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Canon EOS-1D X – “the film-maker’s DSLR”

Canon has announced its next generation DSLR, the EOS-1D X, which is positioned as "the film-maker’s DSLR" and addresses most of the main problems video users have with its 5D Mark II and 7D cameras.

HD DSLRs have been hugely popular, partly because of their low cost, but also because of the creative possibilities of the large sensor and shallow depth of field. Now Canon has announced its next generation DSLR, the EOS-1D X, which is positioned as “the film-maker’s DSLR” and addresses most of the main problems video users have with its 5D Mark II and 7D cameras, writes David Fox.

It will allow users to record full HD movies from its full-frame 24x36mm CMOS sensor with a full range of manual settings to control exposure, focus and frame rate – 1920×1080 at 30 (29.97), 25 and 24 (23.976) frames per second, or 1280×720 at 60 (59.94) and 50fps, plus SD video in PAL or NTSC.

Sound levels can be displayed on the 3.2-inch 1.04million-dot LCD screen and adjusted during a take. It also has SMPTE Timecode (Rec. Run and Free Run), so you can synch it with other cameras or audio recorders.

It will use a new H.264-based intra frame (ALL-i) video codec to maintain higher video quality (and to be more edit friendly), limiting compression to retain more information for post-production – although it appears that it is still 8-bit video (.MOV files). Canon hasn’t yet revealed what bitrate it will use, but anything less than the 50Mbps required by most broadcasters for HD (and offered by Canon’s XF range of video cameras) would be a disappointment (and the only, unconfirmed, reports there are about the bitrate are that it will record six minutes on a 16GB card, which is about 44Mbps). There is also an interframe IPB long-GoP compression option.

Dual Digic 5+ processors

It has dual Digic 5+ processors that work to reduce moiré artefacts, rolling shutter effects and chromatic aberration. There is no line skipping, which will also help deliver a cleaner picture. The new Digic 5+ processor is 17x faster than the Digic 4.

The camera also offers longer recording, automatically creating a new file once the 4GB file limit has been reached, which allows it to record for up to almost 30 minutes at a time (up from about 12 minutes before the 4GB limit kicked in).

The new 29 minutes 59 seconds limit is due to EU levies on video recorders, which would result in about a 30% price increase if it recorded for 30 minutes or longer. It has two Compact Flash card slots for recording.

The sensor has much improved light gathering capabilities and wider dynamic range (the individual pixels are 0.55 microns larger than those on the 5DMkII’s sensor, with gapless microlenses for enhanced light gathering efficiency, higher sensitivity and less noise at the pixel level).

The ISO range for movie shooting now runs from ISO 100 to 51,200 (for stills it can be expanded to go from 50 to 204,800).

There is also a dedicated Digic 4 processor for the metering system, which also handles face detection and colour to ensure correct exposure levels and improved auto-focus tracking, using a redesigned 61-point focusing system.

It has a Gigabit Ethernet port, which could mean it can download video remotely and enhance its remote control capabilities, but exact details of what this might enable for video weren’t revealed.

The EOS-1D X is also Canon’s top-end stills camera, replacing both the 1Ds Mark III and 1D Mark 4, and shooting 18.1-megapixel images at up to 14 frames per second. It will cost about $6,800 when it ships in March 2012.

EOS milestone

Canon has produced its 50-millionth EOS-series SLR camera in September (having sold 10 million EOS cameras in just 16 months), and expects to have manufactured 70 million of its EF lenses by the end of October (producing 10 million in nine months) – it started manufacturing both ranges of cameras and lenses in 1987.