Having owed all the Canon 1D(s) bodies except for the CCD-sensored 1D original, it was inevitable that the 1D X Mark II would beckon. Iím not usually an early adopter, but unlike the response to its predecessors I got in the preorder queue once Mark II specs were announced. Although the 1D X is an outstanding body, the Mark II promised some attractive upgrades that made taking a chance worth the risk of early teething problems, and my first impressions are that that promise has been fulfilled. Full spec lists are plentiful on Internet, so Iíll limit this discussion to apparent difference makers for the types of photography I enjoy most: long lens wildlife and nature, especially birds, and professional tennis. There's also a varied mix of general purpose, travel, family, macro, and multi-flash setups. (For more on photographic use cases, see Custom Shooting Modes.) The upgrades that stood out as most significant were:
Other specs also suggested improved performance and useability. The bump from 18 MP to 20 MP was a bit meager but better than nothing. AF sensitivity was increased from -2 EV to -3 EV. Also of note was the RGB metering sensor increase from 100K-pixels to 360K. Linked with the AF sensor, this promised to further enhance AF subject tracking. Return of red AF points was a welcome plus. GPS was new, and Iíll admit that it would help on landscape trips. Last but not least, additional customization options -- up to five My Menu screens and a new customizable Quick Control screen -- were welcome upgrades to an already excellent user interface.
To Heck with Specs
To Heck with Specs
Specs are nice but my main use of this camera is to capture quality images in difficult circumstances. This often means telephoto lenses, frequently with extenders attached, sometimes in action situations, and in less than ideal light. So I want to know how it performs when things get tough. But really, that isn't so far from this camera's intended market segment, so my expectations should be in line with many who are interested in the Mark II.
Rarely do I use a camera at the base ISO setting of 100. For long lens nature subjects I only shoot at ISO 200 or 400 on sunny days with static subjects. Add an extender and ISO goes up. For lesser light or action ISO goes up. And, while increased low ISO dynamic range is always welcome (more is always better), by somewhere around ISO 400 to 800 the DR curve for all cameras flattens and hits the same downward slope. So itís rather obvious that for my primary use cases low ISO DR just isnít a compelling feature. However, high ISO noise performance is.
With all that in mind, hereís how I see the 1D X Mark II stacking up based on a short period shooting passerines in a heavily wooded and deeply shaded back yard with a telephoto and 2X extender -- an f/8 combination -- followed by a week at a national wildlife refuge. Keep in mind, these are impressions based on limited use in very specific circumstances. Note that I do not feel the need that some seem to have, i.e. to justify purchases by inflated praise where none is merited -- negatives are noted.
Thatís it so far. Hereís the summary, in tabular form:
Is the Mark II the step forward advertising
is the undisputed class leader in many areas -- frame rate, all AF points
at f/8, 4K video with DPAF tracking -- along with outstanding
customizability. Conversion to on-chip ADCs promised better low ISO DR and
less high ISO noise. But, while low ISO DR has improved -- but not
caught up with rivals, according to tests -- high ISO noise
has remained virtually static.
Perhaps it was too much to expect Canon to
match its competitors in the first generation of a long delayed and
much needed conversion to a more modern sensor technology.
Clearly more work is needed. On the other hand, the 1D X was so
good in so many other ways that it was difficult to top. The Mark II is even better -- and it will be worthwhile for
many; for others the 1D X will continue to be
more than enough.
Clearly more work is needed. On the other hand, the 1D X was so good in so many other ways that it was difficult to top.
The Mark II is even better -- and it will be worthwhile for many; for others the 1D X will continue to be more than enough.
© 2016 Michael W. Masters
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