This is Why Canon's C70 is Heading in the Right Direction

Canon has launched a truly impressive combination of features in a tiny body with the C70, paying off a decade of expectations.

As someone old enough to remember the original launch of the Canon EOS Cinema line, the current announcement of the EOS C70 brings up a lot of nostalgia, but also some relief. Nostalgia because it feels like Canon is finally giving us what we were hoping for with the original C-line launch, and relief, because it's exciting to finally see the platform coming to more filmmakers' hands.

After falling in love with the 5D Mark II, we dreamed of a Canon camera that had that kind of imagery but was designed for working with a film set. That would include professional audio connectors, timecode, genlock for working multi-camera (or 3D), proper SDI monitoring, better dynamic range, more bit-depth, wider color gamuts, and a touch more resolution, 2K. At the time, it seemed obvious. Beef up the 5D or 7D body, adapt the sensor, and you would have a winner for independent filmmakers. Thus, when rumblings came out about the C-line, we were excited.

C70Credit: Canon

But honestly, while the C-line features wonderful cameras that have shot many amazing projects, they weren't that camera that I was dreaming about. Mostly, they were just too big, while not offering the image quality available from other available cameras. They were smaller and cheaper than the RED One and ARRI Alexa but not small enough to feel "small." The beauty discovered with the 5D Mark II, and then with the Sony a7S II, was how much fun it could be to shoot movies with a truly tiny camera body.

Gimbals came out and were able to stabilize cameras, we got used to rigging up quick car mounts or sticking cameras at the end of boom poles. Small became the name of a certain game that made working in tight spaces or doing wild things easier. The C70 feels like Canon finally figured out how to cram all that cinema goodness into a small body.

C70Credit: Canon

Of course, others have been doing that for quite a while now. You can't help seeing the influence from companies like RED and Blackmagic in the design of the C70. While it doesn't quite have the "Urban Tactical Assault" aesthetic of RED, it's clear that the success of cameras like the Epic and the upcoming Komodo clearly influenced Canon's thinking. More than that, though, this camera is a response to the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K and 6K.

Those cameras are monster hits among independent creators. Why? Because they provide the connectors we want (USB-C direct recording, XLR, SDI) in a small body that can shoot RAW. I'm still that one weirdo who thinks the Blackmagic bodies are too wide (you need an adapter to fit the Ronin-S, for instance), but otherwise, you can't argue with the package Blackmagic put together. By focusing on making a video camera in a still-sized body (without worrying about stills features at all), Blackmagic has truly forced others to keep up. At least when it comes to a certain price point. 

If Canon was smart enough to realize that back then, those sales could've been theirs if they had put together the right combination. Blackmagic had to prove themselves in the camera market, while Canon already had the market share and the brand loyalty. They just didn't offer the right product to compete with what Blackmagic had to offer. While it's a bit late, Canon still has a shot at getting some of that market because of one key feature they have going for them that Blackmagic and RED are still trying to overcome: autofocus. 

C70Credit: Canon

Autofocus is something filmmakers ignored until very recently. I remember well my first day in film school in the 90s and the teacher saying, "Step one, turn off autofocus on the camera." Autofocus just wasn't good enough for moving images back then. However, in the last few years, it has come a long way and is a legit tool in the motion environment. Not just in documentary and sports, but even in narrative work, where you are starting to see face detection and touch screen focus deliver results that are usable even in planned shots.

Most autofocus systems work best when using matching bodies and glass, and Canon has its own highly-evolved autofocus system working between its bodies and lenses. Blackmagic and RED don't make their own lens yetthough RED used to rehouse Sigma lenses as RED primes, they were never super popularwhich leaves them out of the running. While Panasonic isn't a lens powerhouse, some options are pretty exciting, especially when Sigma lenses L-mount lenses are paired with the Panasonic S1H. This leaves the market largely open to Sony and Canon. While Sony has the a7S III priced around $3,500, you need a whole host of adapters to make it workable on a production set. The C70 seems to work straight out of the box.

C70Credit: Canon

And while full-frame sensors are getting all the press right now, the vast majority of motion content is still shot in Super 35mm. The addition of Canon's Dual Gain Output sensor will help a ton in low light conditions. Plus, the world of lenses that can be adapted to the C70 will make it even broader.

One small thing to point out is the naming. The C70 somewhat implies that we might see a C50/C30/C20 following the C700/C500/C300 logic. But that might all depend on how good the response is to the C70. It might just be too late. 

What are your thoughts on the C70? Let us know in the comments below.      

Your Comment

13 Comments

I'm a big fan of the design, but geez. Too expensive for a 4K camera that's not a cinema camera regardless of Canon labeling it as one. You're paying over a $1000 for autofocus compared to comparable cameras. There's no RAW? What?! Pathetic outdated move there. Canon peddling old tech within a new mold. The R5 does RAW and it's a $1000 cheaper. Hell, the BMPCC 6K does 6K RAW and is $3500 cheaper. Just take off the cinema label. What are we paying for here? Clearly just the letter "C". Again, I love the look of it. I'm really excited about that, but for the price the features don't justify a purchase when you compare it to other cameras out there. Just because you call it a cinema camera doesn't make it so - clearly in this case.

September 24, 2020 at 9:23AM

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Zarf
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I agree. everything about the camera is just about perfect except for the price. At $2999 or even $3499 it'd be enough for me to jump back into owning a camera (instead of renting) and I'd probably pick up two of them.

But at $5500 I'm still in the FX6 camp.

Additionally, Im not too much of a fan of having my audio controls potentially covered by the LCD.

September 24, 2020 at 10:36AM, Edited September 24, 10:36AM

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Justin Gladden
Producer
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It's got in-body XLRs with phantom power, internal ND, hefty battery options and equally importantly, intermediary codec which is what the vast amount of people are shooting because RAW is usually impractical.

It is most certainly a legitimate pro cinema camera.

September 24, 2020 at 10:46AM

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"It is most certainly a legitimate pro cinema camera."
Eek! I wouldn't go there. So you'd put this camera in the same category as an Arri or Red or Sony cinema camera, huh? Weird. All those cameras shoot RAW. I don't think legitimate pro cinema cameras even shoot in mp4 either. More likely ProRes & RAW. If one is shooting pro cinema, RAW isn't impractical. It's the standard. You might be getting hung up on the word "cinema". It's just a marketing ploy. I used to own a Sony EX1 that had nearly all the features you listed and that wasn't a cinema camera. There are standard features in all "cinema" cameras. The C70 does not meet those features. It just has the word "cinema" attached to it and a hefty pricetag to boot.

September 24, 2020 at 11:15PM

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Zarf
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So, other than not having RAW (which I doubt you even need) what else is it about the C70 that prevents it from being a cinema camera?

Is it the built-in ND's? What about the two XLR ports? Maybe it's the big battery that'll let you record for more than an hour? No, it's probably the stabilisation the camera has right? Or the screen that tilts and turns so you can see it from every angle?

And the Sony EX1 is an old camcorder with barely any features the other user listed, a quick google search ends that rumor mill.

September 28, 2020 at 5:14PM

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Nick Straub
Wedding Photographer/Videographer
411

Out of the four features the other user listed, The EX1 has 3 of them. On top of that, the EX1 has full XLRs and do not require adapters like the C70. A rational person wouldn't consider 3 of 4 as "barely any features". C'mon now. The one feature they don't have in common would be the "intermediary codec". It's understandable that you didn't use google. Probably gorgle. Yeah, you definitely used gorgle instead of google.

And professional cinema filmmakers certainly use RAW. More than any other codec by far, because maximum image control is important.

I'd like to add that it is 2020 and no professional cinema camera is 4K. You need the latitude to reframe. 4K is great if all your final outputs are 1080p.

As a side note not related to the conversation above:
I'd also like to point out a horrendous design flaw: the RF mount. Those are full frame lenses. This isn't a full frame camera.

September 29, 2020 at 4:43AM, Edited September 29, 4:53AM

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Zarf
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More like 2 out of four.

"Built-in ND filter wheel: 1: Clear, 2: 1/8ND, 3: 1/64ND"

Not really comparable to the C70 in terms of stops of light. Plus the long ass list of features the above user didn't need to mention because he, nor I, thought someone would try and compare two cameras that shouldn't be in the same room together. Even 4K downsampled to 1080p is better than straight 1080p.

And it doesn't have to be a full-frame camera to use a full-frame lens. I think everyone else, except you apparently, already has knowledge of that so your argument is invalid. The other cinema cameras have EF mounts, which are full-frame lenses, yet I haven't heard anyone really complain about it until today.

September 29, 2020 at 12:23PM

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Nick Straub
Wedding Photographer/Videographer
411

Oh man...
Of course other cameras have full frame mounts. For instance, all of RED and the entire Canon Cinema line for instance - for years. You can't use them as intended though. I have to assume you didn't know that you can't use a 35mm FF on a S35 camera and expect to get a 35mm field of view. So yes you do need to have a FF camera in order to use FF lenses as intended. This is elementary stuff. Everyone else, except you apparently, already has knowledge of that. Since you didn't add that info I supplied above and you said you could use FF lenses, I have to imply you didn't know those details.

And if you actually read what was written from the beginning instead of resorting to bashing, the other user was listing features that he feels makes it a "legitimate pro cinema camera" so I picked an older camera with similar features that is not in the category to counter his perspective. Simply saying that those features do not make a pro cinema camera. How hard is that to see and comprehend? Instead, for no other reason than to troll, you have to insinuate and bash. Carry on my wayward son.

October 7, 2020 at 1:38AM

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Zarf
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I think also it is a great camera but with Blackmagic Pocket series at a fraction of the canon price I still think it is much wiser to invest in BM and glass. There are tempting features like the dual pixel AF and of course those 16stop. It will sell but will not be a superhit. At 3900$ it would have been in backlog for a year.

September 24, 2020 at 12:34PM

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Definitely.
Gotta love the Canon auto focus these days, but not worth the extra THOUSANDS to get it.
Here's the thing people: no cinema camera has a mount so you can do vertical video for social media. Also, this camera is merely called a cinema camera to attract youtubers and make them believe they are getting a legit cinema camera.

September 24, 2020 at 11:24PM

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Zarf
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At that price with those specs? No...no it is definitely not headed the right direction.

September 24, 2020 at 6:59PM

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Joseph Arant
Writer
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I would go for an R5 because of IBIS and RAW, and 8k (for some special moments that I would need the extra zoom). And it look like more a picture camera for shooting in street without beeing noticed. Yes, it overheat but I would record the rest in 4k modes that let you continuing recornding. And maybe they fix that with a new firmware. And it’s cheaper and full frame look. ¿What do you think about that? Am I wrong? Does this C70 has more stops than a RAW R5? And if I need a cheapest camera I would go for a blackmagic pocket 6k that has not IBIS or autofocus but is amazing and I love the look of the image. Sony looks electronic, sorry.

September 25, 2020 at 2:52AM

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Unfortunately, canon is like Apple.
The images I have seen look really good but without a raw output this camera falls short. I'll pick up the A7sIII not this one.

September 27, 2020 at 6:30AM

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Paolo Mugnaini
Director/DP/Editor
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