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Jan 13

Is the ‘perfect’ video camera tantalisingly close?

Last year, after a tense courtship, the moving pictures industry fell head-over-heels in love with the Canon 5D MK11 and its cousins, despite their well-documented failings as professional video cameras. I jumped on the bandwagon with everyone else and I’ve not regretted it. The 5D takes fantastic stills and is still the only remotely affordable camera that can shoot HD video with a full-frame 35mm sensor. It has a unique aesthetic and, used appropriately, delivers great results – it’s a vey useful tool to have in the box along with a ‘proper’ camera like my PMW EX350.

This year, with the introduction of the Panasonic AF100 (101 in Europe) and the Sony F3, we are tantalisingly close to seeing a one-size-fits-all video camera, able to shoot anything from news to a full-length movie – but we’re not there yet. Both these video cameras have largely overcome the limitations of the HDSLRs with pro sound inputs and little in the way of aliasing and moiré artefacts. However, they are far from the perfect video camera – with poor viewfinders, weak codecs and dodgy ergonomics being the most obvious shortcomings. These cameras also handle like bricks, being difficult to hold, but you can’t put it on your shoulder either. I don’t mind bolting on stuff to my 5D to turn it into a video camera as, to be fair, it’s a stills camera but if I’m buying a pro video camera I don’t want to add anything to make it properly useable, like shoulder supports and viewfinders.

So where’s the Canon large sensor video camera? They have no high-end video cameras whose sales they need to protect. The 5D and 7D will continue to sell well whatever else they bring out. It would be no surprise therefore if they are about to unleash a large sensor video camera that will eclipse both the current Sony and Panasonic offerings and make people think very hard about that RED they plan to buy.

Here’s my wish list for the camera I hope Canon (or just possibly JVC) will announce at NAB this year:

1. APS–C size CMOS sensor optimized for video – no aliasing or moiré.

2. 4:2:2 recording at 25, 50 and 100 Mbits.

3. Compact, shoulder mount form factor, around 3kgs.

4. Plenty of buttons in the right places like an ENG camera.

5. Able to take any lens from PL to FF35mm.

6. Auto focus, face detection and auto iris with compatible lenses.

7. ‘Windowing’ feature allowing use of 2/3” B4 mount lenses.

8. Large, high-resolution colour viewfinder.

9. At least 8 stops of continuously variable ND.

10. All the usual refinements of today’s pro HD cameras like XLR audio, uncompressed HDSDI output, cine gammas, under/over crank, time-lapse, cache recording, etc.

11. Five (or better) megapixel stills capture at the same time as video recording.

12. Standard 15mm rods support built into the base along with Sony tripod plate compatibility.

13. Pro battery mount options like PAG, V-LOK, Anton Bauer.

14. Price without lens around £8-10,000 ($12-15,000).

15. More expensive version with a full-frame 35mm sensor.

Please leave your comments as I’d be interested to know what others think.

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