Menus

The 1D X II's menus will be familiar to anyone who's used a Canon DSLR before and there are no significant differences in comparison with the previous 1D X. They're arranged fairly logically, with long-term, fundamental camera settings placed in the Custom Function section of the menu.

As before, the menus are context-sensitive, meaning that you only gain access to the camera's video settings when the live view/video switch is set to the video position. This means you might have to change the camera's mode, temporarily, if you're trying to set everything up in advance but does mean the menus can be made slightly smaller and more manageable, which can only be a good thing.

Customization

The 1D X II is somewhat paradoxical when it comes to customization. There are lots of buttons whose function can be adjusted but you're given little - seemingly arbitrary - choice over what you can assign. None of the top-plate buttons, or buttons under the LCD, are customizable.

Lots of the buttons on the 1D X II are customizable but don't give a very wide range of alternate option.

The full range of customization is too complex to address here, but are detailed in a table towards the end of the camera's instruction manual. Overall, we're disappointed by the degree to which Canon ties your hands: certain functions are assignable to some buttons, but not others. A consistent, comprehensive list of assignable options for every button would be far more useful. The potential ‘overload’ from having every single option available for every button seems to be less of a trade-off than the effort of having to remember what each button can be assigned to.

This complaint isn't just a question of a philosophical difference; for example, the restriction of only being able to apply exposure compensation to the SET button (for use with Auto ISO) means you have no choice but to use that setting, so you're out of luck if you wanted to use that button for anything else. Furthermore, because of the nested menu structure - which often requires you to press 'INFO. Detail set.' for more (again, nested) options - functions can be easily overlooked.

That said, if you can set up the various buttons to your liking, Custom Controls can be incredibly powerful. Among other things, you can instantly switch AF, program, and metering modes - or even between one of three Custom Shooting Modes - with a single button press. Speaking of Custom Shooting Modes: Canon's implementation remains industry-leading, allowing you to instantly switch between all previously dialed in cameras settings: from AF area to f-stop all the way to the minimum Auto ISO shutter speed setting.

Quick Control (Q) Menu

The default Q menu provides access to a number of basic settings, but not the blank space.

Probably the biggest change you're find in the 1D X II's handling is the ability to customize the Q Menu. Like a handful of recent Canon DSLRs, you can now decide which settings appear in the Q Menu, where they appear and how much space they take up. Designing your menu is a slightly protracted process but probably won't be one you need to go through too often.

The settings, their position and size can all be customized, to ensure you only see the parameters you want to see or control. Sadly the Q Menu cannot make use of the camera's touch panel.

The real disappointment, of course, is that having configured and arranged your own display/menu, you can't use the camera's touchscreen to operate it. Having said that consistency and backward compatibility is the name of the game for the 1D X II, it does seem odd to reject the easy win of offering an entirely optional extra way to control the camera, once you've included the necessary customization and hardware.

Auto ISO

The 1D X II offers Auto ISO with user customizable upper and lower ISO limits. The shutter speed threshold is also adjustable, including an 'auto' option that connects the threshold to the focal length, selectable in 1EV increments. Annoyingly, accessing this setting requires a menu (or My Menu) dive, which can be somewhat cumbersome.

Auto ISO is available in manual mode, but you need to dedicate the SET button to control exposure compensation or use the Q menu if you want the camera to shoot brighter or darker than the metered value. Frustratingly, you can't use the camera's dedicated exposure comp button to change, er, exposure comp in M mode (because that's reserved for giving access to aperture value in M mode, just in case you've got the rear dial locked). It's the same story during video shooting, so you can tell the camera to use ISO to maintain the currently metered brightness while maintaining your preferred aperture and shutter speed, but you'll have to assign the SET button to adjust exposure comp.