In the run up to NAB the rumour mill has been working hard and one of the cameras expected to be seen was an update to the Canon C300. Well, here it is, the C300 Mark II.
Externally it’s very similar to the original C300 but slightly larger and heavier overall. The key change to the camera body is ability to change the lens mount between EF, EF Lock and PL mounts. Other headline additions to the Mark II are a new sensor and a new codec that allow the camera to shoot in HD, UHD and 4K. I’m not going to go through all of the details here, for those you can take a look at the Canon web site.
NEW XF-AVC CODEC.
The new codec XF-AVC is very important to this camera and Canon as it adds the ability to go beyond the HD limitations of Mpeg2. It’s based on Mpeg4/AVC. The C300 Mark II can record UHD and 4K at up to 410Mb/s, 10 bit 422 and in HD can even record 12 bit 444. Now it is a little unclear in the released information what frame rates this does allow. But it appears that in 4K you are limited to 30fps but HD/2K goes to 60fps. The camera records to a pair of CFast 2.0 cards.
There is also a Long GoP version of XF-AVC for use at 2K/HD. This has a bit rate of 50Mb/s up to 60fps and in addition there are also Proxy version at 25Mb/s and 35Mb/s for recording compact HD files on SD cards within the camera.
Unfortunately this does mean yet another codec family to be added to everyone’s editing software, but Canon claim that support will be in place by the time the camera is released around September. You know I really wish ALL the camera manufacturers would get together and use one or two common codecs rather than each manufacturer having their own codec. Just imagine the chaos if every car new type of car used a different type of fuel!
Compared the the F5/F55/FS7 this new codec is very similar to XAVC. It’s interesting to note though that the C300 Mark II at the time of launch doesn’t appear to have any 4K frame rates faster than 30fps. It can record at up to 120fps in it’s slow motion mode, but this is limited to 2K/HD and uses center crop of the sensor, so all your lenses become much longer lenses. The plus to this is that it will minimise any aliasing artefacts, something that can sometimes be an issue on the FS7, although the FS7 will get center crop functionality in a future firmware update. Of course the F5/F55 have the benefit of both full frame and crop modes as well as the ability to change the optical filter depending on the mode you wish to use. In addition the FS7/F5/F55 can all go up to 180fps internally and 240fps in raw.
The C300 Mark II can also provide a simultaneous raw output to feed to an external raw recorder such as the Convergent Design Odyssey or Atomos Shogun.
NEW SENSOR, NEW LOG.
The sensor on the C300 Mark II is also new. It is a 9.84 Mega Pixel sensor with 8.85 active pixels (each pixel has two photosites) which Canon claim can provide up to 15 stops of dynamic range, which is very impressive. To record this Canon have a new log curve Canon Log 2 and the native ISO is 800, with the best dynamic range from 800 ISO and up. According to Canon above 800 ISO the dynamic range remains a constant 15 stops. It will be interesting to see what actually happens with the dynamic range at high gain levels as most cameras see a drop off in dynamic range above the native ISO. I’m not sure how you can increase the gain and have a constant dynamic range in a fixed recording range as sensor noise is always a limiting factor. It will be interesting to see this in the real world. From what I can tell from some of the web clips about the camera Canon Log 2 has a fairly low mid grey point around 36% with 8.7 stops below mid grey and 6.3 above. With 8.7 stops crammed into a pretty small range it will be interesting to see just what can be squeezed out of the shadows. I’m sure it will be good, but the question is just how useable is it?
As well as a new log curve there is also a wide range of gamuts including 709, 2020, P3 and “film gamut”. Some of these gamuts are huge. Film Gamut appears to extend beyond the visible spectrum according to the chart in the video above. I have some doubts as to whether the camera can actually fill them (in the same way that an FS7 or F5 cannot fill the included SGamut and SGamut3 gamuts, only the F55 can fill them). Again this will be an area to look at closely once the camera is launched, but the options are certainly good looking.
With this wide range of gammas and gamuts, LUT’s will be important and the C300 Mark II does have LUT’s but I can’t find any information beyond the facts that it has LUT’s and that the LUT’s can be output over the SDI and HDMI outputs as well as baked in.
One area where Canon do have some very clever technology is in autofocus. The C300 uses a technology called Dual Pixel AF and this is also included and improved upon on the C300 Mark II. You can do some clever things like move the autofocus target area and change the response times of the AF (see the video above for more details). It’s a clever system and I’m sure many shooters will find it helpful when shooting 4K.
All in all the C300 Mark II does look like a very interesting and capable camera. I’ll be sure to check it out at NAB. It’s obviously going to go up against the cheaper Sony FS7 as well as the F5. It has some very nice features. I think not being able to shoot above 30fps in 4K is a bit limiting and you only have a single, new type codec so there is no legacy codec support. Lets hope Canon get good XF-AVC support supported quickly.
I didn’t really get on with the ergonomics of the original C300, that’s a personal thing, for me as a traditional video shooter I just don’t like the top heavy layout, but I know many shooters that love the layout. In particular it’s well suited to those from a DSLR background.
It won’t be available until September and the price is set to be around $16k or £11K. I’m sure it will be very popular so get your pre-orders in now. I will have to get hold of one to figure out the best way to use the new Canon Log 2 curve and the cameras LUT system as I’m sure many people will want some in depth workflow and exposure help with this camera.