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Canon 1DX vs 5DIII Wildlife Comparison

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East Wind Photography:
I just completed my two week eval of the Canon 1DX shooting wildlife exclusively.  I shoot regularly with a 5DIII and was curious to see what the 1DX might offer over the 5DIII.  I paired it up with a 600 f/4 and shot with and without a 1.4X III converter.  I tried the 2XIII but at AFMA -20 it was still not focusing...tried a few manual focus shots and LV but gave up.  I spent the first few days getting the 600 and 600+1.4x focus adjusted using AFMA.  Tried the dot method and Focal and just gave up and did it by hand shooting ducks on a lake.  All of my testing was done in RAW mode and images were compared/processed using PS CS5.

Here are my comments after using the 1DX for two weeks shooting various waterfowl and bald eagles:

•   12 fps does not really offer much.  Sounds nice in theory but for wildlife I think it’s excessive.  6 to 8 gives you enough to work with.
•   1DX shutter is LOUD!!!!  So loud that it scares away anything in earshot.  The 5DIII even in high speed drive mode is much much quieter.  Drop the 5D3 into silent mode and ducks within 20ft still cant hear it.
•   Shooting up to ISO 1000 I did not see any improvement in noise levels.  I’m sure it’s better but not enough to notice in real world situations.
•   1DX is 18MP full frame.  Compared to my 5DIII at 22MP full frame, I believe the noise patterns on the 5D3 are actually smaller and less noticeable.  Probobly due to the slightly higher pixel density.
•   I did not see any improvement in image sharpness
•   I did not see any improvement in dynamic range…though I’m sure it’s better…just cant see it in real world wildlife use.
•   The thing soaks battery like no tomorrow.  Had to charge the battery at 50% after two shoots.  Compared to two weeks with the 5DIII and dual batteries in the grip.  1DX you can only have one battery at a time.
•   Some of the added firmware features are nice and there are more programmable buttons but I didn’t find them useful or necessary over what I already have on the 5DIII.  None of the extra features on the 1DX offered anything useful for wildlife photography over the 5DIII.
•   1DX costs twice as much.

The 1DX is clearly geared up for action sports photography and is a bit more rugged and water sealed than the 5DIII.  As much as I wanted to qualify it as a BETTER wildlife camera, I just could not.  Pixel peepers will have their say but for those of us that live in the real world, the 5DIII is just as good as the 1DX and due to the higher pixel density I would put it slightly ahead of the 1DX for this kind of work.

These comments are based on my opinion shooting wildlife for 30 years.  Others will have their opinions and I welcome them for the sake of open discussion.

neuroanatomist:
Thanks for posting your impressions!

Some random comments:


--- Quote from: East Wind Photography on February 18, 2013, 10:41:01 AM ---•   Some of the added firmware features are nice and there are more programmable buttons but I didn’t find them useful or necessary over what I already have on the 5DIII.

--- End quote ---

I like the ability to switch among my C# modes with the M.Fn button and not have to move my hands as they hold the camera.  I have C2 set up for static/perched birds and C3 for BIF, and can switch instantly when a bird takes off, without taking my eye off the subject.


--- Quote from: East Wind Photography on February 18, 2013, 10:41:01 AM ---•   Shooting up to ISO 1000 I did not see any improvement in noise levels.  I’m sure it’s better but not enough to notice in real world situations.

--- End quote ---

I think the ISO noise advantage is really at higher ISO settings. Personally, >25% of my shots with the 1D X are at higher than ISO 3200, and that's especially common with an f/8 lens combo (600 II + 2xIII, for example).


--- Quote from: East Wind Photography on February 18, 2013, 10:41:01 AM ---•   The thing soaks battery like no tomorrow.  Had to charge the battery at 50% after two shoots.  Compared to two weeks with the 5DIII and dual batteries in the grip.  1DX you can only have one battery at a time.

--- End quote ---

Interesting...  I was out shooting yesterday, shot ~500 images and when I checked the battery status, it was 85%.  I do have two batteries, but I've never needed to change one during a shooting day (having two is great for short trips, though...that charger is BIG, and I'd prefer to leave it at home if possible). 

Personally, I'm quite happy with the 1D X, but I'm sure I'd be happy with the 5DIII as well.  IMO, one of the big benefits of the 1D X is the ergonomics - I always use a battery grip, and having the integrated one is a lot nicer, for me.

East Wind Photography:
You need to have programmable C# settings because without the dial on top you have to change the mode with a button press and dial turn.  Difficult to do...at least when your not used to doing it that way.  On the 5DIII you can just swing the dial all the way to end to get to your C# modes.  The programmable buttons definitely take some getting used to and after two weeks I still was not comfortable doing that on the fly with an incoming eagle on approach.  ;)

Regarding battery levels...It's very easy to rack up 500 shots at 12 fps.  I was hitting that easily in one day of shooting.  There is also the chimping effect one experiences with any new camera.  ;)  I'm sure that helped with the battery drain.


--- Quote from: neuroanatomist on February 18, 2013, 10:55:40 AM ---Thanks for posting your impressions!

Some random comments:


--- Quote from: East Wind Photography on February 18, 2013, 10:41:01 AM ---•   Some of the added firmware features are nice and there are more programmable buttons but I didn’t find them useful or necessary over what I already have on the 5DIII.

--- End quote ---

I like the ability to switch among my C# modes with the M.Fn button and not have to move my hands as they hold the camera.  I have C2 set up for static/perched birds and C3 for BIF, and can switch instantly when a bird takes off, without taking my eye off the subject.


--- Quote from: East Wind Photography on February 18, 2013, 10:41:01 AM ---•   Shooting up to ISO 1000 I did not see any improvement in noise levels.  I’m sure it’s better but not enough to notice in real world situations.

--- End quote ---

I think the ISO noise advantage is really at higher ISO settings. Personally, >25% of my shots with the 1D X are at higher than ISO 3200, and that's especially common with an f/8 lens combo (600 II + 2xIII, for example).


--- Quote from: East Wind Photography on February 18, 2013, 10:41:01 AM ---•   The thing soaks battery like no tomorrow.  Had to charge the battery at 50% after two shoots.  Compared to two weeks with the 5DIII and dual batteries in the grip.  1DX you can only have one battery at a time.

--- End quote ---

Interesting...  I was out shooting yesterday, shot ~500 images and when I checked the battery status, it was 85%.  I do have two batteries, but I've never needed to change one during a shooting day (having two is great for short trips, though...that charger is BIG, and I'd prefer to leave it at home if possible). 

Personally, I'm quite happy with the 1D X, but I'm sure I'd be happy with the 5DIII as well.  IMO, one of the big benefits of the 1D X is the ergonomics - I always use a battery grip, and having the integrated one is a lot nicer, for me.

--- End quote ---

RMC33:
The Battery drain may be related to the (correct me if I am wrong) 1Dx being able to supply higher voltage/amperage to the lens so it can AF faster?


--- Quote ---
--- Quote ---Quote from: East Wind Photography on Today at 10:41:01 AM
•   Some of the added firmware features are nice and there are more programmable buttons but I didn’t find them useful or necessary over what I already have on the 5DIII.
--- End quote ---

I like the ability to switch among my C# modes with the M.Fn button and not have to move my hands as they hold the camera.  I have C2 set up for static/perched birds and C3 for BIF, and can switch instantly when a bird takes off, without taking my eye off the subject.
--- End quote ---

This is a nice feature for sports as well. I do similar things with my Mk3/(now dead) 7D. Can't wait to get a 1Dx from CPS to play with!

bdunbar79:
Thanks for your impressions.  While I won't argue with you on overall wildlife shooting, I do think overall, as a whole, the 1DX still offers more.  For well-lit wildlife?  Maybe not.  But considering all "real world" situations, the 1DX is still better.  I'm not sure why you say "us in the real world" because my real world IS low-lit venues with high action, where the 5D3 can't cut it.  Also, if you shoot higher ISO, the 1DX files can be processed, pushed, and pulled far more than any 5D3 file.  Despite having less MP's, the highlights and shadows have more detail.  I will also agree that for wildlife, 12 fps probably isn't needed, although I know gary samples has used that feature quite a bit for his work.  You're right, the shutter is LOUD.

Battery life?  Are you kidding?  I've shot 4 basketball games in high burst mode on one battery :). 

For the 5D3, I love the 22 mp, and I also love silent shutter like yourself.  I use it extensively for tennis and golf.  Either way, if the 1DX doesn't offer you anything additional over the 5D3, then use the 5D3.  Afterall, I have one and am very happy with it.

In fact, if the 1DX hadn't come out, I'd probably be shooting everything with a 1D4/5D3 combo.  Good luck and I look forward to seeing your wildlife photography!

I hope you take my comments/arguments as friendly and for fun :).  Afterall, you've been doing this for 30 years!

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