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The Canon 5D Mark III, Canon C300, and RED SCARLET Shoot a Nighttime Bike Race Side-by-Side

Remember when video cameras had sensors that were one third of an inch? It was damn hard to shoot anything at night. But now there are a million cameras (well, not a million, but a bunch) with Super35-size sensors. So while you can actually get a decent exposure while shooting a bike race at night now, not all sensors are created equal. Here’s the Canon 5D Mark III, Canon C300, and RED SCARLET filming the same bike race. The first pass of the video has no key (so you don’t know which is which), and then they show you the second time around:

The biggest difference is just how much lighter the C300 looks than the SCARLET — as Robin recently noted, the M-X chips in current-generation RED cameras just don’t reach as well into the dark as the offerings from Canon and Sony (the M-X chip is a few years old, after all). To me, the RED is more ideal for features and the C300 better for docs, but in either situation, if you’re going to be doing nighttime shooting without the ability to add light, the C300 is a far better choice. We’ll see how RED’s Dragon chip fairs when it finally comes out… but keep in mind, from a purely mathematical standpoint, the RED’s smaller pixels (because of 6K resolution) will theoretically never be a “best case scenario” for low-light shooting. Sensor technology has advanced greatly in the last couple of years, but one does wonder if anyone in the filmmaking world is really asking for an extra K (going from 5 to 6) as opposed to more dynamic range and better low-light performance. The fashion industry may want the extra resolution… but at what price to filmmakers?

Note: I’m not entirely clear on whether RED is just adding extra resolution around the edges (to a correspondingly larger sensor), which would negate this worry. Anyone?

This video was shot by Hello World Communications, a great NYC rental house for video equipment. In fact, to date my RED SCARLET has lived there — if you’ve rented a PL-mount SCARLET (they have their own EF mount versions), you probably rented mine! Sub-renting can be a good option to generate a return on your investment, and since I have been knee-deep in Man-child script revisions (and therefore not actively shooting anything), my camera hasn’t lived at home in quite some time. Cameras are not toys, and if you are not using yours, someone else should!

Any thoughts from watching the above video? How’d you think the 5D Mark III faired?

Related Posts

  1. Q: How Do the 'Ready to Shoot' Prices of the Canon EOS C300 and RED SCARLET-X Compare?
  2. Sony F3 and Canon C300 Footage Side-by-Side (and Some C300 Ungraded Files to Download)
  3. Where to Download the Full Canon C300 and RED SCARLET-X Manuals


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  • Ian Murphy on 05.3.12 @ 8:06PM

    If you’ve already identified that the colour balance isnt the same, and that you could fix that. Then take the test for what it is. I thought it was a good example, how many ppl chose the cuts the first time round?

    Good blind test.


    Thanks for all the responses to our video. We started out wanting to test the low-light capability of the Canon EOS C300 and the 5D MarkIII. Since we also own a Scarlet we decided to add it to the mix. Low-light sensitivity is obviously not a strength of the Scarlet, and yes it was shot over cranked. However, we concluded that with some tweaking all cameras could be cut together.
    We would love to do a more comprehensive test and welcome your suggestions. Please submit your wish list to the MESSAGE box on our Facebook page.
    We will get started on the comparative test ASAP!


    Ron Yoshida and the Hello World Communications Team

    • Very simply, give us enough information to reproduce the results entirely if we were there with your equipment at that time. Anything that doesn’t affect the results you can leave out (e.g. what brand of CF card etc.). Anything that did affect the results you should make clear enough to do again (e.g. exact picture style/gamma settings). This would mean not hand-tweaking things in post of course, because that is testing your colorist not your camera, but automated, reproducible actions in post can be done if listed to the point of reproducibility.

      And try to use the same lens on each and ideally have all the cameras in line taking the same shot at once (meaning you’re not pulling focus or zooming or, unless you have a triple-header tripod, panning). I think custom white balance should be used via gray card in the field. And use the best settings for each camera that you can, rather than trying to match them camera-to-camera (e.g. expose properly, don’t just set everything to “ISO 800″ and I put that in scare quotes for a good reason).

      This is very hard to do right, it’s work, but it only has real value if done right.

  • I don’t see anywhere in this article that it’s stated that this was a specific “low light test”. Everyone calm down and turn down the gear head nerd factor by about 10-20 notches.

    With that said, a true test would be great but I still am a little partial to the C300. I liked more of the shots from that one than any others.

    Cool vid by the way.

    • Augusto Alves da SIlva on 05.6.12 @ 8:43AM

      A true test of what??? Each camera has its strengths. I don´t loose any jobs by using a 5D or C300 or Scarlet or even Alexa!!! I choose the camera I want to use according to the needs. And not because someone wants me to use this or that camera. I specially use cameras that MAKE money…I leave off my work and my cameras. So why trying to show which camera is the camera?? By the way I loved this test because ot its simplicity…this is a real life situation. Without seeing this footage and if I was given these shootings conditions I probably would choose the 5D. But this is my personal opinion…Meanwhile I shoot with what I have. My camera judgement never had any complaints from my clients… ;-)

    • Daniel Mimura on 05.7.12 @ 4:22AM

      Agreed! It’s not a “test”…the situation of shooting like that–a live (non-repeatable) event doesnt really lend itself to the the kind of control required to make it a “test”. It’s good for a quick impression.

      I wish the F3 could’ve been included b/c it works great in low light, but I haven’t seen it next to C-300 footage yet.

  • I think the 5D Mark 111 look’s great for the price. It is hard to pay the amount of the C-300. after seeing how they both look in the dark.

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