Canon Unveils New EOS C300 Digital Cinema Camera
Super 35 sized sensor with EF or PL mount option.
By Dan Carr | November 04, 2011
At Paramount Studios in Hollywood today Canon finally pulled the covers off it's long awaited interchangeable lens digital cinema camera, the EOS C300. Featuring a Super 35mm sized sensor capable of shooting 1920x1080, XLR audio inputs, built in ND filter system and HD-SDI out it looks to have answered many of the cries from current HDSLR video shooters but at a price. $20,000.
We knew this day would eventually come ever since the somewhat accidental success of the Canon 5d MK2 in the film making industry. Canon have talked to the users of those cameras and delivered what they consider to be a professional solution that delivers the all the benefits of a large sensor interchangeable lens video camera along with the prerequisites of a professional production. The world of digital cinema is evolving at a frantic pace though and there is a divide in opinion regarding the needs of the modern film maker. On the one hand Jim Jannard from RED would have us believe that anything worth shooting is not worth shooting in less than 4k resolution. But on the other hand the vast majority of video is still shot at 1920x1080 (or less) and only a tiny tiny handful of places can even display 4k footage at the moment. Even when cinemas are upgraded how long will it be before 4k filters into the home in a mainstream manner ? Canon clearly believes not enough people are ready but RED are adamant the time is now. Before we dig a little more into this let's take a closer look at the C300 itself.
- EF & PL Mount versions available. Identical apart from the mounts
- Super 35mm sized 2160-3840 CMOS sensor
- Canon XF codec (50Mbps 4:2:2 1080p30 MPEG2 MXF)
- Dual CF card slots
- Built in ND Filter
- Modular design with removable top & side handle
- Hot shoe mounted swiveling LCD monitor
- Body weight: 1430g
- Body dimensions: 133mm X 171mm, 179mm
- Wireless control of focus and functions available with accessory
- Time code
- Shipping January 2012
The camera ships as a ready to use package that features a detachable top handle and removable side grip. When mounted on the camera the side grip swivels to allow for low level shooting whilst still keeping a solid hold of the camera and full controls are also available on the side grip including iris. Removal of the side grip allows easy configuration in a 3d setup where both cameras need to be extremely close together and the package also comes with a 4" LCD screen with a hot shoe mount which has XLR connectors built into the side of it, a control panel next to the LCD allows adjustment of the audio inputs. Canon have maintained the potential space saving benefits of a modular design whilst attempting to offer a "ready to go" package right out of the box. Indeed judging by the image above with the 70-200 lens attached, this is a very compact camera and certainly capable of being much smaller than a DSLR would be if you were to add all the necessary bits and pieces to get one ready for production purposes.
Once again Canon called on Vincent Laforet to create a short film to demonstrate the camera's capabilities which you can see below.
Where are they really aiming this ?
This is something that might be debated ad infinitum between Canon and RED fans at the moment and it's not helped by Canon's insistence on the use of Digital Cinema in the naming of the new camera. To me this seems like a camera that would be much more suited to high end broadcast and documentary work than digital cinema. The all in one solution which can record up to 80 minutes of footage onto one CF card (of which it has two) seems ideally suited. Jason Wingrove also made an excellent point this evening via twitter regarding the relative cost of media. The C300 shoots to compact flash cards so one hour of recording can be on a disk which costs $100. To record the same amount of footage on a Scarlet would need $2000 of SSD drives. So can we really be talking about cameras aiming at the same market ? The production cost of a shoot with a C300 will be dramatically less than anything shot with a Scarlet. Again I'm not yet choosing a side of the fence here, I'm just stating the facts so we can all get acquainted with them. For a documentary shoot that might previously have been shot on an ARRI Alexa, the C300 seems to be a viable option at a much smaller price in a smaller package. The Alexa is the baby of the TV production industry at the moment for the good reason I mentioned earlier, 4K is a long way from being in the living room. I think we will see the C300 used in far more TV productions than cinema productions where the advantage of a 4k camera is easier to see , and the higher production price easier to absorb. External recording is available via HD-SDI on the C300 but the signal is 8bit 4:2:2 which again goes against the Cinema monicker they Canon have branded themselves with as you would imagine anything truly aiming at the cinema market would be better specced in this area to handle the rigors of post production color correction. Other ease of use features like built in 2, 4 and 6 stop ND filters just cry out to be put to use in a a run and gun style rig for documentary work.
There's no getting past the fact that $20,000 is a huge chunk of change and I think it's fair to say that the price came as something of a surprise for most people, definitely for me. Of course there was a huge amount of speculation prior to the launch and most people seemed to have fixated on a price somewhere between 10 or $15,000. For a 1080p camera this fell in line with a decent Sony PMW F3 setup so it made a lot of sense, at $20,000 though Canon have definitely priced themselves out of a lot of people's budgets and frankly to me it seems like an overly high price for something that can't even manage to overcrank footage at 1080p. At $15,000 I would have been a lot happier but I'm not going to start shouting about how the RED Scarlet-X is half the price of the C300 like some people have been. A useful working Scarlet package is $14k and then add on another few thousand for an EVF if needed and another few thousand again if you need RED's I/O module for onboard XLRs. At that point you'll easily be at $20,000+ and you'll probably need more SSDs and a $5000 Red Rocket card to deal with the footage. I'm not making a case for or against either camera right now, these are the facts and the Scarlet should be more expensive, it's a hell of a camera and the price is still a bargain and should be easy to swallow for the film productions that it's suited for. On the other hand $20,000 for the Canon camera doesn't rank as a bargain in my book.
What now for DSLRs?
Coming into this announcement I had it in my mind that it could spell the death of DSLR film making if the price was right. Well clearly it wasn't and if anything it underlines the great value of current DSLR solutions. People have been making some truly beautiful work with them for the last three years and for many people it will continue to be that way as the C300 is going to be out of reach. The recently announced 1D X might be a good middle ground as it features many improvements over previous cameras and shows that Canon still see a value in this sector as well. Shortly after the C300 announcement in fact Canon had one more thing to say which came right out of left field.
HOLLYWOOD, California, November 3, 2011/TOKYO, November 4, 2011 - Canon Inc. today announced that the company is developing a new-concept EOS-series digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. Incorporating an enhanced version of the video-capture capability offered in the current EOS-series lineup, the new camera will be ideally suited for cinematographic and other digital high-resolution production applications. The model will be equipped with a 35 mm full-frame CMOS sensor and, enabling the recording of 4K video* (at a frame rate of 24P, with Motion-JPEG compression), will make possible the type of exceptional image quality and sublime imaging expression to be expected from the next generation of "EOS Movies."
No more details on this camera are currently available though but it seems that the DSLR form factor still has some life left in it on Canon's timeline.....
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