The Canon Expo is one part trade show, one part sneak peak at technologies the company is working to deliver. Someday. Possibly. We had a chance to attend the show yesterday to see what the company was cooking up.
Some of the most intriguing prototypes Canon had to show—including a 120-megapixel DSLR, an 8K video camera and 250-megapixel sensor—were announced before the Expo even kicked off. Still, we were able to catch a glimpse at a few other interesting products and technologies under development. Here’s what caught our eye.
600mm f/1.4 L Lens
Canon revealed that it’s working on a 600mm lens that will incorporate the new BR optics first introduced in the recently announced 35mm f/1.4 lens. Thanks to a combination of BR and DO (diffractive optics) elements, the new 600mm should be about 30 percent lighter than its predecessor and better able to deal with chromatic aberration. No other details were available.
Canon also showed off a virtual reality headset and 360-degree camera solution for creating virtual reality presentations. Unlike current VR headsets which strap around a user’s head, Canon’s prototype is held up to the face. The display has a 120-degree viewing angle and features two 5×5-inch screens with a resolution of 2560×2880. The omnidirectional camera system combines 24 Vixia mini X camcorders into an array that can record spherical video.
Smart Home of the Future
Somewhere between a Microsoft PixelSense Table and Minority Report, Canon displayed an interactive table that lets users engage with their photos in novel ways. Using a combination of sensors in the table and IR and other cameras mounted above, any camera placed on the table can have its images instantly displayed across the table’s surface. Users can swipe and pull images to get a better look, flick them across the table toward a TV where they are instantly displayed or drag them to a printer icon where they are made into tangible prints. The table can also bring analog images to life. A Canon rep placed a photo book on the table and the system scanned the images and pulled additional photos with similar tags down from a cloud library to display on the table (more pictures below).
While photo printing on a variety of unique surfaces and substrates is not new, Canon is pushing to give prints a variety of different textures—like glass, wood, leather, snakeskin and more—through a dimensional printing process. The process creates photo prints up to 2-inches thick off the page using a UV curable inkjet press, layered ink and gloss coatings. Canon is already selling a version of textured printing to some of its commercial partners but the process under development will support more textures and greater depths. To our eyes, portraits printed dimensionally didn’t look quite as compelling as abstract patterns or objects like bricks and wood, which also felt startlingly close to the real thing.
According to a Canon spokesperson, you can blend textures–so a person’s face can have a different feel than a brick backdrop they’re standing in front of. Each texture is just a layer in a file, so it shouldn’t be difficult to give your photos dimensionality if and when this style of printing trickles into the mainstream.
Speaking of printers, Canon is also finalizing new photo inkjet printers in 17-, 24- and 44-inch sizes. They’ll use a new 12 pigment ink system, but no other details were available.
8K & HDR
If you’re a wedding videographer, chances are you’re still mostly delivering your clients HD video. Maybe you’ve just made the jump to 4K, but more likely you’re waiting until more customers start asking for it.
Canon, on the other hand, isn’t just preparing 4K products, they’re hard at work on 8K. For those fond of the numbers: HD video has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, 4K video is 4096 x 2160 and 8K video is 8192 x 4320.
Attendees were treated to a glimpse of 8K video on several displays—from a large movie projection to new 8K reference monitors still in the prototype stage. The footage was recorded with Canon’s new 8K image sensor, which was announced earlier this week. The 8K sensor can produce 35-megapixel still frame grabs from video files and offers 13 stops of dynamic range. As for data rates, 10 minutes of RAW 4K footage off the sensor generates 4TB of data, a Canon spokesperson said.
On prototype 8K reference monitors, the pictures were so sharp that even standing directly in front of the display with our eyes hovering mere inches from the screen and using a magnifying glass, the images looked crystalline and ultra-realistic with no hint of pixelation. The display in question had a pixel density of 300 ppi, which Canon said is about the limit a human eye can even resolve. From a normal viewing distance however, the 8K footage didn’t look noticeably different than 4K.
What was noticeably different from a distance was a high-dynamic range display. Canon showed off a prototype display capable of brightness levels of 2,000 nits. By contrast, the average display delivers roughly 200 nits and the next-generation high dynamic range 4K TVs will achieve between 600-1,000 nits, depending on the model and manufacturer. Using an HDR monitor, users will be able to see more of the image data recorded by today’s high dynamic range cameras.
Here’s a closer look at some of the technology Canon was demoing: