Readers of dedicated camera sites and pros who use the company's top models will already be aware that Canon has announced the successor of its professional flagship model. Re my discussion under the heading of the Sony A77 the other day, the new camera follows the customary refresh/upgrade (R/U) model, with the refinements mostly in the implementation and engineering. Every major mainstream DSLR is now the Porsche 911, it seems.
Re the name, we still can't jettison that "D" for "digital," which I've lampooned in the past to no effect (except, come to think of it, it might be the reason why I'm not on Canon's PR distribution list). Just so you're clear, the new pro flagship is digital. It doesn't use film. And "X"? Really? When Nikon uses X to distinguish its high pixel count pro camera and DX to distinguish its APS-C cameras? At least the D1x was a Nikon, not a Canon, because it really would have been embarassing if the same company just switched the D for the 1. And I'm being way too snarky—excuse me while I go look in the mirror and give myself a good hard slap.
Back now, and, um, ouch, that hurt so good. There does appear to be much that's changed in the 1DX, which I'll be leaving to Rob Galbraith at Digital Photography Insights to explain—he's the best guy to read for the scoop on pro Canons, as well as the reason I don't have to be serious. Most of the development seems to have been aimed at the video side of things. Maybe that's just my bias speaking, as I don't care about video. No effort whatsoever has gone into making the big brick smaller. Bias again.
A few basic details: full-frame, 18 MP, 12 fps, $6800 estimated, shipping March 2012. And the shutter is tested to 400,000 actuations, which must be a record for durability.
The only real conceptual differentiation is that the R/U merges the two previous pro Canons—the high-speed 1D lineage and the high-pixel-count 1Ds lineage—together. As with boxing, this unification of the title is something that will loom with large significance inside the various corporate redoubts, but will seem picayune to the peasants in the hills and vales. Nevertheless, it also signals conclusively that the forthcoming Nikon "D4" (also digital—note that "D" again) will also merge the high-speed S and high-pixel-count X variants of the D3. Canon and Nikon, bitter competitors, nevertheless dance as closely in lockstep as a couple doing the tango.
[Pause while Mike goes off to slap self again.]
I'd best stop writing about this before I hurt myself.
One more time
Canon's other new camera is a recent R/U of the wondrous and popular S95 digicam. Lest anyone get distracted by my blathering, let me be clear: this is the best small digicam on the market—Number One amongst the numberless legions—and a refresh/upgrade without changing the S95's essential character is all that's needed or wanted.
But now—ahem—about the name. Not to perseverate; but Canon really needs to get a grip on this. It makes logical sense that if the original camera was the S90, and the first R/U was the S95, the the most recent R/U needs to be the...S100. Except Canon used that exact name 11 years ago for the U.S. version of the IXUS. So then they can't...? They wouldn't...? Wrong, they did. The new Canon is the third coming of the S90...and also the second coming of the S100.
Despite my cheek*, both are important R/U's of important and valued cameras. Not for nothing is Canon #1.
And by the way, about that Porsche analogy? I'm all for letting the ancient beast retire and putting a better engine in the Cayman (warning: car porn at link**), which is a better car even in its current 911-protection iteration.
I'm never going to get back on Canon's send list, am I?
*Get it? I been slappin' myself silly here.
**And if you're wondering about that color, Harrison Ford can explain it to you.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Roger Moore: "Minor nit, Mike: Nikon used 'H' for their high-speed models, not 'S.' 'S' is for minor, mid-production updates that even their marketing department can't spin as new models, which Canon calls an 'N' model. So the D2 had D2H (sports) and D2X (pixels) models, which were refreshed to the D2Hs and D2Xs. The current rumor is that both Canon and Nikon will split their high speed and high pixel lines into separate body styles. The speed/sports cameras will be the big models with built in vertical grips (1DX and D4), while the high pixel models will have smaller bodies with optional vertical grips (5DIII and D800)."
Featured Comment by MM: "A funny thing happened on the way to the new Canon flagship SLR: photographers’ expectations changed.
"For almost a decade Canon has been hinting—and photographers have been expecting—that the '1D' (19x28mm sensor) and '1Ds' (24x36mm sensor) lines would eventually be merged. But in the meantime, a lot of sports shooters and wildlife photographers came to like the 1D format with its 1.3 crop factor, while landscape, studio, and stock photographers who used the 'full-frame' Canons came to expect ever-larger pixel counts.
"Now the two lines have been merged, Canon says. And yes, the new 1Dx will surely please photojournalists, wedding/event photographers, and others who place a premium on low-light capabilities. But a fair number of wildlife and sports shooters are likely to feel the 1Dx falls short in pixel density, while landscape and studio photographers are likely to feel it falls short in overall pixel count.
"Wildlife photographers who look at the 'pixels per duck' equation (how many pixels wide a distant bird is when using one's longest telephoto) will likely be disappointed by the 1Dx: cropped to the same area as the predecessor 1D IV, the 1Dx gives only about 11 megapixels to the duck compared to the 16 megapixels of the older 1D IV. Sports photographers too will have to consider whether it’s worth shooting with an older 1D IV and a 400mm lens or upgrading to the more-expensive 1Dx and then needing to buy a 500mm lens to get a comparable reach.
"On the other hand, landscape, studio, and stock shooters who shoot at low ISOs (and aren't worried about high-ISO noise or frames per second) are likely to be disappointed by the 1Dx's 18-megapixel maximum resolution. While few of these photographers would say that 18 megapixels is paltry, they know that if the Panasonic GH-2 and Sony NEX-7 pixel size/density is extrapolated to 'full frame,' it would result in something like a 56-megapixel sensor (and neither the GH-2 nor the NEX-7 is reputed to produce excessive noise). Many photographers who own 21-megapixel Canon DSLRs are unlikely to buy a new full-frame Canon unless the sensor has the same pixel density as the GH-2/NEX-7 or close to it--perhaps 36-56 megapixels.
"Finally, while the new 1Dx incorporates many nice advances, one step backward for many photographers is that unlike previous Canon flagship cameras, the new camera does not autofocus at ƒ/8; it maxes out at ƒ/5.6 like Canon’s less-expensive cameras do. That's bad news for those of us who regularly put a 1.4x teleconverter on a 400/5.6 or a 2x teleconverter on a 500/4.
"The long lead time on the 1Dx announcement (it won't ship until next March) was presumably calculated to keep photographers from purchasing a competitor's model in the next six months. Instead, the announcement may prompt many prospective buyers to take a new look at the competition if Canon doesn't announce any other high-end DSLRs in 2012. The ball is in Nikon's court."