For years and years, I’ve been shooting with the same camera. A trusty and reliable Canon EOS 1D Mark II (or Mark IIN). It may have been the finest 8 megapixel camera ever made. With that being said, it was getting a little long in tooth.
Canon (and I’m sure other camera brands) only service their cameras for so long. After eight years or so, they stop manufacturing parts for and supporting “experienced” camera bodies. The 1d Mark II recently crossed that threshold.
Our cameras that were rated for 150,000 shutter actuations were all close or above 300,000. They were knocking on deaths door. Heck, my backup camera was almost at 350,000. That’s a lot of pictures and a testament to the build quality of the camera.
As the cameras started to die off, it came time to replace our old but loyal companion. The Canon EOS 1DX was the rebound I needed.
Without getting into too much technical mumbo jumbo, the 1DX is lightyears ahead of that Mark II in every way. Probably the feature that I anticipated the most was the low light capabilities built into the camera.
The 1D Mark II had a native ISO range of 100-1600, expandable to 50 on the low end and 3200 on the high end. The higher ISO you use, the grainier the images look. Photojournalists often work in dark environments and push their cameras to the limit.
My 1D Mark II spent much of its life at 1600 or 3200 ISO. Earlier in April, I shot a table tennis tournament at 3200.
The camera had a tremendously difficult time focusing. This was one of the few action frames that was reasonably sharp. Due to the camera’s limitations, I couldn’t shoot with a high enough shutter speed to freeze the action. The above image was shot at 1/320th second exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 3200.
Fast forward to yesterday. My first night shooting with the new camera. I had a great assignment to test its capabilities. A boxing gym. One side of the building was a wall of windows letting in the evening light. The only other lighting was the overhead florescent.
The 1DX has a native ISO range of 100-51200, expandable to 50 on the low end and 204800 on the high side.
I worked the camera in a variety of scenarios and it performed flawlessly. I shot subjects front lit, back lit, side lit, not lit. Every single time, the lens instantly snapped to focus.
Just like the previous image, this next picture was shot at ISO 3200. The shutter speed was 1/500th a second and shot at f/2.8.
Notice how much sharper, richer and cleaner the image is. Every little detail pops.
The old cameras tended to be rather contrasty. Images would often have blown out highlights or shadows would sink into complete darkness. Midtones were muddy at best. The 1DX has a much better dynamic range, holding onto the shadow and highlight detail much better.
ISO 5000, 1/500th sec at f/2.8
The full-frame sensor lets wide lenses stretch out.
ISO 3200, 1/400th sec at f/2.8
Skin tones seem much more accurate, especially in low light situations.
ISO 5000, 1/640th sec at f/2.8
The only downside with the camera can’t even be considered a downside. The motor drive on the 1D Mark II drove the camera at 8.5 frames per second. That’s a lot of frames. The 1DX screams past at 12 frames per second. Sure, you get the moment while shooting sports, but you also end up with a bunch of garbage frames that slow down the editing process. The camera’s drive speed can easily be limited in the menu options.
I’m learning more and more about this camera every day. I’ll post more of my thoughts as they come to be. However, I’ll leave you with this – a goofy self portrait (if you can call it that) shot at 51,200 ISO.
Max – thanks for the review and illustrations. The iso speed is totally outside my experience or belief. I guess I would believe it if I used the camera. I go all the way back to days when I used a Kodak recording film and graphic arts developer to produce grainographs at something like 3200.
And I was happy with the results – shooting jazz musicians at a jazz club. There was a sandpaper
surface of grain – but the images had a gritty, moody look.
Fight College is a good subject.
Keep in touch. — Bob
Bob, the difference for me, going from an early 2000’s model 1D to the current generation, is totally night and day. It’s amazing how far technology has taken us.
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