Canon EOS 1D X Mark II - a wildlife photography real world review (pt. 2)

The test (pt. 2)

On the second day of tests we returned to Parque Natural Metropolitano prepared for macro wildlife photography. We decided to match the 1DX2 with a Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x macro lens and a  twin flash. We are used to the APS-C sensor which has a 1.6x crop factor but we understand  a full frame sensor translates to better sharpness due to lower diffraction distortion, so we wanted to observe any difference using this lens given distortion becomes more evident when magnification increases.

We spent half a day walking on the park searching for subjects to photograph, and after a while we started noticing the pros and cons of having a body like this for macro photography.

Cons:
  • It's bulky and heavy.
  • The shutter is noisier than a cropped frame sensor camera. The noise could scare close subjects.
  • Lower megapixel density compared to cropped sensors sporting the same 20.2 MP. (Thanks to the MP-E 65mm almost no cropping was required to avoid the loss of megapixel density.)
  • With a cropped sensor we do not have to extend this lens as much as with the 1DX2 to fill the frame, with other macro lenses you might need to get closer. When we extended the lens, the flash diffuser configuration was not working due to unwanted shadows. (This was somehow corrected using direct flash instead of the bouncing diffuser.)
Pros: 
  • The built in additional grip is very useful to comfortably shoot vertical frames.   
  • It features a silent single shooting mode.
  • It also has a silent continuous shooting mode which was not previously available on the 1DX, as a matter of fact we forgot to mention this on the first part ot the review, and we used this feature when shooting birds at close range.
  • Great image quality, colors and improved dynamic range. We were able to recover a lot of shadows. 
  • Did we already mention this camera is built like a tank?  

Barklice (Psocoptera)
f/16, ISO 100, 1/200 sec.


Crab Spider (Thomisidae)
 f/14, ISO 100, 1/250 sec.


Beetle (Coleoptera)  
f/14, ISO 200, 1/250 sec.


Beetle (Coleoptera)  
 f/16, ISO 100, 1/200 sec.

Beetle (Coleoptera)   
f/16, ISO 100, 1/200 sec.


Beetle (Coleoptera)  
 f/16, ISO 100, 1/250 sec.


Unknown (Coleoptera)  
 f/16, ISO 100, 1/200 sec.


Katydid (Tettigoniidae)
 f/14, ISO 100, 1/250 sec.


Katydid (Tettigoniidae)
 f/16, ISO 200, 1/250 sec.


Treehopper (Membracid)
 f/16, ISO 100, 1/160 sec.


Caterpillar (Lepidoptera) 
 f/16, ISO 200, 1/250 sec.

Caterpillar (Lepidoptera)
 f/16, ISO 200, 1/250 sec.


Caterpillar (Lepidoptera) 
f/16, ISO 100, 1/160 sec.


Spiny Tortoise Beetle (Cassidinae?)  
f/14, ISO 200, 1/250 sec.

Spiny Tortoise Beetle (Cassidinae?)   
 f/14, ISO 200, 1/250 sec.

Spiny Tortoise Beetle (Cassidinae?)    
f/14, ISO 200, 1/250 sec.


The verdict (pt. 2: Macro Wildlife Photography)

Exceptional image quality and dynamic range were no surprise, the rest of the great specs on this camera were not really necessary since we do not use auto focus or burst shooting modes for macro. Notwithstanding we observed less difraction at least for the magnifications we used, it was not a huge difference (some subjects were really small, like the membracid, the barklice and some beetles). 

The major drawback is size and weight. The biggest plus is fabrication, with macro photography in the tropics our cameras are exposed to dust, mud, humidity, rain, without mentioning the occasional bangs; therefore, it's good to have a tough and sealed camera to resist all that abuse.

If you are looking for a macro-photography-only full frame body you better look somewhere else, because we think you won't be money/technology efficient. You will be better with a 5Ds/5DsR (cheaper, smaller and with more megapixels), a 5D3 (cheaper, smaller, 2 more megapixels) or 6D (even cheaper and smaller, same megapixels), or maybe consider any of the cropped frame bodies (higher pixel density). If you want the best do-it-all camera then you should consider it, specially if you do other kinds of nature photography e.g. landscape with wide angle lenses, and if you are a professional who travels a lot. If you also do sports or journalism then you don't have to think it twice, this is the camera for you.

Putting everything on the scale from a wildlife photography standpoint we might say this camera has no flaw we can think of, it has some drawbacks in comparison to other cameras but it's still Canon's best in many ways. Comparing it to other bodies in the current Canon pro and prosumer lineup, we can summarize this way:
  • We still prefer the 7D2 for small birds and not-so-large animals, and situations in which we can not get close.
  • We will prefer the 1DX2 for large birds, large animals and controled situations in which we could get close. The 5Ds/5DsR will be the runner up just because the megapixels, tho the frame rate is a drawback.
  • For macro we like them all but particularly the 7D2 because it allows to fill the frame from a longer distance or obtain larger magnification. Meanwhile, the 5Ds/5DsR offers huge megapixel count,  the 1DX2 offers marginal better image quality and considerably larger dynamic range. The 5D3 is also very good, and we think you will fine with any other body; the most important thing is to have good light.
  • For landscape the 5Ds/5DsR is the best one. 
  • Bonus round: We will prefer the 1DX2 for our ocassional sports shootings and commercial photos but is too big for leisure traveling (we are expecting Canon to release a full frame mirrorless for the later)
Bottomline, reviews are very subjective and we are pretty sure that if you are reading this, considering to buy a 1DX Mark II, you don't need someone to tell you "don't buy it" because you already know it's one of the best cameras (if not the best) in its range. We only tried to show you the pros and cons, on a practical way, of using this camera exclusively for wildlife photography, and how it compares to other cameras. We hope you liked this review and feel free to leave your feedback.