Canon C300, any good? We ask our footage expert Cliff Evans

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Film-maker and Photographer Cliff Evans in his pre C300 days

Is the Canon C300 as good as its cracked up to be? Who better to tell us, than our footage expert Cliff Evans, a man whose first camera was a Kodak Ektralite 400, and you have to trust a man with with such deep-rooted camera heritage. Art Director Lyndsey Salah quizzes Cliff Evans around the buzz on the C300

We got the chance to catch up with Cliff Evans a regular contributor to our footage library and experienced lighting cameraman.  He recently purchased the new Canon C300, and after having the pleasure of working with Cliff in the past with various HD cameras we were keen to hear his thoughts on the C300 and to see if it lived up to the hype! Cliff studied Media & Film at UEA in Norwich. He then worked at Anglia Television getting on-the-job  training from the ‘old school’ cameramen whilst working in the field.  He left Anglia in 2005 and moved to London working as a staff lighting cameraman at a crewing facility before going freelance in late 2006.

What was your first camera?

The first camera, which was officially mine, was a Kodak Ektralite 400.  It was a “hand me down” from my gran and I totally loved it.  It took a 110 cartridge and seemed ultra space age in comparison to my dads Praktica MTL of the time. I sadly left it in the back of a car at the motor show as a child. Gutted, although the pictures were total rubbish.

On Sale at Etsy the Vintage Kodak Ektralite 10 Camera

What was your best camera?

As new technologies supersede each other the new camera usually becomes the best, for me the c300 has upped the production value on screen of productions that previously couldn’t afford the look of a 35mm sensor. The 5Dmk2 was the first camera (I could afford) that pulled me away from film.

You have worked on everything from documentaries on David Beckham, to music promos for Jamie Cullen to popular home makeover shows. What was your biggest technical challenge?

I shot a commercial last year on Alexa. Shot in December with 8hrs of daylight, on screen it was to be a beautiful summers day. The weather decided to offer everything from its repertoire and throughout constantly fluctuating rain, sun, cloud & wind I had to cheat angles and shots to try to maintain some continuity on screen. Shooting 12 bit 4444 I knew we could push things in the Baselight grade.

Canon launched the C300 in January this year, with a lot of hype claiming to rival similar cameras such as the Scarlet & Alexa.  In your opinion how does it compare?

I love the Alexa, and Arri have got it right going back to basics. No fancy menus and a solid quick to use camera. I haven’t shot with a Scarlet but I’ve shot a lot with the Red One and have always found it slow and clunky. The pictures are as expected but I always liken shooting with Red like going back to Windows – it’s just a pain.  Most television productions baulk at the thought of Red workflow and can’t afford Alexa. For that reason it sits really well alongside them.  I think the c300 lacks some of the latitude of the Alexa. I think the Alexa better retains highlights too.

Canon EOS C300, Image from Canon website

Tell us the key features on the Canon C300!

Super 35mm sensor. Canon EF or PL mount. EF opens up a world of quirky affordable and amazing glass.  It shoots in an mxf codec, which is now an industry standard. Max ISO 20,000. I’ve shot several night scenes with available light at 6400 and been blown away by the pictures.

What can this camera do that other similar cameras struggle with? Is there any visible difference, could we see a comparison?

I think its true advantage is sensitivity. I think the pictures are cleaner at higher ISO’s than its counterparts. I also think like the 5Dmk2/3 has its own ‘look’ and in a digital age for me that’s something to enjoy and use.

Is this is an easy camera to use?

Very – annoyingly! The menu is akin to the xf305.

Canon EOS C300, Image from Canon product site

What extra equipment do you need to have, to make this the ultimate camera?

Where most people fail I think is with the rig. To be able to use the camera at speed and with confidence you need a decent handheld rig, which sits the camera’s POG on your shoulder.  A decent EVF is also essential and I use a Cineroid HDSDI. In terms of monitoring I use an IDX Wevi HD wireless transmitter. All these sit on the rig.

As well as owning the usual L zooms I own a set of Zeiss ZE Primes. I think they are beautifully clean and seem to complement the cameras look.

How often are you using this compared with your other cameras and do your clients notice the difference?

I bought the complete kit in March for a documentary series and it snowballed from there. Since I bought it I have shot on different cameras for only 4 days!

How does this camera compare to the Canon mrk II/III, what extra can it do?

For professional work I need certain capabilities that allow me to work reliably and smoothly. Notably BNC connections for timecode and monitoring and XLR inputs for audio. My c300 rig uses a wireless uncompressed HDSDI transmitter to the monitor and a lectro sonic dual receiver for audio.

With regards price to hire how does this compare and would you recommend spending the extra money on the C300?

The c300 kit comes out the same as a lot of 2/3” cameras for so there isn’t a price issue there and the Super 35mm sensor is worth it. In terms of upgrading from a 5D then undoubdtetly its worth spending the money. I think the benefit is felt on set with the ease of which you can work and on screen with the final images.

If you didn’t use the C300 which camera would you choose next?

It’s a difficult question, as it would depend on the project. For a documentary with a lot of hand held operating the Alexa could be too heavy but for a promo it would definitely be my camera of choice.

You are a very experienced DOP, cameraman do you ever venture into stills photography?

I shoot A LOT of stills outside of work but I really recognize the difference in skillset between the two disciplines at a professional level.  Choreographing camera & subject movement whilst shooting with an edited sequence in mind isn’t something that would naturally develops from shooting stills.

We’ve noticed more of our photographers clients are asking for footage as well as stills, does this ever happen the other way round with your clients?

It doesn’t actually and I think that’s a good thing.  I would be wary of trying to shoot stills alongside video on my own. I feel the whole mindset and approach is very different on set.

Cliff hires out the full camera kit and extensive lighting packages, for more information about Cliff and his work please see his website

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