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Shooting with Canon’s C300 Mark II – Part One

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Hello!

We are back, this time with nerdy tech talk, so strap yourselves in, or tune out and wait till my next blog. Just kidding, that blog is also going to be technical, so keep reading if you’re feeling sleepy.

For the past few years I’ve been shooting, almost everything I’ve shot has been DSLR (Canon, in flavors of 60D/7D, 5D Mark II, and 5D Mark III) or C100 (in flavors of Mark I and Mark II, which I own).

Now, these aren’t bad cameras in the slightest, and I’m not blaming my image quality on not having good enough gear (that’s all me not knowing what I’m doing 87% of the time), but for 2016, I made a bold statement and planted a flag for only myself to see, and that flag said “I’m going to get my hands on some higher end digital cinema cameras this year.”

How was I going to do that? Throw my own, hard-earned money at local rental houses? Beg productions to let me use the big boy cameras?

That’s exactly what I was going to do.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to do either yet. I’ve been fortunate enough to be granted access to Canon’s C300 Mark II, their new-ish 4K flagship camera, and, coming up, Sony’s old-ish F55 beast, both for short narrative films.

The C300 Mark II is a terrific camera, that I think scares people away because you can basically get everything that camera has on paper in the Sony FS7, which is so cheap (comparatively) that you could buy an FS7 for yourself, and one for your friend, because you’re just the kind of guy (or gal) who doesn’t mind buying expensive cameras for your friends.

Anyway, the original C300 was the camera to own rent back in it’s glory days. Robust codec, decent 50mbps, and Canon’s outstanding color science, stuffed inside a sort-of awkward form factor, with accessible buttons and built-in ND. It’s more-expensive-than-it-should-be price tag meant it was the perfect camera to rent.

I think the Mark II is a significant step-up. C-Log 2, Canon’s latest iteration of their log profile, makes the camera sing with 15 stops of dynamic range. I know this has been doubted by “lab tests” on the interwebs, and though I never did tests of my own, the DR of this camera is impressive, to say the least. There were so many situations shooting “Miles Between Us” (last year’s feature film), on the C100 Mark II that I wish I had an extra stop of latitude here or there to preserve just a little more detail. There were a ton of days on that film where “cheating” DR wouldn’t have been possible with the amount of coverage to get in one day, so in those kind of situations, having that extra stop of highlight information or shadow detail can come in handy when you don’t have the crew or the budget to plaster ND all over the windows, or pump the room with more light.

Anyway, I was able to get my hands on one shooting “Reconquista”, and I think I turned to Steven Hoff, my 1st AC, about ten times a day saying how impressed I was by what we were able to capture.

Speaking of which, having a good crew you can trust – massive. Another blog for another time.

Back to the camera – this was a shoot where, again, we needed to move quick, and I knew we wouldn’t have time to putz around with swapping out ND filters, re-rigging for certain angles, etc. The C300 is just remarkable for working quick and moving fast, and it really allowed us to focus more importantly on what we were trying to communicate visually with the story.

Granted, Day 1 ended up finished without having shot a critical portion of the planned schedule. I blame the AD. Always blame the AD. (Just kidding, don’t do that, those people are a blessing).

Overall thoughts/TL;DR: There’s very little not to like about this camera. The latitude in C-Log 2 is terrific, the amount of functionality packed into the camera is great, and those already familiar with Canon’s color science already know they’ve got that down to a tee.  Great for narrative, and fantastic (I would imagine) for documentary/any type of run-and-gun situation.

The next blog is going to go more in-depth about the picture settings I used (ie, not the base C-Log 2), gear we coupled the camera with to make it more efficient, and also some breakdowns with lighting diagrams for specific shots from the film, and how we achieved them.

If you made it to the end of this blog, give yourself a pat on the back. Actually, I will give you a pat on the back for not falling asleep as I drone on about cameras.

Till next time.

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