Canon debuts C300, its first cinema camera, to Chicago

Camera pros check out the C300

Canon reps Ed Meyers and Tim Smith unveiled the EOS C300, touted as the company’s first bona fide cinema camera, in its Chicago debut Jan. 26 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Meyers and Smith presented the camera to a mostly-full house of camera pros in the Siskel Center’s 200-seat theater.

Retailing at $16,000, the C300 combines features of Canon’s popular 5D and 7D DSLRs with a new 4:4:4 super-35mm-sized sensor unprecedented in a camera of its size for its light sensitivity and lack of artifacting.

Canon has made limited quantities available to 17 dealers nationwide, including AbelCine, whose reps also attended the presentation.  Zacuto Rentals was on hand with their dedicated C300 support rig.

On the Siskel Center’s new 4K projector, Canon screened three of four shorts the company commissioned to showcase the camera’s featured: Mobius, XXIT, and Sword, plus scenes from the feature Max is Back.  

Canon tech rep Mike Mount (right) with C300 and customers.Max demonstrated the C300’s ability to delivery a traditional film look, XXIT its facility for seamless integration with green screen and digital compositing, Sword its range in very low light and extreme effects, and Mobius its durability.

Smith, who worked on all the films, says the C300 had no problems on Mobius’s shoot in 107-degree temperatures in the Mojave Desert, unlike Canon DSLRs which can overheat during extended shooting.  “The trucks broke down, but the camera held up fine,” Smith says.

The C300 records to two CF cards (currently up to 32 gigabytes, or 88 minutes at 50 megabits), with the option of cloning in-camera by recording to both cards simultaneously, or switching between the two cards.  There’s no 4gb file limit as with Canon DSLR’s, which cut after 12 minutes at full resolution.

The CF cards record in 4:2:2 color space using the same processing chip from Canon’s XF305, outputting in MXF files which can be edited native on most platforms without transcoding.

The camera has manual focus and HD settings only.  It records at up to 20,000 ISO with reduced noise floor and extended dynamic range.  What noise does occur at higher ISOs is more randomized than the fixed patterns typical to other digital cameras, which Smith argues is closer to film grain.

At just 3.5 lbs., Smith said the C300 could be operated on a Steadicam with much larger lenses than would be possible for heavier cameras.

Smith recommended limiting filtration to the C300’s in-camera ND filters, and avoiding external filters that produce a “burned-in look” and limit leeway in post.  “The log is so good that you shouldn’t filter it,” he said.

The C300 is currently available with an EF mount, compatible with Canon DSLR lenses.  A PL mount model due out in March is compatible with industry-standard cinema lenses.  Canon is also releasing seven new 4K prime and zoom cinema lenses.