Canon 1D X has sharper video image than the 5D mkIII – comparison video

By site editor Dan Chung:

Canon EOS-1 X and 5D mkIII on the Cathay Photo stand at Broadcast Asia

I had a brief opportunity to shoot some video with the new Canon-1D X this week at the Broadcast Asia show in Singapore. The 1D X finally shipped in small quantities this week and I was keen to see how the video image compared to that of the 5D mkIII.

I set up a very short shot with both cameras configured with similar settings. Recording was done in 1080/25P using ALL-I H.264 with Picture style set to neutral with the minimum sharpnening and -2 contrast. The same Canon 24-105mm f4L IS lens was used on both cameras and the exposure was kept constant. Focus was checked using magnification in Live View prior to recording. The ALL-I files were converted to Prores HQ using 5DtoRGB conversion software and then edited in FCP 7. It was then exported as the highest quality H.264 file possible. To see the differences I recommend downloading the file from Vimeo (you need to be logged in as a user) rather than viewing it straight.

Dslrnewshooter at Broadcast Asia 2012: Quick Canon 5D mkIII and 1D X comparison from Dan Chung on Vimeo.

The result came as a big surprise to me – the 1D X seems to resolve fine detail much better than the 5D mkIII. Even though the cameras share similar video processors and functions the image is certainly different. Many users have already noted that video files direct from the 5D mkIII have a softness that really needs sharpening in post production to get the best out of it. The 1D X by contrast has clearly defined details without having to do any image manipulation in post. It does this without showing any noticeable moire or artefacting. (The H.264 version I exported for Vimeo does not do the 1D X full justice and the original ALL-I files are slightly sharper still).

Setup for the quick test

Quite what Canon engineers have done here is unclear to me but I suspect that the fact that the 1D X uses a 18 megapixel sensor versus the 5D mkIII’s 22.3 MP one makes a difference. They may simply have come up with a better video processing algorithm or perhaps there is just a different default level of sharpening (as zero on the camera’s menu is a purely arbitrary calibration anyway). I think that there is more to it than sharpening though as there are no signs of halos or other negative effects.

What will be interesting to test is how well the 1D X compares to the Nikon D800. It might just be that the 1D X is the best image quality Full Frame video DSLR currently out there. That said also please bear in mind that this was a very quickly done sample and further testing is required to confirm my results.

The downsides of the 1D X compared to the D800 are the higher price (for which you do get much better stills features) and the fact that is does not have a headphone jack or a clean HDMI output. It seems to me that Canon could have added these features to the 1D X but would prefer you to purchase the upcoming EOS-1D C instead. For several thousand dollars extra the 1D C will also add 4K recording and Canon’s Log-C gamma – but it’s not clear that the 1080P image will be any better than the 1D X.

The 1D X setup to fly on a Steadicam Merlin 2

My personal view is that the 1D X is only really going to appeal to professional photojournalists who also need to shoot video and want everything in the one camera. If you don’t shoot stills at all and are happy with a smaller sensor then you are probably going to look at dedicated video cameras such as the FS700 for a similar amount of money instead. For the DSLR shooter who really wants a Full frame video camera above all else the 1D X may be best option right now – but only until the 1D C comes out.

Many thanks to Charmaine Toh of Cathay Photo and Habez Rahmen for helping out.

Edit: I’ve added a few still frame grabs from the 1D X which can be viewed at 100% if you click on them. They are all done with a Zeiss 50mm f2 ZE lens.

Subscribe to our newsletter