Gear


DSLR Video: Canon Goes to the Movies

December 1, 2011

By Ibarionex Perello

A few years ago, Canon came out of nowhere to change the world of video. The EOS 5D Mark II transformed how still photographers and cinematographers perceived and used motion capture. Now, Canon has announced three products that will continue to impact how we record video.

Each off these cameras is designed for a particular kind of user in mind, each of whom faces different challenges and who has different needs that have to be met. However, each model will help to shape how photographers and cinematographers will capture video whether it’s destined for the big screen, television or a computer monitor.

Canon EOS 1D X
Though there is much being made about the EOS 1D X’s impact on the world of still photographers, Canon has spent as much time considering how this camera will be used by those capturing video.

The full-frame DSLR (right) delivers some much welcome advances to video capture, including the ability to record continuous video up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds when the file size exceeds 4GB. It does this by splitting the video into two separate files, but without dropping frames. The files can be easily connected in a video editing application and its ideal for photographers who record lengthy clips such as for weddings or documentary work.

The camera finally includes the ability to add timecode, which has been unavailable in previous Canon HDSLR models. It is offered using two different settings: The “Rec Run” mode is ideally suited for single-camera applications because it resets to 00:00:00:00 (hours/minutes/seconds/frames) for each individual clip. The “Free Run” option is more suitable for multi-camera applications, because it allows for all the cameras used during production to be synchronized.

The camera offers a new edit-friendly compression format, which eliminates the need to transcode the recorded files before editing them in your video editing application. Users have the choice between the ALL-I or the IPB compression.

ALL-I is Canon’s designation for an intraframe compression method that compresses each individual frame of the movie file. This provides for greater quality frame grabs and also results in less CPU strain during postprocessing, because the computer does not to render interpolated frames when decoding and playing back files. This method allows for more precise editing because it allows for cuts in scenes on a per-frame basis, rather than a per-keyframe basis. This is also a good choice for editors using a computer that doesn’t have the processing power to decode and play back IPB files smoothly during the editing process.

The IPB applies compression by referencing the previous and next frame—creating smaller sizes and making it more suitable for recording long movies.

Audio recording is also improved in the camera with the additional of 64-step volume control that can be adjusted before or during recording. The 1D X’s built-in audio recording capability also features a built-in wind filter to cut down on wind noise when using the built-in monaural mic. The camera also includes the ability to record stereo using an external stereo audio port.

The rolling shutter, which creates a visual distortion when photographing fast action, has been reduced in the 1D X with the increase in processing speed by which image data is exported from the CMOS imaging sensor. The increase to a 16-channel dual-line read out is a big improvement over the 8-channel single-line readouts found in the EOS 7D and 1D Mark IV.

Performance is also improved as a result of the Dual DIGIC 5+ image processors, which are 17 times faster than the DIGIC 4 processors used in other HD-compatible EOS models.

The camera is scheduled to become available in early 2012 and has an estimated street price of $6,800.

Canon EOS C300
The Canon EOS C300 (right) will be the first camera from Canon’s Cinema EOS system, which are cameras and lenses designed specifically for the digital high resolution production industry, including motion picture and television. Though cameras like the 5D Mark II have been utilized by professional cinematographers, HDSLRs are still primarily designed for still capture. The EOS C300 is designed with for those shooters whose primary goal is to capture video.

Capable of capturing 4K-resolution, this camera provides start of the art high-resolution video capture in a form factor that resembles a DSLR, but is appreciable smaller than traditional motion picture cameras. Measuring 5.2 x 70 x 6.7 inches, this interchangeable lens system brings video capture to a whole new level.

Built around an 8.3- megapixel Super 35mm CMOS sensor, the camera is available with either an EF or PL mount, the latter being compatible with a cinematographer’s inventory of cinema lenses. The sensor, which is larger than what is typically found in a traditional video camera, provides the look of a limited depth of field favored with film capture and reduced noise.

Several short films made with the new camera were showcased during the camera’s press announcement in November and demonstrated the camera’s ability to move beyond the limitations of DSLR video, including the issue of rolling shutter when capturing fast action.

Canon has also simultaneously announced its own line of cinema style lenses, which include a 14.5-60mm T2.6 L (above) and 30-300mm T2.95-3.7L lens, each of which will be available for in both the EF and PL mounts.

For those photographers who have been using their existing line of EF lenses for video capture, the camera provides built-in peripheral illumination correction, which reduces the appearance of vignetting.

The camera is scheduled to be available in 2012 and at estimated price of $20,000.

4K HDSLR in Development
Canon has announced the production of another 4K camera, which will be built along the traditional form factor of a DSLR. No model designation or price has been announced at this point, but they have provided a few details about the camera.

The camera is designed around a 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor that will provide 4K resolution at a frame rate of 24 fps with Motion-JPEG compression.

Just as digital created a new era for still photography, these cameras and those to come will create new visual possibilities.


Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer, educator and the host of The Candid Frame (www.thecandidframe.com). He is also the author of Chasing the Light: Improving Your Photography Using Available Light.