Friday, May 25, 2012

"Canon C300 After Dark"

I've been asked by a few people about the Canon C300's low light capabilities, so I decided to head out to Downtown Redwood City to shoot some night time test footage.  Here's the link:

Canon C300 After Dark

The C300 PL is a very fast camera, with a base ISO of 850 and maximum ISO of 20,000.  While noise is apparent at very high ISO speeds, it is a very fine grain, more film like in its appearance. This is due in part to its 9.84 megapixel Super 35mm sensor.  What also impressed me is how much resolution this camera has.  I used the RED 17-50mm T2.9 PL-mount Cine zoom and a Tiffen Digital Diffusion FX 1/4 filter.  One can only imagine what a fast Zeiss prime lens would look like!

I was also impressed by the color saturation, no matter the light level.  The C300 low light capability can literally pay dividends by needing less light and smaller lighting instruments.  It allows for more softening of lights without worrying about having enough output from the lights.

In short, the C300 is very fast, very clean, very detailed, yet still has a very natural looking image, more like film than any camera we've offered.  The fact that it's super small and lightweight with easy to use controls, makes it that much more enjoyable to shoot with!

Special thank you to Joseph Farfone for assisting me on the night shoot and Mike Sly for editing the test.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Canon C300 PL camera? What was I thinking?

Okay, I admit it, I don't like shooting video with DSLR's, Canon's or any others.  Never really liked Canon palmcorders all that much either. While I'm at it, I don't much enjoy shooting video with modern 35mm SLR auto focus lenses.  Glad I got that off my chest!

We know Canon DSLR's have changed the video production landscape once they became video enabled.  They appeal to filmmakers of all types, are used for every kind of project imaginable.  They also have some serious compromises, due to being intended primarily as still cameras, but in the right hands, can make some very sexy motion images.  It doesn't hurt that the 35mm SLR stills lenses, like the DSLR cameras, are pretty affordable as well.

In the past year and a half, we've seen the advent of large sensor video cameras, intended to deliver the DSLR aesthetic, without the workarounds.  I immediately bought a couple of Panasonic AF100 large sensor video cameras, still the most affordable true video camera option for digital Cine shooting.  

Like my clients, I wanted more.  Bigger sensor, better resolution, better codec, more dynamic range, better low light sensitivity, lower noise, while retaining the small, light weight form factor.

Enter the Canon C300!  It ticked all of the boxes.  Finally, a large sensor video camera with a higher bit rate, 4:2:2 color space, in-board recording codec.  Until the C300, you had to mount an external recorder to get that.  Shooting with the C300 is liberating, much like a DSLR(except you don't need double system sound or external ND filters).  Of course, the C300 also offers the Canon color look found in their DSLR's and a lot more menu control of the image.

This little camera makes images not possible at its size and price point just a few years ago.  It records for hours, has really low power consumption, great low light capability, clean, fantastic resolution, a robust codec, 12-stops of latitude with Canon Log cine gamma, internal ND's, very good EVF and 4" LCD with scopes, HD-SDI and HDMI clean, full HD monitoring, time code, dual CF card slots for spanned or dual recording, and off-speed recording. 

So, the C300 makes sense, especially for rental, because it costs more to buy than a DSLR.  The final question was, which lens mount?  The C300 makes you commit to either a Canon EF mount body or motion picture standard PL-mount body.  A bit of a conundrum.  Clearly, if you are buying a C300 and own a bunch of modern Canon EF lenses, the choice is fairly simple--go for the EF mount.

However, if renting a C300, why not choose lenses that are made for motion pictures vs. still photography as long as there are affordable options?  The PL-mount is more rigid than the Canon EF mount.  A Cine zoom allows you to change focal length without having to refocus(many 35mm DSLR lenses are not parfocal, so require refocusing when changing focal length), has very precise control of iris and focus vs. no manual iris ring and auto focus optimized still lenses.  Most Cine zooms and primes don't breathe when focusing, or don't ramp downwards in light transmission when zoomed in.  They have precise lens markings for distance, gears for motors and follow focus, are very rugged and reliable and, of course look fantastic.

Sure, some Cine glass is VERY expensive to buy and even rent, but there are affordable solutions, like our RED 17-50mm T2.9 compact Cine zoom at under 4lbs. and only $100 with rental of our C300 PL, or our amazing Arri Alura 18-80mm T2.6 Cine zoom, which offers a very flexible focal length range, negating the need to change lenses all day long.   We'll soon be adding affordable Cine primes as well.

So, for $475 per day, the Canon C300 PL with compact RED Cine zoom, offers a beautiful, easy to use, flexible, reliable, post friendly, true video camera with Cinematic aesthetic not previously possible.

I challenge anyone to put the Canon C300 side by side with Canon's own DSLR offerings and compare the resolution, noise, dynamic range and of course video camera features!  The C300 is the grown up version of DSLR's.  Photo by Mike Sly, Sly Digital