Canon Announces Cinema EOS Series

November 5th, 2011
Last Thursday, Steve’s Digicams was fortunate to get an invitation to a Canon announcement so secret, no one would tell us what time it even started.  But we had one clue about what we’d be learning.  
The announcement was being held at the historic Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood, California.
That, dear readers, could only mean one thing: Canon wasn’t announcing a still camera that also shot video, like the 5D Mark II which has already been used to shoot a prime time television like ‘House’.  
No, on this historic day, Canon had something completely new in store:
EOS Cinema is Canon’s foray into professional digital cinema production.  They aim to compete with the likes of Panasonic, Sony, Arri, and RED by having a camera designed to capture 4K HD motion pictures.  Renowned filmmaker Martin Scorsese even dropped by to discuss the history of storytelling, and more specifically, humanity’s need to tell visual stories.  


Mr. Scorsese’s speech preceded a few short films that had been shot on the new camera, named the EOS C300.  Out of the four films we watched, I would say only one — ‘Mobius’ directed by Vincent Laforet — looked as good as film, but that was mainly because it was shot outside. Most modern digital cameras (professional or consumer grade) take vivid pictures and sharp, detail video outdoors under sunlight. 
The idea behind the C300 and these shorts was to show off what it can do in environments where there is only natural light (interiors, exteriors, days, and nights).  The shorts all featured a film-esc shallow depth-of-field, but overall they looked like video and, in the wrong lightning situations (anything that’s not super bright or super dark), an ugly sheen of video “noise” coated everything.  The green screen efforts the short film ‘XXIT’ were good, but the moment the film went to the real world (outside and on location at night), the HD camera noise appeared.  The camera could definitely shoot television, but features films these were not.


As Canon’s first foray into professional motion picture cinematographer, the C300 is trying to make a bold splash in its ability to capture color and detail.  And yet, in terms of specs, it doesn’t quite compete in the areas of full resolution variable frame rates (to shoot 60fps, you must drop resolution form 4K to 720p) and can only sample colors at 4:2:2.  The filmmakers featured in the announcement seemed thrilled with the results, but I’m not sure if this camera is ready to shoot alongside the big boys. Or perhaps its better to say, like other digital cinema cameras, in darker situations, it still needs bright, external lighting to avoid losing image quality — not necessarily a huge problem to overcome.  It’s simply not a wunderkind camera.
Here’s a look at what the C300 can do in terms of imagery.  This was, by far, the best and best-looking film of the night, but please consider that this is a 720p version of the image compressed for the Internet.  Last night, we watched a Full HD version on a huge, 30-foot cinema screen where flaws were more apparent.  [FYI, there is some gun violence.]

Mobius from Vincent Laforet on Vimeo.

To check out the other shorts shot with the C300, head on over here to Canon’s site.  

The C300 will retail for around $20,000, and be available in January of 2012.  The EOS C300PL (uses PL lenses) will follow in March.  To learn more about the EOS C300, be sure to check out our preview page

Thursday’s second announcement was to let the world know that they have a new DSLR camera in the works.  It currently doesn’t have a name other than EOS Movies.  It will be a still camera with the ability to shoot 4K video in MPEG 2 Motion JPEG compression.  To see some more images, check out our preview page.
So what do you think, future Spielberg’s of the world? Does the Cinema EOS series line up?  Are you ready to try one out?  Hit up the Steve’s Forums or Facebook page to let us know!
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