This week I welcomed into my collection of gear the Canon C300 video camcorder. The C300 was released in the Fall of 2011 as an answer to Sony’s F3, released a year prior. Both cameras record on Super-35-sized sensors, which is a size previously available only via the Canon 5D and the Red One, both of which had their share of obstacles — lack of basic functionality in the case of the 5D; price tag and overly complex backend structure in the case of the Red One.
Still, the F3 was not an immediate hit when it was released. My guess is that the price tag, after factoring the cost of lenses, made it not that much cheaper than a Red. But it was still much easier to use and the inclusion of existing SxS media cards made the media simple and inexpensive when compared with the Red.
As a director of photography it is part of my job to keep an eye on technology and position myself to own the cameras that my clients are asking for. Very few were asking for the F3, so I held off.
When the C300, which offered similar technology at a similar price point, was released I was not sure how it shake out with the F3. Would the market be split between the two? Or would it gravitate toward one over the other? Personally, I prefer the F3, But the final word is up to the market, not me. So again, I held off, waiting to see how things would play out.
This Spring, I began to get requests from my clients for the C300 at an increasing frequency. Some of clients have even bought a C300 for their productions. From my corner of the film business, it appears the dust has settled: the C300 it is. I’m guessing this is because of price point and familiarity. The 5D has popularized the Canon brand as one of quality and breath-taking images in the minds of many and being able to use existing EOS Canon still lenses, which many people bought during the 5D boom, makes the cost much more attractive than an F3.
As with most things, there are trade-offs, most notably the inability to ride the iris on the C300. Still lenses are not designed like video lenses, so changing the iris incurs a visible flick of exposure from one stop to another. I suspect this will become acceptable as we see it more and more. Meanwhile, I will enjoy having back all the familiar video trappings that were missing from the 5D. XLR inputs!