Initial thoughts/ hands on with the Canon C300 Mark 2 – includes footage and naked pics!

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ETHICS STATEMENT: I have no financial relationship with Canon. I have worked for them on the odd job here and there over the years, but nothing ongoing and nothing regarding this camera. I will never to do a camera review paid for by a camera manufacturer. The camera was supplied to me by Canon for 1 week with no strings attached. 

Please remember this is just one person’s opinion, and no purchase should ever be made based on one person alone! Try before you buy if you can!

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Shooting with the C300 Mark 2 in Richmond
Shooting with the C300 Mark 2 in Richmond
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The C300 MKII stripped bare!!

This blog post will be in two separate parts – I have learned my lesson from evolving posts on other cameras: updates need to be separate. I could just wait until it’s all done, but then it might never happen! This post covers first impressions, my hands-on, and shooting experiences. With a more conclusive opinion and lots more footage coming in the second post. 

Last week I got to try out a pre-production version of the new Canon C300 Mark 2 thanks to Canon UK. I first saw the camera at NAB in Vegas in April, but that was just a quick hands-on. This was a full 7 days with the camera.

I used to own a C300 but sold it last year, as I had bought a Sony F55 a few months earlier and couldn’t justify having both. I was sad to see it go, as it was one of my favourite cameras. A superb HD super 35mm camcorder that delivered gorgeous images. Spec-wise it was always a little underwhelming, especially when first announced, but in practice it turned out to be a winner and became hugely popular. One thing it also missed was decent slow motion, a recurring theme with Canon cameras.

Now a replacement for the C300 was due and much speculation was made about what it would be and also how much it would cost, especially with the release of the $8000-ish Sony FS7 which has taken the market by storm. It has a huge list of high-end features, matched by performance that doesn’t disappoint and a price that is essentially a war cry to everyone else!

When the C300 Mark 2 specs were announced, there was similar feeling to when the original C300 specs were released. Great in many ways, but underwhelming in some.

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Spec wise plusses over C300 MkI:

4k Internal recording

New sensor

15 stop dynamic range

Dual Pixel CMOS AF

New high quality codec: 10 bit XF AVC up to 410 mbps. No more 8 bit! (unless you choose to!)

Internal 4:4:4 RGB 12 bit codec available for some frame rates

World Camera

Improved Viewfinder

CFast cards

New screen and handle 

Slow Motion up to 120fps

Raw output

Spec wise negatives

4K is up to 30p only

60fps/60P is in HD/ 2K only 

High Frame Rates over 60P in crop sensor mode only

Uses CFast cards (both positive and negative, but obviously necessary with the new bitrates)

EF Mount, so no chance of the huge lens flexibility of other cameras in its class

New batteries

Heavier

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I got a chance to sit in with Canon UK and Japan for a couple of hours going through the camera in detail. They answered all my questions and gave me loads of information as well as chance to look (and hold!) the camera stark b****** naked! I felt embarrassed. I wanted to look away but I couldn’t help myself. There is something of  a terminator endoskeleton vibe going on there…its die cast body is utterly beautiful!

The C300 Mark II stripped bare. Click on each image to see properly and fully! Check nobody is looking over your shoulder as this is clearly #NSFW

All images on this page are copyright 2015 PhilipBloom.net All Rights Reserved. No reproduction without prior permission.

Things I learned about the camera whilst talking with Canon (in no particular order):

  • Camera is more robust.
  • New log mode code C-LOG 2 with base sensitivity of 800.
  • The 15 stop dynamic range applies to C-LOG2 AND C-LOG original version AND raw.
  • New sensor with much faster readout for reduced rolling shutter effects.
  • Minimum ISO is reduced to 100 and is available in all log modes. Maximum sensitivity is 102,400.
  • Dynamic range is astonishingly held to the high ISOs throughout the range above 800. That’s holding 6.3 stops over 18% from native onwards. Below native it is more like 3.3 stops, as the image is pulled down to create these low ISO, affecting the dynamic range more.
  • Noise reduction up to the “8” setting appears to have no negative image impact according to Alan Roberts.
  • Its 390 grams heavier.
  • It’s a teeny bit wide and longer…but not by much.
  • Auto focus is MUCH improved. Face tracking is available with every Canon lens, not just STM lenses, which is needed for other Canon cameras. There is also a selectable AF speed with response from -3 (slow) to + 3 (fast).
  • With the additional WFT wifi dongle, the C300 MK2 app (which is pretty impressive) actually lets you select ANY object to track by touching it on the screen. It worked. It followed my cup of Costa Coffee! Although this seems to be available in the app only for now.
  • The new XF AVC codec is already supported by Premiere CC 8 and FCP X.
  • Bit rate at 4K is a variable bit rate of 410mbps in 4K which gives you about 20 minutes per 64gb card.
  • High Frame rate is around 440Mbps VBR.
  • There is a long-gop lower bit rate mode available of 50mbps for HD.
  • The high frame rate slow motion is up to 100fps in “PAL” mode and 120fps in “NTSC” mode. The increments are 2 frames.
  • This mode is a 2x crop of the sensor, effectively making it native. There were very negative shaky heads when I asked if this might be made into a full sensor scan in future firmware. My guess is a C500 MkII will be the camera that will do this.
  • You can output a 12 bit raw signal AND record 4K internal at the same time. Impressive!
  • If you want to output to HDMI, then you have to lose either the EVF or LCD output, you cannot have all three working at same time.
  • HDMI can output full 4K too.
  • The SD card slot at front of camera records 8 bit full HD MXF proxies at 24/ 35mbps.
  • The screen is much improved. It’s still LCD, not OLED, but it’s SOOOO bright. Not Small HD DP7 PRO High Bright levels but I could clearly see it in sunshine.
  • The EVF appears improved too AND you can see the waveform in it to. Marvellous! It’s now a nice OLED!
  • The EVF cannot pop off like the C300 Mk I, which may be annoying for some 3 Axis Gimbals.
  • The cables to the LCD are now removable/ replaceable. They also now individually carry audio OR video. Longer cables will be available to order.
  • New XLR only attachment without LCD coming for people wanting to keep the camera smaller
  • The ND mechanism is enormously improved. 2 4 and 6 stops of ND are available as standard.
  • An extended ND mode engages a second wheel behind the first which adds another 2 or 4 stops giving the option of a total of 10 stops of ND.
  • When you go above the single wheel of up to 6 stops and engage the second wheel, the optical path changes slightly which will affect your current focus so it needs checking.
  • Camera will come with the new BP-A30 battery and a dual charger.
  • BP-A30 will give you roughly 125 minutes of power.
  • BP-A60 will give you roughly 265 of power.
  • The camera ships with an EF mount, but you can get an EF with positive locking mechanism which is great for heavier lenses and also a PL mount.
  • The mounts are switchable at official Canon service centres. They are not user swappable.
  • Not all CFast cards will work. Some will drop frames or stop recording. There is a list of supported cards on the Canon Site.
  • Colour Matrix options available in conjunction with gamma settings. “Production” is similar and useful for matching with an ARRI ALEXA. “Matrix” is similar to that of the Sony F55 and “Cinema EOS” is the same as what was once knows as “Cinema Lock” mode on the C300, C100, C500.
  • The SDI output is 4G.2015-Summersale-Banner_728x90-01

That’s a pretty impressive set of features. The key is what exactly is it like to shoot with. As an owner of both a Sony FS7 and F55, there are many things it really needs to impress me with, given that it lacks two key features of both of these cameras. Namely HFR in HD up to 180fps (150fps in PAL) and 4K up to 60fps (50 fps in PAL).

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There is an English saying about waiting for a bus for ages with no sign of one, then suddenly three arrive at the same time. This is what happened to me last week. I haven’t had any new cameras to play with for a while. Most of the cameras I review I buy. It’s rare these days to get an early sample from a manufacturer. Yet during the week when the C300 MK 2 came into my temporary possession, so did the dinky yet powerful Sony RX100 IV and Sony RX10 II. So I had to try and use all of these cameras as well as try to do my actual work stuff. On top of that, GoPro sent me their new Hero 4 Session! So at times when out shooting I combined them! But mostly when I went out I focused on one camera at a time.

It’s a well-known fact that men cannot multitask. We are good at doing one thing well at a time, try to do something else at the same time, and it all goes horribly wrong. After all, have you ever watched TV and listened to your girlfriend at the same time? You end up not knowing what’s going on in the TV show and not having a clue what she said to you! 😉 Women on the other tend to be able to many, many things at the same time. Oh well!

Sony RX100 IV and RX10 II with Canon C300 MK 2 filming in Hammersmith, London
Sony RX100 IV and RX10 II with Canon C300 MK 2 filming in Hammersmith, London
GoPro Hero 4 Session giving me a little BTS camera whilst filming in Richmond
GoPro Hero 4 Session giving me a little BTS camera whilst filming in Richmond

I have always found the Canon log image a joy to work with, way easier than the Sony equivalent. Canon skin tones especially have been my preference, but with work in the settings and a little in post you can get the Sony to match it pretty well.

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The new C-Log 2 gamma curve holds a more uniform output through a much larger portion of the log space than the old C-Log 2, making it theoretically easier to grade. I have been told this doesn’t affect the dynamic range, and it’s still 15 stops in the old C-Log. With the Sony cameras, the S-Log 3 has a higher mid tone and increases the dynamic range by about 1.5 stops over S-Log 2. S-Log 3 is also easier to grade.

You can use LUTS for monitoring and outputting externally. These are user up-loadable as far as I could see, you just have standard ones to give you REC 709 etc. Useful for quick monitoring, but I have become used to shooting in LOG in my viewfinder or LCD and having a nice 3D LUT on my Small HD 502 monitor, as you can see in the images above.

I mostly used my C300 when I had it without a rig, as I like to keep my cameras small, but at times I needed one. It helped when Zacuto brought out their C300 Z-Finder. With the increase in weight, it’s going to be harder to shoot with this camera without any rig at all – it’s definitely heavier than before.

Screenshot 2015-07-16 11.52.14

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Canon have taken lessons implemented into the C100 onto the C300 Mk2 by labelling button with useful things like ISO, White Balance, Shutter etc. A nice improvement.
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The much brighter LCD screen

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Super slow motion at 180fps (that the FS7 has in NTSC mode) is pretty slow (or fast depending on how you see things!)… to be frank it’s more than is needed for everyday shooting, BUT if you have it, then when you don’t have it you miss it. 60fps is usually more than enough and 100fps is the max really for everyday shooting. After that, it’s more of a speciality thing. That the Sony cameras have this, of course, casts a huge shadow over this camera. Especially as anything from 62fps to 120fps is not even using the full sensor. It’s cropped by 2X.

Below are ungraded frames showing the crop and the obvious slight loss of frame size between 4K DCI and UHD 4K/ 2K and HD and the 2X crop for high frame rates. Please note this is a pre-production camera, and these images may not be representative of the final production model. All are ungraded C-LOG 2.

 

C300 Mark 2 4K DCI

2X CROP for HFR
2X CROP for HFR
4K DCI
4K DCI
4K UHD
4K UHD
2K
2K
HD
HD
HD HFR 2X CROP
HD HFR 2X CROP
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4K DCI
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HD HFR 2X CROP

I took the camera out to Westminster, a place I have worked in countless times in my news days, but rarely in my freelance days and only once in a review (see if you can work out which one!) It was nice to shoot some GVs there in a place that I have filmed more times than I have had hot dinners, just not for many years and probably the first time ever with a large sensor camera. The weather was a bit “meh” as expected. Mostly overcast but occasionally sunny.

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As per usual, I had my Small HD 502 monitor on board and was judging exposure with the waveform. To be honest, most of the stuff I shot with the camera veered on the side of undexposure. I should just trust the waveform, but it’s a new camera and habit makes me underexpose with video cameras when I don’t know them! In retrospect I could easily have gone up a stop for most of what I shot. I also took it to Piccadilly Circus. Now I have filmed there many times indeed, including recently. What I like about it there is the amount of people to film, the very London double-decker buses everywhere, but mostly the challenging as hell dynamic range of those whopping bright screens!

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In the little edit I did of the footage shot there, I graded the footage quite heavily using James Miller’s DeLuts which you purchase from here and some FilmConvert. There is a special offer on right now. There is a special pack including LUTs set 4, A7s set, GH4 set, and “make log”  for £49.99 – normal cost is £56.97 if bought separately. Right now I can offer a 10% off that price making it £45.45. Just click the banner below to be taken to the site or read more on my blog post about it here.

You can also see a before and after half frame below that. If you go to the Vimeo page of the edit, you can download the Vimeo converted 4K version, and if you are a plus or pro member, you can download my much less compressed 4K version. It’s still tiny compared to the original but as good as I can share I’m afraid, as the native version would be about 12gb for the 4 minute edit!

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The Palace, The Square & The Circus: Canon C300 MK II Pre-production camera from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

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You can download some native clips from some shots that I did in Hammersmith. 4K, HD and 2 x crop 100fps HD. All C-LOG 2 and C-Gamut, again a bit under exposed. Please remember these are shots from a pre-production camera and are for personal use only. If you want to mess around with them, fine, but if you do upload them anywhere please give credit and also state pre-production camera. I will share a raw shot in my second blog post. There is also proxies of the shots for you to check out.

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Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ with C300 Mk2 at Piccadilly Circus
Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ with C300 Mk2 at Piccadilly Circus

I also shot some raw in Piccadilly circus. I had issues with the file structure, as they aren’t completely compatible yet, but they look good. Just massive files as expected! As I said, I will share a short shot in my next post.

It was a real pleasure shooting with the camera, correction….I loved shooting with it. It’s very familiar to me to use, and the LCD screen is lovely. It’s an awkward shaped bugger though, and its additional weight means a rig is essential, and I am not saying that just because I have a Zacuto banner for a rig, with Gratical below! I swear!

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Looking at the footage afterwards, well, apart from my underexposures it looked pretty good, especially when I got the shots in focus! I shot mostly around 800 but sometimes higher or lower. I did some high ISO shooting which I will put in post two. The image looked pretty damn clean. Occasionally I saw some noise in dark areas, but I think this was more to do with my underexposing/ pre-production camera than anything. Also I have a lot to learn about the settings on the camera. The camera I had was quite buggy and kept on losing settings when changing battery, resetting to a factory state, so it through me a bit.

The CFast cards I used were from my Atomos Ninja Star. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t! It looks like you will need whatever the recommended cards will be.

In post two I will be sharing more clips, both edited and native, I will talk about the raw, auto focus, low light, more about operation, and a sum up of my feelings about the camera. It’s not a cheap camera and has its work cut out for it to get people to choose it over the half-the-price Sony FS7, but it has many things going for it, familiarity being a strong one as there are a lot of C300s out there, it’s hugely popular. This is a big update to that camera for sure. It’s just the lack of those higher frame rates in HD and 4K that irk, but it has SO many other things going for it… I didn’t get a chance to do any side-by-sides with the camera and my larger Sonys sadly. That’s the downside of limited time to review a camera, as opposed to my more usual long-term tests. Still, I think I got to know it quite well in the time I had, so there is a lot more to add!

I will leave you will some more of those C300 Mark 2 naked photos! I hope I don’t get you sacked from work for looking at them! 😉

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