Daniel Haggett

London based Lighting Cameraman / DoP 

Canon C300 markii footage and review

I recently bought the Canon C300 markii and thought I'd share some of the footage and some first impressions here.

Although the markii has the same form factor as the original C300, it immediately feels a lot more solid.  The camera itself is slightly larger and built from stronger material.  The first big difference is the handle.  This is so much sturdier than the original.  Rather than having one small screw to fix the top handle, there is now a much more robust solution.  The handle is fixed with two thick screws to a plate, which is then fixed with three further screws to the camera.  On the whole this is great.  It means you can now pick up the camra with confidence, no matter how big your lens or other accessories.  The only downside to this is that it does take a while to remove the handle as there are now five allen key screws to remove.  Still, a small price to pay.

The cables running from the LCD to the camera can now be fully removed, which is a major improvement.  Also, one cable is for audio and the other video.  This is another big advantage for gimbal users, as you can now mount the LCD monitor with just one cable fairly efficiently.

The big change with mark ii really comes when you start looking at the images coming out of the camera.  I already liked the image I was getting from the C300 but the markii really impressed me.

The dynamic range is something that immediately jumps out at you.  One of the first things I shot with this camera was inside a dimily lit cafe and the sun was absolutely blasting through the windows.  The camera handled it so well.  I used Log2 Cine gamut, which gives a slightly flatter image than the orignial Canon Log.  I know pretty much nothing about colour grading, so I simply slapped the appropriate LUT on.  I thought the LUT was a bit intense and made everything a touch to contrasty.  I then backed off with the LUT to 50 percent and left it at that.  There is a lot more that can be done to grade the image, but I just wanted to put this up as is, so you can see what comes out of the camera.  The shots using Clog 2 are at the begining part of the video above.

The shot below is a jpeg screen grab from an ungraded shot, using BT2020.

The next thing, which I just couldn't believe was the low light ability.  I was tentaively going higher and higher with the ISO expecting to see grain and digital noise and it just didn't happen.  I was shooting with the camera on a Ronin, so I didn't want to shoot with the lens wide open.  In order to have half a chance of getting anything in focus, I decided to stop down and use the ISO.  To further complicate things I was shooting half speed at 50p and 120 shutter (we were in the USA, hence 120 rather than 100).  

The shot above was taken at night a couple of hours after sun set.  The only light illuminating the face here is from an iphone.  

The lens flares are deliberate.  I was using my Leica 35mm lens which flares like crazy if you don't use the hood or matte box.  I personally love it, so use it as an effect.

The shot above was taken just after sunset. Again there is no lighting here.  Despite the lack of light, I really like the natural look of the image, it could certainly benefit from a grade, but I am pleased with this as a starting point.  This is an image straight out of the camera with no LUT applied.  For all the night time shots I didn't use LOG but shot with the BT2020 profile.  This gives a decent amount of dynamic range and requires less work in post.

One of the feature I was keen to try out was the face tracking and focus.  Since all of these shots were taken on the Ronin, I wanted to see if auto focus or assisted focus was possible.  I found that, to my surprise, the face tracking and focus worked pretty well, with a few caveats.

The face tracking does work and the focus is smooth enough to use.  However, it really functions best in decent light conditions.   In daylight, or if you are lighting your subject well, the face tracking quickly picks out a person and tracks them.  However, in these dark street scenes, where the director did not want any lighting, the face tracking struggles to see the face.

Another issue is that the auto focus does not work at all in slow mo.  I found the best way round this was to shoot in 50p and then conform this to 25p in the edit, which gives you your half speed, but keeps the audio and the auto focus features.

A funtion that I really like was focus assist.  If you are using a Canon lens, the camera is able to tell you whether to pull fowards or back to acheive focus.  This was amazingly useful, particualarly when the camera was on the ronin.  Even if you are using peaking, it's really tough to see what is in focus when you are running around with the ronin, but the focus assist really made it easy.

Often I would set the focus at a distance I wanted to be from the subject, and then turned on focus markers.  Depending on whether the two triangles are above or or below the single triangle, lets you know which way to pull (or move).  On the left shot the focus is set towards infinity and the focus is behind the flowers.  In the shot on the right the focus is set too close and the focus is infront of the flowers.

This was particualarly helpful on the Ronin, and I would just move the rig closer to or further away from the subject.

It is also very useful in an interview situation if you are shooting at a wide aperture and your subject is moving backwards and forwards a bit.  It is nice to have control of the focus yourself so you can decide if you want to pull focus or not.

The only thing I didn't like about the focus was that the digital zoom in now doesn't work once the camera is in record mode.  This seems like a step backwards to me.  This will apparently be fixed in the next firmware update.  For now, I just need to learn to trust the focus guide - so far they have been amazingly accurate. 

Canon C300 markii Vs Panasonic Varicam LT

When the Panasonic Varicam 35 was launched, I was quite interested, but when the smaller Varicam LT was recently launched I was much more interested.
 
The Varicam LT is priced very closely to the C300 mark ii and so I looked closely at both of these cameras before buying one of them.
 
I am obviously not the only person who has had this dilema.  I recently got an email from one of the blogs readers called Migel.  Here is letter below.:

 
"I really enjoy your blog. It's not too cinema centered like other blogs in our business. And I feel loads of the equipment and situations that you describe are similar to the ones I run into in a daily basis. 
 
I'm contacting you to ask your opinion about two cameras. I do mostly news and documentary, and sometimes corporate and branded video. I already own a bunch of cameras like the c300, the PXW-X200 and some DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. I'm really happy with the C300 but want something that gives me even more picture quality and framerate options. 
 
I'm undecided between the C300 mk II and the Varicam LT. Both of them have similar prices in their ready to shoot configurations (around 20,000 USD). 
 
 

CAMERA

GRIP

MEDIA 256gb

BATTERIES

CHARGER

V PLATE

2 CARD READER

VIEWFINDER

 

TOTAL

CANON

16000

 -

1600

1000

500

100

 -

 

19200

PANASONIC

13000

1077

2300

900

1000

150

1000

2000

 

21427

 
I think both are similar in low light, colour and DR.
 
The Varicam LT looks really nice. Has more framerate options than the Mk II. Shoulder mounted. And can change PL/EF mount if I ever need. 
 
The MK II has that amazing AF. It's smaller, so more flexible to use it in different gimbals. Easy to match with my current C300 for two camera interviews or shoots."

 
As you can see from the table above, pricing of the two cameras ends up being pretty much the same.  The Varicam looks cheaper initially, but once you add a view finder and a few accessories, the price works out the same.
 
I have always liked the look Panasonic produce with the vari cam, even going all the way back to the tape versions of this camera.  They were definitely more interesting that those from Sony at that time.
 
Panasonic have also had a history of producing cameras that shoot lots of different frame rates, so it is no surprise that this camera beats the C300 mkii when it comes to slow mo.  Slow motion has never been Canon's strong point.
 
The Panasonic also looks like it would work better for on the shoulder work, where as the Canon would be better for mounting to a gimbal such as a Ronin.
 
So which one to choose?
 
This is a really tough decision.  In the end I went for the Canon C300 mkii.  
 
There are a few reason for this.  Firstly, I own a Ronin and I can use the Markii on this.  Secondly, I  have a C300 which I could use a 2nd camera. Thirdly, some production companies I know were very keen on the camera and since these people pay my bills, I am happy to consider their camera choices.
 
I know the BBC Natural History Unit always loved the Vari Cam, so if you shoot this kind of footage no doubt the Panasonic would win over. 
 
Without these slight nudges in the direction of the markii, I could well have bought the Vari Cam LT.
 
 

Does the C300 mark ii work on the Ronin M

Many people will already own a Ronin or Ronin M, and before using the new C300 mark ii, you might wonder if it will fit on the Ronin.

The short answer is: yes.

Canon has made the C300 mark ii slighly bigger and slightly heavier.  This isn't enough for the average user to worry about, but with gimbals, it makes all the difference.  

The other issue with the markii is the change from a removable eye peice to a fixed one.  CANON! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!  Really, I mean I never use this stupid eyepeice and I'd rather it wasn't on the camera at all, but it is.

All of this moaning aside, the camera fits on both the Ronin and the Ronin M.  With the larger Ronin you can buy arms from Cinemilled to extend the range of set ups and lenses you can use.

With the Ronin M, there is less space, so the range of movement you get from the camera is much more limited.  I found that if I used the heavier Canon batteries, to put some more weight at the back of the camera, I could put on a light lens, and easily balance the camera.  If you look at the shot of my C300ii on the Ronin M below, you can see how much space there is.  Not a lot.  This means that you are limited to how low down and how high up you can  tilt.  This isnt ideal, but it is just about work able.

However, there is a way to improve this.

By putting more weight at the back of the camera, you can slide the whole camera further forward, giving you more space to pan up and down.  

Cinemilled have made  the Dove Tail Pro.  This base plate is slightly larger than the standard issue from DJI and it is covered with tapped holes which you can screw weights on, to better balance the camera. 

I bought the plate and 2 of the larger weights.  This significantly increases the range of tilt I can get, when the C300 mkii is on the Ronin M.

Obviously the lens on the camera needs to be pretty light.  Here I am using the Tokina 11-16mm.  Most of the Canon EOS primes would work and also lenses like the the Canon 17-40mm would work very well, being so light.

If you wanted to put anything heavier on the front (such as a cine prime) you would be better off with the full size Ronin or the new Ronin MX.

However, if you already have the Ronin M, and are looking to increase the range of camera set ups it can take, this is a good solution.

You can buy the parts direct from Cinemilled or go to a re seller like B&H

Ethics:  I have no affiliation whatsoever with Cinemilled and paid full price for these parts.

What's it like working as a cameraman

A reader of the blog wrote to me with a few questions about working as a cameraman.  I thought I would publish my answers here.
 
1) What is the most difficult part of your job? 
 
This  is easy to answer.  It's the freelance juggling act.  Jobs flow in, all of them will be "pencil bookings," unconfirmed jobs.  Many of these jobs will overlap, some projects will be better than others.  The hard part is choosing the best jobs for your career, and the jobs you think are most likely to actually happen.  All of this has to be done without offending Producers and without messing up their schedules.
 
2) Whats more important, a creative mind or technical knowledge ?
 
On the whole, Producers and Directors are looking for a balance of both of these skills.  On a larger project you may have an Assistant or a Gaffer and you can rely on these people for technical camera knowledge and lighting respectively.  However, on a smaller project you will need to be technically savvy.  Often people will look to you for technical knowledge, Researchers, Assistant Producers and even Directors are all now starting to self-shoot. They will often come to the DoP for help and technical advice.
 
Also,  sometimes you could be shooting miles from anywhere with no tech support and no rental facilities.  If you run into technical difficulties of any description, having someone that can step in and help will always be a plus to a Director. 
 
3) How long do you spend on planning and preparation before going on set?
 
This one varies massively, depending on the job.  Some jobs I might get a phone call the night before, I turn up on the shoot with almost no idea of what to expect.   At the other end of the spectrum a Director might call me with an idea, or a potential shoot.  Initial conversations might be about budget, equipment, logistics, or what can be achieved in the time available.  This might go on for months, then one day the shoot happens several months after the initial conversation.  
 
Reading this, you might think this is a lot of prep and forethought for a job that might not happen, and you'd be right.  However, Directors are often in need of this support.  Of course, they might have a Production Manager who can find out whether you can travel around Africa with a jib, or how much it costs to rent a certain bit of kit etc.  The reason a Director might rely on a Cameraman for this kind of research is that you may already have experienced theses situations before.  Years of travelling around filming things gives you experience and knowledge that can't always be looked up on the internet.  It is this first hand knowledge is often vital in the early planning stages of a shoot.
 
 
4) How far does your degree take you when applying for jobs? 
 
When getting work as a cameraman, it is your experience that counts, not your academic achievement.  However, entry level positions such as Runners or Junior Researchers are always oversubscribed, so any advantage you might have over others is a good thing.  Languages are often useful, as is specialist knowledge.  If a programme is being made about Machu Picchu and you studied Spanish and Ancient History at University, then you are more likely to get hired than the next person.
 
The connections you make at university might also be useful.  If a director is looking for an Assistant Camera Operator and you happened to go to university with them, you will stand more of a chance than others.  
 
This might sound unfair, and it is, but in film and TV the old adage about "it's not what you know, it's who you know" is very true.  Think of if this way: the industry is based around trust.  People are agreeing to pay for your skills, before you have proved your worth.  For this to work, they need to trust you are good at what you do.  People tend to trust people they know, or their colleagues know, over strangers.
 

How much should you spend on a good prime lens

Lenses vary hugely in price, so what do you get for your money?

Let's take a look at a few 50mm lenses.  50mm probably the most commonly used lenses, manufacturers sell large numbers of them, and every manufacturer makes a 50mm, so it is easy to compare them.
 
This is by no means a complete list of all 50mm lenses, but just illustrates the price difference.
 
 

 Lens                

Price in Dollars

Stills 

 

 Canon 1.8   

125 

 Canon 1.4

349 
 Zeiss 1.4 725
 Canon 1.2 1349
Cinema   
 Ziess CP2 1.5

4500 

 Canon CNE 1.3 4950 

 Cooke s4 mini 2.8   

7300

 Arri Master Prime

21000
 
As you go up the price range two things change, the housing that the lens is in and the optical quality of the glass.  
 
The Canon 1.8 is so cheap, it isn't fair to criticise the lens, for what you pay it is a bargain.  However, the housing is light weight and plastic, the focus ring is so small that it is very tough to use.  This lens is really designed solely for photographers using auto focus.  I have seen people using these lenses for video, but I would only advise it if you are on a really tight budget.
 
The Canon 1.4 has a better focus ring and is easier to use manually.  The housing is slightly better than the 1.8
 
The Canon 1.2 is an L series lens, so the housing is weather sealed and a bit tougher.  Through the canon EF range, the more you pay the faster the lens becomes.
 
If using a lens for video, I would choose the Zeiss 1.4 over the Canon 1.2.  Zeiss make a good solid metal housing for their lenses.  The focus throw on the Zeiss is also larger than on the Canon lenses, which makes manual focusing much easier.  Zeiss lenses also hard stop at infinity.  Canon EOS lenses are designed with auto focus in mind, the focus ring will circle around forever, pushing a touch past infinity and then you have to bring it back. With the Zeiss lens, if you just roll it all the way and infinity is where the focus barrel stops, altogether much better when you are filming.  Leica is another lens similar to Zeiss in this aspect, and also similar in terms of cost and build quality.  The image of the Leica and Zeiss do vary, but which you prefer is down to individual taste.
 
The Arri Master Prime
 
 
The next set of lenses are a big step up both in price and the quality of the housing.  Zeiss Compact Primes have been around for  a while and in a similar price bracket are the new Canon CNE range.  One of the things you get at this price range is uniformity.  All of the lenses in these sets are roughly the same length and barrel size.  This means changing lenses is quicker, as there is no need to adjust matte boxes or moose bars as you may have to with stills lenses, which all tend to vary in size.  Another big change is that the iris control is alway on the lens itself, this is obviously a massive plus when shooting.   The distance marks on the lens are accurate and the lenses can be easily used by a focus puller.  (Stills lenses are really tricky in this regard as you can roll the focus around indefinitely and loose all of your focus marks.)
 
So how much should you spend on your lens if looking at the housing and mechanics alone?  This really depends on what type of work you do now, or see yourself doing in the future.  If you think you'll be on a film or commercial set then spending the extra to get the dedicated lenses could be a good idea.
 
If you are a solo operator and don't see yourself using a focus puller very often, the decision is a bit more difficult.  Having a big focus throw and an external iris wheel are very nice, but they aren't essential, and you also have to deal with the added weight.  
 
So what about the quality of the glass and the image you get from the lens?  At the lower end of the cinema lens range, the quality of the glass is very similar to the optics used on the top end still lenses.  For example the Zeiss CP2 are close to the Zeiss ZE and ZF stills glass, and the Canon CNE range is similar to the L series EOS lenses.  There are however a few differences.  You tend to get much more dramatic lens flare on the cinema lenses, simply because the lens is that much bigger on the front end.  I have also noticed the Canon CNE lenses create very round out of focus highlights, whereas the still lenses have an octagonal shape to them, and that is due to the larger number of iris blades on the cine primes.  It is said that the better quality glass is cherry picked for the cine lenses and that these lenses are also given better coatings.
 
 
There are also clear differences between manufacturers and the type of image the glass produces.  Generally speaking, the more you pay the less the lens breathes, contrast also tends to be better and the way the lens deals with highlights improves.  I have noticed reds really pop out on Canon lenses, whereas Zeiss have a slightly colder, clinical look to them, which I quite like.  Leica tend to produce a beautiful buttery smoothness in the out of focus bokeh, which I am also a fan of. 
With lenses you need to pay a huge amount of extra cash, to get a small increase in the quality of the image.  Another thing to note here is that in many situations that extra money won't show.  If the lens is stopped down and the lighting is very controlled, there often isn't much to choose between two lenses, even though they maybe hundreds of dollars apart.  However, open those lenses up and film in some more unusual lighting conditions and the more expensive lens with likely start to shine.
 
The video below, as unscientific as it is, shows how the 125 dollar Canon compares to the 20k Arri Master Prime.
 
Before you rush out and buy a Canon 1.8f, remember that this video doesn't really show much of the Master Prime.  Go and watch The Danish Girl at the Cinema, which was shot on Master Primes, it looks unbelivable.  Much of it looks like it was shot wide open at T1.3.  It's also worth noting that Fstop and Tstop measurements are not the same. F stop is relative to the size of the lens, Tstop is not. So the T stop in most cases will be much faster than the Fstop equivalent.
 
Another thing to say here is, I have only once seen what I have shot projecting on to a cinema screen, but it's a humbling experience.  Every details is really visible when you are looking at a giant screen.  I suspect if you were to watch this lens test at your local cinema, instead of on your iPad, you would start notice a few more details.
 
Unlike cameras, lenses don't seem to loose much value over time, so it makes sense to spend a bit more money on lenses if you can afford to.  If you are shooting with a small crew and always pull focus for yourself you can probably get away with stills lenses.  If you can afford to do so, it is well worth getting something at the top of this range, from Leica or Zeiss who make stills lenses with metal housings, large focus throws and in some cases external irises.  If you can't afford this, then go for something like the Canon 1.4f or similar.
 
The video below is from Shane Hurlbut's crew and it compares Canon L, Leica R and Zeiss CP2s
 
There is also a really in depth lens comparison here, which looks at Ziess CP2s, Ziess Super Speeds, Canon CN-E and Leica Sumilux Cs amoung others.
 
In the cine lens range it really depends on the work you are getting and your ability to get your lenses onto a job.  If you buy a set of Zeiss lenses and then a director says they really want to shoot with Cooke, you'll end up having to rent.  If you really love the look of a certain lens and can persuade any director that they are absolutely the best lenses for the job, then the investment could well pay off.
Don't be put off by pixel peepers and geeks on forums. Buy the lenses that you can afford and which have the look that you like.  A lot of it is subjective anyway, some like the  Leica look, others hate it, some like ziess, some don't.  Few lenses are perfect and you are always going to get a certain amount of breathing, distortion and other flaws (unless Master Primes are in your budget).
 Buying a set of primes could easily cost as much as your camera, but on the plus side they will certainly out live it by many many years.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Red Raven Review

RED will soon be releasing the Red Raven, priced at the lower end of the range, is it worth considering?

REDs typically have pluses and minuses for the type of work I do.  

Pluses:

  • Amazing slow mo speeds
  • Very high resolution
  • A great camera for commercial work

Minuses:

  • Ergonomics.  REDs are not usually aimed at the run and gun shooter.
  • Work flow.  Television work flow often isn't ready for 5k RAW.

 

On the list of minuses you could usually add price, but this isn't the case with the Raven.  The camera will retail at 6000 USD for the brain, or 10k for a basic kit.  

The first and most interesting thing about this camera is the slow mo rates.  At HD the camera will shoot 120fps at 4.5k!! At HD it will do 240fps.  

The other good thing about this camera is that you can trust it will have a good image.  The sensor is the same as (or at least based on) the more expensive Dragon camera.  

Below is some Red Raven footage

Due to the modular nature of REDs they work really well on drones and brushless gimbals.  At a guess I would say the Raven would fit pretty nicely on the Ronin m or Movi M5.  It also has basic auto focus, which might be helpful for a solo operator with a gimbal or steadi cam.

Another really good feature is that it can shoot Apple Pro Res at 4:2:2.  The good thing about this is, you could shoot 4.6 RAW for high end corporates and commercials, and shoot 4:2:2 Pro Res for quick turn around TV shows.

Before you rush out and buy one, here are some of the minuses from my point of view:

1) No internal ND.  This is a really hassle for me.  I don't always want to have a matte box on, and I don't always want to be carrying round a set of ND filters.

2) Audio.  There are no XLR ports as standard.  Of course this can be solved, but then it's more cash.

3) Media.  Red media cards are not cheap.  It's only a small thing, but all these extras add up.  The beauty with most other types of media cards is the more common they become, the cheaper they get. Just look at how the price of CF and SD cards have dropped over the last 3 years. 

If you are looking for a camera that looks great, will shoot amazing slow mo and will fit on your Ronin, this could be a good one for you.  If you can live with the lack of internal ND you'll have an amazing camera at a pretty reasonable price.

The Danish Girl from Danny Cohen

It is rare that you see a film as beautifully shot as The Danish Girl.  I recently watched this at the cinema.  I felt like if I paused the film at any point and printed off that screen shot, I could hang it on my wall.  The whole thing is just unbelievably beautiful.

 

The tailer flashes through the shots so quickly you hardly get a chance to take them in, put you get the general feel for it.

The film was shot by Danny Cohen, who also shot The Kings Speach and This is England.  It was filmed with the Epic Red Dragon using Arri Master Primes.  The Master Primes are super fast at T1.3  There are huge sections of the film that are shot with this tiny depth of field.  Beautiful portraiture with eyes pin sharp and nose and ears in smooth out of focus bokeh.

The film is also full of amazing composition.  Great shots making use of reflections or shooting through objects to give soft focus framing to the images.

The colours in general are fantastic.  The rooms are often painted with bold but mutted colours that low light that is so often present in the European north.

Will the Canon C300ii and C100ii fit on the Ronin M?

With a bit of fiddling about, you can get the C300 to mount on the Ronin-M pretty easily.  

To do this you need to remove the eyepiece.  The issue with both the Canon C300 markii and the C100 markii, is the eye piece cannot be removed.  This will severely limit the range of motion, as the eye piece will hit the back of the Ronin when you tilt up.

The interesting thing about the Canon C300 mark ii is that is has good face recognition focusing, this pared with the Ronin m gimbal should make for an awesome and effective piece of kit.  The only issue is, will it fit?

 

The very heavy F55 on a Ronin M

 

I have been keeping an eye on Cinemilled, as they constantly build things to add more cameras onto the Ronin and Ronin M.  They recently posted this picture with a Sony F55 mounted to a Roniin M.  If you have used an F55, you will know it is very heavy and pretty long.  With this in mind, I am pretty much certain a C300 markii will fit on a Ronin M with the right Cinemilled part.  The picture above came with an annoucement, saying Cinemilled have just made a new part to enable larger heavier cameras to be mounted to the Ronin M.

Here is the quote from their instagram feed:

Sony F55 on a Ronin-M perfectly balanced? How? you say? Only possible with cinemilled innovations! In a few days discover how to unlock more camera build possibilities from your Ronin-M....and Ronin !! Coming soon, stay tuned! We're busy!

 

 

The C100 markii on a Ronin M

Even with the older tilt extension arms from Cinemilled it should be possible.  Here is a C100 mark ii mounted to a Ronin M.  If you look at the tilt arms at the bottom, you can see there is loads more room to lower the camera.  This will mean that even with the eye peice attached to the camera, it will clear the back of the Ronin, to give you full manoeuvrability. 

More details on Cinemilled can be found here.

Panasonic VariCam 35 LT Review

Another day, another camera is released.

 

The VariCam LT is a stripped down version of the VariCam 35.  It is smaller and lighter in size than the oringinal super 35mm chip camera, and sells for a lower price.

The LT uses the same 4K chip as the original but the camera body is significantly smaller.  

Panasonic's Vari Cam have been around for years, I have used them on various documentaries right back to the days of recording to tape.   The BBCs Natural History Unit were always big fans of this camera, maninly as it offered many different slow motion rates.  After years of filming various animals the Natural History guys had discovered that certain animals looked better when filmed at specific speeds, not just super slow mo.

In the past I have found Sony's colours always to be a bit TV/Video ish but Panasonic often had slightly more filmic tones.  

With this history in top notch factual broadcast you would hope the VariCam LT has decent ergonomics.  This camera has only just been anounced, but from the pictures, it looks pretty good; the kind of camera you would actually want on your shoulder.

 

Here are the main specs:

  • Same Super 35mm 4K chips as Varicam 35
  • 14 + stop of dynamic range according to Panasonic
  • Multiple recording options. 4K,2k,HD and ProRes
  • Up to 240fps - However all slow motion is in crop mode
  • EF or PL Mount
  • Proxy files can be recorded onto and SD card.

US price for the body only looks to be around 18k, with the eye piece a further 6k and 1.5k for the shoulder pad.  So 25,500 USD for the LT puts it a good deal more expensive than the 16,000 dollar C300 Mark ii but less than the Arri Amira.

A short shot on the LT below (at ISO 5,000)

 

The camera certainly looks like it has better ergonomics than the C300 with a shoulder pad and a proper eye peice, the mic is also much better placed.  However, the Sony F5 has very similar specs at a much better price.

So will this camera sell?  I don't think it will sell bucket loads, there are two many more cheaply priced options.  However, there will be a market for this camera.  It looks like a robust and well made little thing, that would probably do very well in a rugged documentary setting.  

 

 

Video cameras 2016

There are so many different cameras coming onto the market at the moment, I thought now would be a good time for a brief overview of what is out there.  Here is what you get for your money.

 

Make Model

Price USD

4K Slow mo   Colour
Sony  A7Sii   3,000  120@HD 4:2:0 
Sony FS5   5,600 Y  240@HD 4:2:2
Sony  FS7   8,000  180@HD 4:2:2
Sony F5  16,500 Y **  180@HD 4:4:4 
Sony F55  29,000   180@HD 4:4:4 
Canon C100ii  5,000 N  60@HD 4:2:0
Canon  C300ii  16,000  120@HD*  4:4:4 
Black magic Ursamini 4.6 5,000 Y 160@HD 4:4:4
Panasonic VariCam 35 LT 18,000 Y 240@HD* 4:4:4
Panasonic VariCam 35 55,000 Y 120@4K 4:4:4 
Arri 

Amira

40,000 N 200@HD 4:4:4
Red

Raven

10,000 Y 240@HD* Raw
Red  Scarlet dragon  26,000  150@HD  Raw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Crop sensor

**With upgrade

It wasn't that many years ago when there was really only one choice if you worked in TV, you bought a Beta SP camera and that was that.  These days the camera options out there are mind blowing.

This table only represents a small fraction of what is out there.  I have hardly touched on the options from RED.  This is because, firstly the article would go on forever as there are so many options, and secondly, because most of the RED specs go way beyond the specs set out in this table (as do the prices).

Sony have historically been pretty much alone in this market.  Canon then made a suprise entry with the 5D markii, eventually following it up with the Cinema EOS range.  The Canon C300 was a massive hit for Canon and so Sony have struck back.  

If you look at the C100 markii and then compare it to the Sony FS5, the price is pretty similar, but the Sony blows Canon out of the water on the specs.

The next model up, you look at the C300 Mark ii and the Sony FS7 is half the price, but has better slow motion.  The C300 ii does have a nice look straight out of the box in my opinion, but again the Sony is half the price.  

New to the market is the Ursa mini 4.6K.  This isn't even availble to buy yet, but in the specs for price war, its looking pretty strong. Aimed right at that mid range where vast numbers of cameras are sold, it looks like a steal at just 5,000 USD.

RED produce a lot of cameras that are well above this mid range price.  The brains themselves aren't too bad in terms of price, but the cost really starts to add up when you tack on the accessories to make it into a fully functioning camera.  The new Raven however goes for just 6,000 USD for the brain.  I put 10k in the table above as that is the basic packag to get you up and running.

Arri have also brought out the Alexa mini and the Amira, although still expensive, the prices are lower than the Alexa.  The offerings from both Arri and RED will certainly tempt camera buyers in the mid range to pay a bit more to get top end pictures.

So what to choose?

At the top end 30k + will get you a Sony F55, An Arri Amira (or an Alexa Mini) or A good setup with many options for RED.

At the mid range 16k will get you a C300ii or RED Raven or a Sony F5.

Below that price there are a massive range of cameras, many of which have specs that out perform cameras in the 16 k bracket.

In the end it comes down more to functionality and usability than specs.  If you need to mount the camera on your shoulder and access all the necessary buttons quickly then ergonomics are going to be more important than just specs.

The other issue is production work flow.  If you need to get your camera onto lots of jobs where there is a production workflow already in place, then this needs to be considered.  As you go up the price range, cameras will spit out whatever codec you ask them to.  This is where spending more money on a more versatile camera could save you money in the long run.

 

 

Inspiring camera operators and directors of photography

Working as cameraman, we are often alone in our craft, in the sense there is usually only one of us on the shoot.  There is rarely another shooter there to bounce ideas off, or learn something different from.

One of the site's readers, Oli Cohen, remarked that he found it hard to find a mentor working as a DoP.  With this in mind I thought I'd write down a few places where I have found peices of inspiration.  

I'll open up a comments section below and you can add your ideas too, but in the meantime just email the site at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Hopefully we can get a bit of a list going.  This could be any place you find inspiration for your filming style, whether that be people you follow on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, websites you go to, books that you read or films that you watch.

Here are a few places I use to start us off.

Instagram

@ericsteelberg ASC

Eric Steelberg shot Juno and Up in the Air.  His Instagram feed is full of interesting shots taken on and off set.

@rpstam

rpstam is Rodrigo Prieto who shot The Wolf of Wall Street

@chivexp

Chivexp is Emmanuel Lubezki.  Recently he has been posting lots of stills from the movie Reverant.  He also shot Birdman, Gravity, The Tree of Life, Children of Men and Y Tu Mama Tambien.

@behindthescenes10

This is a fun one to follow.  There are some amazing on set shots on this account from all kinds of movies.  If you want to see Jack Nicholson goofing around on the set of The Shining with Stanley Kubrick, this is a place to get it.

@eduardgrau

Edu Grau shot A Single Man for Tom for when he was 27.  Yeah 27, makes you feel slightly sick doens't it.  Anyway, he is good to follow and often post slightly odd, stark, but beautiful shots.

@rdhardy

Rob Hardy BSC British Cinematographer who shot Ex Machina.  This feed has some fantastic looking shots that all have a certain specific style to them.

@reedmorano

Really beautiful shots on Reed Morano's feed.  She is the only woman on this very male dominated list, in what I guess is a very male dominated profession. 

@papa2

Phedon Papamichael shot the superbly charming and beautiful film Nebraska.  

 

@Rogerdeakins

 

Roger Deakins doesn't need much of an introduction.  He has worked with The Cohen Brothers, Sam Mendes.. He shot Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Fargo, Oh Brother Where art thou, The Big Lebowski, to name just a few.

 

Websites

Here are a few DPs who put out lots of interesting and useful information on their own personal websites

Roger Deakins 

www.rogerdeakins.com

The world's favourite DP Roger Deakins has his own site where is unbelievably helpful and friendly offering advice and help to those who comment.  I am not going to list his credit, you know what he shot.

Shane Hurlbut

www.hurlbutvisuals.com

Shane Hurlbut is often setting up some crazy test to see whether one lens is better than the other.  He puts a huge amount of work into these and is good about sharing his information and communicating with his readers.

This list could go on and on, but I think I'll leave it there and ask you about where you find inspiration or mentors.

Still in need of inspiration?  Check out the film below of DoPs on the craft of Cinamatography.

Filming with an iPhone

This is a site for people who make a career from filming professionally, so why is there are post about an iphone on here?  You might be thinking this, but stay with me here.

The video below, caught my attention, but not because it was shot on an iPhone, but because the shot works, and I can't think of many other cameras that would achevie this specific look.

 

You could swing a go pro around in the same fashion and it would probably work, but this video was shot at 240fps, and so it had to be an iPhone.  Of course there are plenty of cameras that shoot 240fps, but you can't swing them around your head, well you can, but it isn't a good idea.

Being inventive like this is what get's your shots and films noticed.  Years ago, before stabilised gimbals were available, I shot a short promo for Nike in Brazil.  We filmed a scene with a DSLR rigged to a golf buggy.  The DSLR was cradled in some very thick elastic to help with stability.  We shot at 60fps and had a footballer dribble the ball towards the moving cart down the football field.  

Everyone that saw the promo would always ask "how did you get that shot?"  Back then it would normally only have been possible with a steadi-cam, which we didn't have the time for.  

This iphone video, is much more inventive that just using some elastic, the guy has actually made a sling in which the iPhone fits.  

I guess the thing for us all to take away and learn from this is to be inventive.  Doing things in a different way to everyone else, even for just one shot, really makes the audience sit up and take note.  

I have seen skiing shots taken from GoPros  on sticks looking down on the skier,  I have seen Gopros mounted on every part of the body, I have seen drone shots of skiers, but I have never before seen a camera rotating around the skier whilst he moves downhill.

The views on this video will be ridiculously high within days, and yet it was achevied with minimal budget, but just a lot of inventiveness.

 

What is the best prime lens size for shooting video

Finding your focal length / Shooting with primes.
 
I love to shoot on prime lenses, in many ways I think of it as a luxury.  Certain jobs will force me to use zoom lenses, due to the nature of the filming, or time constraints, but whenever I get the chance, I'll always switch back to a prime.  They look nicer, they are faster and they give your pictures that extra bit of punch.
 
So which focal length is best? When it comes to prime lenses we would all like to own a giant set with every possible lens.  Even if you do have the cash to buy a vast number of lenses, transporting them around isn't always practical, so inevitably we have to make some decisions and find a few favourites. 
 
24mm
 
 
A lens around 24mm (manufacturers vary their sizes around this size) is great for those wider, story telling shots.  People often wonder which lens is closest to what the human eye sees.  This is a tricky thing to discern as the human eye isn't much like a camera lens, the eye sees just a small part of detail in focus and the brain fills in the rest of the detail.  That said, 24mm on a super 35 crop is fairly close in terms of magnification to what the human eye sees. Instead of zooming in, you just have to walk  closer to your subject.  Shooting wide hand held means any wobble is less visible, so it is very useful if you have a lot of tricky fast action to follow.
 
35mm
 
I am a big fan of the 35mm lens on a Super 35mm chip camera.   This focal length is pretty close to a 50mm on a full frame camera such as a 5d 1d etc or original 35mm film.  It is well documented that Henri Cartier-Bresson spent his entire career shooting on a 50mm (on film, so close to 35mm on a super 35 sensor).  He felt that with wider lenses you always have something in the scene that you didn't want.  I can see the logic in that.  When you shoot with a wider lens you can often get a general scene, tightening up to 35mm forces you to make a decision, forces you to create a composition.  This is what I enjoy about the 35mm, it is wide enough to capture general street scenes, but tight enough to force you to make a composition choice, rather than just pointing and shooting.
 
 
50mm
 
 
I absolutely love 50mm lenses on super 35 chip cameras.  It is probably my favourite lens for a huge variety of reasons.  Firstly, 50mm lenses tend to be the cheapest and fastest of all prime lenses in any set, they are great value for money.  The next thing is, it is long enough to give you a really nice out of focus bokeh.  Wider lenses just can't compete here.  50mm is also about as long as I like to go when shooting hand held video.  I might occasionally push in further on a zoom for a small amount of time, but I know I can hold 50mm and get rock solid shots.   I also like 50mm for the composition size, it forces you to look at the frame and ask, "what's of interest."  If you are following actuality you can get up close and get really nice detail of hands filling the frame or full face shots.  You could argue you could do the same with a 35mm, but you'd have to be dangerously close, and if you are filming actuality it is safer to keep you distance.  People typically don't want a camera right up in their face either.
 
70mm
 
Longer lenses such as 70 and beyond are nice to use on a tripod.  I wouldn't go longer than 50mm on most grip gear (jibs, sliders, track or a gimbal stabiliser).  I usually find 50mm a touch to wide for an interview, unless you want an unusually wide shot, which can be really nice, but you need to be in a nice location with a decent background for this to work.  70mm will really give you a nice out of focus bokeh when opened up and tends to give great portraiture, without being so close as to make interviewees feel uncomfortable.  
 
Long lenses beyond 70mm
 
Once you get into the longer lens range, I find that prime lenses don't offer that much more that zooms.  Rather than buying several long primes, you may well be better off with a single zoom.   Something like a 135mm wide open might give you spectacular shots, but it's worth thinking about how often you will use it, versus something more versatile like a zoom that is a stop or two slower.

 

Canon Cine primes CN-E review

I recently did a shoot with a full set of Canon's Cine primes.   This is not going to be an in depth lens comparison, but rather a few thoughts after using these lenses for a one day shoot.  The first thing to say is that these are reasonably priced, especially when bought in a set, rather than individually.  The set of 6 lenses I used was bought for £12k.

Canon Cine prime 35mm

My first worry with these lenses is that they would just be re housed Canon EOS L series Primes.  I was impressed straight away with my first shot.  I took the camera outside and the lens flare was beautiful.  The sun caught the lens and sent a row of perfectly round colour spots across the lens.  This is something you just don't get on a smaller stills lens.  

Obviously having lenses housed in a tough metal construction that is designed for film use is a massive plus.  I won't go into it too much as this is pretty obvious, but having an infinity at a hard stop at the end of the lens, manual iris control and a decent 300 degree focus throw are all very useful features when shooting video.  Also, if you have a focus puller, proper distance marks on both sides of the lens is a big help.

The next thing that jumped out to me was the out of focus bokeh.  Lights that would normally have an octagonal stop sign look were perfectly round.  This is due to the fact the lenses have 11 iris blades.  Below are a couple of low res pulls from the shoot, in each case the background lights are round.

Canon Cine prime example shot 50mm

Canon CN-E prime example shot 50mm

Canon CN-E prime Cine EOS lens

Each of the above shots were from the Canon CN-E 50mm.  The interview vox pop shot was not wide open, more like T2.0  The final shot is of somone looking at a cinema screen and was pretty much wide open.

In general the lenses were great to work with: not too heavy and really smooth iris and focus control.

The full 6 lens set look like this:

14mm T3.1

24mm T1.5

35mm T1.5

50mm T1.3

85mm T1.3

135mm T2.2

I absolutely loved the 50mm.  Even wide open it seemed so sharp.  I have a Canon EF 1.4f, which is a great lens, but I normally keep it stopped down to around 2.0f, 1.8f at a push, but with the Cine primes I regularly opened them right up and was really happy that the image didn't turn to mush.  Through the view finder the focal plane looked tack sharp.

Canon cine prime lens set  

B&H are currently selling this set of 6 for $24k.  

Basic shooting tips for Sony F55 / F5

In the past I have used the Sony F55 for a day or two, but having just spent a week with it on a shoot, I thought I'd write a few notes on my experience.  This might help you out if you have a shoot coming up on the F5 or F55 and want a few basic tips and tricks.  (Users more familiar with the F55 will be better of looking a Alister Chapman's blog where the camera is covered in incredible detail.)

 

Shooting with the Sony F55 in the Saudi Arabian desert.

Sony F55 in the desert

In order to get the best out of the camera and use the full 14 stops of DR available I shot with the S-Log 3 cine-ei mode.  This image is VERY flat.  Productions might steer away from super flat images if they are worried about time in the grade.  That said, there are plenty of LUTs available now that will bring your footage in to line pretty quickly.  To my mind if you are going to the effort of shooting on a high end camera, it is probably worth while using it to its full capabilities.  There is of course the option to apply a LUT to the output, but I was confident the editor was very experienced and would be able to get the best out of the image.

Slog3 and REC 709 to monitor

The first thing to say about using S-log3 in Cine-ei mode is that your white balance can now only be selected by the presets and you can't manually dial in the exact temperature (but then you shouldn't need to shooting Slog).  Changing ISO will not effect the image the camera records and it will continue to record at native ISO.  The only problem with this is I found very hard to focus, especially in low light conditions.  The easy solution to this was put a REC 709 LUT through the viewfinder.  (Canon C300 users will be used to doing a similar thing when using Clog together with "view assist".)  I found myself switching the 709 LUT on and off in the viewfinder occasionally so that I could check that the actual S-log footage looked as expected.  Another option would be to attach a small monitor to the camera and feed the slog output to it.

NB On the side panel of the F55 you can switch viewfinder MLUT on and off after selecting the "Camera" button.

I liked shooting with the REC709 in the viewfinder for monitor exposure and focusing, but found it a bit annoying that this feature couldn't be used when shooting high frame rates.  Once in HFR mode I was back to looking at a flat washed out image.  A solution to this is to assign the view finder "high contrast" mode to the side of the camera.  This helped with the focusing, but for low light shooting I found it actually made the situation worse.  Adding contrast meant even more of the picture was darker and focus was difficult.  Having the feature assigned to the side of the camera meant I could flick it on and off depending on the lighting conditions and this helped a lot.

On a side note, it did make me think, if I was going to buy the F5 or F55 I would definitely check out Zacuto's gratical evf to see if was better or worse than the Sony OLED viewfinder.

High frame rate shooting

Shooting with the F55 in down town Riyadh, with plenty of lights to cause strobing.

Sony F55 downtown Riyadh

One place where the F55 really excels is it's high frame rate shooting.  I loved using this.  When you first try to switch the camera to a high frame rate using the buttons on the side of the camera, it will only go up as far as 60fps.  In order to access anything faster, you need to go into the menu and select HFR mode and switch it to from "off" to "Full Scan"  or "Centre Scan" if you want to crop the sensor.  In this mode you can only go as low as 66fps, so if you want to go back to a lower frame rate (such as 50fps or 60fps) you need to go back into the menu and switch the HFR mode back to "off".

The great thing about the F55 is that it is just so flexible here.  I was shooting for a 25 fps production, but was shooting in a 110 60HZ country, so immediately you have the issue of flickering lights.  However, the F55 is so versitile it is really easy to get around.  One option is to match up the FPS with the local country's electricity.  For 60HZ countries slow mo rates of 60fps and 120fps are going to offer less flicker.  Using these rates, it is easiest to switch the camera to shutter degrees, let the camera sit at 180 degrees and then you don't have to touch the shutter when shifting between slow and fast frame rates.  

If however you can't shoot at multiples of 60 and you need to shoot at say 50fps to give you half speed for a 25p project, then I find it easier to switch the shutter to fractions rather than angles (my maths is terrible and it would take me too long to work out the angle needed).  With fractions selected for your shutter you can then just add the multiple of 60 here.  So if you were shooting 50 frames for 25p you would normally shoot at 1/100 shutter but being that the electrical system is 60 HZ you will get less flicker at 1/120.  

Whether you are using your shutter at angles or speed it you can scrol down to "continuous" and dial in the exact number needed.  This is invaluble and allows you to adjust the number until the flickering disappears. 

Round up

Over all I found the F55 good to work with.  It has a serious heft to it, especially as I was shooting with Canon's 17-120 PL mount, which is a bit of a beast.  I found it pretty comfortable for handheld work, using the Arri rig and the basic shoulder pad that comes with the camera.  The menu system is fairly large, as with all Sony cameras, so it is worth having a long look around it before shooting as there is a  lot that is very useful in there.  Assigning buttons to the outside to quickly access what you need is also a big help.

 

 

 

Camera rig for F5/55 FS7 C300

Here is the thing, we started off with a nice chunky Beta SP/Digi Beta/DSR or whatever that sat comfortably on our shoulders.  It was perfectly balanced, had a useable eyepeice and it came like that straight out of the box.  Then we suddenly realised DSLRs produced fantastic images and since then we have been fiddling around with ever stranger rigs to make some weired box of a beast sit on our shoulder.

In this group of weired boxy cameras I include Canon C100/C300, Sony A7s, Blackmagic Design, RED, Sony FS7 etc etc, the list goes on and on.  Decent rigs typically cost quite a bit, there is nothing worse than working with some cheap half-arsed piece of junk, so you end up spending money.  The problem with this is, these days you might only keep your camera a few years, before you need to upgrade, and then that really expensive rig you bought is now useless.

My second big gripe with most rigs is that they mount the camera too high on the shoulder.  Older cameras were build with a curve where your shoulder would go.  Newer cameras have flat bases, mount these on a rig and they are too high: they are both unstable as they are top heavy and the LCD or view-finder is then above your eye.  It might only be an inch too high, but if your head has to look an inch or two up all day long, you will have one big pain in your neck at the end of a day.

At last it seems Zacuto have developed a great product that works on an absolutely massive variety of rigs, and will almost certaintly work with whatever freakish-shaped-box-of-a-camera that comes out in the future.  (By the way I have absolutely no connection with Zacuto whatsoever).

This just makes lots of sense.  There are three things here: 1) You aren't mounting directly over the rods. This means you bring the camera slightly lower to the shoulder. 2) The area you can slide the camera backwards and forwards is massive.  This is so useful, both to balance the camera on your shoulder, and even to find decent balance on a tripod. 3) Finally, this can be used on almost any camera out there.  It isn't the cheapest bit of kit, so if I am investing in it, I want it to work on subsequent cameras.

Another feature I quite like is that it can be fixed to a normal base plate, these have been around for years because they work well and hold the camera to the tripod properly. 

There is a whole lot from Zacuto that can be added on to this.  There is the grip relocator for C300/100 users and there is also the Gratical evf.  The Gratical looks like an awesome bit of kit.  Best of all it can be mounted wherever you need it, so you aren't straining your neck.

The Gratical EVF isn't a cheap bit of kit, but then if you buy an OLED eyepiece from Sony for your F5/55 that isn't cheap either.  The difference being that you can move your Gratical EVF onto any camera you are shooting and it will still work.  Not so with proprietry viewfinders.

If you do a lot of shoulder work I'd say this rig is well worth a look.  I am not going to bang on about the features and specs, if you are interested check it out at Zacuto.

 

Should I buy the new Canon C300 mark ii

Three and half years ago I asked the same question: should I buy the new Canon C300?  At that time the market was a very different place, many people were still shooting on DSLRs and the C300 solved many of the problems inherent in shooting video with a stills camera.  The C300 mark ii enters a market awash with cameras that shoot 4k and high frame rates.

There are plenty of options out there.  For those on a small budget, cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and Sony's A7s both shoot 4k and have good low light abilitiy.  Blackmagic Design have entered the market and are supplying low cost 4k options like the URSA.  If you need internal ND filters and the ability to plug in XLR cables you can pay a touch more and get the Sony FS7 that has incredible specs for the price: 4k and 180fps at 1080p for $8000!  Move up the price range and there is the sturdier, PL mount, Sony F5/55 and plenty of options from RED.

At $16,000 (US price) the C300 mark ii is not a cheap option.  When the camera was first announced many, myself included, were disapointed with the slow motion options.  People are used to seeing iphones cranking out super slow motion and expected more from at $16K camera.  The mark ii manages only 100fps PAL 120fps NTSC at 1080p using a senor crop.  Using a crop to achieve slow motion can be annoying on a shoot.  Not only do you have to set the camera to record slow motion, you also then have to change lenses or reposition as you will now be too far zoomed in on the shot you had.

Sony has gone some way to improve camera ergonomics.  The F5/55 sit comfortably on the shoulder, and even the cheaper FS7 isn't bad at all with a dedicated eye peice and removable hand grip.

Having said this, up until now, all we have had to look at is stats, numbers on paper.  The pictures the camera produces is really what matters.  The people who pay my bills might occasionally require slow motion, but above all else I need to supply them with fantastic looking pictures.  A couple of films were recently released that piqued my interest.

There was a lot I liked here.  The dynamic range is obviously pretty impressive.  Lots of shots straight into the sun and the camera really holds on to the detail in shadows.  The skin tones looked great and I liked the colour and tones generally, especially inside the house.

If the first video got me mildly interested, this next one started to draw me in a bit.  

It's the shots inside the Japanese house where the woman inside looks like she hasn't even been lit.  Of course this is a video produced by Canon marketing and for all I know there could be a massive poly board bouncing some very subtle fill back on the actors face, but it doesn't look that way.  Again the tones are stunning, soft natural and not at all vivid or video ish. 

canon c300 mark ii frame grab

Although most of the footage looks like it was shot on a slightly overcast day, you can clearly see the sun is smashing through in this shot.  The trees have shadows amongst them and shadows are being cast on the roof of the building opposite around the chimney.  Yet, despite all this sunlight we aren't loosing too much detail in the trees and the actor's face is still look good in a dark, un lit room.

The next video that is well worth a look at is this one that shows of the Canon's auto focus function.  Auto focus has always been something I associate with home video cameras from the 19080s, but this video might change that.

I had thought auto focus for video a horrible idea: motors constantly hunting for the focus point, rapidly shifting in and out of focus.  This looks very different though.  When the model turns away from the camera the face following software stops, and then picks her back up when she completes her turn. (this happens 1 minute in).  The auto focus system doesn't freak out and focus on the pony tail or the back wall, it just sits and waits to pick the models face back up like a camera operator would.  The face against the mirror trick is also very impressive (around 1:25).  At first I thought I wouldn't have much use for a full auto focus system, but what about if the camera is mounted on a stabilised gimbal, or maybe on a jib?  It could be a very useful function, if it works as well as this video suggests.

I am also interested in the dual pixel focus guide.(1:45)  The amount of times directors have wanted a ridiculously difficult pull focus, where a presenter is walking towards camera whilst delivering their lines.  The safe thing to do is stop down, but so often directors want to shoot wide open, not realising just how hard that pull will be when you are operating by yourself.  Having an indicator that says whether you are focusing too far or to close from the subject could be very useful.  Again, it is hard to say how this would work in a real life situation, but it is only a few months until the camera is  out and reviews will start coming in. 

Here is the full video without all the camera info

If you want to see the focus being tested out by someone other than the camera manufacturers, check Dan Chung at Newshooter.com  The video is below and the full article can be found here.

I like the fact that focusing speed can be selected, and you can manually choose which person to focus on when there are two people in shot.

So what else has changed with the updated C300?  I have covered this a bit in a previous article comparing the C300 mark ii to Sony's FS7 and F5, so I'll keep it brief.

1) The top handle has been improved.  A single screw thread has been replaced by a much more solid offering.

2) All camera buttons now illuminate and make less noise when you push them.

3) A basic mic has been added so you can shoot without the LCD.

4) A new additional unit can be attached that take in audio, but without the LCD screen

5) The monitor cables are no longer hard wired

6) The whole camera is in a stronger diecast housing.

7) Extra ND added (8 and 10 stops)

8) 2k and 4k in camera

9) 4 channels of audio at 24 bit (previously 2 at 16bit)

10) 15 stops dynamic range

11) 120fps Slow mo (crop) at HD.

12) High ISO at 102400  Canon are saying the camera has great low light ability, and it that is almost certainly going to be true. 

13) Built in "looks" to better match the C300 with other cameras such as Alexa, Sony F55 etc. 

14) Records higher bit rate to faster cards to stop rolling shutter.

 

 

If you haven't seen it, the guys from Zacuto give a really good all round chat about what has changed with a representative from Canon.  It's 25 mins long, but worth a look if the camera is on your radar.

So, to come back to my original question: is this camera is worth buying or not?  I know there are going to be hoards of camera owners pulling their hair out here saying WHAT! $16K for a camera that under performs cameras that can be bought for half the price!! I know where they are coming from, it seems a little highly priced to me too.  There are pluses the C300 mark2 will have against it rivals.  In the broadcast world it has a fantastic reputation, massive amounts of TV has been shot on the C300.  They have also proved themselves as absloutely rock solid.  I have used mine solidly for three and a half years, I have lugged it all over the world and it hasn't given me any problems.  This may not be true of RED or Blackmagic Design, but it is almost certainly the case with Sony's cameras as well, which I have also owned in the past.

My next comparison would be to Sony's F5, which shoots nice pictures, can be easily upgraded to shoot 4k. Despite being over 2 years old the F5 is still ahead of the C300 mark ii shooting 180fps.  This is a hugely popular camera, particularly in the world of sports TV where high frame rates are often needed.

As a personal preference, I like the look so far of the C300 mark ii over the Sony F5, however, I prefer Sony's ergonomics and the way the F5/55 sits on your shoulder.  The auto focus thing may be a gimic, but I'd certainly be keen to try it out, so far my impression has been that it looks pretty good.  At very least the auto focus will be useful for gimbal and jib operating.  The F5 is a bit more versatile when it comes to lenses.  Being able to chuck a PL lens on when needed, and then switch over to an EOS lens with an adapter is another big plus for the F5.

The fact that a lot is currently shot on the C300, could push me towards the mark ii.  If a documentary already has material shot by shooting APs on a C300, they may want their main camera to be the mark ii.  The post production process is fairly well geared to the C300, but then that is also true of the Sony cameras as well.

In part my camera buying decisions are dictated by the desires of directors.  To an extent I will persuade a director to shoot on a certain camera, but often people come to me and say "we really want to shoot on x"  If people start to lean toward the C300 mark ii, I can well see myself buying one, for now I think I'll wait and see how the camera is received when it comes out in September.

 

Ronin M Gimbal Stabiliser

Stabilized brushless gimbals have been out for a while now, if you aren't aware of them, the video below was shot entirely on a gimbal by DJI.

I have shot on Freefly's MoVI M10 and like it but finally decided to buy the Ronin M when it was released a few weeks back.  Here is why.

 

Weight.  When you are holding a camera and gimbal out in front of you for any length of time, every ounce matters.  DJI have halfed the weight of the original Ronin with the Ronin M.  The rig is made from a mix of carbon and magnesium and weighs only 2.3kg or 5lb.

Set up time.  With practice the rig can be set up and ready to go in just 5 minutes.  The iphone app is simple and quick to use so changing lenses and adjusting settings takes just seconds.

Size. The Ronin M is small enough to be easily transported around, but large enough to take the Canon C300 or the Red Epic.  If time is an issue, there is alwasy the option to keep a DSLR constantly rigged to it, and use it as a 2nd camera.  Everything packs down to one small pelicase for easy transport when flying.

ronin m peli case

Dji Ronin M and Canon C300

The new Ronin M is half the weight of the original Ronin, it is designed specifically for smaller cameras, but the motors are strong enough to take fairly heavy set ups.  My first question when this came out was "Will the Canon c300 work with the Dji Ronin M."  Happily the answer is yes, so I immediately bought one.

ronin m with C300 50mm

As you can see, there is plenty of room around the sides of the camera, once you have removed the handle grip and the eyepiece (there is a locking screw on them underside of viewfinder).

With light prime lenses you can get full range of movement with the Ronin M.  However, once you add heavier zoom lenses the camera becomes front heavy and you have to shift the baseplate back.  This limits your tilt range somewhat, as the top of the camera the hits the back of the Ronin.  This isnt a huge issue on some lenses as the angle you can get is still pretty steep.

ronin m with C300 11-16mm

This is the Tokina 11-16mm on maximum tilt up.  It can tilt all the way down, but the back of the eyepiece area just touches the back of the Ronin M at this angle.  Obviously, the heavier the lens the further you need to shift the camera plate back and the smaller the angle will be when you tilt up.

ronin m with canon c300 17-55mm

This is the 17-55mm, which is a pretty heavy image stabilized lens.  This is at the maximum up tilt angle and the back of the camera is touching the Ronin at this point.

Lots of people own the 16-35mm, which I don't have, but to give you an idea the 16-35mm mark2 Canon weighs 640g (the mark 1 is slightly lighter), the 17-55mm weighs 645g so the angle will be pretty similar.

If you want to use heavier lenses and keep the full tilt range there is a solution from Cinemilled.  Cinemilled have made tilt extension arms so you can lower the camera further, allowing you to tilt all the way up.  There is already a thread on the bottom of the Ronin M tilt arms, so the Cinemilled arms will just screw straight in.

Audio options with the C300 on a Ronin gimbal.

The next issue to deal with on the C300 when pairing it up with the Ronin M is audio.  There are a couple of options here. Firstly there is an audio input minijack just above the grip handle.  You can't control the level of this to my knowledge, so you are going to end up with auto levels, good only as a guide track, but at least you will have something to synch to the sound recordist's audio.  UPDATE - You can control the levels of the mini jack input inside the menu under audio.  When you plug your radio mic receiver or any other mic using a mini jack cable, the auido options turn from grey to white on the camera menu and you can now set the audio levels.

 

A radio mic is pretty easy to mount on the cross bar with a hot shoe mount.  I run a small mini jack to mini jack from my radio mic to the mic input on the camera.

The second option is to mount the C300 LCD unit to the cross bar.  This does limit your range of movement somewhat and the motors will have to work a bit harder as they are swinging two thick cables around.

At present, the monitor mounting bracket from DJI (above) isn't availble in the UK.  I have one on order from CVP, but orders seem backed up.  There are a couple of mounting screw holes as you can see in the picture above.  They are the normal 1/4" and 3/8" so you can attach a monitor directly to it, or via a Noga arm, ball mount or simliar so you can move the monitor about.  I'll probably mount my TV logic 5.6 via a noga arm here, as it is a light monitor.   There is a similar DJI mount out for the original Ronin, but it is slightly larger, as the Ronin has a wider bar.  Again, Cinemilled have a shim for this if you want to use the original Ronin monitor mount. I also have also ordered a very thin BNC to allow the unit to move freely.

In the meantime I have ordered this 3rd party solution from Amazon:SMALLRIG Clamp Mount V2 w/ Ball Head Cold Shoe Mount and CoolClamp.  This is wide enough to fit on to the Ronin M bar and also has a cold shoe, so I could mount the C300 LCD if needed.  The cold shoe screws into a ball head on a 1/4 inch mount so I can remove the cold shoe and screw directly into a monitor instead.  There are lots of other mounting options from Small Rig on Amazon.  

After hours of playing around with various configurations I mounted the C300 LCD on the cross bar of the Ronin M with the Small Rig clamp.

Ronin with C300

This worked well enough, except the LCD cables are only just long enough, limiting your camera tilt moves somewhat.  (they are just long enough to pan left and right.)

You could also use a magic arm, I played around with my Noga arm and got the LCD to just about work, like this.

ronin C300 LCD mount

 

The trick to making this work is getting the cables as close as possible to the camera.  The best configuration I worked out was to put the LCD further back.  Every milimeter helps here as the cables are not quite long enough.

On the whole I think I will stick to using my 5.6 TV logic monitor with an extra thin BNC cable.  I don't like the idea of using the LCD as I think it will only be a matter of time before the cables get damaged using them in this way.  For the occasional situation where you don't have a sound recordist and audio is essential, this would work, but for more extreme moves and better control, the seperate monitor is definitely the best solution.    Below you can see my TV logic 5.6 mounted to the Ronin with a portabrace cover to provide a sun shade. 

Ronin m C300 with TV logic monitor

Also worthwhile, I have put on a thin BNC cable to keep the weight down and improve manoeuvrability.  It is also worth having a right angle bnc connector to keep the cables in the right place.

thin bnc with C300 and Ronin

 

Another good thing about pairing the C300 with the Ronin M is the fact that the hand grip can be relocated.  Since you have to take the hand grip off anyway, it makes sense to mount it onto the Ronin M and that way you will have record on and off control and iris or ISO control.  To do this you will need a grip relocatator from Zacutto together with a clamp like the one above and a screw in spud from Redrock or Zacuto make a "zud".  The Spud or zud serves to connect the zacuto 15mm rod clamp to the 3party clamp.  For more info on how to do this check out Cinema 5d

zacuto grip relocator

Lots more to come with the Ronin M.  I'll be posting something about the settings and hopefully get some video footage up before too long.

 

 

 

 

Gimbal easyrig flowcine serene

I recently went on a shoot where one the cameramen had an Easyrig he was using with his XDCAM camera.  My first thought was, can you use an easyrig with a Gimbal, such as the Movi, Ronin, Helix etc?

The weight of a camera a lens and a gimbal lifted out infront of your body means that you can only really hold the rig and operate for a few minutes at a time until your back and biceps begin to burn.  The Easyrig would take this weight and sit it on the hips, making carrying a gibmbal very easy.  One issue with this idea is that the overhead arm of the Easyrig is designed to sit a camera on your shoulder, not out infront of your body.  An interesting solution to this is the Serene from Flowcine.

The amazing thing about this device is that, not only does it hold the rig out infront of your body for gimbal use, but it also has a shock absorber system.  All gimbal systems are stabilized on three axis, meaning that the up and down bounce created by the operator walking along, is up to you to control.  The Serene arm would take this bounce out.  I was curious to know if this would work as a set up, until I saw it in operation on twitter from @AntDodgeTVcam

Here you can see the gimbal is the Helix with an easyrig and the Flowcine Serene.  This looks to me like the ideal set up for using with gimbals on shoots when you need to hold the rig for long periods.

Further reading: Gimbal comparison, Ronin M

 

DJI Ronin M

The DJI Ronin has some some fantastic features: it is quick to set up, it can be operated in three diferent modes, it is really well priced for what it can do, however, it does have one disadvantage, it is a little on the heavy side.  Much of this weight is from the large motors which are strong enough to control fairly heavy cameras up to 7.25 kg or 16lbs.  If you have a camera that is lighter than this, you may not need all of this power.

DJI have released the Ronin M, a smaller model of the Ronin, designed to carry cameras up to 3.6kg or 8lbs.  The pay off is the Ronin M is half the weight of the Ronin, meaning you can hold it for much much longer.

 

The big question for me is will it hold a stripped down C300.  A Canon C300 stripped down is going to weigh around 2-3kg with an EF lens so it should be within the Ronin M limit.  On the official DJI page the C300 is not listed on the cameras that the Ronin M will carry (only much smaller DSLRS etc are).  However, when Dan Chung at News Shooter asked the DJI manufacturers, they suggested it was possible, but had't tried this out.  I have called up a couple of distributors in the UK: CVP and Videogear in the hope that they had been able to try it out.  However, as yet they haven't even been sent a test model.  The DJI M should arrive in the UK in a 3 or 4 weeks (mid June 2015) and at this point I'd be interested to know if you could put a C300 on it.  There are models of the Ronin M kicking about in the USA, but I haven't seen any with a C300 attached yet.  

UPDATE:  After a bit of digging around, look what I found, on Instagram of all places:

So it looks like the C300 will fit on a Ronin M!! Exciting stuff (for me anyway).  The company who posted this, Cinemilled make all sorts of interesting camera accessories.  They did say that the tilt bars were at max extension, despite only have a light lens on (I think that looks like a 35mm).  However, they make tilt extension bars, which I am guessing would allow you to use heavier lenses.  Cinemilled also mentioned being able to add more weight to the front simply by adding weight to the back of the camera to balance things out.

Update:  I now own a Ronin M.  For more information on setting The Ronin M up with the C300 see here.

I have now have a Ronin M on order, I am going to try mouning the C300 with a few diferent lenses, and if I run into trouble I'll be ordering those Cinemilled tilt extensions. 

More info on the Ronin M is here.  And Dan Chung's video is below.

You might also be interested in my MoVI, Ronin, and Helix gimbal comparison. and Easyrig, Serene Gimbal set up.

 

Gimbal stabilisers Movi vs Dji Ronin vs Letus Helix

Lately, I have been obsessing about Gimbal stabilisers.  I first used a Movi M10 shortly after it came out and instantly loved it.  I was amazed by the results I could get, despite having no previous experience of gimbals or stedicams.  I thought about buying a Movi at that time, but couldn't quite justify the cost, as I wasn't sure I could easily make my money back on it.  Fast forward a year and the prices have come down massively.  Dji are a large Chinese company that have a history of making drones and when they released the Ronin, Movi had to drop their prices to remain competative.  New to the market is the Helix from Letus, another contender with a name that many in video will already know.  There are plenty of other brands out there at even cheaper prices, but at the top end of the market, I would say these three are the ones to go for.

Freefly: Movi 

Freefly systems MoVI was the first to the party, so I'll start here. Advantages: The MoVI has several advantages, firstly, it has been around the longest and is tried and tested.  Many facilities companies have been hiring these things out day after day and they seem tough and able to stand up to the rigours of filming.  They are also light.  Every ounce matters when you start holding your camera and rig with your arms stretched out.  If you have never shot on a giro stabiliser take a 7.5kg weight a walk around holding it out infront of you, your arms will start to burn pretty quick. Freefly Systems are also based out of the USA with lots of distributors in other countries, so getting repairs, spare parts etc should be painless. Disadvantages:  The first has to be price, despite a big price drop, the MoVI still comes in around $8k for the M10.  The company no doubt has pretty serious R and D costs to recoup.  The only slight quible I would have with the MoVI over other gimbals, is the fact that several attachments need to be tightend with an allen key against the carbon fiber.  Carbon fiber is naturally smooth and slippery, so it probably needs to be tightend this way, rather than with a simple catch.  The DJI Ronin on the other hand is alluminium and has quick release catches and screw tighteners, making it quicker to set up.

DJI: Ronin

 

 

 

The DJI Ronin caused a bit of a stir when it was released, with prices well below what was expected.  Advantages:  The first thing to say here is price.  The Ronin is an amazing deal.  For $2500 you get the rig, a hard peli style case with lazer cut inserts, and they even throw in a remote controller for 2 person operation.  Another great feature is the quick release clips that allow for a quick set up.  I have spoken to several owner operators who say that after much practice they have got the set up time down to just 5 minutes.  This is a big deal for me as I would envisage using something like a Ronin for just a few shots on a shoot, rather than operating on it for hours like you might a stedicam.

Another great feature that the Ronin has is the three operation modes: briefcase under slung and upright.  

Ronin Upright mode

The upright mode means the camera is sitting above, rather than below the cross bar.  The good thing about this extra height is that it brings the camera closer to the eye line.  If you are filming a walk and talk, you don't always wanting to be pointing up at someones face, not the most flattering angle.  It is also useful for over the shoulder type shots, where you need the camera to be at head height or above.

ronin briefcase mode

Briefcase mode allows the unit to be held low to the ground with one hand.

Underslung is the usual gimbal operation mode.

DJI are a large Chinese company that are very familiar to people interested in drones.  I guess this can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you view it.  With good resellers in each company you should be able to get spare parts, however, I can say in the UK right now there is a 2 week waiting list to buy the product.  The other issue with Chinese companies is you are never too sure about customer service, but again local resellers should help.  Disadvantages: Before I say it, you probably what I am going to say: weight.  The Ronin weighs in at 9.26lb or 4.2kg, this heavier than the other two gimbals here.  This is due to the motors being larger, as they are designed to carry heavier cameras, and the fact the rig is aluminium, rather than carbon fiber.   This doesn't sound like much, but to give you an idea, by the time you add a monitor a stripped down C300 (no lcd, side grip, eyepeice) you are looking at 7.5kg or 16.5lbs.  Chuck on a RED Epic and your weight will go up a fraction. That is a big deal to hold out in front of your body or above your head.  Anything over a few minutes is really going to be a challenge.  You can always add an easyrig to take the weight, but then your costs and setup time are escallating. 

Letus: Helix

 

A very interesting addition to this line up is the Helix from Letus.  Letus are a US company that are very camera focused (rather than drone focused like DJI).  The have been producing all kinds of camera equipment and you are probably familiar with them already. Price wise they sit in between the two above, at $3975  Advantages:  I havent actually used one of these as they haven't been out long, but I think they look pretty promising.  The weight is definitely a plus being 7.25lbs or 3.3kg.  The next advantage over both the other gimbals is that you can put it down on the ground.  This is great for small crews, where you want to stop and rest your burning biceps without having to run back to wherever you left the cradel.  Also, since Letus is a company that makes camera gear, there are loads of clever add ons, like quick release plates, cables etc etc. Disadvantages: The main one here for me is time.  At the time of writing (May 2015) these things haven't been out long at all, I have never seen one, none of the usual UK outlets sell them and there is very little demo footage availble online to see if they are any good. You can of course order one online from their website, and I am imagine they are probably pretty good, but it is a risk with so little info about them.

It is worth noting in each case I have gone for the large model that works with cameras such as the Canon C100/C300/C500, RED EPIC etc.  All of the manufacturers have smaller versions, The Movi M5 the Helix junior and the DJI M.  So if you are operating a DSLR you could go with the cheaper, lighter alternative.  Interestingly, I have heard that a C300 fully stripped down will just work on the Ronin M, but I haven't personally tested it, so proceed with caution.

Update:  The C300 does fit on the Ronin M.  More info on setting up the Ronin M together with the Canon C300 here.

So which one to go for:  If I were a rental company, or wanted to make a name for myself as a dedicated gimbal operator, I would get a Movi.  As an occasional gimbal user in a rush to get new kit, I'd get a Ronin, or if I had time to wait and see how the product is received I'd get the Helix.

Further reading:  The DJI Ronin M  Easyrig, gimbal, Serene set up.

 

 

Sony FS7 vs Canon C300 Mark ii vs Sony F5

Canon had a very good run with the C300 and then Sony hit back with both the F5 and F55 and more recently the FS7.  Canon recently dropped the price of the original C300, bringing it closer to the FS7 and yesterday announced the C300 mark ii.  So how do the cameras stack up in the battle for the mid range?

Canon C300 Mark ii

Firstly, the C300 mark ii has only just been announced and won't be available until September 2015 and the price could theoretically change by then, but this is how it stands now. 

 Internal specs  FS7  Canon C300 mii F5
Sensor Super 35mm Super 35mm Super 35mm

Resolution 

 4k  4k  2k
Slow mo  180 @ 1080  120 @ 2k CROP  120 @2k
ISO sensitivity  2000  800  2000
Dynamic range  14 stops  15 stops  14 stops
Record format XAVC   10 bit XF AVC    10 bit  XAVC 10 bit
Price   $7,999  $15,999  $16,490

 

Comparing cameras is a tricky thing.  The easy part of it is compairing the specs, like "top trumps" for cameras, even this, however, has its issues.  Numbers such as those released for dynamic range may not be true or exact.  Subsequent test after cameras are released are often different from those advertised by manufacturers.  Above all else, one camera may often look a whole lot better than another camera, but the numbers may not reflect this at all.  The next point is about individual tastes.  Some people happen to love the super clean look of say a RED camera, whilst other prefer the more natural look of an Alexa.  It may also be job specific.  Clean colours may work better on a certain commercial, whereas more filmic tones might be better for a documentary.  The next point to be made is that when a camera hasn't even been released it gets really difficult.  The videos released from a manufacturer could have been very heavily graded.  These days, with enough work, one camera can be graded to look very different from the image that it originally spat out.  With that it mind you could think: I'll just buy any camera I feel like buying and someone can sort it out in post.  However, as we all know, masses of programmes and items we shoot are not sent to a proper grading suite, or in some cases graded at all, therefore we need to buy something that looks good out of the box, but at the same time can shoot pictures with enough information in them so a colourist can go to work on it without the whole picture falling to peices.  With all of this in mind let's take a look at how the C300 markii stacks up against the Sonys.

When you look at the specs and the pricing of the C300 mark ii against the Sony F5 it makes sense  (despite the F5 now being over 2 years old), it's when you compare it to the FS7 that things get confusing (as the FS7 is very cheaply priced and has amazing spcecs).  

Sony F5

To begin with let's look at the F5 and the C300 mark ii, as they go for a similar price.   There are certain advantages the F5 and C300 mark ii cameras have against each other.  The F5 is slightly more user friendly when it comes to ergonomics, with a proper dedicated eye piece it can be mounted on the shoulder more efficiently (although you do pay extra for the eye piece.)  The slow motion capabilities are way better with the F5.  The F5 uses a full scan to achieve slow mo, whereas the C300 mark ii only works with a centre crop.  This could be a total pain.  Imagine shooting on a 50 mm and then you decide you want slow mo, on the F5, no problem, on the C3002 you have to change lenses to a 25mm to achieve the same frame, or move the camera back.  Either way, not idea.  The F5 is FZ mount camera, it comes with a PL adapter or you can remove this and add an adapter and shoot EOS lenses.  This makes the F5 more verstile as there are more lens options here.  The Canon C300 mark ii is purchased as an EOS mount, if you want PL you need to get it attached by Canon. The F5 also has the advantage of a bolt on external recorder, which ups the cameras specs, particularly the slow motion, and you can now upgrade the camera to 4k, at a cost (or hack).  With regards to price, as it stands now, the F5 will end up costing you a bit more, but not much.  You need to pay for the view finder (which is optional on the C300 as you could choose to make do with the LCD.  The F5 uses V lock batteries which are a little more pricey, although good quality, last for years and can be used for other purposes such as powering other cameras, LED lights etc.  Having said this Canon's mark ii batteries are currently priced pretty highly, these could well drop down if the camera proves very popluar.  The Sony F5 uses S by S cards, whereas the C300 mark ii uses Cfast cards.  My guess is that the CFast cards will drop in price more quickly as people start to buy in quantity.  All of that said your full set up will end up marginly more expensive on the F5. 

To recap the F5 has:

  • Better ergonomics
  • Better slow mo
  • Better lens options

Canon C300 mark ii

So what advantage does the C300 mark ii have?  Firstly an extra stop of dynamic range, 15 stops is claimed by Canon.  Obviously there is some scepticism with DPs and cameramen when it comes to claimed DR.  Some manufacters exaggerate, others do not.  Early impressions seem to suggest the camera will actually get pretty close to those 15 stops. If you want to look into the dynamic range of the mark ii check out Geoff Boyle's test  Geoff Boyle is a respected cinematographer that has taken screen grabs and video pushing the C300 mark 2 7 stops under and over correct exposure.

The next big point here is the focusing system.  I was incredibly sceptical when I first heard about this, and thought it sounded like a gimic, certainly not the kind of thing I would want to use.  However, the more I have seen this in use on videos and so on, the more I have been impressed.  I like the idea of the DAF system, where the camera tells you whether to pull focus closer or further from the camera, and I have also been suprised at how good the face tracking is.  If you can put this camera on a jib or gimbal and the auto focus actually works, it will be a very impressive add on.  However, as yet we just have test videos to go on.  More of this here.  The pluses for the focus system is that it can track someones a face as it moves around and that the focus can be controlled to move quickly or slowly.  From watching the videos, it also does not appear to hunt all over the place for focus in the way a stills camera would.

Canon started off with good colour reproduction, great skin tones and a camera that was very easy for broadcasters to work with.  They seem to be continuing along these lines.  The ergonomics haven't been improved much although there are lots of little updates where needed.  

A good improvement in the C300 mark ii is the removable cables connecting the LCD module to the camera.  The number of C300 rental cameras I have seen with broken cables that have been replace by Canon is unreal.  Crazy when you think the camera has to be sent off to Canon, loosing the owner shooting days.  (In the picture the Japanese says "Monitor Unit" - (this is the first time my limited Japanese has ever been useful on my blog)

Canon mark ii LCD unit 

There is also the improvement of the top handle: the weak one screw has been upgraded with a top helmet, which screws to the top of the camera, and then a couple of hex screws attach the handle.  The handle also has a few monting screws and options, which could prove useful.  (Mounting a top light is always a bit tricky with the C300 and this could be easier with the mark ii).

Canon C300 mark ii body

Again, something that I'd be interested to try is the pixel comparison focus assist.  in addition to the auto focusing mechanism, Canon have come up with a system that tells you on the monitor if a certain area is in focus or not.  If this sounds a bit like peaking, it isn't.  Apparently, this is a very acurate system which will tell the user which way to focus ie. whether the lens needs to be focused further or closer to be in correct focus.  I think this looks like a great idea, if you want to read more on it, this is covered in more detail in Should I buy the new C300 mark ii?

Another small but very useful improvement with the mark 2 is the addition of a small internal microphone.  When you remove the LCD from the C300 mark 1, you remove all audio, so if you are mounting the camera on a Movi for example you don't have a guide track for synching in post - this is total pain for the editor.  (The way round this is to plug an external mic into the mini jack once the grip handle has been removed - still not ideal though)  The video below gives a good look around the new Mark ii.

The camera it seems is all over sturdier, it is heavier and built in a stronger metal housing.  I think this is a big plus, the extra weight does't bother me a bit, in fact I actually prefer a heavier camera for balancing on the shoulder.

To recap the C300 mark ii has:

  • Potentially a nicer image straight out the camera
  • 12 bit 4:4:4 recording in camera
  • Assisted focus, and auto focus
  • Less good slow mo options

Sony FS7

So what about the FS7?  The FS7 is insainly cheap for the stats it has.  In terms of bang for your buck I don't think there is a better camera out there.  The specs aren't a milion miles from those that Sony's F55 has for a fraction of the cost.  When compared to larger cameras, it does feel a little plasticy, that said, it has a similar interface to many bigger Sony cameras, with many of switches at buttons in the right place, where a camera operator would actually want them.  The fact that it is an E mount, might put some people off, to others it may be a plus.  Personally I would feel a lot more comfortable putting a larger lens on an F5 or even a C300 markii than I would with this camera.  It just doesn't feel that solid.  That said it cost a hell of a lot less, so you have to expect some sacrifice.

Sony FS7

So the specs are unbelievable, but what about the image?  The camera has been selling well and is being used in all kinds of productions.  On a personal note I find the look slightly video ish.  Nothing out there has really blown me away, despite the amazing specs.  I do prefer the look that the C300 markii puts out.  On a general note, I often find Sony's cameras to have a vivid saturated look, going right back to the DigiBeta days; Canon by contrast has a slightly more muted filmic look.  However, this is somewhat unfair as all I have seen of the C300 mark ii has been produced for marketing purposes, where as Vimeo and Youtube is full of videos put up by FS7 users, which probably doesn't show the camera in the greatest light.  

In terms of colour space, the Canon C300 ii can shoot 4:4:4 internally, whereas the FS7 does 4:2:2.  This is certainly a plus point for the C300.  Colourists working in grading suits are certainly going to prefer working with the Canon over FS7 here, and that may push certain productions towards it.  

I have mentioned this video in a previous article, but if you haven't seen it, it compares the C300 to the FS7.   The one worrying thing is the purple fringing issue here on the FS7.  You can clearly see it if you look at where the trees meet the blue of the sky.  Hopefully this is just a minor problem and will be fixed in a software update.  

If you are interested in buying the FS7, it is well worth reading the whole article at The Delivery Men

To recap the FS7 has:

  • Lowest cost
  • Good slow mo
  • Slightly less robust than the other two cameras.

 

Update: As the release date of the C300 mark ii nears, more videos have come out that show the picture quality and how the focus assist and auto focus funtions work.  The first mark ii video was "Trick Shot", I wasn't that impressed when I saw this.  I am not sure if the camera was to blame, or not.  Following videos have been more impressive.  This is really worth checking out here, in a much more in depth review.

Will the masses of C300 owners upgrade to the mark ii, or switch over to Sony?  How will Sony respond?  They may decide to include 4k with the F5 and therefore dent mark ii sales (although this may dent their own F55 sales).  The value to the C300 is now pretty low with the recent price drops, so it would be a fairly big chunk to invest in the upgrade to mark ii.  The way camera technology is changing, everyone is looking to upgrade and the question becomes when you are going to make the next purchase, rather than if. 

Canon started with great colour rendition and have worked to improve it with the mark ii, so the question will be: does the camera produce better pictures than Sony's cameras?  Having slow motion is a nice feature, but it isn't something that is used everyday by most shooters.  There is also the question of demand.  Although as camera operators we can nudge production towards one particular camera, often a programme will already have a set camera they want to use.  The fact that a huge amount of TV is already shot on C300, will no doubt mean many people will want to shoot on the mark ii.  The F55 is also very popular out there, but has a very different price point.

If you own a production company specialising in corporate work, it is probably a no brainer.  For the price of the C300 mark ii you can almost buy two FS7s.  I find it hard to believe many clients will be unhappy with the "look" the camera produces, and if they are, you can work on the colours in post.  If you are a DP, or self shooter, it is a trickier proposition.  You hand your images over to production and they judge you on this.

In the end I'll base my decision mainly on the look coming straight out the camera.  I am not that into the ergonomics of the mark ii or the FS7 but I know I can deal with it.  I also know any of the three cameras in the right conditions, and with nice lighting, will grade up pretty well, however, I want camera that will put out a great image that the director will be happy with ungraded.  For fast turn around shoots this is essential.   Once the camera is released there will no doubt be many side by side comparision videos.  I think I'll wait until then before spending any cash.  If I had to guess, I would say the broadcast world are so enamoured with the C300, that this trend will continue over to the mark ii and there will be a high demand for it.

 

A cheaper option than the mark 2 is the original Canon C300, compared here to the  FS7 .

And a more in depth look at the mark ii here.

Sony FS7 vs Canon C300

When the Sony FS7 came out I was expecting the price to be way higher considering its pretty unbelievable numbers on paper.  When you consider the price of Sony's F55, this thing is incredibly cheap.  Here is how it stacks up side by side to the Canon C300

   FS7  Canon C300
Sensor  Super 35mm Super 35mm

Resolution 

 4k HD 1080
Slow mo  180 @ 1080  60fps @720
ISO sensitivity  2000  850
Dynamic range  14 stops  12 stops
Record format XAVC   10 bit MXF    8 bit

 

The FS7 retails for around $8k in the US and £6k in the UK.  By comparison the C300 currently retails for far more (around £8k UK, $11.5k USA)  However, over the past months Sony have been shifting massive quanties of the FS7 and Canon aren't stupid, they know they must bring the price down.

Today B&H announced a massive price drop and are now selling the Canon EF at $6499.  This is priced perfectly to compete with Sony's FS7.  It is surely only a matter of time before other retailers start making similar reductions.  

So which is the right camera to buy?  This obviously depends on who is buying.  If you own a large number of Canon lenses already,  then this may push you towards a C300 (once the price drops), otherwise the FS7 specifications look a lot more attractive.  The third option, is to wait.  It seems Canon will definitely be announcing a new camera before long.  One of the big bugbears of C300 users is the ergonomics of the camera, and the FS7 is much the same as the C300 in that sense.

This is a very unscientific test of the two cameras side by side, but it does help give a sense of the picture quality and the dynamic range of the two cameras. NB This isn't my test, just something I stumbled across on Vimeo.

One part of the video that surprised me was the weired purple fringing in the highlights on the FS7.  If you look at the last few shots, take a look at the trees in the background at the centre of the image.  When I switched between the FS7 and C300 I felt that the FS7 didn't have a particularly filmic look, instead it had more vibrant TV colours.  Having said that, this could have been down to the weired fringing isue.  That is enough for me to stear clear of the FS7 for now, but I am sure Sony will fix this in later updates.

Interestingly, sales companies in the UK have been struggling to keep up with demand and can't access enough FS7s.  However, they have also said that C300 owners are not trading many cameras in at the moment, so it seems that many C300 owners are waiting to see what will happen next.

I see the FS7 being taken up by shooting APs or small companies,  as the price for the cameras specifications can't be beat.   As for me, the first camera I ever owned had a retail price of around 50k, since then prices have dropped and I bought my most recent camera the C300 at 12k (3 years ago).  I would prefer to see a few improvements in terms of ergonomics and form factor. If a new camera came out that addressed these issues, then I wouldn't mind spending a bit more money.

If you are thinking of buying the Sony FS7 it is definitely worth reading Dan Chung's review on the camera.  He as spent time shooting with it on paid jobs, so his thoughts go well beyond a few technical specs.  Also The Delivery Men (those who shot the above video test).

Underwater and Surf Photography

There is a lot to like about this video.  Surf shots can get predictable sometimes, endless perfect glassy waves with surfers in the barrel.  They are impressive, but there are so many of those kinds of pictures and videos about.  I love the fact that Ray Collins has managed to capture something totally different.

 

It is all the more impressive that he isn't a full time photographer.  Working down a mine in Australia can't be an easy job, and getting out filming in the water must the perfect antidote.

Check out the photos from Ray's book here.  There are some beautiful image there, which makes me realise that what ever you are filming or photographing, there is always away to do things differently.

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