Canon EOS 1D X hands-on

We get our hands on Canon's new flagship professional DSLR – only serious snappers need apply

Picking up the Canon EOS 1D X , the first thing you notice is that it weighs a ton. It's nearly 200g heavier than the EOS 1D Mark IV it replaces, according to Canon. But then, it's not exactly a pocket snapper – this camera's aimed at professional photographers, whether they're shooting football matches, snapping celebs on the red carpet or taking pics of weddings. And frankly, if you're sticking a gigantic lens on the camera and setting it on a tripod, the weight of the body isn't going to be a huge issue.

Previously, Canon's provided two flagship cameras for professionals – the sports photographers and anyone else who needed to shoot fast-moving action would go for the EOS 1D Mark IV, while studio photographers could sacrifice speed for higher resolution with the EOS 1Ds Mark III.

Canon's streamlined the range with the EOS 1D X, which features dual DIGIC 5+ processors (three times faster than the standard DIGIC 5, according to Canon) alongside a full frame 18.1megapixel CMOS sensor. It's a step up from the EOS 1D's 16.1megapixel sensor and will capture images across a huge ISO range of 100-51200. It's actually slightly lower resolution than the EOS 1Ds' whopping 21megapixels, but Canon believes that the trade-off in speed is worth the sacrifice (though hi-res photographers may beg to differ).

Canon's added some neat little touches to the EOS 1D X, such as an extra multi-controller for use in portrait format – so whichever way up you're holding the camera, it's easy to navigate the menus and select AF points. There's also a dedicated white balance button on top of the camera, within easy reach. Canon's put a lot of thought into siting the controls, and it's certainly easy to reach the relevant buttons whichever way you're holding it.

The GUI's been overhauled, with the EOS 1D X sporting a tabbed menu system including a new tab dedicated to AF settings. There are short explanations for each setting, so you can get all the info you need on shooting modes at a glance. It all pops out on that 3.2in 1040K-dot LCD screen (in the same 3:2 aspect ratio as the viewfinder, for a more accurate look at what you're shooting). And the control system's pretty intuitive; you can use the control wheel or either of the multi-controllers to cycle through options, so no fumbling for the right selection tool. It's one of those little touches that'll save valuable seconds for the professional photographer in a hurry.

That new tab for AF settings is necessary, as Canon's overhauled the AF system – it now has its own dedicated DIGIC 4 processor, to handle its whopping 61 AF points (including 41 cross-type points and 5 dual cross-type points). The new AF system should give you better coverage when shooting moving subjects.

Obviously at the rather staid Pro Solutions event, testing the EOS 1D X's ability to shoot fast-moving subjects was a bit tricky, so we'll just have to take Canon's word for it. But to give you an idea of how much processing power's packed into the EOS 1D X, the same DIGIC 4 processor that's dedicated to its AF system is used to power the entire Canon 5D Mark II.

In response to the number of people shooting video on DSLRs, Canon's made a few tweaks to the video shooting mode in the EOS 1D X – sound levels now appear on screen, and can be adjusted while shooting using the control dial.

There's also an Ethernet LAN connection for remote shooting and image transfer (a separate dongle – yet to be priced – will enable Wifi and Bluetooth connections).

This really is a professional's piece of kit, as the Ethernet port suggests – it's intended for photojournalists looking to upload their shots directly to their newspaper's picture desk. And the camera's priced accordingly – Canon's tentatively pegged the EOS 1D X at an eye-watering £5299, and while an exact release date isn't yet confirmed, expect it to hit the UK around March 2012.

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