Canon MS-500 – Canon’s first interchangeable lens SPAD sensor camera – costs over $25,000

Aug 1, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Canon MS-500 – Canon’s first interchangeable lens SPAD sensor camera – costs over $25,000

Aug 1, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Canon’s been going full-on with the SPAD sensor development. In May 2021, they announced a big breakthrough. They had created a 1-megapixel Single Photon Avalanche Detection (SPAD) sensor. By December, they’d upped it to 3.2-megapixels.

In April of this year, the company announced the development of the Canon MS-500. This was to be the first camera to contain their new sensor. Now, it’s officially been announced.

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Canon MS-500 – What’s so special about SPAD?

SPAD sensors differ from CMOS sensors in the way that they collect light. CMOS sensors use electrical signals to monitor the volume of light hitting each pixel in an analogue fashion. This introduces noise, which is then made more obvious in the conversion to digital.

When it comes to SPAD sensors, they actually count the number of photos hitting them and puts out a true digital signal. This means pretty much noise-free images. It also offers the ability to see in the dark in full colour, without the need for infrared light. Such examples were released at the time of the MS-500 development announcement.

The technology is still in its early days, and I expect it’s not that easy to manufacture. Given that resolutions are currently limited to less than a handful of megapixels while full-frame CMOS sensors are getting well over 60 megapixels, there are obviously some challenges.

Whether or not this will be the next big sensor technology that replaces CMOS is currently impossible to say. But, SPAD technology holds a lot of potential promise.

Not your typical video camera

While this is a camera that obviously shoots video, it’s not your typical video camera. It has 3G/HD-SDI output, an RJ45 LAN socket and even a Genlock connector for syncing and shooting multiple cameras simultaneously.

But you’ll note that there’s no HDMI, and there doesn’t appear to be a battery socket. Instead, we see an unusual connector that takes in between 12-30V. Presumably, you’ll be able to power this from V-Mount with the right cable.

Judging by the size of what looks like a little rubber cover next to the RJ45 socket, it saves to a microSD card and not a full-sized SD card. And while it is an interchangeable lens camera from Canon, it’s not RF mount.

What lenses does it use?

The camera uses a built-in B4 bayonet lens mount. This is an industry-standard mount often used for 2/3-inch broadcast lenses. This allows MS-500 users to take advantage of Canon’s extensive lineup of broadcast lenses.

The “broadcast” moniker of those lenses might through you a little bit. It’s not designed for actual broadcast use, really. It’s primarily intended for surveillance. It wouldn’t surprise me, however, to find that some Hollywood filmmaker shot some random movie sequence or other with it just to try and flex a little because they can.

And it would be a bit of a flex, as you’ll see in the next bit. This ain’t a cheap camera by any means!

Price and Availability

The Canon MS-500 SPAD sensor camera is available to buy starting in September. I don’t expect this one will pop up at the likes of B&H or Adorama, but it’s expected to have a price tag of $25,200. And don’t forget you’ll need a lens, too!

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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