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Canon C300 Mark II: Auto-Focus as a Creative Tool

Saturday, September 12, 2015 10:30 AM

In the third of our Canon C300 Mark II blogs, WTS production specialist and freelance cameraman Patrick van Weeren talks about the new auto-focus system in the C300 Mark II – and how you can use it as a creative tool.

In 4K with a large sensor and shallow depth of field, I’m happy to take all the help I can get with focussing.

The Canon C300 Mark II has an improved implementation of the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, and Dual Pixel CMOS AF facial recognition is included for the first time in any professional camera – let alone a 4K one. Finally we have an AF system we can actually use as a creative tool instead of purely technical support!

Canon C300 Mark II auto-focus facial recognition

We can now move the AF tracking square away from the default centre using an intuitively positioned joystick. At first I was a bit hesitant – as a cameraman I'm used to focussing manually, but using the joystick isn't really very much different from controlling the lens by hand. You can adjust the lens response speed to be slow and smooth during recording or quick before rolling.

Canon C300 Mark II adjustable auto-focus tracking square

 Just having that little bit of extra help in focussing is very nice!

For a cameraman though, the ability to instantly cancel the AF system might be the most important consideration when deciding a creative focus-pull.

Manual focus assist

Nevertheless, even in manual mode you don’t lose track immediately because the camera still uses its AF system as a manual focus assist to guide you in the right direction.

Canon C300 Mark II manual focus assist

 Again, the tracking square is moveable with the joystick.

Canon C300 Mark II manual focus assist

The arrows move together to indicate movement into or out of focus...

Canon C300 Mark II manual focus assist

...and turn green when the subject is in focus.

Creative auto-focus opens up DSLR lens range to film makers

The creative auto-focus options have also really brought Canon's L-series DSLR lens line-up to life for film-makers, taking them to a new level of performance in film-making. Canon hasn’t just launched a camera; it has also reinvigorated its arsenal of lenses and their use by professional film makers into the bargain.

Those L-series photography lenses stood up well against the 4K resolution – in fact they perform better on this camera while filming than ever before. By combining the camera with Canon lenses we could take advantage of the in-camera peripheral illumination correction and chromatic aberration correction for the Cine Primes, CN lenses and L-series lenses.

Canon C300 Mark II test shoot: Canon lenses information

We graded the L-series lenses towards the Cine Primes which were just great in continuity, sharpness and contrast. The CN7 17-120mm zoom lens matched very nicely with the primes but the L-series needed extra help with increased contrast and colour continuity.

Using a third party touch screen to select your AF points

In addition to the on-camera option for auto-focus, you can use the live-view touch-screen of third-party browser remote/tablet to focus on a subject. This will also give you access to the C300 Mark II's camera menus and functions, including ND filters.

C300 Mark II rolling shutter test

Canon C300 Mark II rolling shutter whip test

We took the opportunity to do a short rolling shutter test on the shoot.

The C300 Mark II has a faster read-out and processor, which will improve any rolling-shutter camera - from your iPhone to the Red Epic, they all have rolling shutters but due to the higher processing power some cameras can perform a lot better with it.

The C300 Mark II had to be really pushed to show its origin as a rolling-shutter camera. This whip pan below was made at approx. 1.3 metres distance at 1/50th of a second, in 4K recorded on the internal XF-AVC codec. That's about the fastest whip pan that a healthy 6' 4" adult could do without pushing the tripod over! 

Don't forget to look out for the other blogs in this Canon C300 Mark II blog series

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