Thoughts on the New Canon C300 Mark II

Original image courtesy Canon & NewsShooter.Com

Original image courtesy Canon & NewsShooter.Com

Today, Canon announced the Canon C300 Mark II large sensor video camera. You can read all about it in this excellent coverage from our friends at NewsShooter.com. 

I owned and operated a C300 since release (I had serial number 00000002 I believe), and also the Sony PXW-FS7 since its release. This rapid delivery is thanks to Rule Boston Camera, by the way.

Based on the released specs and a ton of experience with the C300 and now FS7, what do I think about the C300 Mark II? Well, it is precisely the 2015 version of the C300. Everyone on the internet who cares about this kind of thing (actually a small number, relatively) complained and moaned about that camera's price, bit depth, and capabilities when it came out.  What happened instead?

Three years later it's still producing an amazing looking image (including Cannes Palme d'Or winners), with a wonderful form factor for handheld (needs a rig for shoulder though). It's extremely rugged - I myself brought it though disaster zones, held it outside moving cars, shot in the snow and the rain. Today, after having spent time with the FS7, I think it's a great camera overall for the price. But the C300's color science also always looked fantastic (and I think has an edge over Sony for realism and that "gauze of film" look), and there's a good reason the C300 remains the #1 rented camera in the world today for all but high end commercial/feature work. The C300 is in fact a steal now at $6500 new, down $9,500 from its introduction.

There were other cameras out when the C300 was released that were similar at the same or lower cost (though not nearly as many as today). But what you got for 16K was a no-BS camera that worked without much compromise. That's the same thing ARRI sells today, in fact. You turn it on, shoot, and you know you will get an amazing image out if it and the camera is a tank. 

I always say with gear you can get "fast, cheap, good"... pick two. I didn't make that up, but it's almost aways true. With Canon you get fast and good, but not cheap. With the FS7 you get good and cheap, but not fast because it's kind of a quirky mess to operate until you really get to know it... and then not perfect. The Dragon... I don't have anything good to say about it but I do think the Red Weapon design will largely alleviate the remaining issues. 

Don't get me wrong. All things considered, I love my FS7... it's got an amazing image as well and all you really need tech-wise for half the price of this new C300. (I expect the C300 to street at $14K USD vs the $8K of the FS7... you're at $16K vs $10K with media so it's not a small difference). But the FS7 is a compromised camera - operations wise. It's got a slow as shit display processor and all kinds of odd limits on what can be on the screen. It's actually built quite well, but the EVF and grip are plasticky and have the grip has started to slip on people already. And don't get me started on the joke of an arm; the Shape arm mod I think is absolutely essential.  You can read more about my thoughts after using the FS7 for months in this new post here.

The C300 Mark II will sell extraordinarily well. Of course I have not been able to use it yet, but I have used it's predecessor and the C100 extensively. I have no reason to doubt Canon will continue the same quality story it started with the C300 Mark I with the Mark II. It has the same body style the world is used to using now, it "just works" with no nonsense on set when time is money, and it's delivering very high bitrate 15 (!) stops with Canon goodness. If I was a full time shooter vs a producer/editor/shooter, and I had the money, there's zero doubt I'd buy the C300 Mark II. It's a positively awesome camera for the price.

The good news... is if people are willing to make some sacrifices in operability, and have the time to fiddle with the image, the Sony FS7 can indeed get most people to the same spot image-wise, in high bit rate internal 10 bit 4:2:2 4K, with a decent body, for 1/2 the cost. It even shoots at higher frame rates than the C300 Mark II as well, which can't do 4K/60. I actually love the FS7 camera for what it is... good and cheap. But not fast.

And I'll love renting the C300 Mark II for being good and fast.

This is a great time for independent filmmakers. Everyone has access to high resolution, high color, high quality large sensor cameras now. Gear is not the gating factor anymore.

Thoughts? Post them below.