Canon EOS-1DX II Beta Test Results
01st February 2016


I'm reminded of some words in a classic Soft Cell song "To keep you secret has been hell...". Well today that secret has been officially revealed, a secret that I have been keeping for a couple of months. The emergence of the 1D X Mark II. I was chosen, as a Canon Europe Explorer, to be a Beta tester of the camera and I have had it in my clutches since mid December. My brief was simple, use the camera’s new features, push it to the limit and try to get some iconic images. So I did my best....

Taken with a Beta 1DX II at ISO 10,000

ISO 10,000, see that? Commercial quality enough to be published on an A2 Calendar (which is the ultimate test). It was a tough ask for me to get images as the time of the year was not the best for wildlife, I had to do it in the UK, I had to keep it away from prying eyes (vital) and I had to balance it with being around to care for my 8 month old daughter. Of course none of these daunted me, even the demands of a baby, and I’m pleased with what the camera has helped me achieve so far. In fact it has pushed me and challenged me to really up my game and I have loved pitting it against tough wildlife and aviation situations, with a few landscapes thrown in for good measure.

The Changing Professional Environment

The 1D X II is following a tough act. The world beating 1D X is a camera that simply delivers. So how do you follow that? The answer is that you re-design it and produce an entirely new camera, with a new sensor and a host of must have features for serious photographers everywhere. Now I know that many of you will take a sharp in take of breath as this type of re-design can go very wrong, as we have seen in the past few years. Well I am here to report that you can breathe easy, the 1D X II delivers, delivers and delivers again. It’s all new and it all works!

Now before I start I’d like to tell you about the eye controlled focus, the new "hover” mode and the new chameleon feature where it changes colour to match it’s surroundings (at football matches it always turns Claret & Blue for the mighty Irons!). Unfortunately I can’t because they don’t exist. Too many photographers these days I think expect miraculous new features, bells and whistles that sound really great on paper but in reality aren’t useful at all. Let’s face it, top end professional cameras have been developed now almost to the end of their life, there are few features left to invent. Or are there? Well the 1DX II has done it, the problem is that the biggest advance will be the least talked about. The new sensor design. It has allowed me to push the boundaries of my creativity ever upwards, shooting in awful weather conditions at very high ISO to nail compelling commercial imagery. One thing that is noticeable is the incredible lack of noise in the shadows, something that has always plagued DSLRs. Well the 1DX II solves that, and because of it frees us all to really push our images creatively during post processing whilst retaining the quality to compete at a top professional level. Check this, ISO 32,000 in grim weather, underexposed deliberately to darken background. Looks like ISO 8000 on the 1DX. Legend.

Taken with a Beta 1DX II at ISO 32,000

The 1D X II reflects changes in the needs of professional photographers. No longer can we afford to be specialists, we all have to diversify and be able to handle any job that we get with the kit that we have. The 1D X II is the only camera that professionals need, that it delivers everything you might need for any job that you come across, no matter what your genre. Take my needs as an example. I want a camera that gives me the capability to record ultra high action in very low light, to record 4K and slow motion movies, to push image files to the limit without worrying about noise lurking in the shadows, and to provide lots of useful functions that help me nail the perfect shot every time. I need to be a commercial wildlife, landscape, aviation, movie and portrait photographer on different days of the week. With one camera I must be able to produce commercial images for any of these genres and more besides. The 1D X II is that camera. So please don’t think about the 1DX II as just another list of features, it is so much more than that. It is a bold redesign of a brand leading model that addresses the needs of the modern working professional across multiple genres.

My Favourite Features

I am not gonna post a full review today as there will be announcements flying all over the place and it will get lost. There will also be the ludicrous picking over of all the specs as well, a pointless exercise if ever there was one. So instead over the coming weeks I will write regular BLOGS, revealing new pictures and video to show how I have tested this amazing new camera and what I have found. I think you are gonna like what you see. For now here is my list of what 1DX 11 features I have found the most useful in my testing so far, it’s not a definitive list as I’m finding new things to try every day, but these are the biggies for me so far:

Sensor - Top of the list must be the new sensor, completely redesigned, which delivers incredible noise performance (especially in shadow detail where there is NO noise) and the ability to shoot commercial quality images at very high ISO. This has been very useful for me during testing as invariably it’s been in the rain and the light has been pants. The image quality is simply sensational. Bottom line, images have much more dynamic range and have a much greater latitude for post processing. I used Digital Photo Professional 4 for all my image processing and its now truly excellent, great noise profiles and lovely balanced colours. Plus it supports the cool new Ambience / White priority settings too.

Taken with a Beta 1DX II at ISO 10,000

Video - Hot on the heels of the new sensor comes 4K 60fps video support plus, and this is a real bonus for me, the ability to shoot 100fps HD video. What is 100fps I hear you cry? Well is allows me to really sloooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwww everything down, shooting ultra slow motion video in incredible quality. During my testing I got some beautiful footage of a kingfisher diving, unfortunately since this is a beta camera I cannot show you it but Canon have it here. There are lots of new and improved features here I'm gonna enjoy exploring. One thing is that the new 4K passes the standards for National Geographic and the BBC NHU which means that the 1DX II produces the best stills and video from any dslr today. 

Buffer - Did I mention the new buffer? Supporting one slot containing the new 440 MB/S CFast 2 cards (I bought mine from Park in London), the 1DX II can shoot on and on and on in Raw before the buffer locks up. Canon state 170, I have tried and have never locked it up yet. I'm not a blaster by any means but there are times every year when I need to shoot a lot quickly and now with the 1DX II I can do it in raw and not just jpeg. Frame rate is also upto 14 fps and a whopping 16 fps in LiveView (that's what I used for all the kingfisher sequences). Oh and before the knockers spread bad things, the CFast cards are slightly more expensive than the fastest CF cards, but with the benefits I'd buy them again and again. And again.

Taken with a Beta 1DX II at ISO 10,000

Autofocus - It’s tough to follow the 1DX as that worked so brilliantly but the 1DX II has a host of new features including an 8% coverage increase for it's focussing points and new group modes. More importantly it works in much lower light and locks on quicker and more effectively. In fact I achieved something that I never thought possible, a Kingfisher coming out of the water with a fish tracked by autofocus. Impossible. Clearly not anymore. I will show those images another time as a certain newspaper wants first look at those. Oh one thing about the AF, the parameters and setup are identical to the 1DX, 7D2 etc. So you can either set them up by using the "bloke in a tutu" menus or get down and dirty using the Tracking / Accel / Decel parameters. If you have been on our AF Masterclass workshop then you will be all set, if not shame on you and another will be along shortly. You can even wear your tutu if you like, we do. Anyway I digress, I used the keen new AF to keep track of these RAF Typhoons, the light was total pants as you can see from the lights, but I still achieved 95% success rate which plays havoc with one's editing....

Taken with a Beta 1DX II in very low light

Is there more? You betcha loads and I will cover them on my BLOGs and Facebook posts over the next few days, but two others I have used are:

1) LCD exposure simulation (great when using Lee ND / Stopper filters) 

2) f8 Autofocus support which means that any f4 lens with a 2x converter, like a 500mm, can now use all 61 AF points with said converter rather than the centre. You also get cross points at f8 too. Bonus.

3) Horizon leveller in the viewfinder now, great for shooting on the move. If you are stable then you should be using a UniqBall!

4) Silent Shutter - well these silent shutter modes are never silent but at least they keep improving it. This time the sound is much less mechanical than the 1DX, it didn't scare anything off that I was close to, but I would say that the 6D still has the quietest silent mode around. But of course the 1DX II wins on the speed of the silent drive and I think that all things considered it's big improvement over the 1DX.

Taken with a Beta 1DX II with 500mm lens, 2x teleconverter and offset focus point

Different photographers of course will have different preferences, but for me these 5 show how the toolkit nature of the 1DX II allows it to all things to all people. Ok so that’s all on the 1DX II for now. It works and it works great, simple as that. I have loved it from the first time I shot with it, the feel of it is much better in the hand too. Now over the coming weeks Park Cameras will announce some events where you will be able to come and meet me to chat about this camera and see images from it. But that’s not all. Now FotoBuzz members please note, Park Cameras will be giving amazing deals to you all when the 1D X II is released. For everyone else they will give great deals of course matched with excellent personal service, but for FotoBuzzers you are in for an special treat!

Taken with a Beta 1DX II  by a photographer with a big smile on his face

Park Cameras Competition, FotoBuzz and the 1DX II

I am the new Ambassador for award winning retailer Park Cameras and I am pleased to say that they are now the official retailer for FotoBuzz too. So if you wanna save money on kit (often more than the membership itself) why not join us, learn from the experts and make your photography count too. By the way FotoBuzzers have a much more detailed version of this review and a live Q&A with me too. And that is not all, Park Cameras have a great pre-order competition. When you order a 1DX II you will be entered into a special draw where the prize is two days with me photographing Kingfishers and Badgers amoungst others, using the benefit of my 20 years of professional expertise to get you those special shots. It's a great prize and only comparable to a West Ham season ticket in appeal. Better than a ride in a hot air balloon any day.

Taken with a Beta 1DX II  at ISO 200, using exposure simulation, astounding detail in the shadows and on stonework

And Finally

Well there you go, that is enough for this morning I think. I have not done bad with this camera in the 5 weeks or so that I have had with it. I never take a lot of images anyway, that is not my style, instead I prefer to post images that have something to say. I'm pleased with what I have shown here and trust me there is a lot more to show besides.

I am a total convert to the 1D X II. I have pushed myself to get images that I have never tried before and I have new toys (video) to get proficient with and challenge myself. It's a cool camera and I only have a Beta version, I know that over the coming months until the full production units are available it will only get better and better. I will continue shooting all the time with the 1DX II and have more aviation and wildlife shoots planned. In March it will come on a big high ISO test, Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda. All of this you will see on this BLOG, on Park Cameras BLOG and of course in more detail on FotoBuzz. 

If you wanna buy my 1Dx’s then you are most welcome, just one careful owner......hah right. 

With thanks 

I would like to thank Alan, Rich, Nigel, Gary, the Voyager crew, Steve my hairdresser, Rob and all at Canon Europe for their assistance with this project so far....


For the official Canon product page click here

For the Park Cameras BLOG and competition click here

To join FotoBuzz click here

For West Ham United, the finest football team in the land, click here


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