Canon announces Cinema EOS product line

Canon announced an all-new 4K cinema camera and matching lens product line, called Cinema EOS. The new line of cinema tools includes the basic Cinema EOS C300 camera body in either PL or EF mount and seven new PL and EF lenses.

Fujio Mitarai, Canon chairman, began the proceedings saying that his company wanted to unveil the new cinema line of products in Hollywood both to show its support for film and content makers, but also to emphasize the firm’s desire to develop feedback from this community of professionals. Mitarai said that while the technology is new, the C300 camera builds on the company’s success it has enjoyed in professional digital cinematography with its EOS 5D Mark II camera.

The camera uses Canon’s super 35mm CMOS sensor with an effective 8.3 megapixels. The camera records using MPEG-2 compression and saves the files in MXF format. Based on the Canon DIGIC DV III image processor, the EOS camera outputs 50Mb/s 4:2:2, recording to two CF cards. A third card slot can mount an SD card, which an operator can use to automatically upload an entire set of favorite presets. For rental applications, this permits the shooter to quickly configure multiple cameras to identical desired settings.

The Cinema EOS camera output supports 1920 x 1080: 60/50i, as well as 1280 x 720: 60/50p. The HD/SDI output includes embedded audio. For those still shooting in SD, the camera outputs 4:2:2 640 x 480 60/50i. An HDMI output also is standard.

The most obvious external aspect of the new EOS C300 is its small size; the camera body is about the same size as any DSLR camera. The compact body comes in two flavors — the EOS C300 and EOS C300PL, each supporting one style of lenses. The EOS C300PL mates with a total of five new lenses — two telephoto and three prime lenses. Officials were quick to point out that the C300 can use any of the seven new 4K EF cinema lenses or one of the more than 60 current Canon EF-style lenses.

What about options? A full range of handles and mounts are available. An optional wireless controller allows the camera to be remote-controlled via standard wireless devices like tablets, phones and browsers. The event also showed the cinema EOS cameras mounted and configured in a wide range of applications, from point-and-shoot to 3-D. Especially impressive was the live set, with little illumination. The actor moved through the set with only a flashlight. Images were spectacular.

Enough of the specs. What do professional say?

Discounting the first and second audience questions (price and availability) the audience of shooters and DPs asked about rolling shutter. In response, the panel of filmmakers said it simply wasn’t a problem with this camera. Larry Thorpe, Sr. Director, Imaging Technology & Communications Group, Professional Engineering & Solutions Division for Canon,
said later that rolling shutter had been reduced to such an extent to be a “non-issue.”

I interviewed several DPs and camera operators. The most common comment was on the camera’s small size.

Sam Nicholson, director of the film “XXIT,” said, “Sometimes on the set, there’s so much technology that it gets in the way of your story. That doesn’t happen with this camera.”

Other comments highlighted the camera’s ability to show detail available in low light situations.

Richard Crudo, director for the film “Max is Back,” said regarding night scenes, “What we got out of the camera was absolutely astonishing. I was blown away at the amount of detail in the dark areas.”

Echoing that viewpoint was Vincent Laforet, director for the film “Möbius.”

“The camera (because of its performance) opens up a whole new world,” Laforet said. “It requires a whole new way of thinking about lighting.”

The list price for the Cinema EOS body — including battery, charger and handles — is $20,000. Units are expected to ship worldwide in January 2012. For more details, see Canon Broadcast.

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