4K Camera and Jumbo Pro Printer are Highlights at Canon EXPO 2010

September 2, 2010

By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist

The once-every-five-years Canon EXPO show kicked off in New York City yesterday where the Tokyo-based company displayed some of its innovations including a consumer-style 4K camera designed to capture video at four times the resolution of high definition.

Part science lab and part marketing showcase, Canon EXPO gives the company a chance to try to entice buyers and the press with what it has in store for the future. Along with a small group of handpicked journalists, yesterday’s event featured over 1100 buyers, dealers, and distributers of Canon products, which run the gamut from digital SLRs to medical imaging devices and massive copiers and office systems.

Though Canon made a few announcements of soon-to-be-released office products yesterday, there were no new consumer or professional imaging products launched at the show. At the last Canon EXPO in New York in 2005, the company introduced the pioneering full-frame EOS 5D digital SLR and the XL H1, the company’s then-first HD pro camcorder.

Ultra High Definition on Display
As far as imaging is concerned, this year’s show was mostly devoted to future tech and the 4K camcorder was clearly a highlight. Though it’s designed with a handgrip similar to a DSLR, all the internal tech is new in the device which Canon is calling a “multipurpose camera.” It uses a 2/3-inch 8-megapixel Canon-built CMOS sensor that can capture 4K (4096 x 2304 pixels) video at speeds greater than 60 frames per second.

 Though it looks like a DSLR-style lens, the 20x (24-480mm) zoom on the 4K camcorder is fixed to the body. Aperture settings are from f/1.8 to f/3.8 and the lens is powered by a fully electronic drive system. There’s also a 4-inch, 1.23MP flip-up LCD screen on back of the camera. Weight is approximately 5.5 pounds.

Canon was displaying two touch-and-try models at the show along with a working camera under glass that was recording a scene. There was also a fourth non-functioning model under glass.

While the camcorder shoots 4K video, it is apparently not designed to compete with professional 4K cameras from RED. According to a Canon rep we spoke with, the new model is aimed at consumers, particularly in the Japanese market which is on the verge of converting its TVs and broadcasts to accommodate ultra high definition video. (By contrast, many American households are still joining the world of “standard” HD.)

Though the models on display looked close to finished products — despite the “breadbox” below the camcorders hiding assorted wires and components — there is no official launch date yet. “There’s no price, no date, no nothing,” a Canon rep told us. “This is not even a prototype. This is just showing what we can do.”

A 30-inch 4K Canon-built display which was showing off the footage at EXPO is much closer to reality, the rep said. Canon was showcasing both 8MP and 4MP 30-inch LCD displays designed for video production, digital cinema, graphic design, CGI, and print proofing. Still no word on timing or price of these ultra high-def displays.

Mystery Products
Two other products that Canon has in the pipeline include a new professional desktop PIXMA printer and a “cross media station” for charging devices and wirelessly sharing images. Though they were displayed on the EXPO 2010 show floor, we were not permitted to take photos of them. (A Canon rep even prevented us from taking a photo of the sign next to the printer. Oy.)

So without the help of a visual aid, we’ll do our best to describe them. The PIXMA printer looks to be a 17-inch model perhaps designed to compete with Epson’s Stylus Pro 3880. An electronic countdown clock above the printer indicated it would be 167 days until it’s officially announced which translates to February 15, 2011. Yes, that’s a bit of a wait for a printer but the PIXMA was the only product we saw at EXPO 2010 that even had a actual launch date.

Though it was displayed under shaded glass which made it hard to see details, we were told it will use 12 color pigment high-capacity inks. The printer will also have wider ink nozzles to boost performance and it will be compatible with a wide range of media formats from third-party paper manufacturers. It will not replace any current printer in the PIXMA line. Canon says it’s designed for professional photographers and graphic designers. And that’s all we know.

The Canon Cross Media Station also seems close to being launched (though we weren’t give a date). A black, plastic rectangular box, the station can charge Canon’s PowerShot digital cameras, DSLRs, and Vixia camcorders just placing them on the device.

When a camera or camcorder is positioned on the box, the media station lights up blue to indicate charging which is done via magnetic resonance. Images and videos are then wirelessly transmitted to a TV or computer so the users can view them or create slideshows.

You will also be able to share your images with other Canon Cross Media Station anywhere in the world. The box is equipped with an SD card slot and there’s an 80GB hard drive built in.

No pricing yet but we were asked by a Canon show rep how much we’d pay for such a device. We said  $150 but the cross media stations will likely be more expensive than that.

 Mega Cameras and Sensors
We also saw a future tech product that Canon is calling “the world’s first single-shot multi-band camera.” The camera has six color filters mounted on its CMOS sensor to capture color that’s beyond the capability of the human eye or RGB (3-color) camera systems.

 Most conventional multi-band cameras require several shots with the outer color filters changed mechanically one at a time. The Multi-Band camera uses a 50MP CMOS sensor that achieves both high-resolution capture and six color multi-band shooting. A camera demo we saw turned up hidden butterflies in an otherwise lavender-looking field. (Obviously, applications are wider ranging that just that.)

The jumbo 300mm wafer-size CMOS sensor that Canon announced earlier this week was also on display at EXPO 2010. Called “the world’s largest CMOS sensor,” it’s designed for extreme low-light shooting with ultra high-sensitivity that lets you capture facial expression even in near total darkness (under 1 lux of illuminance.) Applications include astronomy and extreme low-light photography or videography.

 Other innovations at EXPO 2010 included an ultra high-resolution panorama camera that uses a 120MP CMOS sensor comparable to a human eye to capture sweeping scenes with immense resolution and detail; and an Omnidirectional Camera that uses a 50MP CMOS sensor to shoot a 360-degree panoramic image in a single shot.

 And finally, Canon also displayed its so-called “Wonder Camera” concept which is the camera equivalent to those futuristic “concept” cars you see at car shows and then, for the most part, never actually come out.

The only description beneath the all-white “SLR Style Concept” was that it combines “ultra-high-definition picture quality with high magnification.” Sure looks neat though.

 Canon EXPO 2010 continues at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City through the end of the week and then moves on to Shanghai and Paris.