14 April 2015
It would seem my blog software either doesn’t like me or wishes for me to not post anything about the C300 Mark II as this is my third time of attempting to write this post! What it has done though is given me time to reflect on the camera and its place in the ever-changing market.
As I see it, there are two camps here. Those that think that Canon is resting on its laurels and there are no great surprises here in terms of spec. Indeed, the camera is in an increasingly uncomfortable position when you look at the likes of the Sony FS7 and the new Blackmagic Ursa Mini announced yesterday.
Supporters will however dismiss all that saying that what you need is a dependable reliable workhouse that can deliver every time reliably and the C300 Mark II is precisely that. C300 users will also tell you there's just something about the image that is just lovely.
So let’s go over the headline features –
8.85MP Super 35mm Canon CMOS sensor. Shoot 4K at up to 410Mbps/10-bit with the Canon XF-AVC H.264 codec for easy 4K integration into existing workflows. 15 stops of dynamic range with Canon Log2. Simultaneously record 4K to dual internal CFast 2.0™ cards*, 2K/FHD proxy files to SD card and output 4K RAW to external devices. Concentrate on the action with improvements in Dual Pixel CMOS AF, Face Detection AF and Auto White Balance. High-sensitivity, low-noise images up to ISO 102,400. Sensor readout speed is improved, producing even lower rolling shutter distortion. Support for BT.2020, Canon Cinema Gamut and DCI-P3 colour space 4 channel 16/24-bit audio. Huge range of compatible lenses, servo zoom support and service changeable PL mount option
So nothing revolutionary but Canon have made some significant improvements over and above the 4K headline. There's a new sensor and Dual Digic DV5 processor running things which means 4K capture internally in 4:2:2. The sensor is now read in significantly less time which should reduce effects of rolling shutter.Canon have built their own new codec called XF-AVC and as you can see from the specs above, at 30fps in 4K it's recording at 410Mbps! To cope with the high bitrate, the camera now uses CFast 2.0 card. It's worth noting that a proxy file can also be recorded at the same time (in 2K/HD 4:2:0) to an SDXC card. You can also export 4K 4:4:4 to an external recorder like the Atomos Shogun.
One thing people were crying out for was faster frame rates and it's a shame to see that high speed recording is only up to 120fps (in NTSC mode) and only in HD/2K. So far most of C300 users I've spoken to already have an a7s which shoots at same rate (albeit onto a full frame sensor and not a cropped mode 35mm) so there is a bit of disappointment there.
With the EOS C300 Mark II, Canon have introduced Canon Log 2 which is effectively a flatter version of Canon Log and they claim it now gives the camera a dynamic range of 15 stops. For those that want something easier to grade, Canon have also included the WideDR mode as found on the recent C100 Mk II.
Low light performance was pretty good on the Mk I but Canon claim to have improved this on the Mk II with the ISO range starting at 100 all the way up to 102,400. Nature ISO when using Canon Log 2 is 800.
Dual Pixel CMOS AF makes an appearance as standard and is said to have been improved, covering 80% of the sensor area. Face detection is now available and the AF is customisable in not only tracking but also speed.
Audio wise, there is now 4 channel recording so you can record on both the minijack AND the XLRs at the same time.
Looking at the body, there have been a few improvements. The top handle has been redesigned with a new mounting and is said to much more sturdy. One thing that hugely annoyed me as a rental house were the leads of the Mk I - I am hugely delighted to see that these are now detatchable at both ends - hallelujah!! The EVF is now an OLED EVF with far greater resolution and contrast. That's great news as being able to use the camera without the rest of the rig stripped down is one of the camera's biggest assets.
It will be time to invest in new batteries as the old ones are not carried over - expect our cameras to be supplied with the optional 6200mAh BP-A60's.
We have customers that swear by the C300's and I expect they'll swear by the C300 Mk II. The reality is that the price difference when renting is never quite as great as the purchase price difference - truth is whilst the C300 Mk II costs twice as much as an FS7, it won't cost twice as much to hire (more is the shame for us!), so we know they'll go out the door.
For owner/operators I suspect that decision is less clear cut. Will they just keep using their Mk I until they are forced into 4K production and will they then go for the C300 Mk II - difficult to tell.
We HAVE put in our order and are expecting them around September time!