Quick Look: Canon 1D X

I want to take a different approach to playing with the Canon 1D X in this First Impressions and in the final review to follow. You see, I did not have any professional shoots planned while I was loaned the camera and I’m not the type of guy to go take pictures of city streets just to test a camera. That works for some people, not for me.

What I want to do is talk about adapting to, and getting the most out of, the Canon 1D X if you are upgrading from a lesser model. Let’s face it, this First Impression is not going to give new info to the seasoned wedding or sports photographer. They already know what gear they will buy (or have their company buy for them). I want to answer the question, “Is it really worth the cash, if I were to stretch my budget and buy one?”

Gear Used


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This is actually a place where I like the 1Dx less than my current model 7D with BG-E7 power grip. The grip on the 1Dx is fine and comfortable, more so than the Nikon D800E I tested, but when turned to a portrait orientation, I found the grip lacking in depth. It’s not as deep as the add-on grip for the 7D or Canon 5D Mark III. This camera is heavy, more so with a 70-200mm L or 28-300mm L lens attached and it deserves a better grip.

While I am being critical, the lack of a mode dial, while better for aesthetics, sucks. It’s a little thing and I don’t change modes that often, but it is annoying to have to use two hands; one to push the button on the left, top of the body and another to turn a dial. The ISO button is handy and it is nice to have a second multi-control stick for use when shooting in portrait orientation (lacking on lesser models).

The 1Dx should really adopt the review controls of the 7D or 5D as well. By this I am talking about the play and zoom features. The play button is simple enough buy zooming, again, needs to be done with two hands and that seems silly. Your left hand hits the zoom button and then the front control dial zooms in and out. The multi-controller pans around and that is just fine. But the two hand things to zoom is less than idea.

I think I am done griping about small stuff, but it really seems not thought out. Other controls are the same as lesser models, such as using the back control dial to change exposure compensation and I appreciate the ability to change the effect control dial turn direction applies. I also like the menu colors to help distinguish where I am (as there are a lot of menus).

In Real Life

This camera and I didn’t travel far and wide, unfortunately. But we did shoot in a few situations that stopped me to think. First, I decided to perform a rare act and read the instruction manual. This is because I took one glance at the focus menu items and became confused. You see, if you are upgrading to this camera, be ready for more complex world when it comes to focus points and capabilities. This camera offers a plethora of capability to track movement in a number of ways (landscape photographers will likely be bored with/ignore this section of the manual). Take time to read the manual. I didn’t and was baffled why sometimes the camera, a $7000 camera, was having a hard time focusing. When later reading the manual, I found out the spot I picked as a focus point was not optimal for what I was focusing on.

As far as upgrading from a ‘lower’ model of Canon, this is a little thing, but the shutter and mirror sound so much more sexy on the high quality cameras, the 1Dx included. It’s a nice touch and it is because these mechanisms are built stronger for more wear and tear. For the casual ”I have the money and I want a camera that takes better photos” crowd (and I can hear some of you ‘real photographers’ out there moaning, but there are people who have the disposable income to buy a better camera) this camera has some simple features that help. For instance, there is the Highlight Tone Priority which helps reduce highlights so they aren’t blown out. This feature will be coming to all cameras eventually as HDR creeps in to make up for the limitations of current sensors. There is Auto Lighting Optimizer which helps with shadow details, again, for when you don’t want to bracket your shots and use HDR techniques in the computer afterward.

The camera has a wide ability to be customized. I like that there is a button for depth of field preview and it can be programed. Not only that, there is a second one better aligned for shooting in portrait mode. That is the nice thing about having this camera as compared to a lesser model with a battery grip added on; the controls are smoother. Being able to adjust the slow continuous shooting is handy and listening to 12 frames a second rattle of is breathtaking. If you shoot action, this camera is a no-brainer.

With a fast lens, the camera was snappy with focus. So fast, it was annoying to go back to my 7D with the same lens, even though I enjoyed the focus speed before. Renting this camera may make you lusty for it. I was also impressed with noise reduction, especially when coupled with Lightroom 4’s capabilities. For instance, the second shot below is at ISO 20,000. I know you’ve probably already seen enough low light tests with this camera, but once you see your own shots in low light, you appreciate the camera a little more than when reading reviews like this one. And thank you Canon for making it possible to limit and adjust the Auto ISO variable.










I’m not going to give you the full answer to the original question of “Is it really worth the cash, if I were to stretch my budget and buy one?” in this First Impression. But what I can tell you is the Canon 1Dx has me seeing the limits of my Canon 7D even more. Mind you, I know what the Canon 7D is good at and where it lacks, but it is hard to go back after playing with Canon’s top of the line model. And I’m not one to lust after new gear because it is lustful. Stay tuned for the final review coming soon.

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Peter Carey

Peter West Carey is a world traveling professional photographer currently leading photo tours to Bhutan, Nepal and Hawaii. He also hosts basic photography workshops along the West Coast of the USA as well as the free 31 Days TO Better Photography series on his blog.