It’s an exciting time for compact cinema cameras as they get smaller and more modular while continuing to add better and better specs for lower-budget and mobile production. Although I’ve worked with many cameras on documentary and mobile productions, the Canon EOS C series cinema line has been one of the most versatile, and significant advantages usually come with each new model release. This year, Canon has introduced three feature-packed models to its impressive repertoire: the EOS C70, the EOS C300 Mark III, and the EOS C500 Mark II. Let’s look at each of their advantages and compare their standout features.
Canon EOS C70
The EOS C70 is the freshest design of the three cameras—the other two provide valuable updates to previous models. It has one of the most compact form factors for a cinema camera, resembling the form factor of a DSLR or mirrorless camera, and its durable body makes it a great choice for field, multi-camera, and run-and-gun productions. Unlike the other two cameras, it features Canon’s RF lens mount that provides native mounting for Canon’s new line of fast, compact, lightweight RF cinema lenses that have additional contacts for lens metadata communication and integrated stabilization.
Its Super 35 DGO (Dual Gain Output) sensor offers you a maximum resolution up to DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) at 120 fps with 16 stops of dynamic range, providing high detail in the shadows and bright areas with its dual gain output readings. This sensor would have worked great for my indoor-to-outdoor run-and-gun shots. It also can shoot in windowed 2K/Super-16 crop mode, which allows frame rates up to 180 fps for some stylish slow-motion shots. Like the other models, it also offers an integrated mechanical ND filter wheel, as well, so you can make those rapid changes right in the camera without fumbling with filters.
Other advantages of the C70 for documentary-style productions are its ability to record unlimited video without stopping to dual SD card slots; it provides a great color match to your C300 Mark III or C500 Mark II as a second camera; and it has auto-ISO and auto-gain functions when your conditions change rapidly. It also has a 3.5" touchscreen LCD panel like the other two models so you can make configuration changes, and it also has studio features for multi-camera productions like BNC timecode connectors, and its mini-XLR inputs allow you to record directly with professional microphones despite its small form. Click here to learn more about the EOS C70.
Canon EOS C300 Mark III
The C300 Mark III enters the line taking over for the Mark II, with numerous enhancements, although at first glance, the C300 Mark III seems to be a sister camera for the C500 Mark II. It’s similar to the C500 Mark II form factor and even shares the same accessory types, but there are a few important differences such as the sensor size and, of course, affordability.
The first update to the C300 Mark II is a larger Super 35 sensor and the addition of a DIG!C DG 7 image processor and DGO (Dual Gain Output) that performs well in low light as well as in bright areas, same as the C70. It features two CFexpress Type B card slots that support higher capacity and faster cards than the CFast cards on the Mark II. It also features a variable bit rate up to 180 fps (in 2K crop mode) vs 120 fps maximum on the Mark II, so you can perform even more stylish slow-motion shots. One of the biggest updates is to the output, which now includes a 12G-SDI output that supports up to 4K output, rather than the 3G/HD-SDI 1080p output on the Mark II. It also has a monitor output that supports 4K so you can view your footage accurately while shooting.
The C300 Mark III also now supports Cinema RAW Light recording in addition to XF-AVC, and it now supports multiple expansion units to add outputs and recording options right onto the camera rig. One of the important features from the C500 Mark II that was carried over to the C300 Mark III is the built-in electronic 5-axis stabilization that works with a multitude of IS lenses. Click here to learn more about the C300 Mark III.
Canon EOS C500 Mark II
The EOS C500 Mark II takes cinema resolution to new dimensions and it’s an enormous upgrade over the first-generation C500. Though it shares a similar form to the C300 Mark III, its internals are different in many ways. Starting with its Full-Frame sensor with DIG!C DV 7 image processor, it delivers 5.9K processor resolution (5952 x 3140) with 18.69MP effective pixels and a DCI 4K crop vs the 4K native resolution (4096 x 2160) and 8.85MP effective pixels of the C500 with a DIG!C DV III processor. This means increased frame size and higher resolution raw recording, but also the ability to crop images and still maintain resolution and color depth and accuracy.
Other enhancements over the C500 include an expanded ND filter wheel, expanded ISO range, and the addition of slow and fast modes for added creative choices. Also added to the Mark II is Dual Pixel CMOS AF with Touch AF and Face Detection, while the C500 had only manual internal focus with a dependency on autofocus lenses. The Mark II also adds recording to Canon’s Cinema RAW Light (up to 5952 x 3140) and XF-AVC with proxy recording to the SD card slot, and its two CFExpress slots accept faster, higher-capacity cards than the CF card slot on its predecessor. Even the audio input has been stepped up to support 4-channel, 24-bit LPCM for superior audio quality over the C500. Click here to learn more about the C500 Mark II.
While price point may be one deciding factor in a purchase, these three new offerings from Canon provide advantages over one another for portability, compatibility, and sensor size, to ensure you have what you need for any production, whether it’s in the field or in the studio.
These cine cameras from Canon pack a lot of punch for professional results. Which one do you think is the right camera for your projects? Let us know in the Comments section, just below. If you'd like to know more, check the B&H Photo website for information on Canon’s line of cameras and accessories, call 800-606-6969 and speak with one of our Sales Associates, or visit the B&H SuperStore when you’re in New York City.