Ever been poking around in low-light with your camera and thought, "you know what, I could really do with an extra few million ISO"? To be honest, neither have we because such a light-sensitivity would be ludicrous for most users. Well, that hasn't stopped the folks at Canon stepping things up in a big way with its full-frame ME20F-SH, a 4,000,000 ISO HD video camera that seems sure to bring the noise.
The seeds were sewn for Canon's new shooter in 2013, when the company announced the development of a new 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor specifically for filming in poorly lit environments. This sensor has now found its way into a cubed-shaped 4 x 4.5 x 4.4 in (10.2 x 11.4 x 11.2 cm) body that weighs approximately 2.4 lb (1.1 kg) and features an EF mount for compatibility with the Canon's interchangeable EF glass.
The sensor's pixels measure 19 microns, which is more than five times larger than those generally found in high-end DSLRs and amounts to a modest 2.26 megapixels. Canon has made efforts to stave off the inevitable noise that will accompany such an insanely high ISO with what it describes only as proprietary pixel and readout circuitry technologies.
The result is, Canon says in lieu of sample footage, the capture of low-noise, color, Full-HD video of subjects with a minimum illumination of less than 0.0005 lux. For reference, a crescent moon is about 0.3 lux. Infrared illumination has made it possible to capture such dim environments previously, but only in black and white.
Possible applications for a camera of this ability include wildlife documentaries, surveillance, reality TV and whatever else your mind sees but your eyes do not. It shoots 1080p at 24, 30 or 60 fps and features 3G/HD-SDI and HDMI outputs for hooking up to peripherals like recorders and monitors.
With a suggested retail price of US$30,000, the ME20F-SH is certainly geared more towards professional users than hobbyists trying to get a crisp shot of the night sky. Canon says it will be available from December 2015.
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