Monday, 4 February 2019

New camera

Well, purchased in November 2018 actually. I made the decision to retire my venerable HMC151 video camera that had served me for almost 6 years. It is a reliable camcorder, solidly built and would probably still work after Armageddon, with its last video job serving as a found footage discovery for humanity's successor in the year 20,000. The 10 year old video camera just couldn't match the high demand for its modern cinematic and 4K competition. My Canon DSLR produces very nice footage but at the end of the day, it is a stills camera with a video record function.

Having finished my masters, I decided that the Canon C300 was the camera I needed/wanted. The C300 is like an assimilation of my HMC151 and my DSLR. The major selling point for me was its ability to use the same lenses as my DSLR. With all that glass, it made sense to stick to Canon and save myself a lot money. I chose the C300 because of its recording format which gives it native advantage over the C100. The C100 uses the AVCHD codec which limits its bitrate to 25mbps (The same as my HMC151). The C100 can have its full potential unlocked through the use of an external HDMI recorder but this would have increased my spending. Having used the C100 and Ninja Recorder for most of my final masters project, I found this a little bit awkward and a hassle to setup.

But with the C300, I can record HD footage at 50mbps with 4:2:2 colour straight off the camera onto CF cards. To be honest, I have loads of SD cards and no suitable CF cards but thankfully the C300 package I purchased came with two SanDisk Extreme 32gig cards which makes life very easy. I was also happy to receive the monitor attachment with SDI connectors which allows me to see what I'm recording as well as accept XLR input for my microphone.

Straight away, I jumped into using the C300 for all video jobs. The weight and size of the camera means I can anchor it against my body to keep it steady during shooting. This was something that I could not do with my DSLR unless I used a shoulder rig to prevent the awful rolling shutter jelly effect. But my God, the best part of the C300 is its lowlight performance. As a rule, I would never push my ISO past 800 when using the DSLR but even though the C300's native ISO is 850, going way over 1000 produces very little visual noise. This means, in low light conditions I can correctly expose my shots without worrying about grain/noise ruining my footage.

And all the features and display options that makes life so easy for run and gun video work. With peaking, I can see exactly what's in focus and adjust on the fly without worrying about blurry footage. And all those features that help with adjusting exposure, again, making life so much more easier for me. As you would expect from a professional video camera, you can also manually dial in white balance by specifying the colour temperature in increments of 100.

But all these positive points doesn't mean it's perfect. In fact, my only major criticism came about last week when I found myself shooting a music video. The band's lighting arsenal included strobe lights which I knew straight away would cause issues for the C300's rolling shutter. For the record, my HMC151 uses 3CCDs. Old tech but CCDs don't suffer from the same issue that affect the CMOS sensors in modern cameras. With a rolling shutter, very fast changes in lighting such as strobe lights or cameras flashes will appear in footage on half of the image. Obviously, this affects the aesthetic quality of the footage which can be very annoying for a perfectionist like myself. Imagine a situation where you need to make footage look like film but the rolling shutter artefacts spoil things and reveals a digital camera in disguise. Thankfully, I don't see myself facing this situation with fast flashing lights often so I'm prepared to let it slide.   

Overall, I definitely don't regret choosing this camera and I am certain I will still be using it for the next 10 years. As a tool for my video production work, it's perfect. For Visual Effects where high quality is important, it's also perfect. And, I'm certain that when I eventually get round to putting my film projects into production, it will also score perfectly in that capacity too.