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The Canon Cinema EOS C300 Has a 4K Sensor but Outputs a Maximum of 1080P

11.3.11 @ 7:31PM Tags : , , , , , , , ,

The just-announced Canon Cinema EOS C300 has a 4K* sensor. But yes, there’s an asterisk there, and it turns out the Super35 CMOS sensor’s native resolution of 3840×2160 (which is exactly double that of 1080P’s 1920×1080 resolution) isn’t a “traditional” 4K, and the camera outputs at 1080P. It reportedly has 1920 x 1080 pixels for red and blue, and 1920 x 2160 pixels for green. Here’s the deal from DV Info:

The 8.3 megapixel Super-35 sensor in the C300 is a new CMOS design by Canon. It is not borrowed or re-engineered from the still photography side of the company; instead it has been created “from the ground up” and dedicated specifically to digital cinema applications. The sensor has a resolution of 2,160 pixels tall by 3,840 pixels wide, which qualifies as native 4K. Canon claims that rolling shutter skew is greatly reduced in this sensor relative to current HD-DSLR camera models. Also, each frame can be scanned by the Digic DV III processor more quickly compared to an HD-DSLR, such as the 21 megapixel CMOS sensor in the Canon EOS 5D Mk. II, which has 2.5 times as many pixels as the C300.

Canon says that their Digic DV III processor reads this new sensor differently; it does not use the line-skipping method found in high-res HD-DSLR sensors. Instead, every four pixels (two green, one red, and one blue) are sampled for each final output pixel. In other words, color is assembled the same way as a traditional three-chip sensor block… two megapixels of red, two megapixels of blue and four megapixels of green (twice as much green as red or blue, since green carries the luminance info). Each primary color sampling off of the sensor is native 1920×1080, each color value alone is equal to the final output resolution. Canon claims that the processed signal has 1,000 lines of TV resolution, and the moire, diagonal line stair-stepping and other artifacts are greatly reduced in this chip compared to HD-DSLR cameras.

From Engadget’s live blog, here’s the color configuration:

Canon claims the camera resolves 1,000 TV lines. According to the Single Chip Camera Evaluation, which measured “line pairs,” this puts the C300 squarely in range of the Sony F3 (its closest competitor, both price- and specs-wise) and short of a true 4K camera. This is not to engender a “4K doesn’t matter!” comment thread, but since they’re talking resolution, let’s see how the C300 should stack up! When looking at this chart, multiply all numbers by two (“line pairs” are just that — measurements of two lines, as opposed to Canon’s measurement of one):

The chart suggests the RED ONE resolves 2080 TV lines, which sets the benchmark for 4K cameras (one can only assume the 5K EPIC is slightly higher). On the other hand, I’m a stickler for color rendition, and Canon is obviously shooting for that as a selling point, which to me is not RED’s strong suit despite the RAW workflow. Canon has always been known for great skin tones, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the C300 handles color; we’ll see once official video is released. Much more to come, and not just about the Canon offering — RED’s SCARLET announcement is coming right up.

Link: Canon USA Announces Cinema EOS C300 and EOS C300 PL Cameras – DV Info


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  • of course canon must screw it up, well RED i am depending on you please.

  • Question Koo… I’m at a loss at what is meant by saying it’s a 4K sensor, however it won’t output 4K natively…. does this mean we don’t get to shoot in 4K? I’m sorry, I’m just confused.

  • Micheal G. on 11.3.11 @ 7:42PM

    Hey dude, That info is wrong. Engadet’s liveblog just specifically said it outputs to 4K

    “7:38PM The C300 can handle both EF and PL mount lenses, has a Super 35mm CMOS sensor, and delivers 4K resolution with the new EF lenses.”

  • (If I’ve understood correctly)
    The sensor in the C300 is 4k, and so needs lens than can resolve >= 4k pixels.
    The analogue ‘engine’ converts this into a 2k image.
    The movie compression is based on 2k images.


  • $20,000!!!!!! WTF!!!

  • Reds servers have melted, guess that’s a good indication of what everyone thought of the canon

  • Does anyone else but me think that Canon’s C300 is shaped like a Hasselblad H4 body?

    Also, a professional grade cinema camera even if it shoots only 1080p, if it is uncompressed, has good color, and good dynamic range, at the proper price point, that’s what some people need. Resolution is not the only point to consider now. Considering that Sony’s original CineAlta F35 camera was also only 1080p and were ridiculously expensive….

    This just another tool for film-makers to use to communicate and tell their stories with.

  • I’m seriously shocked they would price it this high. Even before the announcement, the F3 had this beat. Now with Scarlet, it’s lights out. We have to wait and see what the images look like but why, oh why, would you price this camera so high? It is 1080p.

    Having said that, the things I like about the canon, the audio inputs are just clearly superior than the two mic inputs on the scarlet. you have to get an extra module for xlr’s. and i’m kind digging the bolex design. i’m sure battery life, start up time, crashes will be worse on Scarlet. But not enough for 10k. Simply shocked at the price.

    • Yeah, I think when the dust settles that everyone will say “wow the Canon makes really nice images.” Because it does, and that’s more important than any specification. It may very well offer better colors and better low-light performance than the RED SCARLET-X as well. But it seems like they priced it above the F3 despite inferior specs, and the F3 “reaches” higher with S-LOG and uncompressed dual-link HD-SDI outputs. And then the SCARLET-X comes in much cheaper (once you add monitoring options it’s closer, but still cheaper). Just in terms of the marketplace… make this $10k and let’s talk?


    What’ I’m thinking is Canon has developed a camera that shoots a 4K image, and compresses it into a 1080p file size. If this is the case, would this mean that our 4K files would be the size of a 1080P file? If so this means we can take our 1080P file, that has 4K compressed quality, and should we decide to output a 4K or even 2K video… we then can scale that footage to either 2 or 4K, without any quality loss. If this may be the case, then that’s awesome in my own opinion. That makes handling 4K material much easier to work with based on the file size ALONE!

    • Removing the data to compress an image from 4k to 1080p does exactly that… removes the data. The only way to make file sizes smaller is to remove data. which to a point is not reversible.

      You can scale any image up but it’s not going to look as good as native 4k. it would be just like scaling DSLR footage.

      The specs are confusing for non technical people. the sensor is 4k meaning it has 4k worth of pixels for sensing light. but those pixels are broken down into 1 part red, 1 part blue, and 2 parts green pixels.

      So basically every 4 pixels gets combined into 1 pixels worth of color data in the final output image.

      so the sensor is 4k of light sensing pixels, that outputs 1080p. It at no point captures an actual 4k image.

  • When you think about it, if you shoot 4k, most people are gonna render down to 1080 anyway so the c300 is just doing it for you in cam. Even 4k theatrical films are converted to 1080 when sent to DVD. I’m not mad at the absence of a 4k image. Plus another advantage over the scarlet is the price of media. 64GB for scarlet is $1000! You’re probably gonna want at least two of these. Batteries are pretty pricey also. In the long run, the C300 may be a tad more practical.

  • It’s a very clever sensor design.
    My bet is that the images straight out of the Canon will be much nicer than anyone is expecting when they’re looking purely at specs.

  • I’m looking for a video camera that can allow for a frame grab to be taken, with high enough resolution to be processed to as a high quality image for a coffee table book. Does the Canon C300 fit this bill, or is the Red Scarlet the dope?