I’ve been playing with my new Canon EOS 1DX for a few days and this is indeed the best camera I’ve ever used. I decided not to publish a review however, for two reasons. First of all, there are quite a few EOS 1DX reviews on the web already, so I don’t think the world is waiting for yet another one. And secondly, people may say I’m biased towards Canon, because I’m a long time Canon user. They may even be right. 😉
So instead of writing a review, I’d like to share some settings that I think will become my ‘Ultimate Wildlife Photography Settings’. First of all the autofocus. There has been a lot of discussion about the many options that the EOS 1DX offers, but I think the AF-settings are actually quite simple. Choose ‘Case 6’ for wildlife, combined with full 61 point AF so the camera will use all 61 AF points to follow a moving subject. No matter how erratic the animal moves, the camera will lock focus on it.
The exposure settings are more interesting. I prefer to shoot with shutter speed priority, the shutter speed usually set at 1/1000 sec. The reason for this is that an animal can get into action from one moment to the next. Of course you can shoot a portrait of a a sleepy cheetah with 1/60 sec and still get a sharp picture, but if the cheetah suddenly jumps up to chase an antelope which got too close, you don’t have the time to change the shutter speed (if you even remember to do it in the excitement). Using shutter speed priority has a drawback too, however. I don’t want to use an aperture above f/11 because diffraction will lower overall image quality, so I’ve limited that in C.Fn2. Unfortunately, that gives me only four stops of exposure latitude with my 500mm f/4 lens, and that is too little. If an animal walks from a sunny field into the shadows of a dense bush, I need more than four stops.
This is of course where Auto-ISO comes in handy and Canon introduced Auto-ISO in the EOS 1D Mark IV. However, you can’t limit the Auto-ISO range in this camera, so if you are not careful, you could end up shooting at 1/1000 sec and 3200 ISO or so. In that case, I would rather take the risk of shooting with a slower shutter speed and choose perhaps 1/500 sec and 1600 ISO or even 1/250 sec and 800 ISO, so I had to check the settings constantly, especially at the end of the afternoon when the sun is going down. The EOS 1DX does allow you to limit the Auto-ISO range, so now I can set that to 100 – 800 ISO for example. That gives me three stops extra latitude, and I don’t have to worry about shooting at too extreme ISO-values. But what if 1/1000 sec and 800 ISO is not enough for a proper exposure? That is where the third setting comes in.
Canon has offered ‘Safety Shift’ on the EOS 1D series for quite a while. This is a nifty but perhaps a little unknown option, that tells the camera it is allowed to override certain settings if proper exposure requires it. Turn ‘Safety Shift’ on (C.Fn1) and set it to Tv/Av. This means that the camera is allowed to override my shutter speed setting if needed for a proper exposure, so this is what happens: If 1/1000 sec combined with the maximum Auto-ISO setting of 800 ISO is still not enough to obtain a proper exposure, the camera will automatically lower the shutter speed, just like I would have done manually on my other cameras.
To me this combination of settings seems like the ‘Ultimate Wildlife Photography Setting’ for the EOS 1DX. It allows me to keep shooting almost the entire day, without having to worry about my camera settings. Only in very special circumstances, like shooting during a night drive, I need to change this to another (all manual) setting. I’ve stored this combination as one of the three Custom settings, so I can activate it with one simple switch.
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