Canon booms with pro camera line

Scorsese touts lightweight, wide-range camera for showbiz

Camera maker Canon is making an aggressive move into Hollywood, unveiling its first-ever line of professional cameras and lenses for movie and television shooting.

Beneath an image proclaiming the slogan “Leave no story untold” and in front of an invited audience of camera and tech pros from around the world, Canon worldwide topper Fujio Mitarai took to the stage at the Paramount Theater on Thursday to announce the company’s Cinema EOS line and paired lenses. Mitarai promised the system will be compact and lightweight but able to capture in a very wide range of light levels, permitting natural-light shooting in conditions from full sunlight to moonless night.

The first offering in the line, the Cinema EOS C300, will be available at the end of January. List price is $20,000 without a lens. First available camera will come with an EF lens mount, permitting it to use the 70 lenses in Canon’s EOS line. A version with an industry standard PF mount will be available in March.

Tim Smith, manager of pro markets for Canon, told Variety the camera’s light weight and flexibility should make it ideal for TV production, but will likely appeal to feature filmmakers as well.

Mitarai said, “I stand here to request you to welcome us into the community here in Hollywood,” then unveiled the Cinema EOS camera, which looks like a mid-sized video camera. After showing several extended excerpts from pics shot with the Cinema EOS system, each chosen to show the capabilities of the camera, Martin Scorsese took the podium. The filmmaker ended by saying, “I believe these new tools from Canon allow a much closer relationship between filmmakers and the subjects they are filming than ever before, so I thank you for that. Mr. Mitarai. Welcome to Hollywood.”

Among the pics shown was the trailer for Bryce Dallas Howard’s upcoming directorial effort “When You Find Me.”

Mitarai also announced the opening of the Canon Hollywood Professional Technology and Support Center at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood, which includes a full showroom, repair services and education on its new products.

“We’re making a significant commitment to the film and television production industry,” said Eliott Peck, senior VP and GM, sales for Canon’s Imaging Technologies and Communications Group. “We’re in this business and we’re going to stay in this business.”

The C300 camera offers 12 stops of dynamic range through all ISOs and features a new CMOS sensor designed specifically for video. New design is intended to cut down on the “jello” artifacts that plagued the Canon still cameras when they were used for professional video. A panel of d.p.’s who’d worked with the system praised its ease of use, long battery life, light weight and the “filmic” look it delivered with little effort.

The Cinema EOS line also boasts full iPad integration, with all its controls available through an iPad app. Camera hasn’t been tested in 3D production but was designed with side-by-side 3D shooting in mind. It can do up to 30 frames per second at 1080p or 60 fps at 720p.

Canon’s Digital SLR cameras have become popular for shooting movies and television despite problems capturing rapid motion due to the design of their shutter. The footage shown at the Paramount unveiling didn’t show such obvious “jello” artifacts.

Masaya Maeda, chief exec for image communication products operations for Canon, said the company would be an active participant in various groups and forums in Hollywood. Maeda said it was his idea to add video capabilities to the Canon EOS cameras in the first place, but the company was surprised at the warm response the DSLR received in the movie business.

Company also announced it is developing a new EOS digital still camera with the ability to record 4K video at 24 frames per second, a feature clearly aimed at professional moviemaking.