By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Remember last month when Canon announced a low light cinema camera with an ISO of over 4.5 million? Sporting a full frame 35mm CMOS sensor, the ME20F-SH promised to see in total darkness, even in color. That’s a pretty tall order, to be sure, but with over 2.26 million pixels, users would be able to go a long way in reaching that goal. Now Canon has released footage that shows the ME20F-SH in action, and you know what, it really CAN see in the dark. Though it is a bit noisy.
After years of development, Canon has finally dialed in this full frame sensor and the footage coming from Canon Japan shows how good the ME20F can look in the right conditions. Designed for science and astronomy applications, the ME20F offers some pretty impressive results, even in total darkness.
While most cameras rely on that greenly-lit starlight sensor to gather infrared images in darkness, the new ME20F Full frame sensor captures in full color, although, as you can see from the footage here, it’s got a long way to go to be cinematic.
Here’s a quick reminder of the specs:
- ME20F-SH Multi-purpose Camera
- 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor (single), effective pixel count: approx. 2.26 million pixels
- Minimum subject illumination: Less than 0.0005 lux (at maximum 75 dB gain setting, equivalent to an ISO sensitivity of over four million)
- Pixel Pitch: 19 Microns
- Lens mount: Canon EF mount (Cinema Lock type)
- Optical filters: ND filter with two density levels (motorized manual / auto) IR cut filter (motorized manual)
- Frame rates: 59.94P / 59.94i / 50.00P / 50.00i / 29.97P / 25.00P / 23.98P
- Gamma: Canon Log, Wide DR, etc.
- Two 3G / HD-SDI BNC jacks (1080P / 1080i / 720P)
- One HDMI connector
- Genlock terminal: BNC jack (input only)
- Remote terminal: φ2.5mm stereo mini-mini-jack (Canon-proprietary protocol), Round 8-pin jack (for RS-422, Canon-proprietary protocol)
- Microphone terminal: φ3.5mm stereo mini-jack
- AF: One-shot AF
- Auto-exposure: Combined interlocking (iris / gain / ND / shutter)
- White balance: AWB, color-temperature setting (setting range: 2000 to 15000 degrees Kelvin), natural light, light bulb, Setting A, Setting B
- Digital teleconverter: 2x, 4x
- Power input: 4-pin XLR DC11-17V, Terminal block 2-pin jack DC11-17V
- Operating temperature: 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) to 104 degrees F (40 degrees C)
- Body dimensions: Approx. 4 inches (102mm) (w) x 4.5 inches (116mm) (h) x 4.4 inches (113mm) (d) (excluding protrusions)
- Weight: Approx. 2.4 lbs (1.1 kg) (body only)
Frankly, I think the camera works even better in low light with a light source to draw the eye to. But there’s no denying that for night time shooting, the ME20F has some good potential. Like the shot of the children crouched around a single candle light, which looks as bright as a campfire. I really like the warm glow it reflects. Then shooting wildlife at a nearly safari with a few lights. It all looks great.
But when you shoot with just starlight guiding you, it’s got a ton of noise, which you would expect. But you can see more detail and some color. And in underwater shooting, the ability to capture glowing anemones is really impressive. Then there’s the night time freeway scenes and I like how it can give the existing light an otherworldly glow.
Filming at an airport at night will give shooters usable footage after grading, rather than relying on the same stock daylight plane arrival and take off footage.
But at $30,000, users are going to likely just restrict use of the ME20F as a rental. If you want to buy a good low light beast, you may want to take a look at the Sony α7S II, which can see in 4K in darkness, thanks to an ISO 400,000 and looks really good for under $3,000. Frankly, I think the dynamic range is better for my money, and the image is sharper. No noise to speak of until you max out at 409,000. So if you’re on a tight budget, I think the α7S II is a better choice.
Either way, you can get some really cool ethereal images with both camera’s night time settings. But if you’re looking to get some total darkness shots for stellar photography or have a higher budget to spring for, the ME20F may be your go-to rental.
Available this December.
Hat tip: NFS