Sunday, 4 December 2011

Hands on with the Canon C300

I was invited to attend a hands on session with the Canon C300 at Top-Teks on Friday.

It was a real eye opener.

I have been looking forward to getting my hands on this camera since its launch last month.

And I was excepting it to be good.

But nothing quite prepared me for how good it is.

It does bear a resemblance to a medium format camera (it even has a 'Start/Stop' where the shutter release was on Hasselblad 500 series)Speaking of the buttons and switches they are very high quality, notable is the precise Camera/Off/Media button so no accidental switching to the 'Media' setting.

Another very useful feature is the ability to lock all of your chosen settings into place.

The build quality on the per production models I saw was impressive and the buttons on the left hand side of the camera are inset a subtle black 'crackle' finish which shouts quality.

In your hands the first thing that strikes you is just how light it is and how easy it to hold steady, without any form of support.

Lan Bui is getting to grips with it here.

I'm not quite sure why this is, but I was not the only person to comment on this.

Add an image stabilised lens and it becomes something I had not really imagined, a great set up for free hand 'run and gun' shooting.

I tried my favourite 'L' series work a day lens the 24-105mm lens which was very nice, but the EF-S 17-55 F2.8 gave a more useful zoom range,even if it did not feel quite as nice as the 24-105, but in common with all EF lenses it is capable of resolving 1000 lines of resolution.

With the crop factor of the super 35mm sensor, those used to a Canon 5D MkII might have to reassess their lens choice.

My beloved 85mm 'L' series F1.2 becoming the equivalent of 136mm

So a replacement might be the 50mm EF cinema Prime CTZ-30 from the forthcoming range of lens from Canon.

One curious quirk of the C300 is the front 'toe' on the base.

Initially it did get in the way, as you can see.

But after a sustained period of handling, it did not bother me.

The toe can cause problems with some follow focus set ups apparently with certain lenses, but Canon had the foresight to let makers of after market accessories loose on the camera before launch. (Please note other manufacturers they did this and the world did not come to end...)

Zacuto are notable amongst these coming up with some useful mods including a follow focus extension to overcome this.

The top mounted LCD module did concern me when I saw the first images at launch.

In my eyes at least it had the look of almost an after thought.

But on handling it is nothing of the sort, and it is in line with the superb build quality of the rest of the camera.

Being able to reposition this module, with its articulated and mirroring LCD (which is EXCELLENT by the way) means you can locate exactly as you need to for whatever job you are doing.

The viewfinder is from the Canon XF305, and to be honest I was not sure how it would fare.

But again it is excellent, super high quality and manual focusing is in no way a chore.

Sony would do well when to take note when they refresh the F3.

That is something else I LOVE about the C300, if you want to use one of these you had better get practicing as it is manual everything (Focus, exposure and colour balance)

Skill counts for everything with the C300.

So on to image quality.

Sadly the camera's were in preproduction form so no footage is available for posting.

Once again I was struck by just how good it is.

The high ISO performance is simply staggering.

The noise up to 5000 ISO is smooth as, with the noise at 20,000 ISO being present but acceptable.

Jonathan Yi has down this brilliant, funny and very informative piece on the C300, which will give you a very good idea of what the camera is capable of.

Canon EOS C300 = Awesome from Jonathan Yi on Vimeo.

This camera will be a game changer in the way scenes are lit, with less light needed.

Relatively small low powered LED's are going to be a massively useful tool with this camera.

What is missing?

The only feature it does not have which I would really like is a 60p frame rate at a full 1080p not the 720p currently on offer, having said that, the footage I have seen shot at 720p did look better than everyday 720p footage.

It is a disappointment all the same though.

Much has been made of its inability to shoot Raw, but this for me is not a deal breaker having worked extensively with the excellent MXF file format on the XF305 and it is made for the grade. Lots and lots of data to play with in there.

But what of 4k? If I have a job where they ask for 4k I will have to hire something in, but as of yet any client or TV channel is asking for no more than 1080p, and there still in no worldwide standard for 4k.

And what of the RED Scarlet? To be honest I don't really want to immerse myself in the hysterical imbalanced name calling which has raged on the net ever since the launch of the C300 and the RED Scarlet.

Canon users who have all the lenses will probably gravitate toward the C300 while owners of the RED will probably gravitate toward the Scarlet.

Having said that, I know of one very well known Hollywood DP who owns a RED and he has said he will be buying the Canon C300 and not the Scarlet.

Why? Its low light ability, ease of use to existing workflow, and that it is a brilliantly resolved package that works straight out of the box.

I tweeted a day or so ago that when the true enormity of the capabilities of the C300 sink in that not many RED Scarlet's will be sold, I stand by that statement.

I would go further, I think that the Scarlet in its current form will bomb.

Should you buy one? Well if you need what it does and you KNOW that it will generate revenue for you then yes.

If you are happy with your DSLR then great!

Will I be buying one?

Yes, I will.

I have order number one at the Flash Centre (I spoke to Alex Ray) in London, it is worth bearing in mind that the small dealers may be the place to buy a C300 as waiting lists are growing at the big dealers.

And that brings me on to the big problem. Supply

I have no idea how many camera's will make it into the UK this year but I confidently predict that it will be nowhere near enough to meet the demand that I have seen with my own eyes.


F. said...

yeah... I don't shoot video. But I want one. Go figure.

Drew Gardner said...

Hey F,

How are you?

Hope you have a good year.

The C300 is one of those camera's

It is just the most beautiful camera.

See you next year



F. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
F. said...

Had the same feeling with my Hasselblad H4D when I got it...

Otherwise I'm doing great! Had one heck of a year ending, one of those "looks like I finally made it" moments... and next year should be no worse, with plans for a nice exhibition at Paris most famous exhibition spot and a book to come...

Hope you're doing well! I'm hoping to come to London early next year, I'll give you a ring when I'm there and we can go hang out for some fish and chips! Any plans to go to Paris these days? :-)


Nixon said...

Canon C300 is really Awesome !!! Nice Review :)

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Mark Goldberg said...

I did a quick hands-on with this camera at the receent Government Video Expo in Washington DC, where Canon and a fully operating model on display. It also reminded me very much of a medium format still film camera like the Hasselblad or Bronica. The Canon rep said they expected aftermarket makers of support devices to come through with my accessories for this camera. I positioned the view screen low and to the side, which told me that the C300 could be adapted to shoulder supporting with the correct bracket and viewfinder hood. I was told the camera would be sold in two versions, one to taken Canon DSLR type lenses, and another designed with a PL lens mount for other cinema lenses. The C300 is being initially offered at $20,000 but I fully expect that to come down as competitors emerge.

Drew Gardner said...

Hi Mark

Thanks for the comment

It is a cracking brilliant camera which I believe will have a big influence video production for many years to come