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Canon EOS-1D X Mark II brings performance to pros working with photos and videos

Canon’s new flagship DSLR, the EOS-1D X Mark II, is designed for professionals who require a field camera that can handle photography and videography. The full-frame camera uses a new 20.2-megapixel 35mm CMOS sensor and two Digic 6+ image processors, giving this camera a level of performance unseen in previous pro Canon cameras.

The weather-resistant EOS-1D X II, made out of magnesium alloy, is fast and powerful (Canon says it’s more weatherproof and better built than previous EOS DSLRs). Thanks to the image processors, it has a continuous shooting speed of up to 14 frames per second (fps), up to 170 RAW continuously; in Live View mode, the camera can achieve up to 16 fps. When shooting JPEGs, the EOS-1D X II can keep shooting continuously until it maxes out the memory card.

With an ISO range of 100-51,200, this DSLR isn’t about low-light photography like, say, the A7S II from Sony. But it can expand to 50, 102,400, 204,800, and 409,600 if you need it. As we’ve mentioned in our reviews of cameras capable of super-high ISOs, the resulting pictures aren’t really practical at the nosebleed levels; for good-looking low-light shots, we usually stay in the low digits anyway.

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“A first for the Canon EOS-1D series, this camera also features a 360,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor with enhanced precision and performance compared to its predecessor, improving facial recognition and tracking, as well as nature scenes,” Canon says. “Additionally, the advanced AE system can detect and compensate for flickering light sources such as sodium vapor lamps that are often used in gymnasiums and swimming pools. When enabled, this anti-flicker system automatically adjusts shutter release timing to help reduce disparities in exposure and color especially during continuous burst shooting.”

The autofocus system is Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF, but it has been enhanced with 61 points (up to 41 cross-type, depending on lens attached). Through the Intelligent Viewfinder II, the AF points light up red for improved visibility. Sensitivity has also been enhanced, down to -3 EV. All 61 points support lenses with apertures of up to f/8 – an EOS first. This is ideal for nature and wildlife photographers who utilize long-zoom lenses.

“Having f/8 capability on all 61 AF points is a tremendous benefit to wildlife photographers,” says Canon’s Explorer of Light photographer, Charles Glatzer, in a release. “In order to capture tight shots of animals without disturbing them, I frequently have to use very long lenses – sometimes with an extender attached, which further diminishes the aperture. The improved AF allows me to frame the shot exactly the way I envision it, without having to compromise.”

“The camera also features improved controls and more in-camera image quality enhancements than ever before, including a Digital Lens Optimizer function offering high quality aberration correction which can now be achieved without an external computer,” Canon says. “This feature makes it easier for professional photographers to deliver finished files to their clients, especially in situations when access to a personal computer is impractical or inconvenient.”

On the video side, the EOS-1D X II can capture video at 4K 60p or Full HD at up to 120p (for slo-mo). The 4K Frame Grab function lets you pull 8.8-megapixel still JPEGs from a 4K video frame (similar to the 4K Photo function touted by Panasonic). With the touchscreen LCD, the user can select any of the focus points simply by selecting the area on the screen. There are no built-in focus peaking or zebra functions, but that can be added via an external recorder, attached via clean HDMI signal.

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There’s no Wi-Fi, but the camera supports USB 3.0 for high-speed tethered data transfers, and an optional wireless transmitter. The EOS-1D X II does have built-in GPS for geotagging purposes, which Canon says is useful for wildlife photographers (for tracking their locations) and sports photographers (for syncing multiple cameras with accuracy). The GPS can also sync with the atomic clock for accurate timing. To accommodate the demanding nature of the camera, the battery life has been increased, although actual numbers haven’t been released yet. The EOS-1D X II supports two memory cards, one for fast CFast 2.0 (ideal for video) and another for standard CompactFlash.

The camera is scheduled to go on sale in April, and will cost $5,999. A Premium Kit, at $6,299, gets you a 64GB CFast card. There’s no lens kit option, but this isn’t that type of entry-level camera; the user will most likely be an existing Canon professional user or well-heeled enthusiast who has a collection of lenses, and is trading up. While the 20.2-megapixel sensor isn’t as high as the 50-megapixel variant in the 5DS and 5DS R, those DSLRs are for studio photography, whereas the EOS-1D X II is about speed and performance for photo and video.