Video Quality

Our first sample video includes a series of clips shot in 4K/60p at the National Bison Range in the state of Montana. We did some very minor color grading and exposure adjustments, but for the most part what you see is straight out of camera. (Apologies for the slight image shake - this was shot handheld between 300mm and 400mm.)

Note: You may need to use Google's Chrome browser to view these videos in 4K resolution. Also, YouTube only supports 4K/UHD resolution, not the slightly wider 4K/DCI resolution captured by the 1D X II. As a result, the extreme edges of the frame have been clipped in order to comply with YouTube's UHD requirements.

Video by Dale Baskin

Our second example, also shot in 4K/60p, was shot around a pond at sunrise. Again, we've applied only very minor minor adjustments. Some of the clips could use a bit of white balance adjustment, but what you're seeing is basically straight out of the camera.

Video by Dale Baskin

Additionally, you can find some spectacular underwater footage in an article written by our friends at Backscatter Underwater Video & Photo.

Studio Scene

Our studio scene is useful for evaluating resolution and image artifacts, though keep in mind that it doesn't give us information about things like motion blur, rolling shutter, or how well the footage stands up to color grading, all of which are best evaluated by watching real world footage and working with sample videos.

Beginning with 4K video, we compare the 1D X II against two well regarded 4K cameras, the Panasonic GH4 and Sony a7S II, as well as the camera's chief stills competitor, the Nikon D5. The differences are really quite small, other than slight differences in sharpening. This makes sense since all are collecting data from native (1:1) 4K regions of their sensors.

Where there is a difference is in terms of sensor size and pixel count: the a7S II uses the full width of its full frame sensor whereas the 1D X II and D5 use 1.3x and 1.5x crops from theirs, meaning more noise and a need for shorter focal lengths for wide-angle shooting.

One place where we do see a difference between these cameras is on the color resolution targets, where the very fine concentric circles cause more obvious interference on the GH4 and D5, likely due differences in AA filters and possibly sharpening algorithms. It's interesting to replace the a7S II in this comparison with the Sony a6300, which actually shoots 6K video and down samples to 4K in-camera, resulting in finer details and fewer artifacts across the board.

Shifting to 1080p things get a bit murkier. In this comparison we've replaced the GH4 with Canon's EOS 5D Mark III. A quick glance at the center target suggests little difference between the the two Canons, while the a7S II looks much cleaner thanks to its precise 2X oversampling. However, a look at some other areas of the image, such as the drawing or the lock of hair, show that the 1D X II is extracting slightly more detail than the 5D III. The a7S II consistently outperforms all the Canons in the 1080 comparison, but the D5 puts in a solid performance, slightly out resolving the Canons as well.

Our thoughts

The 1D X II is capable capturing very nice 4K video. Details are clear without being over sharpened, and color is pleasing thanks to Canon's picture styles. For the most part we did very little color grading on any of the footage we shot because it consistently looked good straight out of camera, though unfortunately there's no flat or log gamma option. Rolling shutter in 4K is also very well controlled. It's there, but in practice we didn't notice it on a day to day basis nearly as much as on most other cameras.

The camera also stands up well against its 4K peers, including full frame models such as the Sony a7S II and Nikon D5, as well as the Panasonic GH4, which, while not full frame, has been a bit of a de-facto 4K benchmark for many videographers. The Canon can be a bit softer than the others, though in practice it sharpens up fairly well in post. The APS-C Sony a6300, which demonstrates the strength of its oversampling technique, out resolves them all. Realistically, however, you can get very good 4K footage from any of these cameras, each of which has its strengths and weakness as a video tool.

When it comes to video, we can't emphasize this enough: it's not all about the image quality. Understanding how you plan to use video, and which video-specific features best support your use case, is essential.

That brings us to a very important point: one thing the test chart doesn't account for in any way is the depth of video-specific features and customization options that exist between these cameras when used to shoot video - and the differences are big.

At one extreme, the Sonys throw in the whole toolbox of video settings that motion picture nerds will love. At the other, Canon's toolbox isn't nearly as large, but its touch interface and Dual Pixel autofocus make it the go-to camera if you need to follow the action and nail it. When it comes to video, we can't emphasize this enough: it's not all about the image quality. Understanding how you plan to use video, and which video-specific features best support your use case, is essential.

Finally, the 1D X II's 1080p footage has a similar overall look to that of the 5D Mark III, though it does manage to extract more detail and looks slightly sharper than the 5D III overall. That said, it's still not class-leading material.