross type AF sensors work with lenses with a maximum aperture of f4 and faster. If you use a lens with a maximum aperture of f5.6 then you have 21 cross type AF point all grouped in the centre. See images below:

AF-available f2-8 colour with legend.jpg

AF-points available.jpg

 


The reason I am showing this is because it is important to know where the most sensitive and accurate AF points are. From our tests, you will see that we used lenses with all three maximum apertures. Remember, as you change lenses from f2.8 to f4, the AF points that was dual cross AF points now become cross type AF points and when you change to a lens with f5.6 as its maximum aperture, cross type AF Points change to vertical sensitive AF points (sensitive to horizontal lines).

We use two AF tests, one for static subjects and one for moving subjects. Lets look at the static subject. What we want to see is if the focus point focuses at the point where you aim the focus point, and how does the different assist focusing points influence the main focusing point. For the static test, we printed a test chart from Norman Koren at http://www.normankoren.com. The chart is really to test lens resolution but we thought that this is a very nice chart with clear black and white lines that will create ample contrast to focus on. We used three lenses, namely EF 100 f2.8L IS USM Macro lens, EF 24-105 f4L IS USM lens and EF 100-400 4.5-5.6L IS USM all at maximum aperture and at 100mm focal length.

a.The camera settings were as follows:

 

  • Quality: Jpeg L
  • Color space: Adobe sRGB
  • Picture Styles: Standard

 

b.The images were viewed in DPP version 3.11.31. The thumbnail will show the image plus the focusing point used, and the enlarged view is a portion of the Actual Pixels (100%) of the Jpeg image where the focusing point was aimed at. Both Auto Focus modes were used, namely One Shot and AI Servo

We are not going to include all the test images, there are just too many, but you will get an idea of how the test was conducted and we will show the problem areas.

For the first test we used the EF 100 f2.8L IS USM Macro lens and selected “Manual point selection”, “Case 1” and “Only cross-type AF points”, “iTR switched off (iTR is only active in the Zone and all 61 points auto selections modes)”. See image below:

_VDB2053 manual point AF and case1.jpg

We started with the centre focusing point and selected other focusing points in the following sequence (this sequence was used in all the tests), centre, far left, far right, middle top and middle bottom. See image below:

4004.jpg

The camera focused perfectly on the spot without any hesitation or hunting (in both One Shot Focus and AI Servo Focus).

The next set of tests we expanded the focusing points by selecting the following options, even though “only cross-type AF points” were selected, the camera will use non cross-type AF points to assist with the focus process, see image below:

_VDB2053 manual point AF expanded 4 and case1 Selectable AF.jpg

After our 5D MkIII test with expanded AF points, the 5D MkIII only used the selected AF point to focus with and used the expanded to assist, we expected the 1DX to perform exactly the same, and it did!!

Every test shot, the selected focusing point was used to achieve focus. The camera focused perfectly and never selected an expanded AF point (in both One Shot Focus and AI Servo Focus).
As with the 5D MkIII, we then expanded the AF points even more, now using 8 assisting AF points rather than only 4 in the previous test. See images below:

_VDB2053 manual point AF expanded 8 and case1 Selectable AF.jpg

Once again flawless!! We then selected Area/Zone AF mode. See image below:

Zone AF.jpg

Just as the 5D MkIII the camera behaved like his previous predecessors. Every time the AF system selected the closest focusing point. The red block around the AF points indicates the zone. See images below:

Zone.jpg

We then moved on and selected all 61 points. See images below:

All 61 AF.jpg

The camera behaves differently depending on AF Mode. When the AF mode is on One Shot, the camera selects the focusing point and every time it selected the closest point. See images below:

If the camera is in AI Servo, the AF will start from the selected AF point, and it did so every time. In the image below, the selected AF point was centre. We did select other AF points and the AF was spot on every time, without hesitation or hunting:

012.jpg

The next test was to activate the AF point auto switching. So we moved the setting from 0 to 1 and selected again every AF area. iTR was still switched off. See image below, example of how the set-up was for “expand 4 focusing points”:

_VDB2053 manual point AF expanded 4 and case1 with AF Switch 1 Selectable AF.jpg

The camera did not switch AF points in any of the modes and the test results were exactly the same as if the AF point auto switching was set at zero.

In the next test, we moved the AF point auto switching to +2 and tested every AF area again. iTR was still switched off. See image below, example of how the set-up was for “expand 8 focusing points”:

_VDB2053 manual point AF expanded 4 and case1 with AF Switch 2 Selectable AF.jpg

The results were exactly the same as when the AF point auto switching was on +1, the only difference we got was with the Area/Zone mode, more AF points achieved AF, but still in the same position.

We then repeated the tests with iTR on. See image below:

_VDB2053 manual point AF and case1 Selectable AF and iTR on.jpg

The results were the same, (remember iTR is only active with Area/Zone and all 61 AF points), except when all 61 points were selected in One Shot AF mode. The camera indicated more AF points achieving focus, see image below:

013.jpg

 

CONCLUSION ON STATIC SUBJECT FOCUS

The 1DX acted exactly the same as the 5D MkIII with this test, and we expected that. I am going to repeat myself and say again what I said in the 5D MkIII’s review and that is, it seems Canon has moved away from the philosophy that the AF points must AF on the closest subject, now employing the idea that the selected AF point takes priority and the surrounding AF points assist with the focus, exactly how it should be.
As with the 5D MkIII, the AF system really impressed us!! Whatever setup you use, whether it is with expansion or not, the AF is instantaneous and without any hunting.

For the second test, we used a moving subject to test the tracking ability of the focusing system. The test is simple and minimizes “operator” error. We printed black and white diagonal lines on a canvas that was inturn glued on a board. The board was then mounted on the bulbar of our Land rover. My wife drove at 50km/h towards me whilst I photographed the board.

The first image was taken from around 70m from the camera and the last image will be around 6m from the camera. The tests were done with three lenses namely, EF 600 f4.0L IS USM, EF 300 2.8L IS USM and the EF100-400 f4-f5.6 L IS USM lens at 400mm (note, the tests were done with the old 600 f4 and 300 f2.8, we will redo the test with the new lenses when we get our hands on one). All three lenses were used on their maximum aperture. The camera was supported on a Gitzo 1648 Carbon Fiber tripod with a Wimberley. The camera settings were as follows:

a.

  • Quality: Jpeg L
  • Color space: Adobe sRGB
  • Picture Styles: Standard

b.

  • Focusing mode AI Servo and Drive Mode 7fps.
  • The centre focusing point was used with the different expansion options
  • AF was set on Case 1
  • Shutter speed was 1/4000 sec

 

c.The images were viewed in DPP version 3.11.31. The thumbnail will show the image plus the focusing point used and the enlarged view is a portion of the Actual Pixels (100%) of the Jpeg image where the focusing point was aimed at.

See below an example of the test, once again we are not going to show all the results because we took over 800 images.

 
  9924.png

 

 

 

The AF system was set up as follows:

 

Lens drive-AI servo 1 image-AI servo 2 image

With the different expansion options:

_VDB2053 manual point AF expanded 4 and case1 Selectable AF.jpg

The results were then checked in DPP version 3.11.31 as well as in Photoshop CS 5 Bridge at actual pixels. See below the Single Point AF area with the 600 f4L IS USM lens, the result was 100%:

Servo Test.jpg

Below is a summary of the results:

600 f4L IS USM:

Single point: 100%

Exp 4 points: 92,7%

Exp 8 points: 92,7%

 

All 61 points with centre point selected: 84,6%

300 f2.8L IS USM:

Single point: 96,0%

Exp 4 points: 92,5%

Exp 8 points: 92,3%

 

All 61 points with centre point selected: 83,6%

100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS USM at 400mm:

Single point: 91,2%

Exp 4 points: 84,6%

Exp 8 points: 89,3%

 

All 61 points with centre point selected: 87,3%

The camera only hesitated once during the tests and did not take two or three frames, due to not achieving AF and that was with the 100-400 lens when the AF point were expanded to 4 points. You can see from the result that the AF then struggled to recover and gave one of the lowest results.

The above numbers are meaningless if you do not compare them, so here are previous test results of the 5D MkIII and 1D MkIV:

 

5D MkIII:

The 5D MkIII was set-up the same as the 1DX but at 6fps.

With the 600 f4.0L IS USM lens: 80.5% accurate
With the 100 – 400 f4.0 -5.6L IS USM lens: 72.9% accurate

 

1D MkIV:

Custom Function set-up at 6fps:

  • CFnIII: 2 the tracking sensitivity was set on Medium Fast
  • CFnIII: 3-0
  • CFnIII: 4-0
  • CFnIII: 5-0
  • CFnIII: 8-0

With the 600 f4.0L IS USM lens: 84.8% accurate
With the 100 – 400 f4.0 -5.6L IS USM lens: 51.0% accurate

As you can see, the 1DX is much better than the 1D MkIV and 5D MkIII, with the 1DX averaging in the 90’s with the 600 f4 lens, and in the high 80’s with the 100-400 lens.

We did not have any chance to test the 1DX on wildlife, so we took it and tested it on some sport. First of all, surfers, this time with the new 400 f2.8L IS II USM lens. See images below:

Surfing 1.jpg

All the surfer images were photographed with the centre point expanded to 4 surrounding points on case 1. The exposure settings for all the images were as follows, 1/4000 sec f5.6 at ISO 400. These are just a few samples of 250 images photographed. Out of the 250 images, about 10% were not in focus and that was not because of the camera but because the operator! I tried slow shutter speed images to create more motion, but of course caused more out of focus images!!!

Then rugby, but this time we had to use the older 400 f2.8L IS USM lens:

Rugby.jpg

All the rugby images were photographed with the centre point expanded to 4 surrounding points on case 4. The exposure settings for the images were as follows:

Image 1: 1/2000 sec f4 at ISO 1600, noise was removed using Lightroom 4 detail tab.

Image 2: 1/3000 sec f4 at ISO 2000, noise was removed using Lightroom 4 detail tab.

Image 3: 1/2000 sec f4 at ISO 1250, noise was removed using Lightroom 4 detail tab.

 

Then football/soccer, again with the old 400 f2.8L IS USM lens. Here we had the opportunity to shoot during the day and then at night with the floodlights on:

Soccer.jpg

All the above soccer images were photographed with the centre point expanded to 4 surrounding points on case 4. The exposure settings for the images were as follows:

Image 1: 1/3000 sec f4 at ISO 100

Image 2: 1/1000 sec f4.5 at ISO 100

Image 3: 1/1000 sec f5.6 at ISO 2000, noise was removed using Lightroom 4 detail tab

Soccer 1.jpg

All the above soccer images were photographed with the centre point expanded to 4 surroundings points on case 4. The exposure settings for the images were as follows:

Image 1: 1/1000 sec f6.7 at ISO 1250, noise was removed using Lightroom 4 detail tab

Image 2: 1/1000 sec f4 at ISO 1000, noise was removed using Lightroom 4 detail tab

Image 3: 1/1000 sec f4 at ISO 640

Soccer 2.jpg

Image 1: 1/1000 sec f4 at ISO 3200, noise was removed using Lightroom 4 detail tab

Image 2: 1/1000 sec f4 at ISO 2000, noise was removed using Lightroom 4 detail tab

Image 3: 1/1500 sec f3.5 at ISO 1600

 

CONCLUSION ON MOVING SUBJECT FOCUS

The 1DX AF system is the best Canon has built without any doubt!!! The test with the Land rover showed how much more accurate the AI Servo focusing is, especially with f5.6 maximum aperture lenses. In the sport images, the tracking was very good, and most of the ‘out of focus’ images was operator error and not the camera!! What did surprise me, is how well the iTR worked when you activated all 61 AF points, and several times, the AF system picked up a face and tracked the face rather than the body. What we did notice was that the face recognition does NOT work well on dark skins. The AF system rather picked a brighter spot on the clothing with the dark skin players, see images below:

Soccer 3.jpg

iTR with all 61 points worked well with individuals, but struggled when there were more than two players, so in the soccer it was ok in some cases, but for the rugby it did not work at all.

 

ISO

Studio test

Below are images photographed in the studio. The tests were done as follows:

a.An EF 100 f2.8L IS USM Macro lens was used and the camera/lens combination was mounted on a sturdy tripod and ball head.

b.We used Mirror Lock-up and a cable release to trigger the shutter.

c.The camera settings was as follow:

  • Quality: RAW
  • Color space: Adobe RGB
  • Picture Styles: Neutral (Zero sharpening)

d.We photographed a chart that we got in the back of one of Scott Kelby’s books. The reason for using this chart is that it has nice shades of grey to black. Remember, noise is easily detected in the darker areas.

e.The images were viewed in LR4 and any Noise reduction was removed and no sharpening was applied. The view you are going to look at is a portion of the Actual Pixels (100%) of the RAW image.

f.Out of experience, the moment you notice any noise in the studio shot, the image will be very noisy in the field.

g.We also showed the ISO from ISO 400 and above, as all the cameras that were used give excellent low noise images from ISO 400 and below.

Thumbnail ISO.jpg Thumbnail ISO.jpg Thumbnail ISO.jpg Thumbnail ISO.jpg Thumbnail ISO.jpg
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO 3200 ISO 6400
Thumbnail ISO.jpg Thumbnail ISO.jpg Thumbnail ISO.jpg Thumbnail ISO.jpg Thumbnail ISO.jpg
ISO 12800 ISO 25600 ISO 51200 ISO 102400 ISO 204800

Again these images don’t tell you too much unless you do a comparison, see the comparison below at ISO 3200. We converted the RAW images using LR 4 without any Noise reduction or sharpening, and resized all the images to 40cm x 26.67cm at 300dpi just so that all the images are the same size. We then cropped an actual pixels view of each image, see below:

ISO Comparision.jpg

The 1DX has about a ½ stop less noise than the 5D MkIII, and much better than the 1D MkIV.

CONCLUSION ON ISO

The 1DX’s has a slight edge on the 5D MkIII when it comes to noise, I must say I expected a better performance.

 

RESOLUTION

We have not had the chance to compare the resolutions; this will follow soon.

 

FINAL CONCLUSION:

Canon has built the best camera I have ever shot with. The AF system is the best AF system in a Canon camera I have seen. The tracking is suburb, and the speed with what AF is achieved on a subject is very good. The AF menu is well laid out, and with the Info button help facility, anybody will be able to customize the AF system. On the ISO side, again the camera with the lowest noise, and Canon shooters can for the first time shoot on the higher ISO’s with lots of detail in the images and low noise!!!

Well now that we have compared the 1DX against its own brand, let’s see how good it is against the opposition, the Nikon D4 and D800. We tested the D4 exactly at the same time for focusing when we tested the 1DX (the Land rover test). I shot the 1DX, and a friend of mine, Andrew shot the D4. We used the exact same lenses, namely the Canon 600 f4L IS USM, the 300 f2.8L IS USM and the 100-400 f4.5-5.6L IS USM and the Nikon was 600 f4G ED VR, the 300 f2.8 VR and the 80-400 f4.5-5.6 VR. Both cameras were set-up the same, namely:

  • Quality: Jpeg L
  • Color space: Adobe sRGB
  • Picture Styles: Standard

- Focusing mode AI Servo and Drive Mode 7fps.
- The centre focusing point was used with the different expansion options:

Single, 4 point expansion/9 point expansion, 8 point expansion/21 point
expansion and 61 point/51 point
- Shutter speed was 1/4000 sec

Below are the results:

 

600f4

 

300 f2.8

 

100-400 f4.5-5.6

 

Canon

Nikon

 

Canon

Nikon

 

Canon

Nikon

S Point

100%

100%

 

96,0%

95,8%

 

91,2%

75,9%

Exp 4/9

92,7%

92,9%

 

92,3%

95,8%

 

84,6%

74,0%

Exp 8/21

92,9%

93,3%

 

92,3%

94,3%

 

89,3%

70,4%

61/51

84,6%

98,3%

 

83,6%

94,2%

 

87,3%

96,6%

From these numbers, you can see that the D4 is slightly better until it comes to the 100/80-400 f4.5-5.6 lenses, where the 1DX out performs the D4 except with all AF points. Well, the % numbers makes the D4 better but that is not 100% true, the D4 consistently shot less shots with every test, so, if we take the same table and replace the % numbers with actual ‘in focus’ images then the table looks like this:

 

600f4

 

300 f2.8

 

100-400 f4.5-5.6

 

Canon

Nikon

 

Canon

Nikon

 

Canon

Nikon

S Point

68

69

 

48

46

 

52

41

Exp 4/9

51

53

 

48

46

 

44

37

Exp 8/21

52

36*

 

50

50

 

50

38

61/51

55

57

 

46

49

 

48

50

*Not a true reflection, Andrew started about 10 frames after me, so the number should be around 46 if all of them were in focus.

So in summary, the 1DX and D4 AF are very similar, the only difference is that the D4 manages the out of focus images better than the 1DX, meaning the D4 will not take an image if it is not in focus, whilst the 1DX did; even though we set it to do focus priority in both the first image and the images thereafter.

We did a second ISO test in the studio and tested the 1DX against the D4 and D800. The cameras were set-up exactly the same and we used the 70-200 f2.8 lenses set at 200mm. We converted the RAW images using LR 4 without any Noise reduction or sharpening, and resized all the images to 40cm x 26.67cm at 300dpi just so that all the images are the same size. We then cropped an actual pixel view of each image, see below:

3200 ISO Comp-1.jpg

Well a bit of a surprise, the D4 does have less colour noise than the 1DX, look in the black areas, otherwise the noise is very similar. The camera that surprised me the most is the D800, with all those pixels it still produces less noise than the 1DX!!!

Finally, the 1DX is the best camera that Canon has built, I think the AF system is as good as the D4’s, but the D4’s and, for that matter the D800 noise is still better than the best Canon!

Many thanks to Andrew for the use of his D4 and D800, and to ODP Nelspruit for the use of the lenses!

Manus van Dyk