Canon EOS C300 launch: Interview with Larry Thorpe

Interview: Laurence (Larry) Thorpe

Larry Thorpe - Senior Director, Professional Engineering and Solutions, Imaging Technologies and Communications Group, Canon U.S.A., pictured after an exclusive interview with Reviews Editor Barnaby Britton at the launch of Canon's new C300 HD video camera in Hollywood, November 3rd 2011.

Dpreview was at the Hollywood launch of the new Canon EOS C300, the first in Canon's new 'C' system interchangeable lens video cameras. During a packed evening we made some time to sit down with Larry Thorpe - Senior Director, Professional Engineering and Solutions, Imaging Technologies and Communications Group, Canon USA, Inc. and asked him about the new camera, and what it means for videographers.

Larry - one of the key points that came out of the presentation we've just seen was that the birth of the C300 followed the release and subsequent success of the 5D Mark II. Is that correct?

Yes. Well, let's say it was stimulated and put into high gear [by the success of the 5DII]. There had been discussions for some years that with our advancing technologies on all fronts, - sensors, optics, etc., that the time was coming when we should move into motion imaging in a more serious manner. The reaction to the 5D Mark II astonished us, and we had filmmakers all over us. There was a plea - 'if you've done this, can't you possibly make a full motion imaging camera with everything that we need, and none of the limitations of the 5DII?' And that triggered a very speedy program - less than two years - to develop this camera. 

We developed a new sensor specifically for motion imaging. That was already cooking, but we lifted the digital processor and the codec from our little camcorder, the XF305 [...] and that's why [the C300] has MPEG recording, 50 megabit, etc., and why we were able to bring the camera to fruition relatively quickly. 

So what is Canon trying to do with the C-system?

Oh we're very definitely trying - going - to enter the motion picture industry with a very sharp focus on movie making, on television production, on commercial production, and after that documentary, independent, corporate... government, military... anyone that wants motion imaging with a single sensor, large format, and all that comes with that in terms of the shallow depth of field, etc. There are a lot of people in many segments of the market today who shoot on film for those very reasons and we're offering a digital alternative.

At $20,000 the C300 isn't hugely expensive for what it is....

No, it's not actually. If you look at the hierarchy of the single-sensor cameras that are out there today, [the C300] is in the bottom tier in terms of pricing, but we said originally we weren't going to make a [potentially much more expensive] 4K camera as our first step - we want to step into [...] HD first. HD is used for moviemaking, and it is also used for television production and commercial production worldwide. So [the decision not to make a costly 4K model] was made to let us get a fast start, worldwide, on the back of a thriving movement in HD, and what we said to ourselves was 'let's make a very very good HD camera, at a reasonable price'. 

A lot of our readers are 5D Mark II users, and despite its origins as a camera born out of the 5D's success, the C300 is clearly a very different product...

It is a very different product, yes. The 5D Mark II is a hybrid - it is first and foremost a DSLR, and then we added video capability at minimal cost initially with people like Associated Press and Reuters in mind. Then the film people said 'can't you put 24p in there?' and we ultimately did, and then it started to be used as a B-camera in some movies, in certain scenes where they wanted that extreme depth of field, and so on, but the C300 [...] was developed to be a bone fide motion imaging camera for making movies and television, and commercials and whatever else people want to do.

But you can take still photographs with the C300?

You can, but only in HD - 1920 x 1080 pixels. So it won't be as good as a still that you'd get from the 5D Mark II, obviously. But it's a decent picture and you can record stills to SDHC cards, which slot in the side of the camera. You've got CompactFlash for motion imaging but you can record stills to SDHC. 

Who do you think will buy the EOS C300?

Well as you saw today (Canon's launch event featured a talk by Martin Scorsese and brief question and answer sessions with several filmmakers, including Vincent Laforet, who we interviewed at PPE) we invited everybody from the Hollywood motion picture industry and television, and we've had people from CBS television, ABC, etc., they were all there tonight and our message to them is that we're making this camera for their consideration. It will be interesting to see who comes and knocks on our door. We think we're going to get wide attention, because it's a lot of camera for the price, and [...] what we bring to the table in terms of lenses is just colossal. 

Frankly I think that the genius was to make two versions - an EF version and a PL, and recognize that we have a gigantic constituency of EF users worldwide [...] so they can play with their existing lenses, and then that other gigantic worldwide constituency of PL mounts uses. There's a huge inventory of those lenses out there that people own, and are held by rental agencies - people can just buy the C300 and use their favorite lenses on it. So we're really addressing two big constituencies.

The C300 is significantly deeper than a DSLR, but cab be fitted with a conventional DSLR-style grip. It is peppered with control points, including one for 'peaking' - a contrast-based manual focussing aid that we've seen and appreciated in recent cameras from Sony and Ricoh.
The C300's sensor outputs still and video images in the 16:9 aspect ratio. Its dimensions are 24.4 x 13.5mm - modelled on the 'Super 35mm' motion picture film standard. It is slightly larger than Canon's APS-C format sensors (in 16:9 capture mode), but significantly smaller than the full-frame sensor inside the 5D Mark II and EOS 1-D X.  And these are the new lenses, released alongside the C300. Two zooms, and three primes: the CN-E14.5–60mm T2.6 L S/SP, CN-E30–300mm, T2.95–3.7 L S/SP, CN-E24mm T1.5 L F, CN-E50mm T1.3 L F and CN-E85mm T1.3 L F.

Will there be a price difference between the PL and EF mount versions of the C300?

There could be, but at the moment it seems probably not. At the moment we're still working out the details. The list price is around $20,000 but it be another month or so [before details are finalized].

You mentioned earlier that the sensor in the C300 is totally new...

Totally new, yes. And I think it will cause quite a stir. The way this sensor works, we avoid the need to 'de-Bayer' the sensor output in camera, completely. We get extremely clean RGB output because we just read [the channels] out - we don't do any averaging between them at all. (The sensor in the C300 has 8.2 million effective pixels but a maximum output resolution of 2MP. The red and blue channels contain 2MP of data, and the green contains 4MP. The final RGB output is derived without the need for debayering algorithms.) We're able to dive in there and get all the red pixels and read them out, and then separately we're reading out the blues and separately the greens.

And at what speed is the data read out?

74.25 MHz, at either 30 frames per second or 60 fields per second. 

Are you seeing any demand for 60p video recording?

Yes - 60p is of high interest. Filmmakers like to go to the high frame rates so that they can do slow motion and the higher you go the slower you can play back at 24p. Our sensor delivers 60p, but the processor and the codec that we have [in the C300] can only do 30p so we're limited right now. Down the road... if we elect to develop new processors and codecs we can use this same sensor at 60p. 

Where do you see the C system in 5 years time?

In five years time the C300 will have brothers and sisters. We'll probably move in a number of directions. We think this is a very very good start but there's no question that 4K is coming, so we have to keep our eye on that. As for a lower cost model [...] that would make a lot of sense in the marketplace. We have a master plan and [the C300] is step one - into HD. We've stepped in, and we're never going to stop. We're in for the long term. Wherever the marketplace dictates that we should go, and wherever our technology allows us to go, we'll be there.  

Comments

Total comments: 41
vidcam
By vidcam (Jul 21, 2012)

This camera sounds good, but the sensor is just a hair bigger than the canon 7D, so all your L series expensive glass now have a crop factor of 1.5 or so. That 16-35mm zoom is no longer wide enough to give you a stunning interior or a nice wide shot in tight quarters. Yes, it has all the nice outputs and inputs you need for professional work, but it suffers from the size of the sensor. Much like the Panasonic 100 with the 4/3" sensor the lenses don't translate as you wish.
You will find using Ef-s lenses may help especially for wide shots.
The other issue is it is only 1920x1080, where as some of it's competition has a higher capture or records in higher quality.
I still prefer the look of the Canon 5 Mark III.

0 upvotes
ProfHankD
By ProfHankD (Nov 5, 2011)

It sounds like Canon is simply taking an 8MP (i.e., 4K) sensor and essentially treating two greens, a red, and a blue from the Bayer matrix as a single pixel to get the 2MP video stream. If so, I hope they have adjusted the anti-alias and microlens structures appropriately, which would explain why stills are stuck at 2MP. This is a clever way to reuse the old 3-chip video processing hardware and firmware from the XF305, but it sounds more like a "quick push something out the door" solution rather than the result of a long-term R&D effort. At least real 4K video should be mostly a matter of upgrading the processing.

I don't recognize the new zooms, but the three fixed-focal-length cinema lenses sound like minor reworks of existing Canon lenses. Nothing wrong with that, and it is a win for Canon even if the lenses get sold to sit on RED bodies... or are adapted to Sony E-mount cameras.

Why does dpreview care so much about this, given a history of ignoring video-only stuff?

0 upvotes
Tord S Eriksson
By Tord S Eriksson (Nov 5, 2011)

Red will have to respond to this major challenge, as otherwise they may get outrun in the field they are the giants!

Those who benefit of this are the customers, of course! And Canon, no doubt! Will the mighty Nikon also join the romp?! Time will tell!

1 upvote
DB Custom
By DB Custom (Nov 5, 2011)

Looks great to me! While I'm not interested in a video camera at that level I am very much interested in drastic improvements to the 5DMkII. A sensor that doesn't have to demosaic is intrinsicly a sharper image producer and that sounds fantastic! Not that I have any real complaints about my 5's (classic and MkII) but to see the new tech with the beauty of my old classic 5 and the sharpness of medium format is a real attention getter! Way to go Canon, RAISE THE BAR!

0 upvotes
Jettatore
By Jettatore (Nov 4, 2011)

Well. I got into Canon DSLR because they could do great photography and had the arguably the best DSLR video around. I personally don't want separate equipment, including the body, for photo and video and I also don't want compromises due to marketing constraints. If I was going in for video and photography as separate devices, I don't think I'd even have Canon equipment. Basically what I'm saying is, don't skimp out on the 5D Mark III / 7D II and even the 1DX if there is more they can do with that for video. Because I have no interest in purchasing stuff on price points that Hollywood usually rents at, and I don't want to all of a sudden feel like my equipment is a compromise as the 1Ds Mark III, 5D Mark II and 7D certainty were not comprises. As long as we don't start that trend then fine by me, go sell Scorsese a bunch of expensive electronics, sounds great, but otherwise I'll ditch this equipment in a heartbeat and trade it in for a combo of Nikon/Sony/Panasonic. Deal?

3 upvotes
emendoz1
By emendoz1 (Nov 4, 2011)

Thanks but this brings up another question. If 4K which I take is 4000 is the horizontal resolution then why is the camera rated at 1920? Maybe I'm not getting it!

Thanks

0 upvotes
MaikeruN
By MaikeruN (Nov 5, 2011)

The C300's sensor captures in 4k resolution, however it outputs as 1080x1920.

0 upvotes
emendoz1
By emendoz1 (Nov 5, 2011)

Thanks! I get it now. So the camera compresses before it outputs? Why can't video treat information like digital and output in raw? Too large of a file I suppose.

Thanks again for explaining.

Ed

0 upvotes
LonelyPixel
By LonelyPixel (Nov 5, 2011)

No. It has 1920x1080 red, 1920x1080 blue, and 1920 x 2160 green pixels. As a true color pixel should have RGB, so that is only 1920 x 1080 (ie 2K) resolution. The specs for digital cameras are misleading. On digital cameras, when they say 12Mp, those are split among the RGB pixels.

0 upvotes
emendoz1
By emendoz1 (Nov 4, 2011)

Hello, I'm a bit new to video so excuse the dumb question but what does 4K represent? What exactly is 4K as far as megapixel or even video size?

Thanks

Ed

0 upvotes
whtchocla7e
By whtchocla7e (Nov 4, 2011)

4K represents the horizontal resolution.
Vertical resolution varies based on format (aspect ratio).

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
halfmac
By halfmac (Nov 4, 2011)

Good Interview. I am glad to see that a lower cost model is on the way.

0 upvotes
Noogy
By Noogy (Nov 4, 2011)

Wow, looks like one heck of a video recording machine... if only I have time to really learn how to masterfully use my 7D's HD video features. I know it's been there since I bought it, and yes it has done some really neat videos for me. It's just that technology seems to move faster than how my talent improves :-) Or maybe I'm getting old!

Comment edited 25 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
BNapa
By BNapa (Nov 4, 2011)

What happened to a high MP DSLR? The C300 is aimed at filmmakers not photographers. canon you are forgetting the masses. I want to see a 30+MP SLR with low noise sensor. Come on Canon don't make me go back to Nikon or even Sony for a higher res sensor. Pentax are you listening?

0 upvotes
BeanyPic
By BeanyPic (Nov 4, 2011)

You need to keep up with sensor technology here I think. The MP race has changed. Larger pixels which allow in more detail over squashing in smaller pixels which potentially can generate noise is the future. You better catch up or get left behind I think.

0 upvotes
MaikeruN
By MaikeruN (Nov 5, 2011)

Let it be. Let it be. There are always gonna be people complaining about irrelevant things!

2 upvotes
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Nov 4, 2011)

Why is a $25k Scarlet "a costly 4k model" relative to a $21k 1.9k C300? Canon has been showcasing 4k "concept" devices for several years.

Well, maybe a 4k C400 will appear next year priced at $40k.

0 upvotes
VivaLasVegas
By VivaLasVegas (Nov 4, 2011)

Reading on smartphone is such a difficult task, they put video into dslr for a reason.

0 upvotes
whtchocla7e
By whtchocla7e (Nov 4, 2011)

Sony FS100

2 upvotes
Waterengineer
By Waterengineer (Nov 4, 2011)

Not the "run and gun" camera I was expecting, wanting or need. And no RAW, uber-disappointed. Sorry Canon.

1 upvote
munro harrap
By munro harrap (Nov 4, 2011)

Houston, we have a problem. On earth yuppies are laying out good money every time a manufacturer markets a new model, even though the manufacturer says it will be made obsolete very soon by a better one, as here.

"This people has no sense"

0 upvotes
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Nov 4, 2011)

Apollo 13, the C300 does not look like a yuppie-cam, but strictly a commercial or industrial product. But corrporate producers surely have to weigh cost-benefit somewhere. If a firm has to upgrade 2003-vintage equipment, which is fully depreciated, perhaps a C300 will fill the bill. Otherwise, why not take Canon at its word and wait a year?

0 upvotes
getman
By getman (Nov 4, 2011)

thanx for the interview.
"It is a very different product, yes." - mostly by the price tag to me.
1080 30p @50Mbps is done by 5DM2 - no key upgrades to cost $20k.

Comment edited 45 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
MaikeruN
By MaikeruN (Nov 5, 2011)

5D2 outputs video at 33mbps with h.264 compression which has like no latitude...

0 upvotes
getman
By getman (Nov 7, 2011)

I thought latitude has something to do with sensor and data processing rather than encoding algorithm and bitrate.

0 upvotes
kombizz0
By kombizz0 (Nov 4, 2011)

very informative interview for those who like to make movie.
Wish Sony Corp could had an epsilon courage of Canon in R&D for producing a Full Frame camera.

0 upvotes
shaocaholica
By shaocaholica (Nov 4, 2011)

I don't see how this is competitive with other $20k cameras.

0 upvotes
mantra
By mantra (Nov 4, 2011)

maybe the possibility to use all the EF lenses

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Henry M. Hertz
By Henry M. Hertz (Nov 4, 2011)

maybe you just have to open your eyes then?

my brother does TV advertising and they will buy the c300 the moment it´s out...

2 upvotes
pgb
By pgb (Nov 4, 2011)

Yes, the Sony F3 is $20k too. The ergonomics of the Sony look better, this is still very slr like. The EF mount is an advantage but I think EF adapters are available on the Sony. You don't need Foveon to get RGB catpure just 4x the destination resolution. It's been around for years in the cine video world. 50mbps, nothing special there, compared to Prores 444 at about 200mbps. After 4 years the big guns are catching up with RED. I hope its 10bit recording with some log encoding.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
1 upvote
shaocaholica
By shaocaholica (Nov 4, 2011)

I've worked with production companies doing commercials for some pretty big clients and they are using sub $2k DLSRs. Every dollar saved is a dollar earned for the higher ups. Why throw that money away on the minute gains you get with the C300.

0 upvotes
MaikeruN
By MaikeruN (Nov 5, 2011)

"Why throw that money away on the minute gains you get with the C300."

Then they must be minute production companies.

Comment edited 29 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
here 2 infinity
By here 2 infinity (Nov 4, 2011)

Thanks for the interview. Was waiting to see if he mentioned a lower priced version to compete with the Panasonic AF100 (AF102 here in New Zealand), as the low cost XL1 was their low cost claim to video fame back in the day, and for my thinking, for 20K, the RED Epic is still a much better camera body.

0 upvotes
Henry M. Hertz
By Henry M. Hertz (Nov 4, 2011)

last time i checked the cheapest usefull epic kit was 58000$

would be interested where you can get a new red epic for 20000$ ??
even body only is near 40000$

http://www.red.com/store/epic/product/epic-m

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
AshMills
By AshMills (Nov 4, 2011)

Its called the EPIC S, out in December.

0 upvotes
unlearny
By unlearny (Nov 17, 2011)

The scarlet is 4k resolution, for $14,000 - ef mount and a few extras. You must not have checked recently.

0 upvotes
Jogger
By Jogger (Nov 4, 2011)

why didnt you jut record a video instead of transcribing, etc

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (Nov 4, 2011)

We can't win, can we?

23 upvotes
EOSHD
By EOSHD (Nov 4, 2011)

Great interview, very informative.

2 upvotes
chucku
By chucku (Nov 4, 2011)

How about because life is too short to watch a video when you can read a transcript in a quarter of the time?

10 upvotes
Chris Florio
By Chris Florio (Nov 4, 2011)

Better Search Engine Optimization on text than video.

1 upvote
Total comments: 41