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Canon goes to Hollywood

The company rolls out a series of "compact" cameras targeting professional TV and filmmakers, dubbed the Cinema EOS series.

Canon USA

Those of you hoping that Canon's latest announcement, long-rumored to be a camera with extraspecial video capabilities, would be a 5D Mark III can now officially be disappointed. At about $20,000, this one ain't for the hobbyists or the still-images-firsters.

The new series of cameras, dubbed Cinema EOS, consists of two models based around a new 4K Super35 CMOS sensor and incorporating the most current version of its Digic DV III image processor. The two models differ only by mount: the C300 PL uses a PL mount (developed by Arri for film cameras) and the C300 uses a Canon EF mount.

There had been speculation that the camera would either be a 4K or a 2K (HD) model, and it's oddly both and neither. While the sensor has a native 4K resolution, the cameras only output 2K, 1080/30p HD. As far as I can tell, the camera is binning (grouping into subblocks) the different colors to achieve higher low-light and color sensitivity; it uses Canon's XF codec, which supports 4:2:2 subsampling and outputs at a maximum bit rate of 50Mbps, both of which are arguably more important than more pixels. And this is a first generation, so the company has a little bit of time before it starts rolling out upstream models with higher resolution, though Canon's definitely lost the "cutting-edge" title to RED. The camera offers dual CompactFlash slots, though I don't know if they support UDMA 7, as well as a lot of features and menus found in the XF camcorder series.

The unit itself looks to be pretty small, at least given what filmmakers are used to, and for them the lack of autofocus and autoexposure probably won't matter. I'm kind of interested to see what aspects of this end up rolling downstream.

This is a system, of course, and that demands new lenses. Canon had announced a couple at NAB in the spring, PL and EF versions of a 14.5-60mm T2.6 and 30-300mm T2.95-3.7, and it will be delivering three new EF-mount primes optimized for the system: CTZ-029 (24mm T1.5), CTZ-030 (50mm T1.3), and CTZ-031 (85mm T1.3). They're supposedly optimized for the higher resolution requirements, and will of course work on standard EF mount cameras. That looks like a win for everyone. The primes are slated to ship in the summer of 2012 for $6800 each.

Canon concept camera Canon USA

When it ships in January, the Cinema EOS' $20,000 price will include important accessories, such as an external LCD and XLR unit. For a more in-depth initial analysis, check out DVInfo's coverage.

Canon also announced that it's working on a full-frame dSLR capable of 24p Motion JPEG 4K video recording that looks amazingly like a 1D X. I also have to say, Motion JPEG? Not exactly the video raw format everyone's looking for.