Canon 1D X – EOSHD’s Take


Canon 1D X

Sample movie clip from the 1D X now online

Canon have announced the $6800 Canon 1D X designed for professional news and sports shooters. It is far more a successor to the 1D Mk IV than the 1DS although officially Canon say it represents the merging of the two lines. Really, the 1DS replacement will be the 5D Mark III with a higher megapixel count.

The 1D X lacks the 1080/60p mode of the $600 Sony NEX 5N but it does thankfully have the AVC Intra-frame codec of the $800 hacked GH2. Chuck Westfall says of video on the 1D X:

“I think people are looking for a balance between cost and performance – the cameras offering 60P at the kind of bit rates that we can offer tend to be in a higher price bracket. And we can offer 720p at 60 frames per second”

Well, the Sony NEX 5N is not really in a higher price bracket Chuck is it? What’s also rather disappointing is that although the camera has file-spanning to get around the 4GB file size limit of the FAT file system of Compact Flash cards the 1D X is limited to 29 minute recording time due to a very stupid European tax law, much like cheaper consumer DSLRs.

At a glance

  • 64 manual audio controls
  • Capacitive Touch-Pad for silent manual control adjustment during video shooting.
  • EOS iTR AF Colour/Contrast AF in live view mode (video unconfirmed at time of writing)
  • 1080/30/25/24p AVC H264
  • IPB 50Mbit (VBR) standard compression mode
  • ALL-I 300Mbit+ in Intra-frame recording mode. Canon say this plays back smoother when editing especially on lower spec machines, because the complex compression is not a feature – it is literally each frame stored sequentially.
  • Carbon fibre shutter, 12fps (up from 5fps from the previous full frame shutter – very impressive). Electronic rolling shutter at 14fps for 18MP JPEGs (if only it was 24fps 12MP huh?)
  • ISO expansion to ISO 204,800 but limited to ISO 51,200 in video mode
  • UDMA 7 for 176MB per second data recording to dual compact flash card slots (note – Megabytes not megabits – the limit of the card controller is much higher than video recording will use)
  • Drop frames feature for syncing with dual system audio
  • Industry standard Timecode (a feature some pros will appreciate but creatively uninteresting)
  • MetaData recorded for video clips inside a .THM file (the thumbnail image)
  • Same LCD as the 600D but not articulated

What is most exciting about this camera is not the rather conservative implementation but the raw tech behind it. Dual DIGIC 5+ is a real beast of an image processor and the new full frame sensor improves on the low light performance of the previous 1D Mk IV. The camera uses the old DIGIC 4 of our 600D and 7D just for controlling the new Auto-Focus and Auto-Exposure system. This includes a new AF tracking system called EOS iTR AF which tracks object by colour and contrast. Usually contrast detect in live view and video mode on DSLRs works just with detecting contrast changes but the 1D X has a dedicated DIGIC-4 CPU for AF. As well as the new colour-detect component to contrast detect which improves the way it works and the speed, face detection is in there as well. What we need now is some silent video optimised lenses from Canon for the EF mount and confirmation of whether this contrast detect AF system works in video mode. By definition it should because contrast detect works off a sensor live video feed with the mirror up.

The new 35mm CMOS sensor uses a 16 channel read-out and it is 1.4x faster than the one in the 1D Mk IV. Rolling shutter is therefore improved and gapless micro lenses mean that despite also being full frame and 18MP, the photosites are larger capturing more light. Gapless microlenses are not that new, both the 7D and GH2 have them but this is the first time they’re implemented to this level in a full frame 35mm sensor from Canon.

With DIGIC 5 being based around a video core, scalling is done by inteligentlly binning pixels like on the Panasonic GH2 and not by line-skipping. Therefore detail is greatly improved without the kind of false colour moire and horrible aliasing we had before on Canon DSLRs.

The release date of the 1D X is March 2012 so quite a while to wait – which is good because to save up $6800 is no easy thing! What I am looking forward to is the 5D Mark III which will be more affordable but is likely not to have the same level of low light performance due to the higher megapixel sensor.

The 1D X is a nice incremental leap forward but still too conservative for my liking in innovation terms. It lacks a bit of Steve Jobs magic. It is a highly corporate product. Cameras are undergoing a massive change at the moment. The 1D X gives pros exactly what they need to improve their game but is lacking some really exciting inspiration beyond the brute force of the new DIGIC 5 processor and sensor.

There’s no news yet about how good the HDMI output is apart from the fact that it is improved to at least the level of the 7D (no drop of resolution while recording) or the colour sampling and colour space used by Canon for video. 10bit 4-2-2 uncompressed HDMI out on this camera would be very nice indeed but 10bit 4-2-2 in-camera would be far better!

Maybe the 5D Mark III will be more adventurous in terms of feature set.

About Author

British filmmaker and editor of EOSHD, Andrew works in Berlin on his own self funded filmmaking and video projects.


  1. Why are you asking Chuck about the Sony 5n ? I wasn’t aware that it had a 50 Mbit recording mode. What Chuck said (you seem to be ignoring part of it) is that “the cameras offering 60P AT THE KIND OF BIT RATES THAT WE CAN OFFER tend to be in a higher price bracket” – so how does the Sony 5n prove this statement wrong ?

  2. This really doesn’t look like a “video-ready”/hybrid camera but still a still camera with the bonus of the video feature.
    I’d like to see how the video quality is though to see what they did this time.

  3. Canon has always been on the leading edge of the megapixel race, what has happened for them to slam on the brakes—no actually go in reverse?

  4. Glad they have done it. Maybe they’ve listened to lots of pro photographers asking them to stop that pixel race… For us interested in video on DSRL’s the more pixels to scale down from to 1080, the worse. A 5D MKIII with 18MP would be nice!

  5. Does anyone believe Canon could give us 4K video with the Canon 5D MKII?

    OK, I should stop dreaming awake… :P

  6. Useless sample footage from Canon.. Heavy compression (impossible to know wheter it’s conversion or aliasing from the camera) and shooting gone heywire on high iso..
    Now why would they go and do that?

  7. Very good news that moire issues have been improved and that i-frame is an option. I think it’s unrealistic to expect further things like 10 bit 422 color space /raw encoding etc. as Canon won’t want the video to be too high end as it would encroach on the territory of their forthcoming cinema cameras. I expect the 5DMK3 will have very similar video to the 1DX as well.

  8. I think a lot of reasons why video users specs are being left out is that every function has a price to implement, engineers time, designing, software programming. All this has to be carefully co-ordinated with the build and release date. Extra functions will drive the price up and put back release dates. Also, this is their pro camera market. There are probably many more pro photogs than video only dslr users. perhaps they reasoned designing a video camera should be left to the video camera guys. Perhaps they also figured that committed stills guys might resent an overly video version. I’ll bet thats a much bigger market to lose than us! That and if they gave us everything now.. how would they sell us anything later. These guys are corporate, thats how they got so big they could build this camera in the first place! They are here to make a profit. I think its a great improvement to the 5DMKII but to justify it you’ll need to be making some cash from stills too! 5DMkIIn and Nov 3rd will plug the gaps.. but as always no 4.2.2 50mbs shoulder mount sub 3K full frame dream camera. That’ll come out when we’re all watching hologram cinema!

  9. Yea, I’m hoping they left out the better video features fro the cinema cams on the 3rd… if not, I’m going to have to jump ship on Canon.

  10. It doesn’t matter if 60p 1080 tends to be in a higher price bracket… it’s what would have got me to buy this camera. There’s really no reason to own the 1Dx now.

    I think we should start a online tally going of how many customers they lost by not implementing 1080p 60fps.

    BTW, the AF-100, FS-100, and new Sony DSLRs (all less than the 1Dx) offer 60fps… so Chuck’s statement was dumb. On top of that, it wouldn’t even have to record 60fps… just read the sensor at 60fps and record to 24 or 30p like the AF-100 or GH2 (at 80%). i.e. Over-cranking.

  11. Am I the only one who finds it funny that the Canon model to do away with a cropped 1D series is called the 1DX :) Maybe I have just spent too much time in the Nikon world.

  12. The Mark II? No, the sensor is surely not correctly wired for it. Now the Mark III, I think Andrew is right, they could do it if they really wanted to, but if the 1x is any indication they won’t

  13. We are in peak new DSLR release season. I’m expecting new high end Nikon in 1-2 weeks rumoured to feature Sony’s new full frame sensor. And then A99 to follow.

  14. The 1D is mainly for the stills people, so at the moment I am holding judgement. Hopefully Canon will listen and make a video oriented Full Frame DSLR that will be better than this. Let’s see what happens on Nov 3rd.

  15. LOL, I’m sure they do, and it’ll happen simply because there are lots of companies that have everything to gain and nothing to lose by pushing 4k. It means you have to buy faster computers, better software, faster and bigger memory, better TVs, better cameras, just more more more more cha-ching. Nevermind that aren’t even any consumer cameras out there yet capable of resolving what a 1080p TV can display when pushed to its limits; the GH2 is maybe starting to get close to the limits of 720p but that’s about it. I’d just as soon see them sample at 4K then downscale that for a better quality 1080p, but of course that wouldn’t sell as many cameras (or TVs etc)

  16. the sample video is not impressive whatsoever, quite crappy .. I’ve got way better video images, material out of my old hacked GH1 .. did it take a whole film crew 2 do that =D … look at the cast at the end of the movie sample =D

  17. “the 1D X is limited to 29 minute recording time due to a very stupid European tax law, much like cheaper consumer DSLRs.”

    I never knew there was a “law” inplace. What is the reason for this law?

  18. As an artist, capturing at that resolution would enable greater flexibility in producing 1080p content—that’s a nice-sized canvas!

    I don’t see consumers flocking to 4k—just like they didn’t flock to high definition audio.

  19. Europe charges a higher tax rate on video cameras than stills cameras, and they define a video camera as able to record longer than 29 minutes! Originally the law was designed to stop a flood of cheap imports hurting Europe’s own camera manufacturers. Now it is just plain stupid and outdated. We like our paper work over here unfortunately!

  20. sc_8c560c3633641dea6745999204a11301 on

    I agree. 960×540 is the max resolution for the preview? Really? REALLY? THAT’s how they want to debut their camera?? It does look pretty good in low light, but damn… Disappointing crap!

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