Canon goes to Hollywood – The new 300C camcorder unveiled

By Dan Chung

So Canon have finally taken the wraps off the C300 large sensor camcorder amid much Hollywood fanfare at the Paramount studio lot. The corporation are clearly taking this market seriously as their global Chairman and CEO Fujio Mitarai personally launched the camera with many of their top brass at the event.

There are two versions of the camera – one with an EOS mount and the other with a cinema PL mount – the two are otherwise identical. There is no autofocus, autoexposure or auto white balance on either version. The body itself is quite compact and features a detachable grip and LCD monitor/XLR audio pack.

Along with the camera several new Cine style lenses were launched – a 14.5-60mm T2.6 and 30-300 T2.95-3.7 in both PL an EOS mounts, along with a set of three primes (24, 50 and 85mm) in EOS mount only.

Inside the camera is a 8.3 megapixel (4K) Super-35 sized CMOS sensor (similar in size to the EOS7D not the 5D mkII or 1D X) but the camera actually records 1080P, not 4K. The extra pixels are used to extract better colour information from the image, not resolution – more later on that.

The sensor is also designed to minimise rolling shutter and should be considerably better than current Canon DSLRs like the 5D mkII. Images can be recorded at 1080/24P (and one assumes 25 and 30P) but only 720P/60 – a slight disappointment.

The images are recorded to CF cards using the same XF codec as Canon’s XF305 and XF105 camcorders. This is 50Mbps 4:2:2 MPEG2 in an MXF wrapper. There are two CF card slots in the camera body as well as a 4:2:2 HD-SDI output for external recording. There is a HDMI output too which is good news for owners of HDMI monitors or EVFs.

It’s worth noting that there is no firewire port on the camera – possibly an issue for news shooters doing live feeds via satphones and Quicklink.

There is an optional wireless module that allows the camera’s exposure and focus to be viewed and controlled from an Ipad or PC – this to my mind is one of the most innovative features. Details are sketchy but this feature alone makes the camera a very attractive proposition to me.

Similar to Canon DSLR’s Picture Profiles there are a choice of gamma settings. Canon LOG gamma gives a flat image designed to be graded later, much like Technicolor Cinestyle. There are also more standard gammas which are designed to give a punchier image straight off.

According to Vincent Laforet there is a built in electronic ND adjustment that goes right to 1/64th and has no loss in image quality. For run and gun shooting this will be a huge bonus if it works.

The hype around these cameras online has been phenomenal but ultimately it’s performance that counts. Canon sources assure me that it does not disappoint and that it scores against competitors specifically in the colour reproduction and skin tone department. The camera has an all new 4K chip, which instead of rendering a 4K output creates a 1080P image with claimed much better colour fidelity. It does this by sampling 2 megapixels each of red and blue and four of green for each image – in other words four pixels are sampled for every one recorded.

Sources at Canon also claim the camera has been seen to out resolve cameras like the competing Sony F3 in initial tests – again I would like to see that for myself before reaching a conclusion.

How this camera works out for news and documentary shooters remains to be seen. On one hand the smaller size and weight compared to a Sony F3 or Red should be a real advantage. On the downside the ergonomics are not designed for run and gun shooting off the shoulder. Luckily rig manufacturers like Redrockmicro, Zacuto and Letus have already had access to camera to build solutions.

Hurlbut Visuals MCS rig with the C300

Canon have today made a very dramatic entrance into the large sensor video camera market today. I for one cannot wait to test the C300.

As with previous Canon products my good friend Vincent Laforet was one of the first to film with the C300 – his results are below with more details over on his blog.

There is also a new Canon website specially dedicated to the camera
At least one dealer is already taking pre-orders for the C300 at just over $16,000 US.


Posted on November 3rd, 2011 by admin | Category: Canon C300, DSLR video news |

2 responses to "Canon goes to Hollywood – The new 300C camcorder unveiled"

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