I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m a camera geek. Alright, it’s not really a secret if you know me, and if you’re reading this you probably are one too. Suffice to say the last 48 hours have been a bit of a camera geeks dream…

Yesterday night was the night of Big Important Game Changing Announcements™ in the world of large-sensor camcorders. So huge were these Big Important Game Changing Announcements™ that for one company involved the internet was compromised and us camera geeks couldn’t get onto their website to see the details of their Big Important Game Changing Announcement™ .

So now - with a night to sleep on it - here is our initial response to the Canon and Red announcements from yesterday*:

Canon C300

“I’m waiting to see what Canon do next” has been a standard response from around half my clients in the last year regarding new camcorders.

I can’t remember a camera that has been as eagerly awaited as the C300, except perhaps the original Red One. We all know the story by now: DSLRs have opened up a type of aesthetic previously unachievable to anyone on a very tight budget, but as video cameras they are held back by a poor recording codec and a lack of audio inputs/controls, to name just two of the issues users have faced when forcing a stills camera to shoot video continuously.

As the DSLR movement gathered pace and the technology made inroads into professional shoots, the message to camera manufacturers became clear: give us a portable, purpose built, interchangeable lens large-sensor camcorder capable of shooting a format that is gradable and broadcast legal. The response from nearly every manufacturer was – in my opinion - slow and bizarrely disinterested. However the last six months have seen the release of Sony’s FS100 and the growing popularity of their F3 camcorder, as well as increased use of the Panasonic AF101.

Now it’s Canon’s turn and…it turns out it was worth the wait, because their new camcorders are absolute crackers. There are many things to be excited about, so here are some of the coolest features of their just-announced C300 camcorders:

  • XF recording format. That could mean BBC/Sky/Discovery approval without use of an external recorder. Awesomeness.
  • Canon EF mount model. So no need for lens adapters for EOS and a camera that will speak to the lens’s iris. Finally you can use all that Canon glass you invested in for your 5D Mark II. Double Awesomeness.
  • Want to use PL-mounted cine-lenses instead for cinema? There’s another model with a PL mount. Cinematic awesomeness.
  • Super 35mm sensor. Shallow-depth-of-field awesomeness (ok, I’ll stop now).

Also announced were some very exciting zoom and cine lenses. More about this in an article next week.

Pricing is unconfirmed, so anything you see out there is an educated guess. We’re thinking that the pricing will be competitive with Sony’s F3. Canon are saying late January for availability, which to me seems optimistic considering the recent floods in Thailand and resulting supply problems for all Japanese manufacturers, but watch this space as we’ll be keeping you up to date with news on this hugely exciting new camcorder.

Red Scarlet

Originally slated as a 3K camcorder sporting a 2/3” sensor and fixed lens, the camera has been radically redesigned and is now a 4K camcorder with a Super35mm sensor and Canon EF mount. Red, it seems, realised like the rest us that a 2/3” fixed lens camcorder with RAW recording capability wasn’t really required in these post-DSLR days and have reimagined the design based on one part Red One (in terms of internal specification) and one part DSLR (in terms of size and optics). The specs make it look like a small-bodied Red One MX, as does their published price. Red’s philosophy of big resolution and innovative features (HDRx etc) make this another interesting addition to the now-huge range of cinema-grade cameras, and their choice of lens mount makes it clear who they are targeting.

What to make of it all…

There may well be some DSLR users who feel a bit let down by these announcements: the C300 is certainly not a straight up video biased DSLR or even in the DSLR price bracket. The dream of a 5D with an uncompressed HD-SDI output and XLR input base is yet to be realised. But don’t worry DSLR video users: in an upcoming article I shall explain how and why they remain a unique tool and are here to stay.

What is clear from both Canon and Red is this: the focus now is getting the best out of your lenses, giving you video camera functionality in a more ergonomic body and a recording format that is ideal for broadcast and top-end work. These are grown-up cameras for professional image makers and are very welcome additions to the large-sensor community.

If you have any questions regarding which model is the right one for you in the recent swathe of digital cinema cameras (F3 or C300? FS100 or DSLR?), then give us a call on the usual number.

*There was also an announcement from Avid regarding their post production software, which I shall address in the near future.

By Stuart Dennis