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At the NAB 2012 show in Las Vegas this week, Canon unveiled a pair of Cinema EOS cameras that represent the company’s headfirst entry into the 4K pool. With the EOS-1D C and the EOS C500, Canon will have in its arsenal both a 4K digital cinema camcorder and a 4K DSLR camera by the end of the year. Despite these cameras’ shared debut and product-line association, their physical forms and the way that these two cameras capture and record 4K video are quite different.
The EOS C500 (which comes in both EF and PL mount versions) is similar to the EOS C300 digital cinema model that Canon introduced earlier this year. As you might recall, that camera is outfitted with a 4K-resolution sensor, though the C300 is capable of capturing and outputting full 1080p HD only. Well, that sensor’s potential finds its full expression within these new C500 (Canon EF mount) and C500 PL (cine-style PL mount) models.
What makes the C500 extremely powerful is the way that it outputs full, 4096 x 2160-pixel 4K video. The 10-bit output pushes uncompressed 4K RAW data or a 2K RGB 4:4:4 signal through dual BNCs that support 3G-SDI. For 4K, the four 2K video planes (red, blue and two greens) that the camera puts out carry all Bayer encoding. Frame rates up to 60p are supported, and there’s also a “4K Half” format that cuts the horizontal resolution by 50% in order to push high frame rates (for potential slow motion) up to 120p. Similar options exist for quad full-HD, which has a less widescreen aspect ratio and a slightly lower resolution of 3840 x 2160.
How can you expect to record these kinds of data deluge? Canon is working with several third-party vendors for uncompressed RAW recording. For proxy purposes, the camera also records internally to a CompactFlash card at 50 Mb/s—this covers you for emergency backups and for immediate editing of proxy files. This is the Canon XF format (4:2:2 MPEG-2 with an MXF wrapper) that the C300 also records.
The C500 camera also outputs 2K and 1920 x 1080 HD (12-bit or 10-bit, 4:4:4 RGB) component signals with frame rates up to 60p, or 2K and 1920 x 1080 HD (10-bit, 4:2:2 YCrCb) component signals up to 120p.
Canon’s Log gamma enables an extremely high dynamic range, with excellent detail in both shadows and highlights of video. Cinematographers can employ this mode to use the C500 in a familiar digital intermediate post-production process. Canon claims that the camera is capable of 12 stops of dynamic range, with a base sensitivity of 54 dB (native ISO of 850) for Canon Log.
Though Canon has yet to reveal full details, the body of the C500 appears to be identical to that of the C300, but without the C300’s included rotating hand grip. Like its sibling, the C500 features large, accessible buttons with ridges dividing them, so it’s physically designed not for still photography but for the craft of digital cinema. And, as noted, the lens mount choices are also the same.
With two choices for lens mounts, a cinematographer can take advantage of the glass that’s readily available or that which makes the most sense for the projects for which the camera is likely to be employed. So for the PL mount version, that means cine-style lenses with the traditional ARRI PL mount; for the EF version, that means Canon SLR lenses. And, of course, it will accept Canon’s newly introduced Cinema EOS line of cinema lenses, both primes and zooms. Like the C300, the camera has a CMOS imager that’s roughly the same size as 3-perf Super 35mm film (with an effective resolution of 8.85 Mp), so the angle of view for cinema lenses will be extremely similar.
Canon also announced the EOS-1D C, which, as you probably can guess from the moniker, is the Cinema EOS version of the EOS-1D X DSLR camera. The DSLR body has an EF mount only—there’s no PL version of this camera. So either the EF mount DSLR lenses or the new Cinema EOS lenses will work. Like the 1D X, the 1D C has a much larger imager than that of the C500—it’s a full-frame (36 x 24mm) CMOS sensor with an 18 Mp resolution. Its 4096 x 2160-pixel 4K image is derived from a roughly APS-H-sized slice of that sensor.
Unlike with the C500, however, you don’t get uncompressed 4K RAW output via HD-SDI. Still, the 1D C records 500 Mb/s Motion JPEG 4K video, as an 8-bit 4:2:2 signal to its dual CF memory card slots at 24 fps. For those not bothering to calculate at home, that high-bandwidth 500 Mb/s recording adds up to about 5GB of storage required for each minute of recorded 4K video, but luckily, CF cards are not exactly expensive these days. And cinematic productions aren’t exactly used to just letting their cameras run freely.
Or you can choose to record a much more megabit-efficient 1920 x 1080 video signal (8-bit 4:2:2 4K and 8-bit 4:2:0) at selectable frame rates from 24p to 60p. There’s no SDI output, the camera does put out an HD (not 4K) YCbCr 8-bit 4:2:2 signal by way of its HDMI output. And in contrast to the HDMI output on other Canon DSLRs, the 1D C puts out a clean signal via HDMI.
While 4K recording is drawn from an APS-H-sized slice of the sensor, for full HD video you get a choice of two imaging formats that correspond to different angles of view. The standard HD capture setting employs the full width of the CMOS sensor, for the largest possible angle of view for the attached lens. But there’s also a Super 35 crop setting that captures from a smaller slice of the sensor and puts the camera’s angle of view in line with other cameras with that size of sensor—such as an EOS C300, for instance. That makes the Canon EOS-1D C a great partner for Super 35mm cameras on a multi-camera production.
Another similar aspect of the 1D C is the small form factor of the camera. For most high-end 4K productions, this camera would serve as a solid B-camera for small spaces, for handheld use, or for potentially dangerous shots. Because 4K records internally, you’re not going to have the “ball and chain” that an external recorder entails.
As with the C500, Canon Log gamma can be applied to footage recorded with the 1D C, which enables a higher dynamic range to be recorded, and a specific look applied in post. For this gamma mode, View Assist function “corrects” the image that’s viewable on the camera’s LCD—otherwise, you’d be staring at a milky uncorrected image with low contrast.
The EOS-1D C shares all the exceptional still-image capture capabilities of the 1D X, including its large sensor, its high-precision autofocus and auto-exposure performance, and its low-light performance. The 1D C shares the sensitivity range of the 1D X (ISO 100-51,200). If you’re looking for a compact camera that records 4K-resolution video internally—without the need for the outboard data capture that the EOS C500 entails—and happens to be a top-notch DSLR camera, too, the EOS-1D C might be the choice for you. Both the 1D C and the C500 (PL and EF versions) are expected to be available by the end of the year.
|EOS-1D C||EOS C500||EOS C500 PL|
|Resolution||18.1 Mp||8.85 Mp||8.85 Mp|
|Sensor||36 x 24mm CMOS||24.6x 13.8mm CMOS (Super 35mm size)||24.6x 13.8mm CMOS (Super 35mm size)|
|Video Output||HDMI (HD only - no 4K)||2x BNC for dual 3G-SDI (Up to 4K RAW)||2x BNC for dual 3G-SDI (Up to 4K RAW)|
|Recording Media||2x CF card (up to 4K at 500 Mb/s)||1x CF (50 Mb/s Canon XF MPEG-2 only - no 4K)||1x CF (50 Mb/s Canon XF MPEG-2 only - no 4K)|
|Lens Mount||Canon EF||Canon EF||PL|