Canon EOS-1D X Mk II review

The 1D X Mk II looks set to wow the pros shooting this year's Olympic games

Canon EOS-1D X Mk II

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Just like its predecessor, the Canon EOS-1D X Mk II looks and feels like a modern camera that's designed for use by professional photographers who need a camera they can rely on, even in bad weather. These users will also appreciate the fact that little of the control layout has changed from the 1D X, so they can transition painlessly to the new camera.

Canon EOS-1D X Mk II review

The 1D X II's intended market of professional news and sports photographers understand the balance that's required between pixel count and pixel size. Current technology deems that 20.2 million pixels on a full-frame sensor enables the pixels to be made large enough to keep noise levels within acceptable limits at high sensitivity settings, while still producing an image large enough to make full-bleed double-page spreads for print.

It's clear that Canon has put a lot of thought into the 1D X Mark II, along with some very powerful technology. Image quality is aided by refinements such as putting the A/D converter on the sensor, to reduce the amount of circuitry the image signal must travel along before being converted to a digital signal.

Comparing high-sensitivity images taken in identical conditions with the Nikon D5 and Canon EOS-1D X Mk II reveals that the Nikon camera has slightly better control over noise. However, there's not much in it, and I would avoid using either model at ISO409,600 (or higher in the case of the D5).

We liked

Canon got the handling pretty much spot-on with the original 1D X, and all the physical controls are within equally easy reach on the Mk II. The controls accessible when the vertical grip is in use particularly impress – there's no need to remember to reach to a different area to change the autofocus point for example.

It's good see Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology for faster, smoother live view and video autofocus. And it's nice that touchscreens are being taken more seriously, with both Canon and Nikon putting them on their top-end SLRs – even if their use is rather limited.

The addition of 4K video capability was to be expected in the 1D X Mk II, but the ability to shoot at that resolution at frame rates up to 60fps is a bonus.

We disliked

While the layout of the physical controls on the 1D X Mk II is very good, some aspects of the menu system could be improved. It's great that the Quick Menu is customisable, but it would be even better if you could set up two versions, one for stills shooting and the other for video, to enable quick access to the control options that are most relevant to the shooting mode. I'd also like to see touch control extended to make the menus quicker to use.

Final verdict

With the EOS-1D X Mk II Canon has created a powerful and versatile camera that's a great choice for professional sport and news photographers. It doesn't have the outrageous sensitivity range of the Nikon D5, but it's very capable in low light, delivering excellent images within its standard sensitivity range. Its autofocus system is also phenomenal, getting moving subjects sharp even in very gloomy conditions.

While it may not be a dedicated video camera, it does a great job with video, and its video autofocus system is capable of operating smoothly for professional-looking footage. Few can fail to be impressed by the quality of the screen, although some may wish for a little more touch control than it offers.