This is a Canon 1DX Wedding Photography findings overview based on my usage of the new camera over the last few weeks. I have to pre-qualify this little post by mentioning that I had no intention of purchasing a 1DX at all. I was quite confident that my Canon 5D Mark III and my Fuji X-Pro1 system was all I needed for wedding photography, certainly for the documentary style of wedding photography that I shoot. And a certain extent, I still believe that. However, I realised that my old 1D Mark IV and 5D MarkIIs were getting a little long in the tail (both were still working admirably of course, having been serviced several times), and I had some lenses kicking about that hadn’t used in around two years. So, I packed them all up and headed down to Brixham and part exchanged them for a sparkling new Canon 1DX. It’s actually the first time I’ve part exchanged any gear and it makes a lot of sense to recycle and cleanse your stock for a professional. I also shoot a lot of rugby pitch side and I will be using this camera extensively there too. So, I found myself with a Canon 1DX. Wow, what an absolutely incredible camera. This isn’t going to be a full technical review, it’s purely a findings overview. There are places such as DP Review where you can read all of the technical information you will ever need about the camera. This is going to explore the camera from a documentary wedding photographers point of view.
Canon 1DX : Initial shots
Before I go any deeper though, I want to show you some images. These are the very first three frames I shot on the camera (as you can see, we have small children – I wouldn’t normally have a blow up cow in the living room you understand ; -):
Canon 1DX 16,000 ISO Image
Canon 1DX 32,000 ISO Image
Canon 1DX 51,200 ISO Image
These images are direct from the camera. Untouched in anyway shape or form by editing software. They are JPG’s shot as the camera is set up. Now, I know these are compressed for web, so for those of you who want to see the actual original JPG files you can get them here: 16,000 ISO 1DX Image 32,000 ISO 1DX Image 51,200 ISO 1DX Image So, my initial thoughts about the ISO capabilities of the camera were simply – wow! Absolutely usable files at 51,200 ISO. The ISO is actually expandable to an incredible 204,800 (though I’ve yet, or am indeed unlikely, to shoot at that sensitivity).
Canon 1DX: Handling and Configuration
One of the benefits I always loved on my 1D Mark IV was the dual card slots. And when the 5D Mark III introduced dual cards too I was delighted. This means, when I shoot with the two Canon bodies, I can redundantly store backups of the images as I shoot to the reserve card. I have got one 32GB SD Card for the 5D Mark III and a 32GB CF Card for the 1DX. This means I never need to change the reserve cards during the day. I shoot Raw to the primary cards, and Fine JPG to the reserve cards on both cameras. However, and this was a big surprise to me, I find myself using the JPG files as my primary editing files now with both bodies. The reason is that the JPGs out of them are beautiful, and assuming I have exposed correctly, it reduces my editing time considerably (remember, I still have the RAW files should I need to get that extra latitude). Ergonomically, the camera is better than the 1DV in many respects. It’s certainly more sturdy, feels stronger in the hands and the grips are truly “grippy” now (which means I don’t need to use dry gaffer tape to add additional grip). It’s heavy though. For a while I coupled it with the 85mm 1.2 lens and it weighed an enormous amount. I’m not weak, but I could see myself struggling to shoot a 10 hour wedding with that combination. I use Upstraps, which I find brilliant for my back etc., but even so, the 1DX is a weighty machine and I would encourage anyone thinking about buying one to consider this. The camera has a plethora of completely customisable fn buttons, and now also makes it much easier for people who switch between horizontal and vertical shooting (which I tend to do mainly when shooting sport), although its a shame the exposure compensation can’t be done easily from the vertical position. It has adopted the 5D Mark IIIs image review system, which took a little getting used to, but is actually intuitive. I will write about the configuration of the camera and in camera settings shortly, but I will mention here that I tend to use one of the front buttons as a Ai-Servo mode rocker. It means, during the recessional, I can simply rest my finger on a front button and the camera switches to servo mode. This is a feature I find amazingly useful in the 5D Mark III too. As soon as you remove your finger, the shooting mode returns to it’s previous setting. There is now a “Q” button on the back. Honestly, I don’t use this and I don’t on the 5D Mark III either. I’m not sure why – it’s a great feature and allows you to configure your exposure rapidly. I guess I’m used to a certain way of doing things. The LCD on the back is super sharp and clear – even in bright sunshine. I’ve yet to test the weather sealing, but I’m told it’s improved over the 1D Mark IV and I took that out in some torrential downpours without any issues. The following images are all of my 1DX (shot on the Fuji X-Pro1 60mm Macro incidental)
Canon 1DX Front View
Canon 1DX Rear View
Canon 1DX Top Plate
Canon 1DX Side View
Canon 1DX: Standout Features
There are some features of the 1DX that far more important than others of course, especially for wedding photographers. The primary feature, above and beyond the 1D Mark IV), is that the camera is a full frame sensor. This in itself is important to me, especially if I’m shooting along with the 5D Mark III. I like to see consistency in depth of field across the bodies and it was always a little bit of a headache when using the 1D IV and the 5D 2 together. Coupled with this, the new sensor and chip set within the camera allow you to meter off the actual focus point. The 5D3 doesn’t fully do this, so I always focus and recompose using the centre focus point on the 5D3. With the 1DX I can set left and right (or any of the focus points) against the rocker button on the back. It means I can switch amazingly quickly between focus on a subject around the frame – and, crucially, the metering is done of the focus point – rather than a weighted metering from the centre spot. It’s a feature that will also be very useful when shooting sports photography. The burst rate is another feature Canon have marketed the camera against strongly. I have tried this using both RAW and JPG images (usually during a confetti walk) and the camera works hard, fast and very admirably at 12fps in RAW and 14fps in JPG. Now, I wouldn’t foresee any other use of that burst mode when photographing weddings, but again for sports photography this will be a step up from the 10fps the 1D Mark IV did. I will continue to use the burst mode for confetti lines in all probability however as the speed and focus accuracy is just phenomenal.
Burst Mode Shooting with the Canon EOS 1DX
The above image was shot in burst-mode on the 1DX using a Canon Ef-35mm 1.4 L Lens (at 1.4 ISO200 1/2000th Second). Of course, this is the processed image, for those who wish to see the RAW, and original JPG files created in camera please see these links: Canon 1DX Burst Mode RAW File Canon 1DX Burst Mode JPG File
Canon 1DX: My Settings
Previously, I made a blog post about my EOS 1D Mark IV Settings for sports photography and I thought it might be useful and/or interesting to some of you reading this article. I’m only going to talk about some of the settings – clearly the camera is highly customisable and these are just the settings that are working for me at the moment. Remember, I’m shooting RAW+JPG so some of the settings are only applicable to in camera JPG conversion. I hope you find this interesting and useful….if not, skip it and go onto the pictures below ; – ). I apologise also for the thumb stains on the scree – I couldn’t think of a better way of shooting these (and ideas?) AI-Servo on this camera is outstanding from what I have seen so far. I was enormously happy with the servo on the 1D Mark IV, but have never really trusted it on the 5D Mark II or III to be honest. I’m using servo a lot on this camera throughout the wedding day and have a fn button set to toggle to it rapidly. Both the 5D3 and the 1DX have this really handy “Case Settings” for servo mode. For me, I use Case 2 for weddings. It will keep track of the object ignoring possible interferences (for example if they walk behind a pillar, or confetti). The above screen shows that I have Highlight Tone Priority set to enabled. This affects the JPG files and as I’m nearly always shooting wide open at 1.2 or 1.4 aperture, I like to have this added level of protection for the highlights. This restricts ISO levels to 200-51,200 however. You will also see here that I have my files to burn as Full RAW to CF card 1 and Medium JPG to CF Card 2 (I’ve actually increased the quality of the M-JPG slightly which you can do in the camera). The above two screens show how I have my AI-Servo release priority set. This is important, as its different to the defaults and this is the setting I find works best. I am essentially telling the camera to concentrate on the focus as a priority over the release of the shutter. It means that even if I press the shutter release, the camera will not fire unless the tracked servo point is in focus. I prefer it this way. I have my Selectable AF Point set to “Only Cross-Type AF Points”. The reason for this is that I simply never go to the extreme focus points and really only use the super sensitive cross-type ones towards the centre of the sensor. Here you can see that I have the Spot metering linked to the AF point. I think this is extremely important if you are likely to be using anything other than the central focus point. And here you can see the way I have customised my controls and fn buttons. I won’t go through each setting, but the highlighted one is of note. It allows very easy toggling of ai-servo and one-shot modes (the 5D Mark III also has this ability and on that camera, I replace the DoF preview button). By the way, if you want to see a more in-depth review of the AF System and focus points, check out Andy Rouse’s blog post. It’s a great review.
Canon 1DX: Low Light and High ISO Capability
I’m a documentary wedding photographer, which essentially means I don’t stage or pose, prompt or direct anything throughout the wedding day. So when it comes to having a camera that can focus quickly, especially in low light, and adapt to manically changing lighting that one may find on dance floors etc you really need one that can step up to the mark. Now, don’t get me wrong, the 5D Mark III is incredible at low light focusing (compared to the 5D Mark II) and it also has an amazing ISO control and capability (and actually, I think the 5D Mark III is the perfect wedding photography camera from the EOS range at the moment). I tend to set shoot primarily in aperture priority mode. I like the camera to deal with as much as possible so I can concentrate on the image itself. For that reason, once it starts getting to dusk, I set the camera to a minimum shutter speed of 1/320th. This way I can still aim to get any fast moving subjects as sharp as reasonably possible. Although I find myself using these high ISO capabilities, it wasn’t long ago that I was shooting on a Canon 5D Mark I and the capabilities were greatly reduced. I appreciate that these machines are giving us greater scope to get the pictures but I often have to remind myself that just because the feature is there it doesn’t have to be used. That said, I do shoot a lot of winter weddings, and being able to shoot without flash in near dark situations (or at least get more images) is a big positive for my style of photography. For all intents and purposes the 5D Mark III and the 1DX are completely interchangeable right up until the evening shooting and it’s here that the camera really comes into its own. I’m going to put up some images shot very recently. Each of them will have the EXIF data and also links to the original RAW files for you to take a look at if you like. I hope you like the images of course: This image was shot on 24mm 1.4L @ 1.4, ISO200, 1/320th Second. The Full Raw File can also be viewed. This image was shot on 35mm 1.4L @ 1.4, ISO200, 1/800th Second. The Full Raw File can also be viewed. This image was shot on 35mm 1.4L @ 1.4, ISO2,500, 1/320th Second. The Full Raw File can also be viewed. This image was shot on 35mm 1.4L @ 1.4, ISO200, 1/2,000th Second. The Full Raw File can also be viewed. This image was shot on 35mm 1.4L @ 1.4, ISO6,400, 1/50th Second (hand held). The Full Raw File can also be viewed. And for the very high ISO images, here are a few samples: This image was shot on 35mm 1.4L @ 1.4, ISO51,200, 1/400th Second. The Full Raw File can also be viewed. This image was shot on 35mm 1.4L @ 1.4, ISO51,200, 1/800th Second. The Full Raw File can also be viewed. This image was shot on 35mm 1.4L @ 1.4, ISO51,200, 1/400th Second. The Full Raw File can also be viewed.
Canon 1DX: Summary
I’m writing this review purely from a wedding photographer’s point of view. If you are a professional sports photographer, or a wildlife photographer I would simply say: get it! However, for us wedding photographers it’s slightly more involved than that. Firstly, there is the price. Coming in at nearly £5,200 this camera is expensive. I only got it because I had enough equipment to part exchange. Would I pay £5,200 if I was only going to use it for weddings? Probably not….unless money was no object (we can all but dream). I think the 5D Mark III is the “perfect” Canon body for wedding photography. Yes, this camera deals with low light better, and yes it’s an all round better performer. Yes, you can meter of focus points and it won’t need to be repaired if it gets soaked. But the 5D Mark III is substantially cheaper and you know what, is just an all round brilliant camera for wedding photography (with the added benefit of it’s size). If, like me, you are going to want a camera for both weddings and sports photography then the 1DX is the ultimate in the Canon range. I can’t compare to any Nikon cameras as I have never shot Nikon. I’m told the D800 is just as powerful a machine. It has the be said that this camera, in hand, feels substantial and it produces the goods in the most extreme situations (such as barely lit dance floors), allowing me to continue shooting longer without the use of flash. Will I continue to use it at weddings? Yes, in all likelihood – but only certain ones. I would want to certainly take it along to any weddings where I think there may be a lot of very-fast action, such as Jewish weddings. Also, I will take it to any winter weddings as it will offer me greater latitude in low-light than any of my existing cameras. However, the perfect wedding camera combination for me remains the Canon 5D Mark III with an 85mm 1.2 Lens attached and the Fuji X-Pro1 with the 35mm Lens combination. Together they offer a great low light shooting combination, great focal range and ultimate portability. I hope you have found some or even all of this useful. Please feel free to leave comments below and I will aim to answer any questions you may have. Also, I’d really appreciate it (if you found it useful) if you could share on Twitter and Facebook etc.