Canon C100 Review – First impressions
Having just received a Canon C100 I thought I’d post my first impressions. At this stage I haven’t started shooting with the camera so this is going to focus on the build and operation of the camera for now but I will be posting more about the results and workflow as time goes on. As a Canon C300 shooter a lot of this post will be comparisons to that camera but should prove useful none the less. I have to apologise for the low quality images below, I was far too excited to go and grab a proper camera so snapped away with the iPhone!
Taking the C100 out of the box it felt just like C300 only in a more compact form, in fact in some ways it actually feels a little more rugged! That’s probably due to the fact that it has less bits and pieces on it but none the less this feels like a well built camera. The handle with the microphones and XLR inputs built in feels really nice, I’m never a big fan of the clear plastic covers over the audio controls as I invariably break them but other than that the handle feels tough and is very sturdy. Having just the single connector lead that attaches on the side rather than the back like the C300’s leads also lends to making the camera feel a bit less vulnerable.
Although slightly smaller than the C300 the C100 doesn’t feel much different in use, partly because it uses the exact same side handle. There are obvious differences such as the much smaller EVF and the LCD on the rear panel but all in all the camera feels very familiar after using a C300.
One little thing that Canon have done is to print an orange dot on the record buttons. Also shown below is the C100 handle on the C300 body. It’s probably a good job the cable doesn’t reach the C300’s ports as the temptation to see if the built in mics function would have been too high to resist.
Menu system changes
Okay so not really changes as this is a new camera model but there were a few things I noticed in the menu’s that were interesting. With rumours everywhere about a C300 firmware update coming soon maybe we’ll see some of these introduced on that camera too.
This is an interesting addition to the menu system. As I’ve reported before using an EF-S lens like the 17-55 that I use regularly can result in vignetting or light fall off in the corners. This happens because the sensor in the C300 & C100 is slightly wider than the sensor in a 7D or similar DSLR so the EF-S lenses don’t quite cover the sensor evenly. The EF-S Lens option in the C100’s menu uses a smaller area within the sensor and then scales the resulting image up to 1080p in camera, so removing the corners that are problematic.
On switching on the C100 for the first time I was surprised by how loud the fan was. It was actually louder than the fan on my C300 and blows air out of the vent on the side of the camera with so much force that you can feel the air moving from a few inches away from the camera! One nice addition in the menu is an option to have the have automatically switch off when it’s not needed, enabling this option immediately silenced the camera. I won’t know until I’ve used the camera more how much it needs to use the fan in normal shooting conditions.
Custom Picture settings
One of the first things I wanted to do was set up a custom picture on the C100 that matches the one I use on the C300. On going to the edit option I was a little shocked as the huge array of settings in the C300 have been replaced by two graphical tools for Gamma and White Balance that allow easy adjustment of the image.
Those inclined to dabble in the more intricate side of custom picture settings should not be too alarmed though as the huge array of options are still available, they’ve just been moved to a new menu item called ‘FINE’ for Fine Tuning. Most of the settings from the C300 seem to be present although I did notice that the White Balance fine tuning options no longer allow tuning of the Green Gain.
Setting everything the same as my C300 apart from that missing green gain option resulted in an image which still looked quite different from the C300 in terms of colour. The interesting thing is that the C100’s images actually looked a lot more accurate and true to life than the C300 which I’ve always felt struggled with skin tones a little. The C300 has a tendency towards green and by dialing that out the image can become a little overly pink. The C100 looked very accurate and did not suffer the same tendency so maybe Canon have improved the colour handling from the sensor. I don’t have any examples for now but will show some at a later date.
I’ve always the the magnify feature on the C300 was lacking, especially after using a DSLR where you can step through various zoom levels as well as move the target area around. You still can’t cycle zoom levels or move the target on the C100 but I felt it had a larger magnification than the C300. I need to confirm this by direct comparison but I don’t recall seeing this level of zoom on the C300.
On the C300 if you want to change the ISO, the shutter speed or white balance you need to either set up custom buttons that allow direct access to those settings on the LCD or press the function button until the required option is highlighted on the LCD and then change it using one of the mini joysticks. The C100 on the other hand has a much better approach, you press in the mini joystick on the grip and one of the options is highlighted on the LCD, left and right movements toggle between settings that can be changed and up / down movements make changes.
Thats a much nicer and more intuitive way of navigating the setting on the LCD as it can be done without moving your hand from the handgrip and it’s easy to make changes whilst looking through the EVF. Hopefully this will find it’s way into the C300 one day.
Talking of the EVF I know a lot of people have concerns about the EVF on the C100 so I’ll give my thoughts on that.
I’m probably a little spoilt by the EVF on the C300, the large well fitting eye cup can be adjusted to most angles and the image inside is large and highly detailed. In comparison the EVF in the C100 is fixed in a really uncomfortable position and the eyecup if you can call it that doesn’t mould to your face at all. Once you plant your face against the EVF you’re mouth is pressing against the LCD, your forehead is pressing on the top handle and it just feels really uncomfortable. It’s pretty much impossible to use the EVF in a way that blocks out external light.
On top of the ergonomic problems the image inside the EVF is so small that it feels like your trying to focus or compose your image on a postage stamp! One saving grace is that the image looks fairly detailed but it’s just too small to be of any real use and is definitely not something I would use as a main guide to focus, even with the Peaking and assist tools the camera has.
To make matters worse the magnify feature doesn’t effect the image in the EVF, that’s just crazy as it could make it slightly useful! As with the C300 the waveform monitor also doesn’t show in the EVF.
Update: As noted by MazingerZ on the dvxuser forum the Magnify feature does in fact work in the EVF but only when the LCD is in the closed position.
I get the feeling that this EVF was designed with one thing in mind… differentiating this camera from the C300!
I have to say that having the LCD on the rear of the camera doesn’t really work for me, you find yourself holding the camera out in front of you so that you can see it as you do with an SLR. I prefer to press the camera to my face or my chest if I can to give some stability and having the LCD on the back means you can’t do that. There are some advantages to the design as it means the camera is still usable without the top handle being mounted but the benefits are outweighed by the down sides in my opinion.
The screen itself is good, though not as big or detailed as the C300’s LCD. The swivel out nature of the LCD seems to work well but you can’t set it so that you can see it from the side or obviously the front of the camera. The other slight issue is that you can’t see the card one activity light when the screen is opened or either of them when it’s closed.
Where the C300 has electronically controlled motorised ND filters the C100 uses a mechanical wheel to dial on the filters. In some ways I prefer the manual approach because I often hit the ND buttons by mistake on the C300 but the down side to the wheel is that it’s possible to leave the ND filters partially engaged if not careful.
Removable grip – maybe!
The side grip on the C100 is the same as the one on the C300, other than the addition of the orange dot on the record button. As with the C300 the C100 comes with a cover that can be attached when the grip is removed to allow operation of the camera in a hassleblad type position (hands clasping the body). This is all well and good until if you need to access the menu system to change ISO, shutter speed, aperture etc. It’s possible to assign aperture increase and decrease to customisable buttons via the menus so there is limited functionality with the grip removed but not having the ability to navigate the menu system makes shooting without the grip less useful.
Summary so far…
Overall my first impressions of the C100, are positive. I plan on using it as a second (B Camera) that will be set on a tripod and locked off or used on a slider for interviews. For that use the rubbish EVF doesn’t really matter and having the LCD on the body is actually very handy on the slider. Ergonomically it feels very similar to the C300 and the day to day buttons are roughly in the same place so using it with a C300 should be fairly painless.
For somebody considering the C100 as a main camera who shoots everything in 1080 at standard frame rates I think it could be a good choice although I do need to spend more time with it. It doesn’t have the ability to shoot 720p or have any variable framerates or slow motion features so it’s really very limited in that respect. I’ll go more into codec and format details in my next post but for now I do just want to talk about something I consider to be a problem.
PSF – Not quite progressive
When the camera is set to NTSC areas you get the choice of 24P, 24PF, 30PF and 60i. PF (or PSF Progressive Segmented Frame) is a way of delivering a progressive image within an interlaced file format so as to make it compatible with interlaced video equipment. Having footage that’s wrapped in an interlaced file is going to add a lot of confusion for users who are used to working in truly progressive formats. Placing a PF clip on a new sequence in an NLE usually results in a prompt to make the sequence match the clip properties, say yes and you’ll end up with an interlaced sequence that results in loss of detail and interlacing artefacts. To correctly deal with the PF clips the sequence needs to remain progressive.
For PAL area users as the only options available are 25PF and 50i, no fully progressive option at all. Yes 25PF is usable once you know how to deal with it but why Canon decided to force people to use this outdated file format I really don’t understand, 25p and 30p are mainstay formats these days and should be included.
If you have any questions or want me to check anything out then leave a comment and I’ll have a look for you.