March 30, 2012

Defects in a Large Sensor Video Camera? Purple and Green Fringing on the Canon C300

The Canon C300 is quite the camera, and by all accounts it's a high-end professional camera (and we should refer to it as such since it's the most expensive camera Canon makes). But something strange is going on that could affect your footage in a very real and disastrous way as compared to other cameras. Paul Antico at NextWaveDV has discovered a very disturbing image artifact that appears in purple and green blocks on overexposed edges. He's not the only one, as others have replicated this exact same problem.

Here is the most telling example of the problem, with a comparison to the RED Scarlet, a camera which does not downscale footage in camera.

Over at NextWaveDV they've got a couple more examples and people who've had issues with the same problem in their footage. Now this is troubling because of Canon's response, which seems to indicate that they've never seen this before in any of their testing:

The cyan/purple fringing seems to be more notable when the shooter is deliberately trying to blow out the highlights....Still, it is something that I will pass along to our senior engineers. We will investigate the situation, and see if there is anything else that can be done to reduce the fringing.

So what's really going on here - and is it something you should be worried about as a C300 shooter? It's definitely not chromatic aberration, because it's been shown to happen regardless of the lens (and it's very clearly solid blocks instead of a smooth green or purple gradient on highlight edges). It seems to only be appearing on highly overexposed areas of the image - and not anywhere else. This leads me to believe that groups of pixels start acting funny when they are over-saturated, and they essentially get locked in the "on" position - not too dissimilar to a stuck pixel that you'd find on an LCD monitor or TV (there is sometimes confusion between stuck and dead pixels - but dead pixels are always off, and will therefore appear black or white). I'm not an engineer so I can't be sure, but that seems like what is happening here, so the problem is all the way at the pixel level.

This probably isn't something Canon can fix very easily at the software (or firmware) level, this looks to be a permanent design flaw relating to the pixel response. Now, as I asked before, should you be worried? I think the answer really depends on what you're shooting. If you are shooting a feature film and your goal is to keep the image flat and not overexpose highlights, then you probably have nothing to worry about. If, on the other hand, you are shooting a documentary or footage where you need the image to be very similar to the final output, you've got to be very careful about your highlights. Consider underexposing slightly if a lot of your image has bright, saturated highlights. It will really depend on the situation whether someone will notice it or not - because obviously for the most part it seems like people have not noticed this problem (or we would have heard about it sooner). It's certainly not confined to one camera, as others have experienced the exact same issues.

Is it possible that only certain sensors have this problem? Maybe - but the way that sensors are fabricated, it's likely that all Canon C300 cameras will suffer from this problem at one point or another. Does this make the C300 a worthless camera? Absolutely not, and the fact that the issue has only been noticed now shows that it does its job correctly most of the time. Whether this turns out to be a hardware problem or not, it's a little troubling that not only does Canon not know anything about this issue, but that a $16,000 camera experiences any major issues like this at all. All cameras have flaws, as we know, but this seems inexcusable on a camera this expensive that's made for professionals.

I'm sure we'll get updates on this in the near future, and I'll stay on top of the issue to see if Canon updates their response in any way.

[via NextWaveDV]

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73 Comments

Not nice to read. Hopefully Canon will find a fix soon as this camera is supposed to be made for shooting on-the-go.

March 30, 2012

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The RED Scarlet is looking better and better with each new comparison.

March 30, 2012

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I'd say the Scarlet always was better (and better) for seemingly anything other than ultra low-light doc work. i think the C300 is very cool, but also very pricey for what it is and inferior to RED in all ways besides the aforementioned near-zero low light scenarios.

March 30, 2012

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Agent55

Colour moire? That is not good.

One thing many people fail to think about with scarlet vs c300 comparisons is the ergonomics. The same problem exists with something like an FS100. Run n gun would be impossible, whereas the c300 shines in this environment.

April 8, 2012

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Will Turner

The c300 needs to be thought of as a seriously sick TV camera, not a digital cinema camera. I think they marketed it in the wrong direction.

April 8, 2012

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Will Turner

With the upcoming 4K CDSLR being canons cinema camera.

April 8, 2012

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Will Turner

If Sony has what I think they have at NAB, Canon could be in trouble.

March 30, 2012

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moebius22

Sony's next camera will be nice, at least on paper. No doubt!

But if the color fringe on it is anything like the FS100, I wouldn't touch that camera. If you think the C300 issue is bad, multiply thaty by 5 and that was the FS100! Never mind the highlight clipping, etc...

(Still, both issues can be controlled, so the severity of the issue is questionable in both cases).

March 30, 2012

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Paul,
you are talking like a person that never shot with fs100; i allways shot against the sun, I love to do hi contast with metals and staff like that and never find something like the problem with the C300, here you can see the same combination, metals, overexposure of the background, hard corners... and nothing : https://vimeo.com/33872553 , so please be fair; I know that fs100 have some issues too, ut really nothing like this; I just downloaded a video from Michael Palmieri and I must tell that I never see something like that in my FS100.

April 6, 2012

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Ryan, I am sorry, but you you are making a foregone conclusion. Paul wrote a very balanced article and you make it almost sound much worse than it actually might be. Your title implies that it's a hardware defect before even having looked at all the evidence. You make it sound like every C300 user can replicate the issue, but that's not the case.

I have shot with the C300 for about 14 days in total so far, and after I read Paul's article yesterday, I was alarmed too and immediately looked through all my footage to find traces of what the guys mention. I found a tiny bit of fringing on only two shots - although I shot an entire short film (Homophobia by Gregor Schmidinger) on the camera, which consists of many high-contrast shots. There are two specific shots with extreme backlight that should clearly have the issue but they simply don't. On the shots on which I found the issue it was absolutely negligible ...

I really want to know how the beach shots were recorded because these show a ridiculous amount of fringing - it looks like aliasing on a 7D times 10. As soon as the sun comes out here again I will try to replicate something like this, but I would be EXTREMELY surprised that this happens in C-Log or any other mode. The only explanation I have are in-camera sharpening and contrast.

Anyway, just find it troublesome you report on this without having tested it yourself, making it almost sound like it's a defect without having it checked out by yourself.

March 30, 2012

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I love you Nino but there's definitely something odd going on with the camera. I have shot strongly backlit subjects too with no issue with the camera... you have to shoot a clean horizontal, vertical, or angular surface that aliases to see it in most cases. (That's the only way I was able to force it to happen, anyway).

I am suspect of the waves photo too... I included it because it's such a severe shot. I need to get close to some waves to test myself. I suspect if I lower the exposure (like the Scarlet shot if you notice haha) it should be ok. But I'm not sure, so I'd like to see your test results.

The issue doesn't happen a lot, and it's just something to be careful about. But it shouldn't happen at all, which leads me to believe it is a processing error/quirk. I don't think it's a hardware flaw per se, but something isn't right. You saw it too on your footage, however rare it was, and you shouldn't have seen it at all.....

March 30, 2012

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there have been similar problems with Canon's previous cameras, with a little purple fringing (on the 50D, and the 5D, I believe)... but firmware updates were released to take care of those problems. hopefully firmware is the answer here, too.

May 8, 2012

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Lucas

Ryan didn't write this by the way, I did. It's obvious that this isn't a major problem for most people - but I'm more concerned about Canon's response - you would think their engineers spending a few years on a camera would have seen something like this before.

March 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Um guys, the sensor is a new state of the art sensor. Its not like the RED Sensor at all. The Red sensor is a barred sensor and it guesses on half the pixels while it sees the other half. The new canon sensor is Unbarred and every pixel takes in the information it sees. So in conclusion the canon sensor is 1:1 while the others are 1:2 hens the "problem" that is seen. Also as a Cinematographer, you should know that you shouldn't over expose like that. Its a rookie mistake and shouldn't be made in the first place. Just my two cents as a film student.

April 6, 2012

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Chris

Chris, This is a different Chris.

"Also as a Cinematographer, you should know that you shouldn’t over expose like that."

You said that, on this thread. Just know, that phrase is on the internet forever. And you are going to have to live with that. Try go telling those words to you're film school teacher. I highly suggest that you think about what you say, before you say it; from now on, if you ever want to become a cinematographer.

If you get your act together, and maybe start shooting film one day, you are going to have to overexpose a little bit, because with FILM, unlike DIGITAL, you can overexpose your highlights, in order to achieve more in your shadows and midtones, then "pull" down your highlights in post. This is common practice among cinematographers. Even cinematographers who shoot RED and ALEXA.

Figure it out, bud.

April 7, 2012

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Chris

This is NOT an over-exposure issue per se. It's a high-light issue wherein exposure of intense specular light results in a rather unattractive 'break' in tonal values. It cannot be contained on any camera, even film.
Highlights such as this are way over any sensor or even film's ability to record this other than pure blown-out white.
It happens that film has a much better roll-off of highlights and is not as apparent. Digital sensors are not good at highlight roll-off and tend 'break' the transition from tone to pure white. And in this case, a highlight way over 110 IRE.
It just appears, with this image comparison, that the C300 can't handle it as well as the Scarlet does.

April 7, 2012

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"Rookie mistake", Chris? (1st Chris, not 2nd Chris) The rookie mistake is a post like that. Yeah, right. Even with all the 18k's you could dream of and all the bounce in the world...and on film...you can't control everything...even on the biggest budget. The sun is still burning very very very brightly. Waves in particular are going to get overexposure/blown out highlights (or underexposed shadows) whether you're Vittorio Storaro or Chris (the inflammatory film student). I have yet to see a way to put a double net over the ocean for something that is, most of the time, just a background.

But...that being said...I've very glad this has been posted. On set, it would be very easy to miss. It's a drawback of the tool. No big deal... (some of the reactions seem sort of extreme---if I just spent $16k and realized that the Scarlet doesn't do it, I might also make such a reaction...)

But at least knowing this, it makes it easier to at least know what you're in for, and whether you want to do something about it, just accept it, or reframe to avoid it...etc...

April 12, 2012

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Daniel Mimura

Joe you said it better than I could have. :)

On the NextWave post, the editor of Laforet's "Mobius" chimed in and stated he never saw the issue on any of the 20+ hours of footage from the C300 during that test. He noted that careful consideration of exposure accounted for that. I have no doubt (from experience no less) that when one takes the time and can carefully craft a scene and ensure exposure is correct, the artifact doesnt appear.

The issue is, as you state, if you're shooting documentary work where the enviornment may not be easy to control, you can suddenly be surprised by a variation light level just subtle enough to cause the issue but subtle enough not to see in the viewfinder. And sometimes you intentionally want highlights to blow out, or you can't control it (such as with the sun).

The good news is I have shot into bright sun before with no problem. The issue is with more man-made sources, anything angular and straight AND over exposed. In those envrionments, I'd definitely under-expose this camera slightly. Even if you have the benefit of the waveform monitor with the monitor unit attached (which doesn't show up in the EVF... why Canon.. why) - I'd still expose a bit below 100 for highlights. Then you wont see the problem show up. There's enough latutude in the footage to bring up the resultant lows without too much pain in post. And if you hand off the footage to a client who needs it ready-made, the slight underexposure shouldn't peeve anyone too much if they want to use it that way.

March 30, 2012

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I agree with Nino, you should make better research for articles like this. Alister Chapman reported about same problem 2 weeks ago but he also updated with his own test:
http://www.xdcam-user.com/2012/03/c300-color-fringing-update/

In short, his test showed it is connected more with the lens - with F3 he had same problems and with Tokina had less problems on both cameras. I would say this problem is real and present, but concluding it is hardware flaw...not very pro from you guys. I am c300 owner and very soon realized camera is working better when it is slightly underexposed. And I know very few if any reasons why should I overexpose in such a way. With any camera you should work to get the best picture, not push it to limitations, and any cameras has its own.

March 30, 2012

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Danijel

The examples that I looked at look nothing like what Alister Chapman was talking about. His example is very clearly chromatic aberration. This is something completely different - they are definitely blocks of purple or green.

March 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I am not arguing there is a problem or why it happens. I am just saying every camera has limitations and working to avoid them is a best way to work with it. Alister didn't solved the problem of the camera but he didn't get into a problem of bad journalism.

March 30, 2012

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Danijel

Those waves don't look very horizontal, vertical, straight or angular to me.

March 30, 2012

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It's a bit presumptuous to assume it's a hardware fault, Canon are looking in to it and as far as I know they have not announced anything about it yet. I do know for a fact that it's not a lens CA issue though, It's a moire / aliasing type effect that happens on junctions between horizontal and vertical high contrast areas.

Another C300 owner from the UK has also experienced it and had a client complain so he took his camera back to the main dealer (CVP) to show them and they easily replicated the issue with various lenses and are now talking to Canon about it.

I'm still hoping it might be a processing issue and fixable but if it's not then as said, it's just a flaw that the camera will become known for much like most other cameras.

March 30, 2012

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Whatever the issue is I will gladly correct my statement when an update is released - but it's simply an educated guess from what it looks like. It certainly may not be hardware, that's true - but if it is, it will be more difficult to fix.

March 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

People keep referring to over-exposure being the cause. Yes over-exposure can cause this problem but If a given scene has lots of shadow detail yet one very small area reflecting the sunlight the correct exposure will likely result in the reflected sunlight being blown out and that's when this is most likely to occur, especially if that area has a hard, in focus edge.

I'll be happy to show examples to anybody who thinks this is a non issue and a result of user error.

Nigel, it happens regardless of ND being engaged I'm afraid, good thought though!

March 30, 2012

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I think the Scarlet/C300 comparisons are getting a little tired.

The cameras shoot different formats. It's like wondering why 16mm doesn't look like 35mm. Both cameras have their benefits and drawbacks.

As it stands, being they're roughly the same price, if you want greater resolution go with Scarlet, if you want better light sensitivity go with the C300.

After they were announced, a major filmmaker I know was excited about the C300 over the Scarlet. I was surprised because most of the hype at that point was in Scarlet's corner. His reply was that he didn't want the hassle of dealing with a 4K workflow. I also know filmmakers who work with Epic/Scarlet, and they love the resolution so much, they consider even Alexa substandard.

Different formats, different creative choices, etc.

March 30, 2012

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MutinyCo

This remember me that a very similar fault appear on the Leica M8 sensor. The same kind of green when a strong highlight hits the border of the frame.

March 30, 2012

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Joaquin

Its just funny, I remember reading @c300 twitter messages bashing the scarlet for glitches, saying the camera was buggy. I even remember people who have commented above making the same claim.

March 30, 2012

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Ryan

Nino has a valid point. We are in murky waters when we write about issues second or third hand from others and then come to conclusions without knowing all the details.

I've had exactly those artifacts on a similar scene with my 7D and discovered it had a lot to do with the ND filter I was using. We don't know what lens was used or if they were using any ND or filter.

This post has undertones of the 'RED is better than Canon' story line. A short review of the RED user site will reveal quite a few technical problems of the Scarlet, some of those threads have even been removed, yet I don't see those issues addressed over here.

'All cameras have flaws, as we know, but this seems inexcusable on a camera this expensive that’s made for professionals.'

It would seem inexcusable that one would spend $20,000 on a Scarlet set up and deal with the issues that have been documented, but that's just me. This has been accepted by the RED community, there's a trade off.

There's a double standard here but does it really matter? There's nothing wrong with being biased one way or another in a personal blog, this is not journalism after all. Each of us has the responsibility to check various sources before we come to any conclusions.

March 30, 2012

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Speaking of murky waters, I can assure you there are no undertones or comparisons to RED being made. The still image in the post was simply the one I found that illustrated the point the clearest. The problem may very well have to do with downscaling or processing - which is why a comparison with a camera that doesn't do much of either one is a good one. The comparison could have been very easily made with another camera.

People who purchase RED know what they are getting into, and that firmware updates are constant and ongoing. The reason people deal with those issues is because you still can't buy a RAW 4K camera for any reasonable price - you're looking at $60,000+.

We cover both sides pretty equally, and it would be a complete waste of time sitting on REDuser trying to find every single glitch and reporting it, same with sitting on DVXuser and doing the same. People were talking about it, and it seemed like something we should take a look at it. If you buy from companies as large as Canon, or Sony, of Nikon, with such large R&D budgets, I think you're well within your right to expect more.

March 30, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

Indeed -- replace "SCARLET" with "a camera from X Manufacturer that does not exhibit this strange behavior," and all of Joe's thoughts stand. As he says in the post, we'll keep tabs and weigh in once the issue is sussed out a bit more. It has nothing to do with comparing the C300 to RED specifically.

March 30, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Ryan, by "we" I assume you mean the guys you've farmed your blog out to?

I get it, you're busy with your film, but the quality of this place is dropping quick...

Of course that's only one observer's opinion, take it as you will.

March 30, 2012

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Bryan

I have to disagree - I think the new writers are great and getting better. There will always be elements that aren't quite as good to the perception of some people but thats inherent in incremental change that shuffles personnel. This is going to be particularly true in starting as one irreverent dudes blog with one voice to a major filmmaking news site and a definitive resource for the new wave of media and film professionals and hobbyists.

March 30, 2012

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@Walker - I don't think they're bad writers, I think they're boring writers. I started reading this blog because I appreciated Koo's perspective & presentation... Now that he's gotten his well deserved recognition & is expanding the site, it's losing the differences that used to make it stand out. There are too many "major filmmaking news" sites as it is, and I don't get why Koo would want to blend into the crowd.

Nothing specifically wrong with that, it just isn't going to keep me around as a reader.

And nothing against Koo, the man is definitely earning his success, and I can't tell him what to do with it! :)

March 30, 2012

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Bryan

I'm with Brian, Nigel, and Nino on this. The issue is really about jumping to conclusions when the first hand knowledge of the writer is very limited.

Just take the brand name out of it, it's not about Canon or Red or brand X. Joe - you picked the image to use in your story because you said it best illustrated the point. Paul did have that image in his story but it was not shot by him. The image seems to come from this thread at reduser: http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?74125-Color-balancing-Scarle... . That poster has some other samples on page 2 of the thread as well. The page 2 samples use different lenses and different polarizing filters on the two cameras tested. The page 7 samples also use different lenses on the sample cameras (but no pola's this time.) It is not known what the cameras were set at or how the footage/images where processed.

So, what was picked to illustrate the NFS version of the story might be accurate or it may not best illustrate the extent of the problem. None of the samples provided by Paul Antico or Paul Joy show anything like the samples from reduser.

A week or two ago there was another NFS story which purported to show what how keying a 4:2:2 image from the C300 might go vs. a 4:4:4 image but the sample was third-hand. It was from another blog and the sample itself was not from a C300 image.

Again, the point isn't which particular camera model is the flavor of the moment and most discussed, it's really the direction of NFS. It was great articles in the past that were rooted in direct experience with the gear but lately there seems to be more content which is purely based on indirect speculation.

March 30, 2012

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Jon

As a site we strive to cover as many filmmaker-relevant stories as possible. This means some of them will be firsthand and some not (see also: any blog, including much larger sites with larger staffs/budgets). In the camera world, lately we're posting hands-on material about the RED SCARLET, Nikon D800, and Canon 5D Mark III. I've also had a lot of positive things to say about the Sony F3. Point being, we're very brand agnostic and post our honest thoughts about them all. We may get things wrong from time to time but there is no conspiracy.

March 30, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

I write a blog post every day for two years, take two weeks off to work on my script, and suddenly I've "farmed out" my blog? Tough crowd.

We'll have more contributors in the future covering a wide variety of filmmaking topics -- including, yes, me, but I'm also trying to make a (good) feature film and until I move the project to the next stage I don't have many experiences to share that might help others.

In my opinion E.M. and Joe have been doing a terrific job. But we're always striving to make the site better, and so constructive criticism can definitely help. So instead of "the quality of this place is dropping" -- which I and a lot of others disagree with -- what kinds of stories would you like to see more of?

March 30, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

There is such a thing as constructive criticism.
Feedback is great, and is an essential part of building and maintaining a great community site.
But insulting the new writers so directly will do nothing but hurt their confidence in trying to provide interesting articles to an already established community of readers.
THATS HARD.
And like I said, feeback is great, just be a human being about your delivery.

April 1, 2012

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Jules

Put aside the Scarlet comparisons, by reading the comments the biggest issue most are having is the framing of the issue and the rush to judgement.

Obviously this is an editorial decision and reflects which way you are heading with this blog. Some will love the narrative and some won't.

March 30, 2012

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I've really enjoyed the content on the site now that Joe and E.M. have been involved. Unfortunately the negativity is just part of the gig. Information is what most of us are after. Whether you're in the market for a C300, Scarlet, or iPhone 4s I personally don't mind getting free knowledge on these products. Find something better and send us the link. Otherwise, if each post on NFS recently said it was by Koo I doubt you'd notice a difference.

March 31, 2012

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McBlakewich

Thank you.

March 31, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

The C300 image was compared to the Scarlet because the Scarlet image is what it's supposed to look like. 'nuff said.
No amount of Canon loyalty or Canon chest-pounding is going to fix it. Canon may be able to fix it but, it's a problem and Joe and Paul were correct in bringing it to our attention. Even by way of a Red comparison. Just because you think Canon can do no wrong, don't go stringing up the messenger. Seems to be a lot of nervousness in the Canon camp.

March 30, 2012

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Who says that is what an image is supposed to look like? Really...

March 31, 2012

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Mark Wagoner

Are you serious? The canon camp?? Oh dear

March 31, 2012

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Peter

Can we stop bashing each other (Red and Canon) and just focus on the issue? If there actually IS an issue?

March 30, 2012

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It certainly looks as an issue.

March 30, 2012

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Álex Montoya

This "issue" seems to be just another pixel peeping internet whiners trying to start another C300/Scarlet bloodbath. Every C300 film ive seen is gorgeous, and the audience seeing the film in an auditorium probably does not notice or care.

March 30, 2012

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John Jeffreys

John that's not why I wrote the original article at all, and don't give a rat's ass about Red vs Canon in the long run. I could care less about people defending their piles of plastic and metal.

I do care that the camera doesn't turn green when shooting highlights and to warn people who may not realize that it can happen or why it happens to maybe avoid situations that can cause it.

Alexa, Red, for the most part the F3 do not. I don't care if other cameras do... it's not right when it's clearly been engineered out of other digital cameras.

You're right about one thing - this issue (which by the way I have never seen manifested as bad as the Scarlet/C300 comparison shot; I just threw that in the article as an example of what someone else saw as it was so blatant) ... this issue - for ME, has been barely noticeable. It existed in some shots and if I hadn't looked for it I would have never seen it, never mind my audience. Most people look right past it, especially if it's in the background (as it usually is).

But I saw some extreme examples online that other people were seeing, so I wanted to look into things further to try and help avoid the issue. In my world, that's called being helpful.

March 30, 2012

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"The Canon C300 is quite the camera, and by all accounts it’s a high-end professional camera (and we should refer to it as such since it’s the most expensive camera Canon makes)." WRONG! Sorry Joe, no offence intended. And I think the "by all accounts" inclusion gets you off the hook. And, just because "it's the most expensive camera Canon makes" does not make it a high-end professional camera. Point is, the C300 is NOT a high-end professional camera. For one thing, high-end professional cameras are not limited to an 8bit codec. I'm sure Canon would like us to think it's high-end but, truth is, the C300 is a mid-level camera built for the, perhaps, upper end of the prosumer market. Canon is an upstart in the 'large chip' cinema market. And it feeds on well-financed brand loyalty. Canon and Nikon make the best still cameras in the DSLR category but, top honors in the digital stills field go to Leaf and Phase One. High-end professional cinema cameras are made by Arri, Sony and Red to name three of several and those are the cameras used in high-end cinema production. I can hear it now, "but, they use the 5D and 7D". Yea, for crash cams and very short segments where a big cameras won't go. I saw Act of Valor and was very favorably impressed. When the work demands it, use whatever camera works (or, whatever you can afford). But, would you shoot a feature on a 5D if you could use a better camera? Probably not. I'll admit it, I'm sick of the hype over this camera. Revolutionary, my a**! The C300 should cost less than half what it does. But, even at $8K I'd expect more. The fringing issue is, maybe, something they can fix... maybe. But, they may be in a little over their heads, too. Uh oh, I can hear the 'Canons' rumbling in the distance... better take cover.

March 30, 2012

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dixter

Dixter thank you so much for your point. I have to say that I don't understand why people are trying justify canon or red cameras. A lion does not scrim I am a lion. When you see it you know. Am sick and tired of all that.
Why ppl are trying to help canon to convince us that 5 mk2 , 3 or 7d are great cameras for movies?

March 30, 2012

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