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