Best lenses for the Canon EOS-1D X: Best primes and zooms

Introduction

Specification and Features

Introduced in late 2011, the 18-Mpix EOS-1D X was a direct replacement for the 16-Mpix APS-H format EOS-1D Mk IV, and somewhat surprisingly, was the first full-frame model from Canon aimed at sports and press photographers.

It maintains the familiar design and control placement of the EOS-1D models but allows continuous shooting at up to 12 fps and has a completely new AF system. Although the Canon EOS 5D Mk III shares a similar 61 point AF module (with 41-cross type sensors) it lacks the power of an additional Digic 4 processor linking it to the RGB AE sensor in the viewfinder of the EOS-1D X to provide additional subject tracking.

Other professional level features include a large, high magnification viewfinder with approximately 100-percent coverage, 30 sec – 1/8000 sec shutter speed range with 1/250th X-sync, WiFi terminal and built-in RJ-45 (gigabyte ethernet) port and a weather sealed body. The EOS-1 D X also features extensive video features including 1920×1080 (30, 25, 24 fps) capture with a choice of recording formats, and has a powerful battery capable of 1020 shots per charge.

We’ve put the camera through its paces with over 130 different lens models from both Canon and third-party makers, ranging from the uniquely wide Canon EF 14mm f2.8L II through to the new yet equally extreme Zeiss Otus 1,4/55 and on up to the new and full-frame EF 600mm f/4 IS II USM and EF 200-400mm f/4 IS USM Extender 1.4x models.

Some of the more recent introductions analyzed by DxOMark include:

Best performing primes on Canon EOS-1D X

Zeiss has seen extraordinary success with their new Distagon-type T* Otus 1,4/55 and it performs exceptionally well on the Canon EOS-1D X. It’s rare to see an ultra-high speed lens like this that’s sharp out to the corners at the initial aperture – even Sigma’s highly regarded autofocus Art-line 50mm f1.4 DG HSM ranked in joint third place can’t match it – not at least till f2.

 

Carl Zeiss Distagon T* Otus 1.4/55 ZE Canon 3999 37 17
Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 ZE Canon 1600 36 18
Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Canon 969 34 17
Sigma 50mm F1.4 DG HSM A Canon 949 34 17
Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM A Canon 899 33 16
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM 6599 31 18
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM 850 31 16
Canon EF 100mm f/2 USM 440 31 15
Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 100mm f/2 ZE Canon 1840 30 17
Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM 1070 30 17
Canon EF 85mm F1.2L USM 1599 30 17
Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM 1550 30 16
Samyang 24mm f/1.4 ED AS UMC Canon 600 30 12
Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS II USM 10499 29 17
Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM 1869 29 16
Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/2 ZE Canon 1030 29 15
Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM 1420 29 14
Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Canon 285 29 13
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 IS USM 800 28 16
Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 50mm f/2 ZE Canon 1280 28 15
Canon EF 28mm f/2.8 IS USM 699 28 15
Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM 249 28 15
Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Canon 499 28 13
Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM 379 27 16
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM 969 27 16
Carl Zeiss Planar T 85mm f/1.4 ZE Canon 1280 27 15
Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Canon 499 27 15
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM 1574 27 14
Samyang 35mm F1.4 AS UMC Canon 599 27 12
Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM 6000 26 17

It’s the best performer of all the EF mount lenses that we’ve seen. Peak sharpness is very good indeed but the Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 is marginally sharper across the field at f2.8-5.6, and accounts for the maximum 18P-Mpix score.

In joint third place with the Sigma Art line 50mm is the firm’s 85mm f1.4 EX DG HSM. Both models perform to a similar level and at $949-969 are considerably more affordable than the Zeiss pair. Sigma’s Art line 35mm f1.4 comes in fourth place, narrowly behind the 50mm but several places in front of Canon’s aging but still widely respected 35mm f1.4L in joint 7th place.

Canon’s recently revamped stabilized 35mm f2 and film-era 100mm f2 achieve good scores at reasonable prices and the maker’s legendary 135mm f2L, 85mm f1.2L and 24mm f1.4L all perform exceptionally well, and have similar peak sharpness levels to the best performers, though they don’t have the uniformity at and close to the initial aperture.

Best performing standard primes on Canon EOS-1D X

Although designed for digital bodies, the Canon 50mm f1.2L is the oldest of the ultra-high speed 50mm models and with just 8 elements against the Zeiss’ 12 and the Sigma’s 13 elements it doesn’t test particularly well compared to the newcomers.

Don’t let that put you off though as it has a very attractive drawing style, even if it has quite high levels of CA and can’t quite match the sharpness of the Otus 1,4/55 and the new Sigma 50mm f1.4 and wider and mid-apertures. Stopped down the Canon performs very well in terms of sharpness, but peak levels are some way behind the newer models. 

Best performing wide-angle lenses on Canon EOS-1D X

Although the Samyang achieves the DxOMark score as the Canon EF 24mm f1.4L for its overall optical quality the Canon is sharper from the initial aperture and it’s superbly corrected for distortion which has added to the price substantially.

And lets not forget the Canon has autofocus and meters at full aperture, whereas you have to meter with the lens stopped down with the Samyang, in EF mount at least.  Still the two models are impressive overall.

The stabilized Canon EF 24mm f2.8 IS USM has similar peak sharpness levels as the L-series model and is lighter, smaller and more accessibly priced though obviously that comes at the expensive of ‘brightness’ – nevertheless the built-in stabilizer will appeal to both stills and video users.

Best performing moderate wide-angle lenses on Canon EOS-1D X

35mm wide-angle lenses remain popular, and Sigma’s new Art-line model is the best performer but it’s perhaps not so acutely obvious in the test results on the EOS-1D X. Both the new stabilized 35mm f2 and film-era 35mm f1.4L still perform very well indeed. The revamped f2 model even has the same measured peak sharpness as the Sigma. Both models draw slightly differently, but the appeal is subjective – neither are likely to disappoint in sharpness or uniformity.

The older f1.4 model has a unique drawing still even if the peak sharpness can’t quite match that the newer designs. It also has high levels of chromatic aberration, but in truth all three are solid performers.

Best performing short telephoto on Canon EOS-1D X

Without doubt the best performing short telephoto is the Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 with a DxOMark score of 33 points and an outstanding peak sharpness of 18P-Mpix. Optimum performance is at f2.8-4, but this lens is phenomenally sharp at full-aperture. The only negative point, apart from the price, is the lack of autofocus and that is arguable.

Canon users have a extremely wide range of options though, including the EF 135mm f2.0L which has blazingly fast AF and is no slouch optically. We’ve included the Sigma 85mm f1.4 in this comparison for its high DxOMark score and is one of the best performing models of any focal length. In overall performance it’s not far behind the Zeiss 2/135 and is a far better performer than the equivalent Zeiss 1,4/85 offering –particularly at full aperture where the latter is rather weak.  Canon’s own EF 100mm f2 is a solid performer, but at this level the EF 85mm f1.2L II is more in keeping – it has similar sharpness to the Sigma at full aperture, which is no mean feat at f1.2, although peak performance is achieved at f5.6.  

Best performing zooms on Canon EOS-1D X

The best performing zoom lens on the Canon EOS-1D X in our database is the recently revamped Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 DG OSM HSM S with a DxOMark lens score of 28 and peak sharpness of 16P-Mpix – though bear in mind optimum performance is at the shorter end and so the score isn’t directly comparable to the new Canon 300mm f2.8 model at 18P-Mpix.

 

Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM S Canon 3599 28 16
Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Canon 1699 27 17
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM 2299 27 15
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM 2499 26 17
Tamron SP 24-70mm F2.8 Di VC USD Canon 1299 26 15
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x 11800 24 17
Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM A Canon 899 24 15
Canon EF 28-70mm f/2.8L USM 1269 24 14
Tamron SP AF 70-200mm F/2.8 Di LD (IF) MACRO Canon 770 23 15
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM 1300 23 14
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM 1210 22 15
Tokina AT-X 16-28 F2.8 PRO FX Canon 849 22 15
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM 1695 22 14
Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 IF EX DG HSM Canon 899 21 15
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM 1500 21 14
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM 1221 21 13
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM 1399 21 13
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO HSM Canon 880 21 13
Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM 1599 21 13
Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM 780 21 13
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG APO Macro HSM II Canon 949 21 12
Tamron SP AF 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical [IF] Canon 499 20 15
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM 1250 20 13
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM 1674 20 12
Canon EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 USM 249 19 11
Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX DG Aspherical HSM Canon 350 19 10
Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX Aspherical HSM Canon 700 19 10
Canon EF 20-35mm f/3.5-4.5 USM 299 18 12
Tamron SP 70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di VC USD Canon 449 18 11
Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG APO OS HSM Canon 999 17 12

In second place is Tamron’s new stabilized SP-70-200mm f2.8 Di VC USD. At $1699 it’s considerably less pricey than the latest Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8L model which saw an increase in build and durability along with the addition of fluorite in the optical formula.

That is ranked in joint third place with the firm’s revised 24-70mm f2.8L II USM. Although a high watermark in standard zooms (the best performer of its type) the Tamron SP 24-70mm f2.8 Di VC USD is very good optically, even if it can’t quite match the Canon for uniformity.

Best wide zooms on the Canon EOS-1D X

While the choice of wide-angle zoom models is a bit limited Canon users can boast of two good L-series models and the often over-looked Tokina AT-X 16-28 f2.8 Pro FX. Although a big heavy lens and with a somewhat limited range it is a good performer – indeed it’s the best wide-zoom in our database on the EOS-1DX, albeit by a narrow margin. Despite being the most modern of the three performance at full-aperture is a little lack-lustre at the wider-end. In contrast it’s the wider-end where the two Canon models perform strongest, although they perform well when stopped down at least centrally, the edges are weak at most apertures – the 16-35mm f2.8L II more so than the 17-40mm

In part II we’ll be looking at the best performing lenses for sports and action on the EOS-1DX.

If you have a Canon EOS-1D X and a favorite lens, we would very much like to hear from you. Please leave a comment below, stating what lens it is and why you like it.