Canon's EOS Cinema lineup has up to now had one 4K solution, the C500. Brilliant but pricey piece of kit, where other video camera manufacturers have been pushing harder sooner. Blackmagic Design has the URSA and Sony has the killer PSW-FS7 but both came in at a lower cost than the C500. Canon has announced two new cameras, and a new recording format to try to establish a leg up in 4K.
The C500 is awesome but not for the faint of wallet. Indeed many filmmakers who wanted the form factor and superb image quality went with the 2K C300. This week, Canon announced the C300 Mk II to be available in September with 4K capability at about $20k, $5K more than the original C300 was. Existing C300 owners were hoping for a firmware update to unlock 4K on the cameras that they already own, but it looks like that's a non-starter. The C300 will remain at a lower price, with the Mark II sitting between the C300 and the C500. I wonder about the C500 as the C300 Mk II has two new super fast CPUs, a new 8.85MP Super35 sensor, ISO capability to 102,400 and a new architecture capable of pushing content at up to 410MB/s via CFAST 2.0 cards. That's a big jump over the 50MB/s we see in the C300. Also standard in the new camera is the Dual Pixel AF introduced in the 70D DSLR. This functionality was available as a fixed price upgrade on the original C300 at $500. I had the upgrade done and think that it is definitely worthwhile when you have to work fast. The C300 Mark II records 10 bit files at 4:2:2 colour sampling as well as 12 bit 4:4:4 in 2K and FullHD. I am a C300 owner and will have more information on the C300 Mark II as the release date gets closer.
The other Canon camera announcement is the XC10. This is an interesting release given that it has a price point of about $2,500 for a fixed lens 4K camera recording using a 1 inch sensor. Looking at the unit, it makes me think of a cross between an EOS Cinema and a Pentax645. While Super35 is not like full frame still, it's larger than the 1" sensor and even the Lumix GH-4 that can shoot 4K has a larger micro 4/3s sensor. The benefit here is that the ILCs that shoot 4K are built like still cameras that do video whereas the XC10 is definitely built as a video camera that can shoot stills. The different approaches produce different layouts and architectures. Unlike the C300 Mark II that takes Canon EF or optionally PL mount lenses, the XC10 lens is a fixed 27-273 2.8-5.6 equivalent lens. It also has real video camera capabilities such as built-in ND filters, 12 stops of dynamic range and 305MB/s volume throughput. The handgrip rotates and the rear LCD is a tilting touchscreen. There is also an optical loupe viewfinder included. Colour sampling is professional grade 4:2:2. The camera delivers 12MP stills in still mode and 8.3MP captures from 4K video. and uses the same battery as the 5D Mark III. It looks pretty killer and I am hopeful that Canon's PR firm will be inclined to send me one to evaluate once they are shipping. The XC10 is due in June 2015.
Neither model would be able to deliver such great performance without the new codec. For a long while we have see the AVCHD codec ruling the roost for 2K video. It's a lightweight codec with decent performance and lots of support. Sony did their own new codec recently in their 4K lineup and so a new codec from Canon is not a big surprise. Canon's 2K lineup use a mode called XF. Canon's C300 and C500 can shoot in Canon Log Gamma. Think RAW for video. Like RAW for stills it NEEDS post processing but has so much Dynamic Range it's just beautiful to work with. In order to improve 4K performance and throughout, the new codec called XF-AVC uses the proven H.264 compression algorithms to reduce file size without compromising image quality, but unlike other compression mechanisms does not prevent in depth edit controls such as colour management. So professional colourists will still be able to do their magic on files coming out of this codec.
In the same announcement, Canon announced the coming release of the DP-V2410 24" 4K Reference Display. Not much good shooting everything in 4K if you do not have a reference grade display to do your work on.
It's a very impressive set of announcements reaffirming Canon's commitment to serious video. Now if they would just offer to do a swap for my C300 when the Mark II comes out. :)