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Canon Improves Video Resolution with the 1D X, but is It Better Than the Mark III?

06.23.12 @ 5:28PM Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

We’ve been having a discussion about downscaling in another thread about a Canon DSLR (the T4i to be exact), and today we’ve finally got a sample video from the Canon 1D X that seems to show the camera out-resolving the 5D Mark III. Though the 1D X was announced back in October 2011, it may very well be October 2012 before these finally get out in the open in real numbers. It was common knowledge that the launch was going to be a “paper” announcement only, but the 1D X has missed its delivery date numerous times. Either way, the camera is going to be released sooner rather than later, and while its price point is well out of the reach of many readers ($6,800), it looks like all that extra horsepower under the hood gives it a bit more resolution in video mode than the other new full frame Canon camera, the 5D Mark III.

Dan Chung over at DSLR News Shooter took this comparison between the 1D X and the Mark III, using the exact same lens and the same camera settings. It is available for download, so if you’d like to see it in full resolution, head on over to Vimeo and download it:

I’ve taken some still frames at 100% and compared them below. The 5D Mark III is first followed by the 1D X:

As you can see in the pictures of the right wall, there is a bit more definition and sharpness in the 1D X than the Mark III. Not only that, but there is also a bit more dynamic range — at least a stop or two. It may not be as sharp as the C300 (hard to tell without a comparison), but it’s definitely a step up from the Mark III and the rest of the Canon DSLRs. I would compare it to the difference between the D800 and the Mark III, which you can see in my review. The Nikon D800 has more sharpness and dynamic range than the Mark III, but also suffers from aliasing and moire, whereas the Mark III does not. Now we’ve finally got a full frame camera from Canon that not only has closer to 1080p resolution and great dynamic range, but is also a stunning low-light camera. There’s just one problem: it costs twice as much as the Mark III.

So why does this camera have better downscaling than the Mark III or any of the other Canon DSLRs? For one thing, lower megapixels (18 vs. 22) means that there is less information that must be thrown away to get to 1080p (which is only 2 megapixels). It also has an additional processing core within the imaging pipeline. The reason it can take so many still images per second is because the processors are built to handle that speed and the CMOS sensor has a quicker read-reset rate. The side effect of this, is that video quality can be improved. The video in the 1D X didn’t necessarily have to be as good as it is, but this camera was also being developed as a video camera, and it shares practically everything with the twice as expensive 1D C. It’s unclear which came first, but it’s likely that the stills camera came first, and they realized that the internals could probably handle 4K video.

This camera is now up there with the big boys, and it’s got the full frame look that many desire — the only problem is that it’s missing a lot of the features that many would be willing to pay a higher price for. Not to pick on Canon here, but they are taking advantage of the fact that video people pay more for their products than photographers. How this camera can go from $6,800 to $15,000 with the addition of a single codec (4K MJPEG) and some additional crop modes is clear evidence Canon understands that there are users who will pay more because they trust the brand. You could argue that Canon is intentionally pricing the 1D C where they are so that they can recoup the R&D costs, but if that were the case, they would have been pricing their still photography products a lot higher over the years.

Canon still doesn’t have a line that competes with Sony at similar price levels. This camera should really be competing with the FS100, but it’s another $1,800 more expensive. Some people might find that the full frame sensor is worth that additional price, but it’s a simple fact that Canon has nothing below the 1D X that really compares with the FS100 in features and image quality (the quality of the Mark III is debatable compared to the FS100). The 1D C is really getting into Scarlet territory in price. While a base Scarlet package is upwards of $15,000, it’s a far more fully featured camera than the 1D C.

Canon is a well-respected company that makes a lot of good products. I personally have owned cameras from every company out there, and I’ve never had a problem with any of them. Unfortunately, Canon has seemingly left behind the very people who made their large sensor cameras so popular. Their mindset is one of intentional crippling. Make the lower-end product less featured so that people will be forced to spend more money. Many companies practice this — Sony could very easily have put their 50mbps 4:2:2 XDCAM codec inside the FS100 and the F3 (as well as the FS700), but they too are trying to differentiate their product lines.

Whether the other Canon DSLRs are capable of higher resolution is unclear, but what is clear is that other companies are not afraid to release products at lower prices with a tremendous amount of features. To paraphrase Steve Jobs: if you don’t cannibalize your own products, somebody else will. Blackmagic will begin releasing the Cinema Camera in about a month, and since they don’t have a higher-end product, there’s nothing to cannibalize. Real 1080p, RAW, ProRes, and DNxHD internally. The best that Sony, Panasonic, Nikon and Canon can do for $5,000 or less is 28mbps AVCHD internally (with the exception of Canon’s ALL-I variable codec — which has some undesirable shadow noise at times). The Japanese companies have been notoriously slow to innovate, and they tend to release incremental updates.

Companies like RED and Blackmagic have been pushing the boundaries not only in specs, but in price (lower). If the Japanese companies want to compete at the lower level, they need to start increasing their specs relative to the cost of the cameras. Blackmagic is just beginning, and they certainly won’t be the last non-camera company to build one. I also think we will see more cameras like the Digital Bolex — made by people who love cameras and want to see better quality at an affordable price. There are plenty of other companies that build hardware solutions — and the only thing they’re missing is the sensor (and there are plenty of inexpensive options out there at the Micro 4/3s size or smaller). The next year is going to be extremely interesting, and I wouldn’t be surprised come NAB to see a brand new affordable camera from a company that’s never made one before.

[via DSLR News Shooter]


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Description image 40 COMMENTS

  • Andreas Kopriva on 06.23.12 @ 6:06PM

    Very well phrased and spot-on. This is primarily the reason why I invested in a RED Scarlet instead of a C300. Prior to RED I started off shooting on a Mark II because it had represented a tremendous value for money in terms of image quality and features (note: by features I mean interchangeable lenses and the larger sensor) but since those early days I’ve seen a company which I respected, fought for and cherished go downhill in terms of bad decisions and intentional product crippling.
    It seriously pains me to think that upon accidentally changing the industry, instead of capitalizing on that new market they created, they opted to create a new line which alienated the people that put them on the film-making map. Worse yet, they’ve done so by deliberately crippling their Dslr range.
    Thankfully there are companies like BlackMagic and RED which think differently. Sony seems to have recognized these threats and has upped their game in terms of their products. Let’s see if Canon decides to wake up at some point.

  • It’s clear the 1D X has improved at least two aspects:

    - Video codec / compression
    - Image resolution / sharpness

    I’ve been watching some 5D3 test with ML and I can assure there is still enough room for video processing…

    So I really don’t think Canon cannot improve the firmware to get better ALL-I compressed files and many other aspects of video mode.

    In fact ALL-I compression improvement was one of the first requests after watching many ALL-I tests which show more blocky and noisier footage in low ISO than IPB mode, especially on scenes with not much detail or movement. Constant bitrate was also requested for ALL-I since VBR drops very quickly in the mentioned scenes (hence, poor quality)

    Regarding resolution, I don’t think Canon cannot improve it either. Digic 5+ has huge processing power, it’s indeed processing the video noise reduction in real time (even if you disable it) and many other aspects not “transparent” to the user. As mentioned above I’ve seen ML tests running on 5D3 and there’s still lot of processing power there…

    So if Canon does not improve the video quality of 5D Mark 3 via Firmware Update is simply because they do NOT want to.

    They could even also add better focus assist options, still denied to users (but available in other brands, with no more powerful processors, and of course in more expensive Canon cameras)

    It’s crazy that Canon doesn’t even implement “Peaking” on 1D C for $15K…

    At this point cameras over $2,000-3,000 should offer Peaking since it’s a BASIC focusing feature (especially more for those cameras called “Filmmaker’s DSLRs”..!)

    Most of the reasons of less features or less IQ are NOT hardware limitation, but pure marketing segmentation and strategies. Crippling cameras is so bad and nasty…

    Canon STILL SHOULD (and CAN) deliver more for the $3,500 Canon 5D Mark III. Customers and users deserve it.

    I really hope LOT of other people request to Canon, and competition helps pushing them to improve Firmware. Both actions CAN really help to improve the 5D Mark III.

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 06.26.12 @ 7:41PM


      I had the chance to test both the 1DX and the C300 and I can tell IMHO (of course) that there is nothing the C300 does that the 1DX can´t do…

      Thank you

  • Just look at the hacked gh2 for example. This $ 700 camera is able to get true 1080p resolution, moire/alias free 150+ mbit intraframe bitrate from a 16 or 18 megapixel sensor. So do believe that these latest digic 5 processor can do because they have much much more processing power. So that is massive cripling, I hope that a camera like the BCC kicks them where it hurts. Because the tech is already here.

  • Well the sunlight changed and the 5D3 had a much higher contrast shot to cope with. Plus the camera moved. I’d want to see a better test to judge how much of an improvement is real. But I do see less evidence of stair-stepping in the venetian blinds.

    The 5D3 did well for the price, I suppose…if you’re a glass half-full person. Not that the 5D3 is cheap.

    I agree it’s a crying shame Canon built so much goodwill amongst the indie cine crowd and then tried to cash in, going against the tide of universal empowerment they themselves unleashed. At least the C300 really is a great camera for the price. Not by any means future proof, though…Canon wants you to tithe regularly, or support their rental houses that do.

    Regardless, I am able to generate more than passable web-delivered video with my 5D3, and while we obsess over the camera, it’s but one link in a huge chain of opportunities for improvement we can focus on. None of the other links, though, are intentionally crippled by greedy manufacturers. That’s where all this agony arises.

    • Exactly – manufacturers improve more expensive models and give them extra features, but they don’t intentionally cripple lower-end models. The video is fine with the Mark III, but everything about Canon’s camera systems could be so much better than it is. Instead, they have chosen to keep the product lines intentionally separate.

      • One thing to note is that, for 18MP vs 22MP, it’s not a matter of having less information to throw away that makes things better. The 22MP of the 5D3 simply allowed a 3×3 pixel binning approach to downscaling, which is just one notch less stupid a way to do it than the 5D2′s (and D800′s) line skipping. Since the 1DX can’t do pixel binning, I think Canon caved in and went ahead and gave it a legitimate downscale approach. That’s why there is reduced aliasing.

        Here’s an interesting demonstration of different downsampling filters I googled:

        I am not an expert at this math, I’m just trying to make decent films on a budget, but I like to get to the bottom of technical problems.

        Canon will probably claim it’s the two Digic 5′s that allow a better approach, but otoh, they might not want to smear their own chip as being too weak for one to pull it all off. I bet the one chip in the 5D3 could do just as good video as the 1DX and without overheating. But I don’t know. I’d like to find out so we could target all our ire at the one actual thing holding our video quality hostage.

      • Hi Joe,

        Sorry but “manufacturers improve more expensive models and give them extra features, but they don’t intentionally cripple lower-end models” is not true in real life.

        They improve more expensive cameras indeed, but they also intentionally cripple or intentionally avoid including some features in lower-end models.

        It’s a matter of business. You can find many different models sharing almost the same hardware but giving extra features (in the more expensive models).

        You can easily confirm that with all those hacks that give those extra, sometimes hidden, features and capabilities.

        A clear example, the ALL-I VBR codec fails very badly in lot of scenes (with few detail and motion, decreasing the data rate very low), delivering noisy and macroblocking results, even at low ISO. That’s something Canon SHOULD improve in a camera of $3,500.

        Also adding “Peaking” function (an ESSENTIAL focusing aid for a camera in this range, even available in cheaper one of other brands) is something that CAN be done (I have seen it WORKING). If Canon doesn’t implement it via firmware, is because they don’t want, and not because they can’t; then that’s their intention.

        Not giving “Peaking” to a $15,000 camera (1-D C) is insane.

        This segmentation of features happens in most electronics (graphic/video cards are one of the clearest example as well), most engineers know it. It’s lot cheaper to make some basic hardware design and “disable” or not enable some features than make many different designs.

        If Canon finally release a firmware with new features for video mode for the EOS 7D, that will be another real world example that they really CAN improve the cameras when they want…

        The 5D Mark 2 was improved (first with “full manual” video mode, later with standard 24/25/30p frame rates) due to an unexpected huge success and big business convenience, BUT the “full manual” control did ALREADY exist (unofficially) long before the official firmware 1.1.0 was released…

        Hopefully they will improve the 5D Mark 3 in video mode.

        • I was referring to what Peter had said: “…while we obsess over the camera, it’s but one link in a huge chain of opportunities for improvement we can focus on. None of the other links, though, are intentionally crippled by greedy manufacturers.”

          Part of my article was talking about how Canon is intentionally crippling lower-end models. I wasn’t referring to cameras in my comment – I was referring to those other links, whether that be audio or something else in relation to filmmaking hardware. Camera makers are the few that make their lower end models weaker instead of adding features to the higher-end models.

          The difference with video cards is that for the most part, users can unlock those extra features – by overclocking, etc. With a camera you’re pretty much stuck with the way the sensor downscales the image, and the most you can do is possibly unlock the bitrate – which can only help so much.

          • Hi Joe,

            Sorry, I see I didn’t understand your previous comment correctly. I agree with you.

            Yes, with video cards most of times you can unlock them, either by soft or hardware. With cameras is way lot more complex, indeed, sometimes even impossible. Only few hacks can bring some help, and that’s a huge work.

            The new official firmware update v. 2.0 for Canon EOS 7D is a clear demonstration that Canon CAN when they want… (although the video features improvements are limited to manual audio gain… which is something they should have delivered years ago)



  • john jeffreys on 06.23.12 @ 7:14PM

    Keep in mind that the 1D-X and the 5D III are STILLS CAMERAS primarily. Most of the price you pay goes to their autofocus system, etc. If you want a proper video camera, get a VIDEO CAMERA. Don’t settle for a DSLR; this isin’t 2008 anymore. Sony has great options (FS100, FS700, etc), Blackmagic (but the sensor is too small for my taste) has great options, etc.

    Don’t lock yourself to one brand.

    • I don’t know if that argument works anymore. Yes they are stills cameras, but the video features have been improved – not to mention emphasized by Canon over the previous generation. Canon doesn’t just view them as stills only cameras anymore – look at the autofocus in video mode with the T4i. The 1D C is the anomaly here – is it a stills or a video camera? It’s certainly priced like a video camera, and it’s being marketed as one, but it’s missing a lot of the features that should be in a $15,000 camera.

      Locking yourself into one brand is certainly a bad idea in this day and age, especially at the lower price levels, you’re right. But I don’t think we are asking for too much from Canon – they should have a camera that competes with the FS100 but they don’t. Look at Nikon, the D800 has more resolution, dynamic range, and has a clean 1080p from the HDMI. What stopped Canon from doing this? It’s not like the D800 is that much more powerful, but Nikon doesn’t have a video division. If Nikon was smart, they would allow the same clean HDMI on the new budget level full frame D600 camera.

      • john jeffreys on 06.23.12 @ 8:36PM

        The features have certainly been improved over the last generation, but I feel that they are still designed in a 60/40 fashion; 60% stills, 40% video. For the price of a 1D-X, you can get a decent FS100 kit (with cage, monitor, ff, a lens or two).

        Regarding the 1D-C, I am actually in love with that camera; shooting 4k in such a small handheld package with long battery life, lightweight (albeit fragile in post) codec straight to a CF card, ext. recording capability, and the bevy of fun crop modes make it an incredibly desirable piece of kit. I just don’t know why they priced it at 15k. Thats insane.

        Also, where did you read that the D800 had more dynamic range? Not calling you out, just want to see for myself, as I have been curious about that camera

        • I didn’t need to read it, and neither do you. You can see it with your own eyes in my Mark III/D800 review videos. The difference becomes less pronounced as ISO increases, but the D800 has plenty more dynamic range, especially in the shadows.

          The 1D C should be competing with the FS700 but its missing even some of the basic features that the Sony camera has. The 1D X and 1D C are practically the same camera and for Canon to charge double for the 1D C just shows how out of touch they are.

          • john jeffreys on 06.24.12 @ 1:29AM

            Interesting. I had the D800 in mind for a mixed media project (mostly for the 36mp image), but I’ll be sure to check your videos out and go forward with renting one and taking it for a spin.

            I feel like Canon is, with the current lineup of “Cinema EOS” cameras, catering to Hollywood and higher budget indie productions…I am fairly certain that they are aware of this gaping hole in their product line- an FS100/FS700 type of camera priced at around 5-7k, and that some kind of C100 or whatever is coming out soon.

            • Of course, I’m sure it will happen, but they’ve been taking their sweet time and Sony is about to release a third large sensor camera under $15,000 in the same time frame that Canon has released one. I say this not because of any allegiance to Canon, but the more cameras and options we have in the lower price range, the harder these companies will work to give us features we really want. Blackmagic is certainly going to disrupt things quite a bit.

          • john jeffreys on 06.24.12 @ 3:49AM

            I’m anxiously awaiting some full reviews and short films made with the blackmagic..but so far I am really skeptical about it. I’m willing to do terrible things for a cheaper, stripped down C300 with interchangeable lens mounts (the latter is a pipe dream).

            • Well I’ve been pleased with what I’ve seen so far in terms of video samples, and the spec sheet does not lie. John Brawley has nothing but good things to say about the camera, and I trust what he is saying based on his experience as a professional Director of Photography. Not that I blame you for being skeptical, but Blackmagic has a fantastic track record when it comes to building hardware. They are not like RED who was almost trying to reinvent the wheel with the RED One. They’ve built hardware to handle cameras with similar resolution and they’ve been working with these codecs for years.

              As for a stripped down C300 with interchangeable mounts, that would be great, but I don’t know that we’ll see that happen. They will most likely stick with EF or PL mount, even though they are going to release a mirrorless camera. If they were smart, and their mirrorless camera is at least APS-C, they can put that mount on the cinema cameras and just make adapters that have electronics inside them to talk to the mirrorless mount. That would be an ideal situation – and then anyone could develop dumb mounts for the mirrorless system.

    • John,

      That argument is outdated. Canon called the 1-D X “The Film-maker’s DSLR” in their own official Press Release with their own words:

      They are 100% conscious of the usage of DSLRs for filmmaking since very long ago, and they have included these cameras and comments in their press releases and brochures for marketing purposes.

      So that “argument” is not valid anymore.

      • john jeffreys on 06.24.12 @ 9:27PM

        Its cute how you take canon’s marketing speak more seriously than a dude that actually makes films and posts on a filmmaking website. DSLR’s STILL don’t have many basic video camera functions out of the box i.e peaking, xlr, etc. My argument is very much alive.

        • Hi John,

          Canon perfectly knows (it took some time but they realized after all) the huge potential of video in DSLRs. As every company, they want to sell and make money, and video is clearly one of the biggest selling key-points in modern devices.

          It’s not a minor thing that an *official press release* calls a DSLR as “The Film-maker’s DSLR”. That means they do know the importance. So I like to take their own words to encourage people to request many features that Canon CAN implement in current DSLRs but they don’t want just due to some marketing strategies.

          The new Firmware Update v.2.0 for EOS 7D is a clear demonstration that they can do it when they want. Here I posted the news with some comments and critics:


  • ….the shot isn’t even focused properly…..

  • Johnny Unitas on 06.24.12 @ 10:01AM

    Still looks like shit. Canon is shit. I hope they suffer for their greed and lack of innovation. With the imminent release of the Blackmagic Camera, C300′s, and virtually every other EF mount “cinema” camera are about to lose a shitload of value. 13 stops of dynamic-range, 2.5K resolution, 10bit 4:2:2 ProRes/12bit RAW with a base ISO of 800 for $3000? The downfall of the greedy bastards has begun. When Blackmagic releases an APS-C version, hypothetically speaking, in 12 – 18 months for $6000, with better low-light ability and all of the current features of the Blackmagic camera, what is Canon going to do? Drop their C500 to $6000? HELL NO! Canon’s glory-days are behind them – if only they would snap out of their arrogance and realise it!

  • The one thing that I don’t understand about canon is they have selected such niche markets for their video cameras due to feature restrictions. The 1dx is for action/sports photographers and thats it, if you buy that camera for video then you have an affinity to canon that prevents you from buying better featured cheaper cameras from other manufacturers.

  • Isn’t the big set back with the Black Magic Camera gonna be the big crop factor? Making wide lenses far less wide? Or am I miss informed?

    • Johnny Unitas on 06.24.12 @ 11:51AM

      It is a set-back of sorts. The crop factor is x2.4. There is the Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 (which would become roughly 26mm-38mm on the Blackmagic camera). And given that the base ISO is 800, F2.8 shouldn’t be that big of a problem. I think the advantages of the Blackmagic camera FAR outweigh its short-comings.

      • BMCC will really disrupt the market. People will find rappidly the better system to work with, better lenses, SSDs… When we get confortable with the camera and it takes some time, then the fun starts and I must say that we’re going to see amazing things.

        But I already see amazing things on the MKII… But RAW (with all its storage problems) is a completely new game.

      • BMCC does sound amazing, I’m really tempted, and I have the Tokina 11-16, which is a great lense, (and a full set of Zeiss Primes, super nice!) but not being able to go any wider then 26mm is hugely problematic for me.

      • The crop factor is actually close to 2.3, which isn’t a big different at the telephoto end, but the differences between wide lenses tends to be more dramatic. An 11mm would be a 25.3mm lens on the Blackamgic Camera.

        • Well, this crop factor is related to a full frame camera. Almost nobody shoots a movie with a full frame camera, so if you consider a super 35ish size, a 11mm lens would be around 16mm. How many shots in a movie you can spot which was shot with a lens wider than that? I don’t understand this need to shoot so wide. Gladly for me I almost never go wider than 18mm in a super35 cam.

          • Plenty of people shoot material with full frame cameras – the Mark II, Mark III, D800, and more, so I think it’s still relevant. Most people have shot with 35mm film cameras (unless you’re under a certain age), and if you learned what those lenses look like on those cameras it’s a useful comparison. Let’s also not forget the amount of people that shot with 35mm adapters on 1/3″ or 2/3″ cameras. It’s easier to have one frame of reference than two, that’s all. I think you’ve got to get a reference with whatever camera system you are more comfortable with, and most people tend to use the full frame crop factors when talking about cameras.

            As far as lenses, I agree. A 24mm on full frame (or a 16mm on APS-C, or 10-11mm on Blackmagic) is about the widest I will ever go with shots. The issue with lenses that are wider, unless they are Master Primes, is that you start to get pretty heavy distortion, which you can easily correct in a photo, but is much harder to correct in a video. Straight lines don’t stay straight once you pass a certain focal length depending on the sensor size.

          • Yes you are right, I understand a lot of people shoot and are used with full frame, but I’ve seen few people used to a 7d complaining about the crop factor which doesn’t make too much sense for me, I guess the market has already tons of affordable lens that could fit on a camera like that and be happy with it. Shooting too wide also has implications on visual effects since you have to undistort the plate before adding any vfx element and then distort back again, just something to keep in mind.

        • Peter Kelly on 06.25.12 @ 5:59AM

          Can anyone tell me then, on the BMCC or any camera with that sort of Crop Factor, do the lenses perform the same in terms of distortion, or DOF as they would on a full frame, or less cropped camera. For example, on the Black Magic, would the Tokina 11-16 have the same level of distortion as it does on something like the 7D?
          Would a wide fast prime, like a 25mm, or 35mm have more DOF on a cropped sensor? I would have thought that these attributes are inherent to the lense itself, but from what people are saying it might seem like this is not the case?
          Might be a stupid question, but if you dont ask you dont learn.

          • Lens distortion never changes but in a cropped sensor you most likely will see less distortion since what you see is more in the center of the lens and distortion happens more in the edges. Regarding DOF, in a smaller sensor you’ll have deeper depth of field, the explanation is a bit too long to write here but Im sure you can find it easily.

  • Thanks, makes sense