Canon EOS C300 Mark II

Only a few months old, the Canon EOS C300 Mark II Digital Cinema Camera offers a batch of new and improved features compared to its younger brother, the C300. This is a production-grade 4K camera offering both broadcast (3840×2160) and DCI cinematic (4096×2160) resolutions, perfect for any number of professional productions.

The review unit sent to us from Canon arrived with Zacuto gear in addition to Canon’s incredible CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95-3.9 zoom. Breaking down some of the C300 Mark II’s most impressive features, we have the ability to capture 4K, 2K and full HD internal and external recording, which includes the option of 4K RAW output.

Early reports from rental houses reveal that the C300 Mark II is one of the most reliable 4K cameras on the market today, boasting 15 stops of dynamic range. This makes it an attractive creative tool for narrative filmmakers, as well as reality TV and documentary operators. The camera’s expanded dynamic range is a remarkable feat, as is the engineering of an improved Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus with CFast 4K recording technology.

Holding the camera, buttons on the body are easily accessible, with the added convenience of being illuminated in low-light situations. There are 17 buttons in all, each offering 15 different commands. You can easily map functions to any of these buttons through the menu.

An unfortunate flaw in the original C300 was its inferior 8-bit image quality, not on par with modern-day image expectations, as well as broadcast-quality protocols. The C300 Mark II’s 4K 10-bit, 4:2:2 color space fits perfectly into those broadcast standards, however, with an ability to record 4K internally at up to 410 Mbps.

Additionally, 12-bit, 4:4:4 capture is possible at 2K or HD, settings that will enable the most color manipulation in post, if not the highest resolution. And 15 stops of dynamic range at 4:4:4 allows color graders to delve deep into the image. You also can set several different gammas (such as Rec. 709 or Rec. 2020) that will match various other camera footage, if needed.

With a die-cast magnesium body, the second-generation Canon EOS C300 Mark II offers 4K capture with 15 stops of dynamic range. Previously a 2K 8-bit camera, the C300 Mark II now processes 10-bit color space at 4K, with 12-bit color space abilities at 2K and HD resolution. An entirely new handle also has been designed by Canon, plus dual fans keep the camera cool during operation.

Users had griped over the plastic feel of the older C300 model, and Canon has responded by casting a stronger metal build. Consequently, the camera feels solid and sturdy in hand, as well as being slightly larger than the original. A top handle on the camera body is also an entirely new design, but it feels flimsy and weak. This wasn’t an issue, as Canon shipped the C300 Mark II with an impressive batch of Zacuto gear, including a custom helmet.

The helmet was simple to attach, effectively making a solid plane on top of the camera that replaces where the plastic handle normally sits. This enables you to attach Zacuto’s own Top Handle, resulting in an easily adjustable handle that slides back and forth to get the perfect balance point when carrying the rig.

Zacuto’s C300 Mark II Next Generation Recoil Rig was also impressive, easy to attach while working perfectly with Zacuto’s Gratical OLED HD viewfinder, a 5.4-million-pixel-resolution EVF with a built-in -1 to +4 diopter range that was sharp to the eye with plenty of pop. The Recoil Rig was relatively easy to build. The camera simply slides onto its rail and is then adjustable backward or forward (depending on the weight and balance of both camera and peripheral add-ons), allowing me to perfectly balance the rig. This became important when shooting, especially with the heavy gear and big Canon cine-servo zoom making the rig almost 30 pounds in weight.

This didn’t feel like a negative while shooting, due to Zacuto adjustability. It’s a great setup if shooting a project that forces you to work all day and carry the camera gear around with you.

Looking at frame rates, full 4K will allow for 30 fps (if you need 60 fps at 4K, take a look at Canon’s EOS C500), 60 fps at 2K and HD, and 120 fps at 720p. Dual fans work to keep the camera cool while in operation. As we all know, heat management is a big concern for all manufacturers creating 4K cameras, and the C300 Mark II is no exception.

Available in either PL or EF mount, the Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm T2.95-3.9 lens works flawlessly on the EOS C300 Mark II. Weighing 6.4 pounds, this 4K-ready lens features a high 7x zoom magnification, plus a 180º smooth-rotating focus ring.

An EF or a PL mount is available for the C300 Mark II, and Canon Service will place whatever mount you desire on the camera. The 17-120mm lens worked flawlessly, but that’s to be expected from a lens costing over $30,000. Although labeled “cine,” the 7x zoom has a broadcast-style servo for control of zoom, focus and iris.

Clearly, Canon’s long history in ENG has paid off in the lens design, and as a result, it was a joy to use. For example, while other Canon cinema lenses offer a full 300º rotation focus, I love that this one features a 180º rotation focus range, thereby allowing for manageable handheld manual-focus shots. Macro focus is also available, something I haven’t seen before on any other cinema lenses. Zoom speed on the 7x lens also can be set, with speed varying from a minimum of half a second up to a maximum of 5 minutes.

Something that still remains intact—and clearly useful—is Canon’s Dual Pixel Auto Focus (DAF), a feature first available in the company’s DSLR range of cameras. In essence, this means every photosite on the sensor is divided into two component cells, and at the time of focus, those cells act as a triangulation/phase-detection sensor, working together to make autofocus extremely accurate. While I’m not too versed in the science here, I can report very fast focus using the Canon cine-servo zoom.

Speaking of focus, the original C300 only had a small box in the center of the frame to enable autofocus. That meant you needed to aim the box at an object before locking in focus. That same box is now capable of moving around in the C300 Mark II’s frame. Using either phase or subject detection also allows you to focus and follow any subject you choose, which proved effective while I was shooting.

The EOS C300 Mark II was delivered with Zacuto gear, which helped to perfectly balance the camera body and heavy lens and create a comfortable shooting package on the shoulder. The camera’s higher-quality 4K image, along with improved ergonomics, makes it an ideal choice for ENG or reality TV-based work.

A 2- to 10-stop ND filter switch comes in handy when, for example, larger apertures are required in bright light with low ISO. The camera’s native speed is reported as ISO 800 by Canon, while sensitivity runs huge, from ISO 100 up to 102,400. Interestingly, the camera can change the sensitivity of the sensor without adding gain. This means that if you push ISO 800 two stops, you won’t capture as good of an image as shooting the same scene with a setting of ISO 3200.

The ability to simultaneously record 4K with an HD proxy on an SD card is another nice touch, while different formats available for use from various ports include two 3G-SDIs for 4K recording at the aforementioned 410 Mbps.

A brief explanation of Canon Log 2 (C-Log2) is warranted here. It should be considered, even if you’re unfamiliar with using it. C-Log2 gives the benefit of capturing all of the sensor’s dynamic range. For example, if you record in Rec. 709, the dynamic range available to you means you’ll need to protect your highlights, whereas shooting in C-Log2, you actually extend into those highlights when your footage is graded, so you capture far more depth. Slight overexposure is also recommended; the extended range available means the image is easier to pull down.

As for power and audio, a new 14.4-volt battery provides ample juice for a power-hungry camera, and audio is available in two channels, either 16- or 22-bit quality.

In closing, the feel of this new camera, its balance on the shoulder and in the hand with the Zacuto gear and viewfinder, paired with the upgraded functions available, make the second-generation EOS C300 a worthy 4K camera with exceptional dynamic range. With so many positive comments from rental houses expressing their customers’ love of the camera, it seems clear that you can’t go wrong using the EOS C300 Mark II. Word of mouth is the real reveal on any camera dynamic, and so far it seems Canon’s latest 4K offering is a winner. List Price: $15,999 (body only).

Learn more about the Canon EOS C300 Mark II at usa.canon.com.

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