The Canon C100 is one of my favorite run and gun cameras and I shoot with it more than any other camera that I own – it just works so well right out of the box. As you might imagine, being a C100 owner I was very eager to see what Canon had in store with the Mark II version of this camera which was just announced this week, but unfortunately was far from blown away by the announcement.
Before I go on, here are the C100 MK II specs for those of you that haven’t seen them yet:
- Same Super 35mm CMOS Sensor (24.6 x 13.8 mm) as previous C100
- 1080p: 23.98, 25, 29.97, 50, 59.94
- 720p: 23.98, 25, 29.97
- 640 x 360: 23.98, 25, 29.97
- ISO 320 to 80,000 in 1/3-step increments
- Dual Pixel CMOS AutoFocus is Now Standard (Also includes Face Detection AF with STM Lenses)
- Canon Log LUT Support on the HDMI Output (so you can see what the final image will look like while still recording log)
- 4:2:0 to SD card, 4:2:2 via uncompressed HDMI out, Timecode over HDMI
- Dual SDHC/SDXC Card Slots
- AVCHD: 28, 24, 17, 7 Mb/s
- MP4: 35, 24, 17, 4, 3, Mb/s
- New 40% slow motion to 250% fast motion in MP4
- AAC Audio Recording
- Built-in 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi support
- New internal mic built into the body, not just the top handle
- New 1.23MP OLED Screen that can be tilted to the side of the camera (camera can now be controlled without side handle)
- New 0.45″ 1.23 MP viewfinder
- Availability: December 2014
- Price: $5,500
The Original C100
When the C100 first came out, I didn’t even consider shooting with it based on the spec sheet. The bit rate was low, there were no variable frame rates, and the image was limited to HD resolution, which bugged me considering the price tag. About a year after the camera was released though, I had a chance to actually shoot with it and completely changed my mind on the camera. Like the C300, the C100 had such great ergonomics and delivered an image that far exceeded what you might expect based on the specs alone. I also started to understand what this camera was best used for after shooting with it for the first time. It was clearly a great event/documentary/low budget camera that would allow for very high quality recording in a package that worked without the need for additional rigging. No it didn’t do raw, high bit rate, variable frame rates, or lots of other things that many less expensive cameras offered, but it did deliver a great image every single time and could be used with an external recorder for narrative and more polished looking projects. Needless to say, it became my go-to camera for many of my smaller productions as it made my life easier on set and delivered a very reliable image.
Here’s a short that I shot with the C100 a few months back. Normally I don’t use the C100 for narrative, but in this case it was the best choice:
Based on all of this, you might be wondering why I’m not rushing to pre-order the C100 Mark II, since it is essentially a better version of the C100. The EVF has been hugely improved (which was my biggest issue with the original C100), 1080/60p is now available, and a handful of other design and functional changes have been made that improve the performance and usability of this camera. The reason that I don’t care to upgrade however, is simply because these changes are not significant enough. If I was in the market for a C100 today and I didn’t currently own one, of course I would go for the Mark II as it does offer some additional functionality that I would enjoy (namely the ability to shoot 1080/60p), but the bottom line is that for me as a current C100 owner, Canon have not done enough to make me want to upgrade. My current C100 still delivers a beautiful image and with the exception of the few new bells and whistles I listed above, this is the exact same camera.
Really, the issue that I have with the C100 MK II has less to do with the camera itself, and more to do with Canon’s approach to developing new products. There is no denying that the C100 MK II is going to be an excellent tool, but in my opinion I don’t think it’s going to make much of a splash in today’s camera market based on the competition alone. Current C100 owners will likely feel the same way that I do (in that this is not a necessary upgrade), and new potential C100 MK II buyers may very well be deterred by the camera specs, even more so than they would have with the initial C100… This is because although the MK II has better specs than the original C100, it’s specs relative to the average semi-professional camera today are further off than the original camera was to the competition. With an abundance of cameras shooting 4K, variable frame rates, and offering other amazing functionality – there isn’t that much (on paper at least) that will get new buyers to turn their heads. Once again though, I will re-iterate that I am not suggesting this will be a bad camera or that some people won’t find a use for it. In fact, I think the opposite is true. I also believe however that with a few more features this camera could have made a much bigger impact. The problem of course though, is the rest of Canon’s lineup –
Over the past few years Canon have made what I believe to be some no so great choices with their video offerings, and ultimately have pushed away many of their video based users.
Canon’s initial domination of the DSLR video industry happened more or less by fluke. They didn’t expect the response that they would get to the initial 5D MK II (with regards to video), and have since attempted to capitalize on that success by launching more video based products – specifically their cinema line. Although some of their other cameras (including the C100/C300) have been used extensively and have been quite popular, they have not come out with a product as exciting as the 5D MK II since, well the 5D MK II, and that’s something that many of us have been disappointed with.
The big issue with their cinema camera lineup (most specifically the C100 and C300) has always been that these cameras all have a fairly limited feature set given their relatively high price point. The C300 for example is still $12,000, and while it is undeniably an excellent camera (based on ergonomics and reliability alone), it lacks many features that cameras a fraction of the cost have (such as 4K acquisition). There is an argument to be made that some of these lacking features (such as 4K) are not necessary for all shooters – and I would certainly agree with that point. The fact of the matter is though, even though not everyone needs to shoot 4K or record straight to ProRes, many shooters do. In fact, more and more need it every day, and Canon has reserved 4K and other more professional functionality for only their highest end products.
The fact that Canon have been late to the game with regards to high frame rates, 4K, and other important features on their higher end cameras is only half the problem. The other half is the fact that their lower end cameras (DSLR’s in particular) offer even less functionality in order to avoid cannabilizing their higher end products. I will re-iterate here that this is of course my opinion, but I believe many others would agree with me that Canon seems to be purposefully keeping features like 4K recording off of their lesser expensive cameras so there is still a place for their higher end products.
I can understand and respect that Canon needs to cover themselves and make sure they don’t make any of their own products obsolete by offering better functionality on lower cost products. However, I think the better solution to crippling their lower end cameras, would be to innovate more heavily on their higher end cameras. 4K and high frame rates shouldn’t be the only reason a customer is buying a $12,000+ camera, and I think there can be a best of both worlds situation for Canon. I believe that Canon must have the technology, man power, and infrastructure to allow them to create cinema cameras that truly rival some of the best out there today. If they were able to up their game significantly on the C-series cameras, then they could also offer 4K and plenty of other features on their less expensive cameras without risking losing sales on the higher end, as those would no longer need to be the big selling features.
Unlike many current or former Canon users, I am not as upset with the direction that Canon is taking even though I don’t agree with it. The fact is, today I can choose from literally dozens of amazing cameras that cost less than Canon’s offerings and can deliver superior results visually. There is no reason to be upset with Canon or any other manufacturer today, as the bottom line is we all have more choice than ever before in history. That said, the one thing that does frustrate me on the other end of the spectrum is that many of the other manufacturers that do offer better specs, don’t offer the ergonomics that Canon does. Hopefully this will change in the near future.
Many of my close friends and colleagues have been leaving the Canon brand and converting to cameras made by Panasonic, Sony, Blackmagic, and other brands. A couple of years ago it was rare to see anything but a 5D or 7D on a low budget shoot, and in practically no-time it feels like the tables have turned. I truly hope that Canon is able shift gears and up their game in the future, as I do think they make amazing products and know that they are capable of so much more. Unlike companies like Blackmagic that have to innovate to make a dent in this industry, Canon will remain comfortable no matter what. They still made some of the best stills cameras in the world, and that will always keep them afloat no matter how much or how little they innovate with their video lineup. But if they aren’t careful, they may just lose the rest of their video customers…