Jem Schofield
Jem Schofield

Jem Schofield is the founder of theC47, an online and offline resource that is focused on teaching the craft of video production and filmmaking.

Canon EOS-1D C (4K DSLR Cinema Camera)

April 12, 2012

"this 4K camera has been developed precisely for the needs of the motion picture industry"

While the first generation of Canon HD-SLR cameras such as the EOS 5D Mark II, 7D and 60D have been widely adopted on almost every conceivable type of video production (corporate videos, weddings, episodic television, documentaries and feature films), they were not originally intended for those applications. However, it was clear with those first generation Canon HD-SLRs that image makers loved both their large sensors with selective focus capabilities and their unique form factor for certain types of video production and filmmaking.

With the announcements of the EOS 5D Mark III, Canon's flagship EOS-1D X, and the EOS C300, Canon's first Cinema EOS camera, Canon has entered into their next generation of HD based camera systems. All of these cameras are capable of producing stunning HD images for a variety of projects, but they are not capable of producing content beyond Full HD (1920 x 1080).

While the vast majority of content that will be captured and distributed in the next few years will be Full HD, there are already distribution channels (movie theaters and event spaces with high-end DCI projection systems), that can benefit from having 4K (4096 x 2160), native resolution content. Additionally, native resolutions on screens will only increase as time goes on. In the relatively near future having cameras that can produce content at these higher resolutions will be critical.

As a result of this inevitable "resolution evolution", Canon has now announced their first generation of 4K Cinema EOS cameras. These new cameras include the EOS C500, and the world's first 4K DSLR cinema camera, the Canon EOS-1D C.

The EOS-1D C has been much anticipated since it was previewed at the EOS C300 launch late in 2011, and it is specifically targeted to the ever-growing number of DSLR videographers and filmmakers that are looking to both future-proof their content and provide content at resolutions beyond Full HD.

This article will primarily focus on the 1D C's form factor, design and video features (including its on-board 4K & Full HD recording capabilities and its clean Uncompressed Full HD output). That said, the 1D C has virtually every Canon EOS-1D X still-image capability, but this 4K camera has been developed precisely for the needs of the motion picture industry.

Recording Formats, Frame Rates & Fields of View

While the EOS-1D X and EOS-1D C share the same stills capturing capabilities, the 1D C has many motion capture features not found in its counterpart. It's a true worldwide camera that shoots 4K at 24p, and Full HD at 24p, 25p, 30p, 50p and 60p.

Connected via HDMI to an external recorder, the EOS-1D C can record for as long as 12 hours, limited only by the chosen recording format and media's storage capacity.

Following are explanations of the different resolutions, frame rates, compression schemes and crop-based fields of view available in the EOS-1D C.

4K Capture

The Canon EOS-1D C is the world's first camera that's able to capture 4K (4096 x 2160), 24p (23.976) content directly to on-board CF Cards. This is achieved by using an 8-bit 4:2:2, high bit rate Motion JPEG compression scheme that allows for 4K content to be acquired in virtually any shooting environment, without the need for an off-board, external recorder.

With its extremely compact size (relative to current 4K cine cameras), the 1D C can be mounted in places difficult to access with traditional pro video cameras - on and in vehicles, on jibs, in underwater housings, on airplanes, and used handheld in documentary, episodic television and feature film environments. Coupled with the camera's small form factor, the EOS-1D C allows 4K recording in environments that would normally be impossible or that would require much larger cameras, crews and permits. It also allows filmmakers to be discreet in crowded or hostile shooting environments.

The new EOS-1D C records 4K using a portion of its full-frame imaging sensor, slightly larger than the Super 35mm Crop size. Lens characteristics and cropping during 4K shooting will be very familiar to experienced cinematographers and camera operators. The actual CMOS imaging sensor in the camera is full-frame size (same as the now-legendary EOS 5D Mark II camera), and Full HD video can be captured at both 35mm Full Frame and Super 35mm crop from that full frame area.

When recording 4K to on-board CF cards, each minute of content takes up about 4GB of storage space. Thus, a 64GB CF card can record approximately 16 minutes of 4K content.

While recording 4K content to on-board CF cards, the 1D C can also simultaneously output a time code stamped, uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 Full HD signal for off-board recording - Clean HD via HDMI. This allows for a proxy based workflow in post, with the 4K content being brought in during the finishing process for final output.

Full HD Recording

The EOS-1D C is capable of recording Full HD (1920 x 1080) content to on-board CF cards with a choice of frame rates (24p, 25p, 30p, 50p and 60p), in two distinct fields of view (Full-Frame HD and Super 35mm Crop). Both are recorded as 8-bit 4:2:0 H.264 based Full HD video, and can be recorded at a number of frame rates all the way up to 60 progressive frames per second (which requires no up scaling in post when dropped into a 1920 x 1080 timeline).

  • Full-Frame HD

The standard Full-Frame HD setting on the EOS-1D C takes advantage of the camera's 36mm sensor width, producing the selective focus and field of view that made filmmakers fall in love with the EOS 5D Mark II. This setting is ideal when filmmakers want to take full advantage of Canon's EF and EF Cinema prime lenses to captures that unique and distinct full-frame look.

  • Super 35mm Full HD

When in a commercial, episodic television or feature film environment, the 1D C's Super 35mm Cropping setting matches the motion picture industry's standard imaging format and angle of view. Video recorded using this setting will match the depth of field and angle of view used in virtually all digital cinema cameras on the market today (including the Canon EOS C500 and C300).

The Super 35mm Cropping setting is ideal when using the 1D C in a mixed camera environment, where the other cameras have Super 35mm imagers. It's an excellent choice for shooting crowd-cam or crash-cam shots and for shooting background plates and b-roll footage that needs to match with other Super 35mm based cameras.

Note: Canon's EF Cinema zoom lenses require the Super 35mm Cropping setting, since they designed for the cine industry and do not cover the area of a full-frame D-SLR imaging sensor. Canon's fixed focal length EF Cinema lenses, however, will cover the area of a full-frame sensor.


HD Compression

When recording 1920 x 1080 HD video with the 1D C to on-board CF cards, the file type changes from Motion JPEG (used during 4K recording) to the familiar MPEG4, AVC, H.264 file type used in previous EOS HD-SLRs. During Full HD recording, there are two compression schemes that can be chosen - IPB and ALL-I.

The "IPB" compression scheme (I-nterframe, P-redicted Frame, B-idirectional Predicted Frame), allows for good image quality and a significant reduction in overall file size compared to first generation HD-SLR cameras such as the 5D Mark II, 7D and 60D. It's well suited for recording long, continuous clips (events, run & gun and reality television), and where lots of tight editing and cuts are not as likely to occur in post. When using IPB compression, approximately 15 minutes of Full HD recording produces a 4GB file (though continuous recording file sizes are not limited to 4GB in the 1D C).

The "ALL-I" compression scheme (All Intraframe), processes each individual frame as a complete image, and each frame can be edited with its quality intact. It's ideal for situations where editors expect to make many precise edits to original video files. The trade-off with ALL-I is that file sizes will be about 3x larger than those using the IPB method. A 4GB video file (Full HD 1920 x 1080), will contain roughly 4.5 to 5 minutes of video when recorded using the ALL-I compression method. That said, it still produces relatively small files and is the best choice for projects that will be widely distributed in a variety of formats.

Bit Rates, by shooting mode (approximate):
4k 500 Mbps
Super 35mm / 24p, 25p 90 Mbps (All-I);  30 Mbps  (IPB)
Super 35mm / 30p 90 Mbps (All-I);  30 Mbps  (IPB)
Full HD / 60p, 50p 180 Mbps  (All-I)
Full HD / 24p, 25p, 30p 90 Mbps  (All-I)
Full HD / 24p, 25p, 30p 30 Mbps  (IPB)
720 / 60p, 50p 80 Mbps  (All-I)
720 / 60p, 50p 26 Mbps  (IPB)
SD / 30p 9 Mbps  (IPB)


External Recording & Monitoring

The EOS-1D C is capable of simultaneously recording 4K or Full HD to on-board CF cards and outputting a clean Uncompressed, 8-bit 4:2:2 Clean HD signal over HDMI for external recording. This is ideal for creating an externally recorded HD based proxy workflow when recording 4K internally to the camera, or for externally recording Full HD video when shooting back plates, green screen and other footage where the additional data and chroma sampling is needed.

The 1D C's uncompressed output can also be used for dual monitoring purposes. This way a camera operator can use the camera's built in LCD screen while an AC/Focus Puller can use an external monitor. Additionally, if the external monitor used has a loop through feature, the signal can be pushed to a third "video village" monitor for producer, director and client monitoring.

Canon Log Gamma

While most of today's video cameras are capable of creating pleasing in-camera looks, the ability for a camera to capture images that are "tuned for post" is essential. When working on films, commercials, music videos and any other projects where post-production corrections to create a very specific and repeatable look are expected, latitude is king. The camera needs to retain the greatest dynamic range possible.

With the EOS-1D C, Canon has given filmmakers and cinematographers an affordable way to capture images that contain a wide latitude and high dynamic range but without the need for dramatic workflow changes and huge storage requirements. This is accomplished with Canon Log Gamma.

First introduced in the Canon EOS C300, Canon Log Gamma allows users to get the most out of their EOS-1D C footage when recording in any of its various formats and resolutions (4K and Full HD), and when recording internally or externally. Canon Log Gamma is not a RAW recording option, but it does bring some of the benefits of RAW to colorists who want the most amount of information to work with when grading footage.

Canon Log Gamma allows the cinematographer to record images in 4K or in Full-Frame or 35mm crop HD, but with a higher dynamic range, lower, "flatter" contrast and subdued sharpness. This allows more image information to be retained for color correction and visual effects.

When acquiring content that will be graded in post and/or when shooting with other Canon Cinema EOS cameras (all of which have Canon Log Gamma), shooting in Canon Log provides the greatest freedom to create a consistent and repeatable look in post.

View Assist

Unlike traditional video gamma settings that are meant for immediate broadcast, recording in Canon Log Gamma creates images that initially appear underexposed and with flat contrast. In a log gamma, correctly exposed images look incorrectly exposed - appearing dark and flat, while also having milky blacks. This is because images shot in log gamma need to go through a color correction or grading stage before looking "correct" to the viewer. It is simply recording the maximum image information possible, rather than making a pleasing image to the eye.

As a result, when shooting with the 1D C in Canon Log Gamma, the image is harder to evaluate when using the built-in LCD screen. People unfamiliar with log may tend to expose their images incorrectly if striving to create an image that looks correct to the eye. To prevent this common problem, Canon has included a View Assist feature, which displays an on-screen preview of how the image might look once graded in post (using the "Standard" picture style). By turning on View Assist, the LCD of the 1D C shows an estimated "correct" image, while still recording a truly flat log picture to the CF card. This is very helpful when lighting, so that contrast ratios can be judged more accurately. It also helps the user who needs to focus by eye, as contrast returns to the LCD previews.

The View Assist function is also ideal to show clients, actors or others on the set how the image might look once color corrected and graded. That said, when using Canon Log Gamma it is important that filmmakers still use traditional light metering techniques and histograms to judge exposure. They shouldn't use the View Assist function to make critical judgments regarding exposure of their final images.

Time Code

The Canon EOS-1D C offers SMPTE standard Time Code functions, and can be set to record either Rec run or Free run based time code in the standard HH:MM:SS:FF (Hours:Minutes:Seconds:Frames), format. Options for Drop-frame or Non Drop frame are also available.

Sound Recording

Audio on the EOS-1D C can be recorded internally, using either the built-in microphone, or via external microphones using an industry-standard stereo mic jack. Sound levels can be controlled either automatically, or manually over a 64-step, user-adjusted range. Like the EOS-1D X and EOS 5D Mark III, the EOS-1D C offers silent adjustment of audio (or exposure) settings with its touch-sensitive Quick Control Dial.

Noteworthy on the EOS-1D C is a built-in headphone jack, simplifying greatly the task of monitoring sound during recording or playback. This is especially useful when combined with the silent control feature for adjusting audio levels during actual recording.

Note: It's still recommended that when doing documentary, commercial, episodic television and feature film production that the camera's audio only be used for reference to sync with separate production based sound for projects.

Full-Frame CMOS Sensor

The EOS-1D C's full-frame (24 x 36mm), 18.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor is engineered and optimized for both stills and motion capture. Combined with the camera's Dual DIGIC 5+ processors, along with the EOS-1D X, it offers the best noise reduction and high-ISO image quality in the entire EOS system (as of April, 2012), and real-time compensation for Chromatic Aberration. This means greater freedom and flexibility when shooting under different lighting situations (especially in low light conditions), and the reduction of light output needed when working on certain projects.

he sensor system is also engineered and designed to all but eliminate the moiré issues that have occasionally been a problem with previous DSLRs when used for motion capture. This allows filmmakers to worry less about what they can shoot, or what kinds of patterns are in the clothes a subject is wearing, and have confidence that their footage can make the cut.

Form Factor and Functionality

The EOS-1D C is based on the same platform and form factor as Canon's flagship full-frame camera, the EOS-1D X. As a result, the EOS-1D C is both small and built like a tank. The camera has a magnesium alloy body and weather sealing that is designed to hold up in the most demanding shooting conditions. It also contains a new Ultrasonic Wave Motion Cleaning (UWMC), self-cleaning sensor unit. This new system greatly minimizes the chances of dust particles on the sensor.

The back of the camera contains a Quick Control Dial that is touch sensitive with a Silent Control feature that allows users to silently control shutter speed, aperture, ISO speed, exposure compensation and manual sound levels, all while recording. This is ideal in motion capture environments where production sound is being recorded.

Due to the camera's small DSLR-based form factor, videographers and filmmakers will be able to use the 1D C to shoot 4K and Full HD in scenarios where larger camera systems either cannot go or that would require larger crews and additional equipment to achieve the same shots. Some applications include shooting in hostile environments, in vehicles, underwater and in hard to reach locations where minimizing the equipment needed is essential to the production. And, it allows the continued use of most of the rigs, accessories and third party monitoring solutions that HD-SLR filmmakers may already have.


As the world's first 4K DSLR cinema camera, the Canon EOS-1D C creates a new category. A true hybrid DSLR camera system that is capable of recording stills, 4K and Full HD content (in Full-Frame and Super 35mm fields of view), to on-board CF cards and Full HD Uncompressed content to outboard recorders.

Due to its unique form factor, and ability to use all of Canon's traditional EF and EF Cinema lenses, the EOS-1D C will be capable of going where few 4K cameras have been before and will allow videographers, filmmakers and cinematographers to find new ways to capture images. It will be exciting to see what image-makers will create with this new Cinema EOS camera!

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

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