How Sony Is Kicking Canon’s Big, Fat Butt
by Chris Poindexter
I could see it coming when they opened up their Hollywood Professional Technology and Support Center, Canon had stars in their eyes. While they were due a little back-slapping for revolutionizing digital filmmaking by introducing the 5D MK II, it was clear that Canon had bigger ambitions than Act of Valor and some of the other movies and TV shows shot entirely or partly on their flagship still camera/movie darling.
Part of the appeal of the 5D MK II for videographers was the price tag. The 5D MK II had a full frame sensor that companies like Red could only dream about at a fraction of the cost. The video the MK II produced compared very favorably with film on the big screen. Anyone could shoot movie quality video. It was HD for the masses and the masses responded by buying Canon 5Ds.
The trend of blending features between still and video cameras is called “convergence” and at Canon the trend started and ended with the 5D MK II. Digital filmmakers begged Canon for a laundry list of goodies including time codes, zebras, RAW video output, ND filters and a host of other video specific features which they hoped they would get in the 5D MK III. What they got was bupkis. They got a camera that was, at best, an incremental upgrade of the 5D MK II but with a price tag that was a $1,000 higher. Instead of listening to their video customers, Canon was rolling out a new line of overpriced big chip video cameras, the Canon C100 and C300. Video pros looked at the price tag of the C series and collectively extended Canon the middle finger. Luckily there was another company listening to Canon customers and delivering both the video, still and convergent cameras Canon customers really wanted. Unfortunately for Canon that company was Sony, a company well known in the broadcast industry which suddenly took an interest in Canon’s market segment.
For professional video shooters Sony fielded the FS-100 and FS-700 super 35mm video cameras at price points less than half of Canon’s big chip video cameras. While they were a little late getting them out, the Sony A7 and A7R full frame cameras are aimed squarely at the disappointed 5D market. Sony also went one better and produced the convergence cameras like the RX10 and RX100.
The RX10 Rocks Video Features
The RX10 is aimed squarely at the low end news market and the high end of the superzoom consumer market where there’s a need to get both still photos and video clips, ironically the very reasons video capability was added to DSLRs in the first place.
There are some significant differences between the RX10 and higher end of the market. First, the RX10 starts with a 1 inch sensor, considerably smaller than Canon’s full frame 5D and smaller even than APS-C and 4/3 sensors. That’s a bigger factor in still images than video because in video mode your full frame camera is cheating to get that big image down to HD dimensions with a trick called line skipping. Video in the RX10 looks better than it should in a camera that size because it uses the entire backlit sensor for video and doesn’t need line skipping. Take a look at the RX10 sample video below from Steve Huff if you can get past Steve’s eye-bleeding intro.
Keep in mind that’s what it looks like on YouTube, on a real monitor that footage would rock.
You also give up interchangeable lenses with the RX10 but you may not miss them with the 8.3 x 24-200mm (equivalent) f/2.8 Carl Zeiss zoom lens that maintains f/2.8 through the entire zoom range. On top of that Sony layers a lot of sweet video features like automatic ND filters and a button to de-click the f-stops on the lens, full manual control and has mic and headphone jacks also with manual audio controls. Other features include built-in wifi and focus peaking. You could make a decent movie with a camera like that, certainly way more control than you’d expect from a camera aimed at the consumer market.
Take a look at the sample video and decide yourself if that video would be good enough for the evening news on your local TV station. Had Canon put just a few of those features on the 5D MK III, video shooters would have been ecstatic, instead they got the C100.
I’m a Canon owner but if I were buying a camera today, I’d be looking at either the RX10 or one of the A7s, which is based on the kind of shooting I do. If it was a run and gun style documentary, I might opt for a camera like the HX-30 instead. As much as I would like to stick with Canon, I don’t like paying such a steep premium for the name and it really bothers me that Sony listens to Canon customers better than they do. I can’t tell whether it’s indifference, incompetence or arrogance that motivates Canon, at the customer level they’re sometimes indistinguishable.
Many video shooters have jumped ship from the 5D MK II to the FS-100. Now that the A7s and Metabones Smart Adapters are here I’m left to wonder how Canon is going to respond, because right now, from where I sit, it’s starting to look like a good old fashioned butt kicking and for the Canon faithful it’s both sad and disappointing.
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Tags: Canon 5D MK III, FS-100, FS-300, RX100, Sony A7, Sony A7R, Sony RX10