Hands On: Canon 1D X

Tonight, I was able to receive hands on time with the newly announced Canon 1D X DSLR camera. This is Canon’s top notch professional level DSLR. We previously wrote about all you really need to know about the camera. So is it worth trading in your Canon 5D Mk II for?

Note: I was dealing with a pre-production unit. Also, thanks to Eric Reagan at Photography Bay for holding the camera in front of his face for me. I used to work for Eric, so you should check his site out as well.

Be sure to also check out the rest of our upcoming Photo Plus 2011 Coverage here and on our Facebook.

Tech Specs

All borrowed from B&H Photo’s Website

Camera Type Digital SLR with Interchangeable lenses
Lens Mount Canon EF
Camera Format Full-Frame
Resolution Actual Pixels: 19.3 Megapixels
Sensor Type / Size CMOS, 36 x 24 mm
File Formats Still Images: JPEG, RAW
Movies: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Audio: Linear PCM
Memory Card Type CompactFlash
AV Recording
Video Recording Yes
Audio Recording With Video
Focus Control
Focus Type Auto & Manual
Autofocus Points 61
Viewfinder Type Pentaprism
Viewfinder Coverage 100%
Viewfinder Magnification Approx. 0.76x
Diopter Adjustment – 3.0 to +1.0 m
Display Screen 3.2″ Rear Screen    ()
Screen Coverage 100%
Live View Yes
Exposure Control
ISO Sensitivity 50-51200
Shutter 1/8000 – 1/30 Seconds 2
Metering System Spot metering, Center-weighted average metering, Average metering, null, Multi-zone metering
Exposure Modes Modes: Aperture Priority, Manual, Shutter Priority
Compensation: -5EV to +5EV (in 1/3EV steps) 3
White Balance Modes Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent, Manual, Tungsten 4
Dedicated Flash System eTTL Groups: Channels:
External Flash Connection Wireless
Self Timer 10 sec, 2 sec
Battery 1x LP-E4N  Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
Operating/Storage Temperature Operating
32 to 104° F (0 to 40° C)
Humidity: 0 – 85%
Dimensions (WxHxD) 6.2 x 6.4 x 3.3″ / 157.48 x 162.56 x 83.82 mm


The Canon 1D X will be familiar to anyone that knows the 1D X series of cameras. The top right will be accepted and immediately understood by Canon 7D owners. In fact, the top seems almost exactly like it even with the new M-FN button. This is where the user can control the white balance, exposure compensation, ISO levels, and other settings like shutter speed with the top dial. Your changes can be seen via the top LCD panel or the back LCD panel. Personally, I always opt for the top.

The top left features the same modes as before: metering, autofocus/drive, and the shooting mode/bracketing. Being a pro-level DSLR, I can’t say that I disagree with Canon’s decision to stick with this layout.

The side of the camera features your standard ports, with the exception of that giant ethernet jack. Indeed, there are even more ports not show in the photo above. This is also where the battery socket can be accessed.

The back of the camera is where it all starts to get interesting. Sure, most of the back layout looks the same as previous cameras. However, check out the joystick controls. They are of a different design now and there is also one below the multi-controller dial designed for use with the camera’s vertical grip.

You’ve also got a LAN signal light down near the bottom left of the camera.


It’s quick. Oh man is it quick. Like previous models (Canon 7D and 1D Mk IV) the autofocus can switch modes. That means that if you’re shooting landscape, you can use the center point. Flip it vertically, and it will switch to another point. I also heard a rep behind me talk about how the focus has been adapted to photographers that like to focus and recompose: the camera will focus on an area and when you move the camera, it will adjust the focusing to track that area. Though this doesn’t sound spectacularly new (and possibly in tracking focus) it is a feature that will come in handy for old school photographers.

The camera can also track focus via color and other factors. Indeed, Nikon may have some catching up to do. The camera lagged very little in achieving quick focus in low light, but it did seem to suffer a bit in the darkest situations (literally almost no light.)

Ease of Use

Was the camera easy to use? Actually, yes (for me.) A couple of other journalists I’m friends with thought it was a bit tough. However, I own a 5D Mk II and 7D plus have shot regularly with the 1D Mk IV, so I’m used to all this and could change the settings blind folded at this point.

If you’re a Rebel user, this may be too much for you. If you’re a higher end user, you’ll feel right at home.

The only exception to this rule is the menu system, which is much more complicated and larger. See those four white dots and one red dot under in the top left corner? As you turn the shutter speed dial, you’ll scroll through that particular sub menu. Change the aperture dial and you will go through the much larger menu options down below. These can also be navigated using the joysticks.

Image Quality

Here’s an image that I took of the back of the camera of the lighting in the scene. I shot at the highest ISO level, focused and recomposed. Though this was a pre-production model and I couldn’t put a card in, the highest ISO setting looked only marginally noisy than ISO 6400 on the Canon 5D Mk II, which I can deal with. If anything, it is like the Canon 7D at 6400. It is still usable, and only requires a bit of clean up.

Video Demo

Here’s a quick video I shot and edited of the Canon 1D X’s fast frame rate and new menu system.

Early Impressions

The new Canon 1D X is an interesting creature. Everyone that I talked to tonight said they loved it. Me personally? Not really. I love the new full frame sensor, LAN connection and the super fast fps and autofocusing. But I have no reason to upgrade.

In terms of ergonomics, I’ve always said that Canon feels more elegant and Nikon feels more like a tool meant to do work. Canon has stayed true to their roots; the 1D X actually feels fairly elegant. I’m positive that if I recieved one in for review, it would be reviewed very positively. However, I want more from the camera, and I left saying to myself that I don’t feel that Canon has stepped far enough. As an owner of their products, that makes me scared (as it probably makes some of you) in terms of an investment, because I’m not sure who can or will try to leap frog the company. However, once again, I’ve always seen Canon put something out and companies spend years trying to catch up, the 5D Mk II being a prime example.

With that said, I’m still not convinced that I’d buy one, but my needs are different. All the sports photographers that switched from Nikon to Canon should consider coming back home.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.