The Moon as Your Key Light? The Canon C300 Delivers
Hyperbole? Not really. It’s no secret that the Canon C300 is a low-light monster. It’s also marginally better than the F3 and FS100 in high-ISO situations (debatable, but from what I’ve seen, it holds slightly more detail and color information in those extreme situations). But this is just ridiculous. Barry Goyette has posted a video of mostly available light C300 footage – and get this – parts were lit with just moonlight. Yes, that moon, as in the reflection of the sun off of the lunar surface. For the really interesting footage, wait until after the credits. Here’s the video:
If you really want to get a sense of the quality, it’s recommended that you download the less compressed version available from Vimeo. Barry describes his entire process there, and it’s worth a read. Taken from the video description, Barry talks about the specs on the moonlight footage:
For the moonlight footage Camera was set to ISO 10,000 1/24 sec (24p), Lens was 50MM L 1.2 set at 1.4 or 1.2 except the walking/tracking shot after the credits which was at 20,000 with the 35mm f1.4. The gamma was mostly normal 1 with some c-log thrown in. WB is mostly tungsten, but the last clip is the daylight preset.
Is there noise? Of course there is – we’re a long way from noiseless moonlight footage. The shutter was also lowered to 1/24, giving a little extra light – something many people will see as looking more like “video” than a 1/48 or 180 degree shutter. I am not a Canon fanboy by any means, but this is impressive. Barry posted a followup video where he used the Neat Video de-noiser, and for the most part, the results are spectacular:
Will you be shooting shooting an entire film with the Canon C300, and not use any additional lights? Probably not – but this video is proof that it’s possible. If you’re in a pinch – and this is especially true for documentary shooters – the C300 should be able to expose in near-darkness. Is it perfect? Not even close, but with some noise reduction, the results are phenomenal.
So what’s the point? A lot of people are probably reading this and saying that they’ll never have the budget to shoot on a $16,000 camera. It’s a valid point, but consider that this is Canon’s first real stab at a large sensor video camera. Also consider this major point – we are in the first generation of large sensor video-optimized cameras. The Sony F3, FS100, Panasonic AF100, and now the Canon C300 – are all first generation cameras. We’re just getting started, and it’s not unrealistic to think that in five years time, Sony, Panasonic, and Canon will all have cameras that will double – even triple – our current generation in low-light performance. Affordability is another conversation, but with any new technology, prices come down over time.
DSLRs will obviously improve alongside these other options – but for shooting video, the large sensor video cameras will probably continue to have a slight edge in overall image quality.
It’s an exciting time to be a filmmaker. Let me know what camera advancements you guys are looking forward to in the comments.