Canon EOS 1D X Mark II Review – Real World Video Samples & First Impressions

Update: My colleague Sebastian has published his Canon 1D X Mark II vs. Canon 1D C – Which One Shoots Better Video?” Article. Please click here for his full lab review.

Once upon a time, there was a company by the name of Canon who revolutionized the filming industry by introducing a large sensor stills camera that could shoot full High Definition video. Then, as time moved on, that same company decided to conquer Hollywood by introducing their “EOS C” line, and literally abandoned their loyal DSLR customers to the mercy of other brands.

From the outside, it looked like an attempt to make people spend more money on that expensive line as there was simply no innovation or keeping up with modern filming resolutions (AKA “4K”) when it came to DSLRs.

And then came the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II.

 

Canon 1D X Mark II (1 of 1)

Canon 1D X mark II Review

We are a little bit late to the party in reviewing this camera and I must admit that one of the reasons to conduct that review (besides my genuine curiosity to see how different this camera is from my ageing Canon EOS 1D C), is the amount of email requests we got from fellow cameramen to test it. Judging by the amount of interest from our readers, it is no surprise that there is a big back order for the camera.

People who follow my reviews know that I had already moved on, leaving my Canon EOS 1D C on the shelf as alternative cameras better suited for my documentary filming work started coming out. Although the 4K video quality was fine and the C-log picture profile was a useful feature to have, the Canon 1D C had too many obstacles for documentary work. For me, using a camera is not all about the final picture quality but also about its ease of use and ergonomics.

No firmware updates meant there was no peaking or ability to magnify the picture while shooting, and the sound quality when recorded directly to the camera was average. The solution for me was to start working with the Sony a7X because it was simply a better working tool for my needs. I always regarded what Sony did as a “system” rather then a “camera” only. Unlike any Canon DSLR camera, what Sony offers is an overall filming solution combining the XLR K1/2M, the proprietary hot shoe and 28-135mm zoom lens. That argument is still very much valid today, but a single feature that Canon currently offers may be enough to consider changing back again….or maybe not.

Spot the difference 2 (1 of 1)

Spot the difference Canon 1D X Mark II vs 1D C

Autofocus Mode Makes the Difference

So I took a camera that looks 99% identical to the Canon EOS 1D C (yes, only 1 button is different, the switch mode between stills and video) and honestly I didn’t have very high expectations. But, that single key feature that I’m talking about is the dual pixel AF. If you are like me, tired and frustrated from using photo lenses with endless focus rotation on your camera no matter what brand you get, here comes Canon with a solution which was first introduced in their lower end DSLRs and higher priced EOS C line and changes the user experience forever. That AF system and the way it is implemented in the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II works mostly like a treat. Working with a responsive touch-screen LCD and changing focus points has never been this easy. Alternatively, if you are an old man like me who prefers to have the Kinotehnik LCDVF on the LCD, (for easier viewing and extra contact), then the little joystick on the right side becomes your best friend. One thing left for me to discover is how to momentary pause the servo AF when using the loupe. When wanting to do so with the touch screen it is as simple as pressing that function. As a side note, I tested the AF system with normal Canon photo zoom lenses and the Tokina 11-16mm. Operation was NOT silent and was at rare times a bit hesitant, but all in all, it worked wonderfully, to the point that I shot the entirety of the video review I produced as part of my test in autofocus mode.

What Else is New?

If you ask yourself what else is new besides the dual pixel AF, then I’m happy to report that the Canon 1D X MarK II can now shoot 50/60 fps in 4K mode. No other DSLR can currently do that. Also, in full HD 100/120p was added. I did not, however, test those during my review. (Those resolutions were tested in our lab. Full lab test review is coming soon).

The camera itself has a CF and a CFast card slot. A good, fast CF card will allow you to record at 4K/25p without a hitch (the camera did not shut down on me due to overheating either), but if you would like to explore the world in 4K/50/60p, you will need a good, reliable CFast card. Canon chose to use the same encoding system (MJPG) used in the Canon 1D C and the result are huge files that will eat through your card’s memory.

I really wanted to restore my faith in Canon DSLRs with the EOS 1D X Mark II, but there is still much that has to be done, as you’ll see below.

Last but not least: Canon, take my free advice and put that 4K image quality and various frame rates into your upcoming 5D Mark IV. Add a C-log for the filming crowd and enable 4K external HDMI recording. You have a lovely colour science that is waiting to be explored once again. Come back to the DSLR user community with a working tool we can afford and proudly use for our creative work.

Canon 1D X Mark II vs. 1D C (1 of 1)

Canon EOS 1D X Mark II Pros: (in no particular order)

  • World camera with no need to format the card after switching standards
  • Dual Pixel AF is a treat to use
  • Dual DIGIC 6+ processors
  • Nice 4K video image quality
  • Good preamps and clear built-in audio
  • Very responsive touch-screen
  • Good low light performance (up to ISO 6400)
  • Headphone and mic sockets
  • Improved rolling shutter effect over the Canon 1D C
  • Shooting 50/60p in 4K mode is possible

Canon EOS 1D X Mark II Cons: (in no particular order)

  • Ancient internal encoding system. Easy to edit on fast computers (and grab individual shots) but eats valuable card space fast
  • No C log picture profile
  • No 4K external recording
  • No zoom magnification during filming
  • No swivel LCD screen
  • Crop factor when recording in 4K is now narrower the APS-H and closer to APS-C
  • No screen layouts for simulating different aspect ratios.
  • Unusable HD mode

Conclusion: 

The new Canon EOS 1D X Mark II is first and foremost a professional photo camera that can shoot high quality video too. Like all previous 1D cameras, this one is also built like a tank. When it comes to pricing, the new Canon is $2000 cheaper then Canon EOS 1D C with no significant difference in picture quality. The added dual pixel AF makes the overall working experience easier and more pleasant to start with, but you have to ask yourself if there are more cost-effective cameras for the money. As for myself, I won’t hesitate using this camera in upcoming creative projects, as I’m anxious to test that dual pixel AF system again. Furthermore, I hope to use it together with Canon’s new compact servo 18-80mm zoom lens as together they seem to be an interesting combo.

Camera settings for this video: .MOV file format, 4K 25p recording settings. Mostly shot between ISO 300 to 1000-1250. Picture Profile: Neutral. All audio was recorded in camera with an external microphone. Light set-up for the interview: Kinotehnik Practilite 602. Edited in Adobe Premiere CC latest edition and graded with Filmconvert (Canon 1D C Neutral preset).

Music: Art-List. Used themes: “Other Scenario by Lana Inspired

A special thank you to Sandra Haischberger, Lilith, Silvie and Rosie from feinedinge. To learn more about their work, please click here

NOTE: B&H, CVP and Canon are currently running a special promotion of adding a 64GB CFast 2.0 card and reader at the same price of a body only when buying the camera.

For Sebastian’s lab review Canon 1D X Mark II vs. Canon 1D C – Which One Shoots Better Video?” Article. Please click here.

 
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Chace Strickland Reply
Chace Strickland June 3, 2016

looking forward to the 120fps samples

Reply
Luke Wen June 3, 2016

Here’s a more comprehensive review with download links to HD 120p and 4K 60p footage:
http://www.eoshd.com/comments/topic/19971-1dc-vs-1dx-ii-shootout/

Reply
Sasz Gorskii June 3, 2016

Just checked the price on the Canon EOS 1D X Mark II in Canada: 10K.

I bought a full-frame Sony A7sII that shoots glorious footage at ISO 20K for less than a third of that.

Canon seems to not notice that Metabones thankfully killed the old model of “imprison shooters by their glass”. Now we can buy whatever body we want and keep using the glass we invested in. I now happily use my Canon 24-70L on my Sony, with glorious results.

I’ll stick with my Sony that I paid off with one small job. Thanks very much.

Reply
Shai Levy June 3, 2016

thanks for this review Johnnie! love the motion on this camera. it also where the 5D shines. not sure why (shutter / compression), but it’s just great. colors are fantastic too.

what lenses did you use? am i right to see some red fringes on the wide angle lens?

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 5, 2016

Hi Shy.

The full equipment list is above at the end of the article.

You are right about the red fringes. Looks like that camera does not like the Tokina 11-16mm….

Toda.

Johnnie

Reply
Kevin Almodovar June 3, 2016

Is it all still 8 bit?

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 5, 2016

Always 8 bit.

I’m in doubt we will see a 10 bit DSLR that shoots video anytime soon.

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
Palmer Woodrow June 4, 2016

Full-frame is not what you want for shooting video. The DOF is too shallow, making for a very fussy shooting experience.

An APS-sized sensor matches 35mm motion-picture frame size, and thus is better suited for shooting cinematic-looking footage.

Reply
Kevin Almodovar June 4, 2016

How’s the DOF on the Alexa 65? Is that cinematic?

Reply
Palmer Woodrow June 4, 2016

I have a feeling that anyone running that camera has focus-pullers and support equipment galore. They’re not SLR-shooter, one-man bands.

Reply
Miklos Nemeth June 4, 2016

Just step down the iris, use a wider lens, step a bit back.

Reply
Palmer Woodrow June 5, 2016

All of which are compromises that there’s no need to make.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 5, 2016

Hi Palmer Woodrow.

This is a full frame stills camera. When shooting a 4K video with it, it captures an APS-C image size video.

Thanks!

Johnnie

Reply
Palmer Woodrow June 5, 2016

Hm, OK, that’s interesting.

Now if Canon would pull its head out of its ass regarding codecs and bitrate, they might be able to advance.

Michael Vincent Sarricchio Reply
Michael Vincent Sarricchio June 4, 2016

thank u! downloading the piece now this will be a big help! cheers sir

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 5, 2016

Always welcome!.

Thanks.

Johnnie

Michael Vincent Sarricchio Reply
Michael Vincent Sarricchio June 4, 2016

will be nice to see how it handles primes

Reply
Evan Shaw June 4, 2016

Is there no HDMI clean video and audio out for both HD and 4K? Is the recording in 8 bit or 10? So is there no way to record uncompressed Prores 422 8 to 10 bit.

I find this very much a show stopper. The dual pixel autofocus is a world changer. I am desperately unhappy with Cannon. They have made it either too expensive or to difficult to use them. Bye bye after 20 years of being a fan. It is a total shame

Reply
Palmer Woodrow June 5, 2016

Canon desperately needs a management house-cleaning. They’re way out in the weeds.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 5, 2016

Hi Evan.

There is a clean 8 bit HDMI video output on both recording resolutions.

When shooting in 4K, the HDMI output is restricted to full HD only.

Thanks.

Johnnie

Alan Mash Reply
Alan Mash July 29, 2016

That’s crazy, even my Canon XC10 can do 10 bit 4k external recording.

Reply
Peter Nasello June 4, 2016

Love the review, great insight as you guys usually do. One quick question, in your Con section you mention ‘unusable hd mode’ could you elaborate a bit on that?

Reply
Luke Wen June 4, 2016

If you have a look here you’ll have a much better idea of picture quality in different modes:
http://www.eoshd.com/comments/topic/19971-1dc-vs-1dx-ii-shootout/

Reply
Peter Nasello June 5, 2016

Awesome, thx that link really clears up the issue

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 5, 2016

Hi Luke,
Thanks for sharing. It will be nice if you point to this review in the thread you started at EOSHD.

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 5, 2016

Hi Peter.

Thanks for the thumbs up. Appreciated!.

Honestly, not much to write home about when shooting in HD. I would avoid it all together, shoot only in 4K and export the final result to HD if needed.

Hope that helps.

Thank you.

Johnnie

 Ian Hunter Reply
Ian Hunter June 5, 2016

Why are we obsessed with superwide in our culture…

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 5, 2016

Obsessed no, love them, YES!

Thank you.

Johnnie

Reply
Yuki Ogura June 5, 2016

Johnie, I have a question! Was there a sound guy who was pointing the external mic to the subject?
I really want to know how you recorded such a clean audio in camera.

Thanks!

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 5, 2016

Hi Yuki.

Only myself. The camera internal preamps are fine (for a DSLR). For the rest of my audio equipment for that short video, please see at the end of the article.

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
Yuki Ogura June 6, 2016

Thanks Johnie! I didn’t notice there is the equipment list.
You helped me a lot.

Yuki

Reply
David Bonner June 10, 2016

why is that no matter what gear you use, your videos come out great! Always a pleasure to see your work, always insightful to read your views.
dMb :)

Reply
Miklos Nemeth June 10, 2016

Exactly! Actually, with their videos Johnnie and his friends show me that I should be very yhappy with my current kit (Sony A5100, Nikon J5). I was astonished how great video Mr Behiri he made with the A5100, it became one of my favorite documentary movie to make. While watching his videos my lust to buy new gear evaporates. Cinema5D.com is the best cure agains GAS for fun videographers.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri June 13, 2016

David, Miklos, thank you both for your thumbs up! truly appreciated!

Johnnie

Reply
Jon Roemer June 14, 2016

Johnnie – great work as always.

I had a chance to test out the 1DX Mark II this past weekend. I concentrated on 60p 4K.

https://vimeo.com/170565038 & http://blog.jonroemer.com/2016/06/rodeo-sunset-canon-1dx-mark-ii-test-run/

I’m definitely impressed with the DPAF, the color out of gate, and the quality of the files. It has a cost in terms of data/storage but wow.

Reply
Ralph Marzusch July 7, 2016

> One thing left for me to discover is how to momentary pause the servo AF when using the loupe.

Being used to “back button focus” when shooting stills I accidently pressed the “AF on” button while recording video in “servo AF” mode. I was astonished to find that pressing the “AF on” button actually PAUSES the AF function as long as the button is pressed.

I found this feature very useful, because it allows me to control AF on/off just with my thumb on the “AF on” button, without having to touch the on-screen “pause” button.

Reply
Johnnie Behiri July 8, 2016

Thank you Ralph for the tip. There is no substitute for valuable information from someone who is using the camera on a daily bases.

Thank you again!

Johnnie

Reply
Ralph Marzusch July 8, 2016

Well, so far I just had the camera for one day for testing…

Considering that the only usable video mode in this camera is 4K the price tag is a little bit high. For the same price you get a Sony FS5 which delivers even better video quality with a much more managable codec (albeit no 4K at 50p/60p, unless using the raw output and an external recorder) and far more “video-friendly” functions.

However, the reason the 1DXii attracts me is the low “footprint”/size, a native EF Canon lens mount and builtin 4K/50p recording with low compression and artifacts. The compact size and the native lens mount would allow me to use large Canon tele lenses (for wildlife photography/video shooting) without having to build up and carry a rig, and I expect the MJPEG codec to have sufficient headroom for grading (even at only 8 bit 4:2:2).

In contrast the FS5/Metabones combo definitly requires lens support/rig, which makes it practically impossible to carry the camera/lens combo in your backpack when hiking, and the compact long GOP codec has its price when grading.

What do you think about the Kinotehnik viewfinder loupe? Is it possible to focus manually using the loupe without having to rely on magnifying the image?

Best regards
Ralph

Reply
Johnnie Behiri July 8, 2016

Hi Ralph

I like the Kinotehnik viewfinder loupe A LOT and use it attached to different cameras. Can’t say 100% that it is possible to focus manually without relying on magnifying the image though. I guess this is something very individual, almost like focusing using the LCD during daylight without any loop. I see many people working like this while for me it is almost impossible.

Thanks.

Johnnie

Reply
David Lapin October 2, 2016

I just bought the EOS 1DX Mark ii last Friday.
I cannot properly run videos in whatever format on my MacPro (as well as other MacPro from the shop). Images are not fluid. It is as if there was only 4 or 5fps.
I tried to run the videos with Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere, VLC, Quicktime and Rocket Video Player without success.
I usually edit 4K videos from Panasonic cameras without any issue.
Does anyone play, edit videos from EOS 1DX Mark ii successfully on a Mac?

Reply
Nick November 16, 2016

Transcode it to ProRes in Media Encoder.

Reply
David Lapin November 16, 2016

Hi Nick,
Thank you very much.
Actually, after a while, I also found out I could transcode those heavy Canon files with Final Cut Pro X