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The EOS-1D X explained: inside Canon’s flagship DSLR

The EOS-1D X explained: inside Canon’s flagship DSLR

October 2012

The EOS-1D X is the new flagship camera in the Canon DSLR range, taking the best of the EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds cameras and melding them into a single unit that gives both high resolution and high speed shooting. No longer do you need to choose between the two when both are available in one body.

By taking the EOS-1D Mark IV and making radical changes to every aspect of the camera's build and design, the EOS-1D X stands head and shoulders above everything that has gone before to offer high resolution, high frame rate and high ISO shooting with a full-frame CMOS sensor, and industry leading HD Movie shooting in one camera. It is ‘Performance redefined'.

Key specifications

  • 18.1 Megapixel, Full-frame CMOS sensor
  • 61-point AF with up to 41 cross-type AF points
  • Zone, Spot and AF Expansion Focusing modes
  • DUAL “DIGIC 5+” processors
  • 12fps shooting with 14fps super High Speed continuous
  • ISO 100 to 51,200 as standard, ISO 50 to 204,800 with expansion
  • 100,000-pixel RGB AE sensor
  • DIGIC 4 processor dedicated to AE functions
  • +/- 5 Stop Exposure Compensation
  • Full HD Movie shooting with ALL-I or IPB compression
  • 29mins 59sec clip length in Full HD Movie
  • 55ms shutter lag, 36ms via ‘Shortened Release Lag' Custom Function
  • Timecode setting for HD Movie shooting
  • Transparent LCD viewfinder with new focusing screen
  • 8.11cm (3.2”), 1.04 million pixel Clear View II LCD Screen
  • Improved EOS Integrated Cleaning System (EICS)
  • Dual CF Card slots
  • Silent control touch-pad area

Full-frame CMOS sensor

Canon has a long history in designing and building its own CMOS sensors, so the full-frame sensor found in the EOS-1D X is an evolution of the sensor found in the EOS-1D Mark IV that incorporates the latest advances in photodiode construction technologies.


The CMOS sensor of the EOS-1D X offers increased light sensitivity, image noise reduction at higher ISO speeds, a wider dynamic range and a 16-channel readout to facilitate a high speed continuous shooting at up to 14fps. It's the first time that Canon's gapless microlens technology, which maximises the light gathering capability, has been used in a full-frame sensor.

The new photodiode construction has resulted in an improved photoelectric conversion rate that gives increased light sensitivity. Combined with improved transistors inside the pixels, the signal-to-noise ratio has been made even better, allowing access to the higher ISO speeds without increasing image noise.

CMOS sensors make use of microlenses to direct the light into each pixel well. As seen on other Canon CMOS sensors, the sensor in the EOS-1D X uses gapless microlenses located above each photodiode to maximise the light gathering capability, no matter what angle the light arrives at the sensor from. It is the first time that gapless microlenses have been employed on a Canon full-frame sensor and they are one key piece of the puzzle that opens up the high ISO capabilities of the camera. The newly designed CMOS circuits have also been designed to capture a wider dynamic range, meaning more detail is retained in both shadows and highlights in comparison to previous cameras.

Unlike previous CMOS sensors found in other EOS DSLRs, the sensor in the EOS-1D X has been developed to excel not only at stills shooting but also when capturing Full 1080p HD Movie footage. Compared to the sensor found in the EOS 5D Mark II both the sensor in the EOS-1D X and the associated image processing have been developed to show reduced moiré patterning and false colour; offering greater detail and improved image quality.

A full-frame, 18 Megapixel sensor shooting at 14 frames per second produces a large signal stream that needs to be removed from the sensor rapidly. To enable this, the EOS-1D X uses a 16-channel high-speed output with two-vertical-pixel simultaneous readout. It is around 1.4 times faster than the readout system found in the EOS-1D Mark IV and it's this that allows the 14 frames per second shooting speed — a first for a camera with a 35mm full-frame digital sensor. Note that at ISO 32,000 or higher the frame rate will be reduced to 10fps (which still equals the fastest shooting rate of the EOS-1D Mark IV).

Drive system

Groundbreaking for a full-frame 35mm sensor camera, the EOS-1D X features a 12fps shooting speed as standard, with the option of a super high-speed continuous 14fps setting in one-shot AF with the mirror locked up.

To enable these high frame rates to be achieved, the EOS-1D X features several key technologies that allow the shutter and mirror to be moved rapidly, without introducing extra vibration to the camera body. The camera uses a two-motor system with dedicated motors to drive both the mirror and shutter at high speed. These motors generate high torque forces to drive a short distance gear system that helps to minimise energy loss.

To ensure high-precision AF, the mirror and sub-mirror are arrested by an absorption mechanism with four stoppers to reduce rebound and vibration during operation. This system also helps to ensure a stable viewfinder image, even when shooting at 12fps.

For fast shooting, the camera offers a standard shutter lag of 55ms. This means that whatever lens or settings you are using the lag will be no more than 55ms. However, within the camera's Custom Functions there is an option for ‘Shortened Release Lag' that reduces the shutter lag down further to an impressive minimum speed of just 36ms — currently the fastest shutter lag time available in a DSLR camera*. With this Custom Function set, the exact release time is determined by other factors, such as the lens being used and the aperture you have set, so it will vary between 36ms and 55ms.

(*as of 22 September 2011.)


The EOS-1D X deploys two DIGIC 5+ processors that offer a variety of benefits including fast image processing to deliver 18.1 Megapixel images at up to 12fps as standard, and up to 14fps with super High Speed continuous.

The mechanics of driving the reflex mirror and shutter are only one aspect of the drive system. The other piece of the puzzle is the data produced by the camera during high speed shooting.

Once the analogue signal has been removed from the CMOS sensor by the 16-channel readout, four separate four-channel Analogue-Digital convertors pass the data to the Dual “DIGIC 5+” image processors for processing. In comparison, the EOS-1D Mark IV has four two-channel Analogue-Digital convertors passing data to Dual “DIGIC 4” processors. With twice as many data channels to transfer the signal off the sensor, the camera is able to move the data into the DIGIC processing system quickly and efficiently.

Increased image processing power

Equipped with Dual “DIGIC 5+” processors, the EOS-1D X features several improvements in image quality due to the increased processing power that's available. With increased processing power, more complex calculations can be performed in the same, or faster, time or more data can be processed in the same amount of time. In fact, compared to the regular DIGIC 5 processor, the DIGIC 5+ offers three times faster performance when processing images. The combination of two DIGIC 5+ processors working together allows an enormous amount of data to be processed in a short period of time.

The development of DIGIC 5+ has also brought with it new features and functions unseen anywhere else in the EOS range, as well as adding some functions seen in other models into the EOS-1 series for the first time. The increased processing power, combined with the improvements in sensor design, has permitted an increase in high ISO performance with a gain of two stops over the EOS-1D Mark IV in the normal range (to ISO 51,200) before ISO expansion is set. Also the extra processing power means that, unlike with the EOS-1D Mark IV, setting High ISO noise reduction to ‘Strong' will not reduce the number of continuous shots that can be captured in a burst.

Another new feature added by the DIGIC 5+ processors is the ability to shoot multiple exposures, where several images are ‘stacked' on top of each other. The DIGIC 5+ processors allow image stacking of between two and nine separate frames to create one signal final image. This feature is available for both RAW and JPEG images, though if M-RAW or S-RAW are set, the recording quality will automatically switch to RAW.

As befitting a digital multiple exposure there are several exposure settings that can be adjusted to tailor the final output to suit your needs. These are Additive, Average, (Comparative) Bright and (Comparative) Dark.

The Additive exposure control is for those used to shooting multiple exposures with film cameras. Instead of taking each image with the correct exposure, the total exposure is added up from each individual image. To achieve the correct result, you should underexpose each image so that the resulting image is correctly exposed once they are all combined together.

The Average setting provides an automatic exposure control whereby each image is automatically underexposed so that the final image is then correctly exposed. Unlike with the Additive setting, all images in the multiple exposure will be averaged and taken at the same exposure level setting.

Comparative Bright is suited to photographing uniformly dark scenes with bright objects superimposed on top. A classic example would be a moon superimposed on a dark night sky — achieving this is done by only overlaying the bright objects within the scene.

Conversely, (Comparative) Dark is used to eliminate the bright areas of images and so only overlay the dark areas of each image. This setting is useful for eliminating reflections and bright patches in an image — like the reflections you may see when photographing a portrait of someone wearing glasses.

The enhanced DIGIC 5+ processing has also allowed developments in in-camera lens correction. Recent EOS models have featured Peripheral Illumination Correction where the camera can correct for corner shading as images are captured. The new Chromatic Aberration Correction works in the same way but removes colour fringing and halos around high contrast edges, thereby improving the overall image quality and maximising the performance on your Canon lenses.

Two CF card slots feature on the right hand side of the back of the EOS-1D X — they are accessed by turning the CARD control situated underneath the ON/LOCK/OFF control.   

The DIGIC 5+ processor has also brought the ability to make use of UDMA 7 memory cards enabling fast write speeds for both still images, where data is produced in bursts, and HD video, where continuous stream data is sent. This allows memory cards with a sustained write speed of up to 167MB/sec to be fully utilised, meaning the camera is future-proofed to be able to work with faster memory cards than are currently available in the market. With the addition of dual CF card slots you can make use of the most common memory card format designed for professional usage.

The EOS-1D X features several new image processing features or modifications first seen in other models within the EOS DSLR range. The basic building block of these advances is the EOS intelligent Subject Analysis System (EOS iSA System). This automatically analyses the shooting scene based on colour, brightness, motion, contrast or distance information. Combined with the ability to detect faces within the scene, the camera is able to detect what the scene is and therefore how best to adjust parameters such as white balance, Picture Style, autofocus, exposure and Auto Lighting Optimiser to give the best results.


Right hand side of the top plate showing the top standard ISO rating of 51,200 in the top LCD panel. The expandable ISO settings of the camera increase the range to ISO 50 to 204,800.

In addition to the normal Picture Style settings of Standard, Landscape, Portrait, Neutral Faithful and Monochrome, there is a new Auto setting. Based on the scene information collected by EOS iSA System, this Auto Picture Style allows the camera to tailor the response of contrast, colour tone, sharpness and saturation for optimum results. It is very good for general purpose shooting, but is especially effective with nature and landscape images, as well as those taken at sunset.

Equally, Auto Lighting Optimiser (ALO), a feature of the EOS-1D Mark IV, has been improved to give better results when shooting sunsets, highly saturated scenes or scenes with highlights that could be easily over-exposed. This is especially useful with backlit subjects, where auto exposure could render a subject under-exposed. With ALO enabled it will allow you to achieve the best balance of exposure across the frame even when shooting, for example, backlit portraits.

This EOS iSA System is also used to improve the accuracy of white balance settings. These changes are most noticeable when shooting portraits or sunsets, where the skin tones will be more accurately recorded and sunset colours will be more vivid. They are also evident when shooting under low colour temperature light sources like tungsten lighting. In the past, these scenes could produce very yellow or orange images. However, with the EOS-1D X this is much reduced, resulting in more natural looking images.

ISO capabilities

One of the most requested features on digital cameras is improved high ISO performance and the ability to shoot clean images at higher ISO settings. The EOS-1D X scores on both fronts by offering 51,200 as the highest standard ISO setting. With expansion settings, accessed through the Custom Functions, you are able to shoot all the way up to ISO 204,800. Equally, the low expansion setting of ISO 50 gives you the option of achieving a longer shutter speed for creative purposes.

AF system

The EOS-1D X features a completely new autofocus system that's designed to provide consistent focusing performance, no matter what the subject is or how bad the lighting conditions may be. Autofocus systems in general have reached a point where they have plateaued in performance. Since they are predictive systems, they have to assume what a subject may do next in order to guess where the focus should be. Unfortunately, this is not possible with subjects that move erratically and is occasionally the cause of missed frames.

Adjusting the camera AF settings, as is required for optimum performance on the EOS-1D Mark III and EOS-1D Mark IV, is one way to achieve better results. However, this requires knowledge and experience of how the AF system functions to get the very best out of it.

To achieve the goal of optimum AF in diverse situations and lighting conditions, the EOS-1D X makes use of far more than just an autofocus sensor, as previous cameras have done. Instead data is collected from the 61-point AF sensor, the auto exposure sensors, an AF correction light-source detection sensor and, with certain lenses, a panning detection gyro sensor. While these sensors provide a benefit to One-Shot AF shooting, the major benefit is found with AI Servo, where they can help identify the subject by not only contrast, but also colour. To make AF set-up easier the EOS-1D X also features a simplified AF settings menu where a description and example uses for each function are displayed.

The AF unit of the EOS-1D X. The camera has a newly developed high-precision AF system with 61 user selectable AF points, 41 of which are cross-type points, and five dual cross-type points for extra precision.

61-point AF

The newly designed AF sensor in the EOS-1D X features an increase in AF points from 45 on the EOS-1D Mark IV to 61. Of these 61 AF points, up to 41 of them will function as cross-type sensors that are able to detect contrast both horizontally and vertically. The exact number of cross-type sensors will vary depending on the lens you are using. The spread of AF points is roughly similar to that on the EOS-1D Mark IV but with far more AF points the precision is greater, especially when tracking moving subjects.

To improve focus accuracy, all 61 AF points feature a dual-line zigzag arrangement, as seen on three AF points within the EOS 7D. This arrangement provides the best aspects of both increased pixel pitch for finer precision and increased AF tracking speed with extra data points, without any of the drawbacks of either solution alone, allowing for both fast and accurate AF.

Five of the central AF points, arranged vertically down the mid-line of the frame, function as Dual-Cross type AF points with lenses featuring an f/2.8 or faster maximum aperture (as seen on the central AF point of the EOS 7D). This means they are also arranged with a diagonally orientated AF point in an ‘X', plus a conventional horizontally and vertically arranged AF point, like a ‘+', offering increased focus precision.

With lenses that have a maximum aperture of f/5.6, or faster, the central bank of 21 AF points will all function as cross-type AF sensors, and the left and right banks of 20 AF points each will act as cross-type sensors at f/4 and f/5.6.

Firmware update Version 1.1.1 for the EOS-1D X, announced in October 2012, enables the centre cross-type AF point to autofocus when the camera is used with lens and extender combinations whose maximum aperture is f/8. AF point expansion is also possible with the centre AF point and the surrounding four AF points (above, below, on the left and on the right). Prior to this autofocusing was only possible with lens/extender combinations up to a maximum aperture of f/5.6.

An advantage of the increased focus sensitivity is the ability to detect extreme defocus and correct accordingly. By using the whole AF sensor, where every point is vertical line sensitive at f/5.6 or greater, the lens can be refocused much more quickly than before. As part of this increased sensitivity, the EOS-1D X can now focus in even lower light levels than the EOS-1D Mark IV. Using a single central AF point with an f/2.8 lens, the EOS-1D Mark IV could focus in light levels of EV -1. However, the EOS-1D X is able to focus in EV -2, which is the equivalent of shooting under the light of the full moon.

The AF Algorithm has also been modified from the one found in the EOS-1D Mark IV. The new AI Servo AF III has been designed using evaluation feedback from professional photographers who have been shooting with the EOS-1D Mark IV; the aim being to provide higher focusing precision and more stable AF tracking. These changes have been incorporated in four ways.

With a predictive AF system the camera is continuously recording the position of the subject and predicting where it will be for the next frame based on its motion so far. If the camera fails to detect the subject position in one recording period, the negative result is now ignored and the next focus point is based on the previous accurate results. Equally, if you are tracking a moving subject and an object passes between your position and the subject, the camera could become confused and jump to a new focus distance.

The EOS-1D X will ignore the results when the AF distance appears to jump greatly so that it can continue to track the subject when it reappears from behind an obstacle, based on the results before the obstruction covered the subject. Equally, if there is suddenly a large jump in the focus distance, the camera will not drive the lens to the new distance directly. Instead it will gradually drive the lens focus, based on the previous successful focus distance results.

The increased sensitivity of the focus system has also allowed for faster predictive focus measurements. In previous EOS cameras there was a warm-up period while the AF system began tracking. This has now been reduced so that the EOS-1D X can begin predictive tracking as soon as a subject begins to move.

The EOS-1D X’s body shell is made from magnesium alloy to help to make it highly durable for heavy-duty professional use.

Light source detection

As first seen in the EOS 7D, the EOS-1D X features a light source detection system to improve focus accuracy under artificial lighting. Because of the higher resolution of the AF sensors, chromatic aberration within the optics could lead to focus errors because the different colours of light waves are focused at slightly different distances. However, because the camera is able to determine how much red/green or blue/green light there is in a scene, the AF system can adjust for any potential chromatic aberrations that may occur within the AF system. While this is useful in all shooting situations, the greatest benefit will be seen when shooting under artificial lighting.

Focusing during panning

The EOS-1D X features a built-in 2-axis gyro sensor that can detect camera motion both horizontally and vertically. If panning motion is detected, it will stop the AF point switching to a new subject should you pan across an obstacle within the frame during shooting. When using the Mark II super telephoto lenses, such as the EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM or the EF400mm f/2.8L IS II USM, the camera will use the IS gyro sensor located in the lens, rather than the one located in the camera itself.

EOS intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF (EOS iTR AF)

In addition to all the data provided by the AF system, the camera will also make use of data provided by the new AE sensor and AE DIGIC 4 processor to improve focus tracking in AI Servo mode.

By default, AF systems operate based on contrast detection. They look for contrast and will focus at the area of greatest contrast. However, in some situations, especially with Auto AF point selection, this can lead to the focus jumping from the subject to a different area as the contrast levels change due to changes in lighting. Since the AE system of the EOS-1D X can detect the colour of a subject, this information can be passed to the AF system to improve the tracking.

By using the colour of the subject that was initially focused, the AF system can track the movement of that subject, both by contrast and colour across the frame, and automatically select the most appropriate focus point given the position of the subject within the frame. This frees you up to concentrate on composing your images rather than selecting the best AF point for focus.

The system works not only with the colour of subjects but also with faces. Because the AE system can detect the presence of a face within the frame, the subject can be tracked across the frame accurately and quickly without having to change the focus point continually. If there are multiple faces within the frame, then by manually selecting an AF point you can ensure the correct face is focused initially and then tracked in subsequent frames.

AF system durability

A high-speed, high-sensitivity AF system is undoubtedly a great feature to have, but it needs to keep working across a wide range of environmental conditions. To ensure this system is durable enough for professional use, the materials used have been chosen to withstand high and low temperatures equally well, as well as conditions of high humidity. The sub-mirror of the AF system has also been modified from an elliptical shape, as found in the EOS-1D Mark IV, to a flat surface in order to provide higher AF stability.

AF modes

Canon's EOS 7D DSLR featured a comprehensive list of focus point selection methods. It is something that has been well received and much requested on other models. Accordingly, the EOS-1D X features six different AF point selection modes, including Spot AF for all lenses, not just the super telephoto models as on the EOS-1D Mark IV.

In Single Point AF a single AF point, from the 61 available, is manually selected and used by the camera for focusing. With Auto Selection, the camera will select from any of the 61 AF points available to focus the subject. Single Point Spot AF is the same as Single Point AF, but in Spot focusing, the camera uses a smaller section of the AF sensor to allow you to more precisely place the AF point on the selected subject. This is useful when shooting past obstacles, such as when focusing on a lion lying in long grass. However, Spot AF is not recommended for fast moving subjects or in very low light conditions. When using either of these two options the non cross-type AF points will blink during AF point selection so that you are aware if the AF point you wish to use is a cross-type point or not. 

For more control over tracking moving subjects, there are two AF point expansion settings. In AF point expansion, a single AF point is manually selected and the camera will then use some surrounding points to help to track the subject. The options are either a cross arrangement, with the points immediately above, below, left and right being used, or the surrounding eight points around your manually selected point.

The final AF selection mode is Zone AF. As on the EOS 7D, this allows you to select one of nine zones. Within the selected zone, the AF points will be chosen by the camera in the same manner as with automatic AF point selection, but the points to choose from are restricted to within that zone area.

AF Configuration Tool

Although the AF system in the EOS-1D X is very capable, to ensure that you get the very best from it, it should be tailored to suit the subject you are shooting at the time — especially when that subject is moving. However, achieving this with previous EOS models required an in-depth understanding of how the AF system functions and what it is capable of. With the EOS-1D X, this process has been simplified with AF presets — settings that will get you most of the way towards the appropriate setting, with fine adjustments available thereafter to further tweak the performance to suit your particular shooting style.

For easier menu navigation and setting, all the AF settings and Custom Functions are now grouped into one menu tab, so there is no need to jump into different menu areas to make changes.

Within the AF settings there are also some new configuration options. The first of these is Acceleration/Deceleration tracking. This is useful for subjects that change speed, like a racing car. With three setting levels, you can adjust the focus response for greater stability in the AF system. The 0 setting is designed for subjects that don't change their speed much during motion. Settings 1 and 2 are designed for subjects that move suddenly or that accelerate or stop suddenly. They should not be used with smooth moving subjects as it could make the focus more instable for those subjects.

The shutter unit of the EOS-1D X operates at 55ms with a ‘Shortened Release Lag’ of 36ms available via a Custom Function.

The second configuration option is for AF point auto-switching. This is used in combination with Auto AF point selection, Zone AF or AF point expansion. It allows you to adjust the speed at which the AF points are changed to track a subject moving across the frame. The default ‘0' setting will allow for gradual AF point change. Selecting ‘1' or ‘2' will gradually increase the speed at which a different AF point is selected.

These options still require you to understand a bit about your subject, and this is where the preset settings are designed to help. There are six presets designed for different scenarios and, instead of having to remember what each setting does, the camera provides an icon and example usage within the menu display to make selecting the correct option easy.

The default setting ‘Case 1' is for general purpose shooting. It will provide accurate and fast focus across a wide range of shooting situations. However simply selecting this option for everything will mean you don't make full use of the AF system and, with a little adjustment, you will most likely achieve even better results.

‘Case 2' is designed for situations where the subject may move away from the AF point momentarily. The camera will continue to track focus the subject, even if the subject moves away from the AF point or an obstacle momentarily comes between you and your subject. This is useful for subjects such as swimming, freestyle skiing or tennis.

‘Case 3' will allow you to instantly focus on subjects that enter the AF point area. It is useful for rapidly locking onto a new subject, or for switching between subjects rapidly. As an example, this would suit alpine skiing or the start of a cycle race where there are several subjects and you may wish to select between them quickly.

‘Case 4' is designed for subjects that change speed or direction rapidly, as happens in motorsports or football. The camera will prioritise the speed of tracking to keep up with these changes in speed, even if the focus results suggest it is a very rapid change in focus distance.

‘Case 5' is designed for use with automatic AF point selection, Zone AF and AF Point expansion and subjects that move erratically, up and down or left and right. The settings allow the camera to switch AF points rapidly to keep track of the motion. It is most suited to subjects like figure skaters or aerobatic flying displays where erratic motion is likely to be encountered.

‘Case 6' is like a combination of both ‘Case 4' and ‘Case 5' and is for subjects that change speed abruptly and move erratically. Like ‘Case 5' it is used with Automatic AF point selection, Zone AF and AF Point Expansion. Even if the subject starts or stops suddenly or makes erratic direction changes, this setting will enable the camera to respond quickly to keep the focus accurately tracked on the subject. This setting is most useful when shooting subjects like basketball or gymnastics, where speed and direction changes are common.

AF Microadjustment

Introduced with the EOS-1D Mark III DSLR, AF Microadjustment allows you to move the exact point of focus slightly forwards or backwards to ensure that the camera and lens are in perfect alignment. Because of the increase in resolution of camera sensors, any slight focus mis-alignment is more visible when reviewing images. Although the cameras and lenses are made to extremely high tolerances there is a tolerance range and, in some cases, the camera could be at one end of the range and the lens at the other. In this instance, you would notice the focus point is either in front, or behind where you thought it should be. By using AF Microadjustment you can bring the two together.

The AF Microadjustment in the EOS-1D X has been made easier to use and more comprehensive. It is now able to detect a lens' serial number so you can make an adjustment by each specific lens. With previous cameras if, for example, you adjusted an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM zoom lens then every EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens you attached to the camera would be microadjusted the same amount. Now you can make adjustments for each individual lens you use. If the serial number of your lens isn't detected it's possible to register a serial number for a lens within the camera menu.

Microadjustment with zoom lenses has also been made easier. In the past it was only possible to register one microadjustment setting for each lens. However, with the EOS-1D X it's now possible to make adjustments for both the wideangle and telephoto settings of a zoom lens. This will help to ensure that whatever focal length you use with a zoom, your images are accurately focused.

The AE sensor unit of the EOS-1D X is a 100,000-pixel RGB sensor that offers 252-zone metering and is powered by a dedicated DIGIC 4 processor.   

Metering system

The metering system employed in the EOS-1D X is an all-new design — it features a 100,000-pixel RGB sensor that's able to measure not only the light levels, but also to detect colour information and the presence of a face within the frame.

During metering, the sensor divides the frame into 252 zones, compared to 63 metering zones used in the EOS-1D Mark IV. The 252 metering zones are also used for flash metering allowing for more precise subject location based on pre-flash readings.

In low ambient light conditions, where some zones may receive little or no light and therefore could lead to inconsistent exposure, the sensor enlarges each zone so that it meters from 35 zones.

Because the metering sensor captures RGB data, it is able to calculate the colour of the scene. This is how it is able to provide colour-tracking information to the AF system and face detection data, both for AF and Auto Scene detection. The sensor is especially aware of green and yellow as these colours can adversely affect the exposure reading and cause over-exposure or under-exposure respectively. By using the colour data and information from the 61 AF points, the EOS-1D X is able to detect where in the frame the subject is and then bias the exposure accordingly to ensure the best exposure setting. This provides more stable and accurate exposures than those possible with the EOS-1D Mark IV.

The EOS-1D X's output connections on the left hand side of the camera. Clockwise (from top left) they are the system extension terminal for the WFT-E6 or GP-E1 units (shown open), the ethernet RJ-45 terminal, the HDMI mini out and Audio/video OUT/digital terminal, and the external microphone IN terminal and remote control terminal (N3 type) and PC terminal.   

The colour and face detection system is also used in the E-TTL II flash metering algorithm. By locating a face within the frame, the EOS-1D X can accurately adjust the flash output to ensure the face is correctly exposed, while ignoring reflective objects within the frame that may otherwise lead to an inaccurate flash exposure. Beyond this addition, the E-TTL II algorithm functions in the same way as it does on the EOS-1D Mark IV and other models within the EOS DSLR range.

HD Movie

Following the introduction, in 2008, of Full HD Movie shooting with the EOS 5D Mark II, this feature has now been incorporated across the EOS camera range. The EOS-1D X takes all of the current features and puts them into one camera as well as improving various aspects of the movie shooting for both better usability and better incorporation into professional workflows. This means there is the ability to shoot 1920x1080 at 24, 25 and 30fps, as well as 1280x720 at 50 and 60fps. Audio levels can be controlled manually, as found on the EOS 60D and EOS 5D Mark II, and the ISO range for movie shooting runs from ISO 100 to 51,200.


The biggest change to the movie shooting is the ability to choose from two different compression methods — IPB or ALL-I — depending on your needs. The EOS-1D X still records movies using the H.264 codec but it is the compression type within this codec that has been changed.

When shooting movies, the frames that are captured are usually split into key frames or Intra-Frames and predicted frames. These Intra-frames are used as reference frames to help with compression.

The first type of compression available is IPB. The B in IPB stands for Bi-directional compression. With IPB differential compression is carried out by predicting the content of future frames, with reference to both previously captured frames and subsequent frames. Like the IPP compression method used in previous EOS DSLRs, some data is stored in a Group Of Pictures (GOP), meaning that frame-by-frame editing will result in lower image quality. When using IPB editing video in-camera to trim clips can only be done in one-second increments.

The second method of compression is designed for users working in high-end editing systems or those looking for the very highest quality. This compression is called ALL-I. ALL-I stands for ‘Intra-coded Frame' and it differs from IPB and IPP because all frames captured are treated as Intra-frames or key frames. Although each frame is still compressed, there is no further compression as each frame is seen as an individual image.

When filming with ALL-I, file sizes will be around three times larger than with IPB, and it is easier to edit to an individual frame without degrading the image quality. Despite the extra file size, ALL-I compressed footage actually requires less computer processing power than IPB or IPP and consequently will playback more smoothly on lower specification computers. This is because there is no rendering needed to extrapolate data from the GOPs used in IPP and IPB.

Movie clip size and lengths

The next big change in HD movie shooting is the ability to record files longer than 4GB and hence the removal of the 12 minute HD Movie clip limit. For legal reasons the maximum total clip length when shooting HD is now 29 minutes and 59 seconds. This change has been brought about by the EOS-1D X's ability to automatically start new files. Once the 4GB limit is reached, the camera simply starts creating a new file without the movie recording being stopped. On the memory card you will then find several 4GB files that when played back consecutively will give a complete run of up to the 29 minute 59 seconds limit. Playing back the individual files on the camera cannot be completed as one complete run either. Each 4GB file has to be played back individually. So that you know when a new 4GB file is going to be created, the recording time or the timecode displayed on the movie-shooting screen will flash for around 30 seconds before the file size reaches 4GB.

The EICS unit in the EOS-1D X has been improved over previous units – it now includes Ultrasonic Wave Motion Cleaning to roll dust particles down the filters in front of the CMOS sensor.


Much requested by professional users, the EOS-1D X now features a timecode ability following the standard of Hour:Minute:Second:Frame as defined by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE). The frame count runs from 00 to 29 frames, so if, for example, you are filming at 30fps frames are counted to 29 and 1 second is added to the 30th frame to return the counter to 00.

The timecode can be set in one of four ways. The default setting is Count Up. Within Count Up, there is the option of either Rec. Run or Free Run. With Rec. Run, the timecode will only advance while a movie is being recorded. It is useful when filming with a single camera as it helps to organise the clips into chronological order. In Rec. Run, the timecode will continue even if the memory card is replaced with a new one. Since the total shooting time is recorded, the count will not be reset even if a movie file is deleted or the memory card is formatted.

In Free Run, the timecode will continue to count even when no movie file is being recorded. This is useful when filming with several cameras. By using the time synchronisation feature of the EOS-1D X, several cameras can be set to the same time so that all the files captured have the same starting point in the timecode. When editing footage together, the clips can then be arranged chronologically.

Option 2 within the timecode settings is ‘Start time setting'. Here you have the option of defining the starting timecode in HH:MM:SS:FF using the manual input setting option. You can also reset the timecode to 00:00:00:00 using reset, or you can set the timecode to the current camera time using the HH:MM:SS fields.

The third option is Movie Rec. Count with the options of Rec. Time and Time Code. In Rec. Time, the elapsed time after the start of movie shooting will be displayed on the rear LCD panel as the movie is being recorded. With Time Code, the timecode will be displayed while the movie is recorded.

The final option is ‘Movie play count'. The two options within this setting are Play Time and Time Code and they determine what is displayed while the movie is played back on the camera. In Play Time, the elapsed time after the start of shooting will be shown on the rear LCD panel during playback. With the Time Code setting, the associated timecode will be shown during playback.

Audio control

The next advance for movie recording concerns the EOS-1D X's audio recording features. The camera still features an internal microphone that captures 16bit mono sound at 48KHz as well as a 3.5mm stereo input jack that also records at 48KHz. However, the EOS-1D X also features manual audio level control. While this is also found on the EOS 5D Mark II and EOS 60D, the EOS-1D X takes the control a step further by displaying a live audio level meter on the rear screen during filming and the ability to adjust the audio recording level during filming.

To avoid the potential issue of introducing click sounds to the audio recording by adjusting the audio level, the adjustments are made using the Silent Control Function located inside the Quick Control Dial. This capacitive touch-pad can also be used to adjust other settings silently during film recording, including shutter speed, aperture, ISO and exposure compensation.

Drop frames

When filming at 30fps or 60fps, the actual frame rate is not a whole number, but 29.97fps and 59.94fps respectively. By using the drop frame menu setting, you can select whether to count the number of frames recorded as if you were filming at a round figure of 30 or 60fps, or whether you want to count but compensate for the difference in the actual number of frames and the counted number of frames.

For example, if you were filming for 10 minutes at 29.97fps, the number of frames recorded would be 17,982. However, if the count is done as 30fps, then the frame count would be recorded as 18,000 frames. This could introduce errors when you compare the playback time and the timecode in HH:MM:SS:FF. The shorter your video clip, the less important this difference becomes.

For longer video clips this difference can become significant and, in that instance, you should set Drop frame to enable. In this case, the frame count will drop two frames every minute so the number of frames counted is the same as the actual number of frames. This doesn't mean that two frames will actually be dropped, simply that the counter will drop two frames from its total. This two-frame counter drop will happen for every minute from one to nine minutes. For the tenth minute, the counter will treat the minute as if there were 1800 frames in the minute (rather than the 1798 there actually are) — in other words it will not drop two frames from the counter for that minute. In this way, the actual frames recorded and the frame counter will match exactly every tenth minute, so the playback time and timecode will match exactly.


With previous camera models, copying .MOV files shot on an EOS DSLR back onto a memory card would not allow the files to be played back on the camera without the .THM thumbnail files being present as well. This has been overcome in the EOS-1D X because the metadata is now written directly into the .MOV file, allowing the camera to decode the file and play it back without the .THM file being included.


Since the EOS 400D in 2006, all Canon EOS DSLR cameras have featured an integrated sensor cleaning system to help to reduce, repel and remove dust from your images. The EOS-1D X features a similar system but one that's been modified to be more effective, not only against the larger dust particles but also against the smaller and lighter particles that become visible as you stop down the aperture.

The layout of the back of the EOS-1D X. Note that button configurations on the top right and bottom right allow for the same control options — dual Multi-controller buttons, dual AF start buttons, dual AE lock buttons and dual AF point selection buttons — when shooting holding the camera either horizontally or vertically.

In previous iterations of the system, the filters in front of the CMOS sensor (where dust actually settles) were vibrated using ultrasound to shake off the dust particles. Instead of shaking dust particles off, the system in the EOS-1D X makes use of a carrier wave vibration that rolls dust particles down the filters. The system is called Ultrasonic Wave Motion Cleaning (UWMC). The advantage of the carrier wave is that instead of the risk of scattering dust particles around, they are transported to the capture surface under control, and smaller dust particles can be removed more easily. The filters in front of the CMOS sensor also feature an anti-dust Fluorine coating that improves performance of the carrier wave with stickier or damp dust particles.


Continuing the long line of EOS camera design, the EOS-1D X shows a strong family resemblance to previous models in the range and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used any EOS DSLR camera in the past.

In line with previous EOS-1 series cameras, the EOS-1D X is designed for continued professional use in harsh environments. It features the same dust and drip-proof construction as the EOS-1D Mark IV, using a total of 76 seals around buttons and body joints to help keep water and dust out of the internals. When combined with Canon L-series EF lenses and EX Mark II series Speedlite flashguns, the weather sealing is maintained with rubber gaskets around the joining points. Combined with the Magnesium alloy body shell and internal structure, the camera is rigid and rugged and ready for heavy-duty professional use.

Enhanced battery

For enhanced power performance, the LP-E4 battery has been redesigned and is named as the LP-E4N. The inside of the battery now uses a larger number of smaller cells and so the battery capacity has increased from 2300mAh to 2450mAh. Because many people will have a collection of LP-E4 batteries from their previous EOS-1 series cameras, they have been made both forwards and backwards compatible, so an LP-E4N can be used in an EOS-1D Mark IV and an LP-E4 can be used in an EOS-1D X.

There is also a new charger to go along with the new LP-E4N and this is the only charger than should be used with the new battery. If an LP-E4N is charged in an LC-E4 charger you will not fully charge the battery; instead it will only reach around 90% charge so your capacity is reduced and it will not meet new safety regulations. However, an LP-E4 can be charged in the new battery charger with no problems.

The LC-E4N battery charger for the new LP-E4N battery. This is the only charger that should be used to charge Canon LP-E4N batteries.


The viewfinder features another new development for the EOS-1 series. While the viewfinder optics are almost identical to those in the EOS-1Ds Mark III, with the same 100% coverage, 0.76x magnification (higher than the 0.71x on the EOS 5D Mark II) and eye-point, the new development is the inclusion of a translucent liquid crystal display (LCD) like that found in the EOS 7D.

The translucent LCD allows the camera to display more essential information within the viewfinder, including the 61 AF points, Zone, Spot or Expansion AF points and a grid when required. With the camera turned off the display will appear milky due to light scattering, but once the camera is powered on the display becomes clear. To avoid the screen looking cluttered, it is possible to choose the information the LCD displays, or even to have it show none at all.

Compared to the viewfinder found the EOS 7D, the one found in the EOS-1D X has been designed for usage in harsher environments and it will function substantially better in temperatures below 0°C. Also, the power consumption of the LCD screen is minimal so there is no significant effect on battery life.

Because the translucent LCD is unable to produce light the viewfinder features red LEDs to light the entire LCD in low light conditions. In the default setting, the red LEDs will light automatically in low light, however this can be set to ‘always on' or ‘always off' by using the Custom Functions.

Thanks to firmware Version 1.1.1 (released in October 2012) for the EOS-1D X viewfinder information (such as the AF frames, grid etc.) can be displayed in red during autofocusing and AI Servo AF. Thus when you’re shooting in dark environments during AI Servo AF the AF points can be easily confirmed. Photographers should note that during AI Servo AF the viewfinder will be lit intermittently, not continuously.

Camera controls

The EOS-1 series cameras have always been designed to be easy to use in all conditions, even when wearing gloves, and the EOS-1D X is no exception. The push buttons allow for improved weather sealing, compared to dials, and they are easier to operate quickly. They are also less easily knocked during use. Like the EOS 7D, the EOS-1D X features the ability to modify the control layout to suit your needs using the Custom Controls function. This allows you to map the function to each button on the camera and change what the Main Dial, Quick Control Dial and Multi-controller adjust during use.

To enable silent adjustment of various settings during movie recording, the EOS-1D X also features a new Silent Control Function. This is a capacitive touch-pad that doesn't click when used and is located within the Quick Control Dial on the rear of the camera.

The dual Multi-function 2 and Depth-of-field preview buttons on the front of the camera. The buttons towards the bottom of the camera are for when the EOS-1D X is being gripped and operated vertically.

The EOS-1D X also has three Multi-function (M.Fn) buttons, two located on the front near the depth-of-field preview button (of which there are also two) and one on the top panel where the FEL button was located on the EOS-1D Mark IV. The buttons on the front panel are located so that there is one for vertical shooting and one for horizontal shooting.

Within the camera's menu screen there is an option to use the new Multi-function lock. The options are for the Main Dial, Quick Control Dial or Multi-controller. By turning the ON/OFF switch to LOCK the Multi-function lock will be enabled, meaning you'll be unable to accidentally adjust the settings on whichever dial you apply the lock to. As part of the Custom Control settings different functions can be applied to the M.Fn buttons. These include FEL, AE Lock, One-touch image quality settings, Dual-Axis electronic level activation, instant movie recording and C-Mode access.

A new Quick Control button located on the rear of the camera brings the EOS-1D X in line with other models in the EOS range. Pressing the button will bring up the Quick Control Screen where camera settings can be accessed and adjusted quickly and easily without having to enter the camera menu or look at the top LCD panel.

Custom Shooting Modes

Like other models in the EOS range, the EOS-1D X also features Custom Shooting Mode options. There are 3 C-Modes — C1, C2 and C3 — and they allow you to store regularly used settings for quick recall. However, compared to previous iterations found in other models within the range, if you make a change to the settings you have recalled while shooting, the stored C-Mode settings will be updated automatically. This avoids your settings being reset to the stored settings if the camera is left for a short while and goes to sleep.

Clear View LCD II

The EOS-1D X now features an enlarged Clear View LCD II rear screen. Compared to the EOS-1D Mark IV, the screen size has been increased from 3in to 3.2in (8.11cm) and the resolution has been increased from 920,000 to 1.04million dots. The construction is the same as the unit on the EOS-1D Mark IV, with no gap between the protective glass cover and the LCD unit. With no gap, there is no air-glass interface, so refraction and reflection is reduced. The surface of the glass cover also features the same anti-reflective coating.

Dual-Axis Electronic Level

First seen on the EOS 7D, the EOS-1D X now features a Dual-Axis Electronic Level that can display an alignment level, for both pitch and roll, on the rear LCD screen and within the viewfinder. This function is great for landscape and architectural photographers who need to ensure the camera is level to avoid sloping horizons or poor alignment of the camera with the subject. It is also useful in low light shooting, where it can be hard to see reference points through the viewfinder.

On the rear LCD screen, the level can display 360° of roll and +/-10° of pitch in 1° increments. When in Live View Mode a smaller display is overlaid on top of the image. The electronic level is accurate to +/-1° at up to +/-10°. Between +/-10° and +/-45° the accuracy is +/-3°.

Status log

Because electronics never behave perfectly, the EOS digital cameras feature a series of error codes that can inform you, or a service technician, if there is a fault within the camera and what the fault may be. However, these faults can be transitory and hard to replicate; making the job of the service technician harder.

The EOS-1D X alleviates this problem by featuring a status log that keeps track of any error that may occur and when it happened. This makes it easier for a technician to diagnose any issues. With the status log, there is also a counter that keeps track of the number of shutter release cycles, measured in ‘000's, so it is easy to see how much a camera has been used. However, with a shutter durability that has been increased from 300,000 frames on the EOS-1D Mark IV to 400,000 frames on the EOS-1D X it's unlikely that many photographers will exceed the expected shutter life of the camera.

LAN Port

In a first for an EOS DSLR camera, the EOS-1D X features a built-in RJ-45 connector for cabling directly to a LAN network. This is similar to the RJ-45 connector found on the WFT-E2 II for the EOS-1D Mark IV, however it is a Gigabit Ethernet port allowing higher speed data transfer.

With the LAN port, it is possible to carry out the same image transfer and camera control operations that are also available using the WFT unit. The five features of the wired LAN connection are: FTP Transfer, EOS Utility, WFT Server, Media Server and Time Sync.

The WFT-E6 Wireless File Transmitter unit offers advantages such as 802.11a/b/g and n compatibility, DLNA compliance, FTP, EOS Utility and WFT Server shooting, as well as Linked Shooting for remote shutter triggering of other WiFi-enabled EOS cameras.

In FTP server, images can be uploaded directly to an FTP server on a network, for example to a picture desk. With EOS Utility mode, the camera can be remotely controlled to use Live View, adjust settings and focus, capture images and download them directly to a computer. It is the same as having a USB cable connection to the camera. The WFT Server functions allow you to control and browse the camera directly from a web browser from anywhere in the world. The Media Server functions allow you to connect the camera to a DLNA compatible device, like HD televisions and game consoles, and so playback images and movies from the camera.

The final function is totally new to the EOS range. With a direct LAN cable, or using the new WFT-E6 WiFi unit, you can synchronise to time settings of several EOS-1D X cameras. This Multi Camera Time Sync Function is of great benefit if you are shooting an event with several cameras as it allows you to easily put your images into a timeline after the event. Equally, if you work with several other photographers to cover an event you can easily timeline the event afterwards to ensure that the story is told in chronological order.

Custom Functions

Unfortunately it is not possible to have a camera built specifically for you. However, the Custom Functions (C.Fns) found within EOS digital cameras give you the next best thing as they allow you to modify the way that the camera functions to fit exactly what you're shooting, or how you like to interact with your camera.

The majority of the Custom Functions within the EOS-1D X are the same as those found in the EOS-1D Mark IV, however the total has now increased to 31 and the arrangement within the menu is different. To make navigation easier, the Custom Functions are now divided into six sections:

C.Fn 1 — Exposure
C.Fn 2 — Exposure
C.Fn 3 — Drive
C.Fn 4 — Display/Operation
C.Fn 5 — Operation
C.Fn 6 — Others

Along with the new options for Custom Control and Custom Shooting Modes (explained earlier in this article) other new functions include the ability to choose which screen the active card and image size setting (Rec. card, image size setting) is selected from, and a new addition to the Protect Button function allows you to apply ratings to images. The audio memo recording quality can also be modified to suit your workflow. The default setting is 48KHz but for some this produces files that are too large. If this is the case, the sampling frequency can be reduced to 8KHz for a smaller file size.

As with the EOS-1D Mark IV, the EOS-1D X allows you to reduce the eight shooting modes (M, Tv, Av, P, Bulb, C1, C2 and C3) available to speed up operation of the camera. It also adds the ability to reduce the number of drive modes and metering modes available. With seven options available within the drive mode settings (Single, High Speed, Low Speed, Self-timer 10sec, self-timer 2sec, Single Silent, and 14fps super High Speed) restricting those that can be set will allow you to change between only the settings you use.

The GP-E1 GPS unit mounts to the EOS-1D X in the same way as the WFT-E6 unit, so both cannot be used at the same time. It features an electronic compass and GPS signal receiver so photographers can geotag images with location data. This data will be stored in the location field within the EXIF data of each image.  

WiFi & GPS accessories

There are two new accessories introduced specifically for the EOS-1D X DSLR — they are the WFT-6 WiFi unit, and the GP-E1 GPS unit.

The WiFi unit functions in the same way as previous models (like the WFT-E2) but because the camera body has an RJ-45 LAN connection, this isn't included in the WFT unit, so it is now smaller. There are two major additions to the WFT-E6. The first is a Bluetooth module. This is built-in to the unit and allows it to communicate directly with Bluetooth GPS devices to provide the ability to geotag your images in the EXIF data while shooting. The second is 802.11n compatibility for higher speed transfer rates and to ensure it makes full use of the latest generation of WiFi routers and access points. 

The GP-E1 GPS unit mounts to the camera in the same way as the WFT unit and is the same size and shape, so both cannot be used at the same time. It features an electronic compass and GPS signal receiver and will allow you to geotag your images with location data. This data will be stored in the location field within the EXIF data of each image.