Cameras. Bodies. Brains. Whatever you may call them, they are rapidly changing and evolving to the point where some manufacturers might not be making the cut. The Canon C300 mkII, is it too late in the game, for Canon’s new Cinema camera? With Sony pushing their FS7, which comes in with pretty similar specs and a recent free version 3 firmware update, does the C300 mkII make sense, or does the price match it’s performance?
The FS7 coming in at a pretty $7,999 compared to the C300 mkII at $15,999. The obvious choice, if you are on a tight budget with 4 years of film school on your grip belt would be to go with the FS7. Or would you just spending the same amount of money on accessories and extras to make the FS7 a competitor to the C300 mkII?
Let’s start out by taking a look at the FS7. A camera barges into the scene with a Super 35 CMOS sensor that has a rated dynamic range of 14 stops, that can record internally DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) XAVC 10-bit 4:2:2 (Intra/Long GOP) up to 60p and HD up to 180 FPS. The FS7 also claims to be “shoulder rig ready” with a small shoulder pad and an arm hand grip extension. It’s not that terrible of a build out of the brain but it tends to be front heavy and awkward.The new monitor makes this shoulder rig doable, with it being fairly customizable and movable, also with the clip-on viewfinder makes it much more user friendly for the shoulder.
Going off of the monitor situation from the FS7 into the C300 mkII, not much has changed from the previous monitor of the original C300 to it’s new younger brother, except one major thing. The audio and video cables from the monitor to the camera are now detachable and are interchangeable. So, if you lose one or if one breaks, you won’t need to send in the entire camera’s monitor and audio unit just for a single cable. They also sell longer cables in case you wanted to go from the top of gimbal or need a new position on a shoulder rig. The stock cables are pretty long themselves. Using the C300 mkII on a Movi M10 I was able to use the stock cables to mount the monitor on the top handle bar.
Let’s jump into the technical specs of the Canon C300 mkII. Coming in with the familiar Super 35 CMOS sensor that Canon has rated with an impressive 15 stops of dynamic range. The C300 mkII can record in 4K/UHD up to 30fps Internally at 10-bit 4:2:2 (YCC) and 2K/HD 10/12-bit 4:4:4 (RGB) up to 60fps. Also it features a cropped 2K/HD mode up to 120fps, which will help to compete with the Sony line of cameras. Out of the box, the camera is handheld friendly, with the familiar build of Canon’s Cinema Line cameras, with that, the camera is a bit tall when built up, if you attach the handle as well. The C300 mkII also is a bit heavier than it’s older brother and that comes with the electronics and features that are packed in. Coming from a single Digic DV3 processor, Canon stepped up and put a Dual Digic DV5 processor in to handle the demands of 4K and it’s new and improved, Dual Pixel Auto Focus.
One of the most impressive features out of the C300 mkII, has to be the Dual Pixel Auto Focus, which was found on the C100 mkII and Push to AF on the C300. The upgrade shatters everything I ever thought about AF, With the option to make rack focusing slow or quick, it helps to apply your own feel to an action or scene. The new AF also covers 80% vertically and horizontally of the image, making it more accurate in tracking subjects within the entire frame. Also with the new AF, it makes the mkII a very powerful camera to be put onto a gimbal system, in which you can choose many different options of AF tracking, from the type, position, size and speed. You can also use one of the multiple thumbsticks or one side wheel to toggle exactly where the focus box is. With all these features, it finally creates a real and worthy use for AF for professional shooters.
This is one area where the FS7 tends to fall short. The Auto Focus on the FS7 is present but is it actually useable? To get the best results, you would need to use the native Sony lenses and with the large range of glass available on Canon’s end, it’s popular to see many people using Metabones adapters on the FS7. These has proven to provide some buggy and inconsistent communication between the lenses and camera. Sometimes without any communication at all and making it necessary to detach and re-attach the lens for the signal to come back. The Metabones Speedbooster is a pretty convenient adapter, giving you a wider field of view and 1 more stop of light. This will probably be an issue that will soon to be resolved or maybe it will always be a constant battle between the two manufacturers.
Auto Focus might not matter to many of the consumers in the market. If you’re using Cinema lenses or are on set with an AC then these features wouldn’t be necessary. For the documentarian or event shooter, these features could be game changing for your barebone, single shooter style work.
But, with new significant features like AF for the C300 mkII, a new and more powerful battery is needed. The BP-A30 and A60, both which provide double the amount of power, at 14.4V’s, but still lasts as long as the familiar BP-955. This change was made because of the introduction of 4K internal, as well as they made the change from a single Digic DV 3, to a dual Digic DV 5. This gives the camera much more performance and power to process the high bit rates and heavy functions available with this camera.
Let’s hop back and look into Dynamic Range and how the C300 mkII claims to have 15 stops while the Sony FS7 is rated at 14. The claims by Canon brought much speculation and so an article by Cinema5D was published reviewing the Arri Alexa, next to the C300 mkII and the FS7.
The test that Cinema5D conducted helped to show the color and dynamic range that is present with both the C300 mkII and FS7. Both cameras performed very well and have almost exactly the same dynamic range when it comes down to it, but I will say the Canon seems to perform slightly better within the blacks and dark areas of the image. It produced less of a water colory mess once the image was slightly boosted. The FS7 seemed like it started to breakdown around 14 stops of dynamic range and the C300 mkII actually started to develop a horizontal strip that was present around 14 stops. Canon truly tried to market this camera as a competitor of the Arri Alexa, which it is for some operators that are trying to get an image close to. But the Arri Alexa, still came out on top with a solid 15 stops of Dynamic Range.
Whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional, each camera system has their own benefits that could be attractive to a specific user depending on their needs. With high frame rates on the FS7 and the C300 mkII not too far behind, the FS7 could be a much better option for the hobbyist. If you are trying to record 4K RAW out of the camera, it could be a better idea to go with the C300 mkII because you might find yourself spending almost the same amount of money to do the same out of the FS7. Both cameras offer impressive options for the hobbyist and professional shooter of any level, but the true questions is, which camera will stay relevant over it’s lifetime in the film industry.