Since the Canon 5D Mark II emerged almost four years ago, many pro videographers on a budget have shot their material exclusively with DSLRs. They've loved every minute of it. But they've been waiting for the next big thing—a dedicated video camera with a large sensor, interchangeable lenses, and no compromises. The Canon C300 might just be that machine.
Why It Matters
After the 5D Mark II arrived, nobody was willing to go back to the clunky, bland, lifeless images of an old Sony PD150 or its HD equivalents. But the 5D Mark II was always a still camera at heart, and it showed with the lack of essential video features like proper audio controls and focus peaking. Other products meant to fill the gap. In 2010, there was the Panasonic AF100, and last year, the Sony FS100. Both of those cams were solid attempts. But the Canon C300 really takes it up a notch. This camera will shoot TV commercials, indy feature films, broadcast TV shows, and high-end documentaries. This $16,000 tool splits the difference between a $3,000 video-capable DSLR and a top cinema camera, like a $40,000 RED.
The C300 is bliss. It's simple and intuitive to use—a surprise, since a pro-level beast like this could come with a convoluted web of buttons, acronyms, and menus. The C300, however, strikes the perfect balance between being customizable and user friendly. The lack of automatic functions helps keep things simple. There is no auto focus, exposure control, ISO setting, or shutter speed. Those used to shooting with a DSLR will be accustomed to this, but those coming from a more traditional video background will have some adjusting to do.
The C300 has a rather unorthodox form-factor. The body is tall instead of long, sort of like an old Bolex. It is extremely light, with most of the heft coming after a lens, grip, handle, and LCD are attached. The modular nature makes the system quite portable, and easy to tailor to the user's needs. With the side-grip attached, it feels balanced and secure. It's quite a pleasure to hold.
So what does the C300 offer image-wise? Some significant image improvements over any DSLR are dynamic range, resolution, and low light capability. The amount of information visible in the shadows and highlights is outstanding. The image is also tack-sharp. One of the biggest complaints against the new Canon 5D Mark III is that it produces a softer, lower-resolution image that is riddled with compression fuzz. In contrast, crisp, clean lines abound on the C300's footage. Low light is a measly foe as well. As great as DSLRs are in low light, the C300 is clearly superior.