Canon is serious, but cautious, about introducing 4K video in consumer cameras

Canon EOS 80D
Jessica Lee Star/Digital Trends
Once the name in DSLR video, Canon has relinquished the throne in recent years without much indication that it really cares. Competitors, namely Sony and Panasonic, have stepped in with powerful and compact mirrorless cameras that offer advanced 4K video options on a range of mirrorless cameras that compete directly with Canon’s DSLRs (and its nascent EOS M mirrorless series). Meanwhile, Canon has pushed deeper into the professional video market with its Cinema EOS line, while its consumer cameras have lagged behind.

However, Canon recently shed some light on why it has been slow to adopt 4K, saying that it “obviously” is looking at bringing the feature to lower-end cameras, but it is taking a cautious approach.

“Introducing 4K to the entry-level is linked to the 4K TV market,” Canon executives Go Tokura and Yoshiyuki Mizoguchi told DPReview in an interview at CP+ 2017. “How quickly that takes off and penetrates will tell us how and when we should introduce 4K to more affordable cameras.”

Not all video shooters will necessarily agree with this approach, as 4K is already supported on a number of web-based video platforms like Vimeo and YouTube and many computer monitors have long supported resolutions above Full HD. Shooting in 4K also has advantages in editing, even when the final video will be output at 1080p.

There are, however, other reasons for Canon to show restraint. Shooting 4K in smaller, cheaper cameras comes with a host of technical difficulties, like power draw and heat management.

“We still have a ton of room to grow in terms of what we can offer in the video area,” Tokura and Mizoguchi said. “But it is important to keep in mind that we don’t want to harm the original inherent concept of these products. 4K should compliment, rather than hinder.”

This identifies a key difference between how Canon and other manufacturers operate, and would seem to be a soft jab at Sony. Reviews abound of Sony users growing frustrated with their Alpha-series mirrorless cameras overheating after long periods of shooting 4K. Canon seems intent on reserving 4K for its highest-end cameras until it can be assured that it can implement the feature on a broader scale without causing any additional headaches for users.

Of course, the flip side of this is that whatever their issues, Sony cameras continue to sell well. Sony’s method of throwing as many features as they can into their cameras may lead to imperfect products, but the perceived value of those products is still high. Canon’s slower, more methodical approach may cost it sales initially, but could lead to even better cameras down the road. Whether they will be enough to make up lost ground and put Canon back on top in terms of mirrorless/DSLR video remains to be seen.

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