May 6, 2016

Field Review: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II Performs Double Duty

Richard Patterson Canon Ronin
The rugged new 1DX Mark II sets a new benchmark for still photography and produces strong 4K 60FPS in challenging conditions.

We were airborne for less than 45 minutes and descended over a rich green tapestry of palms. Director, Gaspar Gonzalez, editor, Jorge Rubiera and I stepped off our charter flight onto the tarmac of Havana, Cuba. In tow, a few backpacks strategically packed with the necessary essentials for our second Cuban documentary, Havana House. Canon Professional Services equipped our production with two C300s, a complete set of Canon tilt shift lenses and an 11-24mm f/4.0 lens. 

Richard Patterson Canon 1D X Mark II
Cuban street still shot captured with Canon 1D X Mark II, Canon 16-35 (16mm) f/6.3, ISO 320

I was most excited about the new Canon 1DX Mark II that rounded out our kit. Solidly built and rugged, this camera evoked the familiar weight and feel of the 1D pedigree I had known since shooting with the original 4mp body as a young photojournalist in 2001.

Camera Overview:

  • DCI 4K Video (4096x2160) up to 60FPS (MJPEG, ALL-I, IPB video compression options) recorded internally to CFast 2.0 Media
  • Full HD up to 120 FPS 
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF during all recording modes
  • 3.2’’ Touch Screen LED for Touch focus 

Test video with the Canon 1D X Mark II, Canon 11-24mm f/4.0, DJI Ronin:

There’s something to be said about a tool that is built upon an established legacy. However, I wondered if any new drawbacks would surface with this camera. Canon’s pace of releasing cameras with various levels of benchmark specs have been scrutinized in the past, slow motion being one of those topics, but I have to say that I’m very happy with the video quality of the 1D X Mark II. 

“Without Canon Log natively available as a picture profile option to allow for the most latitude and match the C300s, we were hesitant.”

The bulk of our short documentary focused on illustrating the tale of our main character and her historic home through dozens of ethereal images. Our footage had to match as closely as possible in the field because we didn’t know if color correction was an option at that time and the footage had to have a delicate aesthetic and lower contrast ratio. 

Off the bat, I would have been more inclined to utilize the 1D X Mark II throughout the video shoot, but without Canon Log natively available as a picture profile option to allow for the most latitude and match the C300s, we were hesitant. This is my main complaint with the camera. We didn’t have the time to load a 3rd party picture profile, but instead loaded a user defined cocktail of: sharpness off, contrast off, and saturation -2, to get us closer to the C300’s tried and true Canon Log image.

Richard Patterson Canon
Frame grab captured with Canon 1D X Mark II, 4k at 60 FPS Canon 11-24mm f/5.6, ISO 100

That said, the 4k 60P and full HD on the 1DX MKII looks great and we did utilize the new 4K slow motion feature on several occasions. The camera was recording in the MJPEG codec while shooting 4k 60 FPS. It did produce a large file that consumed the 64-gig card quickly, however it is nice to have the widely accepted .mov available right away. It’s definitely something to consider while in the field on a long shoot when media management may not be available and you still want that format and frame rate. 

The 4k image is very crisp, has a smooth roll-off in the highlights and handles shadows well using the settings. I actually prefer the images a bit to those from my Sony FS7 at 4K in natural light. The 1D X Mark II definitely interprets and captures red hues better than my Sony FS7. In addition, the overall color interpretation seems less heavy-handed and feels more authentic with the Canon. 

Of course, the ergonomics are completely different between the two cameras, as well as the audio capabilities, but if I was shooting on a stabilizer or on sticks, especially in adverse conditions, and didn’t need to worry about capturing sound in camera, using the Canon 1D X Mark II would be a strong contender.

“We worked quickly with the familiar 1DX Canon menus, and personally, I find the Canon menu structure to be one of the easiest to navigate.”

I would also love to test the camera again with a cinestyle profile added to the camera.

I was pleasantly surprised to see nearly no rolling shutter in our shots. This is due to a combination of the cameras dual processor and pixel-to-pixel read out for 4K, which really minimizes the dreaded rolling DSLR shutter effect prominent in other makes and models. 

It was a disappointment to learn that the camera did not have a built-in intervalometer—a surprising choice for such a flagship camera. Do to packing restrictions for Cuba, we had to be very decisive about what to bring. This meant I could not bring even my small Canon intervalometer, so I really missed this option in the camera menus.

We captured a locked off interview wide shot using the 1D X Mark II equipped with a Canon TS 45mm lens. This was our wide C shot. We adjusted the angle of the lens to create an in-camera, dreamy moving portrait of our main character within her majestic home. We worked quickly with the familiar 1DX Canon menus, and personally, I find the Canon menu structure to be one of the easiest to navigate. 

Richard Patterson Canon 1D X Mark II
Frame grab captured with Canon 1D X Mark II, Canon 45mm Tilt-Shift lens, HD, f/5.6, 1/50, ISO 800

Our interview lasted for about 2 hours of continuous shooting, and I shot one more hour of b-roll that night. The camera battery hardly showed any depreciation. 

I was thoroughly impressed with the selective autofocus on the camera. In the test video, you see the AF at work with the 11-24mm on the Ronin stabilizer during our driving shots. The compact, brick like design of the camera made balancing the camera on the Ronin a breeze. At first, we used an HDMI SmallHD monitor with the Ronin, but later resorted to the large LCD screen on the back of the camera. Foregoing the necessary rigid HDMI Y-cord enabled a smoother result from the Ronin. 

“As a stills camera, the 1D X Mark II is kinda like the karate juggernaut in Michael Jai White’s Blood and Bone: You just don’t want to mess with him.”

The video low light capability of the 1D X Mark II is good (12,800 in 4K and 25,600 in HD), but not mind-blowing. Because the camera records in 8-Bit, the blacks and shadows start to get a bit noisy around 8,000 ISO. You can get a perfectly usable image at 8,000 but it’ll need a bit of post-production love. I’ve attached frame grabs at 4096 × 2160 60P from various scenarios to examine. I did not use the camera’s native ability to capture the 8.8 mp still frames while recording, but I wish I did.

Richard Patterson Canon
Frame grab captured with Canon 1D X Mark II, 4k, 60 FPS, Zeiss 50mm f/2.0, ISO 8000

I should also acknowledge that we used the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8, 50mm makro-planar f/2.0, and 85mm f/1.4 ZE lenses for the majority of our shoot. Following these lenses, we utilized the Canon tilt shift lenses that do not use AF.  Therefore, apart from the b-roll captured on the Ronin using the Canon 11-24 f/4.0, where it did very well, we did not use autofocus for the bulk of our film. 

I also did not get a chance to test the uncompressed HD video signal exported via HDMI to my Odyssey 7Q+, test the Wi-Fi functionality, or touch screen follow focus as much as I would have liked. 

Finally, the 1D X Mark II can make still pictures. In fact as a stills camera, the 1D X Mark II is kinda like the karate juggernaut in Michael Jai White’s Blood and Bone: You just don’t want to mess with him. As mentioned, I owned the original 1D body in 2001 and after 15 years of evolution, I’m still impressed. 

The auto focus mode is ridiculously fast. In fact, it’s so fast, dependable, and accurate with its 61AF tracking points that it really removes the notion of “focusing” when using Canon AF lenses. The 14 frames per second with the new battery is almost comical; Even while shooting full RAW images, you might giggle each time you press the shutter, as the camera keeps on clicking at a phenomenal rate. The impressive battery lasted for the entire day shooting stills and motion.

To Wrap up…

Video Pros: 

  • 4K 60P 
  • Dual Pixel Auto Focus Tracking 
  • Weather Sealed, Compact, and Solidly Built Camera Magnesium Body
  • High ISO range for still photographs and a respectable range for video
  • Extremely minimized rolling shutter effect 

Video Cons:

  • No Canon Log
  • No Time Lapse / Interval Recording Option 
  • MJPEG Video Compression (I QUICKLY filled up the 64gig CFast card using this compression on 60FPS)
  • 8 Bit Video Recording
  • C-Fast Cards are expensive and go very quickly while shooting 4k due to the compression 

Overall Takeaway: 

At $6000, the camera is not inexpensive, but that was also the price of my extremely dependable original 4MP 1D back in 2001 and it still works today. If you are in the market for a top of the line DSLR that can shoot very reliable 4k 60P video and also have the option to shoot a barrage of 14 fps RAW still images, you’re getting an amazing tool.      

Your Comment

28 Comments

Tempting. Canon has aimed this camera at the "photojournalist", but the upcoming 5D Mk4 will be aimed at the film-maker, so may address some of the video cons listed in the article.

I think the sleeping giant has woken.
http://www.canonrumors.com/eos-5d-mark-iv-update-cr2/

May 6, 2016 at 3:12PM, Edited May 6, 3:19PM

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Saied M.
976

Hi Saied. I definitely think you're onto something. If I was a multimedia content producer or photojournalist, this would be a no brainer, this camera can deliver on both ends. The video it captures, especially when you nail the exposure, is very nice. I too wait to see what comes out next.

May 6, 2016 at 5:08PM

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Richard Patterson
Writer
Director of Photography / Steadicam

I just got back from NAB there is NO news of a 4 being released. I was told they want to bring a distinction between the DSLR's and the C line of cameras. People can keep waiting for a 4, but it is not coming.

May 7, 2016 at 12:18AM

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Walter Wallace
Spokesperson/Entrepreneur
1041

My hunch is that Mk4 will come (and be pretty good).
In the meantime, the ever mischievous Andrew Reid has posted another video:-
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed44leAaOAE#t=38

May 7, 2016 at 2:42AM, Edited May 7, 2:43AM

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Saied M.
976

From a photography standpoint this thing looks great.

From a videographer standpoint, 8-bit, 4:2:0 and no Log options. Meh.

May 6, 2016 at 3:55PM, Edited May 6, 3:54PM

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Hi Justin. I'm not too sure man, like I said in the article, the color and tonal range captured was pretty impressive, kinda better than my FS7. Most DSLRs are 8-bit and none can come close in the still photography acquisitions like this one can. I agree,
a larger color space (4:2:2) for example would be nice. No doubt. My feeling is it comes down to what you need, want, and execute on a regular basis.

May 6, 2016 at 5:17PM

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Richard Patterson
Writer
Director of Photography / Steadicam

I can't wait till mine arrives. I've got an fs7 too which is amazing. So I went Whoa when I read your sentences comparing the two. The 1dx 2 is going to be great for travels and shooting when you're not supposed to be shooting ;)

May 6, 2016 at 7:35PM

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Raphael Rogers
Director
8

Richard and Justin,

It is a 4:2:2 compression. You can check it by opening the files in a program like MediaInfo.

Definitely do wish it had Log and a higher bit depth though.

May 9, 2016 at 11:15AM

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Hi Justin... I have to make a correction. When shooting in 4k the camera records in 4:2:2.

May 9, 2016 at 5:38PM

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Richard Patterson
Writer
Director of Photography / Steadicam

If you followed Andrew's test, you can see that the 1D X m2 color is worse than the old 1dx and 1dc. The iso is not better neither. But I don't care about canon announcements anymore, I'm just echoing information, that's all.

May 6, 2016 at 8:44PM

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Edgar More
All
1156

Looking the video it feels that it lacks dynamic range.. It remembers me the dr of my 7d m1... But we know Canon is still hangover..

May 7, 2016 at 1:12AM

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Chema Mumford
Filmmaker, Documentary, Cinematographer
135

I guess with the LOG profile included the dr would improve..

May 7, 2016 at 1:14AM

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Chema Mumford
Filmmaker, Documentary, Cinematographer
135

And all must be said. The good thing of these cameras is that are built like tanks.. The grip feels amazing, and sounds good that the battery life is improved, he sais in the article that 1 battery lasted all day.

May 7, 2016 at 1:25AM

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Chema Mumford
Filmmaker, Documentary, Cinematographer
135

So many other cameras that would have produced better images.
Why? I would never have committed a semi large-scaled shoot to an 8bit, 4:2:0 codec.
And, BTW, a flat log profile wouldn't help you because the codec can't properly handle anything other than the slightest grade in post.
Better to attempt an in-camera look, as you did.

Did you have to use Canon because they sponsored the event?

May 7, 2016 at 12:28PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
815

Canon Log works just fine in 4.2.0.

May 7, 2016 at 1:26PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
887

Then I would have to assume you haven't had access to or worked with a superior codec.

May 7, 2016 at 3:03PM, Edited May 7, 3:14PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
815

An ignorant assumption.

May 7, 2016 at 6:33PM

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Steven Bailey
Writer/Director/Composer
887

Hi Richard. Thanks for your note. I must make an update... the camera shoots in 4:2:2 when using 4k.
The 1D X Mark II was our C-Cam for our main interview. We didn't use it for much more. The video I posted showcased shots that I created in the little downtime and at night when going out for dinner in Havana. I shot with the camera because it was offered up and available. I was curious to see how it would look.
Yes, we shot Canon because they assisted our small indie doc. We were happy because the C300s are a great and dependable.

May 9, 2016 at 5:45PM

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Richard Patterson
Writer
Director of Photography / Steadicam

I have to decide in buying the fs5 or 1dx mkii. Im only interested in the image quality.

Any suggestion?

July 15, 2016 at 5:35PM

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Clearly a hype piece. Just read another review and it said photo wise actually a little worst then the Mark 1 and it was a big disappointment.

May 7, 2016 at 3:11PM

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Hi Silton. I would definitely disagree with your assessment, especially in terms of the still photography capabilities of this camera. I've shot a lot with the 1DX in the past and this camera is definitely an improvement.

May 9, 2016 at 5:40PM, Edited May 9, 5:40PM

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Richard Patterson
Writer
Director of Photography / Steadicam

with a well balanced ronin on a smooth car ride and doing slow mo, it's odd to see stabilizer artifacts in several of these shots, including the very first shot. the buildings on the right are clearly warping.

May 8, 2016 at 12:43AM

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I find it hard to believe that anyone is still buying Canon DSLRs for video. When buying new...they are just massively overpriced.

May 8, 2016 at 3:22PM, Edited May 8, 3:22PM

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Yemi Sawyerr
Cinematographer
113

Hi Yemi. Like some others stated above, if you had to shoot still photographs (and this bar has been set for a long time) on a professional level and wanted the added feature of video... a DSLR like this new or used, is a nice choice.

May 9, 2016 at 5:48PM

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Richard Patterson
Writer
Director of Photography / Steadicam

And the exploitation of Cuba's poverty begins....

May 9, 2016 at 11:52AM

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Hi Nick. Photographers and videographers have been shooting there for years for all types of purposes, especially Europeans, Canadians, and even Americans. I agree... things are definitely changing quickly, for example, "Fast and Furious 8" just started shooting last week on the streets of Havana. However, since I was there for a very legitimate and historical documentary, I'm not necessarily in agreement with your point of view.

May 9, 2016 at 5:55PM

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Richard Patterson
Writer
Director of Photography / Steadicam

Did you have any trouble balancing the 1DX2 on the Ronin-M? It's been a bit of a struggle for us.

June 20, 2016 at 3:46PM

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Did you manage to balance the 1DX2 on the Ronin-M? We are still trying but not successful so far. Seems that the center of gravity of the camera is too high.

July 21, 2016 at 10:43AM

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I have to decide in buying the fs5 or 1dx mkii. Im only interested in the image quality.

Can someone give a little help? Has someone worked with both?

July 15, 2016 at 5:29PM

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Hello Richard

I read you use a ronin stabiliser for your test of 1Dx mk2.

Do you know if it's possible to use a ronin M (more light than ronin) with the 1Dx mk 2 ?

Thanks in advance for your repply.
Pascal

November 7, 2016 at 7:10AM

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