Most of Canon’s camera designs are pretty straightforward. But the company has also thrown some interesting and super-weird models into the mix over the years: The tubular 35mm film Autoboy Jet, the submarine-themed PowerShot D10, and the buttonless and belt-buckle-sized PowerShot N among them. But 99 times out of 100, Canon’s design sense skews conservative.
Not this time, and it’s nice to see that Canon can still bring the funk. The new Canon XC10 ($2,500) splits the difference between a camcorder and a camera, although Canon is billing it primarily as a camcorder. The company says the XC10 was built with roving journalists in mind. It captures 4K video and 12-megapixel stills with its mechanical shutter and 1-inch-type sensor—the same size sensor found in Sony’s RX100 cameras and AX100 4K camcorder. This time, that imager is baked into a body that looks like it should be comfortable to use when shooting both stills and video, and that’s a rarity.
Sensor size isn’t the only trait this hybrid video-and-photo machine shares with Sony’s hardware. Its adjustable swiveling handgrip and unique body hearken back to retro jams such as the Sony Cybershot DSC-F828 and its predecessors. The XC10 is a little more advanced, though.
At its highest resolution setting, it captures 3840×2160 video at 30 frames per second. It will also record 1080p clips at up to 60fps, and 720p clips at up to 120fps for those slow-motion sequences. For the Ultra HD video, the camera uses Canon’s proprietary XF-AVC codec, which is also used in its just-announced Cinema EOS C100 Mark II professional camera. Here’s the kicker: That codec supports a bitrate of up to an insane 305Mbps. That should mean absurd detail.
In order to handle all that data per second, the XC100 won’t work with your average SD card to capture 4K video. It uses a CompactFlash-sized CFast 2.0 card—a 64GB SanDisk card and reader is included with the camcorder—although you can use SDHC/SDXC cards for 1080p and 720p recording.
It’s a fixed-lens camcorder, making it sort of a step-down non-interchangeable companion to the CX100 series, and its optics range from 24mm wide angle to 240mm telephoto (10X) with a maximum aperture of F2.8 to F5.6 at the respective ends. Manual focus is adjustable via a control ring around the lens, and there’s a physical mode dial and control wheel on the grip for tweaking manual, shutter-, and aperture-priority controls. An adjustable 3-inch tilting touchscreen around the back lets you tap to focus and access deeper menu selections, and there’s a separately sold clip-on unit to turn that screen into an EVF.
One thing that’s missing for anyone thinking about picking this thing up as an independent-filmmaking tool: There are no XLR mic inputs. There are stereo mics built in, and a hot shoe on the top of the camera for other lower-end mics, but you’ll need a step-up Cinema EOS camera for XLR.
Compared to those higher-end EOS cameras, the $2,500 XC10 seems like a bargain. Just keep in mind that it has a much smaller sensor than a full-frame 4K-capable shooter such as the EOS-1D C. And compared to Sony’s similarly sensored 4K Handycam AX100, it’s a thousand dollars more. Just like it splits the difference between a still camera and a camcorder, the XC100 will also split the difference between a consumer camcorder and a professional-level model when it comes out in June.