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C300, the good the bad and the ugly!

I was out shooting some pickup shots with the C300 today. I needed some wide opening shots of Norwich city along with some general lifestyle type material. After finding a good location for the wide shot of the city I set about trying a few different lenses on the camera an then headed in to the city and on to the UEA Campus.

The following examples are screen grabs from the ungraded MXF files which were all shot using Canon Log (CP8 profile). As a result they will all look a little washed out in their ungraded state.

Open the images in a new window or right click them and save them to see them at full size. If you just click them they will open in this window and will be scaled so will not represent the full image quality.

Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 @ f/5.6 – 4 stops ND – CP8

Canon 35mm f1.4 L @ f/6.3 – 4 stops ND – CP8

Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS L @ f/ 5 – 6 Stops ND – CP8 – 200mm

Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 @ f/ 5.6 – 4 stops ND – CP8 – 720p

Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS L @ f/ 2.8 – 6 stops ND – CP8

Canon 70-200 f/2.8 IS L @ f/ 3.5 – 6 stops ND – CP8

Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 @ f/ 4.5 – 6 stops ND – CP8

Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 @ f/ 5 – 6 stops ND – CP8

 

The Good

The resolution and image quality that the C300 produces is simply stunning! There’s no two ways about it, compared to my DSLR shots the images from the C300 are in another league, just amazing!

One of the things that struck me was how little Moire there is in those opening shots of the city. There’s layer after layer of brick patterns and roof textures yet the image isn’t displaying any noticeable moire. These shots would have been a DSLR’s worst nightmare!

Because I was shooting in Cinema mode using C-Log Gamma the images looked quite lacklustre from the camera but they take on colour grading so well, it’s a real pleasure to apply a grade to these clips in Premiere Pro. Plus they are very easy to handle in Premiere too, there’s no lagginess or pauses during playback or scrubbing at full res using the source MXF files.

I also want to add what a pleasure the C300 is to use handheld, even though it’s bigger than a 5D and closer in weight to my EX1 it’s easier to handle than both, I enjoyed removing the monitor unit and walking around with just the top handle attached using the tillable EVF. There is however one down side to this approach which I’ll move on to next.

The Bad

Saying it’s bad may not really be fair, it’s more of an annoyance really but not being able to view the waveform monitor or a histogram in the EVF makes it really difficult to judge latitude and exposure with the monitor removed. This camera really needs the waveform monitor to be displayed in the EVF.

Yes there’s zebras, but these only allow you to highlight things in the IRE range from 70 – 100 so they don’t do the same job as a waveform monitor or a histogram which also show whats happening with the darker parts of the shot. Even though Zebras do help with seeing whats clipping at and above 100IRE it’s still very difficult to see them on small highlights which takes me on to the ugly!

The Ugly

When I got to the last shot shown above though I was disappointed to again see some aliased colour fringing on specular highlights. It doesn’t look too bad in the still but if you look at the hand rail in the distance you’ll see the artefact, this looks worse in the video clip because the effect appears to move down the rail and draws your attention away from the subject.

Here’s a closeup of it.

As you can see the issue appears as alternating green and red pixels. I’ve done a lot of testing with this issue now and it happens with any lens, at any aperture and with or without ND engaged. It happens regardless of any picture profiles or gammas too. The only way to reduce it is to under expose the image and stop the highlights from clipping. That’s quite tricky with no waveform in the EVF!

Update 15-2-2013

I’m updating this post almost a year after reporting this as a problem and Canon have finally made available a fix for the issue in the form of a publicly available 1.0.8.1.00 firmware for the Canon C300. It took them a while but they acknowledged and fixed it in the end!

 

It’s still awesome though!

Regardless of some teething problems the C300 footage I captured today is in a different league to anything I’ve shot on the Sony EX cameras or DSLR’s in the past, at least in terms of resolution and overall image quality. I can’t wait to get out with it again!

 

Product Links
If you plan on buying any of these products then please consider using the links below, it doesn’t cost you any more but I get a small commission which helps me to keep the blog going. Many thanks.

Canon EOS C300  –  B&H (US) |  Wex (EU)
Canon 35mm f1.4 L  –  B&H (US) | Wex (EU)
Canon 70 – 200mm f2.8 IS L  –  B&H (US) | Wex (EU)
Tokina 11-16 f2.8  –  B&H (US) |  Wex (EU)

 

 

Lovebugs – C300 Macro tests

The sun was out for the first time since I’ve had the C300 yesterday so I decided to continue my experiments with the camera by donning the Canon 100mm L lens and grabbing some macro shots. I have to say that I’m really impressed with the images the camera produces, the detail is amazing and many of these shots would have been troubled by aliasing and moire on my 5D.

I decided to throw something together just for the fun of it rather than sharing another ‘test’ video, which it is really but maybe just slightly weirder than your average test video!

 

Product Links
If you plan on buying any of these products then please consider using the links below, it doesn’t cost you any more but I get a small commission which helps me to keep the blog going. Many thanks.

Canon EOS C300  –  B&H (US) |  Wex (EU)
Canon 100mm f2.8 Macro IS L  –  B&H (US) | Wex (EU)

First days with the Canon EOS C300

 

After a little over three months on the waiting list I finally took delivery of my Canon C300 this week.  While the battery charged for the first time I did what all overgrown boys do and decided to attach some toys.

After reading that Zacuto made a new specialist mounting plate and rail system for the C300 I didn’t really expect my Zacuto mini baseplate to work but much to my surprise and my wallets relief it does the job just fine. I fitted my Shoot35 follow focus and matte box to the rails and with some minor height adjustments both fitted nicely.

Isn’t that a nice looking setup!

Just about the only thing that wouldn’t fit straightaway was my shotgun mic, Canon likes to include the oversized variety of mic holder with their cameras so a spacer will be needed, it’s a shame they don’t supply one as they are not the easiest items to pick up. Hopefully somebody will make an aftermarket mount for the C300 offering an additional cold shoe instead so that I can continue using my K-Tech mount.

The battery eventually finished charging so stripped the camera back down again and started on the path of figuring out the nuances of the the C300’s user interface and making it work for me. Most of the important features like ND, white balance, peaking, zebras etc already have buttons on the side so learning where they are is just a matter of time and muscle memory, the bigger challenges turned out to be finding a way to quickly control shutter speed and access the special modes to enable over cranking which I use a lot for my Harley-Davidson shoots.

Using the default setup of the camera shutter ISO is adjusted by pressing the function button on the back of the camera until the it’s highlighted on the LCD, at that point it can be changed using either the mini joysticks or the set/select wheel on the side of the camera. I found the location of the function button to be a bit of a pain to find whilst shooting as its on the back tucked up under the EVF.

The best solution I could find thanks to some tips from @AnticipateMedia on twitter was to remap the headphone + & – buttons on the side to manage these two features. I changed the – button so that it highlights the ISO setting allowing for instant changes using the set/select wheel without hunting for the function button. I rarely change headphone levels & shutter speed during a shoot so I’m happy to leave those in the menu.

Getting access to Overcranking (Slow & Fast Motion) proved to be a little more tricky, the closet I could get to making this work was to assign that ‘special modes’ menu to the headphone + button. Pressing this button results in the special mode selection menu appearing on the lcd making enabling and disabling S&F just a two click process. Being able to activate and deactivate it on a button press would have been much nicer but this will be fine for now.

I tested some footage from the C300 on my Nexto NVS2500 and that loaded and played the clips fine which is great as it never really supported DSLR clips well.

 

Below is a list of things that I’ve noticed with the camera so far that I think are worthy of a mention, I’ll keep adding to this as I spend more time with the camera.

Three wheeler
The camera has three input wheels, two on the left side of the camera and one on the hand grip. The smaller one on the side and the handgrip wheel currently share the same settings and default to controlling aperture. They can be reassigned but it would be nice if they could be assigned to do separate jobs.

Iris changes can be a pain
I find the location of the iris wheel to be a little frustrating when using the camera via the top handle. With one hand on the handle and the other on the lens looking after focus the only way to quickly do an iris change is to move the camera and search for the iris wheel right at the back at the bottom of the left side. There’s a reason why video camera manufacturers have been putting iris controls near or on the lens for so many years!

One solution would be to allow the mini joystick on the monitor module to control iris but iris cannot be changed in any way other than the iris wheels. What would be a great solution would be to allow a press of the mini joysticks to do the same job as pressing the function button and to allow iris changes via the lcd menu, that way you could quickly navigate and alter settings using any of the joysticks.

Rec / Review
Sometimes it’s nice to have a quick look at the clip you just recorded without having to change to Media mode, this is where the Rec / Review feature comes in handy.  If you’re in a special mode on the C300 though the rec/review button doesn’t function and an “invalid operation” error appears on the LCD. The only way to use the rec/review button is to disable the special mode first. Unlike the EX1 Rec / Review doesn’t play back any audio either so you can’t use it to check levels after a test recording.

Interval record
I use interval record a lot on my EX1, check out some of my videos for Harley-Davidson last year, there’s examples of time-lapse in most of them that were done by combining the interval record and frame accumulation features. Frame accumulation is like doing a long exposure on a DSLR, the EX1 records a predetermined number of frames and then combines them into a single frame so for example combining 25 frames into one results on each frame having an exposure of 1 second. Having frame accumulation running with an interval record of 1 frame per second results in beautifully smooth time-lapse footage.

The C300 does’nt have a frame accumulation feature so the longest exposure you can achieve per frame is 1/25th. To make matters worse it’s interval record feature allows it to record a minimum of 2 frames at a time resulting in jerky time lapses without any motion blur. This is probably the only thing I will miss about the EX1 when replacing it with the C300 for event work.

Fan Noise
The fan on the C300 is far from silent. In my tests using a shotgun mic attached via the monitor module the hum was easily audible in a quiet room although outdoors it was less apparent. With a Rode videomic fixed straight to the camera and connected via the 3.5 mm jack the noise was a lot more apparent and was distracting on exterior shots too. The fan on the C300 is louder than the IS motor on the 24-105 L lens which I know can be an issue in itself.

No USB
It’s no biggie but I think this is the first camera I’ve had that doesn’t offer any way of offloading it’s contents internally. If in a push with the 5D or EX1 you could always revert to the USB port and offload directly.

Wonky monitor
With the camera mounted level on a tripod the monitor ends up being tilted to the right by a couple of degrees, this seems to be down to the assembly that allows the whole monitor unit to rotate. I find it a little distracting because I tend to use the top of the monitor as a guide to level, which of course is not in this case here. I’m also not overly keen on the design of the monitor, it has a rubber edge that I’ve already had to push back on a couple of times after i started to come away from the monitor.

It’s fast – and it remembers where you were
Power up, power down and switching between camera and media modes are all very snappy, it’s much faster in operation than the EX1. Best of all if you switch to media mode and then back to camera mode the previous mode and settings are restored, even if you were shooting with special modes selected.

Audio controls
The audio controls are below the LCD monitor which is great if your shooting with the camera at waist level. If however you have the camera on a tripod shooting an interview at eye level it’s totally useless and you don’t have a chance of seeing the position of the audio switches or the gain levels.  You can mount the monitor unit in a vertical position which helps, but then the mic is pointing at the sky which as well as making you look stupid will also result in terrible audio :)

Also while I’m venting… if the clear plastic cover that protects the audio switches and level controls survives my first years shooting I’ll be amazed.

Peaking & Zebra during Magnify
It’s a little thing but it’s great that Peaking and Zebra features still work when magnify is enabled.

Waveforms
The waveform monitor on the C300 is just fab, I do miss the histogram from the EX1 for quickly gauging dynamic range but the various waveform modes work well. There’s various options including vectorscopes and RGB parades but I find the ‘Line + box’ option to be particularly useful as it shows a full waveform range but also allows you to highlight a specific area of the shot in red.

No Waveform in the EVF
No Waveform in the EVF!!!

Yes I felt the need to say that twice! Canon what were you thinking? It’s quite nice shooting with the monitor module removed. The trouble is though there’s absolutely no way of judging dynamic range and overall exposure. You can set Zebras from 70 – 100 IRE which at least allows you to know which parts of the image are blowing out but what about knowing were the blacks are? This needs to be fixed in a firmware update.

Audio Meters
The audio meters on the C300’s main LCD are quite small and thus don’t provide as much fine detail as those on the EX1. You can of course still judge the basic levels but it would be nice if they were a little wider and showed more detail. The audio meters are also removed when the waveform monitor is visible so you can’t use both at the same time.

It’s mute as well as deaf
The C300 doesn’t have any built in mics, that’s not a big issue for me as I very rarely use the built in mics on any camera I own. I do however like to show clients shots from time to time and even though the speakers built in to cameras like the 5D2 and the EX1 are small and weak sounding they can put out enough volume to let a client preview a shot on the camera. The C300 doesn’t have any built in speakers though, so headphones or external monitors with audio are the only option.

The Canon plastic
Okay this is getting very picky but it’s something that bugged me about my Canon XH-A1 and I’ve already become aware of it with the C300. The plastic canon uses on both cameras has an amazing ability to pick up what looks like scratches just by touching it with your fingernails. This doesn’t happen with my DSLR’s so there’s obviously different materials in use.

But most importantly…. images
I expected nice images but I was still blown away when I looked at the footage on my HD TV, there’s something special about the images from this camera, they are highly detailed without being overly sharp, very natural looking. Yes there may be a few annoyances but the images this camera produces are just lovely.

Update 12-3-2012
After shooting some exterior footage I’m having a few problems with Chromatic Aberration (at least that’s what it looks like) when shooting with blown out highlights in the frame. In order to see if the lens was the issue I’ve tried the same lens on the 7D and the C300.  The results are fairly shocking to be honest.

The images below show the same shot (roughly) taken with the 7D and the C300, both used the 24-05 at f8. The shots are overexposed to test for the issue.

The 7D shots are on the left.

 

 

Click these for larger images…

 

 

When the sky is exposed correctly the images look fine, it just seems to be happening when the images are blown out. Maybe this camera just needs a different approach than what I’m used to and blown highlights need to be avoided at all costs. That’s going to be tricky in some of the non controlled environments I have to work in though. I remember shooting an awards presentation for Harley-Davidson in Croatia last year when the stage was unlit and had a backdrop of the setting sun! No choice there but to shoot silhouettes or blow out the background.

Update 15-2-2013

I’m updating this post almost a year after reporting this as a problem and Canon have finally made available a fix for the issue in the form of a publicly available 1.0.8.1.00 firmware for the Canon C300. It took them a while but they acknowledged and fixed it in the end!

 

To find out more about the C300 see my First Look Review where I detail the features of the camera.

View the Canon C300 EF version on B&H

The Canon 5D mark III is announced

The long awaited Canon 5D mkIII has been revealed today . The camera’s most notable new features for use in video production are as follows:

• Digic 5+ processor (supposedly reduces moire, rolling shutter and aliasing)
• Dedicated video / still switch like that on the 7D
• HDMI stays HD whilst recording
• Headphone  port
• Adjustable audio levels whilst recording
• Choice of either Intra-frame or Inter-frame H.264 recording codecs.
• Additional recording resolutions including 720/50 & 720/59.94
• Increased ISO range 100 – 25,600 (extendable range 50 – 102,800)
• SMPTE timecode support (albeit non linkable)
• Ability to record for up to 30 mins by join clips in camera
• Two card slots, 1 x CF and 1 x SD
• Lockable mode dial (that’s actually big for video usage)
• Better weather sealing
• Still uses LP-E6 batteries

Other notable features that relate more to use for stills include the following:

• 22.3 Megapixel full frame sensor
• 61 point autofocus system
• 6fps continuous shooting
• HDR mode
• 100% Viewfinder coverage

Overal it seems like a very nice improvement over the 5D mkII, lots of the issues that have been a major pain for video production with the 5D2 appear have been dealt with although it won’t be clear of course how well things like moire and aliasing have been improved until the cameras get into the hands of more reviewers.

The one lacking feature that many would have liked to have seen was the addition of clean HDMI out, the 5DmkIII still doesn’t offer this ability to use an external recorder, at least not in it’s present form.

What do you think, will you be upgrading your 5D2? Leave a comment.

Limited Pre-order available now!

The 5D mkIII body is available for pre-order from B&H for $3,499

If buying in the EU I recommend Wex (Warehouse Express) who are listing the 5D mkIII body for pre-order for £2,999

The camera is expected to start shipping at the end of March.

 

Must See: Slow it down

I absolutely love this, simple use of slow-mo (via twixtor), great music and above all some fantastic camera work with a Canon 550D.

Well done to 17 year old Sacha Powell who is a studying Filmmaking at Brighton & Hove City College.

Thanks to Pete Naylor for making me aware of this via Facebook.