DGA just took delivery of our new Canon C300. Usually we have a day or two to play around but demand has been high and the camera has been working everyday since we got it. I’ve had a couple of shoots with it already and wanted to share some early observations.
First, a little background about our specific camera needs at DGA Productions. We currently own 15 cameras for 3 staff shooters, with any one camera just as likely to go on a job that day as any other. While we are primarily a production company, we rent our cameras and gear to our freelance friends and even the local rental houses if they are in need. DGA has always been a company that buys early in the product cycle. Back when I started in ’96, you hoped buying a camera had a shelf life of 10 years or so before obsolescence, these days, you’re happy with 3.
Since our first Varicam purchase in 2003, we have gone through a slew of cheaper, smaller, cinematic (read 24p) cameras at DGA. The 5dmkii,7d, AF100, HVX200, and DVX100 all reside on our shelves. We never purchased a Sony F3, which for both price and look is the most comparable camera to the C300. We added many “small camera” specific items like Zeiss primes, Canon L series glass, a couple of motion control sliders and Zacuto rigs. This has given us the advantage of being able to do smaller budget productions, with a bigger production value. While all this product has made our stuff look more cinematic, each camera or workflow is not without their annoyances. The Canon C300 seems to address some of these annoyances.
Lets start with the positives. It comes with two preset picture profiles. One is a c-log (shoots flat for post color correction), and the EOS look, C9, which matches the 5dmkii. Able Cine has a page devoted to picture profiles that match some already popular looks with other cameras. Out of the box, the EOS profile looks fantastic. The saturated, crushed black look of the DSLR is right there. Adding your 5d or 7d as a second camera matches fairly closely. Ergonomically the camera feels comfortable with the pistol grip for your right hand. Having iris control and a record button makes operating handheld much easier. The camera naturally sits low, meaning it feels best resting on my belly and not at eye level, a potential disadvantage at times.
The HDSDI out, XLR inputs, and TC sync give us the professional video components that the cameras on our shelves lack in some form or another. There are 3 stop/start buttons and 2 iris dials, solid. The LCD screen is sharp, accurate, and bright, plus it swivels in almost any direction to give you or the producer over your shoulder many viewing options.
The sample clip below was shot available light. We had 20 interviews in 2 days with multiple locations so I tried to use the natural light where I could (luckily I had an overcast couple of days.)
Some dislikes – Shooting b-roll is tough. I was trained on larger, shoulder mount cameras. As with all cyclops (thanks Mal) cameras (viewfinder in the back of the camera and not off to the side), you must hold the camera directly in front of you in an uncomfortable, non ergonomic way. That makes it hard to steady the shot, see out your periphery, and taxes your back. Sure you can add the Zacuto mounts, but then it ceases to become a small, easy to maneuver camera and gets wonky awfully quick. If you are not outside, the lcd screen works fine in the flipped down mode, acting as an viewfinder. Focus is not as accurate using an LCD, and I find the peaking function to be inadequate. Also, because you are not using a traditional video lens with a servo, everything is manual and compromises smooth, traditional zooms. Your mm range will always be limited in comparison to a wide ranging video lens.
I also don’t like the function button/toggling that you need to use to cycle through to change the shutter, ISO and white balance. Pushing the function button gets you to the item you want to change, then you roll a secondary wheel to toggle through the options. All which change in a “stepping” motion, limiting any smooth adjustments during filming. You can assign other buttons on the camera to act independently, but it still means you have to locate them, push, and toggle. Try to do that while rolling and you are bound to be disappointed.
Smaller annoyances include no playback speaker for audio, a seemingly easy standard feature in every other camera I’ve ever used. No Dtap to power an external recorder or camera light. The 8 bit vs 10 bit is a future proofing issue, and the output is limited to 1080, while so many were hoping for the ability to shoot 4k or even RAW.
Overall, I like it for a non shoulder mount camera. The images are very slick, and for a medium price tag, you get a lot of value. The C500 announced at NAB this year addresses the 4k and bit output limitations of the C300, though the camera is not due out til next year and may cost twice and much. For now, this camera will be work very well for 95% of our clients. Were just hoping for 3 years…