Canon announces the C300 Mark II
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What the C300 Mark II means to me.
It’s great to see that Canon are continuing to innovate with this line of cameras and as expected the C300 Mark II now provides a 4K solution as well as higher bit rate recording and higher frame rate options. These are without doubt the areas that made the original C300 feel limited for me so let look closer at what’s improved.
In many ways the C300 started it’s life at the back of the pack and was left for dust by the competition before taking it’s first breath. Although the original C300 introduced an amazing new sensor and a brand new style of camera to the industry the use of the companies existing Digic DV3 processor limited it’s capabilities. For many C300 users though, the lacklustre recording specs were less significant because the camera offered a beautiful image from a 4K sensor recorded to the well renowned Canon XF format.
With this in mind lets have a look through the announced features of the C300 Mark II and see how much the camera has been improved over it’s predecessor.
9.84 megapixel Super35 CMOS sensor
Canon say the new imaging sensor maximizes the amount of light that falls on each photosite through a wider pixel pitch, enhancing the camera’s sensitivity, while minimizing noise and supporting ISOs up to 102,400. Until real world tests start appearing it’s hard to know how much that all means in real use but it certainly sounds good.
One of the most impressive specifications of the new sensor at that it offers 15 stops of dynamic range, that puts it in line with some of the most impressive cameras in the industry including the well renowned Arri Alexa.
The sensor in the original C300 does a wonderful job so as long as the characteristics are retained whilst the specifications are improved the new sensor sounds very exciting indeed.
The new sensor also doubles the scan rate of the previous camera resulting in less rolling shutter (Jello) effects. In the years I’ve been using my C300 I’ve very rarely had any issues with rolling shutter but it’s good to see this has been improved none the less.
Dual Digic DV5 Processors
It’s reported that the C300’s Digic DV3 processor made it impossible for the camera to do more with it’s wonderful 4K sensor so it’s good to hear that the mark II has not only been upgraded to the newer Digic DV5 but that it also has two of them under the hood. Let look in more detail as to what that allows the camera to do.
4K at 30fps Internally at 10-bit 4:2:2
At 4K the C300 Mark II is capable of shooting at up to 30fps, while at 2K or 1080 it can now achieve up to 120fps. Thats obviously a decent step up from the original C300’s 30fps at 1080 and 60fps at 720 but once again it’s hardly ground breaking in terms of high speed recording. One thing to note however is the improvement in bitrate and colour bandwidth.
4K recording on the C300 Mark II still uses the same 4:2:2 Colour bandwidth as the C300 however bitrate is improved from 8 to 10bit.
1080 HD / 2K at 10 or 12-bit, 4:4:4 up to 60fps. Cropped 2K/HD mode up to 120fps
For anyone delivering in 2K or 1080 there’s a huge bump in bitrate and colour bandwidth options. The Mark II now provides 10 or 12 bit at 4:4:4, even at 60fps. Most of my work will undoubtably still involve 1080p acquisition and the ability to record 12 bit 4:4:4 at 60 fps offers incredible post production flexibility.
The ability to shoot at 120 fps is very handy for those predetermined high speed shots. Being listed as ‘cropped mode only’ means that it will likely not use the whole sensor to do this though, thats one thing I would like to find out more about.
XF-XAVC Intra up to 410 Mbps
The XF codec used on the C300 has been replaced with XF-XAVC Intra at up to 410Mbps. That’s a huge jump in data rate from the C300’s maximum 50Mbps XF Codec. It appears XF-AVC Intra continues using an mxf wrapper so it will be interesting to see how these codecs perform with FCPX which still doesn’t support Canon’s XF files natively and requires the use of a plugin from Canon to re-wrap and duplicate the media.
XF-AVC Long GOP & XF-AVC Proxy
The C300 Mark II also offers recording to XF-AVF Long GOP at 50 Mbps to it’s internal CF cards as well as an XF-AVC Proxy. The XF-AVC Proxy files are recorded to the internal SD card slot while recording 4K to the CF Cards.
External 4K RAW Recording
The C300 Mark II is also capable of record 4K RAW externally. The cameras Dual 3G-SDI ports are used for this in the same way as the C500 records 4K. The camera can also record 4K XF-AVC to the internal cards at the same time as sending RAW out to an external recorder.
These high end recording options make the C300 Mark II much more attractive as a longer term investment that can achieve the requirements of even the most demanding client specifications.
Dual CFast 2.0 Card Slots
Although cFast 2.0 cards are currently very pricey I think this is a good move from Canon as it continues their support of readily available media types rather than opting for something a little more bespoke. At the time of writing this a Sandisk Extreme Pro 128GB Cfast 2.0 card will set you back a whopping $500 but that’s bound to decrease as the format becomes more popular, especially within high end stills cameras.
Canon Log 2
Canon has added ‘Canon Log 2’ to the gamma options. ‘Canon Log’ and ‘Wide Dynamic Range’ also remain as options so shooters who prefer using flat gamma profiles have plenty of choice.
4K Colour Gamut Standards
4K brings with it a host of new standard colour gamuts. The C300 Mark II includes support for BT.2020, Canon Cinema Gamut and DCI-P3 colour spaces.
Internal ND up to 10 Stops
The C300 had three levels of ND filtration vis it’s internal motor controlled filters at 2 stops, 4 stops and 6 stops. The C300 Mark II ads an additional filter wheel which adds 8 stops and 10 stops of ND. I’ve actually had to use external ND filters on my C300 many times to thats a very welcome addition.
Dual Pixel CMOS AF
I’ve found the DPAF to be really useful on my C300 so it’s great to see it continued in the C300 Mark II. The DPAF in the Mark II is also stepped with the inclusion of movable AF points and on screen focus indicators that offer focus assist when focussing manually. The camera also offers two modes of face detection, Face Priority and Face Only.
4 Channel 24 bit audio
The C300 Mark II supports 4 Channel recording at either 16 or 24 bit. Another step up from the C300 which only supported 2 channel 16 bit recording.
The camera also now features a small mic built in to the body for scratch audio. This is another little feature that would mean a lot to me. I often use the C300 for filming from cars and bikes where it’s impractical to have a mic fitted but using the internal mic there would still be the ability pick up some reference audio.
Updated LCD & EVF
The LCD is the same pixel density and size on the Mark II as the original C300 however Canon have reported that it offers improved contrast and colour reproduction as well as being twice as bright using new backlight technology.
One new feature that grabbed my attention is the addition of a perimeter display mode which throws all of the camera status information around the edges of the LCD instead of overlaying it on the image.
The EVF now features an 0.46″ OLED panel, this is slightly smaller that the C300’s 0.52″ LCD. The pixel density however is increased from 1.55 million dots to 1.77 million dots. The EVF on the C300 has been one of it’s best features for me so I’m looking forward to trying out the OLED EVF on the Mark II.
I’ve not seen any mention yet of whether the waveform data can now be displayed in the EVF, the inability of the C300 to show that information using the EVF always seemed like a mistake, yet was never addressed.
Punch in & Look Around
Thankfully the C300 Mark II has finally introduced the ability to punch in to the image shown on the LCD in multiple steps, 2x, 4x & 8x magnification is available by pressing in the mini joysticks on the camera. The area punched in to can then be moved using the joysticks as well.
BP-A30 & BP-A60 Batteries
Canon have introduced new 12 volt batteries for the C300 Mark II. This is likely to be a disappointment for any C300 / C100 owners that were hoping to continue using their stock of batteries..
I little bit Beefier
The weight of the C300 Mark II jumps up to around 7 lbs with the handle and monitor fitted, thats around 1 lb more than the original C300. It’s also reported to be taller, wider and generally a bit beefier than the existing C300. From a carrying and usage point of view I can’t see that making a much of a difference but if you mount the camera on a crane or stabiliser that extra weight is something you might want to consider as most of the weight increase in is the body of the camera itself.
Backlit Illuminated buttons.
This is a great feature if like me you’re often filming in low light. I’ve often resorted to using my iPhone’s LED when shooting in the dark so having the most important feature buttons easily visible should come in very handy indeed.
Improved handle mount
The C300 mark II uses an improved fitting method for the top handle and accessories. Rather than the C300’s single mounting bolt through the cold shoe fitting on top of the camera, the updated model now uses a separate metal bracket / cheese plate that fits to the top of the camera body with two hex bolts.
While this looks to be a much more stable solution I do think it’s a shame to have to use a hex wrench to remove the handle. The risk of losing the bolts is also something to be careful of.
The top handle itself looks to be more sturdy with a metal construction. As well as the cold shoe mounts there are also threaded mounting points allowing additional accessories to be fitted via cine arms or other brackets. As can be seen below the monitor unit itself and still be fitted directly to the cameras via it’s cold shoe for a more compact configuration.
New AV Cables
Also of interest is that the connection cables between the monitor unit and the camera can now be disconnected from both ends, these are also marked separately as audio and video cables, although both use the same cable type. Canon mention that by doing this you always have a spare should your audio cable become damaged as you could then use the video cable in it’s place in an emergency! Although that may be an advantage I think I’d just be happier knowing that a new cable could be fitted rather than having to have the whole monitor unit replaced.
Canon have also mentioned that different length cables will be available allowing the monitor unit to be used further away from the camera, that can be really useful as it then allows audio level adjustments and menu navigation without the risk of moving the camera when recording.
Audio Only Top Unit
In addition to the standard Audio & Video top unit Canon are also making available an audio only top unit allowing shooters who use third party monitor solutions to still be able to feed in XLR audio without the need to have an LCD fitted to the camera. Interestingly the Audio only unit looks almost as big as the normal one, if not a little bigger so it doesn’t seem to offer a more compact setup as a result which is a shame.
The original C300 was available in with EF or PL mounts and mount could not be changed. The Mark II however now features an improved design that not only allows mounts to be swapped out but also cushions the whole sensor / mount assembly against shock ensuring the sensor stays aligned to the lens. As well as PL and EF mounts, an additional EF Lock option is also available.
Pricing & Availability
The C300 Mark II is available to Preorder now for B&H Photo. When the C300 was released it took months for Canon to complete all the pre-orders so if you want one early a Pre-order would be wise.
Will I be upgrading?
Unless anything changes between now and the end of the year I’ll certainly be looking to change up to the C300 Mark II for 2016. For me the most needed feature is the inclusion of higher frame rates at higher resolutions. I’ve always loved using slow motion for my projects and being limited to 720/60 for the last four years has been tough when competitive camera systems have all been pushing forward on that front.
In terms of other options The Sony FS7 looks compelling but I’m a huge fan of the C300, I love the modularity, usability and of course the images from the camera so the C300 Mark II feels like the more natural progression.
Lets see what happens over the next few months, I look forward to getting my hands on the Mark II.
With the announcement of the C300 Mark II the original C300’s have been dramatically dropped in price. If you’re looking to shoot 1080p content without the need for high frame rates then a C300 at $6,500 cannot be ignored, it’s an amazing camera system with a beautiful image at a ridiculously low price.