10 Nov 2014

Cinematography: What will Canon do next?

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Cinematography: What will Canon do next? Cinematography: What will Canon do next? Canon/RedShark

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We're just guessing here, but we just wondered what Canon might do next for video makers with its cinematography cameras

I just want to say at the outset that the following is pure, totally uninformed speculation, just in case anyone thinks we have any inside track on this. This is not even a rumour: it's a guess! But with that in mind, let's have a look at what Canon might be thinking of doing with their Cinema EOS range of cameras. The recent useful but not headline-grabbing upgrade to the C100 has actually made film makers speculate even more about what the replacements for the C300 and the C500 might be.

If you're going to play the game of guessing what Canon does next, you need to look at the whole context.

When the Canon 5D Mk II emerged in September 2008, it was the first Canon EOS camera to have video recording capabilities. And it was impressive. For a start, the images were progressive, at a point where most people were still seeing interlaced video, even at HD resolutions.

And that depth of field! Perhaps the biggest thing that made the 5D Mk II look cinematic. At this early(er) stage in the growth of digital cinematography it looked absolutely magical. Very few of us minded at the time that it was a bit soft and prone to moire, because that would be like complaining that the first helicopter rattled a bit.

Winning combination

It became a winning combination: cheap lenses (that the you probably already owned) and luscious-looking video.

But as more and more people engaged with DSLR photography, the limitations began to be seen in perspective, and, although the Mk III was a significant improvement, both the form factor and the limitations of a camera that was never designed primarily for video became a significant part of the reason why serious cinematographers have stayed with "traditional" cinema-style cameras.

For Canon, the success of their EOS still cameras as video shooters created a dichotomy: Should they continue to improve the video capabilities of their DSLRs, possibly at the expense of their well-established (and, you'd imagine, profitable) range of dedicated video cameras, or should they continue to engineer the DSLRs so that they made even better video?

To understand Canon's reasoning here you have to understand that still photography is by far the biggest part of Canon (imaging's) business. I don't know whether it's five or fifty times bigger but it is significant. Which means that video as part of a DSLR is between five and fifty times less significant to Canon than we probably think it is.

One tangible result of Canon's dilemma was the Canon 1DC, which is one of my favourite cameras.

I like it because it's a top end still camera that can shoot lovely-looking 4K footage as MJPEG. While this is not the most fashionable codec, it is almost universally compatible, and doesn't need any post-processing to put it to use right away. As someone who does a lot of still photography, but who works with video, this is a great combination for me.

But why did they make this camera? Probably as the ultimate embodiment of the video DSLR. The recently announced 7D mk II was rumoured to be "a bit like the 1D (x or c), which it is, in that it is heavily weatherproofed, but there's no sign of 4K, nor of any very significant upgrade to its video performance.



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David Shapton

David is the Editor In Chief of RedShark Publications. He's been a professional columnist and author since 1998, when he started writing for the European Music Technology magazine Sound on Sound. David has worked with professional digital audio and video for the last 25 years.

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