Canon's New EOS 1 DX
Canon has unveiled its new flagship DSLR camera, the 18.1 megapixel EOS-1D X. The new camera is set to replace the professional level EOS-1D Mark III and Mark IV. Although pricing of the EOS-1D X will remain undetermined until closer to the camera's ship date at end of March 2012, the tentative price for the body only is $7,000.
"The EOS-1D X represents a new level of performance in many different ways," said Chuck Westfall, Canon Advisor Technical Information, ITC Group Professional Engineering & Solutions I Division, explaining the three meanings of the "X" in the new camera's name. "We used the X for extreme, because of its performance levels. Second, X stands for Roman numeral 10, since it's the tenth generation since the F1. Last, X stands for crossover because it's the first time that, in the digital era, we've been able to change from the previous idea of a pair of cameras in the professional category to a single model."
The codec for the EOS-1DX is still H.264 in video mode (and raw for still mode), but the image sensor, auto focus system and DIGIC processors are all brand new, and other image improvement features have been added.
The camera offers several "firsts" for Canon. "This is the first time since 1998 that Canon has introduced a new professional camera with a new auto focus system," said Westfall, who says that the system works for horizontal and vertical shooting and features an updated racking algorithm as well as a totally redesigned metering system. The auto focus system is 61 points, a wider array than before. "We're using a 100,000 RGB metering sensor to work together with the DIGIC processing center. It's a camera within a camera, if you think of the metering system picking up a video image that is analyzed for exposure metering among other things." The image sensor is a new 18.1 megapixel full frame CMOS; that compares to the 16.1 megapixel sensor in the EOS-1DS Mark III. The new generation processors offer 12 fps capability in raw and JPEG. "If you are willing to shoot with mirror lock and JPEG mode only, you can get up to 14 fps, also supported by these new processors," said Westfall. "There's greater noise reduction, it's helped us improve sensitivity of the ISO, and the speed of processing is substantially improved." With regard to sensitivity, Westfall noted that "in standard quality JPEGs, the new EOS-1DX has a full two stop improvement in noise level over the EOS-1D Mark IV."
"When you shoot the 1DX at 12.8, it is incredibly smooth and high quality," he said. "This opens up a new realm for shooting in low light situations."
A totally redesigned mirror mechanism offers a quad action mirror stopper designer. "The Mark IV had a hook to hold the big mirror in place when it was shooting at 10 fps," he said. "That's been replaced by new mirror stoppers for the main and sub mirrors. The stoppers are spring-loaded and work in conjunction with mirror mechanisms for higher stability and performance. Mirror black-out time was 80 milliseconds on the older models; now it's 60 milliseconds, a 33 percent improvement."
Processing speed is 17 times faster than the Canon DIGI4 processor. With high ISO noise reduction set, the user can shoot at any setting with no loss of framing rate, and general improved image quality and functionality. The new digital processors have also allowed Canon to add chromatic aberration correction on the fly. "We had peripheral aberration correction before," noted Westfall. The new processor also offers intelligent racking and recognition. "When you're trying to track a moving subject, you use not just the AF data but the face detection and color to track the subject across the area," he said.
With regard to durability, the shutter has been increased from 300,000 cycles to 400,000 cycles. "The new coated carbon-fired shutter blades are more durable with higher precision even at higher frame rates and with less vibration," he said.
USABILITY AND CONTROLS
The optical viewfinder is optically the same as the Mark III. "That's not too shabby," said Westfall. "It's one of our best efforts in terms of quality and clarity of the image, with 100 percent field of view. This is also an intelligent viewfinder, like the 7D with grid on demand." New features include a 61-point AF point display to show when the camera is focusing as well as the shooting mode now being shown in the data display.
Also new is dual axis electronics display, which shows up on the LCD screen and can be activated in the optical viewfinder. "The auto focus array will be the big thing people will notice," predicts Westfall. "Not just 61 points but that it stretches further to the left and the right than with the Mark III, the full-frame camera. In terms of percentage, the width of the Mark III was 41 percent of the width of the screen. This is 52 percent, so it'll allow better composition with auto focus."
The menu screens on the back of the camera have been updated to make it easier to find the settings you need to adjust. "You have a kind of tabbed interface like before, but it's a little easier to see and adjust," he said. "Whenever you have any individual setting highlighted, you can press the info button and get a feature guide explanation of what that feature does." Another usability feature added "by popular demand" is a multi-function lock screen, which allows the user to choose which controls are locked during the operation of the camera.
Another new feature is one that shows information including the serial number of the camera, the firmware version and the number of shutter release actuations that have occurred. Camera status log records any error codes that the camera may have displayed at any time, which will aid a service technician.
A LOOK AT THE CAMERA: BACK, FRONT, SIDES
The front of the camera is quite similar to the appearance of the EOS-1D and EOS-1DS. "You now have programmable buttons that can do more than depth of field preview," he said. "In addition to that pair of buttons, there is an auxiliary pair next to the lens mount so when you hold the camera vertically you have access to those controls as well. The pair of buttons are designed so you can tell tactilely which one you're pushing, without taking your eye from the viewfinder." The user is able to adjust aperture, ISO, metering mode and many other settings.
Storage media on this camera has been changed to UDMA 7-compatible dual CF cards, with all the range of functions for the dual slots that existed previously. "Being able to record data to both cards simultaneously or go from one JPEG to another or automatically switch from one card to the next for maximum shooting capacity is all very similar to what we did with the Mark IV," he said.
On the side of the camera, there are a similar range of ports for the external microphone, remote control, studio strobes and hooking up to an external monitor. A new built-in RJ45 Ethernet cable for built-in wired LAN. "It does not require a WFT, so it's more compact and stable, especially since we now have a locking connector," said Westfall. "What drove us in this direction is that many photojournalists are working in a stadium where access to a wired LAN is readily available. People were looking for a faster way to get images out of the camera."
NEW VIDEO FEATURES
Much is the same as the Mark IV: Canon is still relying on the H.264 codec and the choice of resolution and framing rate is the same. There's a slight change in the SD mode, which now offers 30 and 25 fps as opposed to 50 or 60. In addition to chromatic aberration correction, the biggest change is a choice of two compression formats: All-I, an intra-compression mode and IPB, an inter-frame compression. All-I gives larger file sizes and allows each frame to be extracted. IPB offers greater compression efficiency. Users can now also shoot up to 29 minutes, 59 seconds in HD via two 4 gigabyte clips that are stored separately but can be married in the editing system.
Another improvement is the ability to embed timecode, which can be done as free or record run (although it's not frame accurate between cameras because there is no genlock).
THREE NEW ACCESSORIES
A new battery, the LP-E4n, is forwards and backwards compatible with the preceding battery. "We made this battery to comply with new safety regulations mandated in Japan," said Westfall. "But we took advantage of it to change storage capability to 2400 hours."
A new dedicated GPS unit, the GP-E1, is a small device that records all the standard GPS data including timecode but also adds an electronic compass that records the orientation of the camera. It's as dust and weather-resistant as the camera itself.
The third accessories is for the user that does need wireless as opposed to the built-in wired, LAN. Also very dust and weather resistant, the WFT-E6 with Bluetooth capability gives the user wireless and GPS capability.