JCU Digital Media Lab

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The Canon C100 Mark II has landed!

The Digital Media Lab is proud to announce a new arrival: the Canon C100. And not just one: we’ve had sextuplets!

The AF100 served us well for the past few years. With those built-in ND filters and XLR jacks- not to mention a very capable 14-140mm lens- we took a big step beyond the GH2s that helped kickstart Digital Media Arts in the JCU communications department all those many years ago.

And now we’re going bigger (at least metaphorically) and- with all due respect to the AF100- better.

As the Media Lab Coordinator, the choice of our latest upgrade was mine and I thought I should explain why I went with the C100. After all, there are more- and more capable- cameras on the market than ever before. So why the C100?

First off is the clean image. Anybody who used the AF100 knew the pain of properly exposing a shot at a low ISO and still finding noise in the image! The C100 is MUCH cleaner at high ISOs, low ISOs, and everywhere in between.

Then there was the disconcerting tendency of the AF100 to not quite get the colour balance right. Too often our talent ended up looking like refugees from an industrial accident at a spray-tan factory. No more! Canon’s colour science is second to none. (Except Arri, of course. But the $100,000 Alexa was sadly never really in the running.) And if you use Canon’s C-Log picture style you’ll get almost as much dynamic range as you would shooting raw on a Blackmagic Pocket CInema Camera.

The AF100 has great ergonomics…if it’s on a tripod. All of the settings and functions are easily accessible, the menus are not Sony-level indecipherable, and there are tons of ways to customise the buttons. But if you’ve ever gone handheld with the AF100 let me assure you that I feel your pain. The C100’s buttons and menus are even more customisable but it is the flexibility that comes from its modular design that really sets the camera apart. Strip it down completely and you’re ready to fly it on a gimbal stabiliser like the Ronin-M’s we have at the DML. (This is also a smart time to engage Canon’s class-leading Dual Pixel Auto-Focus to ensure that your shots stay sharp even when you’re performing parkour moves in Piazza Trilussa.) Want to go handheld? Screw on the side grip. Shooting dialogue scenes? The top handle gives you twin XLR inputs with phantom power and manual level control. Since we don’t have unlimited resources, this sort of flexibility played a prominent role in the decision making process.

Every video camera that I’ve owned has been accessorised with a clunky shoulder mountable rig either because the camera was so awkward or because the battery life was so bad that I needed to run the camera off of a V-mount battery. The C100, however, practically invites you to wrap your paws around the side-grip and shoot.

Oh, yeah: the batteries will last much longer than you do.

It doesn’t do 4K. And since 4K is the future we should have 4K cameras, right? Well this is where we run up against the hard constraints of reality. The computers in the lab are absolutely capable of processing 4K footage quickly enough for smooth editing BUT the storage requirements would have gone through the roof if we’d switched over to a 4K workflow. One or two of our computers already usually grind to a halt by the end of the semester for lack of space; we’d be up a pretty foul creek if the same thing started happening in October.

And we wouldn’t think of mentioning that the difference in resolution between HD and 4K is indistinguishable from normal viewing distances…nope. Wouldn’t even dream of it.

I’m not sold on 4K but high dynamic range is a different story and the C100 delivers the kind of DR that you used to need to record raw to get. Unlike 4K, the DML will absolutely be embracing Rec.2020 in the not-too-distant future.

It also stinks at slow motion. You can set it to record 50 frames a second for a half-speed effect. You can even switch the region to NTSC for 60fps. But come on, Canon! Even my three year-old phone shoots serviceable 120p. And my compact camera of choice- the Sony RX100iv- shoots glorious 250fps in 2-second bursts that give you a whopping 20 seconds of slomo goodness.  You can even crank it to 1000fps if you’re not concerned about creating broadcast quality footage.

But the lack of slow motion was not a deal-breaker for me in light of everything that I’ve mentioned above. The C100 is, quite simply, the most fun video camera I’ve ever shot with and I hope that you’ll agree after you get your hands on one! And in case you were wondering, the AF100 will be moving into semi-retirement in the TV Studio, where we can make it comfortable by feeding it plenty of light as well as keeping its ISO low and its colour temperature under constant monitoring. Feel free to tell me what you think of the decision to go with the C100 in the comments below!

December 8, 2017

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