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EOS-1D X Mark II Live Action Review Part 2: Dual Pixel CMOS AF-Perfect Focus Even in Dark Scenes

In this series of articles, I put the EOS-1D X Mark II to a field test under extreme cold conditions, and share my first impressions as a professional photographer. In Part 2, I test the camera’s real-time in-camera correction function and 4K still frame grab feature in Live View, together with its AF capabilities. (Reported by: Gaku Tozuka)

Large Zone AF lets you focus instantly on a subject

Following the announcement of the EOS-1D X Mark II—the latest addition to Canon's line-up of professional cameras—on 2 February 2016, I jumped at the earliest opportunity to take it out on a live action test, using fast-moving wild birds as my subjects. I mounted the Extender EF 2x III on a 500mm super telephoto lens to achieve 1000mm-equivalent shooting, and was stunned by the camera’s AF performance. During my time photographing the wild birds, I witnessed the emergence of a flagship model that has made the impossible possible.

EF500mm f/4L IS II USM+Extender EF 2x III/ FL: 1,000mm / Manual exposure (f/11, 1/2,000 sec)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto/ 61pt Auto Selection AF

The EOS iTR AF features improved subject tracking performance, which in combination with the AI Servo AF III+, makes this camera unrivalled. Here, I kept the focus on the eyes of a white-tailed eagle that was flying towards me.

EF500mm f/4L IS II USM+Extender EF 2X III/ FL: 1,000mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1/3,200 sec)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Auto/ Large Zone AF

The Large Zone AF allowed me to focus instantly. As I shot hand-held, I was able to handle any complex and rapid movements. However, it was the camera’s ability to keep focus on the subject that allowed me to meet the challenge of shooting at such a high level of difficulty.


EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + Extender EF 2X III/ FL: 1,000mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1/3,200 sec)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Auto/ Zone AF

An eagle might slow down slightly at the moment it catches a fish. However, placing it in a narrow angle of view of 1000mm was no mean feat. Zone AF, which can now be used even at f/8, made light work of catching that photo opportunity.


EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + Extender EF 2X III/ FL: 1,000mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1/3,200 sec)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Auto/ 61-pt Auto Selection AF

I captured the eagle catching a fish and flying off using burst mode and 61-point Auto Selection AF. My target might have been large but because it was moving at high speed, I had to concentrate intently on keeping it in the frame. All that was left after that was to trust the AF.


When I used the EOS-1D X Mark II to track flying birds, the focus rarely locked on the background. Even if it did, the camera would correct the tracking focus most of the time, probably as a result of either my pressing the AF-ON button several times, or due to the Face Priority mode taking effect while I was tracking the subject. These were probably achieved with the combined capabilities of the Dual DIGIC 6+ image processor, improved subject tracking due to to the much-acclaimed new EOS iTR AF, as well as the AI Servo AF III+.

Real-time diffraction correction combats image degradation even when shooting at large f-numbers

A function that particularly caught my eye was real-time diffraction correction. I wanted to use this opportunity to experience the camera's capability, so I tried shooting at f/22, 1/4,000 sec, ISO 6400. While the images were a touch grainy, there was no perceivable drop in resolution.

EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + Extender EF 2X III/ FL: 1,000mm/ Manual exposure (f/22, 1/4,000 sec)/ ISO 6400/ WB: Auto/ Large Zone AF

If you narrow the aperture too much, the focus is adversely impacted by the effect of diffraction. To prevent this, the EOS-1D X Mark II is equipped with an in-built real-time diffraction correction function. When photographing wild birds, there might not be too many times when you need to narrow the aperture to such an extent, but this function is likely to be effective in scenes where you want to take advantage of the scenery to capture scenic shots of wild birds, or work with a greater depth of field.

4K Frame Grab let you create works that express your intention

You can now also take still frame grabs (approx. 8.8 megapixels) from 4K movies. Shooting movies with a high shutter speed will help to cut down any possibilities of blur or camera shake in your frame grabs. It's good to keep in mind the possibility of taking frame grabs from the outset, instead of simply shooting a movie and leaving frame grabs as an afterthought. I was capturing a red-crowned crane dancing on this occasion, but really struggled because it would quickly go out of frame. However, this function really made a big difference because this was a scene in which still shots were difficult to obtain. Personally, it made me want to mainly take slow motion video in full HD.

When shooting in Live View, simply touching the LCD screen lets you focus on that point. Furthermore, with the new Dual Pixel CMOS AF, I had no complaints with the AF speed and accuracy.

I could go on and on about the advantages of this camera. It is without a doubt an extraordinary camera. I daresay that with this, we have just seen the birth of a perfect DSLR that is more than capable of being Canon’s flagship camera.

EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + Extender EF 2X III/ FL: 1,000mm/ Manual exposure (f/11, 1/2,000 sec)/ ISO 800/ WB: Auto/ Large Zone AF

When you switch to 4K video, the screen is displayed in landscape. I really struggled because the intensely dancing red-crowned cranes would repeatedly go out of frame. When shooting normally, the intense movement of the wings and body appear blurred, so you need to shoot with a high shutter speed. When checking images in the LCD screen and taking frame grabs, it is handy to be able to adjust the playback speed to slow motion.

EF500mm f/4L IS II USM + Extender EF 1.4x III/ FL: 700mm/ Aperture-Priority AE (f/5.6, 1 sec, EV-0.3)/ ISO 200/ WB: Auto/ Face + Tracking Priority AF

I tried shooting an Ural owl after sunset using Live View. Even in the dark, the focus was established perfectly when I touched the LCD screen. I never thought that Face + Tracking Priority AF would be this superb! I set a slow shutter of 1 second because it was very dark, turned off the image stabilizer, and used the remote switch to quietly release the shutter. Because mirror shock is kept to a minimum, I was able to take beautiful photos.

The EOS-1D X Mark II and lens combination used in this review


The EOS-1D X Mark II is the flagship of the EOS DSLR line. I put the camera to a field test in the harsh, frozen conditions of midwinter Hokkaido.

For details on the EOS-1D X Mark II, click here


Capture faraway cranes and white-tailed eagles with the professional EF500mm f/4L IS II USM super-telephoto lens. Imagine the possibilities when used together with the EOS-1D X Mark II.

For details on the EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, click here


The Extender EF 2x III lets you use the EF lens at double the equivalent focal length. Though this means that the maximum aperture f-number is doubled, the EOS-1D X Mark II also offers up to 61 AF points (including 21 cross-type points) that can focus with an f/8 light flux so you won’t have to worry when shooting with AF.

For details on the Extender EF 2x III, click here


The Extender EF 1.4x III lets you use the EF lens at 1.4 times the equivalent focal length, which makes the maximum aperture one stop darker. Fitting this extender on a 500mm f/4 lens lets you shoot at an equivalent focal length of 700mm and at a maximum aperture of f/5.6.

For details on the Extender EF 1.4x III, click here

Gaku Tozuka

Born in 1966 in Aichi, Tozuka developed an interest in photography when he was in the third year of high school, and started to capture natural landscapes as well as wildlife animals. At the age of 20, he became absorbed in photographing wild birds after accidentally capturing a woodpecker in his photo. He has released a large number of works in media such as magazines, bulletins, books, calendars and TV commercials.
Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.

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