Canon C500 with Gemini 4K hands on.


Today I was fortunate enough to get my hands on the Canon C500 4K camera and the a pre-release 4K RAW option for the Convergent Design Gemini recorder.  The C500 will start shipping the first week of November and the Gemini 4K RAW option will be available November 5th.

The first thing you notice when looking at the C500 is that physically it looks very similar to the C300 but instead of a removable hand-grip the 500 has venting chambers and a heatsink, and extra connectors.  Notably the camera features 2x 3G-SDI output connectors (both output RAW) as well as a 2x 1080p monitoring connections and a third HD-SDI connection.  I love the fact that there you can run out to an onboard monitor, video village and a Teradek Cube for example in addition to going out to a recorder.  Lots of options with signal outputs that are not present with the C300

First off myself and my wife Heather own a C300 which is a fantastic camera but of course limited to 1080p.  I say limited but the reality is that is what 98% of the market uses.  The camera has a native ISO of 800 and an amazing dynamic range which is why I love using it.  The highlight handling is just under the capable Arri Alexa (another favorite camera of mine).  The C500 embodies all the features of the C300 but adds 2K and 4K outboard recording options as well as:

10-Bit 4K RAW up to 60fps

10-Bit 4K Half RAW up to 120fps

12-Bit 2K 4:4:4 Signal up to 60fps

1920 x 1080 RGB 4:4:4 12-bit or 10-bit up to 60fps

As you can see the camera offers much more than 4K as a selling feature.  So how to you record this outboard signal?  What are the options when the camera is released?  The AJA KiPro Quad will be available at the end of the year for around $4000.  The KiPro Quad records ProRes and Avid DNxHD but not RAW. The issue with that is that you are then baking in the look into the recorded footage.  The Codex M is another option but very expensive at over $25K.  You also need a transfer station and pretty hefty processing power on the computer end to make it work smooth.  The Codex is mainly reserved for feature films and commercials.

Enter the Convergent Design Gemini recorder.  Now the Gemini 4:4:4 has been around for a while now and has been a go to 4:4:4 10 bit recorder for the Sony F3.  The great thing about the Gemini is that there are firmware options that allow for recording of Arri RAW and now Canon C500 RAW in 2K/4K modes.  Unlike the AJA the Gemini with 4K option is available on November 5th which is around the ship time of the C500 camera.   I was lucky enough to have Dan from Convergent Design visit Rule Boston Camera today and was kind enough to allow us to do some preliminary testing with a demo unit.  The Gemini 4K uses 2 x 512 1.8″ SSD’s and requires only one 3G-SDI cable from the C500 to the unit.  The Gemini records Canon RAW 4K in RMF files and you can apply a LUT during the monitoring of the input as well as for playback.  The Gemini plays back Debayered HD output with optional Canon LUT.  Another great option of using the Gemini 4K is the ability to take advantage of Canon’s 12 bit HD output via the Gemini’s 12-Bit HD DPX record.

The Gemini features four ports 2 x HD-SDI single link/dual link/3G/Dual 3G and 2 x outputs HD-SDI single and Dual Link as well as HDMI.  Power is provided via a 4 pin Hirose connector, and the Gemini is touchscreen operated and easy to use.  Transferring the drives is facilitated by a transfer unit that allows for USB3.0 and Thunderbolt.  The other great benefit of the Gemini 4K is the size.  The unit has a small footprint,  is the smallest (5.4″ x 4.7″ x 1.56″) and lightest (at 1.35lbs) 4K Recorder available on the market.

What about Scarlet?  This week there is a lot of talk of the Red Scarlet since there is magically a fleet of gently used battled tested cameras available at the $7200 price point.  This looks appealing on the surface but if you have already used an Epic you already know that you will need to invest a good $10k-16k more into the camera and post to make it all happen.  So you are around the same price point as the C500 but with much worse lowlight and okay dynamic range (both weaknesses of the Epic and Scarlet).  Sure you will always light a scene but with budgets constantly shrinking and turn around times and expectations its a hard sell to most.

The C300 is already a go to camera in the commercial and low budget feature world and have made its mark with numerous DP’s all the way up to the ASC level. The C300 and Arri Alexa are currently the rental house champions across the country and in many parts of the world right now.   The Canon C500 should continue that tradition with 10-bit 4:4:4 HD, 12-Bit, 2K and 4K output options.  Many will rent the camera just to shoot HD in 10 bit and 12 bit, others will take advantage of 2K and 120fps. 4K workflows for the C500 are currently in the works with Adobe, BMD DaVinci and others.

In the end it will boil down to your needs, client requests and the right tool for the right job.  For myself and what I shoot the C500 makes a lot of sense and does not lock me into a codec on the back end like the options from Red do.  I want a clean uncompressed RAW 2K and 4K output that I can record to whatever codec I choose and the C500 offers me that latitude.  It is a huge consideration when making an investment like this and it looks beyond the needs of today which is why my wife and I got one.  Canon also has a great deal for C300 owners looking to buy a C500 in way of a $3000 instant Canon loyalty rebate.  With all this said Sony will have a big announcement at the end of the month that might shake this whole 4K thing up a bit.   I have a good idea of what it already is and I am still sticking with the C500 but stay tuned….

Mike Sutton

Follow me on Twitter: MNS1974

Jared Abrams is a cinematographer based in Hollywood, California. After many years as a professional camera assistant he switched over to still photography. About two years ago a new Canon camera changed the way the world sees both motion and still photography. He just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
  • Alexander Boboschewski

    Hi Mike,
    thank you for the test. I’m also looking for the C500.
    Did you test the Gemini recording the 120fps from the C300?


  • Alexander Boboschewski

    sorry C500 not C300 😉

  • Craig Mckeown

    I have done extensive tests with 2 gemini’s set up to record multi frame rates in 4K on the C500.  BEWARE!!!!  As of today, Jan 11, 2013, the Gemini’s are not currently capable of recording ANY variable frame rates in 4K mode. Period.  You can only shoot 24fps at the moment.  Convergent Design says they are hoping to have an update for the C500 at the end of January….  also, just FYI, you cannot record proxy variable frame footage on the C500 internal CF cards while recording with Gemini’s.