"I could use it straight away. It's that good."
Eddie Keogh is a top sports photographer doing regular freelance work for the Reuters photo agency. He is also as a member of Canon's Ambassador programme with a deep knowledge of the EOS system and was one of the first to shoot with the EOS-1D X Mark II. He shares his thoughts on its distinct low light and speed advantages...
The challenge for Eddie was to put the EOS-1D X Mark II through its paces at London's Lee Valley VeloPark, the iconic velodrome built for the London Olympics and scene of triumphant victories for the Great Britain teams, led by Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton back in the summer of 2012. Coincidentally, 2012 was the year Eddie took delivery of his original EOS-1D X, so it was a rather fitting location for testing its replacement. But would it be all smiles? Eddie takes up the story...
"From the moment I picked it up I knew it was going to be good," he remarks. "The handling just inspires confidence and it feels better than ever in the hand. Every time Canon brings out a new camera I always ask myself 'how can it be better than the last?' But this one really does move the game on."
"The idea was to go to the velodrome and shoot indoor cycling," he reveals. "I've been to the location before to cover the World Championships as well as the Paralympics so was familiar with the place. And where better place to test out this camera? The lighting was tricky so it was a genuine test for the camera, shooting a fast moving subject indoors in low light with a fast shutter speed. I was pushing the capabilities of the camera both ways and I knew it. But with the sensor offering impressive ISO capabilities, I found that shooting at ISO 3200 gave me the same quality of images I used to get when shooting at ISO 1600 on the EOS-1D X."
"I felt very comfortable with the camera," he reflects. "It's the continuity between this and my old EOS-1D X that I like the most. You could give this camera to me now and I'd go and do a job with it tomorrow, no problem at all."
Eddie was particularly keen to see the advances made in AF speed and tracking. "I had the chance to try out the focus tracking, following the cyclists as they came towards me full length in the frame to just the top half of their bodies as they rode past me," he recalls. "With a 14fps burst every single shot was sharp. And furthermore, consistently sharp. I looked at the frames on the back of the camera and every one was in focus. There wasn't a bad frame among them. There's no point in having 14fps top speed [with AF/AE] if ten of them are out of focus..."
He continues: "It locks on to a subject just that little bit quicker, too. We're talking nanoseconds really, but let's be honest – a nanosecond could be the difference between a ball on the end of someone's foot or being six inches away. That moment literally is 1/1000th of a second and then it's gone; that's the margin we work to. This is why the EOS-1D X Mark II is a big step forward. It's got a superb buffer and the Dual DIGIC 6+ processors really do an incredible job in handling all that data."
"If any new piece of equipment is better, faster and more convenient to use then it makes my job easier," he laughs. "I remember the old days of 64Mb CompactFlash cards and the really slow write speeds. If I was to shoot a burst of 14fps using one of them now I'd be waiting all day! So having a CFast card on board really is a bonus. With the EOS-1D X Mark II you have a buffer of 170 RAW files, which is incredible. The last thing you want to happen as a photographer is to miss a shot through no fault of your own, due to something like a full buffer or a slow processor. The camera needs to deliver and EOS-1D X Mark II, with its super-fast processors and a big buffer, will definitely be welcomed."
A clear and sharp advantage
Eddie's experiences in shooting were mirrored on the back of the camera too, when the time came to review images. "The screen on the back was fantastic with its 1.6 million pixel resolution," he states. "That's a really key improvement over the EOS-1D X. Because I'm working off the back of the camera so much more these days it's a genuine advantage to be able to see a sharper image. Very often I'm at a game and need to check sharpness quickly. And this new screen makes that possible."
"Plus there's a new feature on the EOS-1D X Mark II that is genuinely advantageous," he reveals. "It's the crop and send function. This is fantastic for photographers like me working in sports photography. You can select a picture that you've taken and crop it in camera, which it then saves as another JPEG. In sport, 95 percent of our pictures are cropped. It's very rare that a sports picture is sent to clients uncropped, so this function is absolutely valuable and saves an awful lot of time."
He continues: "Sometimes as photographers we get a bit precious about how our pictures are used once they leave our control and cropping can really make or break a picture's impact. So this ability for a photographer to crop his image while it's still in the camera before he sends is most welcome."
Likewise the addition of built-in GPS, which features on an EOS-1D series DSLR for the first time. Eddie explains: "This is really important actually. For instance, when there are a lot of photographers sending in a sequence of pictures of a goal, with the EOS-1D X Mark II we know that the time of the action will coincide exactly with the time that the shot was taken. There is therefore no question about the picture's validity or accuracy. Likewise there is no need to manually adjust the clock in the camera. With EOS-1D X Mark II I know that what happened on the pitch and what I recorded through my lens are one and the same thing."
Eddie used five of his favourite lenses on the velodrome shoot: the EF11-24mm f/4L USM, EF14mm f/2.8L II USM, EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and EF400 f/2.8L IS II USM. "The EOS-1D X Mark II worked brilliantly with all of them," he affirms. "Focusing was fast and accurate, much better than the EOS-1D X, but with the addition of 4K movies on the camera it meant that I could – if I was asked – shoot films on this using the Live View mode, getting smooth focusing thanks to the touchscreen control and the Dual Pixel CMOS AF. Shooting a film is something that a lot of photographers are being asked to do more of these days, especially at Reuters where we try to go beyond and offer more to our customers, so this feature is excellent.
"My overall conclusion for the EOS-1D X Mark II is that I can take more pictures, at higher quality, and can send them faster thanks to the new WiFi transmitter," Eddie sums up. "In my opinion, the camera is a significant step forward from the original EOS-1D X and by including that brilliant crop and send function, it really is made for photographers like me. When can I place my order?"