When Canon unveiled its EOS 5D Mark II three years ago, it was surprised by the camera’s success with filmmakers. Now the firm is releasing an entirely new system dedicated to these professionals, and BJP talks exclusively with Canon’s Peter Yabsley about the road ahead.
Canon has introduced a new Cinema EOS system, made up of a new interchangeable-lens digital video camcorder, the EOS C300, and seven 4K EF cinema lenses. The launch, held in Hollywood with Martin Scorsese as guest speaker, and in Berlin, which BJP was invited to attend, marked Canon’s official entry into the motion-picture production industry.
Ahead of the launch, BJP's news and online editor, Olivier Laurent was invited to speak with Peter Yabsley, Canon Europe’s manager of the business development professional, video division, who discussed the camera's features and evolution.
The EOS C300 features a newly developed sensor, dubbed Super 35mm, offering a resolution of 8.29 megapixels. However, Canon points out that the sensor has a pixel size “larger than that for conventional professional camcorders, enabling greater light-gathering capabilities for enhanced sensitivity and reduced noise”. The camcorder can record Full HD video signals for each of the three RGB primary colours, which decreases the incidence of moiré. However, the camcorder cannot record footage at a 4K resolution.
The EOS C300 can record at frame rates of 59.41i, 50.00i, 29.97P, 25.00P, 23.98P, and 24.00p, which matches the 24 frame-per-second frame rate of film cameras “for high compatibility with common film-production workflows”.
It will be available in two models – the EOS C300 Digital Video Camcorder, equipped with an EF lens mount, and the EOS C300 PL Digital Video Camcorder, with a PL lens mount for use with industry-standard PL lenses.
Yabsley tells BJP that the whole system was developed in under two years following the success of the EOS 5D Mark II, one of the first digital SLRs to feature professional HD video-recording capabilities. “Even executives from Canon will admit they were surprised [by the camera’s success],” he says. “Video in DSLRs had been a request from some of our users, but it was originally envisioned as a feature that would be used for journalism purposes. Then we found out as soon as we brought it out that, because of Canon’s lens range, the camera’s price point and the quality you could get out of it, people were able to do amazing things. Other companies released accessories and devices for it and then Hollywood got hold of it. Now, there are so many films that have used it in some capacity, including Iron Man, Black Swan and Captain America. It’s not something we expected.”
Canon found it had an opportunity “as a business but also for our customers to bring something else – an entirely new camera dedicated to filmmakers”, says Yabsley. “It took two years to develop this camera, which, when you understand the process, is quite fast. Of course, a lot of people think that two years is a long time, but we designed the whole camera from scratch. We didn’t want to take a 5D, with all the issues that it had, and stick it into a camcorder body. That’s not our philosophy.”
The camera’s sensor is brand new and, while it’s closer in size to an APS-C sensor, its heritage is closely related to film, says Yabsley. “The sensor’s resolution is actually a lot lower than a typical DSLR sensor because you don’t need that much resolution when shooting video.” In fact, he adds, a higher-resolution sensor would bring too many problems. “It’s basically a case of being specifically designed to shoot video. So, for example, the noise reduction works in a similar way to a DSLR, but it hasn’t been conceived in a same way. And, of course, when the camera processes the image, that changes again.”
The C300 doesn’t offer 4k resolution, an increasingly popular format in Hollywood, but Yabsley says Canon is getting there. “The basic gist of it is that we felt it was the most appropriate way to go to start with. This is a camera that is going to be used for a lot of different purposes – especially in broadcast. For that broad market, it made sense to have an HD product [as opposed to one offering a resolution of 4096 × 3112 pixels].” Even so, he adds, the Cinema EOS system is here to stay. “As we explained in Hollywood, this is not a one-shot deal. The C300 is just the start and, while we’re launching with this camera, we’re already looking at what will be the next step and how we’re going to go forward.”
Yabsley points to the range of lenses launched with the camera as proof of Canon’s commitment to the system. The camera will be released in January 2012 along with seven new 4K EF Cinema Lenses, including four top-end zoom lenses covering a zoom range from 14.5mm to 300mm – two models each for the EF and PL lens mounts – and three single-focal-length lenses for EF mounts. The four new Canon zoom cinema lenses comprise the CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L S (for EF mounts) and CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L SP (for PL mounts) wide-angle cinema zoom lenses, and the CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S (for EF mounts) and CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L SP (for PL mounts) telephoto cinema zoom lenses.
Each lens supports 4K resolution, which delivers a pixel count four times that of Full HD (1920 × 1080 pixels), and offers compatibility with industry-standard Super 35mm-equivalent cameras as well as APS-C cameras.
The single-focal-length Cinema Lenses for EF Mounts include the CN-E24mm T1.5 L F, CN-E50mm T1.3 L F and CN-E85mm T1.3 L F. The three lenses deliver 4K optical performance, are designed for use with EF mounts and are compatible with the industry-standard Super 35mm-equivalent cameras, but also with 35mm full-frame, APS-H and APS-C sensor sizes. “The trio incorporates anomalous dispersion glass and large-diameter aspherical lenses for high resolution imaging throughout the frame, and features a newly designed 11-blade aperture diaphragm for gentle, attractive blurring,” says Canon.
“We’re launching a system,” adds Yabsley. “These lenses are 4k-ready so, as you can guess, we will be launching new camera models that will be able to take advantage of these lenses. For our users, it made sense to tell them what our direction is.”
All of the new lenses share the same front diameter, so “if you need to swap lenses, you don’t have to change or adjust the accessories you might be using,” says Yabsley. “With the focus ring the same on all lenses, and considering the fact that it can be turned to 300 degrees – an improvement over traditional EF lenses – follow focus will always be the same, no matter the lens. It makes it much easier to be precise. With the EOS 5D Mark II, especially with the shallow depth of field, it was quite hard to find the right focus. That’s not the case with the Cinema EOS system.”
In fact, Yabsley admits the EOS 5D Mark II’s shortcomings played a crucial role in the development of the Cinema EOS system. “For all the wonderful things that have been done with EOS, it’s not the easiest tool to use to shoot video. If you look at what [photojournalist] Danfung Dennis shot in Afghanistan, it’s fantastic and it looks amazing, but he had to build his own rigs to get there. He had to do that in part because of what he was shooting with.”
The EOS C300 camera will be available in two configurations – with an EF or PL mount – from January 2012, retailing at £12,000 +VAT.
For more information, visit www.canon.co.uk or read our exclusive interview with Canon Europe's senior managers about the future of the EOS and Cinema EOS ranges of cameras.
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