The Cinema EOS System’s advanced movie feature of the EOS 5D Mark II took the motion picture industry by storm as the precursor to DSLR movies. Since the first generation EOS C300 appeared in 2011, the Cinema EOS System has been used on location worldwide. The creation of the EOS C500 Mark II, 8 years later, can be considered the culmination of Canon’s imaging technology plus user feedback with its focus on the next generation. It’s an all-in-one model that has the flexibility to adapt to every shooting style. On the occasion of the official announcement, we spoke with the development team to get all the details.
The basic development concept
When we were developing this model, our main focus was flexibility. In terms of movie production, it’s been the case that the shooting style was determined by the cinematographer’s professional affiliation or budget, but as the content diversified, the style of the solo camera operator as well as the team changed significantly depending on the shoot. Operators were looking for the most efficient way to shoot.
The C500 Mark II has features that account for all kinds of shooting styles with the smallest body possible, adaptability depending on operating style, and flexibility in shooting range. Furthermore, it was designed with future concept development in mind.
With the previous EOS C500, it was convenient because you could split up the recording, and this model was popular in Hollywood. Now you’ve brought back the C500. Why this model number?
It’s a question of how you use RAW. With the C500, our first 4K model recorded full HD at 4:2:2 8bit internally and had 4K RAW uncompressed external recording capability. That said, we received feedback that when shooting 4K, the external operation was hard to use.
The EOS C700 was an all-in-one model that could record uncompressed RAW with the dockable recorder. It was made from metal so it could withstand serious handling, and we made sure it was built to last as the main camera on set. In contrast, the C500 and C300 are affordable and portable, and you can get up close and personal filming with these models. We wanted the C500 Mark II to be the successor to the C500 in terms of style, as well as retain its RAW and internal recording capability.
The internal RAW recording was taken from the C200 and incorporated as Cinema RAW Light. That said, there were objections to the imbalance of the C200 only having RAW and 4:2:0 8bit MP4, so with the C500 Mark II we balanced out the internal recording format with the Cinema RAW Light and XF-AVC Intra 4:2:0 10bit. It was because of this also that we thought it appropriate to use C500 in the name. Some people might wonder why we chose “C500 Mark II” since this model didn’t have a successor, but we’d like to present its long-awaited re-appearance.
What features are most reflective of the feedback from the C200 & C700?
The expandability in terms of the style, operational flexibility in terms of function, and we made each of the features flexible as well. The AF can be customized to personal taste to convey your ideal visual expression – we wanted to cover everything.
We also heard that the information displayed on the EVF menu was too bright when viewing the subject in a dark environment, making it difficult to see the subject properly. In order to address this, we changed things so that the user could adjust the settings. We made it so that the body would have the flexibility of allowing the customer to make adjustments to suit his shooting style.
We also had people tell us that the C700 was big. There were some who preferred the C700, but it wasn’t the size where you could get away with shooting handheld, like with the C300. It wasn’t a case of going back to the source, but we did what we could to create the most compact-sized body we could and modular accessories worthy of a main camera that could be hand-held.
The peripherals are set up as units and the user can change the mount. Direction of heading in with the product planning.
With this camera, we are positioning ourselves for the Camera 2 market. The body is not metal, as it’s made from a mold. We have retained the dust- and splash-proof design, but with a view to the Camera 1 style shooting operation.
With the current IP, there are various approaches to shooting: remote control, multi-camera, drone. We wanted a system that would meet all these needs – you wouldn’t have to choose different equipment depending on the shoot with this one camera.
Could you tell us why you went with the Cinema RAW Light and XF-AVC file format?
It’s because we felt it was important that the file format supporting this meet the mass production timing.
First, a word about Cinema RAW Light. We had just acquired Cinema RAW Light technology in time to implement it for the C200, and we received very positive feedback. That it was much easier to use. So we considered standardizing Cinema RAW Light for in-camera recording.
Then we included H.264 XF-AVC. This was to make the files compatible with the C300 line, assuming that people would mix and match, and the XF-AVC Intra would be the main codec compressor.
It will be necessary to support other formats, so we are continuing to listen to customer feedback as we support firmware updates.
The Log is Canon Log 2 and Log 3 only, but what of the Wide DR?
There is a Wide DR Gamma. You could say the Canon Log was replaced during development. We went with two different iterations: Log 2 or Log 3.
Essentially the Canon Log was designed for 8bit, but Log 2 and Log 3 were created with 10bit in mind. When we switched to the 10bit XF-AVC format, Canon Log became low priority.
Currently there are many Log 3 users, but those who have a big budget should go with Log 2. For those who are shooting with minimal editing and grading in mind, we recommend Log 3.
RAW recording is becoming more popular, so do you think that Cinema RAW Light will take over from Log?
That is our thinking. In terms of achieving the highest resolution during recording and greater freedom for grading afterwards, we recommend Cinema RAW Light. With XF-AVC Intra, it is 4K oversampling from 5.9K, and it compares favorably with Cinema RAW Light. At a glance, you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. In the cases where you are finishing your footage via simple grading, we’d love for you to give the XF-AVC a try to compare how the quality holds up.
Why did you go with the latest CFexpress card for the internal recording media?
It records 5.9K in Cinema RAW Light, so it needed something to handle the speed. When you try to load 4K at 120p, it won’t load as is.
The same goes for H.264 base in 8K. Thinking ahead to the future, we wanted it to be compatible with developing trends in bit rate and frame rate using new media, so we switched to something that could support this.
The module construction is extremely unique. Did you have the Alexa Mini in mind, for example, when coming up with the size and design?
We went through a lot of trial and error when designing the body. There is a gap between the time it takes to design the body and the actual launch, and during that time, it’s difficult to predict what people will want. One thing we did know was that the trend was for something more compact.
And to give the user greater freedom, we knew the cube shape would be easiest to use. In addition, we heard people wanted less height in the back, so keeping these things in mind, we wondered if we should go with the same height as the C200. When we worked out the details, our basic concept was this size and shape.
We want people to be able to use it for various jobs. Shooting style, Camera 1, Camera 2, etc., they’re all different. What could we do to make it the most user-friendly? We also discussed what would make it the most comfortable to hold, and worked on improving it. Compared to the weight of the C300 Mark II, it’s 20g lighter because we removed the grip.
The overall weight will vary depending on whether you add the accessory panel, but basically it’s lighter than the C300 Mark II. At the same time, we moved the axis closer to the grip, which makes it feel lighter when you hold it.
Interchangeable lens mount
Until now, our customers had to bring in their lens mount to be serviced to retain precision and accuracy. The most popular request from our customers was that they wanted to do it themselves.
We wanted to be flexible and give them what they wanted. It was a real design challenge to retain precision – we thought long and hard to come up with a design would allow us to maintain accuracy if the customers changed it themselves.
Which settings capitalize on the optical features of the Sumire Primes?
We have the Sumire Primes, so we wanted people to experience bokeh in addition to flare. The C500 Mark II has a full-frame sensor, and you can shoot with the ISO as low as ISO100, making it easier to achieve a bokeh effect without closing down the aperture. We wanted it to incorporate what’s great about the Sumire Primes.
Normally we emphasise the silhouette. But depending on what you emphasize, the bokeh becomes sharper, so we kept that in mind while designing it to ensure that the edges aren’t overdefined.
On the electronic IS, focus control according to a professional camera operator, extension of marker display functions, and unique features:
As to why we made the focus automatic for the professional camera operator, this is based on feedback we received from when we equipped the C300 with dual pixel CMOS AF. It’s fine to shoot once you’ve selected a focus point, but the feeling was that in cases where you want to focus in the scene, it works differently.
We spoke with various DPs about their shooting styles to achieve functionality that would be closest to how professionals work, whether they want to customize their focus or rely on autofocus. AF is our trademark, it’s what sets us apart, so we wanted something that would allow users not only to focus, but also to customize the way the camera focuses. We wanted it to have a range of functionality as well as be easy to use.
Canon’s AF feature is very popular among camera operators.
Our customers have said that focus is part of visual expression. We want more customers to use our products, so we worked hard to create a smoother autofocus. That said, sometimes what we offer isn’t what our customers are seeking. However, we’ve done our best to offer different options. But if that still doesn’t satisfy our customers, then we make the necessary changes with the next upgrade.
When the focus is off, the whole image falls apart and ruins the production. We want to avoid that kind of scenario at all costs, so we are always continuing to evolve.
We are happy to receive feedback because it means people are using our products.
We want to keep a cycle going where we apply new technologies, receive feedback on them, and then make improvements.
About the in-camera IS?
Originally the majority of our Cinema EOS customers operated things manually and didn’t place a premium on vibration control. However, with the appearance of gimbals and drones several years ago, camera operators working alone began using the vibration control feature as an easy replacement for the gimbal.
When we heard this, we thought we should try to incorporate it in our product. We are eager to hear the feedback on how much our vibration control feature is capable of achieving.
Both our professional and consumer use video cameras come with vibration control technology. But integrated video lenses cover all the lens data, so it was easier to include the electronic IS (EIS) feature. The EIS feature we included in this model is for a Canon lens and camera, so it makes sense.
Other companies use our EF lenses, but because these are our lenses and cameras, we understand how they work. We know how to approach things in-camera, like which focal length to use with which lens, the characteristics of each one, how to manage them, etc. Only the body has the EIS feature, but we have done our best to ensure the effectiveness and optimization of the EIS when used with the lenses, and we look forward to hearing feedback from our customers.
Why did you not include the double ISO feature, trending with other cinema cameras?
Technically, the Cinema EOS is a dual system, and you can automatically switch among many more stages in-camera. If you limit yourself to two systems, you’re going to have to choose either the dynamic range or the S/N. Our camera can make a smooth crossover.
If you want to be really exacting, there are areas where we are lacking, but I think that’s only in exceptional situations.
It has been designed so that when you’re using various ISO sensitivities, overall the best S/N will automatically be selected and adjusted while you’re fine-tuning the dynamic range settings and making detailed changes. Other companies might recommend a low ISO and high ISO – a double ISO – and I see that it’s easier to understand from a marketing perspective.
Could you talk more about the technology behind the improved image texture?
For the first time, we added a small aperture diffraction correction feature in our video cameras. Our still cameras had them from before, but with this new engine we can now include it in our video cameras too.
Even with video, you still get obvious diffraction at a small aperture. But now, part of the optical element as well as the aperture and low pass filter all work together to correct it. So even when the aperture is open, there is little change, and as you close it down, you can clearly see the effects of the correction.
This technology is new for video cameras, and maybe it has not been such a major concern for the large-format, but as you close down the aperture, there’s no mistaking the diffraction, since the phenomenon exists, and people recognize that you can’t close down the aperture that much. With still cameras, you can increase the shutter speed to counter the effects, but you can’t do that with video.
We focused on two major points when it came to the visuals. The first is that high resolution images require a lot of volume. This affects the signal processing and also it changes the color algorithm. Objectively, the processing procedure covers a huge color range, and we’ve been using gamut mapping technology Rec.709 for rendering, but this time we made improvements.
The most noticeable is that we have optimized the expression of the slight increase in luminance of colors that normally have a lower luminance, like blue and red. To put it in more abstract terms, the final effect is that the colors appear deeper.
Morever, we have improved the accuracy of color reproduction you get with particular LED that’s not used for lighting but the LED used to create a certain look, like blue LED, using the same technology.
By the same token, when a color is blown out or when you have high luminance, with some cameras the color bends and there is a real need to resolve this, which is where you have gamut mapping take over. This does not mean changing the objective of color creation, it is just slightly enhancing the colors.
We have made it so that you can record with PQ and HLG gamma curves for HDR. When you’re looking at SDR after converting from HDR, we wanted to avoid any color changes with SDR. With these improvements, whether it’s HDR shoots or SDR shoots, any color differences will not be noticeable when viewing them side by side.
The Cinema EOS is ideal for shooting documentaries, so how did you apply these features?
Documentary cinematographers tend to want to blend into the scene, so they are looking for something they can pull out of their bag and start using immediately. With this in mind, we made it so that you don’t need tools to remove the handgrip on the C500 Mark II, for example.
We took customer feedback from the C200 and changed the shape of the dial so now it can be released easily with the touch of a finger. The body is more compact so when you hold it, it fits more securely in your hand. As is often the case with documentaries, re-shoots can be difficult. To ensure you don’t miss anything, we’ve shortened the time it takes the camera to load after turning it on.
We wanted the C500 Mark II to be used for many shooting and operating styles, and to make this flexibility a reality we listened to customer feedback and brainstormed to come up with the best solutions possible.
We would love to have more customers using our products, and we hope to continue improving our products.