Why I Bought the Canon C100 Mark II
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**Check out my GH4 vs C100Mark II comparison here **
One Year Ago
Okay, so a year ago I bought a Panasonic GH4 and used it as an A cam for an entire year or to put things into perspective, on just over 125 shoots. Not 125 times I brought my camera out and shot some footage of a flower or a friend standing in a forest with the sun setting behind him or any of this other nonsense people shoot and upload to Vimeo. 125 working, paying shoots.
The GH4 performed very well after the initial growing pains of learning the menus, of finding a good set of picture profiles to shoot with (there are many), and creating a usable rig. The issue with the GH4 was three-fold:
1. Rigging the Camera
This got annoying fast. It's time consuming and not efficient for doc shooting.
2. At Times I Really Had to Work Hard to Get a Shallow DOP
Even with the Metabones Speedbooster giving me an extra stop on my f/2.8 lenses, I still had to work hard to overcome the small sensor size of the GH4.
3. Client Perception
By itself, the GH4 is a tiny ass camera. Great for sneaking shots if you need to be inconspicuous. When rigged, the GH4 looks more like a "contraption," as one client said to me, rather than an impressive camera. Whether you think it's true or not, client perception exists. When I walked into a recent Yelp shoot with the C100 Mark II, a set of Rokinon primes, and the DJI Ronin, I was asked within minutes if I could help this business to continue to shoot video throughout the year. That's before they even saw anything I had shot. That never happened with the GH4.
My Route to the C100 Mark II
I never take any camera or gear purchase lightly. I do a ton of research, read reviews from actual users, and ask questions of those who already own that equipment. There are a bunch of very good cameras available right now that are all within a close price range. Here's what I was looking at:
The Sony FS7
Ultimately, the cost of the FS7 and the expensive media it requires would have put me well over budget. This camera does a lot of great stuff for it's price, but in the near future I'm interested in shooting RAW. Spending an extra two-grand for an add-on that allows pro-res and raw shooting externally, then another two-grand for an external recorder, also turned me away.
The Sony FS5
Pretty much Sony's direct response to the Canon C100 and most likely the reason Canon slashed the price on the Mark II on January 1st (unless they have an interesting announcement coming up). It shoots 4K, unlike the C100 Mark II, and also does higher frame rates. I passed on this camera, based on camera tests I saw on Vimeo, a 2 and 1/2 hour Youtube video led by Alistair Chapman talking about the FS5, and the codec that everyone was complaining about. Let me also be honest and say, I'm not very good at color grading, and having previously shot in S-Log with the A7s, I did not enjoy the experience. That doesn't mean you won't.
*I also woke up early one morning to watch Philip Bloom's FS5 seminar and wasn't impressed with the short documentary he made with it.
Canon C300 Mark II
Sorry, Canon - that thing is way too expensive.
BlackMagic Ursa Mini
Same 4K sensor that's in the production model and the big URSA. Not a good low light camera which is what I need for my style of documentary and corporate shooting.
BlackMagic Ursa Mini 4.6K
This is the camera I wanted to buy. I was planning on buying it without the EVF and shoulder kit so I could afford some of the expensive CFast cards to records to and a V-mount battery. I was watching beta footage from the camera, and preparing myself for some serious hard drive space management. The compressed RAW options and ProRes codecs, possibly better low-light shooting capabilities than the URSA Mini 4K, make this a very attractive option for the price, but after a chat with the folks at B&H, I was told that the camera wouldn't be shipping until March at the earliest and I needed to spend my money before the end of 2015.
Which brings us to:
The Canon C100 Mark II
The C100 Mark II had a bunch of options that made it the best choice at the end of 2015 for me to purchase:
1. I had used the Canon C100 on four shoots between 2013-2014, all of which were shot in C-Log. I had no problem getting a nice grade from the footage and the camera was super easy to work with on set. So far my experience with the C100 Mark II is the same.
2. I no longer have to rig anything. I take the camera out of my Pelican case, throw on a lens, and shoot.
3. I can use my Ninja Blade with it.
4. When I owned a GH4 I could shoot up to 96fps. I think I did that once. For most of my work, shooting at 48fps or 60fps is more than good enough. Now I have up to 60fps with the Mark II. Perfect for me.
5. Ergonomics - It's an easy to use camera but it has everything you could want including waveforms, peaking, zebras, and LUTS. There are also a bunch of slots for custom picture profiles in addition to Wide DR, Cinema, and C-Log profiles. There are a ton of programmable buttons and the hand grip feels great.
6. It's light. I balanced it on my Ronin with no problem (I did have to remove the hand grip though).
7. Battery life is very good. I have two batteries, but one gets me through a whole day. I can save some juice by turning off the EVF if I'm not using it.
8. Built in ND. It's basically a requirement if you shoot docs. There's no time to mess with glass and matte boxes or screw-on ND's on a doc.
Go on any forum and you'll see a lot of people whining about the low bit rates and 8-bit 4:2:0 color space and all that other nonsense. Sure, that's not stuff to be overlooked, but it doesn't dictate the type of image you can get from your camera. If you're looking for an easy to use camera, lightweight, with solid ergonomics, excellent battery life, cheap SD media, with plenty of options to rig if you want to, this is a great camera for what is an even cheaper price now. I've used it on 8 paid shoots since purchasing it and I'm really enjoying working with it.
If for some reason your job requires 4K deliverables than I guess you can't consider this camera. Otherwise, if you're in the market, it has my recommendation.