New Canon EOS 1D X Announced

Canon has just announced their latest, high-end professional model, the EOS 1D X.  I don’t normally discuss the top of the line pro models (as this one is listed at $6,800) but instead concentrate on the consumer and pro-sumer level dSLR cameras.  However I would like to look at some of the new feature of the flagship Canon 1D X that will – sooner or later – make their way down to the more affordable models.

Canon EOS 1D X
Canon EOS 1D X – image courtesy of Canon USA
(If you do plan to purchase a 1D X, please use one of my referral links to Amazon, B and H, Canon,or Adorama!!)

In the past we have seen some of the advanced features of the high end cameras later introduced into the consumer models in one form or another, including faster processors and shooting speeds, more sophisticated autofocus system features, and advanced custom functions that allow the user to modify the functions and controls to operate in a specific desired manner.  And since the replacement for the 5D Mk II is imminent (Mk III? 6D?), and the 7D Mk II probably around the same time (Feb 2012?) we are likely to see variations of some of these refinements soon in the consumer and pro-sumer models.

Some of the new advanced features of the Canon 1D X that we will eventually see in the replacements to the 5D Mk II, 7D, 60D, and perhaps even the Rebel line:

  • 18 Megapixel full frame CMOS sensor.  The high-end cameras have less megapixel than the consumer cameras because they are extremely high quality sensors and can deliver high image quality with a lower number of larger pixels.  The 7D and 5D replacements, however, are bound to boast 21 to 26 MP or so.
  • Refinements to the controls and their layout.  This includes user-configurable buttons on the front of the camera, which has already been seen with the 7D to an extent, but will definitely be incorporated into the 5D Mk III (or 6D or whatever it may be called).
  • A 61 point AF system with 41 cross-type AF points and five dual cross-type points for extra precision.  The 7D and 5D replacements won’t have this many AF points, but perhaps will increase upon the 19 AF points of the current 7D.
  • Zone, Spot, and AF Expansion autofocus Area Modes including 4 point and 8 point expansion.  The 7D currently offers these as well (4 point expansion only, not 8), and the new 5D is certain to have these capabilities.  Perhaps the 8 point expansion will be added to the 7D replacement.
  • Refinements to the autofocus system, including a simplification of the complex AF related Custom Functions that are so difficult to explain and differentiate even with the 7D.  With the new 1D X the changes include a new AF menu tab to easily access and change the AF options, and presets such as “Continuous shooting, ignore obstructions,” “Subjects that accelerate or decelerate quickly,” and “Instantly refocus suddenly with obstructions.”  While specific combinations of the AF Mode, AF Area Mode and AF related Custom Function settings of the 7D already allows for these types of settings, these new, easy to access presents are a welcome change from the previous difficult-to-decipher (much less remember) Custom Functions such as AI Servo Tracking Sensitivity and AI Servo AF Tracking Method.
  • Additional changes to the AF system include “Intelligent Tracking and Recognition” which incorporates color and face detection in order to more easily assist the photographer on focusing on a subject’s face when tracking a moving subject, such as a dancer or sports player, rather than perhaps focusing on a closer hand, racquet, or jersey.  Now even the pros will be using face detection!  And focusing is improved in even very low light.
  • 12 frames per second continuous shooting speed with full autofocus and metering, plus up to 14fps possible with the mirror locked up when shooting JPEGs.  While the 1D X offers 12 and 14 frames per second shooting, it is unlikely that the 7D and 5D replacements will be capable of more than 8 or 10fps, though any increase is sorely needed for the 5D.
  • Higher ISO capability.  The ISO performance increases with just about every new sensor, so any of the new cameras are bound to have improved high ISO performance – probably not as incredible as the 1D X, but improved from the current models.
  • Faster start-up time and shutter lag.  This is always a welcome improvement.
  • Easy one-touch 100% zoom during image playback to the area of the image where the active autofocus point is located, in order to quickly check for sharp focus in the area of the image that should display the sharpest focus.
  • Dual DIGIC 5+ image / data processors.  The 7D has dual Digic 4 processors, and the new 7D and 5D are certain to have improved processors, which assist with overall camera speed including continuous shooting speeds, multiple exposures, and writing files to the CF memory card.  A processor also assists with metering and autofocus.
  • Multiple exposures between two and nine shots with various options for combining the frames, plus chromatic aberration correction and peripheral illumination correction.  HDR shooters and those wanting to shoot multiple exposures will appreciate a new 7D or 5D with these in-camera capabilities, and the chromatic aberration correction may also find its way to the lower level cameras.
  • The 1D X “deploys a 100,000-pixel RGB metering sensor and a new metering algorithm. The sensor is used to detect a subject’s brightness, color and face and based on this evaluative metering or evaluative flash metering is executed. This data is also communicated to the AF system to assist with subject tracking.”  New models typically bring an improvement in the metering system, and while the new 5D and 7D won’t have this level system with 253 zones over the previous 63, they will certainly have these same types of improvements made to their current systems.
  • Plus / minus 5 stops of exposure compensation.  This is already a feature of the 7D and will be a welcome addition to the 5D replacement, especially for those shooting HDR.
  • Various video improvements, including longer shooting times, manual audio level control and adjustable live level meters, some compression and timecode features.  There are several features that videographers will appreciate and many will definitely find their way into the new 7D and 5D, which are already extremely popular cameras for dedicated videographers.
  • 3.2-inch (diagonal), 1,040,000-dot rear LCD screen with “ClearView II” technology and extremely durable glass screen.  This is slightly lager than the 3″ screen of most of Canon’s dSLRs, but I’m not sure if a new 7D or 5D will see much of a size increase here.
  • Built in LAN Ethernet port.  This is a new feature for a Canon.  While most of them allow for an optional wireless transmitter, this wired version is built right in.  I don’t see this being added to other cameras quite yet.
  • Twin CF memory card slots, which can be used in various configurations.  Some heavy shooters and videographers might like to see this on a new 7D or 5D, to (I’m speculating here) separately save stills and video, or JPEG and RAW, or use the second card for overflow, or save dual copies of all files.
  • Canon’s second generation self-cleaning sensor unit, which uses “carrier wave technology” to better coax the small dust particles gently down the surface of the (filter in front of the) sensor to the collecting adhesive strip at the base.
  • New EOS System Monitor screen showing total shutter actuations, serial number, and firmware version.  This would be a welcomed addition to the 7D and 5D, though it always seems Canon is hesitant to make it easy to see shutter actuations on a consumer camera.

There are a variety of other additions and improvements to the EOS 1D X, but these are the features that are likely to be incorporated into the more affordable consumer and pro-sumer models.  Some I am certain we will see in the following months when the new versions of the 7D and 5D are released, and some will eventually make their way into the 60D replacement and perhaps, in time, even into the Rebel models.