the new Canon EOS-1D X – what’s inside? the nitty gritty details you won’t get in the press release

by planetMitch47 Comments

We were able to have a lengthy conversation with Canon's Chuck Westfall about the amazing new Canon EOS-1D X and we'll be sharing lots of those details here – if you want to see the press release – jump over to our other Canon EOS-1D X post.

I'll start off with summaries because I think that will give you some thoughts to hold in your head as you dive into the details we'll cover below.

November 3rd Canon announcement

FYI – come back to planet5D on November 3rd because we'll be liveBlogging the Canon November 3rd announcements directly from Hollywood inside Paramount Studios where the announcements are happening!


Really quick summary:

If you read the press release, you’ll see some pretty cool enhancements but they’re mainly for stills photographers but there are significant improvements in the 1D X for video professionals. However, it also appears that those wanting HUGE advancements on the video side will likely be disappointed. With the November 3rd announcement coming in Hollywood – Canon is clearly improving the DSLRs but there is every indication that there will still be two clear channels of products, HDSLRs and video cameras for professionals.

The longer summary (video first):

Let’s just get video out of the way in this discussion as many of you are really interested in that aspect of the Canon HDSLRs.

Video is here to stay in the HDSLRs and unless Canon is saving some amazing features for the 5D3 (which we all know is coming but we don’t yet have a clue as to the date (and neither do I), the video improvements in the 1DX are significant, but those expecting the next generation with huge advancements are somewhat disappointed. There’s no RAW video, no incredible frame rates above 60, etc. And we don’t know whether any of those are even coming in the next generation of video camera we expect to be announced in 2 weeks.

With the 1D X we did get many advancements including the removal of the 12 minute recording time. I found it interesting that we did finally get real clarification from Canon that indeed the main reason for limiting recording time to under 30 minutes is a taxation issue in Europe. We also know that there’s still the 4gb file limit set by the file system used on the CF cards, but Canon has implemented a system that creates new files when the first one fills up – up to the 29.59 minute time limit to get under the taxation issue. We were also told that if this camera were shooting over 30 minutes of video, the price would need to increase about 30% to cover it! So I believe that the vast majority of people needing longer shooting times will be happy with this new compromise.

We also are told we’ll see major improvement in the moire and jello handling of the sensor which is one of the biggest complaints about the current sensors. We’ll have to wait to see when we get our hands on the camera to know just how significant the improvements are. I know of several folks who were really pushing to see a ‘global shutter’ (where the entire frame is captured at once instead of the line scanning that we have now) and they’l

We didn’t get significant improvement in the audio, tho I would expect that even the enhancement in being able to display the sound levels will please many.

We are likely to be pleased with the ISO improvements as well in video – everyone wants more dynamic range (which will have to be evaluated) but with additional low light capabilities, wedding photographers who also shoot video should be very excited. Heck even the ability to remove chromatic aberration in video should be darn cool.

On the other hand, I know many will be disappointed that the highest fps for video is 60 – some were hoping for more.

Oh, and there's no thunderbolt like some had suggested – maybe they're saving that for another camera.

We'll cover some additional movie functionality in the details below.


There are some amazing new features in the camera for stills photographers – let's go into some of them that weren't necessarily in the press release (and tho we're talking mainly stills, many of these things directly improve the video performance as well):

The “X” has 3 levels of meaning in the new camera:

1) X = extreme – for new speed and image quality
2) X = 10 – for 10 generations of pro cameras dating back to the f1 in the 70s
3) X = crossover – model that takes over 1Ds Mark III (which has been discontinued) and 1D Mark 4 which will remain available due to this camera not shipping until March 2012.

In the past, the 2 different 1D models each had their specialty and now, with the advances in the sensor and other capabilities, it made sense to combine them into one model that can accomplish both high speed and maximum image quality. The new 1Dx has big advancements in Auto focus, high speed continuous shooting, High ISO, video system and overall ease of use.

Now this camera sits at the top of the Canon line – targeted at the pros across a broad spectrum; including the video market as well as sports, wedding, portrait, pro studio and more. It will also be useful to some advanced amateurs especially those wanting to shoot wildlife (more specifically aiming at the bird market who need accurate AF as well as full frame).

18.1mp sensor
This is kind of a shock to many as there has always been sort of a ‘megapixel race' and each new camera seems to pack in higher and higher pixel counts – but Canon thought hard about this and decided that the important issues were image quality and speed. We'll cover more of those coming up…

The sensor also has a signal to noise ratio that is superior to anything Canon has put out before and has much lower noise than earlier sensors.

Gapless microlens – 6.95 micron (was 5.7 mk4) – larger size helps sensitivity and dynamic range and less noise from the sensor itself. Comparison of the images at 51k show about the same as 12k on the 1dm4.

Oh, and let's not forget this is a FULL FRAME sensor!

And one more thing – there's enhancements to the electronic sensor cleaning – they've developed a new ‘utrasonic wave motion sensor cleaning' which includes shaking from side to side (instead of up and down) which is able to remove smaller particles of dust.

3 processors!

There are 3 DIGIC processors in the camera – two DIGIC 5+ and 1 DIGIC 4 which is dedicated to the autofocus and autoexposure functions!

These dual DIGIC 5+ processors will not only crank out the images, but they also help reduce moire and jello as well as adding functionality to remove chromatic aberration (which is also supported in video mode). The DIGIC 5+ processors also are 17 times faster than the DIGIC 4s!

Super fast burst mode – 12 to 14 fps

The Canon EOS-1D X can do up to 12fps with RAW images and up to 14fps with Jpeg (with ISO less than 32000)… and until they are closer to production units, we won't know exactly how many images you'll get before the buffer fills. And, there's what Chuck called “full predictive focus' to help in burst shooting along with other internal improvements for speed shooting.

Shutter and mirror

Not only has the shutter life been improved to 400,000 cycles, but the system now actually shows you the shutter actuation count! There's also a status of all the error codes that have been thrown in the past on the body to help technicians diagnose problems.

There's also now an electronic first curtain shutter – which starts the exposure with the sensor.

New mirror design – quad action mirror stopper – controls mirror bound – in order to control the vibration during high speed shooting.

ISO range

Standard ISO range is 100 – 51,200 – this range is 2 full stops higher than Canon EOS-1D MKIV (about 5 stops higher than the 1Ds)

Expanded ISO is 50, 102,400 and 204,800.

Autofocus improvements

The autofocus system has been re-designed from the ground up to include 61 points with 41 cross points (note you can read some of the details and photos in the PR post).

They're now using the dedicated DIGIC 4 processor to handle metering, color and face detection. It is also working in concert with the new EOS iTR (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition) AF. This new system has ability to detect faces and colors – can combine that with focusing and track thru focus and while metering – chances of keeping the subject in focus. It also improves exposure and white balance.

The old system was 63 zones and now the new system uses 100,000 pixels in the RGB metering system. 253 zones are used in most metering situations and in low light it is adjusted down to 35 zones.

The new 61pt AF is wider than the 1ds3 – was 41% – now 52% – gives more freedom in outer edges of the frame.

21 points cross point in center of frame work with apertures as small as 5.6 – 5 points are diagonal crosstype – which are the highest performing.

10 right and 10 left – cross type up to f4 – camera is smart enough to use the points that can be used depending on lens.

Focus point selection (groupings) – spot AF in 7D got great reaction – this now works with all lenses… 2 different cluster 4 or 8 points (great for sports guys)- also zone AF with a larger clump of points — can rotate and focus points will rotate with you!

For low light shooters, there's an enhancement for the AF to work at ev-2 now meaning the AF is more responsive in very low light.

There are also enhancements to the menus on the LCD for setting AF that will help greatly as well as an indicator to show when the AF is working.

AF micro adjustment

very similar to earlier functionality, but now you can register settings for zoom lenses for both ends of the range of the lens (meaning 24 & 70 for the 24-70mm for example)… Can also enter data by serial numbers for 2 lenses of same type.

Multi-exposure mode!

Ever wanted to do multiple exposures on your HDSLR? Now you can! You can now combine up to 9 individual exposures right in camera – no more need to do photoshop! (Ok, you'll still need to take out that telephone pole in the background). It is additive and you see the results right in the LCD as well… no guessing if you're getting what you want. And, there's a single photo undo – so you can back up if the last exposure didn't do what you wanted. There's also some kind of averaging you can apply tho I don't yet understand the details and something Chuck called ‘comparative light' and ‘comparative dark.'

Plus there's an option to save each individual file if you want.

Optical view finder

same as in the 1Ds Mk 3 – which is the best in the line and has 100% view and the clarity is very high. Chuck said this also has the gridlines from the Canon EOS 7D as well as interchangeable focusing screens.

Multi function LOCK

you can shut off many different dials within the menu system.

LCD and options

The LCD is 3.2″ and has 1,040,000 dots. Not that it is NOT an articulating screen!

They've brought over the dual axis leveling functions from the Canon EOS 7D.


The usability is greatly enhanced in the menus – easier to find the function you need – with a ‘feature guide' built in. Pressing the info button will give you additional information for any function.

Display – wedding photogs will love this!

On the LCD in display mode, you'll now be able to zoom to 100% straight to the focus point that was used in the shot in one button press! No more pumping the zoom button and then re-centering to your focus point.

You can also use the Q button like on the Canon EOS 60D to do rating and additional functions to the image.

Dual CF card

Full support for UDMA 7 – write to both or auto switch/raw one jpg other/copy from one card to other etc. There are two type 2 slots.

Video improvements

12 minute limit upped to 30
We've already mentioned it, but it is worth saying again – the 12 minute limit is gone! Tho the maximum is now 29′ 59″ – to keep it under the 30 minute taxation limits (see above). Video recording is still Fat 32 file format but if you go over the 4gb, the camera automatically starts another file. You'll see no loss of frames between files but will obviously have to place them together in your editor.

Codec and compression
The output is still in H.264 codec – same basic range of resolutions and frame rates from 1d4 – only change was to add 640 sd is 23.976 or 30.

You do get your choice of compression: 2 modes – all-I – intra-frame compression mode – best for editing. Ipb mode – interframe predicted frame bi-directional predicted frame – more involved on the editing side. Standard gop structure.

With new sensor – tremendous reduction of moire and other video artifacts – the concentric cricles test shows both are virtually gone.

Audio monitoring
You can monitor and adjust audio levels while recording!

Time code
Embed time code – either record run or free run (see for definitions of these – I didn't know the difference).


The microphones from the earlier models continues – mono mic with mini-plug stereo input. Tho you can do ‘phantom power' mics.

HDMI output
HDMI functionality matches what is in the Canon EOS 7D in that the image won't downres during recording.

Chromatic aberration
Chromatic aberration removal is available in video (as was peripheral illumination from before)

I didn't think to ask about the disabling of the LCD during HDMI output – but I suspect that it is the same as it was before with the 7D.

I also didn't ask if there were any improvements to the autofocus during video recording or live mode.

Other stuff

New battery – LPE4n
the battery has improved power 2500ma and a new charger. However, they're forwards and backwards compatible! You can use the new batteries in older cameras as well as using old batteries in the new Canon EOS-1D X. The change was required for new safety regulations in Japan.

Wired LAN

The Canon EOS-1D X is the first HDSLR with a built in wired LAN built into body. This is done because wired is more stable than wireless or USB plus it is lockable and no wireless interference. You can use FTP – eos utility mode – remote camera setup – utf server mode – web browser can connect to it as well as your Xbox 360 or Sony PS3.

Time sync between cameras
For teams, you can sync the time between up to 10 cameras!

Weather sealed
This has similar 76 gasket seals like earlier 1D models

See the Canon EOS-1D X at PhotoPlus
If you want to try out the Canon EOS-1D X, the first opportunity will be at the PhotoPlus show on October 27… Canon will be there. But you won't be able to put in a card and take home images.

(cover photo credit: snap from Canon)


    1. Author

      Thanks for the input – tho Chuck indicated the zoom was new – maybe it is the feature of zooming directly to the chosen focus point?

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  3. I must say this camera is a dream to own. I don’t the $7,000 price tag is all that bad. Its also great to see Canon FINALLY stopping down to 18mp that is great. the Higher ISO is OUTSTANDING!!!
    thank you Canon THANK YOU

    Please feel free to send me A 1DX please “)

    1. Author

      Look for the November 3rd announcement to possibly see more – they are saving some of the good stuff for their new cinema line (what ever that is going to be)

      1. still… to have the same frame rates and resolutions that Canon’s lowest end DSLR had had a couple years ago is sort of a joke.

    2. Forgive me if I’m being stupid, but I’ve never really understood what Raw video even means. Clearly it would not be possible to save all of the Raw bits for every frame (I believe that would be almost 500 megabytes of data per second for 12 bits per channel at 30fps). Does Raw video mean a video format that saves more than 8 bits per colour channel to allow for better adjustments when editing? The video would still need to be compressed, and I suspect that in order to have the extra bits survive the compression algorithms, the files would be HUGE. Also, is there even a standard video format that supports “raw”?

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  5. way too expensive. sad news.
    You could buy 3 5D Mark II for it!. This will kill the possibility for low budget filmmakers, because you would need at least two cameras for different angles.

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  8. 12 minute limit upped to 30? Which camera had this limitation?
    I just check the manuals for 5D2 and 550D and both have following sentence:
    “After you start shooting a movie, the movie shooting will stop automatically if the file size reaches 4 GB or if the movie time exceeds 29 min. 59 sec.”

    I think that 12 minute limitation is caused by 4GB limitation on FAT32 and not by the camera. I have to try shooting only complete darkness and see what time length I’m able to achieve.

    Anyway the new functionality with seamless continuation is great!

    1. Author

      Yes, the limit has always been 4gb. I’ve seen people who have made completely dark videos up to about 15 minutes (compression allows going beyond 12) – but you could never get past the 4gb size. Now you’ll still have that but they automatically span to create multiple files.

    2. With a complete black scene (lens cap on) you can even reach the 29 min 59 seg.

      But of course the 4GB is the real limit, as Mitch said above.

      It’s weird that Canon couldn’t make an “endless” line of clips with xx minutes each (length would depend on compression chosen) since it’s not REAL “equal or more than 30 minutes” recording. Although I suppose it must also falls into the taxation issue in Europe even if the clips are splitted (assuming Canon 1D X will not have delay between those clips, otherwise it should not be taxed as camcorder…)

    3. This is not a FAT 32 issue, it’s a tax issue here in Europe. If you record more then 4gb in one go the price of the camera would be 30 % more. the difference in recording duration depends on your settings. record in 720 gives a longer recording then 1080 and so on… the new canon avoids this by recording in 4gb seasion. I’m shure you can get even longer recording durations if you go for a less resolution…

      I do appologise if you have already heard this by now.

      tobias sweden

  9. So still no AF during video? Seriously, what is Canon thinking.
    Improve some specs, add a few features and it will sell. Innovation is not in their book at all. In the long run this will kill this company if it doesn’t get its act together very soon.

  10. “larger size helps sensitivity and dynamic range and less noise from the sensor itself. Comparison of the images at 51k show about the same as 12k on the 1dm4.”

    I’m inclined to think about this as a marketing speech. More valid comparison in ISO would have been per area comparison, and I somewhat think that there the differences are minimal – let’s see a paper print of a high ISO photo, whereas the 1Dx photo is cropped down to 1.3x. I also believe sensel size by itself has not much to do limiting DR.

    All that was invented, to explain why “only” 18MP.

      1. ugh…. pretty bad for $7K camera body.

        We all hope the 5D Mark III / 7D Mark II will have such features, no matter the less impressive AF system they will have!

  11. This sounds like there is not an SD card slot any longer. Is that true?

    Thanks for the great info!

  12. I don’t think we realize how insane the new compression is going to be. 6 minutes of video on a 16gb card, they are saying. I’m excited.

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  15. As interesting as the new features are, I’m most impressed by the reduction in pixels and claimed improvement in S/N ratio. It would appear that Canon is trying to end the pixel race. Either that, or it’s listening to photographers who feel that low noise is more important than the ultimage in “resolution”.

    I’m also impressed with the price reduction — though it’s still too rich for my blood.

    As for AF during video… The film industry has survived using “focus pullers”. In general, you don’t want the focus wandering during a scene.

    Well done, Canon. Now just give us a user manual that actually explains the camera’s features…

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  17. I’m both happy and sad… great improvements, but stepping down from my 1Ds III. If you are not a Photojournalist, Sports photographer, the improvements are quite limited. I’m a commercial photographer, who shots both in studio and on location. All the new package is just “good”, but doesn’t answer the expectations for our field. Seems like we “must” own a Hassy or a Mamyia to get the quality that is required by our clients.
    I feel so bad that I’m left behind as a commercial photographer, while my fellows in other fields are enjoying the power of this camera in their hands!
    PS: Not even wireless flash triggering built in, and external GPS and WiFi!

  18. In video recording how high can the ISO level be set,
    The manual for the ESO-1D mk4 indicates the ISO can be set the camera’s maximum Iso, is this the case with the ESO-1DX

  19. There is a limit on the 5DMK2
    It can only use H1 – 12,800
    Not the top iOS setting – H2-25,600
    I own the 5DMk2

  20. the “filmmakers” that are complaining are idiotic. The thing is, the Canon 1D series always was and is a professional photography tool. If you’re going to spend 10,000 dollars on a camera and equipment, might as well spend a little more and get a scarlet or a dedicated video camera. Most of you don’t even have enough money to buy this thing, but you’re complaining about video capabilities.

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  23. While we may be wondering why some features are missing, it’s probably (in my opinion) good to remember the BIG video features will appear on the upcoming cinema camera on Nov 3 and of course or at least hopefully, a swag of features on the 5DIII, that Canon’s Tim Smith spoke about earlier this year.

    The 1Dx is what it is, a fantastic all rounder for pro photographers and videographers, the camera can do double duty.

    The video that do does do should be brilliant and class leading and challenge proper cinema and high end ENG cameras. Plus it’s Full Frame!

    I’m sure Shane Hurlbut and Vince LaForet already have sample videos and rigs to show off.

    The real video news is still in front of us with the cinema announcement (please may it be full frame).

    I have ordered my 1Dx today (I need it for work). I’m sure the new adjustable and live monitoring audio will make me smile!

    Please may the 5DIII be out soon as rumoured.

    1. Sorry, I meant live audio meters, not live audio monitoring, though it’s a pity it didn’t get it (sigh)

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