Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dual Pixel СMOS AF upgrade for Canon C100

When Canon announced the 70D back in the summer, it represented perhaps the first advancement in sensor technology for a good few years. Since filmmakers started using the 5D Mkll to shoot HD video back in 2008, there have been new models, but nothing that really improved the sensor for video capture.

The70D has a new feature called Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which drastically improves the DSLR’s autofocus capabilities. Autofocus for video on DSLRs has typically been slow and unreliable - to the point where it’s a liability and you’re better off sticking with manual for safety.

The 70D changes this by employing a new sensor that splits each pixel into two photodiodes that can be read separately to allow phase-detection autofocus, which is far more accurate than the contrast-based scheme used by previous DSLR sensors.

Dual Pixel СMOS AF upgrade for Canon C100

Dual Pixel СMOS AF upgrade for Canon C100

The upside of this is that you get a DSLR that can autofocus quickly, accurately and without overshooting and racking back. However, the world has moved on from shooting on DSLRs to large-sensor camcorders that combine the best of both worlds, such as Canon’s own EOS Cinema range.

The real surprise about Dual Pixel CMOS AF came when Canon announced it could enable this new technology on existing C100 cameras via a firmware update. The C100 has been available for less than a year, so owners who have already put down the best part of £5,000 to buy one will be relieved to know that their investment hasn’t been obliterated by a newer, swankier model in fewer than 12 months.
You’ll need to send your camera back to Canon to perform the update, but so far, so good. Canon has never been afraid of pricing its products at what it feels the market can bear, and although previous updates to the C100 have been free, Canon intends to charge $500 (U K pricing TBA) for this one.

The company has confirmed that the update doesn’t require any new hardware - it’s just firmware and then alignment by an engineer to ensure the pixels are functioning correctly. However, just the fact that Canon is charging for this update has upset many people on the internet.

The attitude seems to be that firmware updates should be free - whether they add new features or not. This argument ignores the fact that firmware updates take significant resources to develop and test: they don’t create themselves. Even if the firmware ‘unlocks’ a feature already present in the hardware, it’s not a rip-off for Canon to charge for this additional functionality.

It’s likely that most people complaining about the update aren’t actually C100 owners. Given the choice between a nominal fee to increase the functionality of an already great camera versus having to ditch it entirely and buy a brand-new model, Canon’s approach is sensible. Professional cameras aren’t meant to be replaced on the same schedule as iPhones, so anything that prolongs the life of that investment for a fraction of the original purchase price is welcome, whatever anyone with an internet connection and the ability to type says.

THUNDERBOLT - standard. The original Thunderbolt spec supported 20Gbit/sec of total bandwidth, split between a 10Gbit/sec upstream and a 10Gbit/sec downstream channel. Thunderbolt 2 aggregates these channels, so it still offers the same 20Gbit/sec maximum, but can offer more than 10Gbit/ sec in each direction, depending on what other transfer demands there are at the time.

Back in the days of FireWire (and pre-Gigabit networking), you could also create a fast network connection between Macs using FireWire. Mavericks has re-introduced this concept in the form of the Network Thunderbolt Bridge. This enables you to connect two Macs together via a single Thunderbolt cable and transfer files at super fast speeds. Trying this out between a 2013 MacBook Pro Retina and a 2013 MacBook Air showed huge potential, although is wasn’t exactly smooth. Running Blackmagic Disk Speed Test on the MacBook Air, accessing the MacBook Pro’s SSD saw speeds hit 619MB/sec (just under 5Gbit/sec), which is nearly as fast as the theoretical maximum of USB3.

Trying the test the other way round, however, saw speeds all over the place - from as low as 77M B/sec (0.6Gbit/sec) to 416MB/sec (3.3Gbit/sec). That’s quite a bracket. However, this method shows a lot of promise, especially if you connect your machines the right way round.

10 Gigabit Ethernet is still hugely expensive, so Thunderbolt could provide an affordable way to hook up multiple users to fast shared storage. With six Thunderbolt ports on the forthcoming Mac Pro, you could create a small network for a fraction of the cost of kitting everything out with 10 Gigabit network adaptors.

Thunderbolt is still more expensive than USB 3, but the premium is gradually falling. It also offers greater functionality and performance, especially as 4K video becomes more prevalent. Thankfully, Apple
has equipped all new Macs with both: use USB3 now if it does everything you want and when you need faster connections or greater functionality, Thunderbolt is ready and waiting. Just plug in the right peripheral and you’re good to go.

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