The C100 in focus.
Being primarily a documentary filmmaker, I have been shooting most of my projects with the Canon line of HDSLRs, 7D, 5D MKII and MKIIIs. Although I love all of these for their convenience they are not without their limitations. I wouldn't grade them as video cameras as none of them have XLR mic inputs and their ergonomics have never really allowed for easy handheld shots.
Filmaker Kamil Roxas with the Canon C100.
Canon's EOS line, however, comes with great filming capabilities. The C300, for instance, is a compact, large sensor cinema camera that produces a sharp, very organic, and film-like picture quality that can compete with higher end cinema cameras. The C500 is even more promising with its 4K resolution, RAW output, and record at 50mbps broadcast quality video at anywhere from 1 to 60fps.
Both the C300 and the C500 have indeed impressed digital filmmakers. But their price point makes them out of reach for most indie filmmakers, who work with tight budget constraints. That's one of the main reasons for the popularity of the C100, which has won over a loyal following because of its price.
The C300 is one of the best compact cameras that I have worked with for a lot of reasons including ergonomics, image quality, and post production workflow, to name a few. However, one balks at the price of the camera, shelling out USD 17,000 is no joke. So, naturally, the launch of the C100 particularly interested me as it comes with a host of features at a price tag of $5,000.
I would compare the C100 more to the Sony FS100 or the Panasonic AF100. These are some of the high-quality broadcast cameras that are reasonably priced. The Sony FS100 scores over the C100 with its full-HD recording of up to 120fps. This high speed recording was not made available to the C100. However, among these three, the C100 wins hand down for its ergonomic build. It has a very sturdy feel to it and is perfect for handheld shooting. It does a really good job of blending the look and creative style of a DSLR with the practical functionality of a traditional video camera.
The C100 has everything that you would expect from a compact cinema camera -- a 35mm,16:9 full-frame CMOS sensor with full HD capture, two XLR inputs, built-in ND filters, and a solid pistol grip that makes handheld shooting a breeze. The C100 also has two nifty features that were previously not made available to its older siblings: a 1-shot Autofocus and a Push Auto Iris. With the 1-shot Autofocus, you see a square in the centre of the image that glows green when the subject is in focus. The Push Auto Iris evaluates exposure and makes any required adjustments before shooting.
The C100 is approximately 85% of the size of the C300 but it doesn't feel much different in use, partly because it uses the same pistol grip handle.
On the grip there are several logical buttons such as an f-stop dial, magnification and a mini joystick menu navigator. These features are literally at your fingertips -- and the record button perfectly under your index finger.
Magnification on the C100 works extremely well. It's 2X zoom makes getting focus so much easier and can even be done while you are recording. The mini joystick navigator is now also a much more intuitive way of navigating the setting on the LCD as it can be done without moving your hand from the grip and it's also easy to make changes while looking through the EVF.
Shooting in the real world
If you are wondering how the C100 would fare in the 40-degree UAE summer, you will be pleasantly surprised with the camera's performance. Although, it wasn't any surprise how loud the fan was when recording for hours at a time, I imagine this wouldn't be the case under normal shooting conditions. The camera was more tolerant and did not overheat with over five to six hours of sporadic shooting outside in the summer heat.
However, shooting under the desert sun also has a few downsides for the C100. For starters, its vewfinder/EVF has no eyecup unlike the C300. This has been my least favourite design on the camera as it makes for difficult shooting under the sun. The built-in diopter adjustment is also hard to get to, tucked underneath the viewfinder it is quite tricky to adjust while your face is tightly pressed at the back of the camera looking into the viewfinder.
The camera's LCD screen is excellent, but the placement on the back is a bit limiting. It is in the same orientation as to operating an HDSLR.
I would have preferred it to be on the side, against my support so you can press the camera to your face or on your chest to give some stability while recording.
The C100 uses a mechanical wheel to dial on the built-in ND filters. I found this manual approach a lot better than the electronically controlled motorised ND filters of the C300. However, it is also possible to leave the ND filters partially engaged and only halfway covering the camera sensor if not careful.
Image quality, input and output
The most impressive feature of the C100 is its image quality. Given that the C100 has the same super-35mm sensor found in the C300, you can expect an incredibly sharp image, and terrific low-light performance.
The C100 also offers the Canon Log Gamma option, which allows the camera to shoot with a colour profile designed to obtain more information in highlights and shadows, for a wider dynamic range. The images may look washed out during the preview and playback mode but you have the ultimate editing flexibility, when colour correcting to get precisely the look you want.
As an EF mount camera the C100 is designed to be compatible with Canon's EF and EF-S lenses for DSLRs, plus the EF mount cinema lenses to provide filmmakers and videographers with a wide choice of creative shooting options.
The C100 has two slots that can take SD/SDHC/SDXC cards and can record data rates that range from 7 to 24Mbits/sec, meaning you can record nearly six hours of footage on a 64GB memory card. The camera records in AVCHD MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 compression.
The C100 supports NTSC and PAL frame rates, giving you 60i, PF30, PF24, and 24p options in NTSC mode, and 50i, PF25 in PAL mode, although there are no 50p, 60p, or high-speed shooting options.
The C100 is still a pretty expensive camera, despite being the baby of the Canon EOS Cinema range. However, it does have a lot of innovations that make it very suitable for solo, run-and-gun style shooting. This is a very compact, high performance cinema camera that is perfect for TV series, documentaries, corporate and independent films.
The C100 is not a perfect camera, but it sure is groundbreaking with its image quality and overall creative controls. One should keep in mind that at the end of the day it is but another tool in your kit, and what's more important is your ability to shoot and tell the story with the images you produce.
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