1D X Mark II or 7D Mark II for Reach?

This was an important question for me. But let me rephrase it more precisely: given the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens and 1.4x III and 2x III teleconverters, which camera produces more real pixels per object? Empty magnification does not count. The 7D Mark II with the 500 and the 1.4x, or the 1D X Mark II with the 500 and the 2x? (The 7D Mark II + 500 + 2x combination was ruled out since its image quality is not up to my standards.)

You may think that the 7D configuration with its 1120mm effective focal length will beat the 1D configuration with only 1000mm effective focal length. Well, you shouldn’t make a decision based on specifications only! Thus I did a little test, a result of which you can see below.

500comparison

Click the image for the actual pixels version on non-Retina displays.

Air was a bit turbulent, and it impacts telephoto imagery with high resolution sensors, so I made a series of shots with each combination in Kuuvik Capture, and selected the sharpest from each batch for this comparison. Also converted the images to black and white because it’s easier to see the sharpness difference this way. 5DS R shots were the same resolution-wise that the 7D II shots, so only included the ones from the 7D Mark II.

The bottom line is that the 1D X Mark II with the 500mm f/4L II and 2x III produces more usable pixels than the 7D Mark II with the 500 and the 1.4x TC. The 500 with the teleconverter is simply unable to feed the resolution-hungry 7D II (as well as the 5DS R) sensor. This is in line with my experience in real-world images.

Tern with Angel Wings. 1D X Mark II with 500mm f/4L II + 2x III @ ISO 800.

Tern with Angel Wings. 1D X Mark II with 500mm f/4L II + 2x III @ ISO 800.

I prefer the overall look from the 1D X II (not just the higher effective resolution, but better dynamic range, better colors, less plasticky, etc.) to the 7D II, so it pretty much seals the deal regarding which camera will stay in my bag. And with the ability to autofocus using all AF points with the 2x converter at f/8, the 1D X II + 500 II + 2x III is a killer combination. You may need to renew your gym membership though…

Looking for more info on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II? You may find my review and the AF drive speed comparison useful.

1D X II, 5DS R and 7D II AF Drive Speed Compared

I’m currently waiting for Capture One to support the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II. RAW converter options available at the moment (Canon DPP and Photoshop/Lightroom) do not cut it. Their output is seriously underwhelming compared to Capture One, so I’m trying to avoid to check the camera’s image quality now. That leaves other operational aspects to examine.

My current main camera is the EOS 5DS R – it will definitely remain in this position even with the 1D X Mark II at hand. I highly doubt that the 1D X will be able to challenge its superlative image quality. On the other hand, slow frame rate and especially the small buffer are a headache from time to time.

Swan

Swan – 5DS R with the 500/4 IS II and 1.4x III teleconverter

That’s why I had been carrying a 7D Mark II in my bag for the last year and a half. But now the 1D X Mark II casts a shadow on the 7D Mark II’s future…

Today I did a little test to compare the AF drive speed of these three cameras with my Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM – naked lens, as well as with the 1.4x III and 2x III teleconverters.

The measurement was simple: recorded a video of the focus distance scale during a full stroke “infinity to minimum focusing distance to infinity” focus drive operation, and then counted how many frames the operation took.

It took a tad less than 0.8 seconds for the 1D X Mark II to execute this operation regardless of whether a converter was attached or not. What surprised me is that the 5DS R produced the exact same result. I must conclude that stories about the 1D’s more powerful battery in connection with the AF drive speed are marketing bullshit. The 5DS R with a weaker battery can do the same. Even with a teleconverter attached.

The 7D Mark II is a different story, though. The naked lens produced the same 0.8 seconds result, but extenders took their toll. The 1.4x slowed focusing time by some 17%, and with the 2x the full stroke took twice as much time as with the naked lens.

In today’s test the 1D X Mark II scored a win against the 7D Mark II, but the true winner for me is the 5DS R… I expected 7D Mark II level performance from the camera, and being on par with the 1D X just makes me to admire it even more.

It’s All About Color Contrast

Why do I prefer shooting purple herons in the reeds? It’s all about color contrast. During evenings this location is perfectly front-lit, so blue sky and deep yellow foliage is a given. Mix it with the browns and reds of the heron and you’re almost ready.

Descent

Descent

The only fly in the ointment is that you’ll have to shoot through the reeds. This had been quite a challenge before the 7D Mark II – this fantastic little camera has an AF system that can track the birds even when they fly behind the reeds. No camera before that was able to do it with such a good success rate. I had to spend an afternoon to fine tune the system, but was well worth the effort. (Tracking sensitivity: -1, Accel./decel. tracking: 2, AF pt auto switching: 2 is what I use in case you are curious.)

While Waiting

I’m waiting for several things to arrive. For egrets, herons, and my 1D X Mark II. And while waiting, I’m sifting through last year’s images. The one below was made with the 7D Mark II and the then new EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens (plus the 1.4x III teleconverter).

Egret Landing

Egret Landing

This is a deadly combination that brought me a bunch of great images during the last twelve months. I’m curious whether the 1D X Mark II will replace the 7D Mark II in my bag. Weight, size, reach, convenience are all factors – not just speed and image quality. I’m really really curious. But don’t worry, I’ll let you know once the 1D X Mark II is in my hands.