lens rental
Nikon D3x review / field report Scott Kublin, Nov 2011

Nikon D3x review / Vermont Fall Photography

Foreword: In August 2011, my friend Scott Kublin of HDR Photography Blog contacted me for advice on a new camera. He wanted to buy a pro body, but was torn on which model to go for.

I advised him to wait as there were strong rumours of new pro bodies in the run-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics, and indeed on 18 October Canon announced the EOS 1D X. But this conversation took place two months earlier and Scott was keen to buy, especially with an impending trip to Vermont to photograph the Fall leaves.

While discussing his options and the trip itself, I thought it would make a great feature for Cameralabs, not just regarding the technical decisions, but also the process of capturing and processing the natural landscapes Scott specialises in. Here's his story, and once again remember it predates the EOS 1D X announcement. Gordon Laing


Choosing a Pro DSLR

About Scott Kublin

Scott Kublin began taking Photography seriously back in 2008. Since then he's been awarded with a "Guru" award from NAPP, as well as being chosen by SmugMug to present to the hundreds of Meetup groups they sponsor throughout the USA. Scott lives in Savannah, Georgia, USA with his three daughters.

Scott Kublin's HDR Photography Blog site
Follow Scott Kublin on Google+

I'm Scott Kublin, a semi-professional photographer who's ready to take my photography to the next level. In doing so, my first priority is to purchase a new DSLR. But what camera should I upgrade to? That's my dilemma and I thought I'd share my experiences with you as I'm sure there are others who could benefit from them. But first, please allow me to share some of my background with you.

About three years ago I started getting more interested in photography. Prior to that, I was "ok" at taking pictures, but had never learned to use any camera mode other than automatic. Deep down inside that always bothered me because I knew I owned a piece of equipment that was capable of so much more than I was using it for. The niche I fell into was HDR Photography, which fortunately forced me to learn so much more about how my camera worked.

The camera I was using three years ago was a Canon Digital Rebel 2000, which I had owned for at least the past five to six years. It had served me well and did everything I needed it to do at the time, but shortly after my interest in HDR Photography grew, I felt I was ready to upgrade to a newer and better camera. The camera I purchased was a Canon EOS 7D, which is considered a semi-pro DSLR.

I instantly fell in love with the 7D. It was fast; very fast. Even though I wasn't into any type of fast-action photography, the kid inside of me loved knowing the camera was capable of taking eight shots per second. Even if a situation never came up requiring the eight shots per second, I knew I'd still use that speed when showing off my camera. (Admit it, you'd probably do the same thing.)

Fast-forward to now and my photography passion has continued to grow. I've spent the past three years practicing and perfecting my skill levels. I've been fortunate to have travelled to many places around the world, including London, Paris, Nimes, St. Mortiz, Zermatt, Zurich, Alaska, and many other states within the USA. My photos have begun attracting attention, including the folks at NAPP who awarded me a "Guru Award" at the 2011 Photoshop World in Orlando. I've also been asked by SmugMug to travel the USA and give presentations to the Smugs Meetup groups they sponsor.

I had now reached the point where I knew I'd like to continue pursuing my photography as both a hobby and a career. There had been several occasions where I felt like my 7D was limiting some of what I wanted to do, which led me to the decision it was time for me to upgrade my DSLR again. But which model should someone in my situation upgrade to? That was the question I kept asking myself and I spent countless hours researching information about Canon and Nikon cameras.


Decisions, decisions

I kept going back and forth with what I thought I wanted and ended up contacting my friend, Gordon Laing, to see if he could help me make a decision. As you know, Gordon runs CameraLabs and is familiar with almost every type of camera that's available. And I'm not just talking about the simplistic specs of each camera: Gordon knows so much about the inner-workings of cameras that when he speaks to me about them I feel like I know only one percent of what he knows.

I told Gordon I wanted to upgrade to another camera mainly because my 7D could only bracket three shots at a time, and this in turn was proving frustrating when shooting multi-frame HDR compositions. I'd previously got around this problem by configuring two of the custom functions settings so that I could sort of get six bracketed shots, but with that method there was always a chance of movement as I turned the dial from C1 to C2. And because I'd have to focus and meter again for the second set of bracketed shots, there was also a possibility of the camera making some slight adjustments to what the previous three bracketed shots had just been set to.

Another thing I mentioned to Gordon was that since a lot of my pictures are of scenery and landscapes, that purchasing a higher megapixel camera would give me the option of having some of my photos printed out in extremely large sizes. I hadn't had a situation up to this point where I've needed one of my photos printed out in a larger size than what my 7D was capable of taking, but I knew that in the near future the likelihood of someone wanting to order something of mine and have it printed out in a larger size was high.

At the time of writing in mid-2011, Canon's high-end DSLRs were all several years old; note this article predates the October EOS 1D X announcement. I was tempted by the resolution of the EOS 5D Mark II, but it too shared the same three-frame bracketing restriction as my 7D, and in fact was a step-down in build, speed, AF and handling. Looking higher, I briefly considered the 1Ds Mark III, but while it did offer the bracketing I wanted, it was an ageing model which was being out-gunned by the 5D Mark II in several respects.

This left the 1D Mark IV. It had gotten great reviews, was extremely fast at 10 shots per second, had a lot more focus and metering points, and was able to take up to seven bracketed shots in a row. And since I was already using a Canon body, most of my existing Canon lenses would work with it, including my 50mm f/1.4 and my 70-200mm f/2.8L. The only lens I owned which wouldn't fit it was an EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5, but I'd be able to easily sell mine on eBay for close to what I paid for it. The only negatives were the 1.3x cropped sensor limited my choices of ultra wide lenses and the resolution was only 16 Megapixels, whereas my 7D was 18 Megapixels, albeit on a smaller sensor. There was also the nagging aspect the 1D Mark IV was more aimed at sports photography than landscapes.

Nikon D3x

Another possibility I considered was a Nikon D3x. This offered a full frame sensor with a whopping 24 Megapixels and also featured deep bracketing options. It could also exploit the full coverage of the highly respected Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 zoom. This is the same camera that my friend, Trey Ratcliff uses and he's created several thousand masterpieces with it; check them out at Stuck in Customs. One of the downsides with this camera was that since I'd been previously shooting with a Canon body, none of my lenses would be compatible. I'd be forced to sell all of my current lenses and would then need to purchase Nikon versions. Another downside was that it was released in 2008 and I felt it might be lacking some of the latest DSLR technology, such as the disk write speed and noise reduction at higher ISOs.

The third possibility for me was a Nikon D3s. This offered a full frame sensor, took up to nine shots per second, and had an incredible reputation for taking almost noise-free images in very dark environments at high ISO. One of the biggest negatives though was that it could only take images at 12.1 Megapixels. With the majority of the photographs I'd be taking being landscapes, the 12.1 Megapixel resolution would almost certainly cause issues for me over the next several years.

I kept going back and forth in my mind as to which camera I thought was right for me. I was really leaning towards the D3x but because there had been some occasions where the eight shots per second with my 7D had come in handy, I kept having negative thoughts telling me I'd regret no longer being able to capture fast-action shots of my daughter during gymnastic competitions.

After rambling on and on while speaking with Gordon, he told me that he didn't think any of the three choices I had come up with were right for me. He was able to see through all of my gibberish and conclude my main issue was the lack of being able to bracket more than three shots. And although my shortlisted choices were able to bracket more than three shots at a time, they also all had more negatives than positives.

Then there was the bigger issue of them all getting-on in age (at least in digital terms) and strong rumours of pro body replacements in the pipeline, especially in the run-up to the 2012 Summer Olympics. There was a very high probability one of these new DSLRs was going to have all of the features I was looking for. But at the time of writing, they were nothing more than rumours.

Arggghh! That's not the type of answer someone as impatient as myself likes to hear. I've never been able to wait for things. When I want something, I have to have it right away. This was driving me crazy and I knew Gordon could tell. I emailed him several days later and told him I decided I wanted to get the D3x. He quickly emailed me back to try and talk me out of it again based on the rumours of new bodies being imminent. This time though, Gordon made the suggestion I rent a D3x for a week to see if it was all I had envisioned. Hmmm, renting a D3x seemed like a brilliant idea. Aside from it giving me the opportunity to play around with it and make sure I truly liked it, it would also help alleviate my desire to having to have something right away. Plus, I had a 4-day trip to Vermont coming up the following week and I would be able to take it with me when capturing foliage photos.

So, I made the decision to rent the D3x from BorrowLenses, along with a 14-24mm f/2.8 and an 85mm f/1.4. It's a great way to try out gear you either can't afford to buy or would like to trial before buying.

The D3x arrived two days before I was to fly out to give a presentation to the Nashville SmugMug Meetup group, followed by four days in Vermont. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning as I opened the box from BorrowLenses.com. I felt like there should have been a bright light and a puff of smoke that emitted out of the box as the D3x was revealed. I placed the 14-24mm lens on the D3x and then tried to figure out how to work my new toy. As a Canon owner, the D3x was completely foreign to me, including the menu system. There wasn't a manual included with my rental, so I went online and downloaded a pdf version. It took me about two hours to read through the manual and figure out how the majority of the camera's controls worked.


Nikon D3x: First Impressions

The D3x was a lot larger than I expected and noticeably heavier than my 7D too. When holding the D3x, you can tell a lot of thought went into the ergonomics, as it felt like it was custom-moulded just for my hand. The weight distribution was perfectly balanced and I could tell I'd be able to carry the camera for many hours without getting hand cramps. (I'm not a fan of wearing / using camera straps. They're uncomfortable to me and always get in my way.)

I first attached the 14-24mm lens and fired off a couple of shots. I immediately noticed the sound of the shutter was much different than that of my 7D. I had always felt my 7D's shutter sounded like a toy, which could be best described as the sound a child's bike makes when a playing card has been placed on the back wheel and flaps through the spokes. The D3x's shutter sounded a bit louder and more closely resembled the sound a non-digital camera made.


Nikon D3x: First Field Test

Marsh Sunset with Nikon D3x and 14-24mm
View of the sun setting near Savannah Wildlife Refuge

Later that afternoon, I decided I couldn't wait any longer and needed to go out into the "real world" and test out my new toy. My wife and I decided to head over to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge to take some sunset shots. After driving around for several miles and scoping out some different vantage points, I found the perfect location and setup my gear, which consisted of the D3x mounted on my tripod. The sun was mostly obscured by some low level clouds, so it wasn't necessary for me to take more than 3-5 bracketed shots in order to capture the entire dynamic range of light. But because I had been armed with a new toy capable of taking many bracketed shots, I just had to play around with it and ended up taking 7 bracketed shots from -3/+3. I was all giddy inside as the D3x fired off the shots.

Later that night I processed a set of five bracketed shots I had taken. My usual workflow is to first tone-map the images using Photomatix Pro and then fine-tune things inside of Photoshop using layers, masks and plugins. If you're interested in buying Photomatix, use the coupon code Cameralabs when checking-out to receive 15% discount.

As someone who had been used to processing compositions comprised of only three bracketed shots, I was paying special attention to see if I felt like having the five bracketed shots gave me any type of advantage or disadvantage. Aside from taking 10 seconds longer to load up into Photomatix Pro, I couldn't notice any difference as I went through my usual adjustments in the program. Once I began processing the tone-mapped image inside of Photoshop, I again didn't notice anything working particularly different or better than what I had been used to. The only advantage I could see was I had five original images I could choose from as opposed to three when masking in areas that looked awkward from the tone mapping process.

Something I had expected to be different when processing the D3x photos in Photoshop held true and that was how long it took Photoshop to render effects. I had expected this because the D3x took 24 Megapixel images, whereas my 7D only took 18 Megapixel images. As someone who renders a lot of effects when processing images, this extra time was very noticeable. This of course wasn't a flaw with the D3x but rather just something one needed to be aware of.


Nikon D3x: First Sports Photography Attempt:

Since one of my daughters is in gymnastics and has a lot of tournaments, I wanted to test out the D3x and see how well it performed inside of a typical gym. Flash photography is never allowed inside of a gymnastics tournament, so it's always tough trying to get photos of gymnasts and use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the action. In fact, most often there is a photography company given permission at each tournament to take and sell photos but because of the poor lighting conditions, they almost always take shots of the gymnasts during their balance-beam events since the gymnasts often stop and pause during their performance.

I had been able to get some pretty decent shots with my 7D in the past. And not just of my daughter when she's on the balance beam, but also during her vault and floor routine. My images would usually have a lot of noise in them due to having to use a high ISO, but Lightroom would do an excellent job in removing most of the noise. What had always impressed me with my 7D was how quickly it could track focus when I set it to use the "AI Servo" mode. In case you're not familiar with this mode, it's best described as a way to focus on a moving subject and continuously track and focus on the moving subject. Think of it like a missile fired from a plane that locks on to a target. As the tracked plane continues to manoeuvre left and right and up and down, the missile is able to continue following and tracking it.

To test the D3x, I took it with me to my daughter's gymnastics practice at our local gym. I asked my daughter to practice her floor routine since that would give me a chance to play around and test how well the D3x could track focus. Nikon doesn't use the term "AI Servo", but rather it refers to this similar focus tracking mode as "Continuous-servo AF". As my daughter was getting ready to begin, I focused on her while she was standing still and about to run across the floor. As she began to run and then do some flips and back tucks, I fired away with the D3x.

The first thing I noticed while shooting away was that the shots or frames per second seemed very slow. I was surprised because I had thought the D3x was capable of shooting up to seven frames per second. After reading more about the D3x, I later learned that the seven frames per second was only possible if shooting in 12-bit mode while in the DX format. The DX format is essentially a simulated 1.6x cropped sensor mode and takes shots that are only 10.5 Megapixels. Since I was shooting 14-bit RAW files with the FX (full sensor / 24 Megapixels) mode, the maximum speed fell to less than 2fps. While shooting with this slow speed was down to my lack of familiarity with the D3x, I was also disappointed to discover how poorly it had tracked-focus in this environment. Most of my shots were blurry and unsalvageable. I had known ahead of time that the D3x wasn't catered towards sports photography, but I had still thought it would have performed much better than it did. Of course this was just one situation, but it's revealing my 7D performed much better at focus-tracking under the same conditions.


Nikon D3x: Vermont Foliage Photo Shoot

I arrived in Vermont around 2pm after a morning of travelling. I had gone to High School in Vermont, so the first thing I did once I was settled in was call up a friend of mine and arranged a time for us to meet. We decided to have dinner in the downtown Burlington area, which was strategically planned by me since I knew that area offered some great views of Lake Champlain.

After our dinner, we walked down towards Lake Champlain. We had perfect timing because the sun was nearing the horizon. I of course was carrying my tripod with the D3x attached to it and after briefly scouting out the area, I setup and took several shots of the setting sun over the lake. Since I was shooting almost directly into the sun, I decided to bracket seven shots from -3 to +3. It was such a delightful sound to hear the shutter firing off more than the three shots I was used to with my Canon 7D. Upon reviewing the histogram, I was able to see that the seven shots easily captured the darkest shadows and the brightest highlights. You can see each of the bracketed shots below the main image.

Photo of the sun setting over Lake Champlain, taken with Nikon D3x and 14-24mm
Photo of the sun setting over Lake Champlain

  Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at -3 of Lake Champlain Sunset photo   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at -2 of Lake Champlain Sunset photo   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at -1 of Lake Champlain Sunset photo  
  -3 EV   -2 EV   -1 EV  
  Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at normal exposure of Lake Champlain Sunset photo   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at +1 of Lake Champlain Sunset photo   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at +2 of Lake Champlain Sunset photo  
  0 EV   +1 EV   +2 EV  
  Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at +3 of Lake Champlain Sunset photo      
  +3 EV          

I woke up the next morning at 5am so that I could venture out and capture a sunrise shot. The previous evening I had used Google Earth to find a location that had a good view of the sun rising as well as a view of the mountains that Vermont is famous for. The location I had found was about a 30 minute drive from my hotel and the sunrise was taking place at 6:34am. I arrived in the area I had scouted 30 minutes prior to sunrise, which was a good thing because I had a hard time finding a place to park that was nearby. I ended up having to park about 1/4 mile away, on the side of a dirt road.

I had to walk and cross through a stream, some wooded areas, and finally a grassy field before finding a good vantage point to get my shot from. I knew where the sun was going to be rising from but was concerned I wasn't going to get a decent shot because it was extremely foggy out. I set my tripod up and took a couple of shots from different heights and angles but wasn't really happy with what I captured.

At 7am, after I knew the sun had already risen above the horizon, I began walking around again to see if I could find some other scenes to capture. The fog had pretty much blocked my view of the rising sun, so I wasn't too happy at this point. But soon after I began walking around, I noticed the fog beginning to dissipate. In fact, it was rapidly subsiding and I began to see the outline of the sun. I quickly walked back to where I had been shooting from before and setup my gear for some more shots. By this time, the sun was clearly visible behind the branches of a large tree. What was left of the fog had created a surreal environment in which the rays of the sun could be seen stretching outward towards the nearby stream. I took nine bracketed shots from -4 to +4, and captured the two photos shown below.


Autumn Rising Fog, taken with Nikon D3x and 14-24mm
Photo of Autumn Rising Sun taken in Vermont.

And here are the nine bracketed shots that made up the photo I named "Autumn Rising Fog":

  Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at -4 of Autumn Sunrise photo.   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at -3 of Autumn Sunrise photo.   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at -2 of Autumn Sunrise photo.  
  -4 EV   -3 EV   -2 EV  
  Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at -1 of Autumn Sunrise photo.   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at normal exposure of Autumn Sunrise photo.   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at +1 of Autumn Sunrise photo.  
  -1 EV   0 EV   +1 EV  
  Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at +2 of Autumn Sunrise photo.   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at +3 of Autumn Sunrise photo.   Thumbnail image of bracketed shot taken at +4 of Autumn Sunrise photo.  
  +2 EV   +3 EV   +4 EV  



Autumn Sunrise, taken with Nikon D3x and 14-24mm
Photo of the sun rising on an early Autumn morning.



View of the D3x out in the field during my foliage adventure.

For the next few days, I went on several hikes and captured all sorts of foliage shots. Since I wanted to take a lot of photos, I hiked while carrying the D3x attached to my tripod. I couldn't remember any times over the past year or so when my arms became tired while carrying around my 7D attached to my tripod but during most of the hikes I went on in Vermont with the D3x attached to my tripod, I found my arms and shoulders getting tired and sore. It wasn't unbearable, but was definitely something that I was aware of and had to frequently switch carrying my tripod with my left and right arm.


Nikon D3x verdict

I had a lot of fun being the owner of a Nikon D3x for 10 days and it was a great learning experience too. As much as I enjoyed shooting with the D3x, this adventure helped me realise the D3x really isn't the right camera choice for me and I'm glad Gordon persuaded me to rent it as a trial first. The difference in price between my 7D and the D3x was $6500. Even though I thought the D3x was a great camera, I didn't feel it offered me an additional $6500 worth of value and features.

I decided to put together "top-ten" lists for the pros and cons I discovered while using the D3x versus my 7D. Keep in mind that this is from my perspective based on my experience and style of photography. If you'd like to see a more technical report on the actual image quality of this camera, check out Gordon's Nikon D3x review.


Nikon D3x Pros:

1. The D3x is definitely an "attention-grabber". Whether onlookers are professional photographers, amateur photographers, or clueless photographers, all three categories of people will think you have an awesome camera. There were several occasions where people came up to me to comment on how nice a camera I had.

2. Normally when I'm post processing images taken with my 7D, the underexposed shots will more often than not have some noise in them. I noticed very little, if any, noise in all of the bracketed shots taken with the D3x.

3. The battery life on the D3x is outstanding. After a full day of taking pictures, the battery would still show as being almost completely charged. To be on the safe side, I would always recharge it at night and it would recharge within an hour.

4. As I stated earlier, the sound the shutter makes on the D3x sounds so much more awesome than that of my 7D and most other Canon DSLR's I've heard. Yes, this is a materialistic thing but I'm sure most people do care about this but just won't admit it.

5. The total number of focusing points on the D3x is 51 compared to only 19 on the 7D, which makes it easier to lock focus on a particular area within your composition without having to slightly adjust/move your camera.

6. The D3x has a much more solid body and is weather-sealed to allow shooting in almost all weather conditions including heavy rain. (Although it would be difficult to shoot in heavy rain since the lens would get drops all over it.)

7. I don't particularly have much use for an intervelometer, but the D3x has one and would give someone the flexibility to take photos at customized intervals such as when shooting time-lapse photography of the stars at night.

8. The built-in grip on the D3x features a second shutter release button for use while holding the camera in portrait mode.

9. As of this article, the resale amount for a D3x with low shutter actuations is close to $7500, which is only $500 less than the original retail price.

10. Although this is another materialistic thing, I'd imagine the pride of owning a D3x, along with the envy of other photographers would be very high.


Nikon D3x Cons:

1. The D3x was noticeably heavier than my 7D and would become evident shortly after carrying it while attached to my tripod.

2. Even though the D3x features 51 focusing points, I often had problems locking the focus on areas of my compositions that my 7D would normally not encounter. For example, during the shots I took for the "Autumn Rising Fog" shot, I tried focusing at a focal point which included the distant trees and some whitespace from the bright sky. This clearly offered enough contrast, but the D3x could not lock the focus. I instead had to choose another nearby focal point.

3. If you have any desire at all to capture action or sports shots, unless you shoot in 12-bit mode and use the DX setting, you're only going to get 1.4 frames per second, which will drastically limit what you're able to capture. And with the D3x being slower at maintaining focus while tracking a moving subject, you will also encounter many blurry images that are totally unsalvageable.

4. At $8000, the D3x is $6500 more than the 7D. I thought hard about this but could not find any feature(s) or option(s) or combination of the two that was worth the $6500 difference.

5. The highest ISO the D3x can shoot at is 6400, whereas the 7D can go as high as 12800. I realize that when shooting at ISO 12800 there will be a lot of noise, but most noise-reduction software can now do a great job of removing most of the noise. The higher the ISO, the faster your shutter speed will be when shooting in aperture priority mode and setting ISO to automatic. This is the mode I use when shooting fast-moving action shots and helps to freeze the action. (Having a decent lens will also allow a faster shutter speed by using a wider aperture.)

6. The D3x was released almost four years ago. There have been a lot of improvements made with image processors and image sensors as well as the ability to capture images with less noise such as those taken with the Nikon D3s. I personally know that I'd always wish I had held out for the successor to the D3x, since it would likely take advantage of this latest technology.

7. There are hundreds of customized options you can set and use within the menu system on the D3x, although I can't imagine anyone needing anywhere close to all of them. I'd feel like a lot of the $6500 extra that the D3x costs over my 7D would be paying for most of those options and I'd never use them.

8. I'm sure most people would purchase insurance on a D3x, but I know I'd still be extra paranoid if I ever had to leave my D3x back in a hotel room or had to have it checked as baggage on an airplane. This isn't a fault of course of the D3x, but is certainly something I'd be aware of at all times.

9. Because of how large the D3x is, you may be less likely to take it to places where you would have taken a 7D or other smaller DSLRs.

10. This isn't really a "Con" for the D3x, but I learned that being able to take more than three bracketed shots doesn't make as much of a difference as I had originally thought it would. I could imagine two or three occasions over the past three years where being able to take more than three bracketed shots would have been helpful, but that definitely isn't worth the extra $6500 the D3x costs over my 7D.high.


Postscript: Canon launches EOS 1D X - could this be my ideal camera?

Canon EOS 1D X
Three weeks after my experience with the D3x, Canon announced their newest pro body: the EOS 1D X. I immediately pored over the specifications and here's a summary of the important stuff I found, concentrating on the benefits I'd enjoy over my existing EOS 7D:

Full-frame 18.1 Megapixel CMOS Sensor

This is the same resolution as my 7D, however, with a larger full-frame sensor, it should deliver much lower noise levels. With no field-reduction, it would additionally open up a world of Canon ultra-wide L lenses.

Dual DIGIC 5+ Image Processors plus a DIGIC 4 just for AF and metering

The EOS 1D X and 7D may share the same sensor resolution, but with almost double the potential frame rate, the 1D X has a lot more data to crunch. Enter the dual DIGIC 5+ processors, plus an additional DIGIC 4 devoted just for AF and metering. Bottom line is the 1D X as a pro sports camera should be quicker and more responsive overall than my 7D.

12 Frames Per Second

Holy Crap! Are you kidding me? 12 frames per second is really, really fast. Plus, it's capable of 14 frames per second when in mirror-lockup mode. So that's 50% quicker than my 7D.

ISO up to 204800

My 7D has ISO up to 12,800, but higher ISO figures don't impress me too much. Once you get above a certain ISO, there's likely to be too much noise for my kind of photography. It's kind of like a digital video camera claiming 200x digital zoom. At 200x, it's going to look terrible, so who cares? That said, the bigger sensor area of the 1D X should mean each ISO setting is cleaner than my 7D, so shooting at previously unusable ISOs might become a possibility.

61-Point Auto-Focus

With my 7D only having 19 Auto-Focus points, this is definitely an improvement that's of interest to me. The more auto-focus points, the greater likelihood of being able to track and keep fast-moving objects in focus.

Can accommodate two Compact Flash Cards

Having two card slots allows the 1D X to do more than just potentially increase your shooting capacity. It lets you do things like backup images as you take them, or record RAW files onto one card and JPEGs onto the other. I'm not sure how much I'd exploit this, but the backup is a nice option to have on an important shoot.

AEB: +3/-3 Stops

Like the EOS 1D Mark IV before it, the 1D X can be set to bracket two, three, five or seven frames, and the range for AEB here is +3/-3 stops. The bracketing depth far-exceeds the paltry three frames of my 7D, although having now used seven-frame bracketing on the Nikon D3x, it is actually less important for my work than I thought when I originally began this journey.

Speculated Cost of $6999

This would be $5500 more than I paid for my 7D. Not an insignificant sum.


So is the 1D X for me? I'll admit when it was first announced, I was really excited and had all intentions of selling my 7D and purchasing the 1D X. But then Gordon reminded me it would suffer from some of the same "gripes" I had with the Nikon D3x, such as being much bigger, heavier and less discreet than my 7D. As an expensive camera it would also suffer from the same insurance and security concerns as a D3x.

So I came to the conclusion the only way it would make sense for me to purchase the 1D X would be if I also kept my 7D, rather than sell it. I'd then be able to keep all of my previously purchased Canon lenses, including the EF-S 10-22mm. Keeping the 7D would also allow me to have a camera that I'd feel comfortable with taking to the fair, for example, without having to lug around something big and bulky.

So, yes, I plan on purchasing Canon's EOS 1D X just as soon as I can get my anxious hands on it and look forward to reporting back on it.

In the meantime, if you'd like to view more of the Fall images that I captured with the D3x, check out my Vermont Fall Foliage Adventure article over at HDR Photography Blog.

PS - remember if you're ever uncertain about a new camera or lens, it can be a great idea to rent it first as a trial. This can also work really well if you only need an expensive piece of equipment for a short time, such as a specialist lens to cover an event or trip. Borrow Lenses has a huge range of cameras, lenses and accessories to rent for anyone living in the USA, or who is visiting and knows someone with a US bank account to make the booking. You can also support Camera Labs by clicking through to them via the links here before making a booking.

If you enjoyed this article, please support Cameralabs by shopping or renting below!

PS - don't forget to use the coupon cameralabs to receive 15% discount on Photomatix HDR software!
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