When I travel, I tend not to spend time in crowded cities, so photographing through the streets of Paris was a big departure from what I normally do. I'm a get-out-in-the-wilderness kind of person. But Paris was my wife’s destination of choice and the City of Lights was going to win me a few brownie points ahead of my 2012 Iceland workshop. That said, our time in Europe presented the opportunity for me to test the new EOS-1D X. I especially wanted to see what the camera was capable of at very high ISOs. Needless to say, I did not pack a flash for this trip.
What excited me about the EOS-1D X even before I got my hands on it was its ability to shoot handheld at incredible high ISOs. As a landscape photographer I shoot 99% of the time with a tripod and long exposures, but the more I got to thinking about this new technology, the more I realised how useful the EOS-1D X could be for my work.
"The EOS-1D X can take any punishment you can deal out, and I deal out a lot"
So as much as this trip to Europe was personal, I could not overlook the commercial aspects. What I didn’t want to do however, was shoot the same type of stock travel photography that’s been done so many times over. I wanted to focus on the architecture and not the people, but from unique angles that we haven’t seen before or from unusual angles that would not have been possible with any other camera. So I spent a lot of time looking up at cathedral ceilings and stain glass windows.
Starting this trip in Paris was fortuitous because I got to shoot inside dark cathedrals, in conditions approaching complete darkness. You're not allowed to take in a tripod or use flash. That's when I realised what a game changer the EOS-1D X was. I was shooting handheld on very high ISOs, 3200, 6400 and higher, and the precision of the files, such low noise, was incredible. A great illustration of this is a shot from inside the Pantheon with the Canon 35mm F1.4L, handheld at ISO 3200, tack sharp and noise free. The EOS-1D X was also able to nail focus in near total darkness reliably and repeatedly.
Irrespective of the ISO however, the quality of the files the EOS-1D X produces is so much better than anything I’ve experienced before. For instance, shooting on a tripod at 100 ISO, there is a crispness and clarity that demonstrates a quantum leap in image improvement over previous generations. I was sceptical initially when Canon announced the release of the EOS-1D X as a replacement for both the EOS-1Ds Mark III and 1D Mark IV, because the EOS-1D X has fewer pixels. But the quality of those larger pixels, deadly accurate auto-focus, combined with faster shooting speed and processing power makes the EOS-1D X superior. To be honest, I packed the 1Ds expecting to use it 50% of the time, but it never came out of the bag.
I also had the opportunity to do some mountaineering in Chamonix Mont Blanc in the French Alps, so I was able to test the EOS-1D X at high altitude. Shooting at nearly 13,000 feet at minus 15 degrees Celsius I was able to get nearly 600 frames out of one battery charge. That’s phenomenal! Cold temperatures can normally be a real killer for batteries. But like all weather-sealed EOS-1 series bodies, the EOS-1D X can take any punishment you can deal out, and I deal out a lot. For me, they’re just work horses which are built to take it. Later in Iceland, my EOS-1D X was soaking wet from waterfall spray and rain and it didn’t concern me at all.
By the time I got to Iceland, I was still learning new things about the camera. I had my head around how it performed at high ISOs but Iceland gave me the opportunity to test its performance on a tripod and when shooting wildlife. We spent some time photographing puffins on the coast. In flight they’re like missiles. They come in from the ocean at top speed and they put the brakes on seconds before they hit the cliffs where they nest. They are really, really tough to photograph. That’s when I realised what a technological tour de force the EOS-1D X is in terms of Auto Focus because it can track puffins in flight, and I’ve never seen a camera do that before. As they are coming in to land, the EOS-1D X keeps them in focus provided you keep the subject on the sensor point. Also, 12 to 14fps continuous shooting matters when you’re photographing puffins.
Over the years, Iceland has gotten under my skin and it feels like a second home to me. I love the remoteness of the place. Its volcanic landscape is primordial and completely alien. But even though I’ve been there a lot, I’ve only scratched the surface of what it has to offer photographically.
My next workshop to Iceland will be in winter 2013 and I think the EOS-1D X will be quite phenomenal; I am sure it will produce images that we haven’t seen before. I’m excited about being able to shoot the northern lights and the amazing colours from the aurora at ISOs of 1600, 3200 even 6400, and get detailed, super crisp clean files.
I’m also looking forward to getting into printing over the coming weeks because if you can see a noticeable difference in the quality of the files on the monitor then you will see it in print. I have no doubt the EOS-1D X will impress again.
Joshua Holko is an Australian born Fine Art Photographer specialising in Landscape, Nature and Wilderness Photography. He has been a professional photographer for over 20 years. His next photographic expedition, 'Scientific Antarctica' departs November 2013. It is a unique trip dedicated to photography that includes special access into areas normally restricted to scientific research, as well as iconic locations. For more information visit
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