With March 2017 being 30 years since the launch of the revolutionary Canon EOS System The Video Mode examines some of the milestone EOS video technologies and features over the years

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In March 1987 Canon unveiled its EOS 650 35mm film SLR and launched the first two lenses in its EF mount range, which replaced the company’s long-standing FD lens mount. At the time many Canon photographers were up in arms over the abandonment of the existing SLR system… but over 80 million EOS camera and 120 million EF lenses later it’s fair to say that the EOS System has been a major success. The EOS System now spans 4K shooting in DSLRs (with higher resolutions sure to come in the future) and the Cinema EOS system of cameras and cine lenses. So, what have been the key EOS video technologies and landmarks and how do they benefit filmmakers?

EOS 5D Mark II – Full HD shooting
The launch of the EOS 5D Mark II in autumn 2008 was the world’s first ever DSLR camera to include Full HD shooting capabilities. The full-frame camera offered full 1920×1080 video shooting at 30fps alongside SDTV recording at 640×480 resolution. Once filming was started from Live View mode filmmakers could also shoot stills in the midst of video recording, with recording commencing again after capture of the final still image. The age of Full HD, and hence better quality footage to edit from, in DSLRs had begun.

EOS-1D C – 4K recording
Almost a bridge between the Cinema EOS and EOS DSLR systems the EOS-1D C arrived in 2012 and was the world’s first ever DSLR to incorporate 4K shooting. It allowed filmmakers to shoot cinema 4K (at 4096×2160) at 24p directly on to CF cards by using a 8-bit 4:2:2 high bit rate Motion JPEG compression scheme. Alternatively, you could record up to 12 hours of footage to external monitor/recorders or simultaneously output a timecode stamped, uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 Full HD signal for off-board recording via a clean HDMI output.

In fact, the 4K-capable EOS C500 digital cinema camera was announced at the same time as the EOS-1D C DSLR, thus allowing filmmakers to choose between two Canon 4K cinema options. Again, the clear benefit here is with cinema 4K resolution as your native resolution you have much more flexibility in the edit. Also, those shooting for big screen projection could get the small format EOS-1D C into shooting situations (such as in cars or for discreet use in public places) that larger cameras simply couldn’t tackle.

EOS-1D C – headphone jack
A major bugbear for filmmakers in some of the earlier EOS DSLRs to offer video shooting was the lack of a headphone jack for monitoring audio. Clearly some compromises have to be made in terms of overall camera size to incorporate a headphone jack but the EOS-1D C saw this welcome feature arrive. It has since been included in other EOS DSLRs such as the EOS 80D and the EOS 7D Mark II models.

Cinema EOS – 4K cinema lenses
Although firmly aimed at broadcast and cinema production the debut of the Cinema EOS System also saw the dawn of the new range of Canon EF Cinema lenses. As Canon’s Cinema EOS cameras also have EF mounts (some are available in PL mount versions) they can also accept a wide variety of Canon EF lenses. The Canon prime and zoom cine lenses include features such as engraved focus and iris markings, great manual control, compatibility with Super 35mm-equivalent cameras, full-frame, APS-C and APS-H cameras and 11-blade apertures for attractive blurring.

EOS 5D Mark III – clean HDMI out
In the spring of 2012 the long-awaited EOS 5D Mark III was announced. Amongst its video features was an HDMI port – this allowed filmmakers to connect the camera directly to an external monitor/recorder rather than relying on the rear LCD screen of a DSLR to frame and view footage.

The EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D C were able to record clean, uncompressed digital video with embedded timecode over HDMI output, whilst simultaneously displaying the video on their rear LCD displays and recording to internal memory cards. Combined with an improved colour sampling of YCbCr 4:2:2 8-bit video, this added efficiency to video editing, with improved colour grading options and enhanced on-set monitoring.

A mirroring function allowed you to be able to see the video on both the rear LCD screen and an HDMI connected device, while still outputting a clean HDMI signal to an external monitor or recorder. Using an external recorder not only enables a video signal devoid of compression artifacts, but also allows a choice of preferred edit-ready codec, for example ProRes 4:2:2, as well as the ability to shoot in a variety of frame rates and bit rates. It also allows a longer record time than the camera’s built-in 29min 59sec limit.

The advantages of external recording include an expanded colour space present when recording out through HDMI, giving improved colour grading capabilities in post-production, and allowing the editing workflow to be smoother with higher quality end results. The timecode features of the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D C allowed the cameras to start and stop recording on an external device via one button press.

EOS C300 – Canon Log
For more advanced filmmakers Canon introduced its Canon Log system within the first ever Cinema EOS camera, the EOS C300 in 2012. Perhaps a tool that’s more easy for experienced filmmakers to use what Canon Log did was to, initially, expand the dynamic range by 800% and provide 12 stops of latitude. In other words, the camera can capture a wider range of exposure and more colour information so footage avoids being over- or under-exposed and contains a wider colour range. The slight downside is more time has to be spent in post-production working on the Log footage.

The Canon Log system has since been updated with Log 2 and Log 3 versions, which have slightly differing benefits depending on what you want to shoot. To find out more about Canon Log for 4K shooting just click here.

EOS 70D – Dual Pixel CMOS AF
With the 2013 release of the EOS 70D DSLR Canon improved the performance of EOS Movie focusing to a level similar to that found in more traditional video cameras, like the Canon Legria range, with the introduction of Dual Pixel CMOS AF. The 70D used a new style of CMOS sensor where all of the pixels on the sensor were used to form the image and also to perform phase-difference autofocus. This was achieved by each pixel on the sensor being composed of two independent photodiodes, both of which carried out both imaging and autofocus roles.

With this new sensor AF in Live View and EOS Movie shooting felt more natural and the tracking AF performance was greatly improved in both speed and smoothness compared to previous systems. In terms of coverage, the AF area available in Live View or EOS Movie shooting was equivalent to approximately 80% of the frame both horizontally and vertically, providing a wide area coverage. Dual Pixel CMOS AF was also designed to be compatible with a wide range of Canon EOS lenses and to work with the majority of EF lenses, including many older optics that were no longer in production.

EOS 7D Mark II – MOV and MP4 formats
In 2014 the EOS 7D Mark II was the first EOS DSLR camera to offer both the .MOV and MP4 video file formats (in Full HD), thus offering more flexibility for showcasing movies on different devices. Whilst the .MOV format had long since been the mainstay native recording format of EOS DSLRs, MP4 is widely considered as a more compatible format for file sharing and playback on devices such as smart phones and tablets, thus offering a convenient alternative when creating videos that are intended for interactive multimedia formats.

EOS 760D – HDR video shooting
The first EOS DSLR to include an in-camera HDR movie mode was 2015’s 760D which, put simply, records alternating exposures at 60fps and then combines them to generate a 30fps movie. By alternating between normal and under-exposed frames the HDR movie mode can compress the brightest parts of a scene and retain more highlight detail – thus delivering movies with a wide dynamic range.

EOS 80D – timelapse movie mode
To quickly show the passing of time timelapses are an essential tool for filmmakers. Starting with the EOS 80D some of the latest Canon cameras, including the EOS 5D Mark IV, also offer special timelapse movie functions that can automatically stitch together stills into a timelapse movie. All you need to do is set parameters for the intervals between each shot, the total number of shots to be taken (up to 3600 on the 5D Mark IV) and how long you want the final footage to be, in other words the playback time for your timelapse clip.

To find out more about shooting great timelapses you can watch The Video Mode’s timelapse tutorial by just clicking here.