In the April issue of HDVideoPro, I wrote up a First Look on the new Canon EOS C300, Canon's first professional large-sensor digital camera system. For the story, I profiled the specs and features of the camera, as well as getting a shooter's perspective from filmmaker Jonathan Yi, one of the C300's initial beta testers. As you probably know, the C300's general specs include a unique Super 35mm CMOS sensor, a DIGIC DV III image processor and a 50 Mbps 4:2:2 codec that records to CF or SDHC cards. The camera's most talked about features include Canon Log, a gamma setting that lets the camera capture up to 12 stops of latitude, and the ability to capture usable images at extreme ISO ratings. Needless to say, I was super-excited to receive a C300 for a week. The review unit was equipped with an EF-mount and a number of Canon L-series prime lenses.
But after shooting with the C300 for a short time, it only proved that specs on paper don't always translate to results out in the field.
The first thing I noticed about the C300 after taking it out of the shipping container was its size. The camera isn't much bigger than an EOS 5D Mark II turned on its side, and like many of the new digital camera systems, it has the shape of a medium-format camera or maybe a modern Bolex 16.
Cameras with this form factor are typically difficult to operate handheld, but Canon has designed the C300 with well-thought-out ergonomics, especially for indie shooters. For handheld operating, I basically kept my right hand on the detachable handle grip and my left hand on the bottom of the camera, with my fingers gripping the small shelf-like overhang underneath the camera. You can't shoot for long periods of time like a shoulder-mount camera, but it's definitely more comfortable than shooting with traditional handheld camcorders like the Sony EX3 or Canon XF300, which are more bulky and top-heavy. The C300's detachable handle grip conveniently rotates 360 degrees for low- or high-angle shooting.
The camera was very comfortable to hold, due mostly in part to its six-pound weight with body, grip, monitor, battery and CF cards. With an EF prime lens mounted, the C300 was quite easy to set up, take out and shoot professional-quality shots. Like shooting with a DSLR, it draws little attention in the field, which makes it an ideal run-and-gun camera or suitable for documentary work.
For viewing, the C300's LCD screen was a big plus. The LCD screen attaches to the hot-shoe of the camera and lets you move around the menu system easily with a toggle/joystick. If the screen feels a little high, you can turn it 180 degrees, flip it underneath its base and hit the Mirror button, which will correct the upside-down image. Because of the LCD screen, I rarely found myself using the viewfinder on the camera unless I was shooting in bright sunlight.