Canon Debuts Cinema EOS Camera
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Canon made its official debut in Hollywood yesterday, unveiling the Cinema EOS, its first camera to target moving, not still, images. "Please welcome us to Hollywood," asked Canon CEO/chair Fujio Mitarai. "We don't expect to be welcomed without good reason so I have brought these special tools. With great images, the right weight and an affordable price, the Cinema EOS is an extension of the human eye."
On the Paramount Pictures studio lot, Canon had gathered leading Hollywood cinematographers and journalists from all over the world to show off not only the new camera but new lenses, and to reiterate that its Canon Hollywood Professional Technology And Support Center would serve as a venue for in-store repairs, training and education.
To emphasize its Hollywood support, Canon brought on UCLA Dean of the School of Theater, Film and Television Teri Schwartz to introduce the event…and to introduce filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who praised Canon for introducing another tool that helps to democratize the creation of stories. "It was great to be a filmmaker in the early 1960s," he said. "Now the road has widened. Anyone can make a movie. All a young person has to do is summon the will to tell a story. I thank Canon for future generations of cinematographers. Yes, Mr. Mitarai, welcome to Hollywood."
Rather than tout the specifications of the Cinema EOS, Mitarai instead handed the evening over to the four teams of filmmakers who had had access to the prototype cameras to make movies. "They say a picture is worth a thousand words but I hope this leaves you speechless," he noted wryly.
"This does what a camera should do," said Nicholson. "It gets out of the way and let's you make a film." Crudo noted how so many filmmakers (and lens manufacturers) say that a camera is a box with a lens. "But occasionally a camera can come along that changes everything," he said. "This could be a new relationship between the cinematographer and the box."
Canon Senior Vice President and General Manager of Sales, Imaging Eliott Peck reported that the camera was built based on over 350 one-on-one interviews with cinematographers. "We wanted to know what you needed and then we pushed hard for it," he said. "And this is just the first step. We're putting a stake in the ground that we are here to support you."
In audience Q&A, someone asked about rolling shutter that comes with the CMOS sensor. All of the filmmakers on the panel said they never had any indication of this problem. Several of the filmmakers, including Crudo, did not use a DIT. "I just used my meter and I wasn't disappointed," he said. With regard to color rendition, the filmmakers answered that they had "a complete range."
"Having the Cinema EOS really opened creative possibilities," said Laforet, who used six cameras and shot at night with available light. Another audience question was whether the Cinema EOS is mainly aimed at indie productions. Not necessarily so, said Alcala. "This camera can be used for any production and for any reason," he said. Nicholson agreed. "It makes it easier to make movies."
Cinema EOS specs
The Canon EOS C300 features an 8.29-megapixel COMS sensor, which the company calls a 35mm-equivalent, and is available in two versions: with an EF lens mount compatible with Canon's EF lens line-up and a PL lens mount, for use with industry-standard PL lenses. According to Canon, the CMOS sensor reads 1920x1080 video signals for each of the three RGB primary colors. Mitirai also pointed to Canon's DIGIC DV III image processor, noting the company's long expertise in this arena. The Cinema EOS employs MPEG-2 Full HD compression, 4:2:2 color sampling and a maximum recording rate of Mbps.
For instant availability for editing systems, the Cinema EOS has adopted the MXF open source format and records to CF cards (the camera is equipped with two CF card slots, for back-up recording). Similar to previous Canon DSLRs, the Cinema EOS is compact, measuring 5.2-inches wide by 7.0 inches high and 6.7 inches deep. The camera can be controlled remotely by a smartphone or tablet.
Frame rates include 59.41i, 50.00i, 29.97P, 25.00P and 23.98P as well as a 24.00p mode, matching the 24 frame-per-second frame rate of film cameras; frame rates between 1 and 60 frames per second can be adjusted in increments of 1 fps.
The Canon EOS C300 (EF mount) version will be shipped in late January 2012, and the PL mount version will ship in late March 2012. Both are slated to be sold for an estimated list price of $20,000.
New Canon lenses
Canon also introduced seven new 4K EF Cinema Lenses: four zoom lenses and three single-focal-length models. The four 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 (4096 x 2160 pixels) resolution. Each zoom lens uses anomalous dispersion glass, large-diameter aspherical lenses and is equipped with a newly designed 11-blade aperture diaphragm for soft blur characteristics. The focal length range of 14.5-300 mm covered by the new zoom lenses represents the most frequently used focal lengths in theatrical motion picture production.
The Canon CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L S (EF mount) lens and the Canon CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L SP (PL mount) lens will be available in late January 2012 for an estimated list price of $45,000 each. The Canon CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S (EF mount) and Canon CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L SP (PL mount) lens will be available in late March 2012 for an estimated list price of $47,000 each.
The three single-focal-length cinema lenses for EF mounts are the CN-E24mm T1.5 L F, CN-E50mm T1.3 L F and CN-E85mm T1.3 L F. They all also incorporate anomalous dispersion glass, large-diameter aspherical lenses and feature a newly designed 11-blade aperture diaphragm. They also support standard manual and electronic industry accessories and matte boxes, and have a unified front lens diameter and uniform gear positions. The Canon CN-E24mm T1.5 L F and CN-E50mm T1.3 L F lenses will ship in late July 2012 and the CN-E85mm T1.3 L F lens is scheduled to be available in late August. All three have an estimated list price of $6,800.
The filmmakers who used the prototype cameras were unabashedly enthusiastic over its features. Cinematographer Bill Megalos, who also teaches cinematography at USC's School of Cinematic Arts, sat next to Rodney Charters, ASC and Steve Fierberg, ASC and describes all of their reactions as "impressed."
With regard to the use of greenscreen by at least one of the filmmakers, Megalos reported that all three of them were impressed with the results. "Greenscreen is superb because of some tricks in the new chip that prevents any aliasing in the green channel," said Megalos.
"Of the four films screened, some looked superb," said Megalos. "They claim 12 stops of dynamic range and everything I saw seems to bear that out. Color was great. The body is very small, modular and it seems to be quite ergonomically flexible."
Cinematographer Stephen Lighthill, ASC liked the Cinema EOS' viewfinder as well as other features. "It's very robust," he said, noting that Canon creates cameras out of a block of steel. "It feels good in your hand." Cinematographer James Mather also agreed that the camera looked good, although the camera landscape had gotten very crowded with good choices.
The only disappointment that several people expressed to me was the price which, at $20,000, was more expensive than many expected. Canon's accidental fame in Hollywood came from filmmakers who gravitated to the 5D and 7D because of its low-light sensitivity and very low price. The Cinema EOS is clearly quite impressive, and I did hear rumors that the "$20,000 list price" might actually be as low as $16,000 when the Cinema EOS hits the market. But I do wonder if, even at $16,000, that is this camera's sweet spot.
My guess is that Canon is going to be quite aggressive in terms of getting this camera into the hands of filmmakers; they have already announced their desire to have one-on-one discussions with any cinematographer (just stop by the Canon Hollywood Professional Support Center). Canon's intent may be to "leave no story untold," but the story of its own Cinema EOS has yet to be written…by the filmmakers they're courting. Let the storytelling begin.