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Canon 4K DSLR Announcement Possible at NAB 2012

03.10.12 @ 10:00AM Tags : , , ,

Invitations have been sent out for a special Canon screening happening Sunday, April 15 in Las Vegas. Canon Rumors is reporting that this invitation could be a screening for Canon’s Cinema EOS 4K DSLR. Another thought is that it’s related to a Ron Howard project. Since it’s a weekend, I thought it would be a good time for some speculation about what could be announced, and what it means for the rest of the independent world if Canon does indeed announce a 4K camera at NAB (and why 4K even matters).

First, here’s a picture of the invitation:

Of course, this is just speculation, but I think this is a great time to try to understand the mindset behind Canon’s Cinema EOS line. Back in November Canon announced the oversampled 1080p C300, which is still in heavy backorder. At that time they also hinted at a prototype DSLR that would be part of their Cinema EOS line, and the biggest news of all: it would be capable of shooting 24p Motion-JPEG 4K video with an APS-H crop factor (the crop factor of the Canon 1D Mark IV).

Why would Canon obsolete their just announced camera with a new one less than 12 months down the road? Maybe because this new camera is going to be compromised and actually offer less features (except for 4K) – and thus is not really obsoleting the C300. Part of the reason Canon probably announced a prototype 4K camera is to try to take some steam out of RED’s 4K Scarlet announcement. Did it work? I think it depends on your opinion of RED as a company, but RED’s camera is actually shipping to people as opposed to the 4K DSLR which hasn’t been properly announced yet.

Regardless, it’s important to understand what 4K really means and how this camera could be priced below the 1080p C300. Even though the C300 has what some might say a “less than professional” output from HD-SDI or HDMI (8bit 4:2:2), it’s still aimed at professionals. Will the whole EOS be aimed at professionals? In the past decade there has been a lot of talk about prosumer cameras, and whether that means price or specs, it’s clear that those cameras gave up certain options in exchange for others, and were a step up from consumer cameras and a step down from professional shoulder-mounted cameras. I think it’s becoming more clear that Canon might be aiming this 4K DSLR at that prosumer crowd – people stepping up from DSLRs but not quite ready to take the plunge on a more expensive camera. If the 4K DSLR does not have HD-SDI, it certainly would seem so, as that has historically been the professional video connection. At the very least this camera should have the larger HDMI connector, not the mini connector. The same could be said for a PL mount – will it have interchangeable mounts or be stuck with only PL or EF, and if so which one? It seems more likely it will be EF mount only, as it is shown in the photos having the Canon Cinema EOS Primes, which are EF mount (except for the zoom lenses, which are both).

So on to what 4K will really mean. This DSLR will not be “true” 4K, just as it is not “true” 4K on the Scarlet. The Bayer Pattern Single CMOS RGB sensor in all of these cameras does not use a single pixel for each color, rather it must interpolate pixels, and thus final resolution is below 4K. We won’t get into a debate about how far below 4K, but without a doubt neither this camera nor the Scarlet will resolve full 4K resolution. Does this mean much in practice? Probably not, but it’s worth stating because it speaks to what audience this camera is aimed at. The C300 has a 4K sensor, but actually outputs only 1080p. This is because Canon is oversampling to give a true 1080p resolution – just as Sony is doing with its 8K F65 which has a true final output of 4K. Oversampling also gives another benefit: decreased noise. This is because a downsampled image is combining many pixels into one, and in the process, many of the noisy pixels will be sampled away.

Where does that leave us? The Canon 4K DSLR may or may not be announced at NAB, but if it is, and it’s going to be released for $10,000 or less sometime this year, it’s clear that it will be compromised in a few ways over the more expensive C300. The internal Motion-JPEG codec (if that’s what they use) is an intraframe codec, which as we know has the capability of being higher quality at the expense of larger file sizes. If bitrates are high enough, you could theoretically get a higher quality image than H.264. Since 4K is 4 times the amount of information as 1080, you’ll need 4 times the bitrate for Motion-JPEG as compared to the equivalent 1080 frame. I see the codec as being the weakest link in this chain – but I think the reason they’re using it is because it’s a lot less processor intensive, so not only will people be able to edit those files much easier, but the processors in the camera should be able to handle it much easier.

The positives I really see from this camera shooting 4K is the fact that we should get real 1080p (because of downsampling in post-production) in a small form factor at a price lower than the C300. It’s a much more crippled 4K than what RED is doing, so it’s not likely that 4K Motion JPEG will come anywhere close to the quality you can get from a 16bit 4K RED-RAW file. If you don’t believe that, then tell me, how many professionals would choose to shoot JPEG over RAW when in stills mode?

Of course, we can only go by what Canon has told us so far, and it’s quite possible that this could change. One thing I can certainly say is that we won’t be seeing 4K RAW in this camera, as that would certainly obsolete the C300. If the 4K DSLR is really going to be released in a matter of months, there’s no better stage than NAB, so we’ll be watching closely to see what happens.

This is also a good time to ask you guys what you want to see in a 4K Canon Camera. If these specs remain the same (24p 4K MJPEG – APS-H crop), what price would Canon have to hit for you to be interested and actually be able to afford it?

[via Canon Rumors]


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  • Sorry, but your segregartion of professionals (those who can afford the plunge) vs prosumers (those who use DSLRs or 4K cinema SLRs) is just ridulous! As if the amount you spend on a camera defines whether or not you’re a pro. What matters *only* is what you do with it…

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 03.18.12 @ 7:22AM

      You are right….a professional is someone that “MAKES” a living with a camera…It doesn´t matter what he/she uses…I am a professional DP/Director and I shoot Alexa, Red, used to 35mm, Canon DSLRs, Sony Nex and even iphone, yes iphone in professional broadcast video….I am sure if Canon releases a 4K DSLR I would pre-order it imediately.

  • Segregation. Sorry, typo.

  • Maybe Canon will just screen a film shot on a prototype 4K DSLR, creating some kind of hype and make us wait a few more months for the actual product…

  • I’ve always thought that the 4k DSLR wouldn’t output real 4k video but rather 1080, just like the C300. It’s all marketing talk really – Canon calls the C300 a 4k camera even though we don’t get a 4K steam on our NLEs. 4K sensor on a DSLR outputting 1080p – that’s my speculation.

    • What Canon has done with the C300 is actually quite brilliant. Instead of being all gaga in terms of resolution, they’ve used innovative sensor design to create a camera that outputs the best possible 1080p image. They create individual streams for each colour, with twice the amounts for each green pixel, for higher performance in terms of luminance. This is why you can push it to 20k ISO and shoot at deeper DoF in low light situations.

      • It is – and Sony is doing the same thing with the F65, and with the F3 – oversampled for color and resolution. To respond to your comment above I actually think I was pretty fair in my assessment, and while there’s no doubt it’s about what you do with it, I’m less concerned with price being a factor between prosumer and professional, it’s just a fact that Canon is making these separate markets. I guess you took issue with how broadly I defined how people use their cameras. I was really referring to those who make their living shooting every single day on set, or on location. No, it’s not really about money, but often money and features go hand in hand. You can’t tell me one professional who if they had the money wouldn’t be shooting one more level up – because in a lot of ways – the next level is made to make your life easier (obviously not always the case). DSLRs are a compromise in a lot of ways, they require a certain amount of love on set to get working correctly and they have flimsy connectors. I wouldn’t call you an amateur for using one – certainly not as that’s a ridiculous statement. The “professional mindset” that I’m referring to is one of no compromises – why shoot with a compromised camera that isn’t really made for the rigors of being on set (don’t believe me look at some of the rigs that Shane Hurlbut had to create), if you can shoot with something another level up that has proper connectors, proper resolution, and a more robust overall workflow? Money is usually the answer, and again I’m not knocking anyone for any reason about what they do – but there’s no question that a “professional” video camera is a lot less compromised than a DSLR for day-to-day work. In my mind a professional is one who knows that time is money, and the way to work faster is by working smarter – having a camera that doesn’t compromise features and has almost everything you need right on the body.

        Anyway – again I don’t care to make it about money – it’s about feature set. It’s pretty simple, people use a less expensive camera because that’s what they can afford, regardless of whether they could be better served by having a more robust feature set of connections and hardware. I’m just making the point that I’m not calling those out about money – but it’s clear to me that a professional who makes his living day-to-day on set shooting is much better served by robust outputs and clean resolution and color as opposed saving money on a compromised camera. That’s all. Your output may look better than a “professional” with a more expensive camera because you know how to light and they just have money, but if that professional can work faster and smarter because they aren’t limited by their camera – and make more money in the process – I think you really have to consider what you save by using a camera that’s just good enough.

        • Agreed. It’s not about money, but features that allow you to work smarter/faster.

          I feel lucky to have ridden the DSLR wave over the past two and a half years, as it allowed me to set up shop as freelance cameraman (I don’t like to call myself a DOP as I feel I still have to grow). At the time nothing comparable/affordable was available. An EX3 with a Letus adapter would have cost as much as the C300 and was way too front heavy to be usable. Today there are various alternatives and my jobs in between have allowed me to invest and grow along.

        • The Dictionary of Cinematic Credentials and Certification defines ‘Amateur’ as: That person who champions an inferior camera over a superior camera because that is what he/she owns and therefore, by owning said inferior camera and unable to, actually, get a job and afford a better camera, lives in constant fear of their incompetence being discovered and then, subsequently, labeled ‘Amateur’.

    • They were pretty clear that this camera would shoot actual 4K output, not just have a 4K sensor. They wouldn’t have gone into the exact way they were going to achieve this (24p MJPEG – APS-H) if they weren’t serious about trying to have a camera do it. Maybe they’ll change their minds – but to this point the intention has been actual 4K.

      • Really? I don’t remember them being that specific… but anyway, as long as it’s not H.264. I feel that the next big breakthrough for these DSLRs needs to be a better codec. Sure, interframe is a slight improvement but it’s still H.264, and H.264 sucks when it comes to grading… it sucks a lot!!

        So whatever resolution this “4k” DSLR can output, I’ll be happy as long as it’s not H.264.

  • Also, 4K raw would not necessarily mean the C300 would be rendered obsolete. Perhaps to those in the film community, but I believe the C300 is much more a tv/documentary camera than one made for features, despite of how Canon tries to sell it (mainly in the USA). Also, 4K has some major consequences for your post production workflow, which favours the friendly C300 codec. So, it’s horses for courses.

    As for me, personally, I could totally see a 4K CSLR working alongside a C300. Let’s at least hope this thing will also give us slomo at higher fps…

  • What i would like to see is 4K 24P, 2K 120P, and 720P 240P….but that might be asking for to much and again i dont think they would do that given the c300 limitations. I think what they might do is (even tho they explicitly said they wouldnt) release a firmware upgrade for the C300 unlocking features like 1080P at 60 fps and maybe 444 uncompressed 10 bit. I know they have said this is not possible but think about how happy and surprised the customers would be. If they did that I could see the CDSLR being priced at 6-9 grand with 2 clearly defined product lines.

    • I messed up, I should have said 4K 24P, 2K or 1080 at 60P, and 720 at 120P. Of course i would like to see this done without cropping the sensor

  • Really interestig. I defin hope that this is the C camera that stands between the 5D3 and the C300. 1080p clean output is a must have. Hopefully between the 4-6K price range. But the invitation does say: SCREENING. So probably it’s the Ron Howard project.. :(

  • Jordan Carr on 03.10.12 @ 1:55PM

    All the while the Alexa rents like crazy and wins the Cinematography award at the oscars.

    4k is awesome but apart from the big screen there is virtually no other delivery method for it. (but of course it offers plenty of options in post)

    Companies still can’t match the Alexa at 1080 – color, dynamic range, fps without crop – yet they push for 4k. Weird.


    • I’m a big fan of the alexa too, but sony has surpassed the alexa. The f65 has a color gamut that exceeds film with 14 stops and 120fps. I think the alexa is perfect for comedies and dramas, but action films and blockbusters, heavy effects films will opt for 4k any day of the week. And who knows what the dragon sensor will bring on the scarlet/epic.

    • Youtube can do 4K….4 1080P projectors are you are all set :D

  • if I was Canon, my aim would be to have, by October, the following lineout:
    * $5K: stripped down C300 (no SDI or XLR, no monitor, etc; less rugged body, probably DSLR-like; but same sensor and codec)
    * $12K: C300
    * $18K: C300 recording all the data read out from the sensor (4K, 4:2:2 10-bit)

  • Well all of the talk for the C-DSLR, I hope they simply announce and demo it at this NAB.
    The MKIII was thoroughly disappointing for me and has me eyeballing the GH2 as my next purchase now. So maybe the C-DSLR will change that. Maybe.

  • After speaking with Canon reps at events at their center in Hollywood, they were very honest in telling me that before the Cinema branch was official that most all of their research was based on existing needs and knowledge from their ENG camera lines (evident in the choice of the C300′s codec).

    Lets be honest, the only thing most people need are:
    A 10bit codec or ability to capture 10bit from a clean output (not a deal breaker though, as long as the compression is reasonable).
    Optional breakout box with HD-SDI or 10-bit HDMI and XLR
    A good codec (I’d lean way more towards JPEG2000 in comparison to M-JPEG, REDCODE seems to be a variation of JPEG2000)
    As many line pairs as the C300 (about 500lp/ph)
    Dual CF slots

    Anything lower than those standards doesn’t really mark it for serious use as a dedicated cinema camera.

    • I also think it’ll price at $8k to compete with the Scarlet as a budget 4k solution.

      • I think all your requests are right on the money, the other request i would ask for is to strip the camera of prosumer photography features, and focus just on getting the video quality right. I don’t need a camera that shoots 22mp or even 16mp, just focus on getting the sensor churning out the best video image possible, no scaling involved.

        • If they were planning that then there would be no reason to shape it like a traditional stills camera. Accept that it might fit well with current DSLR cinema gear. My sense is that it will remain a hybrid with value for those who do fashion and commercial work.

  • I thought the “Imagin8ion” was the Ron Howard project? He just didnt have the time to direct it himself, so he got his daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, to do it instead.

    Did I miss something?

    • To tell you the truth I honestly am not sure, if someone else could help with that it would be greatly appreciated. I’m really just going on what Canon Rumors said.

  • I am super-excited about this camera. After seeing Act of Valor I think the most exciting thing about dslrs right now is the way the FF35 images look like anamorphic on the big screen. I am really excited to see this ApsH sensor turn out some great big screen work.

  • Erwin (Netherlands) on 03.10.12 @ 6:13PM

    In response, I would like to say to canon marketing in Japan:

    I find the video resolution of the Canon 5D mark III in the sample videos I’ve seen so far, disappointing. It is no better than the 3 year old Mk II, 720 lines at best. My Panasonic GH2 looks and is way sharper. I was hoping to upgrade from my 550D to the new 5D, but it aint gonna happen. Also because the HDMI out of the new 5D is disappointing. To me stills and video are equally important.

    So now my hopes are now on the yet to be released 4K video DSLR from Canon. I hope that this get time Canon will get it right.

    Please canon, listen to us: take a risk and break through the limitations your own marketing people are artificially setting on your technology in order not to compete with existing and more expensive Canon camera’s.

    A well known wisdom in marketing is that it is better to cannibalize your own products, before the competition does!


    PS: By the way, I own both Canon, Nikon and Panasonic camera’s. I am just looking for the best possible combination of a good stills camera with a really really nice video function. Currently the hacked GH2 comes really close, but lacks the DOF I’m looking for.

    • From what I’ve seen, the DOF isn’t a problem. A change in lens types seems to be the key.
      Many folks are using Voigtlanders at f/2 or f/1.8 iris and finding similar results to s35mm sensor work. The idea is to think of the M43 sensor like it’s super 16. After that, you should be good w/ your lens choices.

    • True the resolution of 5d mark iii is not yet better than GH2 …?!!! Its just old 5d mkii with more stops ???!!!

      • We need more sharpness higher resolution + clean HDMI to = 3500 US $ body !!!
        Better GH2 … sharper = 1800 US $ !!!

      • Please Canon make a true cinema DSLR dont spend soooooo many years developing an old DSLR and bring same camera with a new version mark iii !!!!

  • As far as I know, Ron Howard’s project was the film directed by his daughter. He was the producer on that film, and it was the Imagin8tion was the Ron Howard project. I think that’s out of the question for this screening. Personally, I hope it’s the 4k DSLR announcement. An affordable camera of that resolution will really separate the amateur posers from the truly skilled DP’s and filmmakers.

    I would assume it also opens up the market for cinema-ready microbudget films, since any of those films which can find a distributor will have no problem in converting it for cinema projection.

    The future is looking very good indeed.

    • That’s all I can find as well – the short that was already released.

    • mark london on 03.10.12 @ 9:02PM

      “An affordable camera of that resolution will really separate the amateur posers from the truly skilled DP’s and filmmakers.”

      Um, that is nonsense. The current Avengers trailer features several shots done on 4Gs iPhone. What level of poser vs skilled DPs are they? Plenty of posers will buy a Canon 4K camera. PLENTY.

      • Understood, but I meant that a lot of posers will also buy a high quality camera like this, and so it’ll be easy to differentiate between posers and true professional people because then the Only thing separating them is skill. That’s what I meant. The most important factor comes forward, and equipment cOmes second, as it should.

      • The director for that movie came out and said that he shot some of it with the 5D MkII, not the iPhone.

  • Eugenio Fernández Abril on 03.10.12 @ 7:46PM

    Considering the APS-H crop factor, I assume this camera woulnd’t take EF-S lenses like the Sigma 30mm or the Tokina 11-16 right?

  • Seriously…….there is no way the specs on this “new” camera will top the C300…..The C300 is just out of the gate, barely. The C300 is the Canon Cinema Flagship camera… 18-24 months there will be another Incarnation that will be closer to what we all are looking or should I say hoping for, in about the same price range as a C300.
    Remember 5D Mk 2 footage showed up in Ironman and Captain America, why should it not be good enough for 75% of readers here. Stay with the 5D Mk 2….

    • Jordan Carr on 03.11.12 @ 3:31AM

      “Remember 5D Mk 2 footage showed up in Ironman and Captain America, why should it not be good enough for 75% of readers here. Stay with the 5D Mk 2″

      Flawed example.

      That is like saying because someone can buy Roger Federers tennis racket they will win Wimbledon. Hollywood has HUGE budgets and the worlds best post processing teams to color / re-sample footage. Some of the gear they use would blow your mind with its abilities.

      Have you watched Act of Valor? Even with their 15 million dollar budget (obviously not all going to post production) it looked very poor. I don’t know anyone apart from a few military fanboys that felt it was a quality product. But to each their own.

      Renting an F3 with SLOG or Red Scarlet makes a lot more sense than dropping 3k on a 5D and rigging it up imo.

      • @JCarr….you missed the point….garbage in garbage out, a camera in not going to make you a better filmmaker there are so many who F-Up 35mm (caveat unless you practice practice practice)…..THE POWER is in the hand that wields it! It starts with story, ALWAYS.
        My point, look at “Like Crazy”…..Great filmmaker, used the right tool for the job and the right tool for the budget….can’t take anything away from winning Sundance (DSLR project).

        Most folks who post to this blog it seems are all about the machine that goes ping….We’ve lost our way.

      • Thanks for the film review, now I won’t have to wait for it to hit cable.

        The Rah, Rah us or them ethos is so lame, bathed in meh.

        What bout that tweener flick, Like Crazy, have you an opinion on that cinema work?

  • Even if the theoretical specs of this canon cinema dslr all comes true, how long do you think tillmsony releases something two time more powerful at 30% of the price? There is already a proper cinema cmaera with a super clean 1080p S35 cinema sensor that can take 1080p at 60p, and that is the sony fs100! Why the heck cant canon fanboys who use canons for filming just be smart enough and buy a real cinema camera at an amazing price. I dont get it? Why wait for all these crazy features and crazy prices when its already there staring at your face?

    • Good point. I’ve been evangelizing Sony’s F3 over the C300 since the C300 came out. The F3 being a superior product in every way except size. Emotions and brand loyalty are some of the greatest things Canon has going for it.
      An old adage comes to mind…
      You can lead a horse to water but, you can’t make it drink.

    • My DP friend, who shoots Epic in his day job, is going to jettison his FS100 and jump back to Nikon’s new gear.

      I’m guessing he’s interested in the clean 4.2.2 plus stills, not sure as to his reasoning but since I’ve known him, he’s been through Nikon, to Canon, to Sony and now going back. This after he did a stop over in Japan, where he hung out at a large camera store, something about the D800 piqued his interest.

  • check out my music vid i shot please

  • I just did a bit of searching and found the teaser poster for the C300 announcement, and that said “The Story Begins” and the fact that this teaser poster says “The Story Continues” makes me think that this is definitely a Cinema EOS announcement, and not Ron Howard’s position.

    I think it’s safe to say we’ll be getting something related to the 4k DSLR, or if they really want to disappoint us, then just footage from high end productions using the C300. There may potentially be teaser footage from the 4k DSLR… Who knows…

    The future is looking good.

  • Sony is Putting head on Canon’s ass right now, They just announced the a57 to eat into the t3i:

    If Canon doesn’t come hard this time I think they will lose a lot of people.

  • Oh, man. I’ve been involved in digital cinema camera projects before Red existed. The simple fact is (apart from a much sexier c300 case than a scarlet, and much better low light performance) you can do the same resolution down sampling that the c300 does internally to Scarlet footage. This makes this c300 “feature” a total failure over scarlet footage. If they wanted to be real they would offer 4k raw recording, which canbe done cheaply (not including storage drives) as well, even via exteral sata/usb3 or HDMI output, and I suspect we might see a firmware upgrade or new camera. On top of this if they were really serious they would offer 48/50/60fps 4k.

    What I would like to see in a 4k Canon, lens mounted or fixed, for less than $5000 dollers as good as c300 with 4k 48/50/60p 12 bit with descent data rate (the replacement for JPEG alledgedly offers similar performance to wavelet at the same datarates, 4:2:2 is possible). So we are talking about settings for quality equivalent to 200 & 400mb/s mjpeg for 4k24p halved for jpeg replacement and half again for wavelet bayer (because Bayer uses less to start with). For 4kp50, over double that rate.

    If Canon is serious, I know they can do it. What Red is planning will far surpase a 4kp24 c300.

  • As far as the specs of the eventual Canon 4K DSLR Canon might want to re-gain the momentum that they once had with the 5D/7D. I think they need to hit a home run. If the camera surpasses the C300 in certain respects it will not record production quality sound or match the near perfect form factor of the C300. The C300 would still retain its niche and be upgraded via firmware and newer models. I think there is more value for Canon in making a big splash at a $7-10,000 price point. They need to offer a camera for professionals that clearly surpasses the features of other DSLR’s or risk losing there lead in that market.

  • A great camera in the hands of a good shooter with no story is a NatGeo nature film.
    A good camera in the hands of a great shooter with a good story is a Festival Winner.
    A good camera in the hands of a good shooter with a poor story is a summer blockbuster.
    An good camera in the hands of a poor shooter with a story about Zombies is an amateur.
    Anyone consistently making a living with a camera is a professional.


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