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« Design Images with Visual Impact | Main | THE X FACTOR Canon EOS 1DX »

Canon 1DX First impressions Mini Review

Atlantic Puffin FLYBY (Fratercula arctica, Macareux moine, ATPU) île aux Perroquets, Réserve de parc national du Canada de l'Archipel-de-Mingan, Quebec, Canada. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 70-300mm & Canon 580 EX II (ETTL - 1) f/4-f/5.6 @300mm. ISO 1,600, f/5.6 @1/3,200s Manual mode. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.

Canon EOS 1DX First Impressions

As I mentioned in my last post, Canon Canada Loaned me one of the very first production models of their new flagship camera that they received; the Canon EOS 1DX. What a camera! In the hand, the camera is slightly heavier than previous 1D camera bodies, but the fit and feel is great. I took the camera to my Puffins Galore photo safari to L'Île aux Perroquets in the Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada. The great sunlight we had during our first morning gave way to foggy and heavy overcast skies; the kind of light that is very flat with low contrast for the remaining two and a half days. It was the kind of light that wreaks havoc with a camera's ability to auto-focus.

There are, and will be, a ton of well written and lengthy reviews of the camera out there; some will be written by folks who may have never touched the camera, others by people who may have popped-off just a couple of frames in the studio. There is a growing number of camera enthusiasts writing reviews based on hearsay and technical bulletins - I find them best avoided and instead like to put the cameras through their paces in the field in difficult conditions. This is just meant to be this man's take after using the camera for three days; in somewhat foggy and dark conditions while photographing very difficult, fast and very small birds.

Atlantic Puffin HEAD-ON (Fratercula arctica, Macareux moine, ATPU) île aux Perroquets, Réserve de parc national du Canada de l'Archipel-de-Mingan, Quebec, Canada. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 500mm f/4 L IS, 1.4X III Extender, Tripod & Jobu Jr. 3. ISO 3,200, f/6.3 @1/2500s Manual mode. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.


There are some new goodies tucked into the camera's Auto-focus menu; I spent a lot of time trying the new scenarios, and loved the ability to tweak minute details within them. I found myself using Scenario 5 most when birds were flying towards me and scenario 1 for most other birds in flight - I did adjust the parameters for both almost constantly; the distraction sometimes causing me to miss a shot, or two, early on.

I made images from ISO 400 throughout 6,400 and found virtually no noise up to ISO 1,600. Images made using ISO 1,600 to 6,400 are surprisingly good and require only a little effort if properly exposed. I used Adobe Camera Raw algorithms to remove any noise and am quite pleased with the high ISO results. I would expect the Canon software to do an even better job this early, and will keep you posted in future posts.

I have been using my Canon 1D Mark IV for most nature photography and my Canon 1Ds Mark III for landscapes, head shots and slow moving subject. This has the potential to replace both cameras, but the deal breaker is no autofocus with lenses or lens and extender combinations with a maximum aperture of f/8 or smaller. I had heard rumours that Canon may release a firmware update that would allow this, but it seems to be just a rumour at the moment; I'll let you know if I hear of a work around.

Atlantic Puffin LANDING (Fratercula arctica, Macareux moine, ATPU) île aux Perroquets, Réserve de parc national du Canada de l'Archipel-de-Mingan, Quebec, Canada. Image Copyright ©Christopher Dodds All Rights Reserved. Canon EOS 1DX, 500mm f/4 L IS, 1.4X III Extender, Tripod & Jobu Jr. 3. ISO 4,000, f/5.6 @1/2500s Manual mode. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE A PRINT or LICENSE IMAGE FOR PUBLICATION.


In conclusion, I did love the narrow depth-of-field from the full frame sensor; it's awesome to obliterate close and distracting backgrounds. 12fps while shooting in RAW format is ridiculously awesome for action photography. Files from the 18MP sensor are rich and full of details. The auto-focus system proved to be totally amazing when trying, so deperatly, to place my moving subjects against anything other than the bright white sky as the background; something that other auto-focus systems had much difficulty with before the 1DX.

Will it replace my 1D Mark IV? No, not unless Canon releases a firmware version that allows autofocus at f/8 so I can continue to shoot birds in flight with my 500 f/4 and 2X extender. This camera will, however, replace my Canon 1Ds Mark III

Expect more about the 1Dx in future posts.

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Reader Comments (29)

Chris, a brief review, but concise, and trustworthy! I too agree, that the autofocus issue with extenders is a huge concern for me as well. At that price, and being the flagship, it's unacceptable, until that is fixed! !!! Nice write-up, and thks for sharing!

July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDon Hamilton Jr.


Your thoughts mimic my own limited use of the 1DX. I recently received a new 1DX and 5D3 and will be putting them both to the test shortly for two weeks in AK.

Appreciate the real world Impressions.

Best Amigo,


July 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChas

Hi Chris,

Thank you for your review. Your pictures are amazing!!! If you had both nikon and canon systems would you purchase the Nikon D4 or the Canon 1DX for your action photography? I use both nikon and canon lenses and I'm torn on which camera to buy. Is the D4's autofocus better than the 1DX's? I tend to like Canon's colors and contrast. However, Nikon seems to give me better low light results and better autofocus. Excluding the F8 issue which would you buy for sports photography?

Thanks so much,

July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPrem

Hey Prem,

I have not tested the Nikon D4, so I can't offer an unbiased opinion. My suggestion would be to find a week when you will have tons of time and subjects to shoot and rent both. Be sure to try both in every possible scenario, and be sure you understand how to use & tweak their custom settings; I would download the PDF version of both owner's manuals and study every page for a week before the rental.

Hope this helps and do let me know how your tests go.

Very best,


July 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Hi Chris,

Thanks. I'm going to try both the D4 and the 1DX when it becomes available. Most of my shots are out of focus when I'm shooting fast subjects e..g., a dog chasing a Frisbee. I'm currently shooting with the 5D Mark III and the 70-200 IS II L. I've tried all the combinations in AI-Servo and none give me a good focus hit rate. I'd say I'm getting anywhere between 1%-10% of my shots in focus. Perhaps this is because the dog I photograph only plays in the evenings or indoors in low light. I frequently end up shooting at ISO 10,000-12,800 and at 2.8. The 2.8 is giving me a super short depth of field and that may be the problem. I'm going to try today in better light and see what happens. I'll try to shoot at 1/2000-1/2500s and at F/5.6 and up. Fingers crossed. Thanks.

July 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPrem

Hey Prem,

I have a 150 pound Rottweiler who loves to play and be photographed. Here's two with 70-200 @f/2.8:

I use f/2.8 in bright conditions on snow covered fields (for effect) without problems using Julie's Rebel, my 1D Mark IV or any other SLR that's kicking around - if you are sure that your technique is solid, I would calibrate your lens:

I suspect there may be a calibration issue there.

Hope this helps!



July 11, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Thanks for the review. The 1DX looks like the tool many have been waiting for.
Do you also shoot landscapes or make really large prints?
Do you think that the 4 MP more of the 5D III would make a significant difference in large prints compared to the 1DX?
I shoot both birds (incl. flight shots) and landscapes and the 1DX looks like it could be the tool for both.


July 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarkus Jais

Hey Markus,

Yes, I do shoot landscapes, and make really large prints. I also license images for print publications and advertising campaigns, so I want every pixel I can squeeze out of my images.

The 1DX is really the best option for anyone who photographs wildlife, landscape, birds in flight or bears fighting. It's also great for any other form of photography you are likely to do along the way; from cultural and travel photography to photojournalism and even portraits and weddings.

I mention the lack of ability to auto-focus with a maximum aperture of f/8 or smaller because it is important to me to be able to use an f/4 lens with doubler, but not everyone needs or wants to use that combination; others don't have the technique or ability.

If you can afford the bigger price tag of the 1DX, then it is the best option for you at the moment.

Hope this helps & very best,


July 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds


thanks a lot for the reply. I will definitely consider the 1DX. I also really hope that Canon will fix the AF @f8 problem. I love my 4/500 and use it a lot with the 1.4x and would also love to get a 2x but with my current 7D there is no AF. Maybe they can fix it with a firmware update. In a body that costs more than 6,000 Euros, I would expect AF @f8.


July 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarkus Jais

Recently, I also consider to buy 1dx. You to test whether such a sharp, trouble is on shock will put the tripod when shooting? Mirror than 1d4, please give a suggestion, thank you

July 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereric-wu

Hi Eric,

I'm not quite sure of your question - could you try to re-phrase it please?

Thank you & best,


July 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Nice review. I mostly do weddings, and I noticed that my 1DX AF's ability to focus in low light is about the same or a smidge better than my 5DII's. Granted, I sent my 5DII in twice to Canon early on to have the AF improved for low light, so it is a very good copy in that regard. Have you done any comparative testing with either the 5DII or 5DIII in this respect? I'd be curious to see if anyone sees a bigger improvement than what I'm seeing. I also used a 1DIV for 5 weddings about a year and a half ago and it's AF hunted badly, about a stop worse than my 5DII's. So, the 1DX's AF is at least a stop better than the 1DIV's in low light. That was the only thing that kept me from buying the 1DIV. Also, thought you might be interested in this. I'm waiting for my second 1DX copy. The first one had an error code 30, locked shutter, after a few hundred photos. It happened when I did a little experiment with a UDMA card to see how many shots it would take to fill up the 1DX's buffer. I fired off about 200 or 300 in a row. On the second attempt, error code 30 appeared and it did so periodically after that. Canon tech support said it should have been able to sustain that many shots in a row, but now I'm wondering if I hit an unofficial "fatigue limit" of the shutter mechanism. Not wanting to start any rumors here, but I'd be very curious to see if anyone else has tested their shutter's ability to sustain a lot of shots in a row. -Stuart

August 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Meyer

Hey Stuart,

In my experience, the auto-focus of the 1DX in way above and beyond anything else in the Canon line-up. Compared to the 5D III, the 1DX works very much the same, but is much faster and more responsive.

There are so many customizable settings, and possible combinations of them, I usually find that auto-focus issues are the result of user error. Watch the blog over the next couple of days for some pretty cool 1DX user resources.

I have shot more than 10,000 frames on a 1DX and I can assure you that there is no hidden "fatigue limit" . Everyone who has touched it has put the hammer down and blasted-off hundreds of frames at a time without a problem.

As for your error code, this is the first I've heard of it and I will keep my eyes open.

Very best,


August 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Thanks for the response. I would definitely agree that in good light, both the 1DIV and 1DX have blazing fast autofocus. I did my AF test between the 5DII and 1DX in a dark room using the center focus point to lock onto different areas of contrast. That's where I found the 1DX to be marginally better in it's ability to detect contrast over my 5DII. But, I think this is unique to my 5DII, which is an exceptionally good low light focuser. It didn't start out that way - it was very bad until I sent it to Canon to have AF fixed twice. Not sure what they did, but it exceeded my expectations after the second fix. It came back able to lock onto the slightest contrast in a very dark room. Wedding after wedding I am still amazed. I have spoken with many 5DII owners who say their 5DII's can barely focus in low light, so the 1DX will probably be considered by most to be a much larger improvement. Sounds like 1D's are designed to be hammered down with as many shots as possible without locking up the shutter, so I'll consider this failure as a one-off event . . . for now. Canon's tech support also said it shouldn't have failed. I'm really excited about AI servo after reading your review. This is my first 1D and I think it's the best camera Canon has ever made. -Stuart

August 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Meyer

Wow those are great photos, Great review, I have the 1d mark IV and just got the 1dx. I really don’t think the Nikon vs. Canon issue is going to matter. They will both be great for 95% of scenarios. Within 6 - 12 months they will both fix any issues that the other does a little better.

OVERWELMED WITH AUTOFOCUS OPTIONS: the first problem I had was all the autofocus options, I relate to your comment about missing a few shots messing with settings. Thanks for the comment about scenario 1 and 5, It gives some comfort for my nature stuff. I shoot a lot of football at night and will need to play around with the scenarios for that.

HIGH LEVEL EXPENSIVE OBSERVATION (If you just buy the newest best lenses ($$$) you don’t have to worry as much about autofocus settings because the lense+new autofocus will take care of it for you.

5 NEW DUAL CROSS TYPE AF POINTS: If I use a lens from canons “group A” then scenario 1 may work for everything because the lens can use the 5 new highly accurate dual xpoint autofocus points. If I use a lens from group B thru H i will need to pay more attention to the scenarios. (Reference pages 75 -81 in user manual)

BACKGROUND: based on the lens you use the new autofocus will allow you to use more of the new highly accurate focus and tracking points in the center. They added 5 of the new extremely accurate autofocus points that you can only use with some of the newer versions of the 2.8 or better lenses. Most of mine fall into this category (they call it group A). One of my 2.8 lenses falls into group B. it only uses 1 of the 5 new accurate autofocus points. After group B none of the lenses use the new autofocus points.

I dont know if the ne wdual xpoint af is any better yet and it may or may not make a real difference.

your configs are listed as group C and dont use the new dual cross type AF points, the highest you can currently go is 400mm with no extender and stay in group A.

I noticed you didnt cover the new AE settings, look forward to reading your review of that.

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDon

Hi Chris,
Thank you for posting this very useful article.

The Puffins are extremely sharp and kindly ask if you could advise which AF CASE SETTING you were using and the settings within.

Thank you kind regards,

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Keates

Hey Don,

Thank you for your kind words and insight.

Very best,


August 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Hey Paul,

I tried so many configurations that, to be honest, I can't remember. Let me see if I can extract that data for you and I'll post here when I figure out how.

Stay tuned for more,


August 3, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

Sorry to keep posting, but I feel compelled to do one more followup. I received my second 1DX yesterday and shot just over 500 images, mostly with the 85/1.2 lens. Tonight, I put the lens cap on and mistakenly pressed the shutter button halfway with the cap on and got an error code 80. I took the cap off and fired off a few shots. The error code went away. Again, not to start rumors, but since your blog is so prominent for 1DX reviews, I thought I should include my experience here. With the first 1DX, I mostly shot with a 70-200/2.8 II and 24/1.4, so I doubt this is lens related. I do have a spare Canon battery I purchased online and I'm not sure if that might have something to do with it. I've never had an error code with 4 generations of Canon digital cameras I've owned, so this does not give me a warm feeling. I'd be very curious now if you or anyone gets any error codes at some point. I'll quit posting now, promise. Best regards. -Stuart

August 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Meyer


Thanks for sharing your experience. Any chance you live close to Area 51?

All jokes aside, you've gone from a low light AF issue to the Error 30 message when your shutter "locked", then went on to say "This is my first 1D and I think it's the best camera Canon has ever made. -Stuart" and now are getting an Error code 80 after accidentally pressing the shutter button with a third party battery in place- - - -

I am no technician, but pressing the shutter button half way starts a chain of events that, I suspect, start with the camera trying to determine which lens was on the camera, and when non was there (but the body cap was), it displayed a communication error. Nothing to worry about at all in my opinion.

Hope this helps & Cheers!


August 4, 2012 | Registered CommenterChristopher Dodds

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