Canon EOS 1D X Digital Camera Review$6,800.00
Color accuracy isn't the be-all, end-all of camera performance scores, but for many photographers it's a crucial part of the process. For working professionals in the field, especially, RAW processing in post is sometimes simply not an option. While most photos can do with a bit of extra sharpening and a change of saturation, the ability to begin with an accurate image out of the camera is a huge benefit.
The Canon 1D X offers this, with an average delta-C color error (taken comparing out-of-camera JPEGs against the known color values of an X-Rite ColorChecker) of just 1.72. Typically we expect high-end professional bodies to produce errors of 2.5 or less, with anything under 2 considered to be stellar. The Canon 1D X is most accurate in its "faithful" color mode, with a saturation level of 100.9%, also among the most accurate we have ever seen. More on how we test color.
For those looking for a slightly different spin, the Canon 1D X's other color modes also produce some very accurate results. The camera's "auto," "standard," and "neutral" modes all kept color error under 2.2, with "portrait" mode coming in at around 2.9 as it pushes some warmer tones for a more pleasing final image.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
The Canon's color modes can be easily accessed through the camera's main menu system, as well as through the "Q" quick menu in either standard or live view shooting. The color modes carry over through to video shooting as well, and offer several presets as well as three user-savable modes.
All the color modes allow you to adjust sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone on a +/- step scale. The user-savable custom color modes require that you pick a base color preset to work off of. If you're looking for a more extreme way to adjust color, you can utilize the white balance adjustment or bracketing to throw some wilder color casts into the mix.
We found the white balance to be quite accurate on the Canon 1D X, right on par with what we saw out of the Nikon D4, though with a perhaps simpler white balance acquisition. The automatic white balance wasn't as good as on the D4, but the custom white balance was much better, with generally fewer issues both in the field and in a studio setting.
Automatic White Balance ()
When using automatic white balance, the Canon 1D X handled things as well as you'd expect from a pro camera. It wasn't quite as accurate as the Nikon D4, but it was generally very good. We found the camera produced a color temperature error of just 105 kelvin in daylight conditions and 195 kelvin under compact white fluorescent. Under tungsten lighting the automatic white balance predictably struggled (as it does for almost all cameras), as the auto white balance range usually doesn't extend to the 2800 kelvin temperature of incandescent bulbs. The Canon 1D X actually came relatively close, though, with an error of just under 2000 kelvin. That's not great by any means, but it's about 1000 kelvin better than most cameras do.
Custom White Balance ()
The custom white balance results were typically quite good. The camera did very well in the midtones and shadows, but it struggled with assigning fully saturated white (though the opposite was true under tungsten lighting). Our testing found that under daylight and compact white fluorescent conditions the custom white balance was able to get color temperature to within 100 kelvin, which is nearly perfect. Under tungsten lighting the white balance was off by just 150 kelvin, though darker colors produced more of a challenge.
In general we expect DSLRs to excel at this test and the Canon 1D X is no exception. Its ability to diagnose white was very good, even if it lagged slightly behind its main competition, the Nikon D4. There were no real areas where either camera struggled, though as always we recommend avoiding auto white balance in tungsten lighting unless you want a very warm final image or are shooting RAW.
White Balance Options
The Canon 1D X has all the white balance options you could ask for, with dedicated manual WB control accessing built-in WB presets, multiple custom white balances, custom kelvin color temperature assignment, auto white balance, and white balance bracketing. The Canon method of capturing a custom white balance isn't our favorite (you have to take an image, go into the menu, and then assign that image to one of several custom white balance settings). You can do it directly with a sequence of button presses, but we found it was just as time consuming. With live view at the camera's disposal, there's little reason to not use the rear LCD to capture white balance as it's done on most lesser cameras to the same effect.