Canon R5 Cinema Camera Brings New Video Shooting Capabilities and New Opportunities for Video Artists
One of the members of the 8K Association is Andrey Denisyuk. Along with Natalia Denisyuk, he has made a very detailed review of the Canon R5 Cinema which seems to bring a real opportunity for creative videographers in 8K, even when you need the highest level of quality that the pair produce, including demonstration 8K content.
The review was independently produced and was not commissioned or supported by Canon.
- Canon R5 Cinema Test Procedures
- Technical Conclusions
- Final thoughts
About the authors
Nataliya Denisyuk, Art Director of 8K projects. Founder of THN-Studio Corp.
Andrey Denisyuk, 8K Videographer, member of the 8K Association, Travel Photographer and Videographer.
Canon R5 Cinema Test Procedures
Any videographer is fascinated by the list of technical specifications of the Canon R5 Cinema camera – RAW video recorded internally in 8K DCI at 60fps! Unfortunately, many manufacturers nowadays make far-fetched claims that do not correspond to the actual capabilities of the product. The camera’s true capabilities can only be seen in practice. There are a plethora of online reviews of the Canon R5 Cinema. Their weak point, however, is that they judge the camera’s capabilities based on the objectives of previous-generation cameras, such as 4K, Rec. 709, and compressed video codecs (i.e., h265 and ProRes), and not in relation to such new objectives as 8K, Rec.2020, and creative video processing.
We tested those settings of the Canon R5 Cinema that set it aside from other cameras – recording 8К RAW videos, creative color correction, creative video processing, and creating videos with the latest specifications, such as Rec.2020.
We conducted a field test of the camera capturing 10-second travel videos that would be used by various mass media – on websites, TV channels, in advertising, and by travel agencies. Our clients don’t want to see realistic travel pictures. They prefer creative and appealing images of travel locations. This gave us an opportunity to test the camera’s capabilities with creative color correction. (Post-processing with color correction reveals hidden artifacts and other flaws invisible to the eye).
To get accurate results, we tested over 1,000 video clips from different travel locations – Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, France, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, and Italy.
Even though the final videos were in 4K, Rec. 709, and at 30fps, the footage was captured in 8K DCI, RAW, at 30 or 60fps. Color correction was done in 8К, 16 bits per color. Videos were converted to 4K, Rec. 709, 30fps only at the end of post-production. This allowed us to assess the camera’s quality in 8K.
We are very demanding when it comes to choosing a new camera. The list of our requirements is based on projects we have done before and plan to work on in the future – presentational videos for newly released television sets, reference videos, etc.
Our post-production included RAW video processing in DaVinci Resolve; saving videos in DNxHR 444 12-bit (TIF 16-bit for projects reliant on high quality, such as reference videos and videos used a demo video for TV presentations); and color correction in After Effects (“Photoshop” for videos).
Summing up, we conducted a field test of the Canon R5 Cinema, shooting over 1,000 10-second travel videos in 8K RAW. The objective was to assess the camera’s capabilities in creating 12-bit 8K Rec.2020 videos.
Sensor colors. The Canon R5 Cinema shares the same sensor as the Canon R5. Many photographers have already fallen in love with the beautiful colors of photographs taken with the R5. R5/R5C produces 14-bit RAW photos and 12-bit RAW videos. This difference is moderate in most cases on the color of an image as long as you do stay within the dynamic range.
As a rule, Rec. 709 RAW processing has poor results – highlights and shadows in the video extend beyond the black-and-white points. For many scenes, the LOG3 gamma produces good results if the video is not creatively processed afterward.
Using LOG2 (which fully matches the LOG in the RAW converter Resolve) allows you to get the highest quality results for future edits. The resulting intermediate video has a high dynamic range and a substantial number of extra bits, which makes it possible to perform any, even extreme, color manipulations.
Our goal was to create artistic images in video. We used the instrument Curves to perform an inverse log transformation (this allows for receiving an image that corresponds to our creative vision and is more convenient for further editing). When you need to achieve the “exact image,” it makes sense to do color grading using 3D lookup tables (3D LUTs).
Despite using various tools to process photos and videos (Lightroom or Capture One vs. DaVinci Resolve), the image in the resulting video – colors, color shades, tones, color detail, and dynamic range – the produced video may fully match the photo image from this sensor. On the other hand, the image is so flexible that videographers can use it to realize their creative ideas, just like photographers translate their vision through color correction into the final image in the editing process.
The Canon R5 Cinema provides striking colors on videos (you can see it for yourself by looking at photographs taken with the R5, many of them available online). It is the first video camera that allows the user to work with colors in videos, similar to how it is done in photography.
No Stabilization is a ‘Massive’ Advantage
The lack of in-body camera stabilization (IBIS) is another massive advantage of the Canon R5 Cinema. IBIS technology has proven itself in photography. The marketing community significantly contributed to IBIS becoming a must-have for amateur video bloggers. However, this is an absolute nightmare for professional video operators. IBIS does not prevent trembling corners in images shot with wide lenses (15 mm), a full-frame sensor, and 8K resolution. It can ruin images even when shooting off a tripod and when IBIS is turned off (for example, from micro-vibrations produced by a passing truck, underground train, or wind). Therefore, the decision of Canon’s engineers to hard-fix the R5C sensor greatly benefits professional operators.
Image detail. We used the Canon RF 15-35mm 2.8 lens for our test. RAW files are a 4:4:4 chroma subsampling format without interframe compression using Canon RAW LT or ST codecs. The R5C provides superior video detail, similar to the quality of photos (that is, the R5C doesn’t have any compromises, upscales, or interpolations that, unfortunately, often occur in other cameras). In addition, there is a broad selection of high-quality lenses for this camera.
External power supply for shooting 8K at 60fps. The need for an external power supply for shooting 8K at 60fps is a bit frustrating. But let’s think about it. Do we want a small camera for 97% of tasks, such as taking photos and videos in 8K at 30fps, or a bulky device, like Nikon’s Z9, with a static battery grip? In our opinion, Canon’s engineers made a wise decision about an external power supply for shooting in 8K at 60fps, which makes it easier to use the camera in most modes (taking photos and videos in up to 8К at 30fps).
The only concern about the external power supply is that the list of Canon’s compatible power supplies only includes the ones charged from the electrical grid. However, this is not a train smash. None of the 20 power banks I tested provided enough power for the R5C. Imagine my surprise when I came across a cheap power bank for 55 USD Baseus 65W Power Bank 20000mAh in a gift shop, and it could to power the R5C. Thus, the issue of an external compact power supply for the camera was resolved. In our experience, 20000mAh is enough for over 4 hours of filming, and this solution is convenient enough even for capturing handheld travel videos.
The requirement for an external power supply for 8K 60fps offers the user a compact travel camera in its main modes. You can get a small mobile power source (power bank, etc.) that will meet your needs if you choose to film in 8K at 60fps.
Camera noise. The rumor is that R5C has a lot of noise in video shots. It has already become a meme with a backstory. Let’s go back a bit to bust the myth about the excessive R5C camera noise.
In any video camera, the noise levels peak drastically, and the shots become practically unusable when all of the following conditions are met: (1) shooting in compressed codecs (8 to 10 bits), (2) critical filming conditions, such as backlight or insufficient light, (3) shooting with LOG2 gamma and even making a minor mistake with exposure (gamma LOG2 requires precise exposure). Given the small size of the Canon R5 Cinema camera’s pixels, the risk of camera noise increases significantly. To avoid ruined shots under all of these conditions, the R5C doesn’t allow filming with LOG2 gamma for compressed codecs.
However, in multiple interviews with camera reviewers, Canon’s engineers (although I suspect they were marketers) often gave a simplified explanation that the lack of LOG2 is due to increased noise in the high-definition sensor (small pixels). I believe this is how the myth of the high noise level of the R5C came to be.
In most cases, we process videos in LOG2 gamma. A lot of noise may occur during night shoots. Sometimes, a lot of noise occurs when filming in the backlight or trying to brighten shadows from full black while shooting in RAW. You can always avoid losing captured in RAW video by using another gamma when processing). In our testing, we found that the R5C has a noise level no higher than any other camera in normal shooting conditions.
The noise level at ISO 800 is lower than we observed in almost all other cameras. It is much less noticeable than the artifacts that appear in the sky when encoding a video in a broadcast codec like H.265. At ISO 3200, the noise level depends mainly on the illumination and the scene. Excessive noise like that described above rarely occurs. If the scene illumination matches ISO 3200 (i.e., if you don’t try to raise shadows from black), the R5C has a small amount of noise, which is satisfactory for most objectives. It is normal operational noise and not a nightmare that happens in video cameras when the ISO is higher than 3200.
With extreme color correction at ISO 800, the noise is low and looks like soft velvet. It even adds charm to the video. To remove noise, it is often enough to do a subtle color blur, which is practically invisible to the viewer (similar to Chroma subsampling).
When filming at a high ISO of 3200, there is a loss of detail in many cameras, especially with codecs with low bit rates, which appears in the “corroded” contours of the subjects. There are no such artifacts when shooting with the R5C RAW at ISO 3200.
Some particularly critical tasks require the noise level to be as low as possible. For example, these tasks may include shooting reference videos or demo videos to present newly released TV models. When creating such videos, you must keep a close eye on the scene illumination and the correctness of exposure, use ISO 800 (the minimum native ISO for the R5C), and monitor the accuracy of color correction. This will result in low Canon R5 Cinema noise level and allow you to perform these critical tasks. The noise was so low that we couldn’t tell if it was caused by the camera or 444XQ level codec artifacts during intermediate saves. (We have yet to investigate the issue in detail).
Another interesting feature is that if you shoot in RAW, use LOG2 gamma in post-processing, and use noise reduction; the camera allows you to get an extra 3-4 stops of dynamic range (Usually, the dynamic range of the camera is limited beyond going the level of black and white. In R5C, when shooting in RAW and processing in LOG2, the dynamic range is determined by the noise level. So this works).
Note: When processing photos, whether it’s processing data in camera or processing RAW photos in programs like Capture One, Adobe Lightroom, or Adobe Camera RAW, noise removal is always present. When shooting video in non-RAW codecs, the camera performs noise reduction. When processing RAW video in computer programs, noise reduction is not enabled by default. Therefore, there is no need to be skeptical about applying noise reduction effects when processing RAW video. In our experience, the best noise removal with practically no loss of detail, without creating a “plastic” image and other artifacts, allows for the effect DE:Noise Frame Average from the company RE:Vision. The simplicity of this method lies in using the characteristics of video (which are absent in photo processing) to remove noise by using multiple frames to identify the matrix noise. (This does not negate the fact that most R5C videos do not require noise reduction.)
Codec artifacts, interframe compression, chroma formats, and more
It is worth stating the obvious – everything mentioned in the subheading does not apply when shooting in RAW format. But do not forget that the vast majority of other video cameras have all these shortcomings.
RAW file format processing speed
We process RAW videos in DaVinci Resolve. Our i7-10875H NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 8G travel laptop takes 2–3 minutes to process a 10-second RAW 8K 30fps video. For comparison, rendering a “retouched” video in After Effects, even in 4K, takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 2–5 hours. Thus, the RAW processing time for 8K is not critical in our cases.
Editing RAW videos on the fly without making proxies is a questionable choice in many cases. But this article is about getting the highest quality creative video image, not speed. 🙂
Canon R5 Cinema image quality summary
(There is something we would like to clarify. Many people believe that there is no separation between video and cinema cameras. The video functionality of the Canon R5 Cinema is explicitly designed for making videos. It should not be compared to cinema cameras, such as Red. The Canon R5 Cinema RAW codec has 12 bits and is designed to create 10 to 12-bit videos for TV instead of cinema cameras with RAW codecs of 16 bits per color designed to make movies).
To see the full potential of any powerful tool, it must be used to complete the most demanding tasks. In our case, this is the ability of the camera to shoot in 8K resolution, create reference images, and provide opportunities for creativity. The Canon R5 Cinema has proven to be a reliable tool capable of handling each of these tasks:
- The Canon R5 Cinema produces videos with unusually bright colors. So bright that they are only matched by the colors of Canon’s flagship full-frame R5 photo camera.
- The Canon R5 Cinema has features that some consider controversial – the lack of sensor stabilization and the requirement for an external power supply to shoot in 8K at 60fps.
- Impeccable image detail in 8K resolution.
- Camera noise is very low when shooting most scenes. In the remaining cases, the noise level is acceptable and can easily be reduced. The structure of the noise is visually appealing in most cases.
- Canon RAW ST is a wonderful codec, comparable to the quality of RAW photo formats. We didn’t encounter any quality issues when using the Canon RAW LT codec, which confirms Canon’s statements about its quality. (It should be noted that we shot most of the videos in the higher quality Canon RAW ST codec).
- Recording in RAW guarantees the absence of broadcast and editing codecs artifacts (Unlike other cameras that shoot in compressed video formats).
- The RAW format allows for adjusting white balance, slight exposure correction, etc, during post-production.
- The Canon R5 Cinema has a sufficient image quality margin, making it possible to apply artistic or extreme color correction to the footage – something that was previously possible only for photographs.
- The Canon R5 Cinema is a beautifully compact camera, for cameras with such capabilities.
- You can use the Canon R5C for tasks that require high image quality, such as creating hi-tech videos (provided that the obvious shooting and processing requirements are met for these videos).
Other cameras with similar characteristics. If your goal is to create an 8K video, then the Canon R5 Cinema has only three competitors. These are the Nikon Z9 and cameras in a different class and price range – the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro 12K and RED V-RAPTOR 8K. The Canon R5 Cinema has proven to be a professional-grade tool for creating 8K video, even for the most demanding tasks, such as video presentations and demo videos.
New possibilities for creating 4K video with the Canon R5 Cinema 8K camera. Videographers are accustomed to shooting video in a 1:1 resolution ratio, meaning that in post-processing, you cannot change the geometry or crop the video. The excess resolution of the Canon R5 Cinema provides you with the opportunity for creative video processing in these areas. The excess resolution allows you to correct geometric distortions without losing quality, as is common in photo processing. Digital zoom and cropping will allow you to fully express your vision of the scene being shot. Downscaling from 8K to 4K will improve image quality, providing more flexible options for color correction or obtaining a higher quality image in difficult shooting conditions, such as low light.
Creative video post-processing. Canon R5 Cinema opens up new possibilities for filming creative videos. In the good old days of film cameras, the only task of the photographer was to capture a beautiful shot. With the spread of digital cameras and editing tools such as Photoshop, the artistic processing of photographs has become part of the photographer’s work and a means of their artistic self-expression. As a result, photography in the 21st century offers a wide variety of genres, authors’ styles, and creative ideas.
The Canon R5 Cinema is the first camera that allows you to work with color in videos similar to photos. RAW image processing enables video artists to add their own moods, enhance the colors of reality, and add a part of themselves to their creations. It also provides them with new tools to express their creative ideas. Therefore, with the advent of the R5C camera, there is every reason to expect the video will gain popularity as an artistic tool of self-expression for creative visual artists.
The R5C gives creators new tools for self-expression and, therefore, actively facilitates the creation of a distinct art direction – creatively processed videos.
The Canon R5 Cinema is a camera with the highest technical characteristics and stunning colors that is 1-2 generations ahead of its competitors in such areas as color, 8K 60fps resolution, and RAW recording. The Canon R5 Cinema has the widest selection of lenses, including Canon RF and EF lenses, as well as lenses from third-party manufacturers. The R5C has a professional video “menu” (video operating system).
Of course, you can use the Canon R5 Cinema in normal shooting modes, such as shooting 4K video and shooting in compensated codecs. If used as a travel camera, The R5C will delight you with its mobility.
It will also work well for shooting in a studio, for news coverages and other tasks.R5C colors are bright and modern while remaining accurate with traditional Canon colors. However, the primary value of the Canon R5 Cinema is the use of its unique features that are new and not present in other cameras. These tasks include creating 8K videos, using the camera to create videos for presentations on new 8K TV devices, 8K video displays and video walls, creative video processing using RAW recording, and new possibilities for authors to create Fine Art videos.