Canon 1DX Mark 2 – a Game Changer?
A couple of weeks ago I posted on my Facebook page that I had been playing around with some RAW files shot with the new Canon 1DX Mark 2 – and my initial conclusion was that the new speed master from Canon was, in my opinion, something of a GAME CHANGER.
Boy did I get a bit of a thrashing – from Nikon D5 users who have little to no experience of the pre-existing 1DX system, let alone the new one; in other words folk trying to justify the giant lump of cash they’ve just handed over………
What GAME is it that I think the Canon 1DX Mark 2 potentially changes?
For me it breaks down quite simply:
Auto Focus: The Canon 1DX Mk1 61 point Reticular AF system BEATS THE CRAP out of all variants of the Nikon Multi-Cam 3500 AF system when it comes to using long glass on fast-moving targets.
With the caveat that you need to know and understand how to set it up of course!
Image Quality: Any Nikon pro-body RAW file kicks a Canon 1DX Mark 1 .CR2 file into the middle of the last century.
The Nikon D4/4S sensors produce RAWs that are cleaner in respect of ISO/Noise, greater Dynamic Range (up to a point) and are just plain “more tractable” when it comes to post process; especially in shadow and highlight recovery.
And so “The Game” is quite simple – AF Performance v Sensor Output IQ – it’s simple and straight forward enough that anyone can understand where I’m coming from!
Let’s get something clear from the start – neither Canon or Nikon have seen fit to let Uncle Andy get his hands on either of the new cameras! The other week I went to a Canon day in Manchester and actually got my hands on a Canon 1DX Mark 2 – but when I went into my pocket and pulled out a 64 Gb CF card the guy from Canon had a hissy-fit and wouldn’t allow me to take any shots – “we can’t allow them to get into the public domain” was his excuse, and he wouldn’t budge.
But one of the speakers, Simeon Quarrie, was kind enough to let me have a play with some of his .CR2 from a project in Africa he’d just completed on the new Canon 1DX Mark 2 – and my chin hit the floor.
I could not believe what I was seeing – the amount of shadow and highlight recovery over-head was insane. Overall, the shadow and highlight RAW IQ is right up there with the Nikon D4/4S. Now let’s not get too carried away here; the Canon 1DX Mark 2 .CR2 file is still lossless compressed ( see blog article HERE) and so isn’t offering QUITE what it could do in respect of post-process, but it is A MASSIVE jump in IQ from the original Canon 1 DX.
FFS Canon, grow a pair will you – give the Canon users a firmware upgrade to allow them the option of keeping the uncompressed RAW will you! It’s not going to cost you anything…
Austin Thomas kindly sent me a couple of RAWs from his new Canon 1DX Mark 2 a couple of days after the Canon Open day in Manchester:
In this Kestrel image note the position of the Shadow slider in the Lightroom Basic panel – 100% to the right. The shot is 3200ISO so yes there is a bit of noise, but I’ve not made any attempt to remove it – the ONLY adjustment made is to the shadow recovery. Just look at the eye, there’s NO colour noise or pattern noise.
In the Little Owl (L’owly!) shot I’ve pushed things further by putting the Highlight Recovery slider 100% to the left for maximum effect.
This extreme shadow and highlight recovery is almost impossible with Mark 1 RAWs without incurring massive penalties in the form of colour noise and sensor pattern noise, especially in the shadow areas:
And now it appears that DPReview have done something useful – they’ve been shooting a head-to-head between Canon 1DX Mark 2 and a Nikon D5 (which in itself is NOT useful), but they’ve put some RAW files up that folk can download.
Go and download these two files:
Bring them into Lightroom and drag the Highlight Recovery all the way to the left, and the shadow Recovery all the way to the right:
Now go and look at those tyre barriers – no colour noise or sensor pattern noise.
As a long-time Nikon shooter I find lots of thing that irritate me about Canon – the crackers menu system and the God-awful ergonomics. But then a lot of Canon users will say the same about Nikon – it’s what you are used to that makes the ‘stuff’ on the other side of the fence look crazy.
But all that is totally irrelevant really – all I’m ever concerned with is AF performance and sensor IQ. And sensor IQ was the Achilles Heel of the original 1DX in my opinion – simply because I’m used to Nikon sensor IQ.
I choose to use a Mk1 1DX – with its somewhat inferior IQ – over my D4 or 4S – with the better IQ but poorer AF performance – when “the chips are down”. The chips are down when I know I’m going to be in a situation where “THE shot” could come at any time, and is not going to be easily repeatable.
Seeing as adopting this course of action involves me begging, stealing, borrowing, or God forbid HIRING the gear, it’s a decision I never take lightly!
But the Canon 1DX Mark 2 has alleviated my IQ concerns, and so makes the option a little easier.
The main fault with the Nikon Multi-Cam AF system is a missing user control – Canon call it Acceleration/Deceleration Tracking. It’s a mission-critical control, and Nikons steadfast refusal to give us access to it means that either THEY are stupid, or that they think their users are.
But the new D5 AF system gives Nikon users access to a control Nikon call Subject Motion – you guessed it, it’s Acceleration/Deceleration Tracking.
Does it work as effectively as Canons – who have been honing and developing it for years? Who knows….perhaps I would by now if it weren’t for the earthquake in Japan a few week ago.
I seriously hope that Nikon HAVE got it right; but at the end of the day it still doesn’t help me all that much because I can’t put a D5 on the back of a Canon 200-400 – the best all-round wildlife photography lens on the planet!