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Quick Review: Canon C300 Super35mm LSS Cine Camera

The C300 is a shooter's camera: a large sensor recording pretty pix with a broadcast-ready codec in a thoughtfully designed, highly flexible package.

By Adam Wilt | July 24, 2012



Canon C300 EF with Canon 24-105mm f/4 EF-L IS zoom.

The US$16,000 Canon EOS C300 looks like nothing else, and works like it, too: its ergonomics, controls, and menus are rules unto themselves. It's a fearless re-imagining of how a large-single-sensor camera should be designed, held, and operated, but it doesn't hurt that the C300 inherits the broadcaster-approved, edit-ready XF codec from Canon's 1/3" camcorders along with Canon's usual looks-good-right-out-of-the-box image rendering. The camera renders crisp, clean images with 12+ stops of dynamic range, and the package handholds very well; overall, I'd rate this experiment as a success.

Canon kindly (and somewhat unexpectedly) made a C300 EF available to me for a week; I was embroiled in other deadline-driven work at the time so I didn't have a chance to shoot with it for more than a couple of days. As a result, this review isn't as experience-driven as I'd like, so it's a "quick review" instead of a full writeup. Even so, I hope I've been able to cover the design, operational, and performance highlights of this unusual camera.

You might want to start with my Quick Look (with lots of pictures) from the C300's Hollywood unveiling, and follow it up by viewing quite possibly the best camera review video ever: "Canon EOS C300 = Awesome". Thus fortified, you can forge ahead for more detail.

Design



The C300 is a large-single-sensor, interchangeable-lens camcorder with a built-in, rear-mounted EVF. It comes with a removable and re-orientable handgrip; a removable top handle; and a "monitor unit" with a positionable LCD, a control panel, and dual XLR audio inputs. It records on dual CF cards.

The camera is taller than it is long, and longer than it is wide. A roughly cylindrical sensor block, finished in shiny black textured paint, is embedded in the vertically-oriented, matte gray body. Fit and finish are up to Canon's usual standards (i.e., very good), with clearly-labeled controls and plenty of surface contouring to aid in tactile navigation.

The C300 camera body alone (no side or top handles, monitor unit, battery, or CF cards) weighs 3.2 pounds / 1430 g; that rises to 6 pounds / 2700 g with CF cards, battery, top handle, side grip and monitor unit. Add 0.4 pound / 200 g to those figures if you have the C300 PL.

Of course, you'll need to add the weight of a lens if you want to shoot anything. Lenses range from 4.6 ounces / 130 g for the EF 40mm f/2.8 pancake to nearly two pounds / 805 g for the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II, or more. The EF 24-105mm f/4L IS, a lens frequently used on the C300 (and seen in most of my images) is 23.6 ounces / 670 g.

PL lenses typically weigh more; 3-6 pounds for primes and 10 pounds for a zoom aren't uncommon.

Photo Gallery

The C300 is an odd-looking beast, so I wound up with a larger-than-normal collection of beauty shots, the better to show the varying configurations the camera is capable of. Additionally, the C300 is available with either a Canon EF lens mount or a cine-lens PL mount; Jeff Regan of Shooting Star Video brought over a C300 PL so I could compare it to the C300 that Canon supplied.


The C300 EF was a demo unit out of the L.A. office that had seen some hard use, so you'll see more cosmetic distress in the pictures than has been normal in previous reviews.

It's not just Canon, either: recent loaners from Sony and Panasonic have also been demo units that had been ridden hard and put away wet, with surface scratches, missing or damaged parts, no recording media included (Panasonic even expects that reviewers will provide their own P2 cards, which aren't exactly inexpensive items to have on hand), and randomly ramshackle packaging. Camera vendors are suffering through the global recession like everyone else, and the days of fresh-off-the-line brand-new review cameras are long gone.

This means that the "camera porn"—the glossy pin-up pix of shiny image-making hardware—is somewhat diminished: these models have blemishes! On the plus side, though, we're more likely to see what bits 'n' pieces survive real-world abuse, like the handgrip bolt on the NEX-FS700 that still worked despite having half its handle broken off.




Left Side, monitor unit on front of handle, display flipped up.




Left side, monitor unit on front of handle, display flipped down. Note illuminated tally lamp at rear.




Left Side, monitor unit on top of handle, display flipped up.




Left Side, monitor unit on body, display flipped up.




Right side, monitor unit on front of handle, display flipped up. XLR inputs (capped) at base of monitor unit.




Right side with no monitor unit attached.




Right side, minimalist rig with thumb rest instead of handgrip.




Rear view with monitor unit on front of handle, display flipped down.




Camera in record: CF card 1's LED and tally lamp illuminated red.




Cards can be swapped while rolling. Battery has its own state-of-charge gauge.




C300 EF handheld configuration with 16-35mm f/2.8 EF-L zoom.




C300 PL handheld configuration with RED 17-50mm T2.0 zoom, Arri baseplate, 15mm rods.


Next: Design Details.

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