Canon Expo NY 2015: Epic Camera Tech

canonexpo_expo entrance

We just returned from Canon’s once-every-five-years expo, which was held at the Javits Center in New York City.  It was a two day, invite-only event that was absolutely amazing, and quite literally an overload of amazingness. 

In addition to the exhibits they had, showing off the latest technology, there were also tons of top-notch seminars being held.  Many of them were right up our alley as content producers, and we signed up very early to make sure we had a seat.  Sure enough, all of the seminars were quickly booked solid more than a week before the event took place (although many of the seminars ended up having about half the seats empty… more on that in a bit).

 

When we arrived at the Javits Center, it was clear Canon had pulled out all the stops.  Entering the expo, we traversed a long, intensely Canon-red corridor.  Above our heads were several massive double-sided screens playing various Canon content on a loop, hinting at what we were about to see.  Once in the center hub of the expo, you could then see all the zones that branched out from there like spokes on a wheel: Imaging Journey, Stadium, Film Production, Professional Printing, Enterprise, Home, Customer Experience, Advanced Industry Solutions, Medical/Wellness, University and then the Seminar Rooms.  Naturally the first zone we visited was Film Production.

canonexpo_expo map

Ooh, the goodies here. Not only did they have every camera in Canon’s catalog that could shoot video (including the C100 MkII, C500 and 7D), but also some models that haven’t been released yet.  ALL were complete, hands-on, please-play-with-me displays. Verdict: The Canon C300 MkII is basically a totally new camera, not just an incremental change.  It’s a thing of beauty, and you’re going to see more and more serious filmmakers using it.  They also had two detailed sets, complete with custom studio lighting and actors.  All around each set, there were a multitude of cameras, along with event staff there to answer questions.  The “jungle” theme set had the current (or soon-to-be-released) cameras on display.  After chatting with one of the Canon staffers on the C100 MkII vs the C300 MkII and Sony FS7, I found out that he doesn’t work for Canon… he’s a filmmaker, and they hired him to be there to answer questions as it relates to those cameras and film production.  This allows conversation to go much deeper than the typical questions on frame rates and dynamic range stats (which you can find on any decent gear website anyway), and more into the practical application in real-world situations. What a brilliant move to have actual filmmakers and people in the industry there on hand.

 

They also had a 1000mm lens (mounted to a C500) trained on a stuffed parrot on the opposite side of the set. That’s one sweet lens.  We don’t shoot (or haven’t yet!) wild animals on safari so don’t need that kind of zoom, but BOY would that be a nice addition to the collection.

canonexpo_zoom-crop-u9256

There was also a boxy-looking camera with a long lens pointing inside of a pitch-black tent.  With my naked eye, I could just barely make out the rough shape of… something.  I glanced up at a large monitor hanging over my head and saw a stuffed lion, sitting on a plaid blanket.  It had a little bit of grain, but considering it was just coming out of the camera and hadn’t been touched up – WOW.  The camera – which is slated for a release later this year – is capable of 4,000,000 ISO.

 

That’s not a typo.

 

It can show an image in as little as 0.0005 lux.  I would love to shoot a moonlit scene with that bad boy!

canonexpo_8k set

The other set on the opposite side had 3 cameras trained on a scene with a tailor in a shop.  It was clearly modeled after something you’d find on Tailor Row in London (the guy knew what he was doing, so I can only summarize Canon actually hired a top tailor to create suits all day).  All 3 cameras were 8k, with 8k reference monitors right next to each.  I played with one of the cameras, zooming slowly in all the way to the work he was doing on set, and it was just incredible.  Note: the zoom control they had on this thing was the SMOOTHEST we’ve ever used.  I literally let out an audible “Ooooooh…” when I gently pushed right with my thumb on the rocker.  The good news: it’s already on the market – for a cool $2100 on B&H.

 

I would have loved to see a 4k image side-by-side with an 8k image.  I have a suspicion that from a normal viewing distance, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  If you go up to the screen with a magnifying glass (which Canon actually encouraged you to do, by providing the magnifying glasses!  Image below of 8k content under magnification), you would certainly be able to see it… but who does that?

canonexpo_8k mag

The vast majority of movie theaters who have switched to digital are projecting in either 2k or 4k.  Can you tell the difference between the two?

Maybe.

After 4k, how much more detail can you get without everyone in the audience having some kind of hyper-advanced ability to see incredibly small details at a long distance?  No one is going to the movie theater with binoculars.

 

What we hope to see from this delve into 8k already is the continued (and accelerated) drop in 4k camera prices.  We would rather see higher ISOs, higher bit rates and the like for increased low-light performance, and happily Canon is doing that.  Is 8k and even 12k the future?  Sure, but honestly beyond 8k how are we going to see a difference?  We’re rapidly approaching the maximum we can discern as human beings, not aided by magnifying glasses at home and binoculars at the theater.  The practical use for such high resolution is very small.  Sure, you can now do even more detailed 360 degree video panoramas with these, but the race for 24k resolution at some point will be silly. For film production, it is difficult to see what the need for that much resolution is.

 

We also tried some stellar virtual reality (and some “mixed” reality) and the quality they are able to achieve now makes it clear that it’s the next big thing.  The frame rate, quality as well as the complete coverage of a scene (including directly above and below, with no blurring a-la Google Street View) has come leaps and bounds in only the last 3-4 years.

canonexpo_ar

All the seminars we attended were great, and – knowing they were all booked solid – we made sure to get to each at least 10-15 minutes early to get a good seat.  As a result, we ended up getting in the first or second row almost every time (the only reason we didn’t always get the front row is because there were always mystery “Reserved” signs on those seats… although no one ever came to sit there.  Kind of strange).

 

As the seminars started, I looked around the room and noticed only 30-50% occupancy in all sessions but the biggest names.  Here’s the “problem,”: the expo itself with all the tech was likely more than people were expecting, and rather than a good seminar, people preferred to get hands-on with amazing tech that – in most cases – wasn’t even out yet.  Canon was a victim of their own success in that way. The 3 most-packed seminars in order (that we attended) were:

 

1)      Barbara Corcoran – “How I Turned a $1,000 Gift into A Billion Dollar Business”

2)      Scott Kelby – “How to Present Like A Pro”

3)      Josh Linkner – “Enabling Creativity: Why Does Creativity Matter Most”

 

The one we looked forward to most was none of these (sorry, Barbara!).  While the others were GREAT and we got loads of really solid content out of them, we were beyond stoked for Devin Graham’s session: “Beyond Viral: Creating Innovative Content That Keeps Viewers Coming Back.”

 

Aside from being huge fans of his work for the last several years, he gave lots of advice and laid out step-by-step (or as much as he could in an hour) a no-holds-barred look at how he got to where he is now. If you don’t know who Devin Graham is (his YouTube name is Devin Super Tramp), then please open up YouTube and do a quick search.  You’re welcome for introducing you, and we also apologize at all the lost productivity as you binge watch not only his main channel content, but his second channel that is dedicated to all behind-the-scenes.

 

His session must have only been about 30% full, which blew my mind.  His content is aimed at a younger demographic than the majority of people walking around the show, but there were certainly a large number of content creators who REALLY missed out by not attending Devin’s talk.  The bonus about having lower attendance?  More time to chat with him one-on-one after the session, and we even got him to autograph our Glidecam!  Woohoo!

canonexpo_devin

We had some pretty wild auto correct situations as we furiously typed on our iPad during all the sessions and can’t wait to implement what was learned!

 

Special thanks to Canon for inviting us – we’re looking forward to what the 2020 expo has in store!

 

-Chris

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