“Upgrading” to a Work Horse – C100 Mark II
Recently a friend of mine here in Vienna, Austria (who is not in the film and video production business) asked me:
-“What’s the best camera out there?”
He’s a bit of a car aficionado so I asked him right back:
-“What’s the best car out there?”
To which he instantly replied:
-“A Ferrari” (note: I can't recall which specific Ferrari he mentioned)
-“Great” I said. “So how about we rent that Ferrari and drive around some sand dunes this weekend? Since it’s the best car out there it should easily handle a drive in the open desert right?”
At first he looked at me like I was crazy, but quickly realized my point.
There really isn’t (at least in my humble opinion) a “best camera” out there. A pimped-out Arri Alexa would most likely be overkill for a solo videographer or cameraman covering a wedding for an entire day by himself, but it’s a terrific camera for a film crew or a video production company to shoot features and series with. If I want to put a camera on a surfboard and film a surfer catching a wave, I’m better off attaching a small action cam like a GoPro instead of a Sony FS7 to shoot the subject (it would probably last a few seconds in the water). Does this mean the GoPro is a better camera than the FS7? Obviously not.
You get the idea; you need the right tool for the right video production job. There is no “best camera”, and as I heard Philip Bloom once say (paraphrasing): “The best camera is the one you have available”.
I’ve owned all sorts of different video cameras in the past. From filming home-videos and comedy-sketches with a Panasonic HDC-SD9 camcorder, shooting music videos and timelapses on a Canon T3i, short films and docs with the Canon 5D Mark III, and most recently: Corporate video shoots, interviews, testimonials, conferences and events with the Canon C100 Mark II.
Our camera crew using the Canon 5D Mark III some years ago for a short film
Cameras all have different strengths and weaknesses depending on what you as a filmmaker, cameraman, videographer or video producer need it for. Compact or “small” seems to be, at least at the moment, the big trend with DSLR and mirrorless cameras being used for video productions. These smaller cameras produce wonderful images and are indeed extremely easy to carry around, ideal for the solo camera operator hired to film and run around an event all day. Note, these are also obviously great tools for camera crews and video teams, not just the one-man band.
Some down sides to these wonderful compact cameras usually are short battery life and poor audio. Using battery packs and attaching an external mic like a video mic pro does help. However many times that simply isn’t enough for certain video projects and the ability of being discrete during a video shoot has to take a back seat. That was one of the big reasons why I made the decision a while ago to sell my DSLR (Canon 5D Mark III) and upgrade to a cinema camera.
Video Production Priorities
As an independent filmmaker in Austria being hired for different jobs like camera operator, video editor, covering conferences somewhere in Vienna, shooting testimonial interviews, producing corporate videos etc...my video client base started getting bigger, so I had to start prioritizing my corporate production requirements. A lot of these professional video shoots require me to show up as a one-man band on set instead of a full video crew or camera team (in other words, as a solo videographer or cameraman), and dealing with things like short battery life, recording external audio, and limited recording times just wasn’t cutting it for me anymore.
External audio and limited recording time with a DSLR
Upgrading to a Cinema Camera
So in order to adapt to my clientele base and the type of video production jobs I was getting, I decided to opt for more of a workhorse style camera. A camera that like me and our camera crews, could wear many hats on a video production set. The camera I ended up choosing as you might have guessed, was the Canon C100 Mark II.
Being able to record audio directly into the camera via XLR was a must for myself and our camera team since we film a lot of corporate interviews, presentations and testimonials. I wrote about the importance of recording good audio in video productions on a recent blogpost here. Many of my video shoots require our video crew to film for an extended period of time, like long conference presentations for example. This requires not only a ton of battery life, but also plenty of media space, something this camera most definitely provides me with.
Internal audio through XLR and much longer recording time with the Canon C100 Mark II
Battery performance and Recording Time
The Canon C100 Mark II’s battery performance is incredible; no more than two batteries will get you through an entire day of filming. It comes with two slots for SD cards (also allowing the camera operator the option to dual record to both cards at the same time) which gives me around 11 hours of internal recording. This is absolutely great for the run and gun videographer or cameraman not having to worry about swapping batteries all the time and carrying around media.
Other “Professional Features” in the Video Camera
Some great features this camera provides which are basically indispensable for any professional camera operator or videographer are focus peaking and zebras. The reason I used quotes on “professional features” above is that big ordeal which divide many filmmakers’ opinions about Canon. Since many of Canon’s competitors include features such as focus peaking and zebras on their DSLRs and Mirrorless camera series. Features that Canon, at least for now, reserves for their cinema-line camera series only.
I’m not one that likes to get into those kinds of debates, many times it’s just useless nerd-talk (like debating over Apple and PC). Simply put, I like the Canon-look and Canon-colors way better over its’ competitors, it’s not even close in my opinion. Period. No use crying over their decisions on how they want to sell and market their video production products and cameras. So yeah…that’s that.
Dual Pixel CMOS AF being used during a music video production
The inclusion of Dual Pixel CMOS AF is a great plus, this feature was only available on the original C100 if you paid for the upgrade. In a nutshell, it allows for continuous autofocus on most Canon EF autofocus lenses as long as the subject remains in the middle of the frame. This was a feature that helped our camera crew tremendously during the music video production of Marina and the Kats’ song “Dirty”, for which I was the cinematographer and camera operator. You can read about how we managed to shoot the video in one take by using a wheelchair dolly here.
Whenever our camera team needs to shoot video in a broadcast-friendly codec, film green-screen, or simply have a video project that requires a bit more attention in post-production with color correction/grading, our video crew uses an Atomos external recorder. Vincent Laforet mentioned this about the camera on his website: “How do you supersize it? Use an external recorder such as an Atomos Ninja and record the clean HDMI output from this camera and guess what? You’re basically getting the same image quality as you would from the C300 – for a lot lot less.”
Using the Atomos Ninja Star during a video shoot in Vienna
Great Workhorse, but no 4K?
4k, 6k, 8k….phew, seems like that’s a never ending story with filmmakers, camera operators, video production companies and videographers alike. Maybe it’s just my company and/or my clientele, but until now I’ve never had a single client require nor want their video to be exported in 4k. Mind you, most of the video production jobs our camera crew film are corporate videos that end up being showcased on platforms such as YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook alike. Not necessary the benchmark platforms for viewing compressed corporate video interviews in 4k.
As mentioned before, a big reason I decided to upgrade my camera package was the prolonged battery life and recording time. Matt Allard from newsshooter.com explained it the best in his review of the C100 Mark II: “One of the great aspects of using a C100 Mark II is that the SD media is cheap, the batteries last forever and you can can go all day without having to swap out cards or carry lots of spare batteries. If you introduce 4K into the equation, the media costs go up, the recording times come way down and the battery life will decrease.”
Nothing I can really add to that great comment by Matt.
Posted by Vitor Goncalves
Vitor is a filmmaker, cameraman and editor based in Vienna, Austria. He is the owner of Reel Arts Media.