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Gear Review: Canon 1DX Mark II

Canon 1DX Mark II Gear Review

Hi friends! I'm back with my next camera review. I had promised more gear reviews and I've already managed to get my hands on one of my dream cameras - the Canon 1DX Mark II. Big thanks to my friends over at @canonaustralia who were kind enough to send me one to play with and review on my blog.

24-70mm f/4.0 . ISO100 . 1/50s .  f/8.0 

24-70mm f/4.0 . ISO100 . 1/50s .  f/8.0 

Down the coast, into the mountains, back to the city

The 1DX arrived at just the right time as I had two commercial shoots lined up which would see me travel down the coast, into the mountains and back into the city over a two week period. What better way to test the ultimate professional workhorse of a DSLR than on two actual commercial shoots?!

In those two weeks I got to test it in a variety of use cases: from coastal astrophotography, to mountain hikes as well as a night themed urban shoot for an apparel brand.

The Canon 1DX Mark II is by and large the most advanced & expensive camera I've ever used - so did it live up to the hype?!

The Specs

The build quality & design

Throw anything at the 1DX Mark II and it will eat it for lunch. If I had to compare the 1DX Mark II to something, I would compare it to a tank. Canon have always been known to build the most robust and reliable DSLRs on the market, and I feel the 1DX is definitely one of their best.

It's build quality and robustness just inspires confidence. If I were a war journalist, this is the camera I'd want with me. 

An example of it's thoughtful design in that respect is how the memory card slot & battery latch works. I shoot with a 5D Mark III so I'm pretty familiar with how Canon cameras work, however I couldn't figure out how to open these slots! I actually had to google "how to open memory card slot on 1DX Mark II" lol. Not embarrassing at all...

Turns out it uses a twist and lock mechanism (see photos above). It just goes to show the level of design and built in redundancy to make sure it never fails you in the field.

The square shape of the camera is a bit jarring and awkward at first, but I got over it pretty quickly. I also really like the dual oriented shutter button design (there are two shutter buttons). This is especially handy these days as I shoot a lot of portrait oriented photos for social media.
 

Dual Pixel Autofocus

I have used many types of cameras, from many brands and Canon's dual pixel autofocus technology is by far my favourite. It is super quick, deadly accurate and to me, is the future of camera autofocus technology. For stills, it means you can trust it to shoot at wide apertures and be confident that your photos are in focus.

For videos, it is a game changer. The ability to be able to tap-to-focus whilst in live view, on a DSLR is unbelievably useful. Forget manual focus pulling. It is kind of hard going back to a camera that doesn't have this autofocus technology.

14 fps bust mode with full tracking. If you follow my Instagram stories, you probably would have seen how crazy fast it goes - it almost sounds like a machine gun. It can handle 14 frames per second with full tracking in RAW! Live view shooting speed actually increases to 16 fps, which is baffling to me coming from the older generation of Canon DSLRs.
 

Touchscreen

Touchscreen technology on cameras is another game changer. It is just so intuitive, and given that even your grandmother can intuitively use a smartphone, touchscreens on cameras just makes sense!

Why it has taken camera companies this long to implement it is baffling to me, but I'm glad Canon are ahead of the curve. Navigating menus, tap-to-focus, pinching and zooming, photo & video playback are all possible with a touchscreen!

Astrophotography & touchscreens are a match made in heaven. No longer do you have to fumble in the dark to press buttons when you're trying to manual focus the stars! With a touchscreen you simply just tap the screen to magnify and zoom in on stars so you can get a crispy starscape!
 

ISO (low light) performance & Dynamic range

Lowlight (high ISO) shooting with the 1DX Mark II is such a pleasure. It handles ISO 6400 with ease, and even ISO 12800 can be easily salvaged with some light noise reduction in post. This is important to me because I hate shooting with tripods and avoid it whenever I can. I even managed to shoot an apparel campaign at night all handheld at ISO 6400. The images are clean and crisp (see above).

*in frame: @kattgao, @nutellasum, @lucys9@hotherside
 

Battery life

0N8A0141.jpg

Admittedly, I was a little worried when Canon only sent me one battery. The campaign I was on involved a road trip and a lot of mountainous hikes where I'd be in trouble if my one and only battery died. The campaign also involved shooting a lot of 4K video filming which is a challenge for any camera's battery.

I'm relieved to say that I never needed more than one battery per day.

Most days I'd only ever get through half of the battery. The days which involved heavier video work, I'd end the day with 1/4 battery remaining still. I think it'd be more likely that I'd run out of memory on the CFast cards (128GB) before the battery would deplete.

I'd recommend owning two batteries as this would be the most practical (These batteries are relatively expensive - $249.00). Of course you'd have to charge after each day but that's not too inconvenient. The standard charger that comes with the 1DX is also a dual slot charger which works out perfectly.
 

Video (4K@60fps & 1080@120fps)

The video quality is superb and there aren't many cameras out there that can shoot 4K @ 60FPS with an acceptable crop factor (1.4x). Paired with the amazing dual pixel autofocus system and the touchscreen, the only thing it is really missing is a flip screen. I wouldn't expect a flip screen on this kind of camera though as it would be too big a liability on a camera that is designed to be so robust.

That said, one of the biggest gripes of this camera is the outdated 4K codec (MJPEG). This codec is old and the files it outputs are impractically large. This might be fine if you're shooting an expensive feature film, but it is pretty impractical for any other use.

4K @ 60FPS generates approximately 5.7GB per minute of footage  / 171GB per 30 mins
4K @24FPS generates approximately 3.5GB per minute of footage / 105GB for 30 mins

Every night, I'd offload footage and it would take forever. I'd fall asleep multiple times waiting for it to finish offloading. As I was on a commercial shoot, it was crucial that I'd successfully offloaded and backed up my files each and every night.

This issue leads onto my next point:
 

Memory / Storage

Due to the large file sizes that the 1DX generates, it requires the new CFast memory cards to operate. These cards are great, and they definitely are the future of camera memory, but at this stage they are still quite expensive.

At the time of writing:
64GB costs $591.00
128GB costs $829.00
256GB costs $1249.00
512GB costs $1744.00

I had two 128GB CFast cards which was a good amount to last through a day of moderate shooting & filming. I'd probably recommend getting one 256GB card and a spare 128GB card to start as that would get you through most scenarios.

Another side effect of the file size beyond the two just mentioned, is that you'll need lots of hard drive storage to archive and backup your files. To give you an idea, after 5 days on the road shooting professionally, I racked up about 1.4TB of photos and footage. Imagine the amount of storage you'd require after a full year of shooting. Playback and editing these huge files also require a top of the line (expensive) computer.

Of course a logical solution to this is to be more selective about which video mode to shoot in - lower fps or maybe even 1080p. Given that we're headed towards a 4K future, I feel it is a bit unnecessary to have to constantly decide.
 

PRICE

Make no mistake, the 1DX Mark II is an expensive DSLR ($8,699.00) - and that's ok. You've reached for the top shelf camera so you should expect to pay it's worth. I genuinely believe that the price is justified with the DSLR. The quality and reliability it brings to your professional work or business is priceless and you will definitely make your money back in no time.
 

form factor

The form factor is probably one of my biggest issues with the camera. At no fault to the camera design itself, it is purely a clash with my use cases and lifestyle. It is just to big and heavy for my needs. I hiked with it on Mt. Kosciusko for two hours to the Blue Lake with the rest of my gear and it was just far too big and heavy. My back was wrecked by the time I got back to the hotel.

The Canon 1DX Mark II is a serious camera for a serious photographer. It's larger form factor dictates that If you're going to take it out with you, you better be sure you're going to use it. I thought I would either get over it or get used to it, but it still made me think twice every time I went to load my camera bag up.

It's weight and size will probably deter you from using it in a more casual sense - aka taking it to casual events to take photos of friends and food.

On the plus side, it will diffuse the old trope where clients refuse to take you seriously if you show up with anything smaller than DSLR. Something tells me that won't happen with the 1DX Mark II, heck, it'd even demand more respect amongst the other photographers on set.
 

Wishlist

There are a few small things missing from the 1DX Mark II and a lot of other Canon DSLRs that could be easily implemented through a simple firmware update. Please Canon, it is 2017. The future is now. Give us focus peaking and a built in intervalometer / time-lapse feature. 

the verdict

A serious camera for a serious photographer

It all comes down to the question - would I buy it? I'd say yes in a heart beat if I were in the financial position to do so. Unfortunately for me, it's still something that I'll have to work towards. It specs sheet is everything I'd want out of a camera, however it's form factor means I'd definitely need a secondary body - say a back up Canon 5D Mark IV on the side. Nevertheless it was such a pleasure shooting with such a beast camera, and yes, it did in fact live up to the hype.


TL;DR

CONS

  • Expensive (but worth it)
  • Large & heavy form factor
  • 4K codec (MJPEG) outputs very large files

PROS

  • Tough, robust, reliable build quality.
  • Amazing dual pixel autofocus system.
  • Touchscreen.
  • Great lowlight, high ISO performance
  • Crazy fast & accurate high speed burst mode (14fps)
  • Great quality video & 4K 60fps
  • Rad battery life.

 

Extra content (edited)

 

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Nike Month of Max x Demas Rusli BTS (video)

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Nike Month of Max x Demas Rusli BTS (video)

Hi friends! A few months back I helped @demasrusli shoot some BTS videos for his Instagram story. He was working with Nike on their Month of Max social campaign!

Each week, for four weeks, Nike would release a new shoe and Demas was commissioned to create a bunch of images and cinema graphs for each release. To accompany that content, Nike also wanted a 30 second Instagram story - behind the scenes of each shoot.

It was pretty fun creating these videos. At the end, I recut all the videos and combined them into one final / full cut (see above). Check it out and let me know what you think. You can also find more of my video work on my YouTube channel (/itchban - like comment subscribe :)

Keep up to date with my work on Instagram @itchban

 

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I'm heading to Japan for a month!

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I'm heading to Japan for a month!

A post shared by Kei Kinoshita (@spatialflow) on

Hi friends! I'm heading to Japan for a month in June. It's been a long time coming, a life time in fact. All the manga and anime I watched as a kid really got me fascinated with Japanese culture. It'll be my first time going to it should be dope! 

You can expect a ton of content from Japan. Our rough plans so far are Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Kyoto, Osaka & Hiroshima.

I already have all the visions on how my photos and videos will turn out so I hope I don't over-hype it in my own head lol. So far that I've already picked out a song to cut my Japan video to. The idea is to have two videos. Part 01 should be a fast paced, energy filled video to showcase that side of Japan, followed by a slower paced more peaceful video.
 


ATTENTION Brands & clients!

I'm currently looking to pick up some client work and sponsors for my Japan trip so if you're a brand and want some rad Japan content please hit me up via email: contact@itchban.com


Film Inspiration:

I've been scouring the Internet for Japan inspiration so here are some films that are pretty cool! Like always, make sure to follow me on my Instagram to keep up to date with all my latest work & adventures: @itchban
 

 

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What I shoot with: Gear Update (May 2017)

What I shoot with Gear Update @itchban

Hi friends! It's probably about time that I updated you all on my gear setup. I've changed a bit of my kit around since my last gear update. Hopefully this will answer some of your gear related questions.

To put any photographers kit into context, you need to understand what and how they shoot. There is no single kit that is right for everyone, but read on; I'll provide some running commentary about each item.

What & how I shoot:

If you've been following my previous gear blog posts, you'll notice that my set up has slightly shifted towards a more video friendly kit. Video is something I have been getting more involved with, and it is definitely more technical and gear intensive than a photography setup.

My shooting style is very much run-and-gun. I dislike using tripods and other equipment that I have to spend too long setting up because it slows down my process too much (maybe I'm just lazy). I like to shoot a lot of outdoor / nature type stuff so my kit needs to be relatively light weight and easy to pack.

*The kit pictured above is not my full kit (it changes depending on what I'm shooting & where I'm going). The kit above is what I brought on my road trip to film & shoot for the Mini Australia campaign.

mvp / Must-have items:

  • DJI Mavic Pro
  • Gorilla Pod, Ball head, Ulanzi Smartphone mount setup
  • Monopod w/ fluid head (awesome for video)
  • Palladium Boots
     

Cameras & Lenses

Notes: I recently loaned this Canon 1D Mark ii with the 24-70 f/4.0 for a gear review post. Stay tuned for that! This thing is a beast.

  • Canon 5D Mark iii (Main Camera)
    I very recently upgraded from the 6D. I decided to upgrade because I need better autofocus for my upcoming Japan trip. I plan to shoot more street photography there and the 6D's autofocus is horrible. I would have loved a 5D Mark IV but the $5000 price tag for body only still seems a bit ridiculous to me. I've also been experiment with Magic Lantern software to shoot RAW video - stay tuned for a blog post on that. 
  • Canon 16-35mm L f/2.8 Mark ii
    Very useful focal length. The mark ii is a little soft at 16mm f/2.8. Would definitely recommend the mark iii if you can afford it.
  • Canon 50mm f/1.8 iii
    The nifty-fifty. You can pick this lens up for about $160 new and the quality is pretty great! It also means you don't have to worry about it so much since it's relatively cheap.
  • Sigma 70-300mm
    This is a pretty cheap and nasty lens (you can pick one up for under $100 on eBay atm). Image quality is soft and pretty terrible - I'm only using it right now because I haven't invested in a proper telephoto lens. The focal length is pretty handy though, and the compression on it is awesome.
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art
    This lens is by far my sharpest lens. I highly recommend this lens, or any from the Sigma Art range. It is super quick at f/1.4 and the focal length is a great walk around photo lens. It is also plenty wide for a video lens too!
  • DJI Mavic Pro with 2 spare batteries & charging hub
    Probably my favourite gear purchase to date. Even when I'm not actually using it taking photos/video , it is fun to just fly around. It is so small there really is no excuse for you to not bring it with you everywhere you go. The only downside is the camera is not the best. The dynamic range, low light, and most the video capabilities are only barely passable. I would definitely recommend getting at least two spare batteries.
  • Sandmarc Filter pack for DJI Mavic Pro
    The filter pack includes a polariser, ND4, ND8, ND16. The polariser is great for cutting reflections in water - which is very apparent when flying high up in the air. The ND filters are great for getting that cinematic shutter speed for video (not really required for photo).
  • Pentax MX 35mm Film Camera
    Picked up another film camera recently and I love this one much more than the last. This one is an SLR style camera and that shutter clack feels so good.
  • Kodak Portra 400
    This film stock is probably one of the most used VSCOfilm filters on Instagram. 

Equipment & Accessories:

  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • Rode VideoMic Me
    Good quality sound is pretty crucial to any video. One annoying thing however, is that it uses a 3.5mm headphone jack (my iPhone 7 is missing this port). I have to carry around that annoying lightning adaptor - Rode mic please sort this out!
  • Incase iPhone 7 Plus Case & Incase Battery pack
    Especially love the Incase battery pack. It comes inbuilt with the lightning cable and the charging cable that tuck away neatly into the body of the battery pack. 
  • Zhiyun Smooth Q Smartphone Gimbal
    It is essentially a clone of the DJI Osmo, except with a larger battery (lasts 8 hours) and a stronger motor. There is a pretty big problem I've discovered though. It seems to conflict with the built in Image stabilisation of the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 7 & Plus models. This conflict causes micro jitters on the edges of your frame if you move around too much. It still works fine if your actions are relatively smooth.
  • Moment Wide lens & iPhone 7 Plus plate mount
    If you Instagram story / Snapchat a lot, this wide lens is pretty useful! Check my review on it here.
  • Gorilapod with ball head & Ulanzi Smartphone mount
    This setup is perfection. The DSLR grade gorilapod is sturdy enough to hold your smartphone in any situation. The ball head makes it easy to adjust the orientation of the phone and the Ulanzi smartphone mount is super strong, well built and sturdy.
  • Chrome Industries Niko Backpack
  • HOYA Variable ND filter
    Super essential for video! It lets you keep the shutter speed low so you can get nice depth of field / bokeh.
  • Manfrotto Lens UV protectors
    I only keep these UV protectors on my lenses to protect them from damage / the elements. I try to take them off when I can as they aren't too great for image quality.
  • Monopod with fluid head
    Super happy with this purchase. It definitely helps a lot with video to get steady shots - especially when shooting with longer focal lengths. Pans and camera movements are super smooth with the fluid head. It only costs $50 on eBay too!
  • Sandisk Extreme Pro CF / SD / Micro SD cards
    Sandisk cards are quality and quick. They haven't let me down to date, so I haven't really tried any other brand.
  • Tripod (eBay / China brand)
    Like I mentioned above - not really a fan of tripods. I will be switching this tripod out to a Manfrotto Befree series soon though.
  • Intervalometer
    Necessary if you're a Canon shooter as they've decided to not include a time-lapse feature in their most of their DSLR's. Why you do dis Canon???
  • Kathmandu Head Torch
  • DJI Mavic Pro car charger

Misc:

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I'm still alive! (Sorry for the absence)

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I'm still alive! (Sorry for the absence)

Friends! It's been a minute. I've been absent from the blog because I've been running around IRL taking photos and filming things. I promise I have more blog content coming in the next week. I'm working on some tings for you all.

The video above was a film I made for @miniaustralia for their Mini Countryman social campaign. You can find more info and pics on their blog post:

It was pretty fun making @chinocen run across N.S.W. lol. We drove from Sydney down the coast to Bermagui for two nights. We then drove inland through some crazy wind farms to Jindabyne where we hiked Mt Kosciusko to the Blue Lake. I think I can finally say I've explored my own state.

If you want to keep up to date on when there is new blog posts - follow me @itchban on Instagram and check my story. I'll be announcing blog posts there from now on. I'm working on a updated What I shoot with blog post for you all atm.

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