Following months, nay years, of speculation, Canon has finally announced its new flagship DSLR, the EOS-1D X. It amalgamates the advantages of the slower full frame 1-Ds line and the faster APS-H 1D line, into one new flagship camera that supersedes both the Canon 1-Ds Mark III and the Canon 1-D Mark IV.
As a stills camera, the Canon EOS-1D X offers an impressive spec list that includes a new full frame CMOS sensor with an extremely sensible 18.1MP count, dual DIGIC 5+ processors, an impressive native ISO range of 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-204,800), a 400,000 cycle carbon fibre shutter capable of 12 frames per second in RAW, a new auto focus system with face recognition, built in Ethernet (but no built in Wi-Fi or GPS, for which add adaptors are available). Although there is a 9 frame multiple exposure mode, there is no in camera HDR facility.
On the video front, the Canon EOS-1D X offers some significant improvements over the EOS 5D Mark II, including SMPTE compliant timecode embedding (with ‘Rec Run’ and ‘Free Run’ modes), manual audio level control, a choice of two different compression schemes (though no word on whether or not one of these is ‘broadcast quality’ 4:2:2 50MB/sec MPEG 2) and continuous video recording of up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds, which it achieves by splitting recordings across multiple 4GB files with no dropped frames. It is unclear whether video will be 8 bit (as it is in current EOS models) or will take greater advantage of the EOS 1-D X’s 14 bit sensor.
Although there is no global shutter, the word on the street is that the ‘Jello Cam’ problem inherent in rolling shutter CMOS sensors will be greatly reduced and Canon promise that the EOS 1-D X “…will exhibit less moiré than any previous Canon model.” Frame rates of 24p (23.976), 25p and 30p (29.97) are supported at 1080p, but frame rates of 50p and 60p (59.94) are only supported at 720p, which some people may find a little disappointing given that the recently introduced Sony Alpha A77 and Sony NEX-7 support full HD at all of these frame rates (though, to be fair, the Sony Alpha A77 and Sony NEX-7 are not full frame cameras and do not offer SMPTE or any choice of compression codec). Whilst the Canon EOS 1-D X offers SMPTE, it does not, perhaps unsurprisingly, have a genlock. Unfortunately its rear LCD screen is fixed.
So what’s my take? On paper, the EOS-1D X seems like a worthy successor to both the EOS 1-Ds Mark III and the EOS 1-D Mark IV, that fulfils the needs of the professional photo journalists, sports and wildlife photographers at who it is aimed. As for its appeal to filmmakers, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and this pudding won’t be available to eat until the end of March 2012. If Canon have resolved the rolling shutting, moire, aliasing and line skipping issues of the EOS 5D Mark II and included a broadcast quality codec, this could be a very interesting camera. However, between now and then, Canon and Red are rumoured to be making significant video camera announcements, the Nikon D800 or Nikon D4 may have been announced, as may Sony’s full frame Alpha 9x (presumably with at least the same video functionality as the alpha A77)…and perhaps there will even be news of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III…let’s wait and see…
© 2011, Paul D. All rights reserved.