All-In-One Flexibility

2013 has been the year of 4K, and if you believe all of the marketing hype, you can’t be a serious filmmaker if you’re not shooting 4K. At this year’s NAB, everywhere you went 4K cameras and workflow applications were on full display, making 3D a distant memory. In the past year, Sony introduced a successful new line of 4K cameras (the F5 and F55, and an upcoming consumer 4K camcorder), RED has been showcasing their new 6K Dragon sensor for the EPIC, and even the GoPro HERO3 Black Edition can capture 4K (12 or 15 fps only). Along with new 4K cameras and lenses, the postproduction industry has been touting the ability to work natively with 4K files, whether it be for editing or visual-effects work. In short, we’re living in a 4K world. Well, not exactly…yet.

Canon’s new CN-E 85mm T1.3 prime can resolve 4K and is designed for motion capture.

Perhaps more than any other camera company, Canon has gone all in with 4K by releasing two new professional camera systems, the EOS-1D C and the EOS C500, as well as a professional line of cinema-style prime and zoom lenses that are designed to resolve 4K resolution. The 1D C is the world’s first DSLR that captures 4K (4096×2160) resolution to CF cards (see our review, "The Big Leagues," HDVideoPro, August 2013). Because you’re recording 4K to CF cards, Canon employs a more compressed codec, which is Motion JPEG at 8-bit, 4:2:2 color sampling.

For professional filmmakers and cinematographers, the C500, which has a suggested retail price of $25,999, is Canon’s flagship EOS camera for motion capture. Canon graciously provided an EF-mount C500 for my review. At first glance, the C500 looks almost exactly like the C300. The exception is that instead of the C300’s handgrip, the C500 contains a multitude of 3G-SDI outputs, which will output your data to an SDI monitor or external recorder. Because of its compact size, the C500 can shoot in almost any location, unlike, say, a Sony F65.

In terms of general specs, the C500 contains a Super 35mm, 8.85-megapixel CMOS sensor and captures 4K, 2K or HD files. The camera comes with either a PL or an EF mount, although with the EF version, you have a wider selection of Canon EF lenses. Like the C300, the C500 works extremely well in low light, with an ISO range of 320 to 20,000. Also like the C300, the C500 has a detachable LCD screen that mounts to the camera body’s hot-shoe. In terms of setup, toggling through the menu on the LCD is pretty straightforward and intuitive like with most Canon systems.

The Canon EOS C500 tethered to an AJA Ki Pro Quad for 4K ProRes capture.

FORMATS FOR ALL

The C300 has been a solid hit for indie filmmakers, as well as documentary shooters, and although it contains a 4K chip (4216×2340 total pixels), it’s pretty much an HD camera. As you probably know, 4K has four times the resolution of full HD, and the C500 blows away the C300’s specs by outputting 10-bit, 4096×2160 RAW files at up to 60 fps via 3G-SDI out. There’s also a more efficient 4K HRAW format that captures 4096×1080 (half the vertical resolution) at up to 120 fps. If you’re planning for the arrival of 4K broadcast TV in the future, you can capture Quad HD, which is four times the resolution of full HD at 3840×2160 in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Canon’s 4K RAW is an interesting format. Although I didn’t get to work with RAW files, Canon RAW is a 10-bit format, and according to AbelCine’s (and HDVP Help Desk columnist) Andy Shipsides on AbelCine’s CineTechnica blog, Canon RAW is a unique RAW format in that Canon bakes in ISO and white balance settings before outputting in order to reduce image noise. Canon also adds their proprietary Canon Log curve to the image, which will increase the dynamic range of the 10-bit file. "You can think of using Canon RAW as being a bit like ordering a steak medium rare," writes Shipsides.

So, technically, is this a RAW image?

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