Master the EOS-1D X's AF System

May 07, 2014

NEW mobile-friendly guide added May 2014.

Guide updated February 2014. 


Canon, Inc. has rewritten their comprehensive EOS-1D X AF Guidebook, incorporating new AF features and changes introduced with camera firmware Version 2.0. Launched in January of 2014, this new firmware adds significant features and abilities to the camera, some of which go beyond the boundaries of autofocus, and allow instant changes to camera operation while the camera is still at the user’s eye.

As with the previous Guidebook, this richly illustrated Guidebook opens the door to a comprehensive understanding of the potential of the camera’s 61-point AF system, especially when it comes to focus-tracking moving subjects with AI Servo AF. But this can also be applicable to another EOS DSLR as well.

EOS 5D Mark III users will find this Guidebook an excellent resource for them because that camera shares the same 61-point AF system and many of the same AF features as the EOS-1D X. Previously, the only fundamental AF difference between the two was how they handled Automatic AF point selection when in AI Servo AF… the EOS-1D X can tie in its 100,000 pixel RGB metering sensor to the AF system and read where a subject is based on its color, size and shape, and “tell” the AF system which AF points to use as the subject moves around the frame. This is called EOS iTR — Intelligent Tracking and Recognition.

With its more orthodox 63-zone light metering system, the EOS 5D Mark III’s exposure meter cannot detect subject color and location and has to use sharpness data from the AF system to determine where a subject is, when it’s set to Automatic AF point selection with AI Servo AF.

However, the changes that Firmware V. 2.0 adds to the EOS-1D X may leave users of the EOS 5D Mark III wondering what the differences now are between the AF systems (and operational differences) of the two cameras. Quickly summarizing, the differences now are:

  • Improved low-light AF performance, with AI Servo AF
    EOS-1D X now offers even better AF performance at the start of focus-tracking and for the first shot in a sequence; no special menu settings need to be activated for this once Firmware V. 2.0 is installed in the EOS-1D X.
  • Expanded range of Accel./Decel. Tracking settings for steadily moving subjects
    EOS-1D X adds new “-1” and “-2” settings to extend AF stability with subjects moving at continuous, steady speeds. These also help AF not be slightly thrown-off by sudden but minor changes when focus-tracking a distant subject.
  • Wider range of “priority” choices — faster shooting speeds or more time for AF
    AI Servo 2nd Image Priority expands its range of choices with new “-2” (maintain fastest possible fps speed during a shooting sequence) and “+2” (slow down or even stop continuous shooting until sharpness is confirmed) settings.
  • Orientation Linked AF: option to link same AF Area type to pre-selected AF points
    EOS-1D X now offers the option to have memorized horizontal and vertical AF points with AF Area type linked — if one is changed, the other changes automatically.
  • Instantly change AF settings, or jump to 14 fps shooting, with a back-button
    New option to select an entirely new AF “Case,” change AF mode (One Shot AF to AI Servo or vice versa) or instantly switch from standard 12 fps hi-speed to 14 fps super hi-speed shooting by pressing either AF-ON or AE Lock button. Another option for these buttons: toggle from One Shot AF to AI Servo (or vice versa) only, while one of these back-buttons is pressed.
  • Register/Recall shooting function: instantly change major settings with a back-button
    EOS-1D X users can memorize an entirely different range of exposure, White Balance, AF Area type and AI Servo AF settings — and apply them to the AF-ON or AE Lock button. Without even removing the camera from the eye, a moving subject can continue to be tracked, even if (for instance) it moves from sunlight into shade or from steady, continuous movement to erratic, stop/start type movement.
  • Automatic AF point selection can start from last manually-selected AF point
    New EOS-1D X option to maintain same starting point for Automatic AF point selection, in AI Servo AF, as was being used during manual AF point selection.
  • Auto ISO enhancements
    Pre-select a faster minimum shutter speed (all the way up to 1/8000th second), under which Auto ISO will automatically be raised, and new EOS-1D X ability to intentionally apply Exposure Compensation when Auto ISO is used in Manual exposure mode.
  • Automatic exposure adjustment if Manual lens aperture suddenly changes
    EOS-1D X now has the option to shift either shutter speed or ISO (user’s choice) if a preset lens aperture in Manual exposure mode suddenly changes — for instance, if shooting wide-open with a lens alone and then adding an EF 1.4x or 2x Extender or if shooting wide-open with an f/2.8 lens and then changing to a slower f/4 or f/5.6 lens.

All that said, again, EOS 5D Mark III users can gain a great deal of insight into the possibilities with their cameras from most of the details in this EOS-1D X AF guide.

Additional Resources

  • EOS-1D X AF Setting Guidebook (Mobile-Friendly Version)
    This in-depth mobile-friendly guidebook shows how you can take advantage of the high-performance AF features in our DSLRs.

  • EOS-1D X AF Settings Guidebook (Updated February 2014)
    By combining the ultimate in AF performance and ease of use, a wealth of new photographic possibilities are available. Download this in-depth guide to learn more about what firmware Version 2.0 has to offer.

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