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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Canon EOS-1D X vs. EOS-1D Mk IV analysis

Now that the long awaited, Canon EOS-1D X camera has arrived in camera stores for a few months, many photo enthusiasts often ask me which camera do I prefer and whether I will be selling my EOS-1D MK IV after I have upgraded to the new camera.

My following review will not have charts and graphs and this article will not cover all the cameras' features, just the major functions, and assumes the reader is already familiar with the functionality of the current 1D cameras. It is intended to help those trying to decide whether to upgrade their present 1D bodies by sharing my impression of the two cameras from the stand point of a wildlife and travel photographer out in the field. Let us refresh ourselves with their respective major specifications :

EOS-1D X body :

  • 18 MP sensor powered by dual Digic 5+ processors, 3.2 inch, 1040K dot LCD screen.
  • Dual CF card slots with 12 fps and 14 fps (with mirror lockup).
  • ISO range from 100 - 51200, up to 204800 with expansion.
  • 61-point High Density Reticular AF with dedicated metering powered by a Digic 4 processor.
  • The number of cross-points depends on the speed of the lens used.
  • 36 ms. shutter lag, 400,000 cycle shutter and .76x viewfinder.  
  • DxOMark overall sensor score - 82
  • Low light ISO - 2786 ISO

EOS-1D MK IV body :

  • 16 MP sensor powered by dual Digic 4 processors, 3.0 inch, 920K dot LCD screen.
  • One CF and one SD card slot with 10 fps.
  • ISO range from 100 - 12800, up to 102400 with expansion.
  • 45-point AF system with 39 cross-points.
  • 104 ms. shutter lag, 300,000 cycle shutter and .59x viewfinder.
  • DxOMark overall sensor score - 74
  • Low Light ISO - 1720 ISO

I have been using the EOS-1D MK IV as my main body for about 3 years and am very pleased with its performance and rugged reliability. In fact, my confidence rose to the level that I sold my EOS-1D MK III when the EOS 7D was introduced and used it as my backup camera. Now I am about to make another decision, should I keep the EOS-1D MK IV as my backup camera now that I have taken delivery of the EOS-1D X?

It is not an easy decision. Thankfully, both 1D cameras share the same new battery and charger. Their specs are similar but the burst speed, additional AF points and better high ISO performance of the EOS-1D X gives me an extra edge on photographing wildlife, especially moving ones. With the 1D MK IV, anything shot with ISO 3200 or above has unacceptable noise level to me and the 1D X's low light performance is nothing short of phenomenal. 

My preference is to handhold my camera and travel light on photo shoots so I usually bring two camera bodies and 3 lenses with me. Therefore, on most photo shoots, my upper limit on prime lens I can bring with me is the Canon 400mm f/4L DO. With extenders, the EOS-1D X offers me a focal length of 400 - 800mm while the EOS-1D MK IV gives me a reach of 520 - 1040mm.

Each camera offers key features I cannot get in the other but combined, they give me unparalleled level of performance.  In addition, Canon will be discontinuing the APS-H format so the EOS-1D MK IV will be the last camera with that sensor technology. I really like this sensor because it combines a professional camera's performance with an extra reach, unlike the EOS 7D. I will definitely keep the 1D MK IV as my main backup camera and use the 7D as the secondary backup body.

For those who have the EOS-1D Mk III body or older model and you shoot primarily bird photography, generally in good light, you may want to upgrade to the MK IV. Good clean bodies are selling for about $4,000. The photographer who shoots moving wildlife of varying sizes (like myself, Hummingbirds to Blue whales) and in challenging environment (rain forests, jungles, dark overcast skies, etc.), the 1D X is a definite must because of its unmatched AF capabilities, high ISO performance and 12-14 fps burst rate.

I have taken my EOS-1D X camera to Alaska, Canada and Europe for a variety of grueling wildlife and travel photo shoots. Take a look at my review here and visit my website to see many Travel and Wildlife photos taken with both cameras and you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with my travels. 

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