Thanks to Canon adding video to the Canon 5D Mark II as an afterthought, the doors to quality digital film production were blown wide open and legions of new filmmakers have been creating great content ever since. But often times the DSLR for video set up requires a fair amount of add ons or compromises to make it work for commercial video production. Now there is the option of the C100 vs. the DSLR.
At Pixel Bokeh we happily went down this route shooting with both a Canon 7D and 5D Mark III for a number of years. We used the H4n and sync’d audio in post with the 7D and direct to the camera with the 5D Mark III. We event invested into a shoulder rig system and Anton Bauer batteries to get more production value from the cameras. However, we eventually decided that somewhere between the DSLR and the much larger video camera bodies, there had to be a middle ground that would work for the level of commercial video production that we do. That eventually turned out to be the Canon C100.
Now, there have been a ton of great reviews on the C100 and all it can do. But this post is going to be a straight up 1 to 1 comparison of the C100 to 5D Mark III in regards to why we think the C100 is better for video production without focusing on image quality. That’s an important aspect, but it’s one that often gets too much of the attention in these types of comparison articles. So without further ado:
1. Weight / Balance
The C100 is well balanced weight wise. The body weighs around albs (1835g) by the time you add the grip and a battery to it. The 5D Mark III on the other hand weighs in at only 33.5 oz (950g). Now you might think that the lower weight would be better, but that’s not always the case in production. Whether it’s somebody bumping into the tripod, or wind when your outdoors, having more weight is going to give you greater stability and less shake in your footage.
The C100 is extremely well laid out in regards to function and is designed in a more elongated fashion compared to DSLR’s which are more horizontal in their ergonomic layout. The C100’s handle on the right side allows you to have a secure grip on the camera at all times. The strap around your hand means you’re not going to drop it or get it ripped out of your hands if you’re on the street. The right hand can easily support the camera body, while your left is forward on the lens adjusting focus and possibly zoom. The body of the C100 does not The EVF is not the greatest in the world, but you’ve got the option of using it or the LCD panel which articulates. The balance feels right and you aren’t having to reach around the camera body to adjust the lens like you are on most DSLRs.
3. Battery Life
No camera is any good if the battery doesn’t last that long. The C100’s battery is probably one of it’s best unsung features. Fully charged it will last several hours in full use. On the back are indicator lights that tell you the remaining charge by pressing the button on the battery. Add to that, it’s easy to change a battery out quickly. Simply press the battery release button on the right side of the body and pull the battery out, flip another one in and you’re right back to shooting. The DSLR batteries (both manufactures and aftermarket) often don’t last more much more than an hour and a half on continuous use. If you have the camera mounted on a tripod, you then need to pull it off to access the compartment and switch the battery. This eats into time you could be filming. Talk to any DSLR wedding videographer if they ever missed a shot due to changing a battery, chances are they’ll have a sad story for you.
4. Neutral Density Filters
Trying to keep low DOF in bright sunlight with a DSLR means one of two options; shoot at a higher shutter speed and hope you don’t get the “Saving Private Ryan” look, or use ND filters that attach to the lens. There are some good variable ND filters out there, but you’re putting another element in front of your lens that can lead to inter lens refraction. The ND filters on the C100 are 2ND, 4ND, and 6ND. You rotate them in on the C100 body itself right before the sensor. This means they do not interfere with what the lens is capturing, they simply decrease the overall amount of light just before it registers on the sensor. You get to keep that great looking DOF and not interfere with your lens.
5. Dedicated Buttons And Lots of Them
The C100 has 14 dedicated buttons on it, unlike a DSLR where there are fewer buttons, and pretty much all of them do double duty. Ever accidentally changed your Spot Meter when you were trying to adjust the ISO on a DSLR? Yeah, it happens to us all. Having quick access to adjusting White Balance, ISO/Gain, Peaking etc. make dialing in an image super fast. However it’s the combination of the buttons on the left and the joystick on the right that is makes things really effective. By being able to use the joystick with your thumb to quickly make adjustments and confirm them without having to move your hand from how it’s holding the camera is pure genius. Using the scroll week on a DSLR to dive into menus or make adjustments from the buttons that are available is fine but you can’t easily keep the camera pointed at a subject and make the adjustments at the same time. (And for those of you jumping up and down and saying, “What about custom layouts on the DSLR?”. Yes, we have always set up custom layouts with our DSLR’s to make adjusting them faster. With the C100, this just isn’t necessary.)
6. XLR Connections
Anyone doing serious commercial video production knows that audio is vital to the finished product. It’s not just all B-Roll set to whatever the hip song of the summer happens to be that year. Having dedicated XLR connectors on the camera and the ability to adjust the levels quickly is a Godsend. Not having to sync in post, but being able to verify you’ve got the idea locked to picture as you’re recording it means you can leave a shoot knowing you can start editing without having to hope that it all lines up in post. The fact that the audio levels are on the handle and not on the camera body itself also means you have a lot less issues with onboard noise.
7. The Handle
There is really only one way to hold a DSLR body. With the C100, you have the option using the handgrip on the righthand side, or you can hold it by the handle on the top. Honestly we don’t use the handle while filming that often unless leaning out over something or out of a vehicle. However, when moving the camera from one location to another, setting it up, or breaking it down, the handle comes in….well…handy. It’s a great way to transport the camera and not interfere with any of the buttons or controls. Though if you need to suddenly start recording, it’s easy to hit the second record button on the handle and start shooting right away.
8. Dual Media Recording
Now a DSLR like the 5D Mark iii does have the ability to record either to CF or SD or both, however not both at the same time. With the C100 you can record in either Relay or Dual slot recording. Relay recording means that one when card fills up, the camera will simply start recording over onto the second card. This is great when you’re doing an interview and your first card is nearly full, but what they’re saying is just the material you’ve been hoping for the entire shoot. Dual recording means that the same footage will be recorded on both cards at the same time. This gives you the added benefit that if one card fails, you have a back up. Or you can easily give a copy to the client if needed and have a copy for yourself for editing or archiving. Initially the idea of recording on SD vs. CF was a concern, but so far there has been no issues.
There are a number of other features that really make the C100 a great commercial production camera over a DSLR, such as:
- Peaking / Waveform Monitor
- The Fan (it has one which means it doesn’t overheat as often as a DSLR will.)
- C-Log and Wide DR
- Pre-Record Cache (3 seconds of constant recording so you don’t miss the start of the shot.)
- Easily accessible headphone jack.
Now, are there issues with the C100? You better believe it. Attaching the handgrip can be a real pain, the EVF is unusable and the LCD is just barely so, the placement of the auto focus button if you’re not careful. However, add all the negatives up against these eight positives and the C100 comes out as being the clear solid performer in regards to commercial video production. Now, that doesn’t mean we still don’t use the 5D Mark iii. It comes out with us on every shoot, and we use it as a B-Camera all the time in conjunction with the C100.
Hopefully this post helps anyone who might have been looking at a C100 and wondering if it really would be that much different than their DSLR. Each camera has it’s strengths and weaknesses, but with the Cinema line, Canon recognized that they needed to produce a camera that didn’t treat video as an afterthought, but didn’t fall to conventional video camera ergonomics and constraints. From our experience, they’ve created a camera that does everything you could want and then some.
– Happy Shooting