It’s been a long time! I had the opportunity to shoot with the Canon C100 Mark II recently, and I thought I’d drop a post here to give my two cents about the camera, just to keep myself in tune with the technical side of the craft and warm my fingers up for some writing.
The C100 Mark II is the latest in Canon’s Cinema EOS line of interchangeable lens video cameras for the professional user. Those who know me know I absolutely fracking hate Canon DSLRs for video (they are photography-oriented to begin with) but giving the Cxxx-line a go had been on my mind for some time barring budget, therefore I was happy to be able to try out the C100 Mark II.
One of the biggest criticisms I’ve read about the Mark II was its lack of 4K recording (despite its 4K CMOS sensor). However, rapid consumerisation of 4K technology is still several years away, and while it would have been a nice addition to the camera’s arsenal of features, at the end of the day, the trick is still in the hands of the user, and not how many pixels the camera can record.
I don’t have any complaints about the unusual form factor. It’s actually a great ice-breaker as most clients would be accustomed to seeing video professionals in today’s age work on either a DSLR or a traditional camcorder.
The Canon C100 Mark II is a fantastic ‘all-in-one box’ package. It is extremely quick to set-up and start shooting with. As a camera built for the cinematographer in mind, it incorporates several features available on camcorder that were missing on a DSLR system, like focus peaking, zebra line exposure control, built-in ND filters (Fantastic!) and XLR audio inputs. Also, I loved the simple and straightforward menus. (One of the reasons why I hate working with Canon DSLRs is the extremely confusing menu interface that never seems to have what you want.) Some may not like the fact that this camera only has HDMI output (no SDI) but that I can live with.
There is one thing I would highly recommend though and that is to shoot with an external recorder attached to it. Canon will surely not cannibalise their own C300/C500 market by making this camera too good, and therefore the Mark II records internally only in AVCHD/MP4 (in 8-bit 4:2:0 colour depth/sampling), which is not good enough for colour critical work.
Thankfully, we can circumvent this problem with an external recorder, which will record straight to Apple ProRes from the camera’s HDMI output, in 8-bit 4:2:2. The choice around the Internet seems to be the Atomos Ninja Blade, which I rented in the package as a last minute addition and I surely did not regret it. Ta-da, no transcoding from AVCHD or MP4! You will also get a better C-Log with this combination.
The camera might still fall short of several better offerings from other manufacturers that can record 10-bit 4:2:2, but no single camera is perfect and you should be more concerned with your writing, lighting, audio… Base your camera selection on your needs and don’t be lost in the tech race (if there is even a race to begin with).
That being said, I love my Panasonic GH3, and I love the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. They work extremely fine on an affordability level for the type of work that I tend to gravitate towards. However, these two cameras require some rigging time to set them up right for a shoot (the latter more than the former, really). Give it another shoot or two and the C100 Mark II might just become my go-to camera for documentaries and interviews.
Now to go think of what to write next…