Gadget of The Week – Canon ME20F-SH – ISO Over 4 Million

The Canon ME20F-SH is a dedicated video camera, destined to record videos in almost sheer darkness. Initially announced in 2013, it was designed to specifically take over the low light segment of the camcorder market.

The Canon ME20F-SH has a rather simplistic design and it looks like a black cube. It has the lens on the front and its ports on the rear while the controls are spread across the sides. It looks almost like a bigger version of the Go Pro, but  it is meant only for the serious Pro. The specifications scream ‘awesomeness’.

This black beauty has a pixel square size of 19μm which gives its pixels a surface area that’s at least 5.5 times greater than the ones found in higher end consumer grade DSLRs. The bigger the pixel size, the higher the light gathering capacity, which ultimately translates to amazing low light performance. This is also the reason why camera purists prefer a moderate megapixel count on their cameras as compared to the ones which boast outrageous megapixel counts.

Design and Specifications of the Canon ME20F-SH

The Canon ME20F-SH houses a 2.26 Megapixel Full-Frame CMOS sensor. No, we didn’t mistype it, the emphasis here is on video recording and still images, so 2.26 MP should be sufficient for Full HD videos. But the real reason behind a lower megapixel count is to drastically increase the surface area of each individual pixel.

Why Does The Canon ME20F-SH Just Have 2.26 Megapixels?

The huge pixel size also makes way for a fantastic high ISO performance, and the manufacturer claims that the Canon ME20F-SH can pull off ISOs as high as 4,000,000. This is at least 4 stops better than the highest ISO offered with high-end professional grade cameras.

Canon also claims that its black cube can virtually see in the dark, and estimates that the camera can record video in brightness levels as low as 0.0005 lux at a maximum 75 dB gain settings.

Let us translate it for you. It means that the camera will be able to record color footage in a dark room. The video will be like how you see in the dark after your eyes get accustomed to the low light. This is some serious stuff for the movie makers.

Video Formats and the Lens Mount

The Canon ME20F-SH can record in 1080p resolution at 60, 30 and 24 FPS. Although we are moving away from the Full HD region and into the Quad HD territory, low light videography is still a pretty difficult task to work within the QHD resolution. The higher resolution does not generally tend to behave well with higher ISOs and at the time this camera was announced, 4K was as prevalent as it is now.

The Canon ME20F-SH has a lens mount that’s compatible with EF and EF-S mount, meaning that you can take advantage of the huge ecosystem of lens Canon offers for its Lens Reflex system (DSLR).

Our Verdict

The Canon ME20F-SH does seem very expensive at an asking price of around $ 30,000. But its low-light prowess makes up for it and its ability to literally see in the dark is an incomparable asset to filmmakers shooting dark sequences, since the requirement of artificial lighting will be minimum, thereby providing a truly natural experience.

The Canon ME20F-SH is a niche device and would certainly be a boon to those who require something to shoot in the dark and have deep pockets.

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