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'Understanding the C300' - a Guide That Translates the Specs into Footage

03.18.12 @ 6:34PM Tags : , , ,

When looking at cameras, it’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game — is the footage 4:4:4; how many stops of latitude does it have; will it output raw?  These features and numbers are important, but it’s easy to forget what they mean, and how they actually impact your footage.  It doesn’t help that it can be hard to get your hands on original files with full shooting details, instead of compressed internet versions that may have been corrected three ways till Sunday.  With this in mind, Gaal Laszlo has put up an informative and interesting guide to the Canon C300 that aims to show just how the numbers play out in actual footage — he has included original files for download and comparison, along with a great and detailed explanation:

For example, Laszlo goes into a discussion of 4:4:4 sampling vs 4:2:2, explaining that the impact might not be visible until you try pulling a clean key of the skin tones for color correction:

These stills aren't from the C300, but illustrate how much smoother the key is in a 4:4:4 image (right) vs the 4:2:2 image (left). For the full impact, check out the full versions in the guide itself (linked below).

Is the difference between the above images worth the price difference between getting a camera that outputs 4:2:2 vs 4:4:4?  It all depends on your needs, as Laszlo points out:

if you don’t have endless sources of money, time, and manpower, and you want to choose the best camera for your jobs/projects, then you won’t choose the mathematically best camera. If you’re looking at the whole picture – not just the camera itself, but the prices of the accessories, media, lenses, and also check the prices of storing, processing the recorded footage – , you will choose the camera that fits in your workflow perfectly, and gets the job done as good as you can.”

Well put.  For the full write up  go here, and for the downloadable footage go here.  Are you deciding between cameras?  Would the difference in keying shown above make or break your project?  Which numbers mean the most to you?


[via Cinescopophilia]


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Description image 34 COMMENTS

  • Maybe I’m blind…but I don’t one lick of a difference between those two shots.

    • E.M. Taboada on 03.18.12 @ 7:05PM

      I don’t blame you, it’s pretty subtle at that size, check out the guide for the full images.

    • What I could see is that the dark spots on the face of the left are sharper and you can actually see them as dots while on the right things are smoother.

  • It seems like the image on the left has more detail in the hair and a little detail around the eye. Pretty subtle. I’d be curious as to how these differences translate into real-world keying.

  • Filming in 4:2:2 is just fine for most occasions, even in the cinema world. The only time 4:4:4 and the added cost is really necessary is when you’re keying for FX shots. Save the cash you might spend on the upgraded camera, external gemini, storage, processing etc. and spend it on better talent, art, and crew. That’s all there is to it.

  • I was under the impression that you could lift underexposed regions with less artifacts with 4:4:4.

  • John Jeffreys on 03.19.12 @ 3:32AM

    i was shooting a short today and one of the scenes called for the camera to follow the protagonist’s feet from behind at a super low angle. i wished i had a c300 for that, because the top handle and screen that folds flat was just made for shots like those. thats what i like about it, its MADE for real hands on, dirty filmmaking, unlike the scarlet which is a beauty queen and needs to be rigged out with tons of accessories just to do basic functions

    • Interesting, I have a top handle on my scarlet and the monitor can mount anywhere, so I’m prettysure you would get the same result

  • @Hummer, maghoxfr
    check the full-size pictures:) And think about this one: this is a still frame from the movie. If all those little sharp points start to dance around in the moving film – and you did a skin-tone correction – your footage will look funny.
    yes, more “detail”, but if you’re trying to pull a key, then more “detail” isn’t a good thing!

  • OK fine but the D800 offers the same 8bit 4:2:2 via uncompressed out so for $1k extra, you strap on a Ninja and get a FAR better codec than the C300 all for as low as $4k. The irony is the 5DmkIII should also offer uncompressed 4:2:2 out but canon don’t want to cannibalise their C300 market – ironic because Nikon will be only too happy to! ;-)

    • Paul, it isn’t the same. Please read the review, and don’t judge simply by numbers…
      The C300 uses a completely different approach to get a 1080p image.

      And anyway, if you ever worked with an external recorder you should know, you always want them to go away:)

      • Ok so “dont judge by the numbers” and in the same sentence “c300 uses a completely different approach to get a 1080p image” – ie a whole CRAP LOAD of numbers and technical jargon to explain the supposed advantages and differences on how it does this? Seriously?

        When I said the same 8bit 4:2:2 I meant exactly that, I wasn’t suggesting the images would be the same or that the Nikon would approach the quality of the C300 – I know it wont. BUT the whole point of this guys C300 sales pitch (sorry I mean unbiased blog post) was in his own words was to present “a perfect 1080p camera, which is balanced between quality, and costs.”

        Unfortunately to meet that you HAVE to factor in the reality that in 90% of circumstances…even low light…the footage coming out of the D800 into a ninja vs the C300 will be incredibly close in terms of quality – even after grading. So then your left with one that costs $4,000 and one that costs $16,000. Thats a $12,000 void that this guy would have you believe the C300 ‘fills’

        Im again going to point you to the fact that the 5DmkIII lacks any uncompressed HDMI out – if canon believed so strongly in the image out of the C300 why would they feel the need to cripple the MkIII? There is no way in HELL they couldn’t offer it, they simply chose NOT to include it…to protect the C300 whose image, to Canon themselves clearly isnt enough to stand on its own and justify the $12,000 premium.

        Please dont think Im against the C300 – if you offered me a choice on a shoot between the Nikon and C300 I’d take the C300 without hesitation. If it was a choice between the C300 and the CHEAPER F3 with slog…well that’s a tough one ;-)

        • Jordan Carr on 03.19.12 @ 5:57PM

          Well said.


        • So where exactly does your argument reach a marginal utilty, is the image from nikon plus external recorder shooting prores as good as an Alexa shooting prores, codec is not as important as the final images luminance and color reproduction,

    • A moment ago, I was talking to a person who claims Nokia’s 808 PureView takes better pictures than all the DSLRS in the market for it outputs 41MP images. Then, here I am with you. Though you’re on different topic, you’re making same mistake as the other person. Though D800 does output 8bit 4:2:2, it’s nowhere near the same 8bit 4:2:2 of C300. Don’t let simple number fool you. Do a simple research and you’ll understand.

  • Hi !

    Here is a little video we just did showing the 7D fighting against the C300! Feel free to use it in your blog and share it !


    • Wow, props for the time involved putting that together but MAN it could have been a much better comparison if you’d found a ‘common ground’ target in terms of profiles. At the very least you should have used a cinestyle profile on the 7D or better yet – marvels on the 7D and thrown an s-curve on the C300 footage. Nobody shoots standard profile on the canons and nobody would use the C300 in such an ungraded format. I would really love to see 7D with marvels, slightly graded vs the c300 post graded for that high key highlight stress test. It appears the C300 smashes the dslr’s for highlight roll off but I’d like to know by how much when using the correct profiles for a real world final grade output.

  • BTW does anyone know the base sensitivity of the 5D3? Do all HDSLR’s have a base sensitivity at ISO100?

  • “…Gaal Laszlo has put up an informative and interesting guide to the Canon C300 that aims to show just how the numbers play out in actual footage… …Laszlo goes into a discussion of 4:4:4 sampling vs 4:2:2… …These stills aren’t from the C300…”

    Given that the C300 does not do traditional debayering isn’t it odd to provide an example which is not from the C300?

    I know it’s showing an example from an unknown camera of what 4:4:4 vs 4:4:2 looks like but it’s not showing showing how the “numbers play out in actual footage.” Is there a chance a key from a C300 would be smoother because it does not debayer?

  • Jordan Carr on 03.19.12 @ 5:54PM

    Not much point in the article now that Sony give S-log away free.

    F3 is now $13,999 so……the C300 is ….well…..hmmm.

    • Jordan Carr on 03.19.12 @ 5:56PM

      renting the external recorders a dozen times still saves money over the C300.

      My Canon Reps in Seattle are hinting at a huge C300 price drop come NAB so the F3 price lead won’t last long I believe. This will give Canon room to price the 4k DSLR forthcoming.

      • Actually on B&H the F3 with slog also has a mail in rebate bringing the cost down to $13,160. So really its a no contest until Canon wakes up and reduces the price of the C300 to the $12k mark – which is what it should have been all along.

        • It would have to come down a lot more than $12,000 to compete with the F3 being that the C300 is and will always be 8bit. And it doesn’t have the latitude the F3 has with S-log. I know, the F3 does only 35mbps onboard but, even with an external recorder upping the price, the F3 is still the better deal and the camera to beat at this price point. I feel sorry for the Canon fanboys that purchased the C300.

          • You could say the same thing about the sony fan boys who bought their f3s with slog for almost 18k when you can get the same thing for 13k now.

  • Ryan, I’m sure there are a few disgruntled early F3 adopters out there but, I’m sure you would agree, that $18,000 was money wiser spent than the $16,000 for the C300.

    • that is a good point, at least with early adopter f3 you had something that no one else had for a while, over in the price range, over sampling, log curves, s35 sensor. The c300 was more compact, but you really weren’t getting any more image wise that stuff that was already out there.

      • Thanks for saying that. I’ve never understood the clamor around the C300. I think it’s a fine camera but, It’s as if the Canon fans never realized the F3 was there all along with better specs for similar $. Maybe they just wanted to buy Canon and I understand brand loyalty and the fact some folks have lots of Canon glass, too, from using the 5DMK2. I certainly have but, I realized the F3 was and still is the better value in this price range. And, certainly, with S-log included now… a no-brainer unless size is of prime importance.

        And, Jordan, please let us know if you’ve found something on the Sony site(s) we need to know about.

  • Jordan Carr on 03.20.12 @ 3:52PM

    Sony is offering rebates for F3 early adopters on their various websites.

    • on the camera or on future purchases?

      • Jordan Carr on 03.20.12 @ 6:23PM

        Ill look for the links – The were emailing them out. Our production house bought one when it was 18k (easily paid for itself because nobody rented the C300).

        Ill post the link if I can get through to our accountant. Take care!

  • Hey guys. Given the almost announced price drop of the C300 to $12k, i’m ready to exchange my Scarlet-X brain with Canon EF mount and Side SSD against the C300. The scarlet will hold its value a lot longer than the C300 so you’re a winner there. I actually have a whole package for those interested:

    That C300 sure looks like what we need in terms of user-friendlyness and sound control for our type of work. Let us know. We’d love to barter :)