4K for $10K and $20K DSLR Developments

Rarely have multiple announcements of important image capture technology occur in a single day, outside of the standard timeframes of NAB or IBC (sometimes Inter BEE). On 3 November 2011 Red Digital Cinema and Canon announced significant advances in sensor and image recording technology with Red Scarlet-X and Canon EOS C300 camcorders. Both can deliver pretty pictures, but at a very high prices. The Red technology starts at the rock bottom $9,750 where the Canon beauty is just $20,000! These type of systems have been previewed over the last ten years, moving from tape acquisition, magnetic or optical drive, to finally flash drive technology. Their focus is image quality spare none.

Maybe it’s impossible to deliver an affordable compact camera under $2,000 but with the previous Canon EOS 5D and 7D and Nikon D7000, it sure looked like the future was bright: affordable ubiquitous image capture on large sensor formats with interchangeable lenses. This was the holy grail and the definition of a disruptive technology. Instead of building on that legacy, two companies shatter the hearts of it’s users and deliver the impossible dream of $30K systems (you still need lenses, grip gear, archive, and sound equipment).

I find it interesting the Red continues to use it’s REDCODE RAW R3D format, which is still mostly impossible to view on even the most robust desktop system without dedicated PCIe hardware or a transcode to an editing codec like ProRes or DNxHD. Canon took a step backward to MPEG-2 50 Mbps, a codec almost forgotten about in the wake of modern H.264/AVC codecs. Sometimes the best recording mechanism is bypass the decisions in the camcorder and record outboard to an alternative implementation like a AJA Ki Pro Mini or equivalent.

History is setting aside DV, DVCPRO HD, SxS, XDCAM, and P2 for a more available and affordable SDHC or SDXC systems. Canon and Red are stuck with CF cards. The future is coming, but if Canon and Red continue to delivery “affordable” camcorders at $10,000 and above, their decision might be good for a few thousand people, but the millions of folks who want high quality moving images must look elsewhere.

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