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Entries in Canon (42)


Live Unicorn Coverage

Today promises to be a big day. At 3pm PST, Canon will make a product announcement at Paramount Studios in Hollywood. And although the slogan above is theirs, presumed to indicate a digital cinema offering of the kind we’ve been begging them to create, it could equally describe the state of the insular community of future-camera fanatics following Canon’s invitation. Jim Jannard of Red responded by declaring an event of his own later that same evening. At 6pm tonight, the details of Red’s long-awaited (and NAB-demoed) Scarlet will be revealed, possibly having been tweaked to better battle Canon’s offering, but not so much as to prevent Red from taking orders.

Then came the speculation. And the expectations. There’s a great summary of the Sturm und Drang over at FreshDV.

The venerable Mike Seymour will be covering both events and live-blogging them at fxguide. That’s where I’ll be watching.


HDSLR Shopping? What You Want is a Canon 60D

If you’re shopping for a DSLR right now, for the primary purpose of shooting video (being familiar with all the pros and cons), what you want is the Canon 60D.

I felt compelled to write this because the 60D seems to get left out of the conversation a lot, and it shouldn’t. It’s the best filmmaker’s DSLR out there right now. People still ask my which they should buy, the 5D Mark II or the 7D, and when I recommend the 60D, I sense resistance. How is it possible that a sub-$1,000 camera body shoots video as good as one costing $600 more? 

The 7D is a great camera, and it was the first HDSLR to offer a smattering of useful frame rates and manual control. It also is a Canon, so if you were a 5D Mark II shooter, a 7D was an easy body to fold into your kit. I bought one the day they became available, and encouraged you to do the same — arguing then, as I still believe today, that the APS-C sensor size — while not as luxuriously huge as that of the 5D Mark II — is a perfect size for filmmaking, being a close match to the Super35mm film frame.

The sensors of the 7D and the 60D are the same size, but with the 7D you’re paying for a best-in-class APS-C stills camera, which you may or may not need. It has a more advance autofocus system than the 5D Mark II, a weatherproof metal body, and dual DIGIC 4 chipset for rapid-fire motodrive. If you’re not a serious stills shooter, these features are overkill. They have no affect at all on the camera’s video performance.

Still, the 7D got lodged in the hearts and minds of not only shooters, but their clients. Everyone knows the 7D.

Then along came the Rebel T2i and the 60D. Both have almost the exact same video features as the 7D (with one notable exception, as you’ll read in a moment). The 60D even has a handy feature that the 7D lacks: manual audio level control. But more importantly, the 60D alone has something I routinely wish my 7D had: an articulating LCD screen.

This single feature is enough reason to recommend the 60D. Quite simply, it’s painful and often impossible to shoot video with an HDSLR without an external monitor. While the amazing Zacuto Z-Finder is great for shoulder-mounted work, if you’re like me, you often shoot at something other than eye-level. A flip-out LCD has been on my HDSLR wishlist for a long time, and we finally have it with the 60D. And by the way, you can use the Z Finder with the 60D, as shown here.

I don’t have a 60D (yet) or a Rebel T2i, but everyone I’ve spoken with who has done comparisons says the video from the three cameras is nearly identical. So here’s my recommendation:

If you are just getting started and are on a budget, sure, consider the Rebel T2i. Do not, under any circumstances, buy it with the kit lens. A year ago the only SLR worth shooting video with was $2600. You just got one for $750. Take the extra money and buy some fast lenses. At the very least, get a thrifty fifty.

If you are a serious amateur or aspiring-pro photographer who doesn’t care about full-frame or “real” pro bodies like the 1D Mark IV, and you also want to shoot video, the 7D is a great camera. And it is worth noting that the 7D does have one advantage over the 60D: The 7D outputs an HD signal through its HDMI port while recording, while the 60D, like the 5D Mark II and Rebel T2i, outputs Standard Definition. If your primary shooting mode will be with an external HD monitor such as the SmallHD DP6, the 7D will give you a better signal for frame and focus. 

The 5D Mark II remains an awesome stills camera hampered only by an aging autofocus system, and it shoots lovely 24, 25 and 30p video with better low-light performance than any of Canon’s APS-C offerings, including the 60D. Its full-frame sensor allows beyond-cinematic depth of field control. The 5D lacks 50 and 60p modes though, and costs a lot. It’s entirely possible that your heart and photo soul are screaming at you to own a full-frame DSLR, and if that’s the case, of course the 5D Mark II is great. But it’s no longer the king of the video hill unless achieving the shallowest-possible depth of field is your top priority.

If you are specifically interested in video, and stills are a nice feature but not your raison d’être, get the 60D. You’re basically paying the difference between the Rebel and the 60D for manual audio levels, the flip-out screen, and the (occasionally reported) possibility that the 60D is slightly less prone to overheating than the Rebel. It’s a great camera for a great price, and the articulated screen alone is worth it. Again, just say no to the kit lens.

Proof that the universe loves you: as I began to write this, the Canon 60D went on sale at Amazon for $899. Use coupon code BF8JNEEK at checkout.

If you’re already a Canon shooter, remember that while the 60D shares batteries with the 5D Mark II and the 7D, it uses SDHC cards instead of CF. I’ve put together a 60D Cine page on the ProLost store to help you get your kit going.

Using a DSLR for video is a compromise. In addition to the technical limitations we’ve discussed here at length, the time-honored form factor of the SLR just wasn’t made for movies. The 60D takes a big step toward fixing this. To me, this matters a lot. The 5D Mark II shot you blew because you couldn’t see the LCD well enough to focus is worth nothing compared to the 60D shot you wrangled from an angle.


Ha ha very funny Canon now get back to work

Image courtesy of Philip Bloom. Click through for his actual coverage of the show.

Canon Expo kicked off with a bang as the venerable imaging giant stunned crowds with its working prototype 4K camera! Is this the future of digital cinema?

Ug. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

There’s so much wrong with this prototype “concept camera” (as Philip kindly points out below, it’s important to understand that this is not a camera Canon plans on bringing to market) that I hardly know where to begin. It’s an atrocity of aesthetics and ergonomics. It has a fixed, not-very-special 20x zoom lens. The sensor is only 2/3”. It shoots 60fps. Nothing about this camera reflects any awareness of what digital cinematographers want. It’s as if Canon brass lifted the internet ban on the engineer’s dungeon just long enough for them to visit to RED’s web site, and then shut it down again after they’d read as far as “4K.”

Of course, this isn’t a camera, or even a plan for a camera. It’s a statement by Canon. They meant to say “We get it. We know what’s important.” What they actually said is “Ooh, bigger numbers!” I expect this kind of technology dick-swinging from Sony, but not from Canon.

What’s most troubling about this non-camera is that Canon made it at all. Anyone invested in Canon’s gear should be pissed at Canon for squandering their time and resources building this toy. I look at this thing and see my parents returning from Vegas with a sheepish expression on their faces, saying “Remember your college fund?”

Canon, please stop building fake “4K” video cameras when you can’t even make an SLR that shoots actual 1080p HD.

We’ve discussed the very real aliasing/moiré issue with Canon’s HDSLRs. It is both a real problem and a somewhat workable limitation that many happily accept. What is not in dispute is that these are symptoms of a poorly-sampled, low-resolution image. Readers of this site know that I am not a spatial resolution fetishist, but even I am painfully aware that my 5D and 7D footage is lacking detail.

Canon makes it incredibly easy to demonstrate this, since the 5D Mark II that makes such fuzzy pseudo-HD video also makes ridiculously high-fidelity stills. The frames below are a 1:1 frame grab from a 5D video, and the same scene shot as a still and then scaled down to 1920x1080. I did the scaling in Lightroom, using no Develop or Output Sharpening.

Click for full-sizeClick for full-sizeFeel free to download the full-res originals and compare yourself, or look at the 1:1 comparisons below:

Port of Oakland? Or #### ## #######?Chain-link fence? Or a dirty piece of glass?The difference is staggering. And remember, I don’t even care all that much about spatial resolution. What I do know is this: a sharp 1920x1080 camera can make an image with more detail than most female movie stars are comfortable with for close-ups. So for today we can dispense with a discussion about the merits of mastering at 4K. Canon is nowhere near that conversation with their HDSLRs. They’re still falling way short of HD.

To be clear: What you are seeing above is two different ways that the same camera made a 1920x1080 image. One image was hastily yanked off a sensor (skipping entire rows of pixels) and then compressed to H.264 in realtime; the other was captured as raw 5.6K bayer data, decoded slowly to RGB by an engine optimized for quality, then downsampled to HD using every 5.6K pixel to build a 1920x1080 image with as much detail as appropriate for a true HD image.

Does the latter sound unfeasible for “real” video work? Well it shouldn’t — it’s what we do with our RED One cameras now.

The RED One is more than just a “4K camera.” It’s a 4K sensor, some very clever software, an even more clever compressed raw codec, and then more clever software. Not to mention a decent form factor, decent colorimetry, smart proxy workflows for editorial, and viewfinders that actually help you expose and focus. It’s a full-fledged 4K ecosystem.

And look how painful it was for RED to get all that working.

Canon, you have none of that stuff, you have no idea how to make it, and you don’t even know that you don’t know this.

So stop dicking around with your fake 4K toys and start making cameras we can use. That we want to use.

Build a full-frame DSLR that shoots high-quality HD video at a variety of frame rates and the world is yours.

I’m terrified that you won’t though — because then you’d have to put it on a pedestal at a trade show and say “Look, we finally built a camera that actually does what we claim our current cameras do.”

So much more fun to say “Hey look, 4K!”

“We so get it.”


The Eagle Has Landed

The 24p firmware update for the Canon 5D Mark II is live on Canon’s site.

September 17, 2008, the day of the 5D Mark II’s announcement, when we first learned of its 30p movie mode:

Remember how I said how stunning it was that Nikon chose 24 fps for the D90’s D-Movies? How it could have so easily been anything else? How if Canon came out with a movie-shooting DSLR that shot 30p I’d be less than thrilled?

Well it’s worse than that. Because a 5D that shot 24p at full HD resolution would have been a very important camera. For Canon to have come so close and botched that one detail is almost unbearable.

Maybe we can get Canon to offer a 24 fps mode in a future firmware update.

Yep, maybe.


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