Tim Smith of Canon recently did an interview with NAB about their upcoming trade show next month, where he stated the company will be demonstrating brand new 8K cameras at the show. While Canon has been expected to release an 8K camera for some time now, it’s now looking like there’s a good chance it will come in the form of an updated C500.
Despite their relatively sub-par specs, Canon’s C100/C300/C500 cameras have done very well over the last few years, especially with event, documentary, and reality productions. While a handful of narrative films (and even blockbuster films) have used the C-series cameras, the interest in them by filmmakers seems to have dwindled over the last few years.
This is largely thanks to companies like Sony, Blackmagic, and others, who have been offering far more impressive features in far more affordable packages. Canon’s cameras still do very well with rental houses and with certain types of owner/operators, but their camera lineup doesn’t have nearly the foothold that it once did.
For years now, filmmakers have been waiting for Canon to step back up to the plate and release something groundbreaking that could stir the pot in the same way that they once did with their 5D MKII. Although things haven’t looked promising in recent years, if Canon is planning something big – this would be the year to do it.
The 8K C500
Canon recently dropped the price of their C500 camera down to $10,000 from it’s previous price point of $16,000. That’s clearly a sign that a new model is in the works, and we can only assume that Canon would be reserving their 8K recording capabilities for their highest end cinema camera model.
Does it matter though? And do we really need 8K?
That depends on who you ask. Personally, I couldn’t care less about 8K and for the majority of my projects I would still be happy to shoot in HD. Other factors such as color quality and dynamic range are far more important to me, but at the same time there is a specialty market that can benefit from extremely high resolution video.
Productions that are working with highly intricate VFX shots might benefit from the ridiculously high resolution of an 8K camera. It also could be used for aerial work, giving filmmakers the ability to stabilize and re-frame their images in post to a large degree. These are just a couple of examples of scenarios that might call for an ultra high resolution camera, and although I definitely won’t be shooting 8K on the vast majority of my own projects, it is undeniably a feature that will be useful for some specialty productions.
In the interview with Tim Smith, he specifically made mention of 8K “cameras” – plural. Does this simply mean that there will be multiple models of the same 8K camera being demonstrated at the show? Or will Canon be releasing an additional camera that is a step above even the C500 – perhaps a C700 or something similar?
We’ll need to wait a few more weeks until NAB 2016 to see what Canon has up their sleeves this year, but I think it’s safe to say that while an 8K C500 might be an impressive camera, it’s not likely to win back any former Canon users on it’s own.
If Canon really wants to win back more of the market share, they need to be focusing on the lower end. They need to have an answer to cameras like the Sony A7S II or FS5, that offer fantastic quality and innovative features at low price points.
As the last few years went on it seemed less and less likely that Canon would bring anything of substance to the lower-budget market, but if things are going to change for Canon this will have to be the year. It’s safe to say that the company has already lost a massive amount of their filmmaking customer-base, and is running out of time to redeem themselves as many of their competitors are still running circles around them.
Tim Smith vaguely touched on lower-cost cameras in this question:
Q: What are you expecting to be “trending” or very popular at NAB?
A: I think you will be seeing some low-cost high-quality offerings that open up many possibilities for both big-and small-budget productions.
While he didn’t specify that any of those “low-cost high-quality offerings” would be coming from Canon, he also did mention that Canon has some surprises up their sleeves. It’s certainly possible that we will see some new lower-end cameras from Canon, or some refreshes to current models that will aim to compete with Sony, Blackmagic, Panasonic, and others.
Even with all this in mind, I’m not holding my breath. Canon has missed the mark time and time again over the last few years, and while I will certainly be keeping my eye on them at NAB this year, I’m not expecting them to steal the show.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!