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Canon EOS 1D X First Look: A Formidable Flagship DSLR
by Allison Johnson -  10/28/2011

Canon's biggest weapon in the EOS arsenal is the flagship 1D X. Succeeding both the 1D Mark IV and 1Ds Mark III, it aims to please studio photographers who need lots of resolution along with sports photographers who prize speed. It has been overhauled from the ground up - everything from button placements to HD video compression has been tweaked. DCR sat down with Canon's Chuck Westfall at PhotoPlus Expo to get some more insider information on the thought process behind the 1D X.

Canon EOS 1D X

In merging the 1D and 1Ds lines, Canon engineers sought to provide pro photographers from all disciplines with high resolution stills, high speed burst shooting and great HD video quality. Essentially, they set out to create one pro DSLR body to rule them all. It should do everything the studio photographer needs with enough speed for the sports photographer.

Canon EOS 1D X

Westfall points at that even though sensor resolution has taken a cut from the 1Ds Mark III's 21 megapixels to a mere 18 megapixels in the 1D X, improved sensor readout makes it possible to gather more information from the chip. This promotes a better signal-to-noise ratio, according to Westfall. This full frame beast also utilizes gapless micro lenses on each pixel, something Canon has never before implemented in a full frame camera.

Canon EOS 1D X

That 12 fps rate in a full frame camera is also new to Canon DSLRs. Bumping up the framerate required a new mirror design up to the task of flipping out of the way 12 times in a second while still providing the AF system with enough light to continue focusing. Westfall points out that this improved burst rate will provide pro photographer with more shots in a given amount of time, rather than an overwhelming number of frames at a ridiculously fast pace. Capturing the decisive moment in sports can mean a difference of fractions of a second, and the 1D X is designed to give that photographer more options.

It will come as no surprise that the full-frame 1D X is physically monstrous. For its size, though, the 1D X feels remarkably well balanced and relatively comfortable in the hand. The grip has been slightly redesigned for a more natural feel. Controls on the back panel have been tweaked, adding a directional control oriented for use when shooting vertically. Two customizable buttons are added along the lens mount, each with a different tactile feel so that they can be easily identified without looking.

Canon EOS 1D X

In talking with several Canon reps I heard many times over that ease of use was an important factor in the design. Not only will it be more approachable to someone stepping up to a flagship full frame for the first time, the AF system has been simplified to the requests of experienced photographers. Short explanations for each AF mode are available on screen, making the differences of each mode readily apparent to the shooter.

Aside from more notable features like 12 fps continuous shooting, there are countless tweaks and changes photographers will uncover in the course of camera operation. For example, manual audio level control is available on-screen as the user records video. The 1D X will be sold with a newer LP-E4N battery. It's completely forward and backward compatible and it was designed to meet changing battery standards in Asia.

Canon EOS 1D X

When asked what a photographer familiar with a 1Ds Mark III or 1D Mark IV would first notice using the 1D X, Westfall compared the new camera's performance to a brand new laptop outpacing a less robust, older model. He stressed that camera performance overall is much snappier. And with no less than three separate processers inside, it's easy to understand the analogy. The differences aren't immediately obvious, but it seems that Canon has delivered a completely re-engineered tool in the 1D X. Its arrival in the marketplace is still months away, but we've gotten a very satisfying preview of the new flagship EOS at PhotoPlus Expo.