I am speaking at NAB again this year and prior to my afternoon session I met up with the guys and gals from Canon to get a hands-on look at the new Canon 1DX. It is an impressive beast with the heft and girth of a pro camera and features that will make any sports, action or wildlife shooter drool.

It’s a hybrid of sorts – merging the best of Canon’s full frame technology with a sports camera. The full-frame 18.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor and all-new Dual DIGIC 5+ processors make for an impressive package.

I was working with one of a very few pre-production units. The tragedy in Japan last year has pushed back production and release dates on this camera until June, 2012. Even in pre-production clothes, the 1DX impresses.

Let’s start with the autofocus. It is essentially the same autofocus as you’ll find in the 5D MK III. Based on my tests of the MK III – that’s a good thing. But there’s more to the story. Unlike the MK III – the 1DX has an additional DIGIC IV processor dedicated strictly to helping the AF so it’s even faster – and more accurate. You also get face detection in live view video mode.

There’s also a separate DIGIC 4 processor for the metering system. All these additional processors mean speed – and lots of it.

The frame rate on the 1DX is variable from 11 to 14 FPS (Nikon D4 maxes out at 12 FPS.) That should be fast enough to get about any serious action shot you need.

I was only able to look at pics on the back of the camera but it’s clear that the new SMOS sensor offers a great combination of speed, detail and resolution. Color and clarity were great.

Speaking of the back of the camera the 3.2″ TFT LCD is bright and anti-reflective.

The 1DX also has impressive video features that will make the pro video people very happy. I won’t go into too much detail since I didn’t shoot any video but on paper, it’s all there.

Canon says “The new 18-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor utilizes large pixels – 1.25 microns larger than those in the EOS-1D Mark IV sensor and .55 microns larger than those in the EOS 5D Mark II sensor – together with gapless microlenses to achieve enhanced light gathering efficiency, higher sensitivity and less noise at the pixel level.”

What that means is that low-light performance on the 1DX is in a class by itself.

When you throw in goodies like multiple exposure mode, high speed mode, record connectivity and two CF card slots (Thanks Canon!) it all boggles the mind – as does the $6800 price.

It will be hard for anyone but pro photographers to justify this price point, but if the shipping cameras are as good as the prototype I played with – I guarantee you I’ll own one or two :)

I’ll have a review once the shipping product arrives on my door step.

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