Up to the Mark? Review of Canon C100 Mk II

Canon C100 Mk II
Acquisition
September 30th 2015 at 4:16PM

Canon C100 Mk II review

The images are good and it is easy to use but is the lack of 4K option on the C100 Mk II a deal breaker? By Christina Fox

 

When Canon introduced the hugely popular EOS C300 camera, many people saw it as the budget Arri Alexa, and when it released the C100, it was the budget C300: using the same large sensor everyone loved, but losing the ability to record industry-standard 50Mbps video in the camera, although that was nothing the addition of an Atomos Ninja or similar recorder couldn’t address.

 

Many more cameras have come on to the market since then, so Canon had to improve the C100, replace it or abandon it. As you’d expect, Canon has done what it usually does with a successful camera, and introduced a
Mark II version.

 

At first sight there isn’t a big difference in the old and new version. The alterations that have been made are small and incremental if taken on their own, but added together the changes show that Canon has been listening to its customers.

 

Important addition

 

One of the most important changes is the addition of higher quality MP4 recording (to the twin SD card slots) along with the previous offering of AVCHD only.

 

Recording capabilities

AVCHD           

  • 50p 28Mbps or 28Mbps LPCM
  • 50i 28Mbps LPCM, 24, 17 or 7Mbps
  • 25pf 28Mbps LPCM, 24, 17 or 7Mbps      
  • 59.94p 28Mbps or 28Mbps LPCM
  • 59.94i 28Mbps LPCM, 24, 17 or 7Mbps
  • 29.97pf 28Mbps LPCM, 24, 17 or 7Mbps
  • 23.98p 28Mbps LPCM, 24, 17 or 7Mbps

 

MP4 / H.264

  • 50p 35Mbps
  • 25p 17 or 3Mbps      
  • 59.94p 35Mbps
  • 29.97p 17 or 3Mbps
  • 23.98p 17 or 3Mbps

 

 

35Mbps isn’t shabby, but for those needing more megabits per second and less compression the solution is using the HDMI socket and running video out to a separate recorder. I do find it surprising that at this price (£3,600 including VAT) they couldn’t have put in an HD-SDI socket: Canon’s own XF305 (also £3,600 inc VAT) and XF105 (£1,800 inc VAT) both have SDI sockets. HDMI is just not secure enough to hold onto a cable. Give me a bayonet fitting any day: once it is plugged in, it stays in.

 

The camera has kept the same Super 35mm 8.3-megapixel CMOS sensor found in the original EOS C100 (and the EOS C300), but its image processing has had an upgrade to the Digic DV 4.

 

Processing power

 

The Digic DV 4 processor enables the C100 Mark II’s advanced new debayering algorithm for
image processing called Over Sampling HD Processing. Using this method, the camera captures an Ultra HD image, the red, green and blue channels are separated into three individual 8-megapixel UHD signals (compared to 2-megapixels in the EOS C100), and the UHD RGB signals are then multiplexed and scaled down internally into the HD (1920x1080) signal that is recorded. This process results in appreciably improved image quality.

 

It might have been a good idea to offer 4K (at least as an upgrade), but then why would people want to pay three times as much for the new C300 Mk II?

 

Disappointingly for many, although the camera captures a UHD image, you can’t then output it. I know for some people this is a deal breaker, but I’m not convinced that many of us need 4K right now. Ask yourself: how many of your friends have a 4K TV? Even the geeks I know in broadcast don’t have one: they are too expensive. Certainly, many of the people I train shoot video for the web, where UHD is overkill at best.

If the client insists on 4K you can always hire in a suitable camera (or buy the newly released C300 Mk II or the less expensive, less flexible XC10).

 

Less false colours

 

However, using this over sampling method should not only offer improved image quality and perceived resolution but also a reduction in the occurrences of false colours and moiré patterning as well as limiting the levels of noise at high ISO.

 

Indeed, the ISO range has increased from 80,000 (i.e. 42dB of gain) to 102,400 (44dB of gain), although that no longer sounds impressive when you see video shot by moonlight on the Sony A7s, which can max out at 409,600 ISO.

 

The dual pixel auto focus isn’t really new, but it does now come as standard (rather than an upgrade). I know some people will see autofocus as dumbing down, but we can’t all afford a focus puller and cine lenses. So, the auto focus will come in handy along with the auto focus lock button, which prevents focus hunting. The big downside is that the autofocus is still centre weighted and can’t be moved around the screen as with a DSLR.

 

Detective work

 

I’m also glad to see face detection. Some may see it as a gimmick, but if you’re a self shooter doing lots of interviews you’ll find it works well and you’ll have one less thing to worry about. But, do be aware that face detection doesn’t work with all lenses. The review camera didn’t come with a lens so I used my Canon EF-S 18-135mm lens, which is incompatible with face detection.

 

So, if you intend to use face detection, push auto iris or auto aperture, you’ll need a compatible lens: at the moment there are only five listed on the Canon website (all are STM lenses).

 

  • EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM
  • EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM
  • EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM
  • EF-S 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 IS STM
  • EF-S 10-18mm F4.5-5.6 IS STM

 

One of the biggest changes is the screen. The hinge has moved from the top of the screen to the left hand side. Previously, it didn’t have a lot of flexibility of angles. Now it flips out, up, down and even around the side of the camera (through 270º). This will make running and gunning with the camera so much easier.

 

Whether you have the camera low down or above your head you’ll be able to see what you’re doing. Some people did complain that their (old) screen was a tad on the blue side. So, they will be pleased to hear that the screen has also been upgraded from an LCD to a 3.5-inch OLED with more accurate colour rendition for judging colour temperature. It also has its own power button: handy for switching it off and saving your battery.

 

Another useful addition is the vectorscope (previously available only on the C300 and C500), which is handy for checking skin tone and white balance.

 

Ergonomically placed

 

A further important change is the joystick used to navigate the menus. In the original C100, it was ergonomically placed on the handgrip just where your thumb would sit. But, what if you removed the handgrip to use the camera in a rig? Well, that made things very tricky until a firmware upgrade allowed you to assign buttons to the navigation functions.

 

The good news is that there are now two joysticks. One is still on the handgrip, but the second one is on the lower left hand edge of the OLED screen. Definitely an improvement and also freeing up the assignable buttons.

 

The new Wi-Fi capability will come in handy if you have the camera in an inaccessible location perhaps on the end of a boom arm.

 

Speaking of which, they have increased in number from 15 to 17, which is great as long as you can remember what they all do, although there is a status button to remind you which assignable button does what, and more besides. There are also 14 menu functions you can register and re-order in the ‘My Menu’ – which saves time rootling through pages of menus. These together make this a conveniently customisable camera.

 

Potentially mute

 

The C100 Mk I and II do have a built in microphone on the handle unit. If you removed the handle then your images were potentially mute, so Canon has given the Mk II a small microphone on the body of the camera that looks very similar to the microphone on a 5D. Sometimes you need that bit of scratch audio in order to sync sound in the edit. Again it’s a small addition but a useful one.

 

The new Wi-Fi capability will come in handy if you have the camera in an inaccessible location perhaps on the end of a boom arm. You can connect it to a network in five different ways, so you’ll probably want to test this in advance of the shoot to make sure it is all working correctly.

 

Once it is up and running, you can use a browser to control the camera remotely. Video and photos can also be transferred by FTP – a useful feature if you need an offsite file back-up or your images are time sensitive – as long as you can get a good connection in the local Starbucks.

 

The verdict

 

So, if you have up to £4,000 to spend, is the C100 Mk II for you? The upgrades look good. Canon has listened to its customers and made changes. The media is cheap (unlike SxS for example), the images are good and it is easy to use.

 

However, it might have been a good idea to offer 4K (at least as an upgrade), but then why would people want to pay three times as much for the new C300 Mk II (which, admittedly, has several excellent new features too, including up to 15 stops of dynamic range).

 

The other thing to consider is that the C100 Mk II costs only a little less than a new C300 (Mk I), which has been reduced in price prior to the shipping of the C300 Mk II, and the older C300 still has several advantages over the new C100, including HD-SDI output and built-in 50Mbps recording.