Canon has taken the wraps off its latest Pro DSLR, the 18MP full-frame EOS-1D X. This new camera not only replaces the 16MP APS-H EOS-1D MkIV, but also the 21MP full-frame EOS-1Ds MkIII, with the aim being to offer one single fast, high-resolution camera. It may sound strange to offer a new camera with a resolution lower than the model that it replaces, but Canon believe that image quality is more than just resolution. Besides, if you want a ultra high resolution camera, then Canon will be more than happy to sell you a 21MP EOS 5D MkII.
The 18MP chip then needs to deliver, and Canon think this sensor won't disappoint. Nikon's 12.1MP D3s has led the field when it comes to high ISO performance, but the EOS-1D X could be about to eclipse that. Thanks to the gapless microlenses on the sensor, a first on a full-frame sensor, the photodiodes (pixels) are larger than those found on both the EOS-1Ds MkIII, EOS-1D MkIV and EOS 5D MkII. This means better light gathering capabilities, while Canon claim the inclusion of two new DIGIC 5+ image processors offer a two-stop benefit to image noise all on their own. The bottom line is that the 1D X has a standard ISO range from 100-51,200, that's expandable to an ISO equivalent of 204,800.
The Autofocus system from previous models has also come in for an overhaul. The new 61-point AF system has 21 cross-type sensors, with five of those sensors designated as dual cross-type, so as well as being sensitive to both horizontal and vertical, they're also sensitive on the diagonal axis as well. The over-complexity of previous 1D-series AF system has been has been more clearly defined and easier to get the most out of it.
Linked in with this is a new 100,000 pixel RGB metering system that has it's own dedicated DIGIC 4 processor, allowing the camera to assess the scene better and improve the consistency of AF tracking - something similar was first seen on the Nikon D3.
The shutter mechanism has been redesigned, allowing sports shooters to fire off frames at 12fps continuous shooting, helped in part by the new 16 channel, dual line read out from the sensor. The 1D X can also shoot at a rate of 14fps, but this is with focus locked and the mirror up. The shutter also has a better shutter life, with a lifespan of 400,000 cycles before it'll need to be serviced or replaced.
Canon has set the benchmark when it comes to video, and the 1D X appears to further that. The 1D X can record at 1080p (at 24, 25 at 30fps), while there are a host of compression options on offer and audio levels displayed on screen.
While it may not look that different from previous models, the design of the 1D X has evolved quite a bit. There's now a 3.2in, 3:2 aspect ratio screen with a resolution of 1,040K-dots, while the camera has a revised button layout that now includes dual joypads, easily reached whether you're shooting landscape or portrait format.
Merging the two pro lines into a single offering is a brave move. The 1D-series has been aimed at pros that shoot primarily sport and action, while the 1Ds line of DSLRs, with their full-frame chips, high resolution and more sedate performance has made them the choice of studio and commercial photographers.
They'll be some 1Ds MkIII shooters not keen on the reduction in resolution, while sports shooters are bound to miss the extra reach offered by the 1.3x crop of the APS-H chip of the 1D MkIV. But Canon is obviously confident that their new model addresses both these markets.
We only got our hands on the EOS-1D X for a short period, but it's still clear to see that this new flagship EOS is a class act. It's incredibly responsive and feels very reassuring in the hand, though there's not getting away from that fact that this is a heavy piece of pro-grade kit.
We weren't able to take any test images with the camera - the dual CompactFlash card slot was firmly covered with tape, but it's hard to imagine the new 18MP losing out to the ageing sensor in the 1Ds MkIII (the camera was launched back in 2007). We won't know for sure until we get our hands on a full production sample, where we'll give you a full test here.