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Canon C300 Review from an Epic owners perspective

For starters, I’m initially biased. We have an Epic in-house and a Scarlet on the way. Keep that in mind…

The Canon C300. At first hated on by many in the online world, then the camera found a resurgence of positive press with blog/filmmaker superstars posting their positive impressions. Being in Denver means that the “new” camera demos here will always months later. In any case, I finally got to touch and hold the C300.

Ergonomics

a) Weight – The camera is surprisingly light. A nice handheld feel to it, much MUCH better for video than any DSLR setup. I was able to do some fairly smooth “jib” moves just by properly holding the camera, and warp stabilizer would easily take you the rest of the way.
b) LCD – The LCD rotates 270 degrees, up down, mirrors, it’s removable, it’s awesome all around. Bravo Canon.
c) 3D – For 3D setups, the handle, LCD, and side handle all come off. The camera gets quite small. (like the Epic!)
d) Buttons – Canon has done a pretty good job with buttons. AFter some familiarity, I’m sure it would be cake. The Alexa still is the king of simplicity.

buttons
e) Back LCD Much like the 5D and other DSLRs, the C300 has a LCD on the back that lights up. Nice to do quick status checks, see audio levels, etc.

back LCD canon c300
f) Hot swapable Compact Flash Cards. Saves you cash on media, that’s a plus.
g) The XLRs that mount near the LCD screen on the top are… well, I would imagine you’d have to do some cable management. Not my favorite position for XLR.
h) The rotating arm on the side comes off. I thought it would be like my Sony EX1R… a nice quick release button and do a quick-action snap! Not so! You have to loosen the ring next to the handle, then the handle practically comes off, then you have to tighten again. Not exactly easy when you’re holding the handle to begin with. This could have been better designed.
i) Size. Size is a plus.

c300 canon 5d

C300 next to 5Dmk2

 

Image

a) ND comes in 2, 4, or 6 stops and is controlled by pushing a + or – button. It’s electronic (EDIT: Electronically controlled, it’s still an Optical filter, thanks Gregory) which I guess is nice because apparently it won’t get stuck like a mechanical ND, though I haven’t had that issue on any of my cameras…

ISO 20000

The compression of my cell phone took out some noise from a picture of the 3" screen. not a great representation :)

b) ISO – People are ranting and raving about the amazing 20,000 ISO on the camera. I don’t see it. I cranked the camera to 20,000 (using 6 stops of ND indoors lol) and it was crazy noise. Sure, it’s relatively amazing, but I wouldn’t shoot anything at 20,000. Maybe some filmmakers think the noise “looks like film”. To me, it looked like noise. However, that said, it did look VERY clean around ISO 4000/5000. That’s impressive. The camera is rated natively at 640 in regular mode and 850 in Canon’s log mode, so there’s lots of room to play there. We can replace our 2k’s with cell phones and shoot with the moon instead of the sun.
c) Speaking of log mode, Canon has an interesting “cinema lock” setting that locks you into 24p and canon’s log mode. I recently read on a blog that Sony’s S-log still retains more information, and for a $3000+ upgrade, it darn better! But there was a big noticeable difference when switching from “standard” to the “log” mode on Canon, and my suspicion is that the 50mbps 4:2:2 codec inside helps with highlight control.

50mm f1.2 and c300

d) DoF – There were several C300s at the demo, and one of them had the Canon 50mm F1.2. Needless to say, RIDICULOUS depth of field. It’s like shooting with a macro lens…except your subject is 8 feet away! Luckily, Canon has included several focus modes. Peaking, we’re all familiar. Magnification, we’re all familiar, and they also included a new mode that uses contrast in three squares that show a vectorscope at the bottom of the screen to determine focus. When the vectorscope is at it’s highest point, the image has the most contrast within the red square on the screen and you know you’ve found critical focus. Very cool. Apparently this is also on the XF305, but I haven’t shot with that camera so I wouldn’t know!
e) Manual mode only! One thing that’s too bad about the EF versions of these C300′s is they are ONLY manual mode. No auto anything (except xlr audio). No auto focus, no support for the IS, it’s almost like a dumb mount, updated: IS and lens metadata are supported along with control of the aperture on EF lenses.
f) 8 Bit out SDI. No need to beat a dead horse, but seriously!??! Really Canon?!? maybe it doesn’t matter. Or maybe it’s of critical importance to sales.

Price

The street price is still unknown. To me, this is where the camera will fall short. It has a great image, it’s fun to hold, great design etc etc, but I’m not ready to pay any more than $8000 for it. I still think an F3 shooting out 10bit 4:4:4 is the champ for price, even though the ergonomics of the F3 body are janky. It’s 8-bit out only which is FINE for most stuff… but I still feel a bit cheated somehow. And the fact that you have to choose between EF OR PL mount… I have both! Hate to plug the Epic here… but being able to switch mounts is a HUGE plus.

One thing is for sure, it’s not the Canon 5D Mark III I’ve been waiting for.

Be sure to watch for Philip Bloom’s mini shootout where he compares the C300 to FS100, F3 and others!


7 Responses to "Canon C300 Review from an Epic owners perspective"

  1. Richard van den Boogaard:

    Honest review. Thanks, very informative. As a DSLR shooter myself, I continuously find myself going back and forth with this camera. Is it worth the investment. Will there be a c400 next year with all the bells and whistles that we miss in this camera? Gruesome times…

  2. Gregory Bennett:

    I believe the ND filters on the C300 are optical glass filters that are dialed in using an electronic button.

  3. Jkwalters2:

    Jeff Walters

    IS does work – not close to dumb mount – also records metadata.  Only thing that doesn’t is autofocus

    • James:

      Hmmm, guess I should have asked better questions, I was led to believe otherwise. Thanks for letting me know, I’ll update this post :)

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