In the battle for best pro digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, Canon wins. Its top-of-the-line EOS-1D X shoots faster -- and better in nearly dark environments -- than its archrival, the Nikon D4 (*Est. $6,000 body only). "If I had to choose just one camera to use for all types of photography, this would be it," says Mat Gallagher at Amateur Photographer.
Some landscape and portrait photographers may prefer the laser-sharp detail of the 36-megapixel Nikon D800 (*Est. $3,000 body only). "If speed isn't your game, $6,800 body only looks mighty expensive compared to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III (*Est. $3,455 body only), says TJ Donegan at DigitalCameraInfo.com. Still, "Canon has succeeded in creating a jack-of-all-trades professional DSLR" with the 1D X, he writes. "Whether you shoot stills or video, studio models or wildlife, the Canon 1D X has features to make your job easier -- and it produces fantastic images, too."
"It's easy to feel at home when shooting with the 1D X." This is a big, heavy camera -- about 3 pounds plus battery and lens -- but testers enjoy shooting with it. Hefty grips on the bottom and side feel comfortable whether you shoot vertical or horizontal, and "the buttons and dials are all within easy reach," says Angela Nicholson at TechRadar.com.
A few new controls "make the experience much sweeter," adds Donegan. There's a button for pretty much everything: "Once set up properly, the camera requires very few trips back into the menu, as nearly all the control required is right at your fingertips." Testers particularly like the two joystick controllers -- one positioned just right for landscape orientation, and one for portrait -- that make it easyier to navigate the menu and change autofocus points no matter which way you turn the camera.
The viewfinder shows 100 percent of the scene, and a big 3.2-inch LCD screen also helps compose shots accurately. You get two types of remote control, wired and infrared, and a fast Ethernet port provides lots of options for transferring photos and videos quickly, which "should vastly improve workflow," Donegan says. "In the end the 1D X does the very complicated things easily, and the simple everyday things in a no-nonsense manner that is rivaled only by the Nikon D4. It's easy to feel at home when shooting with the 1D X."
"The most impressive camera I've seen since I went digital." For news, sports and action photography, the Canon EOS-1D X is unbeatable, experts say. "This is without a doubt the most impressive camera I've seen since I went digital," says Scott Bourne at Imaging-Resource.com. It's the fastest shooter, the quickest to autofocus, and the finest in low light.
First, speed: For shooting sports, the 1D X "simply has no equal," Bourne says. Pro reviewers took the 1D X to the 2012 Summer Olympics and came back raving about it. It shoots faster than the Nikon D4 at a searing 14 frames per second (fps).
Next, autofocus: It's quick and sure, thanks to its own separate processor and 61 autofocus points blanketing the frame. "The autofocus is the best you can buy in this format," Bourne says. And it's super-customizable; just check out Canon's downloadable 47-page autofocus guide to see what you can do, says Amateur Photographer's Gallagher. "The autofocus system is without doubt the most fascinating part of this camera," he writes.
Finally, low light: The Canon's 18.1-megapixel full-frame sensor delivers "amazing photos even at ISO 51,200," says Donegan from DigitalCameraInfo.com. TechRadar.com's Nicholson likewise gets a perfectly usable 11-by-17 shot at the same ISO. Even at the Canon's upper limit of ISO 204,800, Gallagher shoots a darkened street lined with cars that looks pretty clear at about 4 inches onscreen. "Reassuring," he says, "especially when it is the difference between getting a photo or not."
HD video "looks amazing," Bourne says. There's contrast-detect autofocus, an external mic jack and timecode options, all "professional-quality video features needed in an industry that's increasingly focused on multimedia capability," Donegan says. The only things missing are uncompressed HDMI output and a headphone jack for monitoring audio as you record, both features the Nikon D4 has.
Battery life is rated at 1,120 shots per charge. "I spent an entire day shooting the camera and it never ran out of juice," reports Bourne.
Built to survive years of heavy use. Canon built the EOS-1D X just as rugged as the 1D Mark IV before it. The skeleton and shell are both magnesium and built to withstand heavy use, with 76 weatherproof seals.
"If you watched the women's marathon during the Olympics you may remember the torrential rain that came down at the start. We were using the Canon EOS-1D X at the time, and it survived the experience thanks to its weather sealing," says Nicholson from TechRadar.com. Her colleague James Rivington adds, "This is a camera that you can expect to survive several years of heavy use."
Canon redesigned the autofocus system, too, "to withstand more extreme high and low temperatures and high humidity than previously," says DigitalCameraInfo.com's Donegan. The shutter is designed to last for 400,000 cycles, and the Nikon D4 is built similarly tough.
"Mind-boggling" features. "If there's a feature you're looking for, it's most likely here on this camera," says Bourne from Imaging-Resource.com. Like other reviewers, he doesn't even attempt to cover them all -- "It's a deep well of features and benefits that won't fit into one simple review" -- but he does have his favorites among the "mind-boggling" array.
"First and foremost, can we give a big 'Amen' to Canon and the camera gods for including two CF card slots?" Bourne writes. "There are no fancy new unsupported formats to worry about, no slow SD cards to fuss with. Just two normal, red-blooded, easy-to-use CF card slots that are UDMA 7 compatible. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Canon."
The 1D X is actually the only new DSLR on the market with two Compact Flash (CF) slots. Plenty of cheaper cameras have dual Secure Digital (SD) slots, or one SD and one CF, but SD is usually slower. Bourne doesn't name names, but Nikon put the "fancy new" XQD card slot on its new D4 in addition to a CF slot. Some experts like that: XQD is faster, and TechRadar.com says it makes the Nikon "more future-proof" than the Canon.
A couple of missing features that TechRadar.com's Nicholson says she would have liked include in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing and a rating button; the camera now requires you to go to the menu to rate photos. In addition, there's no built-in Wi-Fi; you have to buy a separate $600 module. Otherwise, "The 1D X leaves users wanting for almost nothing," says Gallagher from Amateur Photographer.
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1. Amateur Photographer
Review Credibility: Excellent After a thorough test, the Canon EOS-1D X earns a high score of 90 out of 100, just slightly better than the Nikon D4's 89-point score. "If I had to choose just one camera to use for all types of photography, this would be it," Gallagher writes.
Review: Canon EOS 1D X Review, Mat Gallagher, June 7, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good TechRadar.com also likes the Canon EOS-1D X slightly better than the Nikon D4, giving them 4.5 stars out of 5 and 4 stars out of 5, respectively. Nicholson says the Canon's strong autofocus even in very dim light, clean noise control and tough, weatherproof build make it ideal for pro photojournalists. This site also publishes a separate head-to-head comparison of the two rival cameras.
Review: Canon 1DX Review, Angela Nicholson, Angela Nicholson
Review Credibility: Very Good DigitalCameraInfo.com recommends both the Canon EOS-1D X and Nikon D4 equally highly, but Donegan says the Canon "should become the go-to body" for all news, sports and wildlife photographers who haven't already bought a Nikon D4, which came out a few months ahead of the Canon. This website also publishes a separate head-to-head comparison of the two cameras.
Review: Canon EOS 1D X, TJ Donegan, Sept. 14, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good Editors here haven't yet tested the Canon EOS-1D X, but Bourne -- founder of the online photography magazine Photofocus.com -- does, taking striking sample shots in both normal light and extremely low light. He concludes that for shooting sports, "it simply has no equal."
Review: Canon EOS-1D X, Scott Bourne, Shawn Barnett and Mike Tomkins, Oct. 18, 2011
Review Credibility: Fair Just more than a dozen owners post comments about this new camera so far, but they're mostly crazy about it. A couple of them report autofocus bugs, but Canon had just updated the autofocus firmware as of this report. Some reviews are extraordinarily lengthy and thorough, written by professional wedding photographers, pro sports photographers and more.
Review: Canon EOS-1D X 18.1MP Full Frame CMOS Digital SLR Camera, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of November 2012