The Canon 1dX II. I bought it and it’s just what I needed!
By Steve Huff
First off, take a look at the video below to hear my explain the things I get from the Canon 1dX II (for my video needs) that I can not get from anywhere else…
The Canon 1dX II – What I get from it that I do not get from other cameras (for video)
This past week has been eventful for me for sure. I ordered a Canon 1dX II from Amazon, got scammed, then refunded and purchased one from B&H Photo instead.
Yes, me…a hardcore Mirrorless guy for 11 years buying not only a DSLR, but the biggest and heaviest one on the planet! Lol. There is a method to my madness though as this was not a decision made lightly or even from the heart. While everyone has been switching to mirrorless from DSLR’s over the years (and I have been on the front lines of the mirrorless movement for years) why did I go buy a DSLR? It’s huge and heavy for sure but for my video needs, it fits the bill perfectly.
This time around the size of the camera does not matter as this camera was not purchased to be used as an everyday stills camera, street camera, or well, for stills in general.
This was bought exclusively, or about 95% for video work and I will use it for photos from time to time as well.
24l II on the 1dX II before I dialed in the lens using the FoCal Software.
But you own a Sony Steve! Why not use that?
GREAT (and valid) QUESTION!!
I am well aware that the Sony’s I have been using for years shoot video (as I have shot hundreds of videos using them). Also, my new Canon M50 (see my thoughts on the M50 HERE) I have here does as well. In the video above I explain why those just do not work for me, for my upcoming needs. Even though that is the case, I recommend wholeheartedly that anyone looking for great video and photo take a serious look at the best combo camera on the market to date, the Sony A7III.
At $2000 the Sony A7III is an incredible buy for those who are going to video, even 4K, and still like to shoot photos. There is a reason the A7III has been sold out ever since it was released.
So the question remains…if I am recommending the Sony to everyone else, why did I buy a Canon 1dx II, a two year old camera, for just video? Why didn’t I go with a Canon cinema camera for a little bit more? Why didn’t I just use my Sony or even a Panasonic GH5S? Why not a dedicated video camera from Canon or Sony? All of that is answered in the video above directly but I will also state the reasons why here, below for those who are not into watching videos.
This time, I did my research and tested MANY cameras for MY exact needs that are coming up…
- I needed a camera that can do 1080 HD with great skin tones and color out of the camera. No need for S log or C log or any LOG. Out of camera results is what I needed more than anything else.
- I needed a camera that was built to pro standards. Tough as nails, weatherproof and if needed, even used as a weapon, lol. This camera will be in rain, snow, on the ground and in 115 degree desert heat.
- The camera must NOT OVERHEAT! (My A9 failed me twice in AZ shooting video, shut down mid recording even with new firmware)
- I needed a camera with blazing fast, best in the business AUTOFOCUS (with face tracking) with video. This means Nikon, Fuji, Panasonic, Olympus, and everyone besides Sony and Canon were out of the running. Canons dual pixel AF for me, is slightly better than even the Sony A9 for video use. For photos, I think Sony takes the prize, but they are about tied in reality.
- I needed the ability to swap lenses, and use fast aperture glass. I wanted a full frame sensor for that specific look. My upcoming projects needs this.
- It also had to take great photos for the times I needed still at locations and did not have my other gear.
- I needed VERY GOOD low light abilities. APS-C wouldn’t cut it here.
- I had no need for stabilization. This will be almost always on a tripod, or used handheld at times with wide angle glass.
- I had no need for 4K at this time.
- I needed GREAT battery life and ease of operation. Reliability as well.
- I hoped for 1080P 120 FPS with AF
- Budget was up to $6000.
So away I went to find my next camera dedicated for full frame video work that would be used in ALL KINDS of scenarios. I tested Panasonic, and they failed due to the slow AF (I need AF). I tested the Fuji XH1 and the battery life was horrendous and the AF tracking not close to S & C. I own a Sony and have used it hundreds of times for video work, but two problems with the Sony’s so far to date, for MY needs. The A9 has overheated twice on me here in Arizona when shooting out in 115 degree days, JUST RECENTLY and with the new firmware update. Also, I just can not get to LOVE the color coming from the Sony’s for video work. Skin tones have a cast and I just never could get it right. That is down to me though, as I am no color grading pro. I am not blaming the Sony but rather, myself. To those saying “Buy a dedicated video camera from Best Buy”..well, none of those offer much of anything on my list of NEEDS.
Canon 1dx MKII, ISO 8000, 50 L 1.2
I even tested a cinema camera for a while, the Canon C100 MKII. Focus was there, color was there but it is not full frame and did not give the desired look I was going for though it did put out a nice file. Also, the C100 MKII was big, bulky and awkward in use at times when not on a tripod. It also did not feel very pro in build when compared to something like a 1dX MKII. Wasn’t feeling the mojo at all from the C100 MKII though the color and AF was perfect. I also needed a big awkward bag to carry it and it could not take stills for those times when I would want to use it for double duty.
Truth be told,it was not until I tested the small Canon M50 that my brain awoke and made me remember there is a camera called the 5D MKIV. Back in the day I owned and used and enjoyed the 5D MKI and MKII. By the time the III came around I was all in with Leica and mirrorless so had no interest in DSLR’s. Also, back then I was using my cameras strictly for photos, not video. While I now own several camera systems (my line of work here sort of requires it) like Leica, Olympus, Hasselblad, and Sony (and the little Canon M50 and M6) the only one that was impressing me all the way around with video was the little M50. It had perfect AF and color. So I decided to test the 5DIV but before I did, I did more and more research. I read all I could about the 5DIV and found it did not have the most weather sealed build (not up to 1dx standards) and that in low light the 1dx II beat it (supposedly). It also did not record 1080 120FPS, only 720p (which could have worked). But at $3099 it was well under budget. I just had to decide if it would be “good enough” for my needs and use over the next 2-3 years.
After sleeping on it for a few days I decided that this was a decision that is not from the heart or passion, but more of a business decision. I did not really “want” either of these cameras, but I needed one for work, and for projects that I have to complete. Seeing that my “want” list described one camera and only one camera perfectly, I decided to go all in and have no regrets.
That camera was and is the 1dx MKII.
It just had all I needed and nothing I did not need or want. It had the build over the 5DIV all day long, better low light performance, 120 FPS at 1080 with full dual pixel AF. So I bit the bullet and ordered the 1dX MKII (first from Amazon, and if you saw that fiasco, you would know I ended up buying it from B&H photo in the end).
1dx MKII, ISO 25,600, 50 f1.2 L, 1/250s (Pretty amazing low light performance)
So it arrived, and I was overwhelmed the first day with it. New controls, pro body, and new territory for this 11 year mirrorless only guy.
Keep in mind though, for photos…I am still mirrorless through and through. My daily drivers will be Sony or Leica for stills. I am eyeballing the new Nikon and Canon mirrorless as well (and will have some thoughts on that soon) because I think Canon and Nikon HAVE TO come out with a knock out punch patented move on Sony or else there will be trouble ahead for them. I believe both Nikon and Canon have what they THINK to be the knock out Punch, and both are VERY interesting indeed. Some will ask me why I did not just wait for the new mirrorless Canon before making a major purchase. Well, I am waiting for it as I may buy it to add to my stable if it is what I think it should be. Now that I own some killer Canon glass (and I think the new Canon mirrorless may somehow take their current lenses without the need for an adapter) it would be a no brainer, unless Canon screws it all up. I do not think for a moment though that it will fill all of my needs above in version 1.
Nikon will be nice as well but they have a not so good track record for AF with video, and well, it’s not Canon color. Though the Nikon and new 58 f0.95 Noct sounds AMAZING for low light photography (told you they were aiming for low light)!
In any case, I now have had the 1dx II camera for a week or so and am truly loving it for the reasons I bought it for. So far I have been testing it and getting to know it so when I need to really put it to work I can do so with confidence. For 1080 HD, many have said this camera is awful. I disagree! It’s beautiful as it does not put out that overly sharp video look that other cameras do. Instead, the Canon puts out gorgeous color straight from camera with a more cinematic vibe. I am old school and love 24FPS, so that’s it for me. It also has amazing autofocus with video that for me, slightly, ever so slightly surpasses the Sony A9 for performance as it never loses lock and never focuses behind me (the Sony has done this a couple of times). The low light performance shocked me. I was expecting it to be subpar from what others have said. Well, it is not and does very well in low light for stills or video.
1st Image with the Canon 24 F1.4 L MKII. Rest with the 50 f/1.2 L
So the Canon 1dX MKII fills my needs perfectly and with the trio of lenses I went with (16-35 III, 24 1.4 L II, and 50 f1.2L) I could not be happier. But I hated it the 1st hour…
Something interesting also happened when I went out to test it by taking images. I hated it for the 1st hour. It was huge, heavy and ridiculous. I almost felt embarrassed shooting with it as I am so used to Sony and Leica size cameras. But after I started feeling the flow, the instantaneous focus lock, the lightning quick shutter and ultra rapid response with the auto focus, even using a slow to focus 50 f1.2 L…I was very impressed. Even my son, who was hating on it all day…shot with the 1dX II. At the end of the night he said “That thing is beautiful”. He appreciated what it could do, regardless of the size.
1dx MKII, 16-35 III at 2.8, ISO 20,000 (yes, 20,000. Exif is there if you right click, download)
So I have a double treat here. It blew me away for my intended use (video) and surprised me with the stills. Being a 2 year old camera, and the way tech progresses so fast these days with imaging I was expecting to dislike the dynamic range, the ISO noise, the usual things we gain with current tech. Sony no doubt has the better sensors for dynamic range, and they offer the best value for the money hands down. The A9 is THE SONY that competes with the 1dX II, and at $4099 (reduced from $4500) the a9 is NOT cheap. For $1400 more, which is what the 1dXII will set you back, you do get better build, better ergonomics, just as good if not better battery life, better color out of camera, better weather sealing, a different viewfinder experience (OVF vs EVF). You also lose things the Sony offers like EVF with no blackout, smaller size, and silent shutter. I think the sweet spot in the Sony Lineup is actually their cheapest A7III as it offers SO MUCH to us and creators for SO LITTLE.
ISO 25,600 – click it for larger
But for me, again, my focus was on video and I had a set list of needs (not wants) that had to be there. The only camera that made the cut is what I went with and I am happy to say I am thrilled with the decisions. So much so I may add a 6DII for run and gun video and vlogging (over the M50) so I can use these beautiful lenses (the 24 1.4II and 50L are gorgeous and not so large) how they were meant to be used (full frame). I never thought I would be back with a Canon. But that Canon out of camera color, or as most call it “color science” truly sold me along with that dual pixel AF, which is simply outstanding. You can see an example of it in the video above using the 50 1.2L, wide open.
So that is why I bought a big, bulky, fat and heavy DSLR ; ) It does what I need it to do, and will do it very well. I will still use my Sony, my Leica and my other cameras for stills and when I want to truly enjoy photography. But this beast will be the one that earns its keep.
WHERE TO BUY?
I went with these lenses:
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