Friday, September 3, 2010

Canon EXPO but no HDSLR

The whole team is a bit disappointed the Canon EXPO came and went without an HDSLR announcement.  The XF100 and XF105 HD camcorders are somewhat interesting, but we personally feel the camcorder form factor is a dead end road.

But, hey, no better time than now to talk about what we would like to see in a video-focused HDSLR:
  • EF mount - absolutely, positively must use EF mount.  We want to leverage the economies of scale and large existing user base of EF lenses (particularly the L lenses).  We don't want fixed lens cameras, we don't want funky video-specific mounts for which few lenses are made (hello, Canon XL), we don't want cinema mounts for which lenses are rare and carry an extremely high premium (hello, PL).
  • SLR form-factor (even if mirror-less) - we like the handling of SLRs, feel the user interface is much more refined than a camcorder-like body.
  • Low-res, full-scan sensor with crazy high-ISO - we would love a 1920x1080 APS-H sensor, maybe 2560x1440 full frame.  Video output must fully sample the sensor (to fix moir√© pattern).  And the higher the ISO the better.  The flexibility to shoot in very low light can do so much to lower production costs, increase artistic freedom.
  • 16:9 sensor if it lowers cost - in theory a 16:9 sensor should cost less as there is less sensor surface area.  A squatty sensor as wide as APS-H but with a 16:9 aspect ratio could be just what the doctor ordered.
  • No H.264 - please, please, please use a royalty-free codec like Dirac, or at the very least a codec without an MPEG-LA-style "screw the artist" clause.
  • Raw video - but only if you don't screw the artists.  Preferably royalty-free.
  • No exFAT - please don't get suckered into Microsoft's game here (you haven't yet, please keep it that way).  A patented file system has no place in consumer electronics, yet alone in a professional HDSLR.  As Rodney Charters points out, the biggest obstacle to digital adoption is the data storage problem.  And do you know who is really good at data storage?  The open-source peeps, because our software runs the Internet.  Open-source is going to bring a viable, distributed digital workflow to your cameras.  So don't encumber the ability of open-source software to read the files from your cameras in the first place.
  • Fully documented remote control protocol - we want to be able to completely control the camera remotely over WiFi/Ethernet (would settle for USB).  Must have a simple, documented protocol.  Hell, we'll even design a protocol for you if you let us.  Regardless, a simple RESTful API over HTTP would be a good place to start.  You could also toss a web-based UI on for good measure, but the API is far more important than the UI.
  • Open your firmware - might as well ask for everything we want!  Canon, your hardware already fits our needs extremely well.  Most of our pain points can be fixed with firmware, so let us help you fix it.  With all the open-source community has freely done to make your cameras more attractive, it's very unfortunate that you thank us by wasting your engineering efforts on ways to lock us out.
I know, a bit demanding, but we've got work to do! Here's hoping for some exciting HDSLR announcements from Photokina!


  1. Well researched informative post. Thanks for the update.

  2. Full sensor scanning and Raw format video in an HDSLR is impossible in the near future, the camera would need to be bigger to accommodate the processing power involved, Overheating issues would need to be dealt with, theres a reason cameras like the Arri Alexa is the size it is.

    Also dismissing PL lenses for their immense price tag but then advocating L lens is kind of contradictory. Yes there is a big price difference but $1000 is still a lot of money.