4K Forays: First Footage from the Canon EOS-1D C Camera4/19/2013 10:20 AM Eastern
Back in 1987, Canon chose the EOS acronym for its first DSLR camera partially to honor Eos, the Greek goddess of dawn. In more scientific terms, EOS also stands for “Electro-Optical System.” That first Canon EOS model, the 650 (discontinued in 1989), heralded Canon’s breakthrough microprocessor-controlled autofocus system, which used a fully electronic interface between the lens and the camera in the form of the BASIS sensor that drove the ultrasonic motor system.
With the release of the Canon EOS-1D C in January, Canon has stepped up to onboard 4K recording at 24p and HD shooting at a wide range of frame rates up to 60p.
“Back in the second half of 2008, when our Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera came out, despite its explosive popularity, we heard a call from the digital filmmaking community for a new line of ‘cinema EOS’ products,” says Chuck Westfall, technical advisor for Canon professional engineering and solutions. “The EOS C300 [“C” for “Cinema”] was launched on Nov. 3, 2011, at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, and that same day we had a prototype of the Canon EOS-1D C under a glass case.”
The final product is the first compact SLR form factor camera that can shoot high resolution raw or .jpeg stills (5184 x 3456) at the same time as 4K (4096 x 2160) video. “Our goal was to make an all-purpose 18.1 megapixel CMOS camera that would combine the best qualities of still and video shooting,” Westfall explains. “Actually, it is based on our Canon EOS-1D X, sharing the same body, sensor and processor. But while the 1D X carries a price tag of $6,800, the Canon EOS-1D C retails for about $12,000. Of course, primary among the half-dozen features justifying the additional cost is 4K capture.”
The EOS-1D C records its 4K signal with YUV 4:2:2 (8-bit) color sampling in Motion JPEG format to onboard CompactFlash cards. All of the motion imaging formats may be recorded either as normal gamma-corrected video or with Canon Log. The camera’s record start/stop functions can be remotely controlled by EOS Utility Software via a wireless file transmitter (WFT) unit.
Shooters will appreciate that Canon has given the Canon EOS-1D C the ability to exceed the 29 minute 59 second clip limit imposed by the European Union tax regulations on DSLR camcorders. This 4K design is able to record as long as your memory card’s capacity can accommodate, or provide clean HDMI Full HD out to an external recorder until its hard drives are filled.
Several digital cinematographers have been conducting elaborate tests with the Canon EOS-1D C. Andrew Wonder, an independent director/cinematographer based in New York City, got his hands on one of the first models last January and has posted some test results online, with more to come. He’s also shared a short film he shot with the EOS-1D C, “Killing Me Softly,” on Vimeo. Although the video shows off very interesting pre-color-corrected 4K footage from the EOS-1D C, be warned that you won’t want to go out for a lobster dinner after watching it.
“Whether 4K is actually worth the jump over HD is a really funny question,” Wonder says. “Canon is using Motion JPEG compression [for 4K video], which is not super efficient. That means the file sizes are huge, up to 4 GB per minute. However, it does give you more grading latitude than the EOS 5D Mark III,” with its 1920 x 1080 HD files recorded with IPB or ALL-I compression.
From Andrew Wonder’s short film “Killing Me Softly,” which he shot with a Canon EOS-1D C
Wonder has identified three aspects of Canon EOS-1D C video recording that set the camera apart. “First, it records 4K to CompactFlash cards. Second, it has an HDMI mirroring mode, which means we can plug an HDMI cable into an external HD monitor and still see the images on the camera’s own LCD display. Third, the unlimited record time is very convenient, especially for interviews.”
He has had a bit of concern over the Canon Log setting, though. “When you are shooting 8-bit with these heavily compressed images, you simply don’t have that much latitude for subsequent color correction,” he says. “In an 8-bit color space, you don’t have a lot of bits to play with. Canon Log’s linear curve drops the middle grey down to about 32 percent.”
On the other hand, Canon claims, “When using Canon Log gamma, the EOS-1D C can provide a dynamic range of up to 800 percent at ISO 320 or higher.”
Michael Sutton is a freelance videographer who also works for Rule Boston Camera, which often receives new cameras before the rest of us.
Right off he praised the long-life batteries of the Canon EOS-1D C that can record up to one and a half hours of video to its CF cards on a single charge. “In addition, I cannot find another camera with an ISO range up to 6400 that can still bring back a broadcastable image,” Sutton says.
Sutton has found the extended record time invaluable. “Recently we went to the Boston Museum of Science with two 128 GB cards, and we shot up to 32 minutes of 4K on each card without any limitations or overheating. Of course, the clean HDMI 1080p out also lets you feed an external HD recorder like a [Sound Devices] PIX 240, and the quality is impressive.”
When writing for Wide Open Camera, where he posts weekly blogs, Sutton has commented on technical issues such as using PL mount lenses on the Canon EOS-1D C with an adapter.
He could recommend some improvements, such as giving this video camera’s LCD display focus peaking or false color options. He also looks forward to a “magnify while recording” feature to aid in focusing.
Of course, you can get several focus assist features with an external monitor, but Sutton says, “I like to use the camera without too many external devices so we can sort of shoot incognito with it. After all, it looks like a compact still camera to casual passers-by.”
But it’s the Canon EOS-1D C’s 4K capability that really impresses him. Recently he shot a video called “4K Aquarium” at the New England Aquarium set to music composed by Pierre Gerwig Langer.
“They never would have let me take a larger camera like the Canon EOS C500 in there for a whole night,” he says. “But like I said, the size of the Canon EOS-1D C lets you shoot without being obtrusive. You are probably going to get interviews with people who would be intimidated by larger-body cameras.”
Sutton adds, “This is a fantastic camera that puts you in a position that other videographers may not be able to match.”
One of the major voices in the indie film circuit, Philip Bloom, has written a blog and video review of the EOS-1D C camera. Bloom recently completed a music video for singer/songwriter Olly Knights titled “Bitten by the Frost” that was shot in part with an EOS-1D C. (Bloom also shot some behind the scenes footage of the project that’s available online: vimeo.com/61211212 and vimeo.com/61182476.)
Initially Bloom was skeptical about the EOS-1D C. “To be honest, I wasn’t interested in getting it due to the cost, the lack of 25p in 4K and my move away from DSLRs as my main cameras,” he recalls. “But I was given the opportunity to try one out by Canon U.K., and unfortunately I fell in love with it.”
It turned out to be a perfect fit as the B-camera on his run-and-gun music shoot. “For me, it’s the most compact and easy to use 4K acquisition tool,” Bloom says. “You can throw it in a shoulder bag and it maintains that whole discreet way of filming which DSLRs brought about. It’s perfect for documentary and filming in places without permission—not that one would ever do that.”
However, with familiarity came recommendations for improvement. “The camera needs video assist functions such as peaking, waveform and digital punch-in while recording,” he says. “Obviously audio is an issue, but that is a physical problem and common to all DSLRs. I also think the 4K recording desperately needs to be 10-bit as it can be prone to substantial banding, which causes issues needing to be fixed in post. The codec itself isn’t ideal and they should look at licensing something more efficient.”
|Shooting “Bitten by the Frost,” Philip Bloom is behind the camera|
As an established fan of Canon cameras, does Bloom feel the Canon EOS 1D C is worth almost twice the price of the Canon EOS 1D X? “Because there is no other camera that does what it does, the Canon 1D C is a tricky one to price,” he says. “It’s a few thousand more than a 1D X, which is a great DSLR, but the video features of the 1D C surpass it hugely. And it’s a few thousand less than a C300, which is a superior HD video camera. The best way I can sum it up is that it’s worth the price but costs too much!”
As evidence of its commitment to filmmakers, Canon has established an appointment-only Professional Technology & Support Center at Sunset and Gower in Hollywood, in addition to its online support network.
Canon has announced its intention to upgrade the Canon EOS-1D C to 25p by the end of April.