Canon Mysterious X Camera – Preview

Two things were ubiquitous at this year’s Broadcast Video Expo, 3D and the Canon 7D. There was even a stand doing its best to exploit both trends, with a stereo 7D rig. Over on the Canon stand itself though, it wasn’t just the 7D that was causing the buzz…

In a glass case, in one corner of the Canon stand, was a prototype of their new file based camera. First announced just a couple of weeks ago, it will use a new MPEG2 codec to record full HD (1,920 x 1,080) at up to 50Mbps, 4:2:2, to industry standard MXF files…in other words it will meet broadcast standards! Although this announcement seemed to go unnoticed in some quarters, in others, speculation was rife, with some going as far as to suggest that Canon is about to release a full frame sensor Red killer for less than the cost of a packet of chips.

The truth is a little more prosaic. The camera in question is NOT going to be full frame. Nor will it be a RED killer. However, if it delivers on what it appears to be promising, at the right price point, it might give several manufacturers cause for concern.

Early indications suggest that it will contain three newly developed (almost certainly 1/3″) sensors with a native resolution of 1920×1080. These are likely to be true progressive scan chips that offer a variety of frame rates, as Canon are well aware that in some quarters, their ‘F’s were received with…’F’s.

These sensors will be complimented with a new, fast lens and together are expected to deliver outstanding low light performance. It’s unclear whether this lens will offer true manual control or not, though it appears that it may have a dedicated aperture ring. There are mixed opinions about whether or not the lens will be interchangeable.

Canon are promising their codec will deliver high quality audio. It’s unknown whether this means the provision of proper 24 bit 96KHz capture, or the now ancient 16 bit 48Khz audio that plagues so many cameras. What is clear though, is that it will have a pair of (presumably phantom powered) XLR sockets. It also seems likely that there will be two versions of this camera, one with and one without timecode (and genlock).

As for storage, interestingly, the camera appears to have two SD card slots, opening the door (pun intended) to high quality solid state recording for the masses.

All of which leaves the two big questions…when & how much?

Unlike some manufacturers, Canon don’t normally preview products unless they are close to completion. How close is the 64,000 dollar question…or possibly the several thousand pound question… Part of Canon’s announcement included the fact that they are working with all of the major NLE software manufacturers (apart from Sony…can’t think why…) to ensure complete compatibility of their codec from day one. This suggests fine tuning of a product that’s close to completion. Bearing in mind that it’s NAB in April and IBC in early September, one might reasonably expect that a finished product will appear at one or more of these shows, which means that retail versions of this mysterious X camera camera could be just months away.

The truth is out there…

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2 Replies to “Canon Mysterious X Camera – Preview”

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