A day with the C300

Testshoot in snowy Oslo

Me and fellow DoP Pål Bugge Haagenrud got the opportunity yesterday to check out the newest addition to the post-DSLR camera market. The C300 was announced last December in Hollywood (!), targeting the pro/cinema market, with a pro/cinema pricetag. In this review, I will give a short write up on my impressions technically, and also share my thoughts on where this cam positions itself in the market. I only had a couple of hours shooting with it.

Handling
The C300 is a perfect handheld camera. You can control all important settings from you right hand (the handgrip, taken from RED?) and the wheigt is very low (depending on lens choice). The LCD/XLR is mounted on top via the shoemount, and can be removed for cinemastyle work (DoPs and focus pullers not needing sound, and using other monitoring than the onboard LCD), but this will also be handy for some docu/eng style work. Not reading a manual (who does?) it took some time getting used to how you switch between the FUNC button and the ISO/Shutter/WB choices, but every cam has its way.


The long awaited pro-featured large sensor camera from Canon

Lens options/crop:
One of the main things to consider when buying a camera is what lenses it can use. I have been eagerly awaiting a Canon large-sensor, because I have built up a set of Canon L series primes and zooms. While it is possible to mount these on nearly every cam out there, its always fiddly, and the locked aperture makes it unusable for real work. The EF mount version accepts both EF and EF-S lenses, creating quite a lot of options. And if you know your way around eBay, you can get lens adaptors for just about any lens out there, making for some amazing combos. This is a cinema targeted camera, with a S35 sensor on both the PL and EF version. Which means aprox 1.6 crop factor compared to 5d/fullframe. This means that you need high quality wide angle zooms and primes to be able to work as you did with your 5d. This only shows how special the 5d actually is.

A strange sidenote is the fact that C300 does not support AF, while the RED-made Scarlet/Epic does. Again, cinema workers never really use traditional AF, but since this is Canons domain, its a bummer they have not utilized this for all the broadcast people out there wanting AF. For me, its not really a dealbreaker. I have gotten used to MF on Canon glass, and with a very customizeable Peaking option on the C300, im happy.

100% JPG crop of a neon sign. No moire!

Technical/Image
I love the fact that I can use all my 16 and 32gb CF cards straight away into this cam. Media cost is extremely low on the C300 (and extremely high on the RED side). The codec is Canons 50 Mbps broadcast standard XF, which delivers 8-bit 4:2:2. So, still 8-bit, but overall a considerable gain with regards to data-information compared to its competitors (F3 and Af101).  I would like to see 10 bit+ coming to internal recording soon, the fact that its so rare, is very annyoing. Its not hard to do.

The images produced on the C300 are beautiful, flat, sharp HD images. You cant push the background out of focus like the 5d, but then again, only 5d and other fullframe DSLR can do that at the moment. It stands clearly out from AF101 and that I have seen from F3, with regards to sharpness, resolution and highlight/shadow detail.  The addition of the CP-locked mode (Canon Log), is a genius way to remove all worries about what profile to shoot if youre shooting for post. We are delivering all images shot on this test to colorist Dylan Hopkin at Shortcut Norge, so I cant give a definite answer on the results yet, but its very clear (after some trials in Magic Bullet) that this mode has potential.

Shadow detail while shooting into snow..

Video:
This short video consists of quick, mostly ungraded, samples of our 3 hour run with the camera yesterday. We used the CP Locked mode (Canon Log) and shot all day exteriors at the base ISO (850). For the night exteriors, Pål went into the wild zone of 10-20k ISO. Rumors told us this was possible and it was, to some extent. Its difficult to see in the Vimeo file, but 20k ISO is acceptable depending on what your after. Theres noise in the grey zone, but the feel is more organic than noise from DSLRs. I wouldnt do it for feature/cinema work, but for more “rough” situations, this would be great. And, we cant forget what kind of options we have now adays in post. Neat Videos truly amazing noise reduction tool, can get your shots out off all kinds of trouble. Also, note cafe shot looking out. Quite alot of inside detail looking ot of a window. Looking forward to test the dynamic range even further.

Market/Competitors
The strangest thing for me, is how this camera is marketed and priced. This is perfect a HD broadcast camera, for both run&gun and more controlled shooting styles (documentary, ENG, VTs). HD will be the standard in broadcast still for many years, and this camera does it beautifully. Cinema on the other hand, is moving towards a 4k standard. You shouldnt get all hyped up about bits/resolution, but when the price is similar to a 4k camera, Im a bit bewildered. While the images off C300 are great and certainly good enough for a lot of cinema, it has competitors that does 4k and beyond at the same price level (Scarlet fully speced up).  It can and will be used for cinema, but much more for broadcast. And even more if it lost 3-4k$$ of its pricetag. Panasonic Af101 and Sonys F3 would suffer badly, but now they exist comfortably at a much lower price point.

Conclusions:
I dont need 4k right now, mostly because post-workflows are extremely technically demanding and costly. If 4k was no worries in post, I would have given perhaps Scarlet  a second thought, but right now, this is looking to be my HD camera of choice for most productions. It has the flexibility I need to shoot run&gun documentary work, and it has the quality I need for feature/commercial work. I think this is a camera I will use alot in the years ahead, since its hard to believe that Canon will release a C300 competitor in the 5dmrk3. Allthough, that would be nice :)

Pros:

- Very nice ergonomics
- Great codec
- Groundbreaking ISO possibilites
- Lens choices

Cons:
- Price
- Crop factor (if you are used to fullframe)

 


8 Responses to “A day with the C300”

  1. Thanx for great review of the dream camera right now… :-P

    But the video is set to private. Could you change that?

    Best regards
    Marius Loland

  2. hkarlsen says:

    Done :)

  3. Steve says:

    Thanks for the great review.

    I’m thinking we are going to see 4k in the MK3

    :)

  4. hkarlsen says:

    Ive also noticed that rumor, but it seems very strange for Canon to (again) cannibalize their own products. Well have to wait and see..

  5. Great summary of the quality of the C300, both informative and it’s great to see test footage shot in Norway!

    But what are your thoughts on the slow motion possibilities? I’m currently on the fence with the C300, since 60p is only available in 720p; which I find baffling when it’s such a groundbreaking camera on many other levels.

  6. hkarlsen says:

    I agree, its very strange that theres no 1080 50/60p. Its probably a codec restriction (as with the f3) but thats just a explanation, not an excuse! :)

  7. harry says:

    it looks gorgeous, but it’s expensive too. you mention af101 a few times. if you were saving for a c300 and you thought it would take about 12-18months to get enough cash to get the c300, and the lenses, what do you think about buying a used af101 to work with until then. be very interested to hear what you think. nice job by the way…the cold looks attractive!

  8. hkarlsen says:

    In 12-18 months, the c300 would be “ancient history”, but there will probably be a similar camera at a similar pricepoint for you to buy. The af101 is a good cam, an even better cam with a external recorder. If you can get a decent price on the 101, and you make money on what you do, I would go for it. But it all depends on what you are after, and what you are shooting :)

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