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The EOS C500 & <br class="br_visual" />C500 PL explained

The EOS C500 &
C500 PL explained

October 2012

The EOS C500 and C500 PL camera are the most advanced additions yet to Canon’s Cinema EOS System, recording in 4K RAW at a maximum of 60fps as well as 10 or 12-bit 2K RGB 4:4:4 plus 10-bit YCC 4:2:2. They are designed to operate with minimal set-up time and perform well in all lighting conditions thanks to a high sensitivity sensor with low noise. With its low power consumption the C500 can be used in a wide variety of conditions quickly and easily away from the studio, making it the perfect location tool thanks to a strong design and impressive splash and dustproofing. CPN takes a closer look at the EOS C500 and C500 PL models to explain their key technologies, features and benefits for both high end movie shooting and high quality broadcast production. To find out more about the C500 and C500 PL cameras please click on the section headings below.


The C500 and C500 PL cameras advance the quality of the Cinema EOS System to the next level, enabling motion-picture quality RAW 4K capture as well as broadcast-ready 2K RGB and Full HD.

A high-end cinema camera

The EOS C500 is positioned as a high-end cinema camera capable of outstanding performance with quality, even at 2K, matching that of traditional 35mm motion picture film. Based around much of the same groundbreaking technology found in the EOS C300 the C500 records data at higher speeds, up to 120fps in 4K HRAW setting at 60Hz mode.

EOS C500 and C500PL - key features

  • 8.85 Megapixel Super 35mm Canon CMOS sensor optimised for superior quality 4K-resolution imaging.
  • Compatibility with Canon’s wide range of EF lenses and Canon cinema EF lenses (C500).
  • New EF lens mount with Cinema Lock for more efficient lens changing. Fully compatible with Canon EF lens range.
  • Industry-standard PL lens compatibility (C500 PL).
  • Three built-in ND filters.
  • Compact, modular design.
  • ‘Cinema RAW’ 4K RAW/HRAW recording modes to external device.
  • 2K RGB 4:4:4 12-bit and 10-bit, YCC 4:2:2 10-bit modes recorded to external device.
  • Broadcast-ready 50Mbps MPEG-2 MXF recording to two CF cards.
  • High-sensitivity, low noise performance at up to ISO 20,000.
  • Extensive image customisation including built-in Canon Log Gamma.
  • Robust, splash-resistant body with magnesium alloy components.
  • Seamless workflow integration.

The C500 and C500PL offer 4K-resolution in remarkably compact and user-friendly bodies.

Extending the Cinema EOS System

Positioned at the top of the Cinema EOS range, the C500 has been designed to perform to the highest standards in both 4K and 2K resolutions, with class-leading frame rates and superior performance in low light offered in a compact, modular design. The EOS C500 supports 4K Cinema RAW DCI resolution 4096x2160 plus QFHD (Quad Full-HD) option with its 16:9 screen aspect ratio and complies with all relevant broadcasting standards, making it an even more flexible package for today’s demanding filmmakers.

Modular system with compact body design

The EOS C500/C500 PL extends the appeal of the Cinema EOS family and is perfect for major productions, retaining easy operation thanks to a compact body design that is a feature of the Cinema EOS System. The EOS C500 and C500 PL Digital Cinema Cameras have a modular design for superb mobility and expandability. A removable top handle and multi-angle LCD ensures maximum manoeuvrability, whilst the robust, splash-resistant body features magnesium alloy components for additional rigidity and toughness.

Widespread lens mount compatibility

Since launch the Cinema EOS System has been available with a growing range of 4K ready Canon Cinema optics, with a range of Cine zooms available in EF and PL lens mounts. The system is further enhanced by Canon’s wide range of EF lenses and EF mount Cine prime lenses.

A range of 4K-ready Cinema EOS lenses plus compatibility with the entire Canon EF lens range (C500 only) gives filmmakers a wide choice of optics to meet their ultimate visions.

The Cinema EF lens range includes two top-end zoom lenses - the CN-E 14.5-60mm T2.6 L S/SP and CN-E 30-300mm T2.95-3.7 L S/SP in EF and PL mounts; two compact zoom lenses - the CN-E15.5-47mm T2.8L S/SP and the CN-E30-105mm T2.8L S/SP in EF and PL mounts; plus three prime EF mount lenses – the CN-E24mm T1.5L F, CN-E50mm T1.3L F and CN-E85mm T1.3L F. These lenses offer quality beyond 4K giving outstanding optical performance and versatility, and are designed and engineered to stimulate creative expression and meet or exceed the exacting production standards of contemporary cinematographers.

All of the Cinema EOS lenses deliver 4K (4096x2160 pixels) optical performance and are fully compatible with Super 35mm-equivalent sensors. The Cinema Prime lenses within the range can also be used with cameras equipped with 35mm full-frame sensors, plus APS-C and APS-H format cameras.

Canon’s extensive EF range encompasses over 70 different lenses for a total focal length range that stretches from 8mm right up to 800mm, opening up an incredibly wide range of shooting possibilities. Filmmakers who are already shooting with industry-standard PL lenses can now take advantage of the widespread compatibility of the Cinema EOS System.


With a Super 35mm-equivalent Canon CMOS sensor and processor technologies, the EOS C500 produces footage to satisfy all the needs of demanding filmmakers and multimedia productions.

CMOS Sensor

Canon develops and manufactures its own sensors and has incorporated a Super 35mm-equivalent 8.85 Megapixel (effective) CMOS sensor in both the EOS C500 and C500 PL. The sensor has a pixel size larger than that for conventional professional camcorders enabling greater light-gathering capabilities for superb high-resolution images with enhanced sensitivity, minimal moiré and jaggies, low noise, reduced shutter artefacts, along with typical large sensor benefits such as beautifully shallow depth-of-field. The sensor reads Full HD video signals for each of the three RGB primary colours, realising high resolution with up to 1,800 horizontal TV lines at 4K depending on the lens used. If shooting with the C500 at any other non-4K option the resolution is 1,000 lines as per the EOS C300 camera.

The sensor within the C500/C500 PL cameras has a pixel size larger than those found in conventional professional camcorders for greater light-gathering capabilities and superb high-resolution images with enhanced sensitivity.

Supported by a heightened signal read-out speed, the CMOS sensor also reduces rolling shutter skews, a phenomenon prevalent with CMOS sensors in which fast-moving subjects may appear diagonally distorted.

In the C500 and C500 PL a total of four channels – one channel each for Red and Blue and two channels for Green – are laid out systematically as a single pattern to form a 4096x2160 image sensor overall. When the data is read out the 2048x1080 data for each channel is read out separately and transferred to the 3G-SDI output as the R, B, G1 and G2 planes (the RAW data). The process for creating a single image with the usual three RGB colours using a development application from the RAW data of these four channels is called de-Bayering.

Cinema RAW output

Normally, the images captured by a CMOS image sensor are de-Bayered through the video engine inside the camera, after which they are subjected to colour temperature, gamma and other corrections before being made ready for output.

RAW data is output directly to external recorders from the C500/C500 PL cameras via two 3G-SDI terminals on the cameras.

With Cinema RAW – a new feature introduced on the C500/C500 PL cameras – output via two 3G-SDI outputs on the cameras is direct to a variety of third party external recorders, thus retaining the maximum amount of information captured by the image sensor. At the post-processing stage after shooting, grading takes place where colours are adjusted. The demand for RAW data has increased and Canon now makes this possible in 4K Cinema RAW, available at up to 60fps or 120fps in 4K HRAW mode. Thanks to 10bit output Canon Log at 4K RAW, more colour information is available when grading.

Canon Log Gamma

Canon Log was a brand new 8-bit gamma setting originally developed for the EOS C300 which retained the maximum amount of information, making it ideal for colour correction in post-production. Further refinement has now enabled a new 10-bit gamma setting for the range-topping C500 and C500 PL.

Canon Log Gamma delivers neutral image quality with a wide dynamic range (800%) for maximum freedom in post-production, providing up to 12 stops of latitude. Canon Log can be applied to all options in 4K and 2K (8, 10 or 12-bit footage).

Designed with post-processing in mind, users can preview the image on the monitor and notice how Custom Pictures will look once applied. Canon Log Gamma also allows for seamless conversion to the industry-standard 10-bit Cineon format for colour grading, whilst Apple and AVID plug-ins are available for efficient importing of recorded files into non-linear editing software.

The 10-bit and 12-bit Canon Log settings are superbly suited for reproducing detail in dark areas in comparison to 8-bit with four times the shade of grey for the greyscale yielded by the 10-bit setting, and 16 times yielded by the 12-bit setting.

The Cinema RAW format has Canon Log applied to the RAW data. Originally the term RAW data referred to the raw data output from the image sensor. In the case of the EOS C500, however, it refers to the linear data that exceeds the upper limit of the SDI transmission standard. Simply rounding off the linear data will cause deterioration in the image quality, so the volume of information is transferred in its original form while conversion of the high-gradation linear data into 10-bit Canon Log data is used as the technique for externally recording data in a format with a high general-purpose capability.

Even with 8-bits, the Canon Log reproduces 12 stops of dynamic range and has helped make the attractiveness of log gamma workflow more appealing to users. While utilising the characteristics of the 8-bit log gamma setting – which emphasizes practical application and general-purpose capabilities – the 10-bit log gamma setting puts the emphasis on quality because much more information is recorded for the dark areas so there is less noise and the dark areas can be expressed in greater detail. This makes grading processes with a higher degree of freedom possible.

Shooting in Canon Log mode, filmmakers can set the camera exposure value using their customary light meter practices.

The DIGIC DV III processor in the C500/C500 PL offers greater processing power for enhanced colour gradation, wide dynamic range and beautiful reproduction of skin tones.

DIGIC DV III processor

The DIGIC DV III processor is the latest generation in the DIGIC DV family. Greater processing power provides enhanced colour gradation, wide dynamic range and beautiful reproduction of skin tones, in addition to supporting features such as extensive image customisation when capturing at 2K to an external recorder, or HD MXF files to internal CF cards.

The combination of the large CMOS sensor with Canon’s high-performance DIGIC DV III image processor facilitates high-precision gamma processing and smooth gradation expression.


The EOS C500 allows filmmakers absolute control over all aspects of image capture – from wide exposure latitude to customised shooting options. Filming in 4K QFHD or 2K allows cropping in post-production to Full HD, enabling quality creative film-making.

Wide variety of recording modes

The C500 and C500 PL cameras offer a wide selection of recording options with both 4K RAW and 2K RGB 4:4:4 or YCC 4:2:2 recording to external, third party recorders for superior imaging performance. 4K can be recorded as 4K in the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) agreed standard for cinema and QFHD (quad Full HD) for broadcast.

The cameras also offer the ability to record broadcast-ready MPEG-2 MXF files at 50Mbps (4:2:2) to two CF memory cards with relay and simultaneous recording options available. In the MXF priority mode pre-recording, relay recording, double slot recording and slow and fast motion can be performed. In 4K/2K recording modes pre-recording cannot be performed.

Depending on the 4K or 2K recording format used slow and fast motion recording is available in either 1fps or every two frames steps for creative flexibility. For recording to CF cards in the MXF mode the frame rates for the C500, as with the C300, are 1-30fps or 1-25fps at 1920x1080 resolution and 1-60fps or 1-50fps at 1280x720 resolution.

Pre-recording, relay recording, double-slot plus slow and fast motion recording can all be performed in MXF priority (HD) mode. For 4K and 2K resolution, data is recorded externally via the 3G-SDI connectors. Using MPEG-2 compression, the MXF format combines video and audio into a single file together with important metadata for seamless integration with top NLE systems and post-production tools for compositing, colour correcting and grading.

The EOS C500 and EOS C500 PL codec supports HD 1920x1080 resolution, a class-leading 50Mbps bit rate and 4:2:2 component sampling. The 4:2:2 sampling gives the image files double the colour vertical resolution of 4:2:0 colour sampling, minimizing jagged edges between red and blue and ensuring ample quality for chroma key composition with green screens.

The creative possibilities of the C500 are greatly increased by its compatibility to the wide range of Canon EF mount lenses.

EF lenses and EF mount cinema lenses

Highly trusted by photographers and boasting a solid track record, Canon has earned an unmatched reputation and status in the stills camera market with a range of lenses for every occasion. The Cinema EOS System has its own dedicated range of EF Cinema Lenses, each specially developed for the system with focus marks on the lens barrel and a unique anodised finish on the mount to identify their place in the system. As well as this range the Cinema EOS System is fully enabled to accept the huge EF range of Canon lenses and automatically corrects characteristics such as vignetting from wide-angle lenses.

The Cinema Lens series also opens up a number of handling advantages and creative possibilities. Key features of the lenses include the use of an 11-blade aperture diaphragm that delivers soft, attractive blur. The zoom lenses feature engraved zoom, focus and iris markings on angled surfaces for improved readability from behind the camera.

Custom Picture profiles

On the EOS C500/C500 PL up to 20 different Custom Picture profiles can be stored. For each profile 90 variables can be set including Gamma, Black, Black Gamma, Low Key SAT, Knee, Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Skin Detail, Selective NR, Colour Matrix adjustment, White Balance, and Colour Correction. With the Custom Picture system users can freely adjust image quality for greater control over how content looks. User created Custom Pictures profiles can be saved to SD cards to enable profile sharing on multiple C500 cameras.

Built-in ND filters allow up to six stops of control, perfect for shooting with shallow depth-of-field.

Built-in ND filters

ND filters are built-in to the C500 and are made from glass to prevent damage from the sunlight and allow for shooting with shallow depth-of-field, even with the iris open in daytime scenes. The ND filters are electronically controlled via the ND selector dial.

A total of three ND filters are installed in the C500, the same as in the C300, in three densities – 0.6 (2-stop), 1.2 (4-stop) and 1.8 (6-stop) – with ND0 being clear.


The C500/C500 PL has a modular design, superb handling, customisable controls and a durable build featuring a splash-resistant body with magnesium alloy components.

The EOS C500 and C500 PL cameras feature a 4.0-inch (10.1cm), 1.23 million-dot LCD panel.

Small size, light weight, ultra-durable

Retaining virtually the same dimensions at the EOS C300, the C500 manages to pack even more technology into its compact modular body. Whether it’s the resolution, bit number or frame rate, the EOS C500 achieves high-end specifications in every department.

A removable handle and multi-angle LCD ensures maximum manoeuvrability, whilst the robust, splash-resistant body features magnesium alloy components for additional rigidity and toughness.

A 4.0-inch (10.1cm) 1.23 million-dot LCD panel rotates forward and back through 270 degrees with an optimal position for shoulder-mounted shooting. The panel can also be rotated for monitoring from one side of the camera and allows for easy checking of scene composition at low angles. The cameras have a 0.52-inch (1.3cm), 1.55-million dot viewfinder with a 16:9 ratio.

The EOS C500 and C500 PL cameras feature an intuitive layout of easy-to-use controls.

The EOS C500 and EOS C500 PL both have a Waveform Monitor (WFM) function that, when selected, shows the overall brightness of a scene, while an RGB Parade Display allows the viewing of red, green and blue brightness. A Spot Display allows the isolation of luminance distribution to a chosen area.

The EOS C500 and EOS C500 PL’s dust- and splash- proof design includes sealing gaskets around the edges of all access covers, dials fitted with o-rings on the axis of rotation, and button key-tops sealed with rubber. The cameras also feature a built-in cooling system with a heat-dissipating duct in the centre of the body. Consisting of a graphite sheet that conducts sensor heat towards the heat sink, three ventilation holes and a cooling fan pull hot air out through an exhaust opening. All air is directed through a discrete pathway to help keep dust particles away from sensitive components.

The EF Mount with Cinema Lock is found on the front of the C500/C500PL cameras – it facilitates fast changing of large lenses, even when they’re on rigs.

A logical layout of buttons and dials makes camera operation simple and intuitive. A lock switch turns off all controls except the recording and function buttons to ensure ease-of-use while small ridges between the buttons help prevent activating functions by mistake. The backlit display panel makes camera settings easy to view in low light while a tally lamp is clearly visible from the side or behind the camera.

EF Mount with Cinema Lock for fast changing of lenses

The C500 includes a new EF Mount with Cinema Lock lens mounting system that, via a mount lever, rotates the lens lock and eliminates the need to rotate lenses to attach them to the C500. This allows for swift, secure and easy attaching and detaching of any of Canon’s extensive range of over 70 EF mount and Cinema lenses, and is especially useful for easy changing of larger lenses that are mounted on rigs or rails.

The backlit display panel on the C500/C500PL makes camera settings easy to view in low light while a tally lamp is clearly visible from the side or behind the camera.

Industry standard terminals

CF cards in dual card slots gives unlimited hot-swappable storage on reliable solid-state media. And for industry standard peripherals, the EOS C500 and EOS C500 PL have all the right terminals: Remote (2.5mm), Sync out (BNC), HDMI type A out, GenLock (BNC), Time Code (BNC), HD/SDI (BNC), Headphone, SD card (used for stills photographs and the storage of custom settings), DC IN socket, plus MIC and XLR connectors (CH1 & CH2) when using the Canon Monitor/Controller unit. The camera also includes a dedicated connection port for the optional Canon Wireless File Transfer WFT-E6A unit. RAW output is via two 3G-SDI terminais.

24.00p recording mode

Because the standard 24p mode for NTSC is actually 23.98 frames a second, in the C500 cameras Canon has included an extra 24.00p-recording mode which matches the 24 frames per second (fps) frame rate of film cameras for high compatibility with common film production workflows.

Two XLR connectors (CH1/CH2) are part of the monitor unit.

Professional audio controls

Sound quality and design are critical to the final production, and are equally dependent on the recording hardware to ensure clean usable files for editing. The EOS C500 and C500 PL control units provide two XLR audio inputs with +48V phantom power. A 3.5mm microphone terminal is also built into the cameras. Audio is recorded uncompressed in 16-bit PCM format at 48 kHz for high fidelity sound. Both XLR inputs, as well as the microphone terminal, offer automatic or full manual gain control (-Infinity to +18dB). Additionally, a 3.5mm headphone terminal with 16 volume settings offers accurate audio monitoring.


With 4K digital cinema resolution (at 60fps) and multiple recording options, the EOS C500 delivers stunning 4K footage and movie workflow with flexibility and ease. The cameras can also record broadcast-ready MPEG-2 MXF files at 50Mbps (4:2:2) to CF cards.

Multiple recording formats: 4K, 2K RGB 4:4:4/YCC 4:2:2, MXF 4:2:2

The C500 and C500 PL cameras offer a wide selection of recording options with both 4K RAW/HRAW and 2K RGB 4:4:4 12-bit and YCC 4:2:2 10 or 12-bit recording to external devices for superior imaging performance. 4K can be recorded as 4K in the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) agreed standard for cinema. The cameras also offer the ability to record broadcast-ready MPEG-2 MXF files at 50Mbps (4:2:2) to two CF memory cards with relay and simultaneous recording options available.

Moreover the EOS C500 also supports the 3840x2160 (Quad Full HD) option with its 16:9 screen aspect ratio in compliance with the applicable broadcast standards, meaning the C500 fills a broad spectrum of productions needs, from TV productions through to major motion picture productions.

4K RAW and 2K workflow

One of the key benefits of the C500 is its ability to output 4K or 2K data direct to external recorders via two 3G-SDI output connectors. With the connector it is possible to take 4K 10-bit Bayer RAW data direct from the sensor, which allows for superior quality images. With this setup the RAW data in 4K mode is developed using an application (Cinema RAW Development) which will be available for download from Canon’s website.

High-speed capture is also possible with speeds of up to 120fps in 2K and 4K HRAW (where the vertical resolution is halved), and 60fps in 4K full resolution. Cinema RAW 4K output retains the volume of information captured by the image sensor to the maximum amount possible and thus gives maximum rein to the potential of the C500 with grading with a higher degree of freedom enabled by 10-bit output.

The demand for RAW data has grown for video production of commercials and major movies that require ACES or other high-end workflows, and for footage with high-quality visual effects (VFX), meaning the C500’s RAW output meets all of these high quality footage needs.

The Material eXchange Format (MXF) combines video and audio with metadata into a single file for easy access to critical information throughout the production process.

MPEG-2 (4:2:2) 50Mbps codec, MXF format

In addition to 4K/2K output the C500 and C500 PL also utilise Canon’s MPEG-2 (4:2:2), 50Mbps codec, seen in the C300 and C300 PL models, for internal recording to CF cards in the industry-standard MXF format. The MXF format combines video and audio with metadata into a single file that maintains access to critical information throughout the production process.

The impressive dynamic range of the EOS C500 and C500 PL with Canon Log Gamma can be easily converted to industry standard 10-bit Cineon 24.00p (.cin) Log format, ensuring smooth integration with industry standard post workflow and finishing.

This 24.00p mode matches the exact frame rates of film cameras, so there’s no need for time-consuming frame-rate conversion. This 4:2:2 colour sampling provides twice the vertical colour resolution of 4:2:0 enabling better gradation, finer detail, and smoother diagonals as well as helping to eliminate the threat of jagged edges, fringing and unwanted artefacts during chroma keying.


With the EOS C500 and EOS C500 PL cameras your image files can handle everything that post-production can throw at them. The 8.85 Megapixel CMOS sensor easily rivals 3-chip performance, with 4K and 2K RGB signals producing clean, distortion-free footage.

Workflow integration

The Cinema EOS System seamlessly integrates into NLE workflows using industry-standard file formats to make the post-production process as smooth as possible. It produces digitally robust files that are easy to transfer and preview, and hold up extremely well to multiple changes and multiple saves, multiple times.

Straightforward workflow integration is key during Digital Cinema production and 4K RAW and 2K RGB workflows can be ingested directly to a wide variety of colour grading applications. Once captured, post-production houses will be able to ingest 4K RAW using their normal procedures. A free software package, available via download, will assist in the processing of 4K footage.

RAW output is via two 3G-SDI outputs whilst two CF card slots on the back of the C500/C500 PL allow for concurrent dual-slot recording.

File-based recording to CF cards

Rather than using proprietary and expensive memory systems, the EOS C500 uses two card slots to record to cost-effective and readily available Compact Flash (CF) Cards for internal recording. Recording functions include relay recording, concurrent dual-slot recording, hot swapping and file copy and backup.

CF cards facilitate workflow-reducing transfer times when moving files to NLE systems. For expedition documentaries or reality TV, one card can be kept, or backed up to a storage device, while the other can be shuttled back to an editing crew at another location. Additionally, there's no need for special hardware or transcoding when remotely editing or editing ‘on-the-fly’.


Sometimes the most surprising and useful footage is captured before the director calls "Action" or before the cinematographer sees the subject enter the frame. The Pre-Record function of the EOS C500/C500 PL cameras continually captures three seconds of footage in HD (but not 4K or 2K) and saves it to CF card. This footage is written into the start of a clip once the record button is pressed. Pre-record gives DoPs, directors and editors some latitude in editing, adding critical seconds of content that can make a scene or avoid a reshoot.

File browser (XF Utility)

As an alternative to using third-party NLE systems, the Canon File Browser Utility (included on the product CD) can be used to check MXF footage only and add metadata directly from the EOS C500 and C500 PL. Note that 4K RAW files out of the cameras will need to use 4K development software.

Robust, high quality, industry-standard files

Canon’s XF codec supports Full HD (1920x1080 resolution), harnessing MPEG-2 4:2:2 compression at 50Mbps: all to realise the aesthetic look you seek. Whether making rough cuts from clips recorded on one camera or integrating time-coded shots from a number of synched cameras, professional filmmakers are completely dependent on the image quality coming from the camera to achieve the final look they envisioned.

With NLE, digital special effects and post-production processes, image files need to be robust to hold up to multiple changes and multiple saves, multiple times. Canon’s EOS C500 and EOS C500PL digital cinema cameras deliver incredibly high quality images with their full 4:2:2 codec in MXF Full HD or 2K YCC, creating digital files that are robust enough for major post-production.