Wednesday, 8 April 2015

New Canon EOS C300 Mark II - 4K/Ultra HD + 15 stops dynamic range

Canon has unveiled its upcoming EOS C300 Mark II, an improved version of its highly regarded C300. It will record digital cinema 4K (4096x2160) and broadcast Ultra HD (3840x2160) 10-bit 4:2:2 formats internally, or 10/12-bit 4:4:4 files in 2K (2048x1080) and HD (1920x1080). It also boasts 15 stops of dynamic range, slightly better than Arri’s Alexa. However, it will also cost more than many of its rivals (such as Sony’s FS7), at £11,299 + VAT (almost $17,000) when it is released in September.

Compared to the C300, the Mark II has: a new Canon-designed Super 35mm CMOS sensor with twice the readout speed (which also reduces any rolling shutter effects); a more advanced imaging engine with dual DIGIC DV5 processors; and an increased ISO range of up to ISO 102,400 for improved low light (low noise) performance - ISO sensitivity ranges from 160 to 25,600 (or 100 to 102,400 in expansion mode), while gain ranges from -2dB to 42dB (or -6dB to 54dB in expansion mode). There are also new recording codecs.

Recording formats

The new XF-AVC codecs are similar to Sony’s XAVC and based on H.264 compression and MXF (Material eXchange Format) wrapping. They are promised to be compatible with industry standard non-linear edit systems, using XF-AVC intra for 4K/UHD at 410, 225, 220, or 110Mbps, while HD and 2K can be recorded in 4:4:4 colour in 10-bit at 210Mbps, or 12-bit at 225Mbps.

There are also XF-AVC Long GoP (50Mbps) and Proxy (35 or 24Mbps) options for 2K/HD recording, but not the MPEG2 format used on the C300 and XF series. The main limitation is that the C300 Mark II can not shoot at more than 30p in 4K/UHD (presumably 50/60p will come in any C500 Mark II), although it can go up to 100/120p in 2K/HD.

It would seem, therefore, that the C300 Mark II is best suited to drama production in 4K/UHD, while the Sony FS7 (which is half the cost), is more suited to reality-style programming - not only because of its higher frame rates (up to 60 frames per second in 4K/UHD and 180fps in HD), but also its shoulder-mount form factor.

Given that the original C300 has just had a heavy price cut, anyone who doesn’t need 4K/UHD recording and is happy with 50Mbps MPEG2 - which is the broadcast standard for HD production in most places - may just stick with the older model.

Auto focus

Besides offering full manual control, the Mark II has a wider range of automatic modes than the C300, including: enhanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF (covering some 80% of the frame vertically and 80% horizontally - the focus point is selectable via a joystick on the handgrip); auto white balance; and Face Detection auto focus, which is particularly useful for news gathering and documentary production. 

There are also built-in, six electronically controlled glass ND (neutral density) filters, which can reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor by 2 stops; 4 stops; 6 stops, 8 stops, or 10 stops (the last two via expansion menu - as they are on a second filter wheel and may need the back focus to be adjusted), useful for those shallow depth of field shots in sunny conditions - they can be operate via the body, optional wireless (WiFi via WFT-E6 adaptor) control or using the new RC-V100 Remote Control Unit (pictured below).

It has dual CFast 2.0 card slots (for relay and simultaneous recording), and can also record 4K Raw files to an external recorder (such as the Atomos Shogun or Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q), as well as 2K/HD Proxy files to an internal SD card - all at the same time.

The C300 MkII has two CFast 2.0 card slots, dual 3G-SDI
ports, plus HDMI, timecode and synch ports

Dynamic range

The C300 Mark II will support a wide range of colour space options with seven pre-set custom picture modes, including BT.2020, the Canon Cinema Gamut and DCI-P3. It is also the first Cinema EOS model offering the new Canon Log2 technology (which retains more information in the highlights and shadows). It is this that enables those 15 stops of dynamic range - compared to about 12 stops previously.

The dynamic range reaches its maximum at ISO 800 (and retains it above that - lower ISOs offer slightly less dynamic range). There is also the useful Wide DR setting seen in the C100 Mark II, which offers improved highlight/shadow handling, but doesn't require so much work in post.

There are also various looks available, to match the C300 to high-end cinema cameras such as the Alexa or Sony F55, so that users can easily inter-cut their shots with these other cameras, useful where the smaller C300 is used on remote mounts or inside cars.

The C300 Mark II has a removable hand grip


The camera also offers improved versatility for sound recording, supporting 4-channel audio at 16 or 24 bits and 48 kHz, with 2x XLR audio inputs on the monitor unit, plus a 3.5mm input on the camera body as well as a built-in microphone.

It uses a very similar, modular body to the C300 (although it is slightly heavier - and is claimed to be more rugged). It includes a 4-inch (10.1cm diagonal) colour 16:9 aspect ratio LCD with about 1.23 million dots (854 x RGB x 480) and 100% field of view coverage, plus a 0.46-inch (1.18cm diagonal), colour organic EL electronic viewfinder display with 1770,000 dots (1024 x RGB x 576) and much improved contrast ratio. To make it easier to use in the dark, the buttons on body are now illuminated.

The C300 Mark II is compatible with more than 90 current EF and EF Cinema lenses, including Canon Cine servo zoom lens support. As options, it can also be fitted with an EF Mount with Cinema Lock, or the industry standard PL mount.

The camera will come with a monitor unit, handle unit, thumb rest, WFT attachment, tripod adaptor base, eye cup, CVF cap, shoulder strap (SS-1200), battery charger (CG-10), AC adaptor (CA-A10), AC cable, 14.4v battery pack (BP-A30 - not compatible with the C300), hex wrench, hexagon screw set, UN-5 cable (x2), Lithium battery (CR2025), and a bracket.

By David Fox