By site editor Dan Chung:
The Canon EOS-1D C has finally gone on sale and users are getting the chance to put production models through their paces. The camera is essentially a souped-up version of the company’s EOS-1D X, with the addition of 4K Mjpeg recording and a headphone jack. That makes it the highest specified stills/video hybrid DSLR camera currently on the market – able to shoot not only 4K but excellent 1080P HD video as well. It also has a clean HDMI output which can be used to feed HD (not 4K) to an external recorder (it is currently the only Canon DSLR to do this although the 5D mkIII will have this feature enabled via firmware later this year).
BBC freelance cameraman Johnnie Behiri has been testing the camera’s video side and his initial findings are very positive. He says: “In my opinion this is the first HDSLR camera that can shoot full HD video in a quality that can rival any good HD camera out there.”
The first clips he has uploaded are shot in S35 mode (cropped mode), 1080/25P using ALL-I H.264 compression. ISOs ranged from 320 to 1250 ASA. Picture profile was Neutral and no colour correction or sharpening was applied in post. It is hard to tell how good the actual image is when playing on Vimeo but thankfully Behiri has made the high quality Prores version available to download (from the Vimeo page). The image quality certainly looks good. Behiri notes that the jacket the subject is wearing would be a challenge to most cameras, creating the moire effect.
He says he will try to upload more test footage at different frame rates in the near future. In the meantime, this is his comparison of the camera’s strengths and weaknesses:
-Good battery life
-There is next to no moire
-Very good picture quality in S35 mode (if you are after good HD footage)
-Very good picture quality in 4K mode (As seen on a big screen projected in 4K)
-Headphone socket -Silent audio level adjustment during recording -Canon Log picture profile (similar to C300/C500)
-The smallest camera with a large sensor to record 4K available -Very good low light image quality
-Only 8 bit colour -Currently only 24P in 4K recording (no 25P for PAL area shooters)
-While shooting a flat color surface the picture can get a bit “mushy” (more experimentation is required).
-Price. For many the 1D C is expensive. For others the price is acceptable since this camera is like a ‘Swiss army knife’. You get an excellent photo camera, 4K and Full HD for €9000 net).
For me, the big question is whether this camera will actually prove popular with shooters. It still has quirks associated with DSLR shooting. There is no built in EVF so a LCD loupe or external EVF/monitor are needed for precise focus; there are no built-in XLR sockets for audio; there are no built-in ND filters; and there is no SDI connection (only HDMI). I also believe it is still impossible to magnify the image on the camera LCD screen to check focus while recording. It also doesn’t have an option to shoot RAW video at a time when other cameras offer it (although for news and documentary shooting this is probably less of a problem).
Despite all this, Behiri is correct to point out that the EOS-1D C offers a feature set that is not available in any other camera at its price. If you need the best news and sports photographer’s stills camera around, combined with 4K video and a relatively small form factor, then this camera is very possibly for you.
One last thing – Stills and video?
Canon has made much play of the fact screen grabs are of high enough quality to print when shooting 4K video on the EOS-1D C. While this might be OK under some circumstances I don’t think that this is something I would want to do regularly with the camera. That’s because for news and documentary video work I usually set shutter speed at 1/50th of a second for film like motion. For stills this usually results in too much subject blur and for action photos shutter speeds need to be much higher. You could set a higher shutter speed for video and get sharper stills – but this would make the video look less smooth and that is not a look many people like.
Focus for stills is also extremely critical and the EOS-1D C’s excellent AF system – which guarantees sharp shots when used in dedicated stills mode – is disabled when you shoot video. So for me, for now, the idea of simply grabbing 4K video frames is just too much of a compromise unless there is really no alternative.