Yesterday, Canon introduced the EOS C300, a $20,000 camera that shoots at 1080p. Mere hours later, RED announced the Scarlet X, which captures 4K footage — far larger — for just $9,750. Now, if we were to pretend that price and resolution were the only important factors in a camera, we'd be doing something rather silly. Still, it does make you wonder: why 1080p? We spoke to Canon technical advisor Chuck Westfall at the company's Paramount Studios unveiling yesterday evening, and he told us that 1080p was a complex function of the professional market that Canon is addressing.

The Cinema EOS C300 project began two and a half years ago, Westfall said, shortly after the launch of Canon's 5D Mark II, the DSLR which famously attracted the interest of cinematographers and generated a lot of feedback from the Hollywood community. "That gave us a lot of incentive to keep going and developing something that was more appropriate for their needs," he said, "but we realized right away that instead of trying to modify a still camera for motion, it made sense to create a purpose-built camera." So, the form factor of the C300 was designed with Hollywood workflows, rigs and accessories in mind, and Canon also decided to go with the Super 35mm sensor size. 1080p was a decision — "We wanted to address the needs of the 1080p market" — but also a limitation of that sensor, in a manner of speaking. "Coming from the gigantic environment of film capture which is based on Super 35, it made more sense for us to start off with an image sensor that matched that, and then when we tried to get the most image quality out of that sensor size, 1080p came through." We also have to wonder if Canon's software workflow might have something to do with it. It didn't come up during our conversation, but the C300 shares battery packs, accessories, viewfinders and even its processor with the company's XF-series camcorders, which also happen to shoot 50Mbps 4:2:2 video at 1080p resolution using Canon's MPEG-2 codec.