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Cinema Style, Conservative Price: Capturing Video with Canon's EOS C100 Camera

11/20/2013 11:15 AM Eastern

The EOS C100 digital video camera targets a broad range of lower-budget film and video productions with a flexible, modular design that supports a variety of single-operator shooting styles. The EOS C100 weighs 2.2 lb. in its basic configuration. It uses the same Super 35mm imaging system found in the EOS C500 and EOS C300. The camera incorporates Canon’s EF lens mount and is fully compatible with Canon’s line of EF, EF-S and Cinema series lenses.

The industry-standard AVCHD codec records HD video using H.264 compression at data rates up to 24 Mb/s and integrates easily into postproduction workflows. A single 32 GB SD card will hold nearly three hours of HD video at 24 Mb/s. Dual SD-format memory card slots enable relay recording for continuous roll time and double-slot recording for enhanced security.

Features

Some of the features that differentiate the C100 from other DSLRs include a built-in four-position ND filter, two balanced 3-pin XLR audio connectors (on the removable handle unit), two different record buttons, batteries that actually last the length of your shoot, and shooting times as long as your media size will allow. (The Canon-supplied Data Import Utility software will seamlessly recombine video data that was divided when a file exceeded the 2 GB limit, or join files that were created during relay-recording mode.)

ISO ranges from 320 to 20,000 in 1/3-stop increments. In addition to outputting AVCHD-format files to its dual SD slots, the EOS C100 can deliver HD video signals in uncompressed 4:2:2 format via a standard HDMI digital output for external recording, live viewing or playback on an external monitor. The HDMI output carries multiplexed, 2:3 pull-down markers and SMPTE-format timecode.

Director Patrick Moreau and the team at stillmotion shot the short documentary “Pulse” in three countries in just over a week with Canon’s EOS C100 (watch the video below). This photo shows Ray Tsang with the EOS C100.

The video signal is recorded in AVCHD’s MPEG-4 H.264 using 4:2:0 color space. There are essentially three shooting modes: 24 Mb/s (1920 x 1080) at 60i/30p/24p/50i/25p, 17 Mb/s (1920 x 1080) at 60i/30p/24p/50i/25p and 7 Mb/s (1440 x 1080) at 60i/30p/24p/50i/25p.

The C100 may be configured in a number of different ways. The EOS C100’s main body can be mated with a hand grip or a separate handle unit that includes two XLR audio connectors, a stereo mic and record-tally lamp. To match a user’s preferred shooting style, the C100’s grip handle rotates 360 degrees and includes a joystick for making menu selections.

One area where the C100 really shines is in its custom picture profiles. Professional shooters often desire a specific “look,” and the C100 allows these users to save nine customized profiles in the camera and up to 20 on an SD card. Custom profiles can be adjusted for gamma, black, black gamma, low key saturation, knee, sharpness, noise reduction, skin detail, selective noise reduction, color matrix, white balance, color correction and setup level. The EOS C100 ships with three preset profiles: EOS standard, wide dynamic range and “cinema,” which applies Canon Log Gamma and Color Matrix.

The EOS C100 is a fully manual camera, with user control of functions including iris, shutter speed, gain, zoom, focus and audio levels. Sharp focus can be achieved using the high-resolution 3.5” LCD monitor and 1.56 megapixel color viewfinder/EVF. Two peaking modes and a magnify-focus assist that are available in both standby and record modes allow shooters to check critical focus.

In Use

 

The Canon EOS C100 is an amazing camera, but using it effectively may take a bit of practice. Users will benefit from customizing the camera’s settings for greater control. I found that it takes quite a bit of menu diving to access the setup options, however, and the miniscule thumbwheel/joystick doesn’t help. (The joystick is located on the grip unit on the camcorder’s right side. The grip may be removed, but then you won’t be able to change any camera settings that require the joystick.)

On location, I attached an 8” field monitor to the camera’s hot shoe so everyone could observe the shot. I noticed that when image magnification is selected, the “mag” graphic appears on the camera’s LCD screen but not on the HDMI-connected external monitor, which is a shortcoming.

Regarding image quality, I believe the footage I shot with the C100 has better color separation than that shot with my standby Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Editing footage from the C100 is slightly more challenging, though. To get footage shot on my 5D Mk III into Apple Final Cut Pro 7, I’d use Squared 5’s MPEG Streamclip to convert the AVCHD H.264 files to Apple ProRes 422 (HQ), but I wasn’t able to do the same thing with C100 footage. Video files shot on the C100 are not accessible in MPEG Streamclip and must be imported using FCP 7’s Log and Transfer. It’s just another step, but old habits die hard.

On the topic of audio, having real XLR connectors speeds field sound production, as it eliminates the requirement for an external audio recorder and means you won’t have to sync everything later in post. The camera also makes it simple to adjust audio levels.

I appreciate the option of shooting in 60i, 30p and 24p and controlling the gammas and black levels. The C100 comes across to me as more “professional” than a lot of other cinema-shooting DSLRs. Once you get used to the setup and handling of the C100, you may find it difficult to go back to shooting with antiquated DSLRs. The C100 and its siblings are going to be the pathway to the future. All of the best features of a DSLR have survived and you have more capability in audio and video without a much larger footprint.


"Pulse" shot on a Canon C100 by stillmotion.

 

Product: Canon EOS C100
Score:

Pros: High-quality camcorder that looks and feels more like a video camera than a DSLR.
Cons: Viewfinder is difficult to use. Menu joystick too small and seems like it will break quickly.
Bottom Line: The future of the DSLR.
MSRP: $5,499 (body only, EF mount)

 

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