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Why Would Canon Use MJPEG For Video In The New 1DX MK II & 5D Mark IV?

By Marlon Richardson on September 4th 2016

The Canon 5D Mark II broke new ground for DSLR’s by being the first serious stills and video camera ever made. It quickly spawned the age of stills photographers becoming interested and eventually invested in filmmaking. Fast-forward to today and it’s clear that at least some rudimentary filmmaking skills are needed by even the most dedicated stills photographers.

In 2016, Canon is leaving no doubt that it wants serious filmmakers to move towards their EOS Cinema cameras. These cameras not only include modern features that can rival far more expensive cinema-first camera’s, but they also boast superior ergonomics.

Obviously, with the previous generation of Canons, we didn’t get the hint. In a stunning move to differentiate the EOS and EOS Cinema lines, Canon has reverted to the borderline archaic MJPEG (Motion Jpeg) codec in it’s newest flagship EOS camera’s.



Although MJPEG is a high quality compression format that will give rich images straight out of camera, the file sizes are ungodly large. Because of these file sizes you could be limited to short 4k videos unless, in the case of the 1DX II, you decide to splurge on some near $700-per-unit 256GB CFAST compact flash cards. On the 1DX, a 64GB CFAST compact flash card will give you roughly only 20 minutes of 4K video at 24p or half that time at 60p. Canon is banking on professionals who primarily shoot stills to find these limitation acceptable.

Starting this generation with Canon, if you need 4K with a better more modern codec like XF-AVC, you’ll have to jump all the way up to the $12,000 C300 MK II.


For Canon shooters who’ve invested in SLR filmmaking but can’t quite afford the price jump, you have a few options that don’t require you to unload your investment in Canon glass. For shooting 4K in Super 35 with the ergonomics of cinema camera I recommend you take a look at the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K PL; including a viewfinder it comes in at just under $5000. For 4K full frame in a compact body at around $3400 with a PL adaptor, there is none better than the highly versatile Sony A7sII.

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By Canon retaining a dated and somewhat impractical codec on the 1DX Mark II and 5D Mark IV, Canon is signaling a new era where its EOS Cinema line is the only place professional filmmakers within the Canon family/ecosystem can go to remain in it.

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Marlon is a South Florida-based wedding and portrait photographer, writer, and interactive designer. Involved in photography since the 90’s, his background began with repairing film cameras from a master Vietnam veteran, followed by years of assisting professional photographers then before starting his own business in 2006. Marlon at his heart is a tinkerer that has love for and adept in every medium of photography.

When not working Marlon is all about spending time with his wife, Naomi and two boys, Taze and Brassaï.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Anders Madsen

    I wonder if this all means that Canon has decided to completely drop the entry-level professional video market, or if there is a affordable , dedicated video camera in the making somewhere?

    It seems odd that they would leave the entry-level market to the competetion without any real fight, but on the other hand, the current 4K offerings aren’t even trying – they stand absolutely no chance against e.g. Sony and Panasonic ILC

    Also, if you have Canon lenses, it only takes an adapter to make it work pretty well with the Sony, although many lenses designed for stills photo aren’t that hot when it comes to autofocus for video, even though the adapter supports it.

    I watched the video linked by Adam Rubinstein below, and there is no doubt that the ability to grab 8MP stills from the video has been given priority (and it does make some sense for the 1DX Mark II), but that they should choose to abandon 4K video in a sensible form with a practical, usable compression is truly head-scratching.

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    • Marlon Richardson

      Canon has really filled out it’s EOS Cinema line, they clearly don’t want to undercut it with entry level stills first cameras. You can make moves like this when you sell more camera’s than anyone else.

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    • Anders Madsen

      I don’t know much about the Canon Cinema line (it’s waaay beyond my pay grade) but wouldn’t that thinking require them to be the absolute best of the best, leaving DP’s nowhere else to go for the best in quality and performance?

      I mean, I can understand that they would think this way if they knew that eventually you would come around if you continued your career in videography, simply because their high-end products were beyond any competition.

      On the other hand, if someone like Sony get a hold of you when you are a greenhorn, getting your hands dirty with video for the very first time, and has an entire line of cameras that will satisfy your needs as your career takes off and increases the equipment requirements, why would you then turn to Canon at some point?

      Like I said, we are definitely out of my territory here and I may be talking out of my ass, but I really can’t help but think that Canons current strategy will cost them very dearly in the years to come, and once they have lost the greenhorns, they will have to work extremely hard to get them back.

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  2. Rocco Saya

    Jacques, you sound like another jealous Canon fanboy. Guess what? Overheating issues were fixed with a firmware update on both!

    Guess what? We can record to an external recorder and get ProRes.

    Guess what? We don’t have a ridiculous 1.74x crop factor?

    Guess what? We have an EFV for focus peaking!

    Lol, have fun with your Mark iv holding it out in front of you to know what your recording.

    I could go on and on. Canon is insane, and have put the nails in their own coffins. F*** them, seriously, they don’t care about hobbyists or even semi/professionals who don’t have unlimited budgets, that’s pretty obvious.

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  3. Jacques du Toit

    “there is none better than the highly versatile Sony A7sII” is that the sony that keeps having overheating issues due to shooting 4k with a full frame? or was it the A7R II or both?

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    • Marlon Richardson

      That was an issue on the A7rII on some units before it’s firmware update. Not an issue. But since you bring up the A7rII, you’d have to jump up to the EOS Cinema line to get features similar with Canon.

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