EOS-1DX II AF and High ISO Tests with LiveView too
16th February 2016

1DX2 - the fun continues

My apologies for not updating much here, I am really relishing the new features that the 1DX2 has given me and am out shooting with it at every opportunity. Mainly this has been the 4K video, which has really opened up a whole new world for me as the Movie AF works brilliantly, but more on that in a BLOG next week (FotoBuzz members you are about to get a whole mini series on moving making etc). 

Today I would like to expand a little on the great high ISO and AF performance of the camera that I spoke about in my initial review of the camera. OK so here's the bottom line. The new 1DX2 sensor is surprising me a lot. I'm used to working at high ISO, some of my most commercially successful images of the past two years with the 1DX are ISO 4000-8000. So I am a realist when it comes to high ISO files. I don't expect them to be as good as ISO 200, but I just need them to be commercially good enough to sell to my clients. Now the problem with my high ISO 1DX images is that I need to get the exposure perfect. There is some pattern noise in the shadows, but if I get the exposure right then it's tolerable...

A case in point here of a lovely Little Owl. Shot at ISO 4000 to get the necessary shutter speed and depth of field, in the dark areas under the wings there would be shadow noise that would be evident had I been required to brighten the image. I accepted this shooting at ISO 4000 was a real bonus. Of course I did shoot occasionally at ISO 8000 too, but only in circumstances where I really really needed to. 

The 1DX2 Advantage

I quickly realised that the 1DX2 was a different beast when I shot my first batch of Kingfishers. Forced to shoot due to appalling weather conditions, I used ISO's of 25,600 and 32,000 and didn't expect much......

What I did get surprised me. Once loaded into DPP and then into PS, the images showed remarkably little noise in the shadow areas. Remarkably little. The detail at that ISO was acceptable to me and in fact this week you will see a major selection of them appearing in the national press. The editors were amazed when I told them the true ISO. So let me tell you this, and boo boys please note. The 1DX2 has MUCH better shadow detail and reduced noise than the 1DX (which was no slouch either). This means that I can push and work with the file a lot more, i.e. I don't need to be picky about getting the exposure right all the time. It's been one of the revelations of the 1DX2. It's how I define dynamic range too. Now some may claim that DPP is doing some magic, who cares to be honest, the files out of it are good and I am a convert now completely.Now last week I shot a video on the 1DX2 for Park Cameras at the BWC. You will see it soon. It was a tough video as the weather conditions were rubbish and the subject was very challenging. Now as a laugh I set the ISO to 25,600 and did some otter portraits........

ISO 25,600. Ridiculous right? You would think so until you look at the file above. Now I am not allowed to show you a 100% crop as this is a Beta camera and no manufacturer would ever allow that until the production version. But trust me I have been able to brighten the dark area under the chin and apart from a few minor artefacts in the whiskers, the image has incredible detail and noise performance. Remember I have done nothing more than put it through DPP, that evidently magic piece of software. This image is certainly good enough quality for a magazine cover or an A3 vertical calendar, both tough clients to please on quality. As I said before it's not like an ISO 100 image but it's not what you expect from a 25,600 image either.

Usain the Otter

The real beauty of the 1DX2 is that it combines this high ISO performance with an improved AF performance. Much improved. Note again that the 1DX is any slouch in this department, it never let me down (it was me that was doing the letting down!). But the 1DX2 locks on and stays locked on. Here's my ultimate AF test. I've done the running otter test before. Buster the young otter is a very fast animal, over 5m he would easily beat Usain Bolt. The rate of change and erratic run is a test for any camera. When I did the early 1DX tests I got astounding results at ISO 8000 doing this, yes they had some shadow noise but in those days to shoot at 8000 was impossible so I didn't care. During the runs I nailed 15-20% in focus, and I mean really sharp. So we repeated the process with Buster for the Park Cameras video.....

Only ISO 10,000 this time, I just needed to get 1/2000th second at f6.3 - f7.1 so didn't need to be any higher. The weather was grim. The file. Amazing noise performance, especially under the chin where you would expect it to lurk. Again I brightened it up a little without any worry. In fact to be totally 100% honest here there was really no noise anywhere on the image that I was worried about from a commercial standpoint. But it's the AF I wanna talk about. On the runs where I was on form and so was the otter, I nailed 75% plus sharp on some runs. It would be tough to get more as the otter has an undulating run and I am trying to bounce the camera to keep the centre spots over the face. Now 75% of images sharp like this, a right pain in the backside as I keep a lot. I just did a shoot with the amazing Red Arrows at their base ( a future BLOG) and I would say my hit rate was 98% plus. I gave up having the editor at 100% looking for sharp images, they were all sharp. This makes a massive difference to me as I can get a much higher hit rate and have more images to choose from. For me it's not just about getting an image in focus, the composition has to be perfect too. 

So I'm getting great results so far with the AF and high ISO, I will update more as I get more to show but so far it's amazing.

AF via LiveView? Surely some mistake?

AF has never been great on LiveView let's be honest, in fact it's generally been crap. Well no more. I have now started to shoot a lot more using the LiveView screen as it's touch sensitive (so I can put the AF point where I want it quickly), has a 16 fps drive and the AF is very very accurate. Check this captive Short Eared Owl at the BWC.....

Pretty low ISO this one at 800. I used LiveView to focus because I wanted a very low angle shot to create a special artistic composition and it was tough to get my eye in the viewfinder. So I used LiveView and simply touched the point I wanted to focus on. Brilliant. I was comfortable when I shot and it showed as again everyone in the sequence was sharp (although to be fair this wasn't a great AF test). For me though the ability to shoot reliably when laying behind the camera close to the ground will be a godsend, as it will help my fieldcraft no end! Last thing on this image, the colours are all natural out of the camera. 

1DX2 Summary

So there is an update on the 1DX2 testing. As I said I have been shooting a lot of video over the past weeks, but when called up to produce stills the camera has really allowed me to push the boundaries and greatly increase my keep rate! More on this as the weeks go on....

Park Cameras - Park Cameras are doing great deals on the 1DX2, part ex too, and you also get the chance to win a coupla days shooting with me. Ok so that may not be to your taste as I am a Hammer but the shooting will be worth it! To check out the Park Cameras 1DX2 page click here

Fieldcraft Workshop

On Sunday February 28th I am running a Fieldcraft workshop at the WWT Slimbridge Centre.

Fieldcraft is knowing how to get close to animals / birds to photographing them without disturbance. Many people write to me not knowing how to start their wildlife photography. Well it starts right here.

The price is £75 VAT click here for details.

Come along and be inspired. Get answers from an expert.


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