Canon EOS 1D X - school
Brought to you by the photographers at SmugMug

Photos and review by Mike Dumont, SmugMug Sorcerer. Thanks to our friends at BorrowLenses.com for supplying the gear for these reviews. 

Why did you rent the Canon 1D X?

I rented this gear for an impending trip to my alma mater, the Rochester Institute of Technology, in Rochester, New York. While a student there, I became an avid fan of the RIT Hockey teams, and while back in town I had the opportunity to secure a press pass to two RIT Women's Hockey play-off games, and the final regular season game for the RIT Men's Hockey team.

I chose this specific gear after discussing with several co-workers who either own it, or have done action sports photography before. As a photographer already invested in the Canon lens system, the overwhelming recommendation was for the Canon 1DX.

What's normally in your camera bag?

My current kit consists of a Canon 60D, as well as the following lenses:

- Canon 24-105mm f/4 L

- Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5

- Canon 40mm STM f/2.8

- Canon 50mm f/2.5 Macro

- Canon 50mm f/1.8 



I normally shoot with my Canon 60D for almost all of my photography. In the past when I've shot hockey, I’ve used the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II L lens on the Canon 60D body.

This time, in addition to renting the Canon 1DX Body from borrow lenses, I had the opportunity to snag the Canon 200mm f/2 lens from our company president, Chris MacAskill (Baldy).

The Canon 1DX is the first full-frame camera I’ve ever used. It’s also hands down the most complicated camera I’ve ever used :)

How did the full frame 1D X compare to your normal set up?

It took me a while to get used to the size and weight of it in my hands, and it was definitely a bit more of a chore to find the settings I needed among the many extra pages of options that this camera provides. The biggest differences I noticed between this and my normal setup were the following:

 • Better high ISO performance. I was able to easily use ISO 10000 with negligible noise.

 • The camera was designed to have two sets of controls that map to ergonomic hand positions for both landscape and portrait shots. This was fantastic for quickly flipping between the two orientations to get the shots I wanted.

 • The burst mode speed was fantastic.

Hockey arenas are notorious for their uneven and often too low lighting conditions. This is made even worse because the nature of the sport and how quickly the play can move around the ice.I felt that the Canon 1DX filled a significant gap for me in two areas of my kit that were lacking for hockey photography: burst mode speed and low-light conditions.

  • 1D X and 200 mm lens. ISO 10,000, 200mm, f6.3, 1/500

  • 60D and 24 - 105 mm lens, ISO 1600, 67mm, f4, 1/250

How did the equipment perform for you at the rink?

I, somewhat naively, started my shooting thinking that I'd put the higher quality lens on the higher quality camera body, and started with the Canon 200mm paired with the Canon 1DX, as well as the Canon 60D paired with the Canon 24-105mm lens. 

I quickly realized that there were at least two aspects of this setup I was not happy with:

1. In order to have any hope of capturing a goal shot, I needed my fastest possible burst mode on my wider lens. Comparing the burst mode of the Canon 60D's to the Canon 1DX's it was obvious that the only way to fix this was to switch the gear around.

2. This was my first time ever shooting a full frame camera. I underestimated the impact of the crop factor change on the apparent focal length of the lens. During my previous hockey photography sessions I had used the 70-200mm on the Canon 60D, and this was more than enough for me to capture the action at the far end of the rink, due to the APS-C sensor in the Canon 60D.

With the 200mm F/2 on the Canon 1DX, it became somewhat challenging to capture interesting photographs of the action at the far end.

After swapping the 24-104 onto the Canon 1DX and the 200mm onto the 60D, I was much happier with the shots in general. There was still a trade off here on image quality. The Canon 200mm is such a crisp lens, but pairing it with the 60D, which generated more noise, was a bit unfortunate.

  • 1D X and 24 - 105mm lens, ISO 10,000, 28mm, f4.5, 1/1250

  • 1D X and 24 - 105 mm lens. ISO 10,000. 65mm.f4.5, 1/1250

  • 1D X and 24 - 105 mm lens. ISO 10,000. 70mm, f5.6, 1/1250

  • 60d and 200mm lens. ISO 2500

Would you rent this camera again?

I would have no reservations renting this gear again for more hockey photography, or for other action sports.

Compared to my previous experience shooting hockey, I couldn't imagine doing it again without two crucial features that the Canon 1DX provided: the high ISO performance with almost non-existent noise, and the fast burst mode.

I primarily relied on the fast burst mode in order to capture goal shots with my Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L lens. That being said, I would go so far as to consider renting a second Canon 1DX to replace my Canon 60D in order to get the high ISO performance on all of my shots.

For the lenses, I used the 24-105mm because I had it, and it worked fine, but if I could find something that covered a similar range with a faster aperture, I would definitely try that out.

For the 200mm f/2, I would have no problem renting it again if I was using it on a crop sensor, but if I was going to shoot two full frame cameras, I would take a look at the 200-400mm lens that Canon has available right now and see how that worked out. I feel that that would get an overall better set of shots by giving me the Canon 1DX’s noise performance, and an acceptable range to cover the middle and far ends of the ice.

Would you buy it?

I can't imagine purchasing this gear anytime soon for me. While it was an incredible camera body, I just don't see myself needing the features it provides often enough to justify the price.

That being said, if you're doing any sort of high speed or low light photography, I could see this camera quickly becoming essential to your work.

Black Rapid RS DR-1 Double Strap

I also rented this Black Rapid Camera Strap. I found that absolutely essential for shooting the games. Using two camera bodies, and a lens as large as the 200mm, it would have been borderline impossible to balance a monopod, and too inconvenient to use the tripod. The black rapid strap came with two very solid eyelets that screwed into the tripod mounts on the base of the camera or lens. These clipped into some carabiners on the straps.

At first glance, I was a bit worried about trusting the weight of the 200mm lens to the carabiner, but after getting used to the weight at my side, I had no significant issues.

My only minor complaint is that the cameras do swing a fair bit if you turn quickly or are climbing stairs.


Who's Mike?

I'm a SmugMug Sorcerer. I enjoy doing a wide variety of photography subjects, including hockey, landscapes, and underwater shots.

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