First Thoughts on the Canon C100
Everybody’s been pontificating, pouting and proselytizing about the newly introduced Canon C100, which is, according to B&H, to be available by the end of November, 2012. So I might as well jump into the fray too.
The first price quoted for the camera was $8,000 (USD). Then another site said around $7,000. Canon has said nothing publicly about the price, so speculation is not too meaningful, although I’m going to guess it will be closer to $8,000 than to $6,000.
The specs of the camera are out there everywhere and have created some confusion. Canon’s own specs initially said 4:2:2 for the color space, but by the second day they had corrected that to 4:2:0. Apparently, like the Sony FS100, you can get 4:2:2: by outputting via HDMI to an external recorder. And yes, the camera allows you to do that, as does the FS100, but both cameras do AVCHD at 4:2:0.
Another part of the canon specs says Canon Log Gamma is “available.” I’m not sure what that means. In my experience with corporatespeak, the word “available” usually means that it’s an option that you pay extra for. I’m also not clear on whether the log works for recording regular AVCHD to the SD card or if it’s strictly for the HDMI output to a recorder. I’m guessing the latter but I don’t know.
In my opinion, and this is opinion only because obviously I haven’t seen the camera yet, this is going to be a really good camera. It looks just like the C300, so people who want a C300 but can’t afford $16,000 for a body can say, “It’s just like the C300 but smaller.” Remember when the HVX200 came out? They were all saying, “It’s a baby Varicam.” Best to ignore those types. The C100 is not a cheap C300—it is an expensive FS100, if you want to compare cameras. But it’s nice.
I like the looks, I like some things they’ve done that make it look even more solid than the C300, ie., the way the LCD screen slides in, the handle, the XLR inputs on the body instead of on a detachable pod—all those things and more make this a very desirable, sexy camera for indie filmmaking, documentary filmmaking, corporate video, TV spots, etc.
The Canon 5DII revolutionized the look of lower budget production by giving people a tool that could make a shot look as good as film at a tiny cost. Instead of $40,000 and up for a big chip high resolution HD camera, you could do the job for $2500. I’m talking about the price of a body alone, not everything else because lenses and support gear are a given expense for any big chip camera (except the new Sony EA50 which comes complete with shoulder mount, servo zoom lens, etc.).
Almost from the day the 5DII became acceptable in professional production, we’ve learned to appreciate the low cost and small size and low weight. And we’ve learned to work within the eccentricities of shooting video with a DSLR. We buy support rigs. We buy moire filters. We buy separate audio recorders. Most of us producing video for a living or for art or for both are pretty happy with what we’ve been doing with DSLRs. However, we secretly lust after a good ol’ fashioned “real” video camera, but with a big chip.
Thanks to the Sony F3 and the Red Scarlet and then the Canon C300, the price for a solid big chip “real” video camera dropped—but that price still passed the $15,000 mark. Ten years ago $15K for a big chip camera body would have been spectacular. But, thanks to Canon, many of us have changed our attitude about price. We now think that $15K puts a camera squarely into the rental house, not into our equipment closet at home or at the office.
In other words, the DSLR revolution made us think that a darn good camera with a big chip SHOULD be affordable. And that word affordable means something quite different today. One blog I read recently praised the Sony FS100 when it first came out. Then a couple of days later the same blog said: it’s too damned expensive. Why should I spend double the price of a good DSLR when I can get the same image with the DSLR?
Good point, and it also shows how so many of us think today: we really don’t want to spend the kind of money for a quality camera that we used to spend. Not only is a $15K camera too expensive, so is a $5K camera. Even though most of us who shoot professionally with a DSLR probably have close to $10K in the body, lenses and accessories. Human perception is an interesting thing. I believe many people think that if the 5DII image is so good for such a good price, then anything that costs twice as much should be twice as good. That’s not the way things work.
So, what I think about the C100 is that it is going to be a really, really great camera. But it is probably going to be purchased by small production houses and affluent individual producers. It may become a B camera for many who use the C300. It will become a rental house item too.
Is it a DSLR killer? I don’t think so. I think the Sony FS100, at a B&H special price of $4800, $4,200 without the lens (the $800 off price is good till the end of 2012), is a lot closer to being a DSLR killer. And the recently announced Sony EA50 is equally close, if not closer since its price is under $5K and includes everything you need.
I think Sony has given us an affordable big chip professional camera in the FS100. I think Canon has probably made it just a little bit better but most likely for a few thousand dollars more. So really, our dreams have been answered: Yes, we can now have a “real” video camera that gives us that big chip look and capability. It’s going to cost more than a good DSLR. Whether it’s worth it or not depends on what you want to do with a camera.
If you shoot mostly documentaries, do lots of interviews, lots of long interviews where the 12 minute limit makes you nervous, shoot speakers at events, and if you don’t like the hassle of having to shoot double system sound—then the FS100 or the C100 may be perfect for you. If you shoot for other people, then the “real” video cameras will probably be better.
If you work in controlled situations, if you do your own videos from start to finish, then the DSLR route is still the cheapest way to get big chip images for a smaller price.
A lot of people these days are screaming for 4K, or for RAW, or for both. They criticize Canon and Sony for not giving them a better codec and better color space for a cheaper price. My feeling is that if you’re that far up the food chain, go buy a C300 or a Red and do your work.
If you just want to make great looking films and/or make a living making movies, then the FS100 or C100 are probably great cameras for you. People say, and shots I’ve seen confirms it, that you can get better looking footage out of an FS100 than a DSLR. But for me it’s more about the camera itself—is it a better tool for the job? Does DSLR shooting get in the way of getting things done?
So the question today is really: Is it worth the money to buy an FS100 or a C100? The C100 is nice because it’s going to have that excellent Canon look. The FS100, with proper setup, also has a great look, and some even intercut it successfully with the much more expensive F3…and it can do slomo up to 60fps. When you cut to the core and cut the crap, both cameras will crank out beautiful images. So will DSLRs.
If the C100 comes in pricewise at close to $8K and I wanted to spend that much, then I would probably go with Sony’s FS700 instead, which can do slomo at up to 240 fps. Also the FS700 can be upgraded in the future via firmware and external recorder to shoot 4K, if that’s important to you. Sony’s e-Mount, common to the FS700, FS100, EA50, and its mirrorless hybrid cameras, the NEX-7 and NEX-5R, allows you to use just about any lens ever made, and adapters are available for just about any lens ever made.
The Metabones adapter, for $400, turns any e-Mount Sony into an EOS camera. It gives you full capability of your Canon lenses. So whatever lens mount you have bought into is no longer a concern. The real issue is, as always—money. Do you want or need a “real” video camera or does the DSLR work for you? If you say, yeah, I want a “real” video camera, then the only question is: what’s it worth to you?
One final thought: I am excited about the C100 and the FS100 that appeared last year and the FS700 and even the new lower end EA50, but I am excited for probably a different reason than others are. In my opinion, what all these cameras will do is extend the life of a decent, useable, quality codec—AVCHD—and extend the life of plain ol’ 1920×1080 HD. Unlike some, I’m not eager for the world to go 4K. Well-produced HD looks awesome on the big screen with 2K or 4K projection. It can look as good as film. Keep the format; make the cameras better, more useable, more affordable. Let the people at the high end of filmmaking go for 4K, 8K, whatever. But make good tools for the rest of us that don’t force us to rush out and buy something new every couple of years.
For more on the C100 and FS100, join us in the DVFreelancer Camera Forum.
Tags: Canon C100, Canon C300, Sony FS100