The Big Leagues

With the unexpected success of the 5D Mark II with cinematographers in 2008, Canon became an overnight sensation with the indie film community. In 2011, they set their sights even higher by targeting Hollywood with the launch of their Cinema EOS Division. At a red carpet event hosted by Martin Scorsese at Paramount Studios, they introduced their first digital motion-picture camera, the C300. The compact camera captures 1920×1080 resolution, contains either a PL- or an EF-mount, and implements the Canon Log Gamma, which gives you up to 12 stops of dynamic range. Recently, C300 cameras shot Vice for HBO and the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or-winning film, Blue is the Warmest Color. Since the release of the C300, Canon has released the more budget-friendly C100, and their new 4K Cinema EOS line, the C500 and 1D C.

Cinematographer Steven Poster, ASC, shot the dance performance film, Rhythm of Life, with the C500 and Cinema EOS lenses.

As you already know, in today’s digital camera market, it’s all about 4K. Back in 2007, the RED Digital Cinema changed the professional industry with the release of the 4K RED ONE. Most camera companies (ARRI being the exception) have jumped onto the 4K bandwagon, including GoPro, whose $399 HERO3 Black Edition can capture 4K images at 12 or 15 fps. At the high end, the RED EPIC and the Sony F65 are currently leading the pack as the most popular 4K systems for motion-picture production.

But before you jump into 4K, the first question you need to ask yourself is, "Do I really need 4K?" After all, broadcast and theatrical deliverables are most often set at 1920×1080 or 2K resolution. Also, in terms of post workflow, most of us can’t work natively with 4K files in typical NLE systems, and most 4K or 5K projects are being downscaled to 2K for finishing. So, what’s the benefit?

First of all, 4K digital cinema is quickly becoming the standard for theatrical exhibition, especially with the rise of 4K digital projectors like the Sony SXRD systems being installed in theaters. Also, many filmmakers working in 4K—knowing they will be exhibiting in 2K theatrically or broadcasting in 1920×1080—are using 4K as a framework. Director David Fincher shoots his projects in 5K and then restabilizes and/or reframes every shot to his liking. On a camera like the RED ONE, 4K is very malleable in that you can "window" the frame to create close-ups in 2K. Finally, most filmmakers shooting in 4K are shooting it primarily for archival purposes because it’s inevitable that higher resolutions like 4K, and even 8K, are in broadcast television’s future.

The Canon EOS-1D C is the first DSLR that captures 4K video. For 4K capture, you’ll need to use a fast CF card (above), such as the Lexar Professional 1000x card, which uses UDMA technology to provide 150 MB/s sustained read transfer speeds.

THE 4K DSLR: HANDS ON WITH THE 1D C

The Canon EOS-1D C is the world’s first DSLR that captures 4K video, and to be honest, I was kind of perplexed by the camera when Canon sent over a review unit. Is it a digital motion-picture camera, or is it more of a 4K motion/stills hybrid camera like the RED SCARLET? After all, Canon does have the 1D X, which is their top-of-the-line EOS DSLR that contains an 18.1-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor and an incredible ISO range of 100 to 51,200. As a still camera, the 1D C is identical to the 1D X, with the same full-frame sensor, ISO range, Dual DIGIC 5+ Image Processor and 3.2-inch LCD monitor with 1,040,000 dots.

But for video capture, what really separates the 1D C from the 1D X (or any other digital camera system) is the ability to record true 4K resolution (4096×2160) to CompactFlash cards. By capturing to CF cards, you won’t need to cable-out to an external recorder, making the 1D C a great handheld camera.

The 1D C can also take any EF-mount still or EF Cinema EOS lenses. I tested the camera with my Canon EF 24-105mm ƒ/4 zoom lens and a Rokinon 85mm T1.5 prime. When shooting video, it’s important to remember that the 1D C uses a 1.3x crop for 4K and a 1.6x crop for its Super 35mm mode.

I primarily shoot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, so I felt right at home with the 1D C since it works just like a DSLR. It’s also the easiest 4K camera on the market to operate handheld.

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