Finally, good news for all of us video pros out there who simply want to shoot video of a person walking through a park at night from our backyard patio deck several miles away. Er, maybe that’s not all of us.

But rest assured, with Canon’s new MS-500 camera long-range video surveillance camera, these types of far-fetched and frankly unheard of video capabilities are absolutely real now.

Announced as the “world’s first” ultra-high-sensitivity camera with an interchangeable-lens SPAD sensor, this new Canon MS-500 sets the new high water mark for both long-range and night-vision video capabilities.

But what’s really going on under the hood of this insane new ultra-high-sensitivity camera and its 1” SPAD sensor of 3.2 megapixels? Let’s take a look at the Canon MS-500 and what you can actually get with its game changing capabilities — plus what you might want to consider before investing in its $25k price tag.

The Canon MS-500 Camera

Canon MS-500

Introducing the Canon MS-500

Credit: Canon

While the Canon MS-500 was showcased at NAB 2023 where a working sample of the camera was demoed firsthand, the official announcement of the MS-500 is still impressive nonetheless. Boasting what is technically the world’s highest pixel count, according to Canon, on a 1” Single Photon Avalanche Diode (SPAD for short) 3.2MP sensor, the MS-500 is set to do things no camera has ever done before.

As an ultra-high-sensitivity interchangeable lens camera, the MS-500 achieves a minimum subject illumination of 0.001 lux. WHich, when combined with ultra-telephoto broadcast lenses, makes it possible to capture clear color video of subjects at a distance of several miles away — even at night.

And while this isn’t Canon’s first ultra-high-sensitivity camera, as the brand has a lineup which includes the Canon ME20 and the ML Series, this new MS-500 should really be the new standard for advanced long-range, night-vision surveillance video.

Long-Range Night-Vision Video Surveillance

Designed for use in areas with extremely high-security levels like seaports, public infrastructure facilities and our beloved national borders, the MS-500 is meant to be used as a part of a high-precision monitoring system to accurately surveil targets both day and night.

To reach this level of sophistication, the MS-500 SPAD sensor uses a technology called “photon counting,” which counts all of the light particles (aka photons) which enter a pixel. When these incoming photos are converted to an electric charge, they can be amplified approximately one million times to be extracted as digital signals — which allows the sensor to detect even the smallest amounts of light possible.

And, when every single one of these photons is digitally counted, the SPAD sensor is able to prohibit the introduction of additional noise during signal readout. Altogether, this enables the recording of clear color video under the lowest light scenarios and even under a 0.001 lux low-light environment.

Price and Speculation

Canon MS-500

A demo of the Canon MS-500's capabilities

Credit: Canon

So, great news for building sophisticated surveillance teams and security details across the world, but what does this new camera offer — or simply mean — for us working video professionals. For right now, not too much in terms of how this MS-500 could help out for most video shoots.

Yes, it offers some mind-blowing long range and low light capabilities, but with its price tag it’s most likely far too expensive for the novelty it might provide for a single shot or sequence in some advant-garde film or project which requires such capabilities.

However, what’s far more interesting about this MS-500 and its SPAD sensor has to do with its technology and how that might carry over into more professional and prosumer video cameras in the future. Canon has unveiled a new CrispImg2 custom picture preset mode that is designed to optimize resolutions and contrast while suppressing image noise for the MS-500’s long-range video, and this tech could easily find its way into other Canon cameras looking to boost their low light specs.

Still, scheduled to release in September 2023 and coming with the aforementioned $25,000 estimated price tag, the Canon MS-500 might at the very least be worth keeping an eye on — since after all it might be keeping an eye on you too.