Is the newly upgraded Canon C100 Mark II camcorder still the golden child of its family?Wednesday, November 05, 2014 12:00 AM
WTS Production Specialist and cameraman Patrick van Weeren examines what’s new in Canon’s C100 Mark II and asks if it can continue to punch above its weight and upstage its supposedly more illustrious siblings.
The Canon C100 was launched as the little brother of the immensely popular C300. But that little brother became the loose cannon that blasted its way up the camera family pecking order.
Despite showing up with the lower quality codec you’d expect in a cheaper camera, its clean HDMI™ output and external recorders (such as the Ninja, Odyssey, Sound Devices Pix 240 etc) meant it ended up outgunning its supposed senior sibling – and for a lower budget. Its golden child status was cemented when Canon also decided to make the C100 the first EOS – Cinema Camera with AF control.
With the arrival of the C100 Mark II, the AF control has been extended to Face Detection AF when used with STM lenses (facilitated by the slower AF speeds, compared to USM lenses built for photographers).
A popular approach of using the original C100 with an external recorder arose from the internal codec being somewhat average, with just AVCHD. Now Canon has upgraded the Mark II with an MP4 option in 35Mbps for 50fps and 24Mbps for 25p to solve a ‘bit’ of this in-camera. For many broadcast applications, the external recorder might be consigned to the past, effectively lowering the package price. The Mark II is also capable of recording multiple formats simultaneously.
The new and larger 3.5-inch OLED viewer is hinged from a different angle, giving more direct access to the buttons – and to the screen itself, as it even opens up to sit on the side of the camera for producers/directors who want to peek at the shot while the cameraman is using the upgraded viewfinder. The improvements made to the viewfinder were definitely needed, as original C100 owners will surely appreciate.
Shooting speeds and ISO
Another update is the 59.95/60p fps option. Canon seems to be slightly behind its competitors when it comes to higher speeds so this is a step in the right direction.
But a strong point for Canon is that their low-light legacy has continued; they now claim that you can use the camera up to 102,400 ISO. With these ISO settings you might want to put a diffuser gel on your tally light!
It is now possible to work with a Canon Log and a LUT table on the output without affecting the actual in-camera recording – but still giving you the pleasure of judging the exposure with a LUT (e.g. rec 709).
The camera also benefits from extra FTP and wireless transfer options, with dual 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequencies. These wireless features can also be used for operating several camera functions via a simple smart phone/tablet web browser.
Dual Pixel AF
Once the Dual Pixel AF was installed on the C100 it needed some adjustments and getting used to. Most people would assign the AF-Lock to the programmable button next to the start/stop button. In this way you are able to switch it rapidly when you decide to use it – or sometimes more importantly not to use it! I would prefer to have a toggle switch and hopefully that will be an option on the C100 Mark II, as pressing the switch twice to engage and disengage can be cumbersome.
The marker in the centre of the image is grey (left) when the auto-focus is switched off and white (right) when it is activated.
New for the C100 MarkII is the Face Detection AF which is already integrated into a lot of consumer products such as the iphone and even some of the DSLRs. Now that the technology has (finally!) arrived at a professional level, it is a very welcome tool.
Hopefully Canon will consider adding the third popular photography AF option: AF-tracking, which enables the camera to track an object selected, for example, on a touch screen. They’ve already done it with the pro-sumer Canon 700D in film-mode, so the chances are high that this feature will also come to the professional market.
The C100 Mk II is compatible with Canon’s new remote control, the RC-V100 (as indeed are the C300 and C500, and the XF305/300/205/200). This is great for matching multi-cam shoots, crash-cam, jib arm/crane use or a big wide shot from within the lighting grid of a television studio.
The RC-V100 can control power, menus, ND-filters (C300 and C500 only), start/stop recorder and profiles. It allows you to change shutter modes, and adjust the degrees or speed as well as giving remote zoom and autofocus (when available). The same goes for the ISO/gain, white balance, R-B gain and master black controls. Even the camera’s assignable buttons are accessible via the remote.
More advanced features, including the Knee, Black Gamma and Sharpness level, are available when combined with selected Canon cameras.
An upgrade, not just a replacement
When it came onto the market, the original C100 was a source of much relief for DSLR users. Finally they had a cheaper version of the C300 and a chance to rid themselves of the difficulties of DSLR filming while retaining the benefits of a small-size camera with a sensor that will give you shallow depth of field and that oh-so-lovely ‘cinematic’ look.
Now they can look forward to the Mark II, a camera which will not simply replace the C100, but which can be seen as a serious update to a much-loved piece of kit.
Operators will definitely appreciate the benefits of the new viewfinder, LCD screen and the two different built-in Auto Focus settings, while the new codecs will give a more serious camera that can bring the DSLR look to videos without – in most cases – the need for an external recorder.