Rudy Winston
Rudy Winston

Rudy Winston has over 14 years experience with Canon USA's Pro Products team, and has been responsible during that time for training Canon's staff on new products, creating presentations for customers and dealers, numerous writing projects, and providing technical assistance to professional and amateur photographers.

New firmware, new features for the EOS-1D X

October 17, 2012

"the EOS-1D X to firmware v. 1.1.1 will add two important new features which for many shooters will be frequently-used options"

This firmware is now available as a free download here.

 

Canon has introduced a significant firmware upgrade (v. 1.1.1) for the EOS-1D X camera, which adds two important, heavily-requested new features:

  • Red illumination of AF points in the viewfinder during continuous AI Servo AF operation
  • Allows AF at the center focusing point with select lens + extender combinations that are f/8.0 or faster

In addition, this firmware upgrade (available starting October 17, 2012) corrects several minor issues noted by users in the field.

EOS-1D X display of AF points in the viewfinder:

The EOS-1D X's viewfinder uses a sophisticated liquid crystal overlay, which allows tremendous flexibility in what's displayed at any moment. AF points not currently in use can be displayed (so that their location is always visible, if the shooter wants to quickly move a point manually to another location); grid lines for compositional assist can be called-up or removed; the selected AF points can be made continually visible, appear only before AF starts, appear only at the instant AF begins and then disappear, or even be disabled altogether if the photographer desires.

The viewfinder's indication of the active AF point is always indicated by a black outlined square on the focusing screen. By default, EOS-1D X cameras delivered to date provided a menu option to illuminate this point briefly with red-colored illumination from an LED array positioned in the prism area – but only during One-Shot AF operation, and then upon completion of AF (the active AF point or points would briefly flash red at the same time as the focus-confirmation indication in the finder appeared, and the in-focus "beep" sounded).

These red illumination of AF point options are as follows:
  • Auto (the factory-default setting) – red illumination appears immediately after focus is locked in One-Shot AF, but only when a low-light situation is detected by the camera
  • Enable (ON) – red illumination flashes once, briefly, when focus is locked on a stationary subject in One-Shot AF. This will occur regardless of brightness in a scene.
  • Disable (OFF) – no illumination, regardless of brightness in scene

In AI Servo AF, when tracking moving subjects, this illumination was intentionally disabled, to prevent any possibility of exposure errors in dimly-lit conditions, because of the added light the meter would "see" from an AF point glowing red continuously. This is the case regardless of the illumination option selected in the AF menu, as shown directly above.

In answer to many user requests to provide some sort of AF point illumination that could be made visible during focus-tracking with AI Servo AF, Canon engineers have provided a comprehensive firmware upgrade that adds this feature, along with menu selections to control its operation.

The new illumination of AF points during AI Servo AF:

With firmware v. 1.1.1 (or higher) installed in an EOS-1D X camera, a new set of options is provided in the AF Menu under "VF display illumination". In addition to the current options – Auto, Enable, or Disable – at the bottom of this screen now appears a second option when either "Auto" or "On" is selected: AF point during AI Servo AF.

Press the "Q" button on the back of the camera, as indicated on the menu screen, and a new menu screen appears for control of illumination during AI Servo AF shooting:

  • Non illuminated [there's no red illumination during focus-tracking with AI Servo AF]
  • Illuminated (Normal) [red illumination, at a low brightness level]
  • Illuminated (Brighter) [red illumination, at a brighter level]

This new red illumination will blink repeatedly during focus-tracking in AI Servo AF, as long as the AF is active. With this intermittent illumination of the active AF point(s), photographers can much more readily tell where their AF point or points are, and keep them continually upon a moving subject in dimly-lit conditions. The points will light-up roughly once every second during actual AI Servo AF operation. Why not simply provide continuous, non-blinking illumination? Again, there's a risk that at least in some conditions, this added brightness would "fool" the metering system into thinking there was more light in the actual scene than there really is. By setting it so it blinks approximately once every second, the metering system can be controlled to disregard this brief added illumination from the actual scene brightness.

Because the LCD overlay has all visible viewfinder items on one panel, any items you've opted to be displayed will also flash red if you've activated the viewfinder illumination. This includes the available grid line display and the AF status indicator (in the lower right corner of the finder).

Some suggested settings during AI Servo AF operation:

If you want the active illumination of AF points during AI Servo AF, we suggest at least trying the following options as well:

  • AF point display during focus:
    Set to "Selected (constant)" – this will provide a view of the active AF point(s) throughout focus-tracking, and they'll provide on-going blinking illumination to make seeing their location easier in dim lighting
  • In most situations, try the "Illuminated (Brighter)" option for AF point illumination during AI Servo AF first. The normal setting may be too dim for easy viewing in outdoor situations or well-lit indoor scenes.
  • If you want to focus using AI Servo AF and then lock focus, re-compose, and shoot, you have two options:
    1. Leave AF activation at the AF ON button, and via Custom Controls (C.Fn menu screen 5: Operation), change Shutter Button operation to "Metering start" or "AE Lock". This will allow you to simply press the rear AF ON button to focus, and then pull your thumb off the button to stop focusing – at which point you can re-compose and shoot freely. Note that the red illumination of AF points only occurs while your thumb is on the AF ON button in this instance.
    2. Activate AI Servo AF at the shutter button, and via Custom Controls (C.Fn menu screen 5: Operation), change either the rear AF-ON or AE Lock buttons to "AF-OFF". This converts the button in question to a focus lock button. Now, focus with continuous AI Servo AF by pressing the shutter button half-way down. Press whichever rear button you've set for focus lock to freeze AF, allowing you to still shoot as you desire by fully pressing the shutter button. Remove your thumb from the back button to immediately begin focus-tracking with AI Servo AF again, as long as you're pressing the shutter button half-way or fully. Red illumination of the AF point(s) will occur whenever focus-tracking is active; it does halt when you lock focus as described here.
Autofocus down to f/8 at the center AF point

Initially, for technical reasons, the EOS-1D X allowed AF with any lens or lens + Canon tele extender combination that provided a maximum aperture of f/5.6 or faster (f/4, f/2.8, etc.). This has nothing to do with the actual aperture you may want to shoot a picture at – the AF system doesn't care if you shoot a picture at f/2.8 or f/32. Its only concern is that the maximum aperture of an attached lens or lens + extender is sufficient to allow all the pixels on the AF array's line sensors to be used.

However, many nature, wildlife, sports and other shooters who frequently combine lenses like the 500mm or 600mm f/4L lenses with 2x tele extenders, or f/5.6 lenses (such as the 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS, 400mm f/5.6L, or 800mm f/5.6L IS) with the 1.4x extender, made strong requests to allow some form of autofocus operation with extenders in place. Again, Canon's engineers have both listened and responded in a timely fashion, with firmware upgrade v. 1.1.1.

If firmware v. 1.1.1 (or higher) is installed in an EOS-1D X camera, the following is possible when lenses such as those described immediately above are combined with appropriate tele extenders:

  • Full AF is possible at the center AF point – and unlike the system in the previous-generation EOS-1D and EOS-1Ds cameras, true cross-type AF coverage is possible at the center point
  • Four-point AF Point Expansion can be selected as an AF Area choice, providing a larger cluster of AF points for broader coverage, especially with moving subjects (note that these four surrounding AF points use single-line sensors only, when a lens between f/5.6 and f/8 is used)

AF points other than the center-most point cannot be manually selected if a lens between f/5.6 and f/8 is mounted; if such a point had been previously selected, the AF system immediately reverts the camera to the center AF point as soon as a lens with maximum effective aperture of f/6.3, f/7.1, or f/8.0 is detected.

Both One-Shot AF, to lock focus on stationary subjects, and continuous AI Servo AF, are possible. The active AF area can be illuminated during AI Servo AF, as described earlier in this article.

Lenses and Tele Extenders compatible for f/8 AF operation

With Canon-brand tele extenders, whether they're the current Version III models, or previous version I or II extenders, AF will be possible with the following lenses with EOS-1D X cameras for cross-type coverage at the center AF point, if the camera's firmware is version 1.1.1 or higher:

With EF 1.4x:
  • EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS
  • EF 400mm f/5.6L
  • EF 800mm f/5.6L IS
  • all other f/4 or faster Canon EF lenses, compatible with Canon tele extenders
With EF 2.0x:
  • EF 70-200mm f/4L and 70-200mm f/4L IS
  • EF 300mm f/4L IS
  • EF 400mm f/4L DO IS
  • EF 500mm f/4L IS and 500mm f/4L IS II
  • EF 600mm f/4L IS and 600mm f/4L IS II
  • all other EF lenses, f/2.8 or faster, compatible with Canon tele extenders

Keep in mind that only select Canon EF lenses are officially compatible with Canon's EF tele extenders. Simply stated, these are:

  • All Canon 70-200mm L-series zooms, f/2.8 or f/4
  • Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS
  • All fixed focal length L-series lenses, 135mm or longer
  • Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS

Other Canon EF and EF-S lenses are not designed to have Canon tele extenders attached to them.

Other EOS-1D X fixes provided by firmware upgrade v. 1.1.1

Several additional corrections are applied once an EOS-1D X camera's firmware is upgraded to version 1.1.1:

  • Corrects a rare phenomenon where the metering sensor's AE value becomes abnormal, and images may be rendered black
  • Corrects the possibility that during Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) shooting, an Error 70 message may appear
  • Corrects an error where firmware updating for specific Canon EF lenses (using the EOS-1D X camera) may not be completed normally
  • Corrects several errors in the Arabic language menu
Summary:

It's not often that a firmware upgrade appears so quickly which directly addresses concerns voiced by customers in the field, but Canon's engineers have responded in exactly this way to expand what's possible with the flagship EOS-1D X camera. Upgrading an early-release version of the EOS-1D X to firmware v. 1.1.1 will add two important new features which for many shooters will be frequently-used options. Even for those who aren't wildlife, nature or sports photographers, the flexibility this adds – without costing shooters an additional penny – is a forceful statement of Canon's commitment to our professional customers.

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

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