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Canon let everyone know this week that it really does have a new camera coming. Unfortunately, it’s not actually going to be available until spring of next year.

It’s probably a good thing because most photographers will have to pinch some pennies to be able to afford this new monster. With a predicted retail price of $6,800 it’s not for everyone.

The new flagship Canon is an 18.1 megapixel, full-frame DSLR that features a 61-point autofocus system, very high ISO range, 12 frames per second RAW capture and a new set of DIGIC 5+ processors. It appears to be more revolutionary than evolutionary since the camera offers many new features and functions. It’s got a heavy movie component and offers a little something for everyone at the pro level.

Let’s talk about megapixels -

Many of the initial comments I heard from fellow photographers included concerns that Canon was still playing in the megapixel wars by including an 18.1 MP sensor. The laws of physics dictate that the more pixels you cram onto a sensor, the more noise you’ll create in your image. There are ways around this if you have the right back-end, in-camera processing. Canon says that’s where their new DIGIC processors come in. They claim a full two-stop increase in low-light performance. It should be noted this is a SMALLER megapixel count than they used on the 1DS MK III and a LARGER sensor than they used on the 1D MK V. It’s a very interesting compromise and it just may work.

The big question is simply – is it really ALL THAT? Unfortunately, we won’t know for at least six months. I plan to reserve judgment until I actually see production versions of the camera in action. I own both Canon and Nikon DSLRs. In my experience, Canon has always been a stop or two behind the Nikons when it comes to low-light performance because Nikon chooses to use bigger pixels. Their 12 MP cameras have served me well and I’m not sure I need 18 MP. We’ll find out.

Beyond the sensor, here are some of the other highlights…

* The new 61-point AF system – 41 of those being cross-type sensors
* 100% viewfinder coverage
* Newly improved RGB metering with its own DIGIC 4 processor
* New 3.2″ LCD screen
* Full HD mob quality with new auto creation of movie files once the 4GB limit has been reached – 29-minute 59 seconds movie clip length
* Timecode for HD movie recording
* Manual audio level control with live meters and adjustability during recording
* Touch sensitive controls for use during movie recording
* Dual CF card slots
* Improved internal cleaning system
* Built-in Gigabit Ethernet port
* New intelligent tracking and face recognition systems
* 400,000 cycle shutter
* New buttons and better ergonomics

I think the most important part of this announcement is the fact that Canon is replacing two cameras with this one. Canon says the new EOS-1D X replaces both the EOS-1Ds Mark III and EOS-1D Mark IV models. This signals to me that Canon, and perhaps the industry sees that it’s time to merge the capabilities of the high-end sports, wedding and photo journalism cameras. They are taking a genuine multimedia approach here that is worth noting.

The other big takeaways here are that Canon sport shooters will no longer have the 1.3 crop factor to give them longer effective focal lengths with their big lenses. That will require new thinking on their part. The other thing to note is that this is JUST an announcement. It’s not shipping. A lot can happen in six months. Canon clearly is nervous about the fact that Nikon is coming out with a new high-end camera THIS YEAR. Canon doesn’t want loyal customers to get nervous and jump ship, so they are hoping (as I predicted last week) to hold them in place with this announcement. Will it work?

If Nikon announces a new high-end camera with similar capabilities, shipping before Christmas, with a lower price point, I don’t think Canon’s promise will hold 100% of their customers. If Nikon prices their camera similarly, most Canon shooters will wait. But if Canon doesn’t make good on the March 2012 ship date, they could be in real trouble. Some may be concerned that this is similar to “vaporware.” Canon claims to be building production facilities capable of churning out 7000 of these cameras a month. I think that’s optimistic. In fact, I think the whole thing is optimistic. But I am very hopeful it works out. This camera could – for professionals – be a really valuable tool, especially for those who shoot video or sports or who need large file sizes.

If the camera ships in March I will buy one – if for no other reason than to test. Oh – and yes – eventually I’ll buy one to give away!

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Join the conversation! 5 Comments

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