First Look: Canon C300

In terms of the format, the C300 captures 8-bit MPEG-2, 50 Mb/s, 4:2:2 color sampling to CF cards wrapped in the MXF format. Although the C300’s XF codec is superior to the H.264 codec that DSLRs and large-sensor camcorders like the Panasonic AG-AF100 and Sony NEX-FS100U employ, 8-bit processing has been a sore point for a lot of cinematographers because it pales compared to the ARRI ALEXA’s 12-bit ARRIRAW or the new Sony F65, which outputs 16-bit linear RAW. For frame rates, the C300 captures 59.94i, 50i, 29.97p, 25p and 23.98p, as well as a 24p mode that matches the 24 frame-per-second frame rate of film cameras for compatibility with film workflows. With a 32 GB CF card, you can capture over 80 minutes of 50 Mb/s footage.

Regarding the looks of the camera, like the new RED Scarlet-X (announced on the same day), the C300 has a "boxy" medium-format shape—almost as if you propped a Canon EOS 5D Mark II up on its side. The camera has a viewfinder, but also contains a unique LCD monitor that you can attach to the camera’s hot-shoe or on a handle that attaches to the camera for raised viewing. The 4-inch, 1.23-megapixel LCD flips out and can be adjusted 270 degrees, as well as give you playback controls. Canon also revealed an iPad app that will allow you to control certain functions of the C300.

Being able to have a couple of batteries and cards in my pocket that last the whole day—I don’t need a huge support staff.
—Filmmaker Jonathan Yi

Yi loved the compact size of the camera and its ease of use. "The great thing about shooting with film is—like if you’re shooting with a 16mm camera—you can kind of get away with just using a loader, and that’s it. When things became digital, the cameras became bigger and heavier, and the battery consumption got crazy. You needed a bigger crew, a DIT, video village—all this new stuff. The C300 allowed me to go back to basics. Being able to have a couple of batteries and cards in my pocket that last the whole day—I don’t need a huge support staff."

Canon has released both a PL-mount (LEFT) and an EF-mount (RIGHT) C300. They’re also releasing Cinema EOS prime (LEFT) and zoom lenses.

Yi shot with a prototype EF-mount C300 and used a number of Canon zoom and prime lenses, including a 70-200mm ƒ/2.8, a 50mm ƒ/1.2 and a 24-104mm ƒ/4. The other exciting news about Cinema EOS is that Canon is releasing a series of cinema-style PL-mount lenses that offer 4K optical performance. For zooms, Canon offers a wide-angle 14.5-60mm/T2.6, as well as a 30-300mm/T2.9-3.7. (They will offer both PL- and EF-mount versions of the zooms.) For people who want more speed, Canon is offering three prime lenses (EF mount only)—a 24mm/T1.5, a 50mm/T1.3 and an 85mm/T1.3. Pricing isn’t available yet, but don’t expect the cinema-style lenses to be in the same ballpark as EF lenses.

SHOOTING FOR POST

For today’s cinematographer, one of the main goals is to capture as much latitude as possible on set for post color-correction. Perhaps the strongest point to the C300 is its ability to capture wide dynamic range, which according to Canon, maintains a total dynamic range of 800%, or up to 12 stops. With the new sensor and the DIGIC DV III processor, you can achieve much better tonal reproduction by employing the new Canon Log Gamma setting, which captures higher dynamic range, lower contrast and sharpness. Canon Log is different from RAW capture, but gives you similar benefits, allowing colorists more latitude to work with.

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