I’ve been testing and evaluating my new C300 today. Of course being the owner of a PMW-F3 I was more than a little curious to see how the two compared, so the obvious thing to do was some side by side shots. making use of one of my Hurricane Rig 3D rigs, I mounted the C300 and F3 side by side so I could grab the footage at almost exactly the same time, so the scene would be the same. In addition I used a Transvideo 3D monitor with both cameras fed into it so that I could use the 3D waveform monitor, which shows both inputs overlaid at the same time. I used this to match the exposure as accurately as possible. At the bottom of the post you’ll find a link to the raw clips, straight from the cameras.
Both cameras were fitted with matched Tokina 28-70mm AT-X Pro zooms. Doing 3D really helps for this kind of test as I have matched pairs of lenses etc. So exposure and focal lengths match. Notice how the C300 gives a slightly wider FoV compared to the F3. This means the C300’s sensor is bigger than the F3’s which makes it a fair bit bigger than the APS-C sensors used in the Canon 7D, 550D DSLR’s etc, so you are going to have to watch out for vignetting with cheaper EF-S fit lenses.
If you click on the images you will be able to see a full size, full resolution version, however these are jpegs so there may be additional compression artefacts.
C-Log and S-Log have similar, but different gamma curves, they are clearly not the same, the F3 has a bit more compression above 50% than the C300. Not sure what this will mean in reality yet, it may be that the F3 has a tiny bit of extra headroom. I deliberately overexposed both cameras by the same amount for one shot and the F3 just appears to hang on to the highlights just the tiniest bit better. This is NOT a very scientific test as I am not exploring the full dynamic range of either camera and you can’t really ignore shadow and low key performance when evaluating dynamic range, but initial indications are that the F3 does have marginally better DR.
Next I looked at the stock, out of the box images from both cameras. So no picture profiles or any other settings. This is how both cameras look straight from the factory:
The colorimetry is interesting. I prefer the Canon look, it just looks nicer than the Sony look. BUT, I think the reality is that the Sony look is more accurate and true to life. So which is better? I don’t think one is better than the other, it really depends on your own personal preference. Both cameras have highly tweak-able matrices so you can create your own look (which is something I will be doing). In this simple test the C300 appears to hold on to highlights a little better than the F3. I guess that Canon have optimised the knee a little better. Both images are sharp and crisp, showing good resolution. I think the C300 is a little over sharpened, but that will be easy to reduce through a custom profile.
Now with all the talk of noise and sensitivity I did do a quick comparison at 3200 ISO, which is the highest you can go with a stock F3 (S-Log F3 can go to 6400).
Now, you really need to look at these frames full size to appreciate the added noise or better still download the clips. Compare the 3200ISO images with the 400 ISO images and look at the concrete road. You can clearly see the extra noise from both cameras. My visual assessment is that the noise levels are similar, but that the C300 noise has a much finer structure than the F3. The finer noise looks more filmic to me, so I think I prefer the C300, but it’s not a deal breaker either way. I did take a peak at the noise at 20,000 ISO last night and there is a heck of a lot of it. It would have to be something pretty special to make me want to use more than 3200 ISO.
So, I’m liking the C300 a lot. It’s compact, well built and nice to hold. I find it hard to really distinguish the in camera recordings from the C300 and from the F3, but the C300 has that magic 50Mb/s codec that the BBC and others insist on. So for Grab and go the C300 makes a huge amount of sense. Indications are that the F3 may still have an edge in terms of ultimate latitude and I would expect the 10 bit output from the F3 to allowed harder and more intensive grading of the footage. But, that then means an external recorder with wires, batteries and other stuff. All that “stuff” is fine in a studio or drama shoot, but not so hot chasing tornadoes or similar. So far , this is exactly what I was expecting. The C300 will be a great grab and go camera, a very capable drama and documentary camera, but the F3 will still be my choice when I am doing high end drama or studio work. I’m fortunate enough to be able to afford both, I really like both, but for different reasons.
More tests will follow, in particular grading C-Log and S-log, 8 bit and 10 bit as well as low light performance. In addition I will be testing the C300 with a NanoFlash at higher bit rates to see how much of difference that can make. After that it will be time to create some picture profiles, in particular profiles to get the F3 and C300 closer together as I’m sure I will have projects that will use both.
Below is a link to download the original clips from the cameras. There are 4 clips from each, the total download size is about 400MB, so…….
Below is the link to download the original clips. IF YOU FIND THIS USEFUL IN ANY WAY please make a small donation to help cover my bandwidth and hosting costs. You are free to re-distribute the clips provided a link or acknowledgement of where they came from is included.
There are no big surprises in the results. [downloads_box title=”C300 and F3 Clips”]
Canon C300 and Sony F3 Raw Clips.