The many benefits of a dedicated video camera for filmmakers

Discover six reasons why a dedicated Cinema EOS camera is the best choice of kit for shooting video.
Cinematographer Steve Holleran uses a Canon EOS C300 Mark III to film a dancer on the wing of an aircraft.

For the ultimate in control and quality, cinema cameras like the Canon EOS C300 Mark III offer cinematographers a wide range of filmmaking options in a purpose-designed package. © Ron Batzdorff

The release of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the EOS 5D Mark IV) 12 years ago transformed the moviemaking landscape for many people. It was the first full-frame DSLR to feature Full HD video capture. This landmark camera enabled filmmakers to achieve a cinematic look without a cinematic budget.

Today, full-frame cameras like the Canon EOS R5 mirrorless camera and EOS-1D X Mark III DSLR are the most capable cameras of their types for shooting stills. But they are also packed with impressive video specs, with features such as RAW capture, 4K resolution video (up to 8K in the case of the former) and high frame rates.

If you are a hybrid shooter who demands a stills and video camera in one small package, then a full-frame mirrorless camera or DSLR is perfect for you. But if you focus exclusively on recording moving images, then a dedicated Cinema EOS camera has significant advantages.

A complete, integrated line-up

From full-frame cinema cameras recording 5.9K RAW footage perfect for Hollywood blockbusters to more compact Super 35mm 4K and HD cameras ideal for fast-paced documentaries, the Canon Cinema EOS system is the most complete, truly integrated line of cameras and lenses available.

All feature Canon's advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, the world's first truly accurate and reliable autofocus system for filmmakers. In addition, the revolutionary on-screen Focus Guide functionality further assists with manual focusing, so often critical for capturing high-resolution footage.

A choice of modular body styles allows Cinema EOS cameras to be stripped down for use on drones or gimbals, or rigged up as a broadcast and motion picture production camera. All Cinema EOS cameras include built-in Canon Log gamma for a fast, easy and accurate HDR workflow.

The EOS C200 cine camera rigged in a gimbal.

The diminutive Canon EOS C200 shoots Cinema RAW Light files for the ultimate in quality and control in post-processing.

The Canon EOS C500 Mark II attached to a gimbal ready for a day of shooting.

The Canon EOS C300 Mark III and EOS C500 Mark II shown here both use the same modular body, which can be stripped down for a super-light hand-held or gimbal work, or be built up into a full production camera. © Brett Danton

The Cinema EOS range

The range starts with Canon EOS C70, the lightest and smallest Cinema EOS camera to date. Featuring Canon's 4K DGO sensor, it can shoot stunning 4K footage at up to 120p, while it's the first Cinema EOS camera to use Canon's innovative RF lens mount.

Next up is the Canon EOS C100 Mark II and is ideal for single-person High Definition video production. It accepts Canon's renowned EF lenses, and the 8.3MP Super 35mm CMOS sensor gives beautifully sharp images with the stunning colours Canon is famous for.

4K resolution is rapidly becoming an industry standard, and the Canon EOS C200 not only offers that, but also the incredible versatility and quality of internal RAW recording from its Super 35mm sensor.

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The Super 35mm Canon EOS C300 Mark III incorporates Canon's newly developed 4K DGO sensor, with 4K 120P for incredible slow-motion effects, and can record in Cinema RAW Light for unsurpassed quality. Thanks to the innovative Dual Gain Output technology, the sensor offers exceptionally clean low-light image quality as well as superb HDR capture. The camera also incorporates Electronic Image Stabilization (IS) in the camera body, supporting 5-axis movement compensation, and a modular customisable design that makes it possible to configure its functionality for a broad range of production needs.

If you demand low noise and the beautifully shallow depth of field achieved from a full-frame sensor, then the Canon EOS C500 Mark II uses the same compact but durable body as the EOS C300 Mark III but has a 5.9K full-frame CMOS sensor at its heart. Meanwhile the Canon EOS C700 series has top-of-the-line features expected from a traditional cinema camera and is ideal for large crews.

Here are some of the reasons why a dedicated video camera is the choice of filmmakers.

1. Ergonomics and connectivity

Cinema cameras have controls and connections that have evolved over decades to meet the requirements of professional cinematographers, with ergonomics that make them comfortable to use and easy to handle in a variety of shooting durations and styles. For steady handholding, a cinema camera offers a proper, adjustable handgrip with the Record button right under your thumb, often along with a second Record button on the body for when the camera is on a tripod. Cinema cameras also have built-in ND filters so you can expose the image correctly, regardless of the environment you are shooting in.

There are also useful professional tools such as waveforms, false colour and adjustable zebra patterns to accurately examine the image. The cameras are also compatible with Canon's Cine-Servo lenses for smooth changes in focal length controlled by a rocker switch that fits right under your fingers on the lens barrel.

Cinema cameras also have multiple mounting points, so it's easier to fit larger external monitors, follow focus rigs, matte boxes and external batteries. Plus if you want the camera to fit into a broadcast workflow, live stream or multi-camera shoot where syncing is crucial, they have advanced technology and connections such as 12G-SDI, timecode, genlock and remote control input.

On the audio side, cine cameras also sport professional XLR inputs supporting 48KHz 24-bit audio recording with up to four channels. In addition, audio levels can be manually adjusted with dedicated physical controls and live monitoring via headphone output.

Cinematographer Steve Holleran holds a Canon EOS C300 Mark III in a gimbal as he stands on the wing of an aircraft filming inside through a window.

The Canon EOS C300 Mark III comes with a Canon EF lens mount, but this can be switched to a PL mount to allow an even wider range of lenses to be fitted, such as Canon's Sumire Primes. © Ron Batzdorff

The EOS C500 Mark II.

Truly cinematic shallow depth of field is easy on the Canon EOS C500 Mark II as its Full Frame 5.9K sensor and Dual Pixel CMOS AF work perfectly together. © Jacob Nibblett/VCCP

2. Film for longer

Cinema cameras feature integrated cooling systems to enable unlimited and reliable recording functions. The built-in fan and larger bodies of the Cinema EOS range dissipate the heat to allow you to record for as long as you like (subject to the normal limitations, such as media storage and battery capacity), which means dedicated cinema cameras can shoot an entire live performance or football game without stopping. This is helped by the huge capacity batteries that can also be fitted.

3. Dynamic Range

Cinema cameras have a very wide dynamic range, enabling more detail to be retained in both the shadows and highlights. The Canon EOS C300 Mark III is able to record up to 16+ stops when using Canon Log 2. That's largely because the sensors in Cinema EOS cameras are optimised for video capture rather than high-resolution stills, and efficiently utilise each photosite on the surface area.

For broadcast and other fast-turnaround requirements, Canon's WideDR setting provides a robust file with an extended dynamic range to retain a huge amount of shadow and highlight detail, without the need to colour grade in post.

The evolution of the EOS C300 Mark III

How Canon's latest Cinema EOS camera builds on the heritage of its ground-breaking precursors, the EOS C300 and EOS C300 Mark II.

4. Sensitivity

When light levels fall and you have to turn up the ISO or gain, Cinema EOS cameras offer a very real advantage. Both the Canon EOS C300 Mark III and the Canon EOS C70 have a Dual Gain Output (DGO) sensor, a technology that has been developed specifically for motion image capture. It works at the sensor level, before any processing is applied to the image. Two separate images are produced at different amplification levels: one at a lower gain that retains details in the highlights, and the other at a higher gain to retain information in the shadows and significantly reduce noise. This all happens in real-time at up to 60fps.

Cinema camera sensors are not as densely packed with photosites as those found on a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Generally the larger the pixel, the more efficient it is at collecting light and reducing image noise.

Cinema EOS cameras have a base native ISO at which they perform best when recording with Canon Log gamma. For example, the Canon EOS C300 Mark III has a DGO sensor with a native ISO of 800, which is where there is maximum dynamic range.

A Canon EOS C300 Mark III attached to a drone rig.

The EOS C300 Mark III in stripped-back form is light and versatile, with the same robust chassis and durable magnesium alloy shell as the Canon EOS C500 Mark II. The exceptional dynamic range of the DGO sensor means it performs well in low light or in glaring sunshine.

5. Recording

Cinema cameras offer a wider choice of frame rates, codecs, bit rates, bit depths and colour sampling, so you can choose the right settings for your project. You might need a more compressed format for quicker turnaround, a high-quality codec for fine grading, or to record low-resolution proxies simultaneously for more efficient editing workflows.

Cinema RAW Light is supported in the Canon EOS C200, EOS C300 Mark III and EOS C500 Mark II cameras, in 10-bit or 12-bit depending on the frame rate. Recording 10-bit 4:2:2 files internally at up to 410Mbps in 4K, or 4:4:4 files in 2K/Full HD 10-bit or 12-bit, the Canon EOS C300 Mark II captures incredible levels of colour information for footage that's ideal for extensive post-production work. With a cinema camera, you're in full control for the ultimate filmmaking projects.

6. Seamless integration

Another benefit of Canon's Cinema EOS cameras is how easily they can be used together – and with other cameras in the Canon range. This gives you a number of creative options, such as using a Cinema EOS camera as your A-cam, and a hybrid EOS camera as your B-cam for shots that might otherwise be impossible to capture. Both Cinema EOS and hybrid EOS ranges support Canon Log and the same colour matrix, so they can be easily integrated into a production.

Being able to use the same lenses on both Cinema EOS and hybrid EOS cameras means seamless workflows and being able to carry a lighter kitbag on a shoot. The compact Canon EOS C70 is the first dedicated video camera to feature Canon's RF lens mount, which means RF lenses can be used interchangeably with the rest of the EOS R System full-frame mirrorless camera range. An EF to RF lens mount adapter, the EF-EOS R 0.71X Mount Adapter, makes the Super 35mm EOS C70 camera compatible with a wide range of Canon's full-frame EF lenses too.

Adam Duckworth

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