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Canon’s New EOS-1 D X Mark II Brings Some Surprises

When Nikon showed off the D5 at CES last month, Canon devotees muttered, “Just wait!” Now the wait is over and Canon has announced their forthcoming flagship DSLR, the EOS-1 D X Mark II. While the blazing 14 FPS frame rate and shiny new autofocus technology will deservedly garner much of the attention over the next few days, there are a few things about the new beefy camera that are truly surprising to me. For the record, I have been a Canon EOS user for over 20 years and I have a battered old EOS-1 to prove it. I sold my EOS 5D Mark III and 7D Mark II last summer and picked up a Sony A7R Mark II, but I still own a stable of Canon L-series glass and I am not ready to say my Canon days are behind me.

Canon Finally Gets Touchy Feely

To me the biggest surprise on the 1DXM2 is the inclusion of a touch screen. Many of us have been screaming for years for the speed and convenience of touch-sensitive LCD screen. Consumer-level cameras have had them for some time, and we’ve all been spoiled by our iPhones, but professional-level cameras have sported “dumb” screens for reasons that elude logic.

Canon has finally relented and given us a screen that allows for touch-to-focus control (in Live View of course) and I can only hope that this move will spread to the next EOS 5D, 6D and 7D models as well. The lack of a touch screen is one of my biggest gripes about the Sony A7R Mark II. Even though I have been using the camera for months I still find myself tapping fruitlessly on the on-screen buttons that in 2016 should work. I am thrilled that Canon has broken the glass ceiling for touch technology and allowed professional and advanced amateur photographers to have the same technology that point-and-shooters have been enjoying for years.

Gee, There’s Built-In GPS!

Geotagging images should not be a drawn-out process that requires clip-on modules, downloading of files and syncing with Lightroom. Professional photographers, especially photojournalists and travel photographers, need to be able to effortlessly infuse each shot they make with geographic location information. Canon has included GPS technology in the new 1DXM2 and while some photographers will never use it and some will bicker about how it’s a waste of battery life, this technology should be baked into every camera. Users will always (I hope) have the option of disabling the geo-tagging function of the camera, but we should all be given the freedom to have it included trouble-free which will allow us to carry on doing more interesting activities, like making awesome images.

It’s Actually a Really Good Video Camera

This really isn’t a surprise to Canon shooters who have had top-shelf video capabilities hidden within their DSLRs since the EOS 5D Mark II. The new 1DXM2 brings serious game to the video side with 4K capability and some crazy high-speed options for super slow motion at HD resolutions. I don’t suspect that the hard-core wildlife and sports crowd will be drooling over the video chops of the 1DXM2, but clients are more and more asking for video with their stills and having a camera that can deliver is a bonus. With the camera’s new frame grab option, those shooting 4K video can actually snatch 8MP JPEGs from the fire hose of data flying off the sensor, which means this is literally both a still and video camera at the same time.

Goodbye CF, Hello CFast!

The new Canon pushes data from the sensor through dual processors and into the memory card(s) at an astonishing rate. Those motoring along at 14 frames per second in RAW will enjoy 170 shots before the buffer slows the roll. That’s incredible. My Sony A7RM2 starts slowing down as soon as I take it out of the bag. Of course, the Canon’s 20.2 MP sensor isn’t as dense as the A7RM2’s, but still the ability to shoot for extended bursts without having to wait for the camera to catch up is very cool.

To pull off this feat of data-mashing, the 1DXM2 leverages the emerging CFast memory card technology which allows such high rates of capture. Vincent Laforet tested the speed of the new Canon recently in Hawaii and was able to motor for long stretches while shooting the epic surf at Jaws. He reports in his review that the CFast cards he used got hot to the touch from the munching, but performed flawlessly. T

The camera offers one standard Compact Flash and one of the newer CFast cards. This departure from the old standards of CF and SD cards isn’t surprising, but for those who have wallets stuffed with cards they will not be needing anymore this is going to be a bitter pill. But that speed is so amazing!

Conclusions

I am wowed by the EOS-1 D X Mark II, but at $6,000 I won’t be rushing out to pick one up. Like many photographers, I look at the flagship cameras like the 1DXM2 and Nikon’s D5 as hulking monsters meant for those with bigger hands and wallets. What I am thrilled to see is Canon showing up at the party with something many of us would like to dance with.

It gives me hope that the company I have supported for decades is still interested in making me happy. I expect the 5D Mark IV will sport the touchscreen, GPS and some of the speed of the bigger camera, at a price that more of us can handle. If not, I will keep dancing with my Sony.

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