Archive for November 3rd, 2011

Canon’s New “Revolutionary” Cinema Camera Underwhelms

The media have been invited today in Hollywood to witness Canon’s game-changer cinema camera. Canon hyped the announcement last month by claiming that they will write Hollywood history. The C300 is a beautiful small-factor camera, but if we are to judge from the Twitter responses of many industry professionals, the camera seriously underwhelmed them.

The C300 has a 4k CMOS sensor, but it only records at 1080p (if 4k capture is available via HD-SDI is not known at this moment). The camera comes with a PL mount version and an EF one, to accompany Canon’s new 4k-resolving lenses. The price is considered high at $20k by many. An unnamed as-of-yet dSLR from the same C-line was also mentioned by Canon in the press release I received, saying that this new dSLR will be able to record at 4k, but by using the (archaic) MJPEG codec.

This really feels like a big joke today. Either Canon has lost the plot, or they don’t know how to put together specs for people to comprehend. They never made clear if the C300 can capture 4k or not, they mentioned nothing about the codec used, and they never mentioned the 4k dSLR at the event!

What really bothers me is that if the C300 does not do 4k for one reason or another, it should have had the ability to shoot 2k. I mean, come on. 2k is the resolution of most cinema projectors, and it’s so close to 1080p resolution-wise, that not a lot more RAM or processing would be required on board. Not pushing this camera for 2k, while they’re trying to get Hollywood on their side, shows how outside of the loop Canon is.

Finally, there’s not even over-cranking support in 1080p mode. Not to mention that I’m not too hot on the mpeg2 codec. In this day and age all video editors have OpenCL/CUDA support for h.264, and a good h.264 codec can deliver 2-3 times better video than mpeg2 at the same bitrate. Just use the right h.264 10bit 422 encoder at 50mbps, which should be leaps and bounds better than mpeg2. But no. We had to go back 10 years. (Continues below…)

In my opinion, Canon has two options with the C300, and two options alone:
1. With a firmware upgrade, allow RAW 4k capture via the HD-SDI port.
2. If this is not technically possible in the current design, drop the price by 50% at $10,000.

Failure to do any of the two will result in a big FAIL for Canon. This is my honest opinion on the matter, no matter how good a visual result this camera can deliver. It’s still 1080p, and Hollywood has moved to 4k. That’s the reality.

There are some who say that this Canon camera goes against the SONY F3, and not the RED. But this is bullshit. First of all, it’s much more expensive than the F3. Secondly, it doesn’t matter what the F3 can do. Canon was all about a HISTORIC moment, this was the camera some Canon execs last year were saying it will kill RED. But in reality, this is just a camera created by a company that rode the high horse without realizing it. All this shows that the video success of the 5D MkII, their first video dSLR, was a happy ACCIDENT, and not a planned visionary feature. Canon has no idea what it’s doing with their video cameras. Either they didn’t ask anyone for input, or they got input from the wrong people (wedding videographers?).

As for the unnamed dSLR, please don’t get me started at the MJPEG joke. Really Canon? MJPEG? In (expected) year 2012?

The Canon T3i remains the best-camera-for-the-buck ever released (at $800). Because let me be clear, the C300 is indeed better than the T3i, but not 25 times better. Not by a long shot.

In other news, RED changed a few specs around on the Scarlet (4k video and with great resolutions/frame-rates combos). Some say it will arrive by December. Price starts under $10k, but it’s realistically expected to go to $13k after adding LCD, lens mounts etc. If that’s true, RED won the battle today. As much I don’t like RED’s vaporware, at least they’re genuine dreamers. Canon seems to be comprised from corporate shills instead, who don’t understand the new market that has emerged in the last few years inside Hollywood and outside of it.

Update: Haha, this is getting better and better. So, there is no 4k recording via the SDI port on the C300, and the codec is actually just crappy 8 bit all the way (SDI & CF). Full specs here. In the meantime, RED is pissing off its EPIC users, since the Scarlet can do most of what the EPIC can, for a fraction of the price. And we should not be forgetting AVID, who also today announced an uninteresting (to me) editing solution. This has been a very interesting day indeed.