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Strong as a truck, quick as a Ferrari

Picture-noise performance was mind-blowing, the reviewer found, with hardly any grain even at ISO 6,400. Only at ISO 12,800 did noise artefacts start to surface.
Picture-noise performance was mind-blowing, the reviewer found, with hardly any grain even at ISO 6,400. Only at ISO 12,800 did noise artefacts start to surface.PHOTO: CANON

It powers up and locks onto a sharp focus in a flash; ideal for wildlife shots or those working in conflict zones

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II (1D X II) is the flagship full-frame DSLR targeted at professional photographers who want speed and quality.

It replaces the three-year-old EOS-1D X, created by Canon to combine the image quality of the EOS-1Ds Mark III's full-frame sensor and the shooting speed of the EOS-1D Mark IV.

Improvements in the 1D X II include the new 20.2-megapixel full-frame image sensor (up from the 18.1-megapixel of 1D X), dual Digic 6+ image processors, inclusion of Canon's Dual Pixel autofocusing (AF) system, the ability to shoot 4K videos (4,096 x 2,160 pixels) and better shooting speed at up to 16 frames per second (fps) in Live View mode (compared to 12 fps in the original).

The 1D X II might have the same 61 AF points as its predecessor, but it has 24 per cent more coverage area.

All the AF points also support focusing up to f/8.0, ideal for wildlife photographers who usually need to step down the aperture with lens extenders.

In addition, the DSLR is equipped with Al servo AF III+, which is Canon's new AF algorithm with scene analysis to improve AF precision to aid the capture of fast-moving subjects.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $8,199 (body only)

    SENSOR: 20.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS

    DISPLAY: Fixed 3.2-inch touchscreen LCD with 1.62 million dots

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 51,200 (expandable from ISO 50 to 409,600)

    SHUTTER SPEED: 1/8,000 to 30 seconds

    WEIGHT: 1.53kg (body only, including battery and memory card)


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The new 360,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor and EOS iTR AF system is said to further improve the tracking precision of the camera.

Instead of two CF card slots of the original, the 1D X II has a CF card slot and a CFast card slot. With Nikon and Sony cameras supporting the XQD card standard, I was hoping that Canon would also support XQD cards. It is better for consumers to have one standard.

The 1D X II's magnesium-alloy body feels rugged and solid. It is also weather sealed and dust resistant. Great for wildlife photographers or those working in conflict zones.

Handling is superb. I particularly like the two ergonomic grips that allow you to hold the camera in both portrait and landscape orientation comfortably, while giving you easy access to the buttons and control.

Button layout is almost identical to that of the other EOS-1D models. If you have handled one before, using the 1D X II should be second nature.

However, on the 1D X II, there is a new live view/video lever sited near the thumb rest. This makes it even easier for you to toggle between shooting stills and videos.

Powering up is almost instantaneous, so you will not miss that decisive moment. Shutting down can take around 2sec because of the sensor's cleaning mechanism. Shutter lag is negligible.

Using a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 lens and a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 lens for the review, I found the AF speed of the 1D X II exemplary.

It locks on to a focus immediately in bright sunlight. Even in dim lighting conditions, it can secure a focus in around 1sec.

The continuous AF tracking is even more impressive, locking onto a sharp focus with almost every frame. I was able to capture a lightning-quick kingfisher sharply in flight while panning the camera.

During video recording, the camera was usually able to lock onto a focus in less than 2sec when I panned from one scene to another, or zoomed into a subject. For a full-frame DSLR to be able to achieve this feat is quite amazing.

Shooting in raw format using a CF card with a writing speed rated at 160MB per second, I was able to get 59 shots in 4.6sec before the camera ran out of buffer.

I found images sharply rendered with fine and crisp details. Skin tones looked smooth and natural. Auto white balance was accurate in most lighting conditions.

Like most Canon cameras, colours tend to be not as vivid and contrasty compared to Nikon and Sony. However, I prefer flatter pictures as they are easier to edit in post-processing.

Picture-noise performance is simply mind-blowing. I can hardly see any grain even at ISO 6,400. Only at ISO 12,800 do noise artefacts start to surface. I think images at ISO 25,600 are still usable for the Web. But high noise levels and loss of details make images at ISO 51,200 and above unusable.

Battery life per charge is good for around 1,200 still images. While the 1D X II's battery life is better than that of its predecessor by around 100 frames, its direct competitor, Nikon D5, can shoot 3,800 still images per full charge.

• Verdict: For professional photographers who want the ultimate manifestation of speed and image in a camera, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is an obvious choice.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Strong as a truck, quick as a Ferrari'. Print Edition | Subscribe