Sunday, November 6, 2011

the new (tragic) canon eos lineup for 2012

Let me begin today by sharing a couple things that have bothered me this week. Not the most ideal way to start a blog post but hell, I have some issues and who better to share with than, well, the world.

First things first. Just the other day I was in a local 7-11. I happened to notice Now-n-Laters. I haven't had these delicious candies in quite some time. At least a decade. If you aren't familiar with the candy, they are, or were, typically small packs, usually five, if I remember correctly. They were unusually hard at first bite. After the sweet goodness caused your mouth to salivate for some time, they eventually softened up a bit until they became more manageable and chewy. While in the store I saw that those square candies were packed in a much larger wrapping. Twenty if I had to guess. I decided to buy them. I quickly unwrapped one and threw it in my mouth. My first thought was that they must have been out of date. Why? The childhood flavor was there but something was wrong. It almost immediately softened up in my mouth. I then looked at the wrapper and noticed it was labeled "Now Softer." Boy was I let down. A colleague of mine stated that it may have had to do with children cracking their teeth or something along those lines.

This past week/month was full of events that seemed to get under my skin a bit. I know what you are about to assume but fear not, through some heavy meditation and consumption, I was able to come to peace with my findings.

It had to be sometime mid August when I really started to research the Canon EOS lineup. More specifically, I was trying to find timeline info about approximate release dates of specific products. If you are wondering why I would scouring the internet for such information, the hints are strewn across more than one of my more recent postings. My current camera is aged. And when I say aged, I'm not speaking of decades but a mere few years. In those few years there have been some huge breakthroughs in DSLR technology. Just over three years ago the Canon 5d mark ii was announced. That camera was a world wide phenomenon. For just the fraction of the price of a cinema quality HD video camera, the 5d mark ii would break all the rules. The camera would shoot broadcast quality HD for under $5,000 USD. Soon thereafter, other models and brands would follow suit. It wasn't long until the small point and shoots were sporting higher megapixel sensors along with the high quality HD video recording capabilities.

Basically, I missed the boat by about a year, if I had to guess. At the time I was far from disappointed. My camera has and does treat me quite well. But, after years and technology have come and gone, I have had the need to upgrade. Having noticed how well newer DSLRs are performing at high ISOs was really getting to me. I get nervous shooting above ISO 200 and newer cameras are performing flawlessly in the ISO up into and exceeding the thousands. That has brought me to that timeline I was speaking of. I found that basically, most of the pro level DSLRs in the EOS lineup were soon due for an update. The rumor sites such as Canon Rumors had their speculations. Readers had theirs. It was what it was, speculation. Canon being very tight lipped about new products did not disappoint in their covert operations. On the other hand, I had lots of faith that all signs were pointing towards the release of the long awaited Canon 5d mark iii. The 5dii prices recently dropped. The rumor mill was filled with those, and myself, thinking that it was going to happen. The first 5d was announced in 2005. The 5d two in 2008. The timeline, if holding to the same formula would show that the 5d mark iii was due to be announced any day.

Press Release Number One

The date was October 18, 2011. Like a bat out of hell, out of nowhere, a huge Canon announcement. The EOS 1D X was born. Beating out the other players such as Nikon, Canon stepped up their game yet again. The 1D X to be their newest flagship product. What makes the 1D X so appealing to professionals is that it combines the 1Ds mark iii and the 1D mark iv.

Basically, the 1Ds iii is a 21.1 megapixel, full frame sensor camera geared towards those wanting the best in image quality. The 1D iv is a 16 megapixel, cropped sensor camera. That model is geared for speed as it fires off 10 frames per second.

Canon decided to merge the two technologies into one, even better, beast. The 1D X is bulkier than their predecessors, along with the bigger size comes better and bigger buttons. This camera houses an 18 megapixel full frame sensor. I know what you are thinking, less? Aren't cameras these days supposed to have more and more megapixels? Not quite. While reducing the number of pixels, Canon has also increased each pixels size, allowing it to gather light more efficiently, yielding lower noise than previous sensors. The beast can shoot at ISOs up in the 200,000 range. 200,000! You do recall I said I get nervous shooting higher than ISO 200, right? Another feature that the 1D X is boasting is the ability to fire 12 frames per second (14 f.p.s in JPEG mode). It was designed to have better ergonomics and efficiency. To sum it up, another groundbreaking product in the EOS lineup. Oh, did I mention it also sports a new dual Digic 5+ processor. I almost forgot to mention that its video capabilities surpass the 5dii's. Something about a new codec. I'm not a guru on video but I'm sure it's awesome. One of the biggest improvements in on Canon's archaic AF system. Canon was not known for their DSLRs to focus easily in low light situations but now with the new 61 point AF system, it leads the pack. This baby is due to be shipped in March of 2012 with a price tag of $6800.00 USD.

The October announcement of the Canon 1D X was nothing but promising, in my eyes anyway. I thought that the announcement of the 5d mark iii was imminent. It wasn't too long after that breathtaking announcement, one that would change the game, that there was to be yet another, world changing keynote from Canon scheduled on November 3, 2011. I couldn't wait for that day to arrive. It had to be the day. I mean, the whole Canon shooter community was chomping at the bit, impatiently awaiting the long overdue arrival of the 5diii. November 3rd had to be the day. Rumor sites were saying I was wrong but who were they to tell me? They are what they are, rumor sites. They've been wrong in the past so why should I trust them now?

November 3rd 2011

The keynote was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. The event was being held in California. I searched aimlessly online to find a live feed of the event, only to fail. I couldn't understand why I couldn't find a site that would have a live webcast of this groundbreaking event. Eventually I found I live blogcast scheduled to report the event. I was relieved to say the least. There would be a couple of reporters that had their still camera and laptops ready to stream live still footage of the event in real time. I was sure to be home that day at 5:45, just to make sure I had the site up and ready to see what would be hopefully, bigger than Christmas morning for a five year old. Santa was coming early for me this year.

The list of attendees was impressive. Canon's chairman and CEO Fujio Mitarai was there to announce the new lineup. Others that had important roles were Vincent Laforet, one of my favorite still and cinematic photographers. And, one that needs no introduction was Martin Scorsese. I do have to say that Scorsese's attendance was a bit saddening in my opinion. My faith in the 5d mark iii was fading since I don't think he would have been at an event promoting a camera geared towards the still photographer. I did know that there would be more than one product announced so I still had a bit of hope.

It wasn't long into the show that the new behemoth was announced. The Canon EOS C300. This was not a replacement for any of their previous products but a standalone in the world of video. A new monster of the cinema world. With all of the bells and whistles and some inspiration from the 5d mark ii, the C300 would be the next player in the HD video world. This new camera comes in two options, an EF or PL mount. Obviously, with the EF mount, users could use their current stock of EF lens ammunition. Basically, Canon wanted to come to the plate with a camera that could compete with the likes of the RED, Phantom and the ARRI Alexa. I couldn't hate on that. The world of video recording has been changed and Canon needed to stay in the game and change it for that matter. Cameras like the RED or Phantom can cost upwards of $100,000 USD. With technology quite similar to those that the pros have been favoring for some time, Canon came in doing it with a price tag much much lower. The EOS will retail somewhere around the $20,000 USD mark. If you want to find out some of the specifics on the C300, be sure to check [here]. Again, I'm no video guru, hell the last video camera I think I owned was the PXL2000. In hindsight, had I still owned that childhood camera, I could probably make some really awesome retro black and white videos today. Anyway, I digress. My point is, I'm not going to blow smoke up your butts talking about frame rates and compression when I have limited knowledge on the topic. Although, I have been studying it more and more. I've been toying with the idea of combining, not crossing into, video into my still repertoire.

The Show's Not Over

As my thoughts of any 5d iii announcement fade further and further away, I sit and think more in depth about the awesome features of that 1D X. As I think the blogcast is coming to a close, Canon throws out another curve ball. A whole new series of cine lenses. These are no joke. At first glance you can see that the construction quality is second to none.

They offer a few new bad boys to the block. First off are the primes. The primes are as follows; the CN-E24mm T1.5 L F, the CN-E50mm T1.3 L F and the CN-E85mm T1.4 L F. I'm telling you, just from the looks of these things, they remind me of something that would be put out by Leica or Carl Zeiss. Top notch manufacturing, period. If you are a bit confused about the models and that T, I'll explain. In the video world, rather than measure in F-stops, they measure in terms of T-stops, or transmission for that matter. Basically the T number represents the f-number minus the amount of light lost passing from the front of the glass until it clears the rear end, hence transmission. Those apertures and distances are labeled around the lens in a way that makes it easier for the cinematographer to read and use while on either side of the camera. The primes are EF mount only. They will retail somewhere in the $7000.00 USD range. Yep, you heard correct, seven thousand dollars, each! My 50 1.4 and 85 1.8 were about $500.00 USD, each. Could you imagine that I thought it hurt my pocket paying for those. I couldn't imagine shelling out 15x that much for the same focal length. Hey, I'm sure the optics are second to none. If I had an extra $20,000 lying around, I'd probably buy all three.

Along with the three new primes come a couple of zooms. And these aren't your everyday zooms, they are freaking enormous.

First of the beasts are the CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6 L S(P).  As with the new EOS C300, that is offered in either EF or PL mounts, the new zooms are also offered in both platforms.

After watching Vincent Laforet's newest masterpiece, Mobius, I did some digging to find some behind the scenes video. Without fail, I quickly found some footage of Laforet, who a few years back gained fame from his 5d mark ii film, Reverie.

It wasn't long into the BTS footage that Laforet discussed how well the new lenses performed, in real life. He boasts the construction and image quality that with the new C300 paired with the new lenses, produce. Also mentioned, is how well the lenses produce background compression, a lens trait that not only still photographers, but still and video alike both seek while deciding on which lens to use for any given situation.

I mentioned already how enormous each of these lenses were. Take a look at the BTS video and you see what I mean. In the video you can see this CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S(P). sitting on a coffee table. Soon after Laforet picks up the beast and you get an idea of how large each of these lenses are. Probably not ideal for a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon. You better have support or your hands will get tired real fast.

I mentioned that the primes are not cheap by any means. If you think they were expensive, these two new zooms will be priced close to the $50,000 USD mark. Yes, you hear right, no extra zeroes there. Fifty thousand dollars. Now that's some expensive glass. Hope your piggy bank can hold lots of pennies.

Even More to Come?

Take a look at this camera. Notice there is no other markings but the Canon logo and a "C." There is some speculation about what this camera is or will be. I'm not sure if it was talked about at the keynote in California last week but there were some vague images of this camera in the EOS lineup. Take a look at the image at the beginning of this post. That photo was shown at the big event but nothing mentioned about the camera cleverly hiding behind the C300.

The only thing that is known is that this may be a camera heavy on the video bias but capable of stills. Basically, the opposite of the new 1D X, which is heavy on the stills bias but also a very powerful player in the HD video world. Again, no real announcement of this particular product, but talks of a prototype and what soon to come in 2012. All in all, the Canon EOS line has finally evolved and I'm sure will continue to shock in the upcoming months.

The Bottom (and top) Line

Let's go back, for a second, to the title of this post. Notice I parenthesized the word tragic. My hopes and dreams are not at all shattered by the lack of announcement of a new 5d model. They were but now after careful thought and planning, have decided to go a different route. Follow if you will. First of all, I have absolutely no intentions of buying the C300, my video skills just do not justify such a rig. Next, those monstrosity zooms, well, my bank account just doesn't justify that purchase. Maybe I would rent one just for shits and giggles. Now that I think about it, better not rent one, in case I fall in absolute love of it and end up running from the law for not returning the item to the rental house. I digress. As for those primes, they are pretty aren't they. Who knows, I can dream can't I?

Now, and finally, what to do about that friggin' 5d mark iii. Here's my plan and agree, disagree or agree to disagree, but this has been my personal decision. I'm not saying that anyone should follow my insanity but I think my thoughts have some rationale to them. Ok, the 1D X, although announced, will not hit stores until March of 2012. The 5d mark iii or an equivalent has not been seen. If deciding to go the 1D route, I'd have to pre-order to get one on time. That delivery date is about five months away. That gives me plenty of time to hold out a couple months, maximum, to see if any new news arises about a 5d replacement. Now, after reading tons about the 1D X's capabilities, I'd have to say, my mind is pretty set. Hell, I almost called to place my order this morning. The only thing that could sway my decision is that in the next two months, a 5d mark iii or similar is announced, with a few extra features that the 1D X didn't have at the time of the announcement. If it will only be "pretty close" to the new 1D, well, my mind is made up.

The flagship Canon EOS is pretty bad ass and I do want to be one of the first kids on my block to have (and need) one. Not that it has any significance to do with the article but with the new camera I'm probably going to grab an EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM to add to my arsenal of equipment.

Buyer's remorse already setting in? Who knows, when I finally make the purchase I'll let you know, whichever way I go, how painful it was.

Until next time....