Why I’m Buying a Canon C200
Last updated June 2017
It’s been some time since I’ve seen a camera as divisive as the Canon C200. Ye Olde Canon, the manufacturer the prosumer video market has nearly written off, relegating it to an Apple-like inability to cater to a pro user’s wallet and needs. I clearly remember returning from Brazil in 2008 to find the dawn of a new era with Nikon’s release of the D90–a DSLR that could record video from its live view. No one really cared until Canon implemented the same (admittedly more successfully) into the 5D mkII and Vincent LaForet showed the world how much more shallow depth of field matters than pro level features (e.g. metering tools, audio inputs, physical ergonomics, decent codecs). A new market of DSLR Video shooters was born along with a slew of DSLR-related news gather outlets I still follow today (DSLR News Shooter, EOSHD, Cinema 5D, Planet 5D etc.) We’ve had a lot of cameras lately that have seriously tempted my wallet, but none does so more than Canon’s C200. Why?
Permit another brief history: Fast-forward to 2017 where Canon has a relatively successful but pricey line of cinema cameras designed around a market they proprtedly “stumbled into”. But the market is a crowded one. Blackmagic in one corner comes in with steep uppercuts–hardware that isn’t as time-tested as the rest, but pricing more competitive than anyone thought possible just a few short years ago. Sony comes from another corner with rapid hardware updates and specs that leave other manufacturers looking like they’re in the wrong decade (i.e. Canon). And now even Panasonic fills the hole in their lineup with EVA–with Varicam blood in its veins and a long-awaited Super 35mm sensor. In an out of another corner (apparently our boxing ring is pentagonal) dips RED, in some ways and at some points apparently not immune to the need to bring “4K for all” but still largely priced and designed for larger productions. So why the C200? Well, despite the many cameras I’ve tested and been tempted by, the C200 is the only one that gets the most important things (to me) right. Let’s compare.
Sony’s FS5: There’s a lot to love in this camera. I won’t go over all the specs, but the highlights include an electronic variable ND, great internal recording (especially for HD), incredible slow motion and raw available via an external recorder.
Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro: This camera came so close it hurts. The image quality, internal ProRes, Blackmagic as a company, internal audio quality, general user experience, fixes from previous builds when it comes to IR, black sun spots, general physicality; it all looked like Blackmagic had finally hit the ground running. But, imagine, if you will, a camera with four media bays and no ability for proxy recording. As makers of Resolve, it boggles my mind that Blackmagic didn’t account for this. Most discouragingly, they have confirmed to me personally that this is a hardware limitation and not something fixable in firmware. Also, the V-mount batteries are bulky. This could be ok, but when you compare camera running time of a Canon C300 and an Ursa Mini Pro your left wondering where all that power went on the Ursa.
Dual Pixel AF is Simply to Good to Keep Ignoring
I also love pistol grip style gimbals whose portability means I can fit gimbal, camera and lenses all in one bag. This is one thing I love about the FS5 and am eager to test with the C200.
The Sony A7X and A6X00 series cameras (along with XAVC-S) have converted me to the usability of 8 bit 4:2:0. As a colorist in another life, I wouldn’t have thought it, but I find most people that hate on this codec either don’t know how to expose or have spent more time reading about it than testing it. I highly doubt Canon’s MPEG-4 implementation will be as efficient on the C200, but all the same, I’ve tried some MPEG-4 footage from the C200 and it grades well enough for me. I’m not the most extreme when it comes to pixel peeping, but I do believe I set a fairly high bar. This means that in one camera I have both ends of the spectrum–an obscenely large amount of highly compressed recording and a high image quality/high data rate option.
Large File Sizes
The inevitability of the C200 is that one simply must buy lots of big CFast Cards. At the time of writing, this means $1300 for an hour of recording time to a Lexar 512GB card. I’m going to be trying the KomputerBay brand at only $300 for a 256GB card, meaning that with three of those I should have an hour and a half of recording time for under $1000. That makes the C200 an $8500 camera and I simply have to live with that. Though the internet has born much bellyaching over this raw format, I’m not sure how many people realize it’s pretty close to Blackmagic’s raw file size at 4:1 compression (the smallest raw file you can get). Obviously Blackmagic cameras also allow for ProRes internally, but for better and more customizable raw options you’re probably looking at RED (see here for my post citing reds wavelet-based R3D as one of my favorite formats).
I am hard on a lot of camera manufacturers for their pathetic apps (i.e. Sony). I have yet to try Canon’s app on the C200 but I’m really hoping it doesn’t disappoint. Panasonic has generally done quite well here, and Samsung wasn’t too bad. But I’m particularly keen to see how well dual pixel AF works when driven by the app remotely.
C200: An Ideal Blend
The C200 has a physicality just small enough to use on the gimbals I love and yet hold all the necessary buttons you want on a pro video camera. It should have excellent battery life, great color, a built-in EVF, neutral density, HDMI and SDI out,