Canon Cinema EOS C300 Test Video
With Canon having the small luxury of waiting on the sidelines to gauge what their main competitors were up to in the marketplace, quietly, they have been making big plans.
To the casual observer, the C300 might seem like just another incremental camera design improvement in the still young large sensor digital cinema timeline. But really, the camera is just an indicator of a much more important change developing at Canon. Until just this year, large sensor cameras have been in two basic camps: 1) cheap DSLRs which sacrifice visual quality by skipping lines in their downsample processing (and audio quality right out of the gate with all sorts of limitations) and 2) much more expensive true cinema cameras with more professional components and interfaces. Then, along came Panasonic's AF100 and Sony's FS100 and F3 camera offerings. These cameras begin to address the middle ground, where the bulk of the market aspires to be. But, they also have some serious shortcomings, not the least of which are crop factors that limit the field of view on wide angle lenses, but that's probably best left to another discussion.
This newly burgeoning market, where so many who had adopted Canon DSLRs into their cinema workflow were now migrating, presented a problem for Canon. Until now, Canon had two main departments building cameras. The first was the DSLR photography department. The second was the digital camcorder market building HD camcorders. Aside from the internal structural issues at Canon, there was the marketing problem - how to develop a new camera in either of these departments without cannibalizing their other pre-existing product lines and confusing customers?
The answer comes in the form of the new Cinema EOS department, taking physical shape in Hollywood, with an actual building set up to cater to the largest production community in the world. And, although the first camera is still not yet available for purchase, Canon has already announced a new Cinema EOS DSLR model, which will reportedly bring 4k resolution to a DSLR body. So, the answer for Canon was that this new breed of camera deserved a new brand by them. As the undisputed market leader in HDSLR cameras, it makes good progressive sense for the business to expand to accommodate the research, engineering, manufacturing and marketing of what will become such a distinct line of products.
So, brass tacks... How does the new C300 camera fare in real world testing? Sure, we've seen Laforet's Möbius on the web, and Canon's event had a laundry list of other examples. But, I wanted something that showed me how the camera worked on the street. I was happy to find Jonathan Yi's entry on Vimeo, where he says, "Please buy this camera in January and go film some good skin tones in the dark. You'll love it." That's pretty high praise, but I think the video itself speaks better. Although I appreciate his sense of humor, I can see why Canon neglected to include this in their official rundown of examples...
Kinefinity Kine RAW S35
God bless Dan Chung. He has saved me so much undue surprise by sharing news of Far Eastern product development over the past several years. Still, I guess it's fair to say that we all should have known that it was just a matter of time before the Chinese reverse-engineered an Arri Alexa, made it ugly, and brought it to market for a couple tuppence more than the Japanese "Super16" models relegated to rasterized video formats and heavy crop factors (see the Sony FS100 or the Panasonic AF100).
Presenting the Kinefinity Kine RAW S35. Proposed market price: roughly $8,000 USD. As a true 2K camera shooting DNG or Cineform RAW files to SSD drives, I took note of how the camera looks like nothing short of a mini ATX computer case with a hole drilled in it for where the lens goes. Specs quoted include HDMI and SDI video output, XLR audio inputs, and some undisclosed intervalometer functionality.
It has never been clearer to me that cinematographers in the market for the latest and greatest camera had better plan on getting all of their money's worth in very short order. For me, realistic value-earning ownership works out to about three years per camera. After that point, while cameras may certainly remain serviceable, they are going to be surpassed technologically to the point where they suffer dramatic downturns in worth in the eyes of my clients and colleagues. As filmmakers, we need to remember that this is a business, and as the tools of the trade get ever more commoditized, much of what clearly and immediately separates us from the crowd of wannabes and pretenders is constantly going away.
So, while this model is hardly ready for prime time, I would say this is a harbinger of things to come, and things to come look both exciting and, indeed, dangerous. Long live Dan Chung!
Half Inch Rails Lens Gears
The average markup on production accessories reflects, at least in part, the scarcity of the market. I think it's probably safe to say that manufacture and marketing of a typical molded plastic lens gear doesn't cost anything near what its retail price might suggest. A $45 USD (or higher!) price tag for such a piece just smacks of highway robbery to me, even with the consideration that a mass market just doesn't really exist. And, the darn things are cumbersome, easily lost when disconnected from a lens, and they make cramming your lenses into a bag difficult to impossible, therefore meaning their loss is all the more likely because you have to keep taking them off the lens.
Enter Sam Morgan Moore of Half Inch Rails over in the UK. Sam's invention of a zip-tie lens gear not only solves all the inherent problems of all other lens gears, it provides a significant savings as well.
The gears come in four different sizes, from 185mm to 255mm. They are much thinner than a typical lens gear, really just a geared plastic strap with holes on either end for zip ties to close the variable difference lens to lens. Sam has reduced the lens gear to its essential essence, and made them affordable enough to stay married to the lens you mount them on. This nullifies the worry of removing a gear for fear of losing it. And, because they are so thin, they literally add just a fraction of an inch to the lens circumference, which means just about any lens will still fit in its original bag compartment.
In the United States, the only authorized dealer is Wide Open Camera in Los Angeles. I've found them to ship very quickly via U.S. Mail, and gladly recommend them to anyone in the market for a more intelligent lens gear solution.
Settings for those interested: 5D Mark II, Canon f2.8 70-200mm IS lens, 2x extender (@ 400mm).
f6.3 and 1/25 shutter.
Light Up the Night for Life
Sometimes, it's just healthy to get out and shoot a fun subject without any project in mind other than the soul-satisfying practice of going out and exercising some camera time. Next time there's a fireworks show in your neck of the woods, I recommend you jump at the chance to get on some tall building's rooftop, where you can guarantee a clear shot at the sky. Many thanks to Falcon Fireworks of Savannah and the Westin Harbor Resort for the rooftop access and hospitality.
I used the Canon 5D Mark II with the 24-70mm f2.8 L lens at 640 ISO at 24p. Very few other video cameras would have done as good a job with the blacks and grays and overall definition. Having the full moon in the shot was a nice bonus, but the south wind was the real blessing, carrying the smoke exactly where I wanted it to be - away from the camera and the river.