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Ursa vs. C500 vs. C300 for best cinematic image?

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We're a small crew choosing between these three cameras to shoot with our EF Contax Zeiss set. We will be making several music videos, a short and a couple artist highlights for our client. Client is funding the camera purchase, prefers image from the given three cams.

We don't care about form factor, will mostly shoot from tripod. Price difference between these cams would be negligible in our scenario as well, so it's ONLY about the image output, and we're ONLY choosing between these three.

Ursa Mini Pro, internal recording.

C500 + External recorder (7q or Gemini).

C300 + External recorder (7q or Gemini).

We will master in HD, but are looking for a sharp image, so 4k options would certainly help to get crisp HD.

For the upcoming project we need the best image possible, preferably 12 bit 4:4:4, since we will grade it heavily in post and want the image to hold the colors in the best possible way.

We are somewhat confused by the usable DR on these cams. What would be the perfect settings for each of them to get the best DR? We're planning to shoot a lot of interiors with windows, we love the look of natural light, but are afraid about the DR.

We like the Ursa, but C500+7q seems to offer same features (on paper), and Canon will definitely be better in lowlight, so unless Ursa is going to offer significantly more DR or have overall better image we'd go with C500.

C300 is listed here, because we've heard it has same 4k sensor, and produces super crisp results native, and we're not sure if there will be any difference in DR and sharpness if we record HD from c300 in 444, or record 4k 444 with c500 and then downscale to hd. 

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

I think there's a lot of subjectivity on which of those make a better image. They are all capable of great images.

If it's me, I'm going with the Ursa Mini with no hesitation unless low light is a big concern.

But I've always been fond of the look of blackmagic cameras.

 

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I own a ursa mini pro, previous C300 owner. (never shot with a c500).
If you need to shoot iso 3200-10000 get a canon c300 - c500.
Otherwise get the UMP, it has more dynamic range, better codec options, better slow motion options(Dont know about C500), doesnt need an external raw recorder, you can load up LUTS, not sure what lenses you are going to use but the UMP has anamorphic 3K mode, C300 does not (update: I see contax zeiss set, so that does not apply). 

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The Ursa 4k I'd put below almost anything, including the cheapest 4k dSLRs. Super clippy and slow with lots of fixed noise. Fairly soft image, too.

But the 4.6k I'd put above both Canons (except in low light).

The C300 and C500 do have the same sensor and the C300 has the sharpest 1080p I've seen and it has to do with the sampling not being traditional Bayer interpolation but instead instead it just groups the photo sites into a faux-Foveon type array so it's just insanely sharp looking. Sharper than the Epic or Alexa or F3 or F5 or F55 at 1080p and noticeably. From what I've seen, C500 has a razor thin OLPF and the Q7 has aggressive debayering so the 4k image from the C500 is sharper looking than a 5k or 6k Red image but it has significantly more aliasing, but not objectionable. Both cameras have similar DR. RAW doesn't seem to provide much improvement there over ProRes, but better shadows than the internal codec for complex scenes.

The C500 is basically a C300 with extra features if you use a raw recorder,  so if money is no issue and you WANT to use an external recorder (I hate them) get the C500 instead. If you plan to crop or stabilize, 4k could be useful for 1080p delivery, though personally I'd (almost) never shoot 4k and if you don't crop or stabilize the 1080p output will actually look sharper, shockingly. But maybe not in a good way. The Alexa is softer, but... "smooth." But you gotta experiment with the Q7 workflow when you shoot raw. When it's set up wrong to record ProRes FROM raw, it can induce chroma clipping and aliasing you wouldn't get in the C300 or C500 alone. And shooting actual raw IMO is not worth the trouble (then again I don't think 4k is either). 

I dunno. Rent for sure, but  think the 4.6k is Ursa Mini Pro sounds like the camera for you. It can alias, even worse than the C500, but in practice I haven't seen much of it. Maybe there's less sharpening to make the aliasing pop. Maybe I just haven't worked with it much. Dunno.

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I own the C500 Odyssey 7Q+ and love all I get done with this set up! I also own a set of Zeiss ZF primes with cine mod, the image and color these deliver with the C500 are very pleasing to my eye. I've been putting off running some test's with the C500 and Odyssey, and have only been recording 4K ProRes 422 10bit, 24p, The RAW C Log files are super easy to grade, and I use a few good LUTS I have installed on the Odyssey for shooting in field. I have included a test by Shane Hurlbut, that show the C500 shooting 4K RAW and 2K RGB 444 10bit. I'm going to go out this week and shoot some 4K and 2K - 1080, at both 24p, 60p, and 120fps Half RAW.  I hopefully can give you some more info when I'm done. Also a note I believe the C300 (original) only shoots 8 bit 422 files? and only has 8 bit out of the HDSDI, it is a lovely 8bit's!

 

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11 minutes ago, Dogtown said:

I own the C500 Odyssey 7Q+ and love all I get done with this set up! I also own a set of Zeiss ZF primes with cine mod, the image and color these deliver with the C500 are very pleasing to my eye. I've been putting off running some test's with the C500 and Odyssey, and have only been recording 4K ProRes 422 10bit, 24p, The RAW C Log files are super easy to grade, and I use a few good LUTS I have installed on the Odyssey for shooting in field. I have included a test by Shane Hurlbut, that show the C500 shooting 4K RAW and 2K RGB 444 10bit. I'm going to go out this week and shoot some 4K and 2K - 1080, at both 24p, 60p, and 120fps Half RAW.  I hopefully can give you some more info when I'm done. Also a note I believe the C300 (original) only shoots 8 bit 422 files? and only has 8 bit out of the HDSDI, it is a lovely 8bit's!

 

Sounds and looks right to me. 

Re: that test, look at the chroma clipping with both cameras. The C500 is worse, big color shift in the red, and I have seen that before with it for sure. Canon Log does not hard clip like that (even if it looks like it does, it's always recoverable), which is why I'm a little wary of the C500/Q7 combo because I've seen the exact same thing in practice.

Red has apparently fixed this with IPP2. Took them long enough, but better late than never.

Log C has always been perfect. :)

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I don't think in this test they were protecting the background of the yellow and red bulbs for clipping, and that it was more a test for the skin tones on a lit subject and the color rendition, it is clear the 6K dragon has more dynamic range with this clipping red bulb in these camera comparisons, but I can tell you if you do protect your highlights from clipping with the C500 you will be very happy with your results. ;) Another thing is it so important when shooting Canon C Log to protect those highlights and know how to expose your image. Even a Arri Alexa will look crap if you don't know how to use it, and with a little understanding you can make most of the digital cinema cameras of today look amazing.   

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The only down side of using the Canon C500 is the cooling fan that kicks in when you are shooting 2K or 4K, the fan does turn off when you press the record button but after seven to ten minuets depending on your shooting location temp the fan turns back on? There is a fix for this and I got one, it's an external fan cooling set up that cools the input vent of the C500 when recording! there are two small computer cooling fans mounted on an aluminum mount that screws into the side cover cap that covers the input and output SDI connectors, this can run off a D tap or 9 volt battery, I have not had the C500's fans kick on once since using this set up, I only put the unit on when I'm doing sit down interviews. Bellow is the unit I got for the fan problem, it was found from an old blog by Matt Porwoll.

http://mattporwoll.com/problems-solved/

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1 hour ago, Dogtown said:

I don't think in this test they were protecting the background of the yellow and red bulbs for clipping, and that it was more a test for the skin tones on a lit subject and the color rendition, it is clear the 6K dragon has more dynamic range with this clipping red bulb in these camera comparisons, but I can tell you if you do protect your highlights from clipping with the C500 you will be very happy with your results. ;) Another thing is it so important when shooting Canon C Log to protect those highlights and know how to expose your image. Even a Arri Alexa will look crap if you don't know how to use it, and with a little understanding you can make most of the digital cinema cameras of today look amazing.   

I agree that the highlights are intentionally blown in order to gauge dynamic range and rolloff, but I don't agree with you at all that chroma clipping isn't a serious issue. Especially on a camera like the C500 that has less dynamic range than an Alexa or Dragon (but still good and better than its reputation), you can't always expose for the highlights. There are going to be traffic lights, headlights, practicals, blown out skies, etc. in some scenes and avoiding them at all costs or underexposing horribly isn't a viable option. IMO, you cannot make all camera systems look good, otherwise they would look good more often. Most digitally acquired content–even on the high end–doesn't look as consistently good as film, even with the same crew. Only the Alexa seems to get close imo, though I have seen some good looking content shot with other cameras, of course, and some "intentionally digital" looks that work. A friend of mine had a piece graded by Stefan Sonnenfeld, and I remember he mentioned that chroma clipping was Stefan's biggest bugaboo re: camera systems. I won't get into the details because I don't want to put words in someone's mouth, but if the greatest colorist in history struggles to wrangle with chroma clipping, it's a problem, and you'd better hope you're the greatest DP in history to never blow out a single source. Or just use a camera that handles chroma clipping properly. (Fwiw, I don't find hard luma clipping problematic if one grades the knee nicely, and even film appears to hard clip rather fast when processed photochemically–so this is a discussion about color space and rolloff, not dynamic range.)

And there is a massive difference between how the Alexa handles chroma clipping and how the C500/Q7 (as set up there) and F5 or pre-IPP2 Red etc. do. Sure, you can make an Alexa look bad if you're wildly incompetent. But I'd argue you can't light a scene with someone lit by a practical flare on an F5 or C500/Q7 (at least with the settings above, and the ones in the C500 footage I've worked with) without it looking too terrible to really fix in post, because the camera will blow out the highlights to red or to red and yellow, not to white, as with the Alexa (which clamps saturation at maximum at 30 IRE then slowly reduces it over its extremely wide dynamic range). With the Alexa, lighting that same scene well is as trivial as exposing roughly correctly. 

Of course you can to SOME extent avoid that kind of situation, or white balance to your practicals so they blow out more nicely assuming nothing else is blown out (dicey workflow, though). And if you record raw and process correctly this likely isn't an issue even with the C500. I'm just surprised that Canon Log has this problem far less severely than the C500/Q7S combo does, though I imagine there are settings that handle chroma clipping better. Some of the newer film emulation LUTs and even the SLOG3 colorspaces for F5/55/FS7 are fine in this regard, too, to be fair. As is IPP2 a huge improvement over Red's original pipeline. Canon Log, weirdly, has always been kind of good... there's the appearance of chroma clipping, but detail is almost never lost and the knee can be graded smoothly. Not so with any of the footage in the test above.

And all that said, I think most operators overexpose the CX00 series pretty substantially. And in practice this isn't a huge issue under normal circumstances. 

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@Dogtown @HockeyFan12 Thanks for your input guys!

 

13 hours ago, HockeyFan12 said:

The C500 is basically a C300 with extra features if you use a raw recorder,  so if money is no issue and you WANT to use an external recorder (I hate them) get the C500 instead. If you plan to crop or stabilize, 4k could be useful for 1080p delivery, though personally I'd (almost) never shoot 4k and if you don't crop or stabilize the 1080p output will actually look sharper, shockingly. But maybe not in a good way. The Alexa is softer, but... "smooth." But you gotta experiment with the Q7 workflow when you shoot raw. When it's set up wrong to record ProRes FROM raw, it can induce chroma clipping and aliasing you wouldn't get in the C300 or C500 alone. And shooting actual raw IMO is not worth the trouble (then again I don't think 4k is either). 

Are you saying that 4k output from c500+odyssey downscaled to HD will look less sharp then if I just shoot HD?

 

11 hours ago, Dogtown said:

I hopefully can give you some more info when I'm done. Also a note I believe the C300 (original) only shoots 8 bit 422 files? and only has 8 bit out of the HDSDI, it is a lovely 8bit's!

This is great, I would love to see some test footage, if you can actually do this, it will certainly help me make a more though-through decision. Does c300 shoot 8 bit externally though? For some reason I though it can do 10 bit external.

 

By the way, I have watched Blue Ruin today, an indie movie shot on c300. The version I was watching was 1100x4xx something pixels (not even full HD), I was watching it on a 15'' retina display and my gosh, I could swear it's 4k I'm watching. Amazingly sharp and detailed image, seriously, I was blown away. If c500 provides same level of details, I might not even need to get a 7q for it, maybe just Gemini to get the 444 out of it and forget 4k.

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6 hours ago, CanonTheBarbarian said:

c500 is miles better than

That would be a useful indicator if the question concerned the purchase of a lengthy tape measure. But I admit that as an inexperienced film maker I’m not sure how this helps.

That comment notwithstanding, i enjoy threads like this - I am always impressed by how the eye of an  experienced cinematographer sees so much more than I can. It is fascinating and slightly humbling to realise that things which, to me, look the same (even on repeat viewings!) actually reveal so much more.

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8 minutes ago, Snowfun said:

That would be a useful indicator if the question concerned the purchase of a lengthy tape measure. But I admit that as an inexperienced film maker I’m not sure how this helps.

That comment notwithstanding, i enjoy threads like this - I am always impressed by how the eye of an  experienced cinematographer sees so much more than I can. It is fascinating and slightly humbling to realise that things which, to me, look the same (even on repeat viewings!) actually reveal so much more.

c500 has 4K RAW and 120fps - it's no brainer bro... if you don't need slow mo mk3 raw video beats both when comes to aesthetics

 

CTB APPROVED

 

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Hey Dogtown, Andrew or whoever that owns a C500 & Odyssey 7Q+ combination...

Are you able to record 4096X1080 @ 120fps without the RAW upgrade? I mean... will it conform internally and record it at 30fps in slow-mo?

The only tests I see are with RAW upgrades and needing 2 SSDs.

 

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10 hours ago, rokkimort said:

@Dogtown @HockeyFan12 Thanks for your input guys!

 

Are you saying that 4k output from c500+odyssey downscaled to HD will look less sharp then if I just shoot HD?

Believe it or not, it has the potential to. But if you're stabilizing and cropping in, then the C500 has an advantage.

BOTH will produce sharp enough 1080p footage. I'm just saying that oversampling might not be as useful as you think unless you're cropping or stabilizing. Both are gonna be very very sharp. But you'll get better tonality with the C500. If you can tolerate the form factor and media (and figure out what settings will mitigate chroma clipping or just shoot raw, not raw to ProRes) then it will be better.

My friends made Blue Ruin! They had a good grade on that but it was actually a fairly guerrilla shoot from what I understand. They wanted an Alexa but the C300 let them use a tiny crew and smaller gear.

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I have been using the Ursa Mini 4.6K for the last 2 months for client work.

It is a great camera and I love the images it produces. But I have 2 qualms:

It does not do low light - as in, it is not even an option. Period.

It doesn't 'wow' naturally.

Let me explain the last point:

The canon C500 would supply all the 4k benefits, but you would be a bit weak on the codec side. But, and its a big butt, Canon will look like 'wow'. 

I am still figuring out why, but my feelings are irrelevant. My clients like Canon. 

Do them a favor and go Canon. The spec differences only smooth our experience, but not the image. The Blackmagic image is a specific look or stock that we as a community love, but is subjective. 

General folk see Canon footage and photos and appreciate that stock.

They dont care about 444 or DR. They want to look good.

Canon does that with their voodoo. Get the best Canon 4k image you can get get... and get a Ursa for yourself.

Just my 2c.

Oh, and low light does not mean night. Actually, with one light, the ursa is fantastic for night shoots.

I mean, for example, you want to fo for a beauty or group studio look. LEDS cannot supply enough power, let alone if you want to expose in tandem with the window view etc. 

Your options become a bit limited once you want to get creative with light. Unless you buck up for more powerful lights etc. 

Which is where I would advise to hire.

But bigger crew...

Slippery slope...

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The internal recording on the Canon C500 is MXF with a max speed of 59.94i and 50i 1080 (no 60p or 50p only 720 59.94p or 50p) it does 23.98p 25p and 29.97p at 1080p If you want to use the C500 to it's full potential you need an external recorder: AJA, ATOMOS, BLACKMAGIC, CODEX, SOUND DEVICES, CONVERGENT DESIGN. If you think of it the C500 is only a C300 without using the external recorder, the MXF recording on the C500 is very nice to have as a proxy or HD back up when you are recording to an external recorder. I have include the recording options with the Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+. Look into whichever recorder you use with the Canon C500, some work better than others.

This is off of the Convergent Design site. The Odyssey 7Q+ now does 2K RGB 444 to ProRes 4444 12bit up to 59.94p

The Canon C500 RAW recording option will deBayer the RAW data and convert it to a 1920x1080 video signal for viewing on the Odyssey7Q’s OLED panel as well as output over the Odyssey7Q’s SDI and HDMI ports. The Odyssey7Q will also playback recorded Canon C500 RAW files. The Odyssey7Q LUT control allows switching between a Canon C-log and Rec709 image.

The Canon C500 camera can output Canon RAW in 4096x2160 (4K) or 3840x2160 (Quad HD). Frame rates in either mode are up to 60p. Canon RAW is recorded by the Odyssey in the native 10-bit .RMF files and is readable in any post program capable of reading Canon RAW. The C500 can also shoot a “Half RAW” format of 4096x1080, which the Odyssey recorder with the Canon C500 Record Option can capture at 50fps, 60fps, 100fps and 120fps. The Odyssey can also accept 4K/QHD RAW up to 30fps, debayer it and turn it into high quality 4K/UHD Apple ProRes video.

C500 can also output 2K or HD 12-bit RGB 4:4:4 video. The Canon C500 4K RAW record option is not required for this as the Odyssey7Q can record these formats in uncompressed video DPX files. A compressed recording solution will be made added in a future update.

 

ProRes and Canon RMF codec options

 

Supported Recording Formats

The Canon C500 camera can output Canon RAW in 4096x2160 (4K) or 3840x2160 (Quad HD). Frame rates in either mode are up to 60p. Canon RAW is recorded by the Odyssey in the native 10-bit .RMF files and is readable in any post program capable of reading Canon RAW. The C500 can also shoot a “Half RAW” format of 4096x1080, which the Odyssey recorder with the Canon C500 Record Option can capture at 50fps, 60fps, 100fps and 120fps. The Odyssey can also accept 4K/QHD RAW up to 30fps, debayer it and turn it into high quality 4K/UHD Apple ProRes video.

CANON Cinema RAW data is recorded as .RMF files.

4K RAW to 4K Apple ProRes / 10-Bit / 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30

QHD RAW to UHD Apple ProRes / 10-Bit / 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30

4K/QHD RAW / 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97, 30, 50*, 59.94*, 60

4K Half RAW 50, 59.94, 100*, 120*

2K/1080p 12-bit/10-bit 4:4:4 support / 23.98, 24, 25, 29.97

*NOTE: CANON RAW 50-60p and Half RAW 100-120p (both C500 only) require two SSDs to simultaneously record.

   

 

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I know you want a big fat signal... but I'd take a C100MkII over a C300 any day. Light and expose with care and there'll be room enough to pull the image towards most anything you'll require. It's that good.

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I have the Canon C500, It is a great camera now. But the file size is big.. 

https://vimeo.com/232353635

https://vimeo.com/228210936

https://vimeo.com/229622680

https://vimeo.com/229623629

Some of the work I have shot with my C500, I love the camera. The only part to be careful with is when you switch from say 2k to 4k YOU might as well go for a run, it takes a while to switch formats. I find the C500 and 7q a great combo parts can be glitchy, I have found peaking to freeze a bit and just general image glitches. 

Image quality you cant complain. 

Thanks

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Hello Olly, when you say you are having issues with the C500 and the Odyssey 7Q+ (is that he plus you have) those problems are they with the peaking for focus, and the image glitches, are they on playback on the Odyssey, or just monitoring picture on the Odyssey? I see some glitches monitoring some times but have never had a problem with recorded footage on the SSD's, just remember to always safe eject before removing those drives.

 

 

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