Description image

One Reason to Get a Sony F3 Instead of the Canon C300: Flexibility

01.10.12 @ 3:23PM Tags : , , ,

I’m not here to start a camera flame war between the Canon C300, Sony F3, and RED SCARLET. The fact is, with any of these new large-sensor camcorders, you can tell your story effectively, and that’s what’s important. However… these cameras are an investment. And a much more serious investment than a DSLR at that — $15k does not come easily, and that’ll just get you started with each. So I thought I’d share a thought I had the other day when watching Philip Bloom’s latest camera shootout. Bloom didn’t include the RED and I’ll have plenty of thoughts to share on RED going forward (to the chagrin of some of you!), but if I hadn’t gone the RED route I would go with an F3 over the C300. Why?

Renting an upgrade

Because you can rent the S-Log upgrade. Yes, it’s true — you don’t have to buy the firmware if you don’t need it all the time. Because it comes on a SxS card, you can rent the S-Log firmware ($150/day is one example), which is installable/removable from any F3, as far as I know (corroborated). Basically you can “unmount” the upgrade from one camera and use it on another — it’s valid for any F3 so long as it’s only being used on one at a time. Here are some F3 with S-Log results (and a dynamic range test). This to me changes the equation regarding the C300 — while shooters are going gaga over the Canon, and it certainly has its strengths (small size and low light), for the same price you can shoot on an F3 and then, when the need or desire arises, take your F3 to another level by renting an external recorder and S-Log firmware. This gives you the flexibility that I think the C300 is lacking, given the Canon is an 8-bit camera that most people will want to be able to use for the next several years, and not just for web stuff but potentially for features and/or television as well.

I thought I would share my own thoughts as everyone is lauding the Canon — I have no vested interest in either camera, but this site has been focused on cameras lately (to a fault, I know, but it’ll all even out in a few weeks) — and since it looks like the C300 will come in at roughly the same price as an F3 — I thought I’d put in my $0.02. I’ve owned and shot on both Sony and Canon cameras, and neither one is paying me or sponsoring this site or anything of that nature. Also, I recognize not everyone has the budget or desire to get one of these cameras, but for owner/operators, let’s take a quick look at the C300′s advantages.

Small size

Again, referencing Bloom’s shootout, without S-Log the F3 looks comparable to the C300. The C300 has no such “S-Log with external recorder” equivalent (just a flat picture profile setting). But it is much smaller and lighter. The amount to which the C300′s small size is an advantage depends on your own needs… if you’re trying to steal locations the diminutive profile of the C300 may be worth the price of admission alone (though a DSLR will be equally if not more incognito). Larger size comparison:

Low light

The C300′s “headline feature” is 20,000 ISO. That’s an astronomical number, and kudos to Canon’s engineers for making it look as good as it does. However, the F3 at 6,400 w/ S-Log also looks good (UPDATE: and in fact goes up to 12,800). In fact, you would think an astronomically high number like 20,000 ISO would look a world apart from 6,400 ISO, but I didn’t find that to be the case; here is a comparison from Philip’s result (no color correction other than to dial down saturation on the C300 image to more closely match the F3):

The C300 is certainly brighter — further evidence in the histogram at left — but if the high ISO setting is one of the C300′s main selling points, I’m not sure 20,000 ISO would yield a better image than pushing a F3 (recorded to an external recorder at 6,400 ISO at 12,800 ISO) in post. I won’t push the F3 here, given this is a screen capture from the 1080p h.264 download — and also because the F3 with an external recorder is more expensive — but… what do you think? It’s the F3′s versatility that makes it appealing to me, once you take into account the ability to buy or rent the S-Log firmware for a feature or larger paying job. And it’s worth noting this example is taken from an extremely low-light situation that just a few years ago wouldn’t be exposable at all. Getting a solid exposure at 6,400 ISO is already pretty amazing (and much better than what my RED SCARLET is capable of… with its current sensor, at least).

Since they were infamously announced the same night, I’ll use the SCARLET as a point of comparison: the C300 is for all intents and purposes a cheaper camera (especially if it’s coming in at $14k instead of $20k, and also taking into account RED’s price increase). However, the RED has interchangeable lens mounts — so if you’re sitting on an expensive pile of Canon glass, you can get the SCARLET, shoot with your own lenses, and if you’re working on, say, a feature, rent a PL mount and PL glass. If you’re buying a C300 to own and operate, on the other hand, you have to choose EF or PL version. And you’re stuck that way until you sell your camera (I’m actually getting a BNCR mount for my RED, but that’s another story). Similarly, the F3 has a PL lens mount available, and in fact because of its short flange depth can be adapted to a wide variety of lenses. Plus, both the SCARLET and F3 have upgrade paths — the former with an announced but mysterious Dragon sensor in a year or two (not to mention the ability to use it as a stills camera), the latter with S-Log firmware and an external recorder (not to mention the 3D link upgrade, which I assume is also rentable) — whereas the C300, to me, does not have the same amount of flexibility going forward.

People often focus on the base price, but to me it’s less about sticker shock and more about answering the question, “how much can you get out of your camera over the next four years?” Flexibility is a big part of that equation. Just my $0.02 — if you’re in the market for the C300 and/or F3, what do you think?

[C300/F3 comparison image by Nino Leitner]


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 73 COMMENTS

  • I think this is the year to rent… NAB is promising to be 4k heavy emphasis.

    Of course, depends on what you want to do. If you’re going straight to web, the FS100 would be fine! (I liked it over the F3 a bit in Bloom’s test).

    • I think 4k is still ahead of its time for the indie and event world. Going to be 5 years+ before it becomes the standard for indie, commercial, and reality work. Other than major film productions, it would be better to go the rent route if you can’t pay back your camera with a couple of months work. I do like Koo’s point of 4K in essence is like having two cameras so you can crop for CU shots and having more leeway with exposure and color correction.

  • I’m with James, I think that it would produce a similar image for a third the price and it’s the sames size (roughly) as the C300…

  • Wise words Koo. I concur. It’s all about the type pf work you do and whether you are a pro looking for a return on investment or an aspiring amateur with cash to burn (no shame in that either)

    It’s an exciting time to be in this industry whatever level you are at or aspire to.

    I just hope people are not lusting after gera that they either can’t really afford or in fact simply don’t need.

  • This is a fantastic post. I didn’t know you could rent the firmware upgrade!

    And I concur with the above posts– it’s either time to jump into Scarlet/RED workflow and fingers crossed for awesomeness, or rent for now.

  • I think people, including myself, spend way too much time on image quality instead of how it works. Can you do handheld work with it? Is it intuitive to operate? How much mental energy will go towards worrying about recording space or battery life? How much of your energy is spent on the artistic part of filmmaking versus technical? Will you need a dedicated DI on set? Will you need more or less resources in editing? Will you spend more or less time to get the image you want in post? Will audio be a pain to work with? All of these questions will affect what you shoot, how you shoot and how much money you spend.

    A good answer is use the tool appropriate for the job even though I think someone would be a better shooter if they used their tools over and over again till that tool disappears.

    I have not spent time with any of these cameras but for any project that doesn’t have a budget for a good size crew, I would rule the scarlet out. Sorry Koo. Even though, I like the modular, high resolution advantages, I think it will be a pain to use. For doc/reality tv work, it is almost a no go. For narratives, I would insist on a DIT.

    The F3 and C300 are similar. On a very shallow, purely appearance basis (imaging and physical look), I’m leaning towards the C300. I’ve noticed in the C300 videos, people are comfortable holding the camera, passing it around. The content coming out is not your typical camera on tripod with rods mode. It still looks beautiful but the form factor has encouraged people to just grab it and shoot with it. Look at Laforet’s video, the C300 is everywhere. When Rodney/Lan/Drew did their test, they kept passing it around. It appears malleable. Again, I will make a more of an educated choice till I actually get a chance to play with all these cameras.

    • Well that depends on whether you’re directing or whether you’re cinematograph-ing.

      Ajit, if you were in NYC I would invite you to another test shoot I’m doing this weekend, you could get a hands-on with the RED… but if you take a look here:

      You’ll see that SCARLET is a very small package and we shot all day with no crew, no DIT, and a DP who’d never used the camera before (but now owns one). It’s less intimidating than people think. However I agree that “for doc/reality work, it’s almost a no go.” Unless it’s of the staged doc-type where it’s mostly interviews — the 4K resolution is a big deal for being able to shoot wide and cut into a CU. You can basically get two camera angles out of one.

      Anyway, I have a lot of thoughts pertaining to the RED and our micro-short should be up Thursday, along with those thoughts.

      • Where in NYC are you exactly, Koo? Maybe I can stop by during the shoot schedule?
        I’ve been working with RED footage a lot lately and would want to start operating the body more often than I do now.
        Lemme’ know :)

        • Hey KahL,

          I’ll actually be upstate for this shoot, about 4 hours north and in the middle of nowhere. Some other time though!

    • One other thing to realize is when shooting RAW, you can focus on story or content more so than with f3/c300. You don’t need to worry really about exposing precisely or color balancing, its all metadata an can be adjusted in post.

      • That’s called fix it in post.

        • well with metadata, there is no error to fix, plus soon with an ipad app, you can adjust all red cine pro parameters in during production, so you’re pre-grade is done in the field no dit needed.

  • It seems like it makes more sense for indie film makers to rent cameras in this price range. An actual purchase makes more sense for someone who can pay it off with a couple months work.

    • Couple of months… or a couple of years!

      • Years = a car payment. I’m hearing from multiple sources that the sooner you pay off the Scarlet the better, before the rental market gets flooded and prices drop.

        On the bright side, 4K seems to be coming down. 4K for the masses may come sooner rather than later.

        • The rental market will be saturated by F3s and C300s as well… but the F3 and SCARLET both work as B-cams (to F65 and EPIC, respectively) more than the C300, which for now is on its own. Another thing worth noting.

          • The C300 is a much better B-cam to any DSLR footage from Canon DSLRs though. I have been combining footage from various Sony cameras (my own EX3, an F3, XDCAM HD camcorders) to Canon DSLR footage for almost two years now, and it was always very, very hard. The F3 is great but looks fundamentally different to any Canon DSLR footage. The C300 and a 5D or 7D, for instance, are a perfect match and extremely easy to color correct to go together well.

          • Good point Nino! Though I would call the C300 an A-cam on a DSLR shoot!

  • What’s the story with the BNCR mount? If you don’t mind my asking.

    • The PL mount was based on the BNCR design… they’re very similar. But because the mount is no longer in active production, BNCR lenses are cheaper. PL primes are prohibitively expensive, so I’m getting some BNCR lenses and will be testing them in the weeks to come…

      • Using BNCR glass seems like a viable cost-saving option but don’t underestimate the Leicas or Zeiss lineup, with the canon mount on the Scarlet all you need to do is throw on a Leica with the (cheap) adapter. You can get a whole set of Leica R for about 2k if you’re smart about ebay sales… I’m open to anything though and will be looking forward to the BNCR glass tests. Great post by the way, just curious but are you not considering the Nikon D4 or AF-100 in the same class as the C300/Scarlet/F3?

        • re: the D4/AF100, IMO probably not… though the D4 remains to be seen.

          • I’ve only gotten to use the AF-100 once for 5 minutes so I don’t really know the camera that well, what specifically makes the F3/C300 better than the AF-100?

  • Koo, the studio im working on has a lot of great carl zeis amount it possible to get a scarlet with an alpha mount? Third party or what.

  • I agree, I think the main problem with the C300 is that it only brings low light ability to the table. Everything else, all other camera can do either better or the same. For equal or a cheaper price. I think the C300 will be outdated this year based on whats expected to come out. Nikon has low light ability, Sony has low light ability, Red is working on it with the Dragon sensor ( which can be upgraded with an existing RED) and its likely Panasonic’s next release will have low light ability. I would even bet the new Fuji camera, with its new sensor and video mode has amazing low light.

    At the current pace of technology upgradability and scalability is going to be very important. Because camera body’s and technology are changing every 6 months now. And the Mirrorless market is on the move

  • Hey dude, can you come down to New Jersey and shoot some awesome footage of my tri-pawd dog?

    Pro bono….of course….

  • N.K.Osborne on 01.10.12 @ 8:09PM

    You also need to take into account the post-production aspect of the RED. You can’t just toss around the Scarlet’s name like it’s a set price. You need to buy several things to complete that package.

    Didn’t know you can rent the S-Log, but honestly I would rather buy that in lieu of renting it. $150 a day adds up and sooner or later you’ll spend more renting than if you purchased it.

    C300 seems more pick up and go. Not to mention most of us are DSLR shooter and this camera will work with our lenses out of the box. From what I understand, to get 10bit out of the F3 you need an external recorder. That’s another thing to get and carry around.

    The C300 is the one camera you can buy and get things done the same day you buy it. You’ll be able to use all of your canon glass.

    Honestly I wouldn’t buy any of these cameras and I’ll just rent one when I need it. Just to me you didn’t explain how the Canon C300 is the one camera that will let you forget about the technical stuff and focus on the story. RED cameras comes with baggage. You have to buy a ton of stuff to get going. If you’re already a RED user great. However, the same can be said for the C300. If you’re already a DSLR user, the move to the C300 will be easy.

    The F3 and Fs100 are awesome.

    I’m with Ajit. Think practically please. People are putting too much into other things when they need to think about what is going to work for them.

  • The main thing the C300 brings to the table is an ergonomic package that easy to run and gun with and use in a gorilla manner while also giving you image quality that can easily be used for a proper feature, with little compromise. When you have to load up a camera with add ons and extras to get it to work the way you need, and it ends up being this big bulky box that weighs a ton or is unwieldy, you are automatically limited in what you can do. This is the real definition of flexibility – a tool that can be used in the maximum amount of situations, to get you a broadcast ready picture, at a minimum of fuss.

    So let’s take a look at what the limitations are here for a moment, aside from price? We lose 60P at 1080, which sucks but the F3 has the same issue without a quite expensive and bulky dual HDSDI external recorder. We lose 10 bit output, again with the same issue of the external recorder on the F3. The 8 to 10 bit argument is pretty silly, as while it’s nice to check a box and say “yayyy I have 10 bit I’m better than you!” you have to consider the practicalities of what is seen on screen. And if you ask all these people that have shot with it, cut the footage, and blasted it onto a huge screen whilst staring closely for faults, they will all tell you the footage stood up amazingly well. If that’s the output, then I could care less if the camera was 8 bits, 4 bits, 90 bits or 1 bit. I care that the image out of it can like any other Hollywood-level output we see today in major films, as that’s the presentation value we all aspire to, without having to fight the camera to get there. The C300 does that now, will do that for the next however many years anyone will need it to until the next wundercamera comes along.

    The C300 has 12+ stops of latitude with a true LOG output (just because it doesn’t look like Sony’s S-Log doesn’t mean it doesn’t plot out in a logarithmic pattern, Ryan), in a non-debayerd 1080P, 4:2:2, 50Mbit in-cam codec that has significantly more detail and color data by 2X than the F3′s native codec. It comes with all the bits you need in the box and shoots on cheap CF cards, not expensive SxS cards, not outrageously priced Red SSD storage that might cost one as much as the camera just to be able to shoot for a few days. It’s got your ND and so forth, uses available EF lenses including IS or the open PL mount, both of which can take a myriad of other kinds of lenses on top of them. On top of that there’s no moire, virtually no aliasing, no odd color halos around highlights, full 1080 resolution in each color (something other cameras that have to debayer do not have), is in a rugged small package that weights 3.5 lbs and is quite handhold able when need be, and stands up image quality-wise very closely to an Alexa or F3 with S-Log to the eye. That combined with a host of little plusses make this a wonderful camera. And I won’t even get into the low light performance which is outstanding. Then again, so is the FS100′s (despite all the other issues that camera has, low light isn’t one of them)

    I think the F3 is a fantastic camera too, inclusive of S-Log. But when you do that you need to build it up, kit it out with a bunch of extra crap that limits mobility. You don’t need to do that with the C300 to get a similar picture. There’s your win. There’s your “flexibility” This is regardless of the fact you can rent S-Log or not. If you add that cost to the equation, the F3 starts to get quite more expensive (street) than a C300, which comes with everything you need in the box to shoot and the F3 nothing.

    As for the Red, putting aside the 4K argument which I think especially for indie filmmakers is total hogwash because they will likely never, ever distribute at that resolution in the lifetime they own the camera, the main issue there besides low light performance is that it’s very expensive in money and time to operate. You have to take that mountain of data and process it. You need a ton of computing power or a 5K card to even work with it in real time, whereas the F3 and C300 you can pop in a card and be off to the races. In a world where time is money, and where one can now buy a camera that outputs a 1080P image that is the equal of the 1080P coming from a Red (down sampled or not) I simply can’t see the advantage to owning it. Perhaps there’s a good reason to rent one, say if you’re operating on a much larger budget shoot and you need that Raw latitude in post for your shots. But when you’re there fighting with your camera because it mysteriously crashes, or staying up all night just to be able convert your footage to use it, or cursing your bank account when you have to buy yet another 128GB hyper expensive card to make it through the next day because your DIT is going nuts trying to offload an ass-load of data so you can have the advantage of perhaps cropping your image in post is, well, it’s your choice. But I would advise many independent and up and coming owner/ops to give the Scarlet some pause. They’re only causing themselves pain, for an image no better than what everyone else can make at less money, just to be (what I strongly suspect) proud that they shot with a camera that that happens to have been used to shoot some Hollywood majors. Most people can’t even get a Redmote in their hands, never mind a sensor replacement for a camera that Red can’t build even close of enough to satisfy a small demand. The Red is a solution to a problem I don’t think quite exists, at tremendous cost.

    And 4K resolutions, while great for archival purposes as you never know what the future will bring, are limited by the human eye’s ability to resolve data. Anyone looking at an acuity chart can tell you that you need to be sitting closer than 30 feet away from a 300 foot screen to even see any enhanced detail over 2K that a 4K image will get you. In a home, you need to sit 1.5 feet from a 60″ screen to notice any difference. Except for perhaps my 2 year old, I don’t know who would do that in their right minds just to notice the finer grain of someone’s pores on their face or perhaps how lovely the asphalt looks. There’s tremendous value in 4K from a marketing perspective, surely from a re-framing perspective it’s lovely as well. But as a distribution format it’s bullshit until God decides to upgrade our eyes.

    So some people would rather pick up and shoot a format that everyone can actually see without all the hassle. And it seems the C300 is the first camera that really allows people to do that and have a no-compromises 1080P image out of it for the first time.

    Is it perfect? No tool is. But the design choices made by Canon are precisely what make it flexible. You have this one all wrong, Koo.

    • I’m a little confused by your argument about 8 bit vs 10 bit and 4k vs.1080 with respect to the c300. The c300 has a 4k sensor 12 bit. The C300 internally subsamples 1080p 8 bit from the sensor. Its basically the same process of the scarlet, but the scarlet is manual control vs. c300 automatic. You can’t really argue against 4k capture and say 1080p is good enough using the c300 as an example. Its sharpness is an example of 4k subsampled to 1080, not 1080.

      • You have a point there in that there’s definitely a 4K sensor in the C300, and it’s definitelt oversampling via 2×2 CFA to get that pristine 1080P image. It could probably be debayered and interpolated to 4K without a major issue in future versions of the cam, just as the Red and others do now. I’m arguing more against 4K file sizes, 4K distribution. There’s value in 4K sensors; I don’t see much value in 4K distribution and workflow, generally, for anything but the biggest screens and biggest budget features. The human eye just can’t resolve the resolution at most common seating distances.

    • Paul, thank you for what is a good counterpoint to most of what I argue. We’re going to have to disagree, though — I just cut a RED short on my stock Hackintosh without any GPU acceleration on an internal hard drive with no problems. Hell, I copied over the files via USB 2.0. You can edit native .R3D files in Premiere Pro and it even processes your color correction in REDCINE-X Pro without any rendering, in real time. This is on a $250 CPU chip. It’s not some incredibly complicated, expensive process. (though I totally agree about the cost of REDMAGs).

      You make a lot of valid points, but you can see 4K in the theater plain as day. Though I do agree about not being able to see it at home on a 60″ monitor most of the time. But… the theater SHOULD be better than what’s available at home, right? Right now, it’s not most of the time… most movies I pay to see in the theater, I think “this is going to look better when I get it on blu-ray and watch it on my home projector.” 4K is a big part of this… and as theaters install new projectors that can do 2K 3D they’re also installing 4K 2D projectors. It’s coming.

      Regardless, I did not argue against the C300 in this post because it doesn’t have 4K… in fact I don’t say “4K” anywhere in the post. The C300 is a great “pick up and go” option, I agree, but my points are all about interchangeable lenses and output options.

      • Yes the C300 is better for pick up and go. Hell i could have used on on my curent project, a documentary in a foreign country. Small, light quick Great image quality that wont be put through the wringer in post.

        That said for narrative, commercial, bigger budget stuff, 110% F3 w/ all the crap attached to it, because its image is uncompromising. Though my scarlet may start eating into that market share depending on the turn around time and need for 4k, liek VFX, compositing, and Green screen.

      • Ryan, I know it’s possible to work quickly with Red footage but you have to make tradeoffs to get there. You can debayer at a low quality to get rocking, but then you’re waiting a long time on the tail end when you render out. When you’re working with huge file sizes, you’re going to slow down. That’s just math. You’re right though – computers (especially PCs/hackintoshes) are getting faster and faster which always a good thing! (I’ve been considering building a powerful but cheap PC for editing. I hate windows but it should be quicker….)

        I disagree about 4K. Unless you’re sitting in the first, say, 10 rows it’s useless; the human eye simply can’t resolve the detail. You also need a theater projecting 4K on a big screen (fake IMAX?) to even have a chance at making an impact. If it’s just a gimmie because you have the budget that’s great but I don’t think it’s worth the hassle. In the end,no matter how fast your machine is, you’re storing files 4X the size, for something 98.9% of your audience will never, ever see.

        You’re right, though, you didn’t mention 4K. I did because it’s obviously part of the equation when anyone considers a Red camera so it’s relevant because you mention Red in your post.

        As far as your point about interchangable lenses – I don’t think it’s valid as the C300 has similar options. And the output option (which equates to 2 bits that in practice with this camera you don’t need) I don’t think adds much to the realistic equation. I the end, I have to disagree with your position that the F3 is more “flexible”. If anything, it’s the opposite. That’s true even against a Red which at least will get you reframing options for 2K content.

        I have to agree with Lance, Nino, Michael above.

        I also have to agree with most comments here that the camera decision (whether you’re renting or buying) is all about what is right for the kind of work you do, your shooting style, your workflow, etc. Each of the cameras mentioned in this post can be fantastic depending on your needs. For some the 444 output from the F3 is a must. For some Red RAW really is part of their creative workflow and they need that. Others want something that is smaller and easier to run around with. Everyone wants a camera that can output an image that can match those seen on the bigger hollywood budget films, and all of these cameras have proven they can do that. It’s a big win for indies, anyway you look at it.

        The costs will come down, no doubt. I would say I don’t see a pro S35 video camera come below 10K in the future, as these items tend to be relatively low volume (as compared to, say, a T2i). But you never know. We never thought we’d get the images we get out of DSLRs 5 years ago for $700. Exciting times for all I am sure.

        • I hear you Paul. I’ll disagree about 4K, but maybe I just have a good set of eyes (the only good set in my family, actually, which is strange — everyone else got glasses by the time they were 10). Would be curious to hear your thoughts on this:

          I’ve said a lot of positive things about the C300 on this site, and if I were shooting a cinema verite documentary — or any documentary, really, especially if we were going to be working with hundreds of hours of footage — the C300 would be top choice for the project. As I said, I was writing this from the owner/operator standpoint, and that’s where the lens flexibility and output options come into play more — if you’re ONLY doing long-form documentary, in places where runtimes need to be long and offloading assistance is not available, the C300 will be wonderful. If you want something that has the most flexibility for narrative features and VFX work as well, though, I don’t think it will be in the same class as the F3/SCARLET. Different strokes for different folks…

          • Yeah.

            I read the Sony paper and it’s a little skewed. We tried their little test and it didn’t match up with what they were claiming. There’s definitely value in 4K when you’re talking about the front of the theater though. It’s sharper. How much sharper and how important that is is debatable. Many theaters are only showing 1K image’s worth of quality and people pay good money to watch that.

            To your other point. I don’t see much inherent in an F3 or Scarlet that magically makes it a better camera for narrative work. It’s ultimately an image capture device, it doesn’t matter if you’re shooting a narrative or porn. The C300, the F3, the RED cameras, an HDSLR, even a little MiniDV cam can shoot a feature. (And all but the C300 because it isn’t out actually have). I don’t buy that argument, I’m sorry.

            For you the Scarlet works. For me and what I like to do, how I like to handle my camera and deal with post, a C300 works. For some a HDSLR is awesome. “Flexibility” is purely in the mind of the person actually using the tool. If anything for an owner/op like myself and yourself I’d think you wanted something that required less time and energy to extract the best you can get from it, not more. Time is money, and we have less time than others might.

            I have nothing really against the Scarlet or Epic, btw.. they’re lovely and I nearly bought one. I had the F3 in a shopping cart too. I held off on both because I needed to consider the widest range of factors for the widest range of shoots for the next couple of years… and that led me to the C300. I want image quality that is in the range at HD as the others, without having to fiddle with it much to get there. I suspect in 5 years 4 will become commonplace and easier to work with much less fuss. Then I’ll jump because it makes sense… but even then it wouldn’t be for distribution purposes. It would be for archiving, options with framing.

            I see 4K a lot like 3D. It’s mostly a way to sell more gear and movie tickets to the people. Selling it as the next big thing is disingenuous because unlike the jump from SD to HD, it’s far less noticeable for most people in most viewing circumstances. It has production value for sure, but not nearly at the level it’s being hyped up for. That’s really my point with the anti 4k argument. It adds very little to the equation in theaters, and nothing at home.

          • Koo, thanks for saying this. I saw LOTS of 4K imagery at CES. I saw projected images and direct view on some awesome large monitors as well as the tiny screen of the JVC. These were the most mouth-watering images I have ever seen from video. Up close -and- at a distance the difference was staggering over 1080. The Sony 4K system (including their consumer level 4K projector) proved to me the value of future-proofing our content if we can afford to do so. Since I can’t…yet, the F3 will be my best alternative (due to affordable availability).

        • I’m sorry but I have not seen any footage of the C300 that looks as close to film as movies shot on RED, it looks videoish, and in my opinion I’d rather deal with moire/aliasing/rolling shutter on a $700 t3i than $10-15k for a C300. and your crazy if you think C300 is comparable to Alexa footage

          • Define “videoish”?

            I watched Mobius for example in my theater and it looked just as good as any Major’s Blu-Ray to me on that huge screen. Maybe you have different eyes than the rest of us, or all of the other DPs who have used the thing who are making far more money, likely, than you or I doing this stuff.

            You are of course free to enjoy your T3i. I shoot on a 60D too and it can be lovely in the hands of a competent shooter for certain kinds of shots.

  • JVC just released a 4k fixed lens camera. Pretty impressive

    • When I look at tech like this coming down the pipeline on the heels of the Scarlet, I realize that those that are willing to wait are going to benefit from some relatively low prices in the near future.

      It’s like the premium price early adopters pay for new consoles.

  • To sum it up, different people look for different things in a camera. Some put ergonomics ahead of bit rate. Some put resolution ahead of ergonomics. It depends on the person. No cam is better than the other. It’s all opinion. Me personally, I’m a fan of clean 10bit 444 S-log video. It doesn’t even have to be 4k. I just like having that amount of data to be able to play with in post. Nothing against 8bit. I’m just not a fan of that 8bit gradation in shaded areas.

  • One other big factor is that the C300 has over the F3 is a better internal codec. So this comes back to how do you want to shoot. The C300 without an external recorder would be the way I would want to do a doc or even a run and gun narrative. It all goes back to no one camera for every situations. Good post, just really started reading this blog, enjoying it. I kicked in for Man-child and looking forward to hearing about the process and seeing the results.

  • One thing,

    18dB Gain on the F3 in sLog is 12,800 ISO. Not 6400.

    When log is activated the camera becomes 1 stop more sensitive. 0db, is 1600, +6dB is 3200ISO, +12 is 6400, +18 is 12,800.

    I recently shot a scene as an experiment at 12,800, and it held up WAAAAAAAY better than i though it would. The color fidelity and latitude that sLOG gives you was still there. It was awesome.

    • 0dB is 1600 ISO? Good lord. Corrected the post, thanks Timur — Thomas told me the same thing during a color session tonight.

  • Lance Bachelder on 01.11.12 @ 4:13AM

    The images off the F3 are great but for me it’s ergonomics. Having shot a DSLR feature, I like the small cameras and rigs. I’ve tried the F3 with prime lens and it was heavy and big, almost Alexa size but not as comfy as Alexa. The Canon is perfect for run and gun indie style I shoot and I want one now! Unless the new Nikon with external recorder looks good…

    • Exactly. The main reason I didn’t buy an F3 is its form factor as well as the fact that you need to record externally to make good use of its true abilities. It becomes bulky and that makes you slow. And this is something that’s extremely relevant for owner-operators and the type of shoots 90% of us do every day.

      • Have to agree with that. Having recently DP’d a feature documentary on an EX3 with an external Nanoflash recorder (prehistoric technology to most on here, I’m sure) the hassle of an extra (fairly heavy) box attached to the camera was a constant grind. Don’t know how it works with the F3 but we had to prep extra batteries, a different format of card, more drive space etc. etc… And remember to start it up each time and check afterwards to see if there had been any errors. Whether documentary or fiction, I’m not keen on anything that adds more cables, more bulk and more pain in the ass to any shoot- it’s just not worth it.

  • The one point missing from this conversation is that Sony will soon be offering a 18-252mm T3.9-6.8 zoom lens (14x zoom), which has the FZ mount (F3′s native mount), which can be operated by the zoom rocker on the F3. This lens will also offer full auto iris, full auto focus, and most importantly, image stabilization. If we are talking about flexibility here, that certainly adds something to the mix. Suddenly I can use the camera’s PL mount lenses for fixed narrative filmmaking, or the zoom lens for run and gun documentary type work. The only downside is that the zoom lens is being listed at $12,000 (real price will be lower), and that T6.8 end of the lens is pretty damn slow. Then again, with the S-LOG upgrade, it might not be such a big deal.

  • I’ll tell you this if your script sucks and your actors are terrible it don’t matter what camera you have the movie is still going to stink. Koo I hope your movie ends up good because if it doesn’t a lot of investors are going to ask to use that Scarlet LOL!

    • That is the truth Ali!

      I like to say nice gear adds production value. It’s a nice sheen, a nice shine on top of your core – the story. And yes that value is important! But if the production has no value to begin with, because it’s poorly written, produced, acted, directed, lit, or what have you, adding a nice camera won’t do squat. No one wants to watch garbage, no matter how pretty it looks.

  • Wilbert Thomas on 01.11.12 @ 4:17PM

    All these debates are very tiresome. There is no loyalty in this business, as soon as a new camera comes out with the bells and whistles (including price) we want, there will be a massive exodus to that camera. Remember the Nikon D90? And until Canon comes out with a True 4K camera, there really isn’t any point to arguing a TV camera vs a film camera.

  • the biggest question I have is what is the scope for the C300 to make or allow for updates in the future? could a firmware update allow 60 frames at 1080P? could a firmware update allow for a 10 bit, or even 12 bit output?

    i haven’t followed the history of the F3, but the S-Log seems like a bit of an afterthought over a year after the camera has already been out. is it possible Canon follows suit once the camera has actually been released to the masses?

    the C300 seems to have a whole lot of untapped potential, and i can’t help but feel that they have the capacity to change all that with simple upgrades, but they may just wait to see how it competes with the Scarlet right off the bat, before they go offering their best offer. the price has already dropped a reported $7K since the announcement of it, so i definitely think Canon are capable of a few more surprises.

    • Canon has said that there will not be significant updates to the c300, it will always be a 1080p 8 bit camera

  • My head hurts now anyone got an asprin! :-)

  • Thanks, Koo for putting this up. It supports comments I’ve made in a few previous posts to other threads.

    Technically, the F3 wins… no doubt about it and your point about flexibility cannot be overstated. Paul, your comment about it being the “opposite” of flexible… hmmm, did you really think about that before you typed it?
    Lens interchangeability with PL, Nikon, Canon and native FZ mount, 10bit 220mbps 4:2:2 ProRes or 4:4:4 uncompressed plus 1080p 60fps to external recorder, S-log purchase or rent extending DR to 13.5 stops, true XLR inputs, etc. You, probably, meant to say the C300 was less flexible… not a problem.

    And the comment about the 8bit, 10bit argument being silly… 10bit is 4 times the color information of 8 bit. Is that really silly? Ain’t no 8bit gonna ever beat 10bit so, that argument just needs to die… now.

    There seems to be a lot of “run and gun” people making input here. All well and good and the C300 should serve you well BUT, apple to apples, the F3 wins every argument except the ergonomics debate.
    Even Timur says, “The color fidelity and latitude that sLOG gives you was still there. It was awesome.” and “…. for narrative, commercial, bigger budget stuff, 110% F3 w/ all the crap attached to it, because its image is uncompromising.” Amen.

    Even the animated gif of the C300 20,000 ISO vs. F3 S-log 6400 ISO, shows the F3 looking way better.

    The C300 is the wondercam of what? 2005? Maybe. Yes, it is smaller and lighter but, that does not make it better no matter how much you want to love it.

    • No I meant less flexible in the sense that you have to attach all that crap to get an image out of it that the C300 (and the RED) can get you in a relatively small form factor. The C300 can use Canon glass, Nikon (with an adapter). The PL version can do all three (not as well obviously). The native F3 mount works with one lens so let’s not even go there.

      S-Log is lovely, no doubt, but it’s not night and day adding that 1.5 stops over the C300. Not worth buying (or having to rent) an extensive card and add a recorder to get something the C300 has in the box, ready to go with.

      10 bit has more color information, sure. But it also depends on how those bits are encoded. Unless the cinematographers who shot with the cam and their editors and colorists were smoking crack, the 8 bits of the camera held up to whatever they threw at it. It’s not about what “beats” what as far as the math – it’s about the practicalities of the output. And so far, the C300 has proven that its 8 bits look just as fine as the 10 bits coming out of the Sony. Will there be instances where it doesn’t match up? Sure, but then you’re paying more for that Sony in the end when you add in S-Log, the recorder, and everything else you need to shoot with it. You pay more, you get more. ($14K for the Sony without S-log, $18K with it, Add another thousand for batteries, a couple of thousand for SxS cards that will cost you a few hundred when buying CF, and you’re already at $21,000. Then add that external 444 dual HDSDI recorder for another $6,000 for that Gemini. Is it work now spending $26,000 street for a big bulky setup to get those extra 2 bits and 444 color and 1.5 more stops? For some, sure, but I would wager for the majority of people who will use this cam I suspect not. Especially when you’re looking at a virtually non-noticable practical difference on the screen, where it matters. That $26,000 price is about $10,000 over what the C300 will street for, give or take. I just don’t see the cost/benefit analysis coming out on top there.

      I don’t know what measurement “way better” means. If you mean noise, yeah the F3 at 6,400 is cleaner than the C300 at 20,000. Using that test that Philip admitted was not lit properly and shouldn’t be a judge for image quality.

      Technically the F3 wins once you kit it out with expensive extras. Out of the box, it does not “win”, technically. And technically the RED wipes the floor with both of them. But what is a “win”, really? Is this a fight?

      No. It’s about getting the highest production value you can out of your tools with the minimum of fuss. All three cameras put up similar images; at HD/2K anyway they are in the same class. They do indeed come quite close to an Alexa with their highlight handling, shadow detail, and so on, at a fraction of the cost. All of them put up a very high quality picture that easily works well for broadcast HDTV, and holds up on a large cinema screen.

      The crux of the article and the argument here is which camera is more flexible – in what I presume is getting your work done and creating something. Which tool will allow you to do more easily with least hassle and at the lowest cost while still providing a top notch picture that pro cinematographers can all agree looks state-of-the-art and closest to film as we can get in this price range currently. And for that I say it’s the C300, because it was designed such that you can get up and shoot the finest quality image you can with minimum fuss regarding size, ergonomics, battery life, and relative cost. I can do more, worry less, and get a picture that’s stunning. And yes, that makes it “better”, for me and those who choose to shoot the way I do.

      For those who don’t agree, they are free to buy whatever they want. For Koo the Scarlet is awesome, and it sure puts out some great stuff. For you, the F3 is a dream, so go at it and tell some great stories. For me the C300 (currently) looks the best for what I need. All of us can make great films from them that can match most anything you’ll see at Sundance in visual quality, letting us concentrate on the storytelling. If that’s not an increase in flexibility over what we have had before, I don’t know what is.

      ALL these cameras are flexible in their own way. It just depends on your definition of the word.

  • Koo have you notice the F3 color looks real bad with or with out colorist? Even Company 3 don’t like to work with F3 S-Log file, Just you know I love to work with F35, But F3 is joke…….. even at REC709 with S BY S card @ 420 COLOR SPACE

  • The C300 is NOT a good camera for run and gun. Every single setting is manual. Much like an old school film camera, the white balance, exposure, focus, and zoom are all manual on the C300 with no automatic options at all. While this works well for theatrical television and movies, it DOES not work well for run and gun scenarios where a camera man must throw the camera on his shoulder and start recording immediately in oder to capture a moment. I really wish Canon had at least allowed the C300 to utilize the automatic focus drives that they built into ALL of their EOS lenses. It’s silly to me that a $400 Canon Rebel has more features than a C300.

  • I’m currently DP’ing a feature and we’re shooting F3 w/ S-Log, Zeiss ZE glass w/ Duclos mods, and recording 444 ProRes HQ files in a cheese plate mounted KiPro. We’re shooting 100% handheld and I’m also operating the camera. My 1st AC is acting as DiT between setups. It’s a pretty slim crew and we’re moving very quickly…shooting lot of pages a day, mostly natural light (supplemented w/ a handful of kinos), and I haven’t found it cumbersome and we’ve NEVER had to wait on the camera. Plus, I’ve got to say, the images coming out of that camera are incredible. HUGE range, beautiful highlights, and yeah, as Timur said, higher overall sensitivity. And, I say all of this as a guy who is coming to this project by way of DSLR shooting. (I won one of the Beyond the Still chapters last year, which was my first introduction to filmmaking). I think, honestly, the F3 really shines in this particular kind of environment. I’ve already booked my AC (it’s his camera/recorder/lenses) for three more projects in the next few months. (One commercial, two music videos). However, for a handful of doc style 3-5 min promo pieces coming up? Using an FS100. That is the place that I could see a C300 really shining, though price remains to be seen. Again, the point is, pick the right tool for the right job. If you’re only shooting a certain kind of gig and it makes sense to buy, then go for it. For me, that has meant ditch my DSLRs, pick up an FS100 for doc style pieces, (usually lower budgets which means cheaper to own the $5K camera than rent it for $200/day) and rent a big boy for bigger shoots. Who knows, I’m sure everything will change again in 6 months :)

  • I nearly fell off my chair when i scrolled down the article and saw a picture of me! some good points here but I’m still decided on c300 as per my latest blog post. hopefully il see a return on the cam within 2 years and upgrade if need be to something like the scarlet or f3 with s-log.

    • An animated picture of you no less!

      The C300 is an amazing camera and the best for particular purposes, to be sure. Looking forward to what you shoot with it!

  • Karina Achilefu on 01.19.12 @ 9:04PM

    QUOTE ; “I’m currently DP’ing a feature and we’re shooting F3 w/ S-Log, Zeiss ZE glass w/ Duclos mods, and recording 444 ProRes HQ files in a cheese plate mounted KiPro.”

    Ryan, can you please shed some light on your experiences using the Zeiss ZE glass w/ Duclos mods, for feature film work. I am particularly interested in how it handles with respect to Focus Breathing, when rack focusing. Thanks.

  • Just for the record, and I must say it’s really annoying that people keep doing the math wrong:

    C300 = $18,000 without lenses BUT with everything else needed to shoot all day long. Yes, I am talking batteries and recording media.

    Scarlet = MINIMUM comparable package = $29,000

    And this is not taking into account post-production requirements.

    Also, two VERY different markets – with some obvious overlap. C300 is great for docs, TV, corporate, and some narrative and commercial work. Scarlet is aimed much more toward feature film and commercial use.

    So really, without an honest dollar comparison and without pointing out what kind of work the respective cameras are mostly designed to be used for, these comparisons are at best useless, and at worst misleading.

  • I agree with your comments on the great imagery of the F3/S-Log. I am confused about your description that you were able to record ProRes 444 HQ on a KiPro. The KiPro is only capable of 422 ProRes HQ. You need a Convergent Design Gemini to get 444 out the dual link on the F3. I’ve found the F3 to be heavy and big once you get all the extra hard you need on the rig, large gold mount AB style battery, cheese plate, Shape F3 shoulder mount rig and handles, PIX 240 recorder, matte box, rods, EVF and sturdy arm, Berkey top plate, lenses. Also the KiPro is a pain because it does not switch slots, so you have to stop interviews to do it. And if you are recording to SXS cards then the files inevitably are not mirrored as per the footage they contain which is a post headache. You can’t monitor the F-stop through the EVF or get Zebras on a DP4 EVF. Zacuto’s EVF lags in 24p setting, so that doesn’t help but you can 60i now with the Sony F3 update. And we paid 3600.00 for the S-log upgrade which Sony is giving away to competitors for free now with the camera purchase. If you don’t mind the heavier more cumbersome rig, the F3 is better on picture quality and the lens options as mentioned above. But for docs I would think the C300 is more nimble and less of a burden of the weight if you want to shoot on the shoulder comfortably for long periods of time. I never tried it outfitted. The C300 is a little over 2 pounds, and the F3 is about 5 pounds I believe, so maybe it’s only 3 pounds you are saving. The smaller dimensions of the C300 will make it better to shoot nimbly and efficiently. Then again it’s an 8 bit camera. The F3 really excels in low light with very little signal noise, and with the S-Log you can actually shoot in a room and see detail outside without a complete blow-out on exposure. You can film in sun and see detail in the face on the shady side (and not blow the highlights out totally either, and I shot with no lights at all and just practicals and it look really good. Fantastic for doc work that way. The C500 if I could afford one would be the way to go I think. But you will be over 50k by the time you buy all the third party options, lenses etc… The F3 is the camera but it’s a clunker, and they need to get rid of the viewfinder and replace it with something similar to the one they developed for the EX3. Can you send me any pics on how you were able to rig your F3 camera for doc work? And how much does your rig fully decked out actually weigh?

  • I am a cinematographer that just wrapped on a feature film starring Nick Thurston (White Irish Drinkers) and Michael Rispoli (The Sopranos, Rum Diaries and Magic City). We initially were thinking of renting a RED or Alexa but we quickly realized they were out of our budget. Our rental house suggested the Sony F3. I had never worked with the camera before, much less heard alot of buzz about it. I gotta tell you, the F3 is absolutely one of the best cameras I have ever worked with. Our rig consisted of an S-log upgraded F3 recording to a PIX 240 at almost 250megabits. The external PIX recorder allowed us to record at a much higher bit rate than onto it’s sxs cards (which we used as backups) and into a 4.2.2 color space, converting to native QuickTime PRO-RES files. You can even put out ALMOST RAW to other devices such as the Gemini. The camera rig was used in conjunction with Zeiss CP.2 lenses. The 14 stop latitude you get with S-Log is a DREAM. The roll offs from highlights to dark are smooth and broad. I found that I didn’t have to tweak my lights as much because so much detail was being retained before lighting. I rarely had to go over 800 iso. This camera turned out to be the perfect solution for this film mostly because of our limited budget for post, grip and lighting. This camera made my lean light package WORK and gave me bang for my buck. I never felt that I didn’t have enough lights for my scenes. Even my large master ones. I would absolutely recommend this camera for professional work. Because of my experience with it, I am now increasing my rate to include a Sony F3 camera rental package. The images this thing can put out in the hands of a talented DP are STUNNING. (BTW, a trailer to the film will be released soon for “Not For Human Consumption” directed by Chris Alonso, shot by Anthony Dones)

  • I made several tests on the C300 and F3. I was shocked to see the very small size of the video in the F3 comparing to any other camera (5d; red; c300).
    And that small size has nothing to do with the incredible output signal quality of the F3 and the s-log !

  • It really drives me crazy how people talk about different cameras capturing data in the low lights…like that’s a good thing…The info is dark for a reason…that still you posted of the C300 looks terrible…all the artifacting…I’ve done jobs (I’m a colorist, and not a resolve at my house with my quad core cpu colorist, I’m a colorist on a baselight that trained and lived in LA for 8 years working my way up…so yeah, I know how to read a scope) Where was I…Ah yes, i’ve done jobs shot on the F3 but through the gemini, DPX sequences, that were phenomenal…really…I’d put it up against the Alexa all day long…I’ve also work with the .MXF files coming from that camera…Both s-log, both fantastic to work with…I’m doing my first C300 job tomorrow…First annoyance is that the baselight can’t decode the source files they shot…Says they’re .mpg encoded .mxf’s…Don’t know, but it’s an additional 2k+ for the baselight to read them…Never had an issue with the F3…We’ll see…But in my opinion Sony has been out front in the HD world ever since the Cinealta 900…Well with the exception of that Xdcam POS…Anyhow, i’m not a big techno geek…I just know what I see and what I work with and, unless I was doing a ton of compositing, I’d be shooting the F3 all day long…I’ve seen test files from the F65…Was impressive…But total overkill for 99% of what’s being done today…Remember it’s ALWAYS better to shoot over then under…ALWAYS!!!!!!!!!! I don’t care about your low light test BS…

  • I have owned my F3 for 2 years now. I have basically been very happy with the camera. The one weak spot for me seems to be a bit of a green magenta over ride. For example if I am doing an interview with two people and one has a redder complexion it seems to be enhanced on the F3. Additionally I shoot a fair amount in office buildings and find when shooting through the thick glass, particularly when using ND gel, the outside goes green and I have to use 1/2 plus green to compensate on all my lights, and that at times is not enough. I can play with the matrix or lens shading but obviously if I take red out it makes the other parts of the picture green. I often use the 5D II or III as a second camera and find it does not have this issue. Has anyone else experienced this or do you have any suggestions on how to work around it?