I'm a wedding/creative photographer, and I'm looking to upgrade my camera. While my budget allows for both the 1dx and the 5d, this represents a significant investment for me.

I talked to a few colleagues, and they are all saying that there's no difference in photo quality between 1d and 5d, and that choosing a 1d is a prestige thing. However, to my knowledge, none of them ever held a 1d in their hands.

Let's say, I don't care about the price or shooting speed (or pixel count), and I do care about image quality at various ISO (low noise at higher ISO is very(!) important to me), dynamic range, auto focus in low light, etc etc - the stuff which actually lets me shoot better pictures.

What's the best camera for me and why?

  • Have you considered that the answer to that question may not be Canon? – John Cavan Jul 2 '12 at 13:38
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    ) actually I have. But I've got a lot of glass on Canon, hence, it's a little late for that – Arsen Zahray Jul 2 '12 at 13:41

First, your not going to notice much of a difference in IQ, AF, or dynamic range. The 5D MK II does amazing for wedding photographers in low-light and large prints, and the MK III only improves on that.

With that aside, it may be more beneficial to consider the other items that will impact you as the primary user of the camera.

Build The 1D has more weather proofing and seals. While this brings more durability compared to the 5DMKIII, you won't step into the margin of difference when doing wedding photography. The 5D is weather sealed and will handle rain, snow, etc (as long as you use a weather sealed lens). Why would this difference impact you then? The weight.

Weight Unlike wildlife and sports photographers (arguably the target audience of the 1DX), you're going to be carrying this camera all day with very little tripod support. You don't have a choice to remove the battery grip. It's going to be there, 2 batteries, all the time. This is one of the biggest differences as far as user experience and I feel it's a deciding factor in favor of the 5D for weddings.

FPS You mentioned that this isn't a concern for you, but for the sake of a universal answer, there's a difference and I feel it should be mentioned. You're always going to get a better FPS with the 1D. This would be a huge deal if you were a sports photographer, but with weddings it's not going to be nearly as much of a deciding factor. The disclaimer is that a higher FPS would never hurt.

Life span You're going to get more clicks out of the 1DX, period. It's a beast. Is this a factor in your decision though? I don't think so. With both cameras, you're going to be getting a new one before you wear this one out. You're not going to be sitting on burst mode rifling out shots like it's a war zone. As a wedding photographer, you're going to be shooting so your flash can keep up. Even if you do 3 weddings a weekend, you're going to have years.

Price While you said that price isn't a factor, savings can be applied to accessories for the camera. If you have a budget for either, your best option would be buying the 5D MK III and a 7D for backup (unless you already have one). It doesn't matter which one you get, you're going to need a backup or a second camera with a different lens.

All in all, I agree with the people you've been talking to. The 1DX is a prestige thing for wedding photographers because the advantages aren't in your line of work. It'd be like me using an oversized pickup truck to commute to work. Sure, it does all the same things as an economy car and more, but I'm not using it for the extras and still paying big bucks for it.

What I would do in your situation is buy the Canon 5DMKIII, used Canon 7D, and toss in a used Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS MKI that never leaves the 7D and go out to a nice dinner with the money left over.

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    "and go out to dinner with the money left over" LOL. Great answer! – AJ Finch Jul 3 '12 at 13:29

The Canon 1D X has a lower resolution for the same sensor-size which means its pixels are bigger. This gives it an edge in term of noise-per pixel, so if you are looking for pure pixel quality, go for the 1D X.

The 5D Mark III on the other hand is lighter and allows you to print slightly larger due to its higher pixel count. These cameras are otherwise very similar.

If you are shooting events and want fewer interruptions you should note that the battery-life of the 1D X should be significantly longer than the 5D Mark III's 950. Canon did not publish numbers yet but I expect around twice as many shots on a single-charge.

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    does your answer imply, that if you take 5d image and downsize it to 1d image size, you get the same per-pixel noise as in 1d? – Arsen Zahray Jul 2 '12 at 13:39
  • The pixels in the 1DX are only 10% bigger on each side, so the impact of noise is probably less other aspects of the sensor design. Oh and per pixel noise is a near meaningless quantity, per image noise is what counts. – Matt Grum Jul 2 '12 at 14:37
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    Canon rates the maximum standard ISO of the 30D to 3200, does that indicate the 1DX has a 4 stop advantage over the 30D? Of course not. In reality there is no firm link between noise and the maximum ISO value, is simply whatever the manufacturer decides. It's possible 1DX is more of a pro tool so they decided to increase the maximum value to allow the camera to be used in more extreme conditions. – Matt Grum Jul 3 '12 at 9:44
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    Secondly, the 1DX's 23% larger pixels give it a maximum theoretical advantage of 0.3 stops in per pixel noise, which is an arbitrary near meaningless quantity, and a maximum theoretical advantage of 0 stops in per image noise. I totally believe the 1DX is better with regards to per image noise, but that is down to a different sensor design, better processing, possibly better microlenses or a weaker CFA. – Matt Grum Jul 3 '12 at 9:47
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    We cant quantify sensor-design only its output. In my experience though within a single manufacturer, the maximum standard ISO shows roughly the same per-pixel noise-level across models. – Itai Jul 3 '12 at 13:53

Early reports from 1DX users are that low light performance is better with a 2/3 stop improvement over the 5D markIII. ISO 100 performance is also slightly better with less banding than the 5D mark III. There is no significant improvement in dynamic range. It remains to be seen what the colour performance is like and whether Canon have sacrificed colour accuracy for better light transmission.

So according to your criteria (i.e. completely ignoring price/speed/resolution) the 1DX is likely preferable, due to performance in low light.

However, it's worth stating though that the 1DX was built primarily for speed, and if you don't need that (or build quality or weathersealing) there are probably better ways to improve image quality for $3000, for example faster/newer lenses.


What do you use now? Do you use the grip? I went from 1v (film) to 5D to 1DIV. I moved back to the 1D series because I like the feel of it better. I shoot with a grip, and I'd prefer not to have a grip that can loosen at inconvenient times. Always made me nervous shooting in a slight drizzle with the 5D because of the space between the body and the grip.

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