Dispelling the myths, is the Canon C300 worth $15,999?

Canon C300

Whilst I still prefer the small size and ‘tourist’ stealth factor of DSLRs for the kind of shooting I do, I can recognise why a great many want a Canon C300. The handling, EF mount, image quality and low light performance – as well as built in ND, audio monitoring and build quality are worth the money to many professionals.

But actually there are some myths flying around about the C300 and the competition is far stronger sub $10,000, even sub $6,000 than people realise.

First, the incredible low light performance of the C300 has been lauded. But in terms of actual exposure on the C300, the top setting of ISO 20,000 is only equal to ISO 6400 on the Canon 5D Mark II.

So when comparing the image in low light, one should use ISO 6400 on the 5D Mark II and Sony FS100 versus ISO 20,000 on the Canon C300. The shot below from Mario Feil illustrates this:

C300 ISO 20k


Accounts differ wildly for what the equivalent of ISO 6400 is in gain on the FS100 but most suggest it is 24db.

At that level the image looks very similar on both the FS100 and C300, with a nice fine grain of noise and not too much of it.

From everything I have seen so far there seems to be very little difference in low light image quality between the FS100 and C300.

We already know from various tests that the C300 does well in terms of resolution. But the big surprises are that the FS100 and GH2 were almost a match in that department as well, with crisp and clear detail on each of the cameras.


I am wondering – is the image quality on the C300 significantly better than the FS100? I’d say the answer has to be no.

Dynamic range in LOG mode on both cameras is similar (FS100 vs C300).

The FS100 also has a significant feature that the C300 lacks – 1080/60p. And although the onboard codec is inferior to the GH2 and C300, the FS100 does uncompressed 4:2:2 via HDMI (which is the latest 1.4 spec). In reality the lower bitrate codec in the FS100 does not bear on image quality very much anyway, since the encoder does a very good job.

The FS100 is also strong on the audio side, with a headphone jack, XLR and full manual control. So the C300 does not have a significant advantage in terms of audio features.

It is a very competitive market place and rapidly changing. For me, it is very hard to justify the price of the Canon C300 when you have not just the full frame DSLRs, the GH2 (and this year’s breed of DSLR will be much improved) but the Sony FS100 to contend with.

The FS100 is now at the $4,999 mark new at B&H in the US. Add a matte box for your NDs and the Metabones EF adapter for your Canon glass and you really do have a C300 clone for one third of the price. And then there is this around the corner:

Canon 4K EOS


Metabones throws a cat amongst the pigeons

For those with a lot of Canon glass – and that is a BIG factor for many many shooters – that Sony E-mount Metabones EF mount really does swing it for the FS100 over the C300 and I am sure Canon are not pleased at all about their lens mount protocols being reverse engineered in Canada and mated to a Japanese made EF adapter!

This isn’t a hash up solution it is a genuine EF mount for Sony cameras that does everything via the camera apart from AF. Needless to say I have ordered one immediately for my NEX 5N.

Metabones E-Mount Canon EOS

What about rental?

Now $15,999 remember only matters to owners. As an ownership prospect the Alexa would be poor value as well, for anyone without the business model to earn their $75,000 back from it. But I suspect Canon have their eye firmly on the rental and broadcast market with the C300, and it is here where the Alexa has a firm advantage. The cost of an Alexa is a drop in the ocean for a broadcast companies, studios and large rental houses and the cost of rental is far less of an issue for filmmakers. The rental business around the C300 will be strong and rental houses will earn their $16,000 back in a flash. But if I was faced with renting either a C300 or Alexa, I’d go with the Alexa every time especially the Studio version with a set of Zeiss anamorphic primes, because that represents a significant step up from the C300. It is the ultimate 1080p package.

Now if I were to own a camera, it’d be DSLRs or FS100, no question. I don’t like the form factor of the FS100 but there is no denying that for $5,000 it slam dunks the C300 on the spec sheet. If this is not giving Canon sleepless nights, it really should be. In my view, Canon badly need to respond and bring out a mini stripped down version of the C300 which is to the C300 what the FS100 is to the Sony F3 or a much improved Canon DSLR without the kind of soft moire ridden image we have seen so far from their DSLRs.

Bear in mind how we already know image quality to be on these cameras and take a look at the cold hard facts below…

GH2 vs FS100 vs C300

I actually think Canon’s engineering team did a superb job with the spec and design of the C300. It is almost the perfect 1080p camera, and the only thing significant missing from the C300 are higher frame rates in 1080p mode.

But I cannot find a way to justify the pricing versus the competition based on image quality, feature set and specifications alone.

Does it come with a free assistant director?