Check It Out: Canon’s EOS-1D C

One of the big hits of NAB 2013 was the Canon 1D C. The funny thing about that is the 1D C was teased in late 2011 and impressed in 2012 with Shane Hurlbut and Po Chan’s “The Ticket”, yet launched in March 2013 to very little fanfare. It seems that people didn’t quite know what to do with a DSLR that shot 4K video. (The $12K body-only price tag is potentially intimidating.) Perhaps it was the announcement of an April firmware update that allows it to capture 4K at 25 fps or that more people just got to put their hands on it that the camera finally started to click.

What people are finding out is probably what they probably expected: that the 1D C is a solid basic 4K camera, but it’s also limited in what you can do with it compared to the C500 or the Red Epic. But isn’t that always the case at this stage in the game?

Here are some 1D C pros and cons, based on our experience with renting and demoing the camera. First, the “pros”:

- The 1D C shoots Canon Log (C-Log), an excellent gamma for resolving detail and contrast in low light conditions.

- The camera can see in the dark. Boost the ISO all the way to 6400 and still get a workable noise level.

- 4K to CF cards. (Not available on a camera since the Red One.)

- The camera has the same form factor as a DSLR, which makes it easier to keep a low profile. (And helpful for stealing shots!)

- The 1D C’s 4K image can be graded to seamlessly match that of other 4K cameras like the C500 or the Red Epic.

Some 1D C “cons”:

- The camera records 4K at 4GB/min, and if you’re using the fastest 64GB CF cards at 1000x write speeds, you’re still only recording only 16 minutes of footage. Not a dealbreaker, but it means you’re back to 1000′ film magazine time restrictions (about 11 min per 35mm roll).

- 4K footage is recorded in Motion JPEG, which is an extremely hard codec for PC’s to chew on. You’re going to need some burly processing power or you’ll need to transcode the footage before working with it.

- As great as Canon Log is for low light shooting, it’s terrible for shooting in bright light. Filmmakers have found that dropping the ISO below 400 while using C Log introduces “banding issues from hell”, and stopping down the lens to anything above F/11 causes pixel smear. (Like squinting your eyes in the sunlight.) The only way to circumvent these issues is to use ND filters.

The biggest issues with the 1D C are easily remedied by good planning and properly accessorizing your kit. What’s your experience with the 1D C? Let us know!