NAB 2015 / by Scott Chestnut

I've been attending NAB in Vegas for many years because shooting has always been my first love and I am always looking for what is new in cameras and lights and grip etc.  I almost put a deposit on a Red years ago when it was just a brochure with a red shape on it.  Wish I had.  Glad I didn't.  Not sure which.

This year I did not get too excited about anything.  But I found several things that were interesting and some that were a bit sad.  A couple of things that were interesting were Lite Gear's new Lite Mat which comes in five sizes.  They are extremely light weight and have a high CRI but I was really surprised how expensive they were.   Of course not that expensive when you compare the Lite Mat 3 for $1500 to the kino flo celeb 400q which is over $6000.

Mole Richardson put LEDs in the old zip soft light.  But the LEDs don't light the reflecting surface of the scoop evenly and there's a hot spot at the bottom which seems to ruin what that light was good at in the first place.  Am I the only one who sees this stuff?  Sad.

The Chinese Kinefinity and the Mini Kinefinity looked interesting but the language barrier in the booth presented a problem.  I'd like to try the Mini out myself because the footage looked great and the price was compelling but I couldn't work out a way to set that up in Chinese.  Nee how....

One of the most interesting and saddest things is to see Canon continue to tie itself in knots trying to figure how to change the 5D into a video camera while making it more expensive to buy.  Six years ago I was in the Canon booth standing near two suits wearing Canon name tags who appeared to be members of the Canon ENG camera division.  They were talking about the 5D in hushed tones.  There was a small monitor on a table showing some shots from a couple of television series that were using the 5D.  (At this time there were no DSLRs at NAB.)  Canon's ENG cameras were 2.2 megapixel on a 2/3 inch chip.  The 5D was 21 megapixel on a full frame 35mm CMOS chip which looked amazing - and it sold for a fraction of the price of any of the ENG cameras.  Anyway the two suits were shaking their heads, they couldn't figure what it all meant but they didn't like it. (Some may remember how at that time manufacturers of other cameras were saying the Red camera would never work which clearly it did.)

So this is just my guess based on what I witnessed in the booth that day: the Canon still camera division included HD video recording on the 5D because they could do it and why not.  Their sensor and image processing were great.  Problem was the video division was happy in their news camera mediocrity and once they woke up and realized what was going on they were embarrassed by the big tectonic shift the 5D was part of and they cried foul.  And I think Canon created the Cinema EOS line hoping to cash in on the 5D's movie cred and at the same time slowly roll back the still division's foray into video.  

The new camera they just released, the XC-10, seems like another attempt to prop up the video division.  Here's why:  they compare it to the 5D, but the chip in the XC-10 is a one inch chip - which is tiny.  I saw the image and I thought it was not much better than my iPhone.  The 5D looks amazing partly because of the immense sensor.   I understand that a smaller sensor will allow higher data rates - ie 4K but I can't understand why Canon didn't at least go with micro 4/3 like the GH4.   Maybe they mean it to take the place of a GoPro.  But a GoPro is $2000 cheaper.  Did they have parts laying around?  I'm confused.  My assumption is they are trying to release products that address requests from users, like 4K, without undercutting other products in the line but there is a problem with that thinking and I'll get to that later.

Meanwhile they improved the C300, because the original was clearly being eclipsed by other manufacturers like Sony with the FS7 on up to the F55.  I didn't get to handle the C300 mk 2 myself but I think it's probably very nice.  Still Canon seems to have abandoned the large chip - full frame - state of mind.  I mean of course they did.  The video division was happy with 2.2 megapixels on a 2/3 inch chip, right.

The problem with their complicated machinations is that the 5D proved the still division could make a beautiful HD camera with a full frame chip for a low price and the secret is out.  If you add 4K recording with a robust codec and decent ergonomics to that camera for a reasonable price you would have a great camera but they don't because, well I suppose, it would undercut the video division.  Sony gets it.  Look at the A7S.  It's full frame and it can output 4K for the same price as the Xc-10.   Canon gives us the 1D-C which will record 4K with a windowed sensor but it costs three times as much.  I prefer the Canon look to Sony but Sony is stepping into the gap between the Canon divisions and making a killing with the A7S and the FS7.  But the knowledge that Canon can make a great camera for a very low price but won't do it with 4K in an attempt to prop up the price of their other cameras tends to irk some users.  You see it on the 5D user blogs. 

Maybe the Canon folks don't understand the impact the 5D had and the reason why.  Maybe they think it's all about price but Zeiss didn't start making cine lenses with a Canon EF mount because the 5D was cheap.  They did it because the 5D made an amazing image and people like me loved it.   Was it perfect?  No.  But what it did have is being being eliminated.  I shot a feature with a 5D and while there is moire and rolling shutter, that camera consistently made me look good in spite of those flaws.  The Canon still division caught lightning in a bottle with the 5D.  I've seen material shot with Magic Lantern and an anamorphic lens that easily matched the Alexa.

Here's more, the Panasonic GH4 offers 4K and every other feature the 5D mk III and the 7d mk II do not. The same is true of the Sony A7S.  The video features of the Canon DSLRs are intentionally being dumbed down in an effort to drive motion producers to the cinema EOS line.  The C100 mk II is another example because it can't record at a bit rate that is even equal to the 5D mk II at 50 mbps - they dumbed it down.  What Canon is doing is sad because IMHO they have the best sensor - next to Arri.

It's hard to imagine anyone who would buy the XC-10.   That camera is a bit of a joke really.  I don't think it's even useful for a drone with that dumb lens.  I think Canon should make a direct competitor to the Alexa and the Red and charge whatever they want and get it over with.  I think their sensor technology is good enough.  But the XC-10 just seems a little insulting when they try to spin it to be as good as a 5D.  They could put 8K on it - it's still a joke.  And that is sad.   

Sorry about the long winded post.