Canon Ships the C500 with White Balance Users May Not Be Thrilled With

Camera maker’s hack may have a method to it’s madness

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Canon is now shipping the C500 Digital Cinema Camera, and users will be surprised that it’s actually shipping for a price less than what it was announced for. When it was announced, Lake Success put the MRSP at around $30K.  But at the time of shipping, the list price had plummeted to a more competitive $26,000. That’s certainly good news, but there’s an interesting feature of the C500 which may cause shooters to scratch their heads – the C500 will have its ISO and White Balance baked in before the image is processed.

So is Canon Raw actually Raw? It is, in the sense that the image is not de-bayered before you get it – this step is still done in post. You can think of using Canon Raw as being a bit like ordering a steak medium rare. – Andy Shipsides, AbelCine

Now I’m not much of a numbers guy when it comes to benchmarks, but this is interesting.  According to an analysis done by Andy Shipsodes of AbelCine, while Canon does offer a RAW output option, they’re tweaking the 10-bit image recording with a baked-in ISO and white balance adjustments before outputting the images in RAW format.   The idea is that in doing so, Canon can make the dynamic range more consistent and reduce the overall noise that is invited to the party.  The baked in adjustment are then applied to Canon’s Log curge to push the file’s image to it’s maxmimum.  In short, it’s a hack.

How Canon is doing this is by replacing an Alpha channel in the RAW data with a second green channel.  This allows them to save more detail to the image through the baked in algorithm.  It’s also what allows the C500 to close some of the gap with it’s competitors that enjoy a 6 bit advantage (RED and Sony record natively at 16-bit, while Canon does 10-bit at best).  But what’s the down side?  Well, to achieve 4K output, the image files are ridiculously huge.  On the order of a Terabyte for hour.  That means users who want uncompressed RAW at 4K will need to use external video recorders that can handle the massive size of the RAW media format, which weighs in at 11MB per frame in the image file.

Now some suggest that shooting at 12-bit 2K is an option to keep the file size smaller, but the image quality up is an idea, that means you’re getting the image quality of the Black Magic Cinema Camera at eight times the price. And who wants to do that?  Then again, Canon is shipping, the BMCC is not.    Still, some may want to do the math and maybe consider either renting the C500 before you take out that second mortgage, or take a look at REDs discounted RED ONEs while they still have them to sell.  Or maybe even the Epic, since it’s close to around the same price, with the Dragon upgrade.

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.


  1. chaney says:


    I just looked at some green/blue screen tests done with the Epic and the c500. The lack of noise on the c500 was remarkable. The blue channel had so much less noise. Why would baking in the ISO lead to less noise? Is it possible there is some other noise reduction algorithm that is overcranked?

    Thank You,

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