The question I’m addressing in this article is simple: Do you really have to pay $12,000+ to shoot 4K, or can you make do for cheaper?
Why is the Canon 1DC what it is?
First, let’s understand which market the Canon 1DC caters to:
“The Canon EOS-1D C digital SLR camera was designed in response to the needs of filmmakers, television producers, and other high-level motion-imaging professionals,” stated Yuichi Ishizuka, executive vice president and general manager, Imaging Technologies & Communications Group, Canon U.S.A. “Not only does it combine 4K and Full HD video capture with a convenient design, its use of dual CF cards also offers an efficient workflow compatible with today’s post-production requirements.”
It’s not for the Canon 5D Mark II indie crowd that started this story. The fact that this camera is primarily a stills DSLR shouldn’t be lost on you.
It is a DSLR for stills with the ability to record 4K video. The major industries where both stills and video can be pulled off by a one-man crew are:
- Corporate videos
Here’s the deal, though: None of these industries require 4K video. If at all you find a highly demanding client who wants 4K, that client can afford something like the Red Epic, so why bother with a DSLR? By the time these industries ‘might’ need 4K, newer cameras will have hit the marketplace.
For filmmakers and television producers, the ability to pull of stills isn’t important. In fact, a good photographer with a cheap APS-C camera can do a better job of capturing various angles than a camera married to a tripod and filmmaking gear.
Therefore, I find it stranger than strange why Canon chose to go this route (DSLR formfactor) – were they compelled to? Did they stumble upon the fact that their 1DX could be re-engineered for 4K? If you have ideas or information regarding this, please tell me.
Anyway, it doesn’t help to speculate. It is what it is.
Which is? The Canon 1DC is a weird-looking 4K DSLR that supposedly shoots great 4K – in an APS-H crop sensor (Super35) mode. 1080p can be shot in full frame as well as in crop sensor mode.
In fact, this camera can go where a Canon C500 can’t. This makes it a great companion crash-cam, or whatever. That’s great. But what about using it by itself?
The initial reports coming in have all claimed the Canon 1DC shoots great 4K video in Log Gamma mode. Well, when has a negative review come in before the masses have had access to something? Having said that, I don’t expect the video to be below par, and in fact I have high hopes that this camera will deliver imagery similar to an FS-100 or so, with four times the resolution.
From my article on Dynamic Range of cameras in 2013, you can see that at best the Canon 1DC can reach 11 stops, assuming the Canon Log Gamma is out of this world. If it is like every other log gamma, then the dynamic range should be about 10 stops. The following videos show the lack of dynamic range quite clearly:
From these videos, I can attest that the dynamic range is far lower than what I get with a Canon C300. It looks like video from a Canon 7D/60D/T2i.
So much for film-like 4K video. This camera isn’t it.
Is there an alternative?
Well, if the 4K video from the Canon 1DC looks like DSLR video from a Canon 7D (it doesn’t have full frame 4K so we can’t compare it with the 5D Mark III or the 1DX), then can we find a cheaper 4K alternative that shoots ‘video’?
There is one, and it’s called the JVC GY-HMQ10, a camera that was released almost two years ago and is flying under every camera porn radar out there. Here’s a whiff of what it can do:
How does the HMQ10 compare with the Canon 1DC? Here’s a table:
|JVC HMQ10||Canon 1DC||Better|
|Diagonal Crop Factor||3.92||1.00||Canon|
|4K Resolution||3840 x 2160||4096×2160||Canon|
|Max Frame Rate at 4K||60p||24p||JVC|
|ISO Range||18dB (3200?)||50-51,200||Canon|
|Codec||H.264 8-bit 4:2:0||MJPEG 8-bit 4:2:2||Canon|
|Color||Rec. 709||Canon Log Gamma||Canon|
|Data rate||144 Mbps||546 Mbps||Canon|
|Dual Recording (Proxy)||No||Yes (second CF)||Canon|
|Continuous recording (AC)||Unlimited||12 hours||JVC|
|Media||SDHC x 4||CF||Canon|
|External monitoring 4K||4xHDMI 4K||HDMI 8-bit 4:2:2 1080p||JVC|
|Lens Focal Length Range||42.5-425mm||14-400mm||Canon|
|Built in IS||Yes||No||JVC|
|Audio Inputs||XLR x 2||3.5mm x 1||JVC|
|Audio Specifications||16-bit 48 KHz AC3/AAC||16-bit 48 KHz LPCM||–|
|LCD||920K 3.5″ Touch||3.2″ 1020K||JVC|
|Viewfinder||260K Color||Optical Pentaprism 100%||JVC|
As I’ve written in The Battle for Cheap 4K: A Red Scarlet vs Canon C300 vs 1DC vs Sony F5 Price Comparison, the Canon 1DC when fully kitted up can run up to $18,000 or more. A fully kitted up HMQ10 won’t cross $6,000. That’s one-third the price!
I can’t imagine shooting on the Canon 1DC in run-and-gun mode. Coupled with an audio recorder and a basic rig you have the equivalent of camera Frankenstein, with ergonomics from hell itself. To know more about my thoughts on DSLR ergonomics, click here.
The HMQ10 also is miles ahead in the audio department. If you’re a one-man band (Weddings, Events, News, et al!!) you need one camera that can do it all. And, this baby can do 4K at 60fps! There’s just no contest.
However, to be fair to Canon, the 1DC is not for the one-man band trying to make a living. It’s for the guys who’re into “high-end motion picture, television production and other advanced imaging applications”, in Canon’s own words in their official press release.
The specs of the Canon 1DC certainly looks attractive to that crowd, if the tweets and posts so far are any indication. Let’s face it, there isn’t another DSLR that can shoot 4K. It’s a new thing. In fact, if a 1DX can shoot JPEGS at 14fps in full frame mode, surely the engineers can produce 24fps of it in APS-H mode, as JPEGs rewritten as MJPEG – just about. We should appreciate this effort on their part. I’m not a fan of the image quality vs price point of this camera, but I must thank Canon for this effort.
They did something similar with the 5D Mark II and look what that did to their competitors. Today, equations have changed, but Canon has managed to stay one step ahead and this time hopefully they’ll stay ahead.
Is it worth it?
So, it’s time to answer the question this article is meant to answer: Do you really have to pay $12,000+ to shoot 4K, or can you make do for cheaper?
Assuming the image quality of the 1DC is similar to the JVC HMQ10, or even marginally better, then the reasons one has to prefer it are:
- APS-H Super35 Depth of Field
- 4:2:2 chroma subsampling in MJPEG – directly ready for broadcast or cinema
- Excellent line-up of lenses
- Ability to create HD proxies on the second CF card on the fly
- Probably the best weatherproofing on cameras and lenses today
When you say it like that…Yes, the Canon 1DC is definitely worth it. It is peerless in the 4K world. In fact, it is the 4K DSLR world. It is the cheapest 4K camera that will tickle a high-end professional’s fancy. Not too high-end, mind you (they already have the Epic, C500 and the F55), but ‘just about there’.
Are you one of the professionals who need both 4K video and 18MP stills? Then please write back and let me know how you feel about the Canon 1DC. How do you plan on using it? Do you have any videos to share?