Welcome to the Windy Films blog. Be sure to check back for our thoughts on gear, business, and film. Today we have a post all about 4K and the newest crop of 4K camera's being released by Canon.
We recently decided to part ways with our beloved Canon C100 and upgraded to the Canon C500. We found a good price on a used C500 and couldn't pass it up. I love(d) the C100. It was lightweight, simple, and ran all day without protest. In my mind, the C100 and its younger sibling, the C100 Mark II, are two of the best value documentary cameras that money can buy.
Back to the C500. The first thing we noticed about the C500 is that it is clearly not the C100. On the surface, they may look similar. But under the hood, these are two very different creations. Set the C500 to 1080p MXF, your cards and batteries will last for hours. It is when you switch it over to 4K and plug in an external recorder (the only real choice being the Odyssey 7Q/7Q+, which I'll explain after this) that the C500 really starts to show off. The fan kicks on and it is clear that the camera is working hard to pull down a huge amount of data from the sensor. The resolution and dynamic range are truly astounding. We have really been pushing these features to the limit in some of our recent interview setups and have been able to compose an ultra-wide that holds detail across the frame. It is also amazing at retaining detail through bright windows, which is something we would have to otherwise shoot around. See the example below.
Good & Bad for the Canon C500:
- 60fps @ 4K RAW
- 120fps @ 4K HRAW
- Incredibly sharp
- Incredible dynamic range.
- Incredibly well built
- Weather sealed
- Intuitive menus - near identical to C100
- Lens exchange button
- Battery life
- Fan noise
- Data rates at 4K RAW - FYI 4K @60fps works out to about 23mins = 1TB
- The Odyssey 7Q (sometimes)
Like I mentioned above, to REALLY use the Canon C500, you need an external recorder. Using the Odyssey 7Q (7Q, for short) is like going from texting on an iphone to texting on a flip-phone. They both technically do the same thing and outcomes are identical, the flip phone is just going to make you work harder for it. Don't get me wrong, the 7Q is a fantastic piece of equipment. The quality of the monitor alone is worth its full price tag. The problem lies in the fact that its interface is just finicky and takes a minute. Switching from RAW to ProRes - Count to 40. Swapping SSD's - Count to 20. Turning it on or off - Count to 30. The time can add up, especially on a documentary set where no one is waiting for you. However, I have never lost a single frame of footage from the 7Q. Ultimately, that is all I care about. I will always take dependability over speed and the 7Q is as dependable as they come. If you would like to know more, Convergent Design announced huge price-drops on both the Odyssey 7Q & 7Q+ at NAB 2015 that are worth checking out.
As with all camera purchases, as soon as I got the Canon C500, the Canon C300 Mark II was announced. But that's the way it is - there is always something new on the horizon. In a perfect world, I would wait until NAB every year and see what is announced, plan my budget accordingly, and in 3 months buy the camera. If only. But as with most documentary film companies, we are constantly on the go, making deadlines and constantly delivering the greatest content in the shortest amount of time. I made a small chart comparing the C500 and C300 Mark II. It is not terribly scientific but it explains the differences and similarities better. I will let you draw your own conclusions and opinions from the chart but this makes me feel pretty good about the C500.