The Canon C100: A Hands-on Review
Content Contributed By Calumet’s Director of Education: Richard Newman
Last year, Canon introduced the C300 Digital Cinema Camera and a friend of mine at Canon let me use it for two weeks. As a video professional, I want to produce the best possible image I can and still keep to a budget. I also tend to work alone more than as part of a production team, so the camera’s operation and ease-of-use is first and foremost important to me. While the C300 produced video that was astounding to look at, using the camera by myself was difficult, and I had a rough time fitting these videos into my workflow.
Late last year, Canon solved my problem with the introduction of the EOS C100 Cinema Camera, and my romance was on. From the first time I put the camera on the tripod, I felt completely at ease with it — both in the field and in my post-production workflow. I’ve been shooting Canon video and DSLR cameras for over 10 years and this camera felt like my old friend right out of the box. The menus were familiar and easy to understand.
The first opportunity I had to use the camera was on an interview with the my long-time friend and photojournalist Bruce Haley. Since I had interviewed him in the past, I thought this would be a comfortable opportunity to give the C100 my first shot. Bruce also lives in Big Sur, so I was sure to get some great footage. Unfortunately, on the day I arrived, Bruce was sick and could hardly talk so instead we went for a walk down to the beach so I could use the camera.
Here’s a preview of some of my footage from that day along California’s Central Coast with the Canon C100:
Since I already have Canon lenses, I didn’t need anything else to get started. I used most everything in my bag that afternoon, including my favorites: Canon’s 40mm pancake lens (which looked a little silly on the camera, but made great video) and my 17-35mm. I could go into more details on the camera’s features, but the most important thing to me was that it was simply a joy to use and the video wowed me! I also had the chance to use the 50mm Canon Cinema lens at Point Lobos.
Now the geek in me just has to surface: the C100 has a super 35 sensor. Canon’s design provides the quality of a three-chip camera with the single-camera CMOS price. Short depth of field was a snap to produce. And with the camera’s ISO starting at 320, I had all the built-in neutral density filters I needed in 2-, 4- and 6-stop options. I used the camera most of the day at ISO 850, which seemed to be its sweet spot. I am really excited to use it in low light situations, as its ISO rating goes to 20,000 in 1/3 increments. The possibilities for image making with these ISOs is staggering.
The camera also supplies Canon Log Gamma output, which gives it 12 stops of dynamic range with even more possible in post-production processing. I edit with Adobe Premier Pro CS6 , so the editing software converted and played my videos without any recoding of the footage. Using AVC/H.264 as its codec, the camera produces bit rates of 24 Mbps shooting up to 60 frames-per-second at full 1920×1080 HD. Have I said “wow” yet?
The viewfinder has some focus aids that assure a sharp image on the 3.5″ viewfinder. Recording times of up to 180 minutes are also very attractive, although I haven’t had the opportunity to use that yet.
Using the camera in the field wasn’t any harder than using my DSLR. I found I could even get low-angle shots by removing the handgrip that also has two XLR inputs for professional audio.
Simply put, this is the camera that I’ve been waiting for! I can use all my current Canon lenses, upgrade to the cinema lenses when I have the extra money and I feel like I’m using a professional cinema camera. I love using the video in my DSLR and I won’t stop using it for video, but I will incorporate all the exciting new features that the C100 gives me.