First Look: Canon C300

In recent years, no tool has changed the production industry as much as the DSLR. With the release of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II nearly three and a half years ago, Canon helped kickstart a filmmaking revolution that enabled low-budget (or no-budget) filmmakers to produce high-quality cinematic images for a fraction of the cost of a typical production. Because of the DSLR revolution, Canon has not only sold a boatload of its EOS cameras, but also increased ownership of its EF lenses, over 70 million of which Canon estimates now exist in the field. This statistic alone perfectly positioned Canon to release a large-sensor video camera, and on November 3, 2011, Canon held a Hollywood-style red-carpet event at Paramount Studios to announce the arrival of its new Cinema EOS large-sensor camera system, the C300.

One of the first shooters to use the C300 was director/cinematographer Jonathan Yi. Working in advertising, Yi is also a cinematography professor at NYU and was contacted by Canon to consult on the C300, which was in development.

"This was before anyone knew their plans for this camera," reveals Yi. "They wanted me to go out and shoot with a prototype to get familiar with the camera, as well as write an article and produce a possible video for the launch."

Working with the C300 prototype, Yi produced a camera evaluation parody that has been entertaining camera geeks around the world (www.vimeo.com/32067654) not only for its humor, but more so for its technical information.

"I just wanted to know certain nuts and bolts about how to work with the camera, which is what I talked about in the video," explains Yi. "For example, seeing the gamma setting differences—you’re not going to see a narrative film explain that to you or show you what the different settings look like. I wanted the video to be what I found helpful, and my goal was to show a test that was poking fun at a typical camera test. I also wanted it to be watchable. I come from advertising, so keeping someone’s interest is important to me."

The C300—offered with either a PL mount or an EF mount—contains a Super 35mm-sized CMOS sensor and records full HD resolution to CF cards.

JUST DON’T CALL IT A DSLR

In a nutshell, the C300—offered with either a PL mount or an EF mount—contains a Super 35mm-sized CMOS sensor and records full HD resolution to CF cards. Perhaps the feature that separates the C300 from any of Canon’s DSLRs is its sensor. Canon has designed a brand-new CMOS sensor that’s based on 3-perf 35mm film and has a native "4K" array of photosites (3840×2160), yet outputs 1920×1080 resolution. Because of the new motion-capture sensor and the new DIGIC DV III processor, line skipping used in DSLRs isn’t employed, which significantly reduces artifacting and moiré. Unlike, say, a 5D Mark II, the C300 is a true video system.

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