4k filming with a Canon 1DX Mark2 – DSLR

After the Blackmagic Production Camera 4k (BMPC) and the Canon EOS C100, we are back to a DSLR from Canon for our film production – the 1DX Mark2. We would like to share our experiences filming with the camera and give personal assessments regarding the performance of the video mode compared to the C100. Main reasons for the change were 4k and the DAF – Autofocus.

Why do we appreciate the DSLR form factor?

The choice of the form factor of a camera besides the image and build quality depends on personal preferences. Some people like the ergonomics of a shoulder camera, others like a small compact camera. Nowadays the image quality of a camera is not defined solely by its physical size. Often, however, the form factor depends on the technical workflow, for example shoulder cameras are equipped with better audio or synchronous functions (genlock) for broadcasting.
For us, we produce advertising films, high-quality documentations and image films, the Super 35mm look (large sensor) and a compact form factor is crucial. The C100 body is very handy in the daily film work. It is relatively lightweight, compact and can be quickly used on tripod, slider, gimbal or light dolly. Short handheld shots work as well, thanks to the practical side handle.
All this except for the lack of the top handle unit of the C100 can be done with the 1DX MK2 Body. In our opinion with a lightweight and small camera you can produce good pictures faster.

Pros 1DX Mark 2 (video mode)Cons 1DX Mark 2 (video mode)
DAF-Autofocus focus pulling / smartphoneno bulit-in ND filter as e.g. the C100
4k 24p, 25p, 50p, 30p, 60poutdated codec (Motion-JPG)
Codec with a high data rateno C-Log
Cinema-look 1,34er Crop (larger than s35)no internal wifi (need external transmitter)
touch monitorno XLR sockets
counter starts at 0 instead of timecodeHD-Modus has moire
HD 100p, 120pno 4k at the HDMI-Output
C-Fast memory cardsOnly mini HDMI out instead of large HDMI
Raw 20 megapixels photos29m59 Aufnahme Limit
Very good rolling shutter readoutno waveform monitor
Relatively lightweight and compactBlogno top handle grip unit

The Video Codec „Motion-JPEG“ (M-JPEG)

The Canon 1D-X Mk2 records at real DCI [1] 4k (4096×2160) with a 17: 9 aspect ratio and framerates of 24, 25, 30, 50, 60 progressive frames per second in video mode. The data rate is 500 Mbit/s or 62.5 MByte/s at 25p or 800 Mbit/s or 100 MByte/s at 50 / 60p respectively. The 4k video image has a high detail sharpness, without exaggerating, meaning without artificially sharpening the image. A great image, very cinematic.
The M-JPEG codec is a pretty old codec. Actually today’s standard is a H.264 codec, as used by Sony (FS7) or Canon (C300Mark2).
Many people who tested the 1DX Mark2 complained about the high data rate 128GB correspond to approximately 30min of footage.
For comparison: The Sony FS7 with 250MBit/s and H.264 writes about 60min to 128GB. However, due to the high data rate and good signal processing (422) of the 1DX Mark 2 it offers a similarly good post-processing reserve, comparable to their photos in JPEG frame mode. The details contained in the highlights and shadows can be worked out well in post without getting any compression artifacts. Those are the greatest weakness of the C100, which due to its low data rate of only 25 Mbit/s has significantly fewer possibilities in color correction and grading. However, if you only need small color corrections and want to record a lot of material, such as documentations, you can be pleased with the high recording time of about 5 ½ hours on 64GB of storage, but only in HD.
Another recording format is the ProRes codec used in the Blackmagic BMPC 4K, which has similarly high data rates in 4K mode as the 1D X Mark II, but in 10Bit instead of 8Bit. It would be nice if Canon would also offer a codec option with 10Bit color depth which means 10Bit luminance levels per color channel in the video signal. Codecs with 10 bits per color channel allow a color representation with finer gradients, since 1024 (10Bit) steps per color channel can be stored instead of just 256 steps (8 bits).

The sensor of the 1DX Mark2 is much better than the sensor of the Blackmagic Production Camera 4k (BMPC) [2]. Thus, the 1DX Mark2 [3] has more dynamic range, is more noise-free and light-sensitive (ISO-6400 usable!). These image properties are much more usefull in the final video than the 10Bit codec of a BMPC or URSA MINI 4K. At the moment, devices for distribution such as computer displays, TVs or a Youtube channel are still designed for 8Bit, so that we can live with 8Bit in practice. The codec can be edited with Premiere pretty well.
The C100 Mark2 unfortunately has no 4k (4096×2160) or Quad-HD (3840×2160).

Which flat picture profile?

Since Canon does not deliver the C-Log Pictureprofil with the 1DX Mark2, we use the Cinestyle of Technicolor for log video. The Cinestyle Picture profile (similar to the C-Log) reduces the contrast and saturation, thus increasing the recorded dynamic range as the light and dark areas are not easily blown out. In addition, the image characteristics look more cinematic than the Canon color profiles normal and standard. This has the advantage that in post you can get good looking pictures relatively easy while keeping dynamics in the highlights and shadows during recording. The setting in the picture profile are: Sharpness 0, Contrast -4, Saturation 0, Hue 0

For more information on Log video and what the Cinestyle from Technicolor can do:
Our Blog-Artikel [4]:

Link Cinestyle from Technicolor [5](free download):

For color matching a 1DX Mark2 in with a C300 Mk2 or another Canon EOS Cinema camera it would be better if Canon would deliver the C-Log Picture Profile for their DSLRs as well.

Film examples from our image films shot with the 1DX Mark 2

Dual Pixel CMOS-AF (DAF) Autofocus

On a classic film set, a camera assistant or a focus puller usually pulls the camera’s image sharpness manually. With the help of markings on the focus wheel, the focus puller can set certain sharpness points during a shot. In photography, the use of the autofocus is standard. The image is reflected onto special focusing sensors via a mirror, which is folded into the light path, to be able to automatically adjust the focus distance to the object. However, this is not possible in the video mode. So far the autofocus was determined by analysing the contrast of the video image, in which the focus point oscillate, that is, the focus goes slightly beyond the correct point before reaching the right sharpness. The settling of the contrast autofocus makes it useless, for adjusting the focus during a recording. In the new dual-pixel autofocus method, a focus detection is carried out via special phase sensors in the image sensor, this is both faster and more precise. The sharpness is adjusted correctly the first time. In addition, the image processor in the camera allows continuous tracking during video filming.

The dual pixel CMOS-AF (DAF) autofocus is already quite good in the C100, but it is only available in the center of the image. For the 1DX Mark2 as well as the C300 Mark2 the focus field is freely movable within 80% of the image size and allows the tracking of objects. The monitor of the 1DX Mark2 also has a touchscreen, which can be used to drag the focus in the 80% frame by touch. This can not be done with the C300 Mark2 because it has no touchscreen. The response speed of the autofocus can be set in the menu in 7 steps (fast, slow). So it is possible to produce a smooth sharpness shift using touch.
All Canon lenses published after 2009 support these fine speed settings. The popular Canon EF 24-105mm 4.0 L IS USM which was released in 2005 and unfortunately does not support the speed settings. These lenses can only focus fast. In very dark and very low-contrast scenes, the DAF focus is no longer reliable. Also object tracking only works with slow movements. The face detection works quite well. But in this case it shouldn’t be too dark or low in contrast.
The DAF auto focus is also very well suited for dolly shots on a slider while changing the focus. The camera operator can fully concentrate on the camera move without having to operate the focus ring, which allows a much more controlled camera movement.

When a gimbal such as the DJI Ronin M is used, controlling the camera without an external motor or remote control is difficult to achieve. Operating the camera while walking with the gimbal can easily lead to camera shake. A tip from us for using the Ronin M with the 1DX Mark2, order the tilt bar extension rods (30mm), since the camera is quite high.

A further plus of the 1DX Mark2 is the control of the most important camera functions like start-stop and focus using a smartphone. We have been waiting for years on wireless focus pulling. However, the Wifi module is not integrated, and therefore must be purchased and plugged into the camera. In fact, an unnecessary mechanical weakness, because in the smaller model of Canon the 5D Mark IV the Wifi module is already integrated.

The control of sharpness using a smartphone has several advantages. On a light crane, e.g. no cables have to be laid for video image and remote control. A conventional radio module for focus control with an external motor and a radio link for video image transmission to the operator costs considerably more than, e.g. the wifi module for the 1DX Mark2.


Changing batteries on set of an image film production

The large Canon batteries (LP-E19) power the camera in video mode for over 2.5 hours. For a complete shooting day you should have at least two batteries. The battery can be changed from the side instead of the bottom, e.g. with a 5D Mark3 or Mark 4. This has the advantage that for the change the camera does not have to be taken off of the tripod.



A few words about the HD mode. The HD mode is almost useless. There is strong moiré on brick walls and the structures of industrial buildings and the detail sharpness is very low – the first 1DX could do this much better.

Our blog article Comparison Canon EOS-7D vs. Canon EOS-1D X [6]:

In any case, the HD mode of the C100 and the BMPC are considerably sharper. Above all, we mean detail sharpness, rather than just increasing the edge-sharpness.

Memory cards CFast and CompactFlash

The two card formats that can be used in the Canon 1D X Mark2 are CFast 2.0 and CompactFlash (Type 1).


Fortunately for those who bought CompactFlash cards from Komputerbay for the Magic-Lantern Raw workflow of the 5D Mark3. These cards also work very well in the 4k 25p and 30p modes of the 1DX Mark 2. CFast 2.0 memory cards are required for video recording of 4k with 50 or 60 frames per second. Although the Komputerbay cards deliver up to 140MBytes per second in a card reader, that would be enough for 4k 60p, but the CompactFlash interface of the camera is limited to about 100MBytes per second. Is there only a UDMA100(5) interface instead of UDMA166 (7) installed?

If you buy new, you should definitely take CFast 2.0 cards. In addition, the SATA connector is much better than the pins of CompactFlash, since nothing can be bend anymore in the card reader.
It is not necessary to buy the fastest and most expensive cards, the Transcend CFX600 with 256GB is sufficient and is compatible with C300MK2, and e.g. to the 3.2K mode of the Amira of Arri. You should pay attention to the formatting of the memory cards to use exFAT instead of the old FAT32 format, because with FAT32 the camera splits the recordings in multiple 4GB files. For image films, we need about 1 to 2 hours of material per day of shooting. For this we use a 256GB Transcend and three 128GB memory cards from KomputerBay for a total of approx. 2.5 hours of material.

In-camera Audio for image films

The built-in microphone of the camera is not suitable for recording high quality audio on location, since both the stabilizer and the focus motor of the lens are clearly audible.
Here, quiet STM lenses from Canon would be advantageous, but so far they are not available as an L lens. The connection of a microphone to the jack socket provides a relatively good sound for external mics or radio microphones, due to the slightly better analogue amplifier compared to the Blackmagic production Camera 4k (BMPC). If you have the possibility, you should record audio externally, for example to use XLR microphones and to ensure a better control of the audio levels. Here, the in-camera sound can be used for synchronization.


Photo mode

Undoubtedly in addition to the video mode, the Canon 1DX Mark2 also shoots excellent photos. From our experience with the 5D Mark3 we have noticed that in the 1DX Mark2, especially the shadows are substantially more noise-free. Also, the dynamic range is slightly larger.
[7] Quote Traumflieger: “Canon has changed its sensor design on onchip A / D conversion with the consequence that the useful signal is better separated from the background noise, which has a particularly positive effect in the postprocessing of RAW files.”
So here is a real step forward.
The market changes, so we often hear our clients requesting to shot a photo quickly. We do this either with 20 megapixel in the Raw Photo mode, or after the shooting from the video timeline in 4k.

Why we didn’t buy the 5D Mark4?

Originally, we wanted to buy a 5D Mark4 with 4k and DAF, we had waited a long time for this. But the 1,7-Crop in the 4k video mode is not wide enough for us. The Crop factor is used to calculate the effective focal length of a lens.
Thus from a 24mm lens with the 1.7 Crop you get 40.8mm instead of 31.2mm with the 1.3 crop of the 1DX Mark2. Unfortunately, the EF-S lenses from Canon do not fit the EF mount of the 5D Mark4, because they protrude a little deeper into the body and thus the mirror would be damaged. Our colleague Dennis Siebert (www.shadowandlight.de) uses the 5D Mark4 as a photo camera and is very satisfied with it. The photo mode of the 5D Mark4 with its 30Mio. pixels is quite impressive. The 1DX Mark2 on the other hand can shine with its high speed with 14 images per second (16 in the liveview).
Nonetheless Canon has not been able to meet the expectations of filmmakers with the 5D Mark4. We would have wanted full-frame 4k video and H264. Something else we would wish for is a “Canon 5D C” with full-frame 4k or even a photo mode in the Cinema EOS line (C100-C300).


Test videos 1DXMK2 4k vs. C100 HD Tungsten and Lowlight

In this video we compare the lowlight behavior of the cameras with tungsten light.


The 1DX Mark2 thanks to 4k has more detail sharpness and is at the same ISO more light sensitive than the C100. A doubling of the ISO value causes a digital gain in the camera, which leads to a doubling of the brightness of the image. Note ISO values are not comparable to those of other digital film cameras, since the sensors of the cameras have different characteristics (size and noise). In practice the 1DX Mark2 is usable up to and including ISO 6400, since the recordings otherwise have too much noise. The same applies to the C100. Both have a very organic noise similar to the grain of 35mm celluloid film.

The HD image of the C100 is more detailed and sharper, although we generally like the full-frame look which you get when using the HD-mode of the 1DX Mark2. The 24mm lens has then no sensor crop.

If the camera’s tone priority function (D+) is enabled, the camera automatically performs an under-exposure for the bright image areas (highlights), similar to a log curve, and an over exposure with one stop of exposure in the dark image area (shadows). These corrections occur according to the manual around an average tonal range (18% gray). In the D + mode, the ISO range is limited from 200 to 32000. In practice this means that we gain one stop of exposure in the highlights of the video.

Upgrade wishes to Canon for the 1DX Mark 2
Info-Button changing of the function assignment(disable circle through) directly turning on or off the histogram
Crop markers for different screen ratios on the camera monitorQuad-HD
Quad-HD video modeLess coding effort in the post, however, more crop (1.43)
additional Picture ProfilesC-Log
Positionable video scopesHistogram
in addition waveform monitor and zebra
simultaneous dual card Video recording4k 24p
4k 35p
4k 30p
60p does not work since only 1 CFast-Slot
Peakingrot, blau, gelb, weiß
Timelapsetimelaps photo sequences
Liveview focus for dark shooting situationsincreasing contrast/ISO while pushing the focus button similar to the photo liveview mode
HDMI-OutputSimultaneous display of the HD image on the camera monitor so far not possible and therefore also no operation of the touch focus
AudioBox as an upgrade (paid)Top-Handle-Unit with XLR for the hot shoe

Conclusion: The DAF autofocus makes the difference

The 1DX Mark2 is an expensive DSLR. Nevertheless, it is currently Canon’s most affordable 4k video camera or DSLR with Super 35mm Look (Large Sensor), Dual Pixel CMOS-AF (DAF) and 4k 50p | 60p mode.
The body is absolutely robust and has a very good weather protection. We like the videos of the camera very much because of Canon’s excellent colors (Color Science) and the Canon-typical realistic skin tones. The detail sharpness of the 4k video is also good. Because of the high data rate of the 1DX Mark2 in 4k mode (25p-30min.:about 128GB) you should have enough memory cards in your portfolio. For long-term event documentation, the camera is not as well suited as for example for cinematic work because of the 30-minute DSLR recording limit. If you like the DSLR form factor, you get a good camera, which has functions that are not even available with the Canon C300 Mark2. The touchscreen is great and the DAF auto focus simplifies the focus pulling enormously and has become an indispensable feature for us.

Michael Großmann & Helmut Schnock GbR
Lohweg 2
25524 Itzehoe

[1] Source: DCI = Digital Cinema Initiatives

[2] Source: https://www.cinema5d.com/blackmagic-ursa-mini-4k-vs-4-6k/

[3] Source: https://www.cinema5d.com/canon-1d-x-mark-ii-vs-canon-1d-c-which-one-shoots-better-video/

[4] Source: https://blog.unem.de/en/technicolor-picture-style-canon-7d/

[5] Source: http://www.technicolor.com/en/solutions-services/cinestyle

[6] Source: https://blog.unem.de/en/canon-eos-1d-x-canon-7d-comparison/

[7] Source: http://www.traumflieger.de/reports/Kamera-Tests/Canon-EOS-DSLR/EOS-1D-X-Mark-II/Canon-EOS-1Dx-Mark-2-im-Test::1182.html