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Rodney Charters on the Canon C300, RED, and ARRI ALEXA (and a C300 Short Doc)

01.17.12 @ 11:54AM Tags : , , , ,

UPDATE: B&H has posted official U.S. pricing for the C300, and it is $16k (ships “after January 30″). Thanks to everyone who commented on my post about the Sony F3 versus the Canon C300, I have a clearer sense of the C300′s strengths (that post was largely about its weaknesses). As I said in a comment, for a documentary camera (especially of the cinéma vérité variety) the C300 may be the best option out there. Several years ago, for example, I shot a short doc in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle, and in that setting the recording time — both in terms of storage space and battery power — was a chief concern, as was low light ability (there was no electricity for 200 miles and night scenes were candlelit with no other option). The C300 would be the absolute best camera in the world for this. In the below series of videos, Rodney Charters, Lan Bui and Drew Gardner weigh in on the C300. But first, since we’re talking about documentary use, here’s Dan Chung’s picturesque short C300 doc:

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Here’s the first video of Charters and co., which starts off with the question for Rodney, “do you ever use a Kelvin (color temperature) meter?”

Rodney says you can take a RED to 2,000 ISO before you start getting fixed-pattern noise, the ALEXA to 3,600, and the C300 to ____ (16,000?). He also says the ALEXA has a higher dynamic range and more satisfying image than the RED, which I agree with… but there is also the question of whether he’s talking about a RED ONE MX or EPIC/SCARLET. I’m a huge ALEXA fan but it’s not an owner/operator camera, and I’ve been more than satisfied with the SCARLET in my brief time with it so far. Then there’s Rodney’s point (and I’m paraphrasing here), “[the C300] is the camera for people who don’t need makeup, wardrobe, or hair… if you’re in a public space you can get away with it.” A valuable consideration.

Here’s part two:

Thanks to Rodney Charters, Lan Bui and Drew Gardner for posting these videos — — it’s wonderful to have a DP of Charters’ stature sharing openly. Here’s the third and final video:

[via The Bui Brothers, Nino Leitner, and DSLR News Shooter]


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!

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  • Great post Koo! I really liked watching the vids. This C300 is really starting to win more people over, or maybe Canon is behind it all, who knows, either way, it´s a great camera. But I´m just wondering what the 5dM3 will do? I mean, the new Nikkon d4 is just AMAZING, I really hope Canon comes out with same features (clean HDMI output and audio monitoring mainly).
    Well, thanks for the post Koo!

  • John Jeffreys on 01.17.12 @ 1:59PM

    i like it, the c300 is for really raw, maybe experimental, dogme 95 on the run shit while the scarlet is for more controlled, fixed linear/on set situations. and the alexa, well, thats pretty much a 35mm replacement

  • Man, it produces a really nice image – but nice enough to warrant the $16k price tag with the limitations we’ve been discussing the past few months? I’d love to use something like this for the kind of work I do (and a lot of NFS readers do, I assume), but for a camera only capable of 1080p it still feels steep. I’m curious what their 4k DSLR will end up looking like and costing.

    @John – absolutely, this would make a great tool for dogme-style/skeleton crew productions. I’d start saving now if it was closer to the FS100 price range, but for the time being I’m sticking with my GH2.

    • John Jeffreys on 01.17.12 @ 2:58PM

      hopefully they make a cheaper, stripped down version, or make that 4K dslr under 6k.

      until then, im sticking with either rental or my T2i w/ magic lantern, which produces really beautiful images for its size and price, i dont care if stuffy videographers 3x my age call it “unprofessional”

      • Hahaha, amen! I wouldn’t trust anyone that judges my work on my gear instead of my work.

      • Where would a 4K dslr fit in in their product range? Canon looks like they want to oak us when it comes to video.

      • I’m gonna film a short film called “sticking with my dslr” help you guys get your voices heard!

      • Same thing here. It’s all fine and cool to be up to date with all the new gear comming out, also to learn about pro cameras (which one might have to operate in a future, a distant future), but for now, my wallet is too thin to afford anything else, it was a pretty big investment the T2i and gear. With the post prod. software, you can achieve an interesting look. I agree with you.

  • At this point, I would agree with most of what Rodney is saying about the Canon C300. I’ve shot with the Alexa, the RED MX, the RED Epic, and the Sony F3. All of these are great tools that have pros and cons as far as as different features and their price points. In the hands of a skilled DP, any of these cameras will yield a great image that can support a good film. As far as your audience is concerned, your choice won’t significantly impact the quality of your film if you know what you’re doing with composition, movement, and light. Which camera you use will affect your budget, your working methods, and your post workflow. I really don’t see how anyone can claim that any of these cameras are better than another in all situations. It’s also prejudicial to make any quality claims based solely on technical specs without testing a camera one’s self.

    I’ve seen the Canon C300 footage projected (Christy 2K) on a large screen with a long throw – and I will say that I was VERY impressed with the image! This was a much more critical test than viewing compressed footage on the internet. I also had a chance to play with the camera for about an hour. Ergonomically, it feels fantastic and the buttons and menus make good sense. I’ve been a big fan of the Sony F3 (value for the money) and I still am. However, the Canon has some advantages in addition to it’s small form factor and weight. It has the C log function right out of the box without an expensive upgrade. It doesn’t have quite have as much DR (close) as the Sony F3 with S-log, but more than the F3 without S-log. The CF cards are cheaper than the S x S cards and the data rate is higher and the 4:2:2 color space is better than the F3 S x S cards without the weight and cost of an external recorder. The batteries are also cheap and last forever. And as we all should know, the C300 is the best low light camera ever made including the Alexa! For these reasons, I think that this camera right out of the box is an excellent value at 16K when compared to the other cameras. Yes, there are cons – one can never record anything better than 8 bit 4:22. However, I have to agree with Rodney, the 8 bits doesn’t seem to make much difference when you see graded footage on a big screen – even with lots of green screen composites. For me, seeing was believing.

    I think this camera will have a good market in areas beyond documentaries. I think it will be very popular for TV shows and some indie feature films. Of course it’s not the right tool for every project – but I’m really looking forward to testing it and renting it out for my next appropriate project. Ultimately, it’s nice to have so many great choices right now at various price points. I’m closer to Rodney’s age – and I remember when we only had ONE film stock at ISO 100!

    • How can you write “without an expensive upgrade” when the cost of the F3 plus the so called ‘costly’ s-log upgrade is essentially the same as the C300???

      • Paul, you’re right – I hadn’t checked the latest prices on the F3. They’ve come down. However, the F3 is still more expensive according to my quick research. The total that I found for the F3 with S-log was $17,700 and the C300 was $16,000. A difference of $1,700 – not a huge difference. However, many people believe that to get the most out of the F3 S-log, one should record externally with at least 4:2:2 color space – which would increase the total cost of the F3. Although the S x S cards (4:2:0) can record S-log, you loose color saturation in the process. I’ve found it harder to get that normal color back in grading when using S-log with the cards only. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that the F3 is a great camera – just that the C300 shouldn’t be dismissed. They both have their points.

        • Randolph – I agree 100% that for theatrical work this camera shouldn’t be discounted at all, despite some technical shortcomings when compared to the F3. I’ll bet that on a 1080p TV and certainly on the web, though, there isn’t a lot much difference between these cameras and a 5DmkII or hacked GH2 in the hands of the right DP with decent glass.

          When I graduated film school at NU, digital was just coming around – I shot my senior thesis on DVCPro HD. The camera and tapes were pricey (except when compared to film) and the workflow was maddening. It’s incredible how far technology has come in just a few years, and the quality of footage independent shooters can get with less than $10k worth of total gear. It’s a great time to be working in this field!

    • @Randolph Sellars

      Completely and totally agree.

  • At B&H the F3 is $13,160, S-log upgrade is $3,680 total cost =$16,840

    When you’re dropping $16k – $840 is essentially irrelevant IMHO. What is relevant is that one option locks you into an 8bit work flow for the life of the investment while the other gives you the freedom and possibility of 10bit 4:2:2 or 10bit 4:4:4 when the project requires it.

    For me its simply a case of history repeating. Canon took ages to respond to Sony’s at the time revolutionary EX1 and then years later only managed a camera that was comparable at best. Now its happened again with the F3 and C300. In my opinion Canon needs to be punished, its sloppy, its lazy and really nothing short of a slap in the face to so many who were hoping for so much more.

    Its funny how much “Hollywood hype” canon put on to launch this thing when as everyone knows, whenever a movie is over-hyped by the studios..odds on its because its a rotten tomato ;-)

    • You’re going a little overboard, c300 will be the best 50mbs camera available, if your project only requires 50mbs or less c300 will win, however I do agree that this low light hype is misplaced, if sensitivity is the future of sensors, the f3 was the revolution not the c300. 20,000 iso on the c300 is more more sensitive than 6400 on a 7d, great camera, though it’s a good camera, its not a revolution

  • It’s disheartening to see the amount of bickering going on about camera selection across all the major “film” sites that we frequent. It’s like Mac vs PC all over again. Dudes and dudettes, they are just tools. Use the tools you need to paint your picture and skip the rest.

    You know what’s more important than camera selection? Story selection. And I don’t just mean script, I mean storytelling as it applies to every area of filmmaking. How are you framing your shots? What focal lengths do you want to use? What color palettes are you going to embed into your film. If we all spent less time bitching over cameras we’d have more time to spend worrying about telling a better story. Camera selection is such a small part of the overall storytelling process that it’s unbelievable it gets so much fury.

    It’s practically become its own form of fetishism.

    I’m a firm believer in the adage that you don’t buy a new camera until you can no longer realize the full extent of your creative vision with your existing one.

    I’ve loved to death my DSLR 5D Mk2s, but moire, rolling shutter and other issues which I constantly have to work around have now forced me to decide on an upgrade. After carefully reviewing all choices, I’m going with the C300 because it will give me what I need to take me to the next level as a filmmaker and best fit in with all the gear I already have. And without my path through the DSLR world, I don’t think I would’ve been ready for any of these new cameras.

    I don’t give a rat’s bum about 422 vs 444 or 8 bit vs 10 bit. I look at the images that have been made and I see everything I need to see.

    The C300 will tell my story how I need it told. Sure I would’ve loved to have overcranking on it, but slo-mo shots account for about 0.5% of my total shooting output and when it becomes really crucial I’ll rent the camera for the day. In terms of 4k vs 2k. I still watch standard def DVDs on my blu-ray player and I’m sure I’ll still watch blu-ray dvds on my 4k player when I eventually get that. Of course I’ll eventually switch over to 4k just as I switched from SD to HD.

    And bluntly as a DP and a Director something that has become far, far, far more critical to me than camera selection is talent selection and shooting style.

    Can we all focus on being fanatics and fetishists on story telling and less on electrical circuitry porn? It’s bloating the web-sites I love, including this one, with a very very minor matter in terms of the overall story.

    Koo, I’d much rather see a series of posts which allowed all of us to dissect Kieślowski’s “Three Colors” and other fantastically and beautifully told stories so that I could learn from my peers those things which would make me a better storyteller and allow me to share my views on them as well.

    Just saying…we’re film makers, not camera makers. Let RED and Canon and SONY battle with each other on making better products for better prices. Let’s battle with ourselves to tell better stories.

    Because let’s be honest with ourselves, looking over the broad spectrum of content being regurgitated,the world needs better stories more than it needs better cameras.

    • I’m pretty sure this article is named “Rodney Charters on the Canon C300, RED, and ARRI ALEXA (and a C300 Short Doc)” not “Camera is the most important thing about filmmaking.” Get off your pretentious high horse please. Everyone is not trying to make a feature film.

      • @Ryan. I didn’t attack you personally, but I apologize if my post offended you. I’m sorry, I thought this site was for film making and people interested in doing so. I think too much stress has fallen on camera choice and I was really glad to see that Rodney and co. took up that point. Telling a better story applies to anything which a camera is pointed towards other than maybe product advertising and porn, not just feature films (I make documentary shorts and corporates for a living). Yes? I agree with your first post: stick with your DSLR if that’s what works for you.

        • 90% of all films that are bought and distributed are bad films, and you think story matters most. Brand name matters most, any distributor will tell you the same. Story matters most is a hollow statement, dreamer filmmaker idealism like directors need passion or dp’s need an eye.

          • Actor brand, not camera brand.

          • Wow. I’ve had more fun talking to you than rubbing my butt raw with 40 grit sandpaper. I have zero idea what crawled up your *** and died, but I hope one day you get over it and yourself. Jeezuz. Since it annoys you so much let me say it again but differently: Story matters most to people interested in telling good stories. Seriously dude, WTF?

    • +1 @ Ryan

      Darius at the of the day people on this thread have simply stated their opinions, most in significantly less words than you (which is ironic considering your lament on bloating the internet).

      Having said that I think most would agree story and as you say story telling is ultimately paramount for the end result. I’ve often found myself thinking how nice it would be to turn my back on the technical side and focus solely on writing great scripts. Of course then I would be thrown into the turmoil of choosing the best screen writing application…Final draft, Movie Magic, Celtx etc… ;-)

      • @Paul.

        Sorry for the bloat. :(

        Revised opinion: Don’t need 4k yet. Don’t need slo-mo most of the time. I have a fully fitted Canon DSLR rig and lenses which was the largest investment. I need a better camera to go to the next level due to DSLR limitations (rolling shutter, moire, aliasing, etc…) but need a camera which is discrete enough to get away with filming in uncontrolled environments. C300 looks to be the best choice = adaptability to existing accessories + discrete form + technical specs + beautiful image. Not gonna spend 6 months worrying about it, gonna spend that time on making the best content I can. If your weapon of choice is Sony F3 with S-Log or Alexa or RED or Whatever The ****: awesome! I just hope you concentrate on making great content. Best, Dare

        PS: Final Draft but Adobe Story is free. :)

    • “…dissect Kieślowski’s “Three Colors”, awesome idea Darius.

    • If we were really serious when we say story matters most, we’d be asking a few questions:

      1) has the writer internalized the standards of narrative (i.e., literature) — something which can only happen with voracious reading, starting at age 13 or 14, and through early adulthood — or are his conceptions pretty much limited to the world of other movies, and TV?

      2) if the writer has the solitary temperament to sit in a room and learn the writing craft, how in the hell is he ever going to get through the typical American indie production, including fund raising?

      3) how is it, if the story is “everything”, that so many ludicrous, poorly crafted and immature stories make it to the screen? Why is it enormous resources, including lots money and years of work, routinely go into realizing utter nonsense?

      Provide the answers, and you’ll have a good idea why the movie business is what it is.

    • Well, I’d love to see more posts where DPs explained their choice of focal lengths. Or their compositional styles, lighting setups (you know, beyond the standard 3-point lighting tutorial) or just their visual influences.

  • Hi

    Where can I find the bellingsgate shoot.

  • about to order red sarlet what are the” must haves” in setting up a good kit,and what cables do you need for location sound cheers geoff

  • thanks koo my soundo has said we should always do dual system as red cameras audio is average what is your experience. And can you have the bomb EVF & Reds 5” LCD riged at the same time cheers geoff

    • Can’t have Bomb EVF and Red Touch at the same time… which isn’t ideal. There is a I/O module coming that will allow this but not sure of an ETA.