Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 PDN Photo Expo Exclusive: Canon Booth - New Canon EOS-1Dx, Photos, Highlights and More!

H and B Digital visited the Canon booth for the 2011 PDN Photo Expo yesterday to find some hot new items that are soon to be released - one of the most exciting products we saw this year was the new Canon EOS-1DX Digital SLR camera.

We captured footage of the event using the new Fujifilm Finepix JX420 digital point-and-shoot camera.

H and B Digital manager, Tony, speaking with the Canon NYC Sales Representative

While Canon may have a job on its hands to persuade EOS-1D MK IV users that they don't need the 1.3x crop factor and EOS-1Ds MKIII users that they don't need 21 million pixels, the EOS-1DX doesn't fail to impress.

New Canon EOS-1DX front view

It's also clear that Canon has listened to feedback about its pro-level cameras when it was designing the 18 million effective pixel EOS-1DX.

An extra mini-joystick multi-controller, for example, now provides a means of navigating the menu and selecting AF points when the camera is used in portrait format. It makes it much easier to switch between AF points when shooting in the upright orientation. It's a shame that the menu doesn't rotate as well though.

Furthermore, the new menu arrangement has a tab and a series of screens dedicated to the AF settings. While this has similar controls to those available in the EOS-1D MK IV and EOS 7D, they are put in much clearer terms, with 6 different types of shooting conditions listed. There's also a help menu to explain pertinent features.

Perhaps the EOS 7D could have a firmware upgrade to introduce this new user interface?
Although the menu is extensive, as usual with a Canon SLR now, it is divided into sections under tabbed headings.

Pressing the Q (Quick menu) button cycles between the tabs while the multi-controllers or main dial can be used to scroll through the various options.

The large control dial on the back of the camera is also touch-sensitive during video shooting and it can be used to adjust the exposure compensation to +-5EV and sound levels.

Tapping the top or bottom of the dial switches between the two options, while tapping the left or right sides adjusts the settings. Clever and quiet.

Having 61 AF points may seem excessive, but they provide better coverage of the scene and this is particularly useful with moving subjects.

The EOS-1DX's 61 points are still clustered around the center of the frame, but they cover more of it than previous Canon cameras are able to.

Getting complete frame coverage would require a much bigger AF sensor and that would require a more fundamental redesign of the camera.

Although it's possible to select individual AF points, they can also be selected in groups of varying sizes to make their selection quicker and easier if it suits the subject.

Our time with the EOS-1DX indicates that the normal phase detection AF system is capable of locking onto subjects very quickly even in very low light. Switch to live view or video mode, however and the contrast detection system is predictably slower and more hesitant – not much new to report there then.

At present Canon is unable to confirm the burst depth of the EOS-1DX, but we are told that it will be able to shoot at least as many images as the 1D MK IV in a single hit. This means it should be possible to record at a maximum of 121 JPEG images or more. At 12fps that will take less than 10 seconds.

We weren't able to accurately time the maximum continuous shooting duration of the sample model, it varied a bit, but was somewhere approaching 10 sec. A full production sample may be able to shoot for longer.

If 12fps isn't fast enough, the EOS-1Dx can be set via the custom menu to shoot full resolution JPEGs at 14fps. While these speeds are useful for getting that fleeting moment of action, few photographers will want to spend hours sifting through lots of 100+ image bursts and ironically, perhaps more speed will bring greater precision. It will certainly reward it with fewer hours in front of a computer.

The decision to cap the EOS-1DX's effective pixel count at 18 million was made to allow better image quality at high sensitivity settings. This is a familiar argument that we heard from Nikon for many years in defense of its decision to favor 12 million pixel sensors.

In a first for a Canon full-frame SLR, the EOS-1DX's CMOS sensor has gapless microlenses. This improves the light gathering potential of each photodiode and thus enables the sensitivity settings to be pushed higher.

The EOS-1DX's photodiodes are 21% larger than those in the 1Ds Mark III. Again, this benefits image quality and helps keep image noise down, especially at higher sensitivity settings.

The EOS-1DX's maximum extended sensitivity setting (ISO 204,800) should enable images to be taken in near darkness and it will be very interesting to examine the results.

It will also be interesting to see if the claimed –2EV minimum AF sensitivity is able to match the performance. Sadly we weren't allowed to examine any of the images we shot.   

Canon tells us that the EOS-1D MK IV will continue, so those who like the 1.3x crop factor can still opt to buy that camera. But these users may look jealously over the fence at 1DX users who have the new 61-point AF system and 12fps/14fps shooting.

Other than buying longer telephoto lenses, an in-camera cropping option that is selected prior to shooting would offer a solution for these photographers. Unfortunately, the EOS-1DX doesn't currently offer such a mode and Canon was unable to tell us if one might be added as a firmware upgrade.

If the EOS-1D MK IV and EOS-1Ds MK III didn't exist we would be marveling at the EOS-1DX, it seems a truly fantastic camera. However, the fact that they do exist raises fundamental questions about the concept of the new camera for existing EOS-1 series users.

In the past Canon has given professional photographers two options depending upon the type of photography they do. A high-speed model (the EOS-1D MK IV) for reportage, sport and action work or a high-resolution model (the EOS-1D MK III) for studio use. The EOS-1Dx attempts to address both markets and we look forward to giving a full production sample a thorough test to see if it is up to the job.

H and B Digital is looking forward to the exciting new Canon products to be released at next years exhibition and as authorized Canon dealers we can't wait to see what customers think of the new Canon EOS-1DX once we have it in stock, however it won't be available for order until April 2012. 

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