Canon C100 (2 of 4)

I’ve been doing a bit of shooting with the Canon c100 lately. Many people rant and rave about how much of a step up it is from a 5d mark III or any DSLR body for that matter. While I’ve enjoyed shooting with it, i’m not exactly in love.

Currently the most disappointing thing about the c100 for me is the control layout. While the Canon c100 is about the same size as the 5d mark III body (above), the side placement of most major controls and settings is kind of a pain. Adding to the problem is the flip out screen which covers up the setting buttons you’re looking for. It could be that I’ve been shooting on DSLR cameras for so long that I’ve grown used to it, but I find the layout of the 5d mark III’s controls to be much more intuitive.

Canon C100 (4 of 4)

With the 5d mark III as well as most DSLR cameras, your controls are laid out around the screen on the back of the camera. The roll wheel and D-pad on DSLR can be set for most common controlls and it’s generally pretty easy to get around. With the c100, you can assign pretty much any button to any function. The problem is that the vast majority of the control buttons are located on the left hand side of the the camera.

I find myself constantly having to look around the side of the camera for basic functions and once you find what you’re looking for you have to use the joystick and wheel on the control handle to actually make adjustments. Quick adjustments on the Canon c100 aren’t possible without the control handgrip. You can remove the handgrip and put a cap on the mount to slim down the camera, but this basically cripples the cameras controls. While I find the handgrip nice for handheld work, it’s not exactly something I want attached all the time.

Canon C100 (1 of 4)

I’ve also become very accustomed to a quick half press of the 5d mark III‘s shutter button when composing a shot. Many people frown on this method of focusing, but when i’m trying to get things done fast, I find it much more efficient to check focus in this manner. The Canon c100‘s auto focus system is lacking at best, even in live view mode the 5d mark III does a much better job, especially in low light. I find myself having to use the magnification feature on the c100 constantly to check focus and it really slows me down.

The display on the Canon c100 isn’t amazing and I find even the t2i’s screen far more enjoyable to use. For a camera in this price range (around $6000) I would expect a much nicer looking screen. It’s very disappointing that the flip out screen doesn’t even stand up to the quality of the Canon 60d. The camera feels like something that’s really been limited on purpose by Canon.

Another irritation that you don’t see mentioned much is the file format. If you record in anything other than 24p your signal is wrapped up in a 60i file format. Added to this headache is the already highly compressed AVCHD format. It’s not a huge issue when dealing with an NLE that can correctly interpret the footage, but it’s still a bit of a hassle. If you work with multiple editors and don’t normally turn in footage wrapped in a 60i format, I could see problems popping up in the post process.

Yet another problem is that no matter what format you plan to record in, the hdmi port always outputs it over a 60i signal. If you use a Atoms Ninja you’re usually ok after a few frames as it does a decent job of detecting and deinterlacing the display. However, if you have a less intelligent field monitor, you’re going to end up seeing the rather nasty interlace lines on your field monitor with any fast camera moves. Not exactly an ideal option and it ends up giving you 2 or 3 second of useless footage at the beginning of every shot when using the Ninja for recording.

Canon C100 (3 of 4)

On the positive side of things, the clean hdmi output with audio is a handy thing to have and the ability to handle high ISO on this camera is pretty impressive. I wouldn’t push things as far as 20,000 iso, but 6,400, and 12,800 are pretty usable. The top handle with XLR and audio support is pretty handy and the preamps are much cleaner than any DSLR. Build quality is pretty decent, but not amazing, and you’ll find the Canon 5d mark III to feel a lot more solid. The on board fan is somewhat load on the c100 when you’re used to the fanless operation of the 5d mark III and you’ll want to make adjustments right away to the speed settings in the control menu.

Overall most of the “pro features” are things you would normally expect from a camera in this price range, but it doesn’t feel like much of a value when compared with the 5d mark III. A lot of people argue about the “superior image quality” and “sharpness” of the Canon c100. While they aren’t necessarily wrong about those statements, you really have to pixel peep for anyone to really see a difference.

You might be able to sell me on the image quality pitch if I did a lot of 720p punch ins that were being enlarged to 1080p, but that’s something that only really happens and when it does, the shots are so short that you’d be hard pressed to notice. I’ll post some more thoughts as I spend more time with the Canon c100, but right now i’m only lukewarm on the idea of actually owning it.

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