Jem Schofield
Jem Schofield

Jem Schofield is the founder of theC47, an online and offline resource focused on the craft of video production and filmmaking. He is a producer, author and educator & the director of The Filmmaker's Intensive, an annual two week program that focuses on narrative filmmaking.

An Introduction to the EOS C100 Digital Video Camera

August 27, 2012

"Its size, weight and ergonomics make it a perfect fit for productions where one person is required to be the camera operator, sound recordist and producer/editor
Introduction

Ever since the successful release of the EOS C300 Cinema Camera, videographers and creative professionals have been asking for a more affordable entry level Cinema EOS camera that is compatible with Canon's extensive line of EF lenses and that can be easily used for shooting weddings and events, student films, product launches, webcasts, in-the-field news gathering and as a "b" or "c" camera for other Cinema EOS products.

Traditionally HD SLRs have been used for many of these applications (where large sensor based acquisition has been desired), but they do present challenges. While HD SLRs are capable of producing great visual content for many types of projects, they are often not ideal for the above production scenarios. They lack some of the features these types of projects need – such as integrated professional audio recording, built-in ND filters, long recording times, professional focus assist features and redundant recording capabilities. In order to use HD SLRs effectively in these environments, they often have to be built up into much larger camera systems to obtain those features and capabilities.

That's where the EOS C100 Digital Video Camera comes in. It is Canon's new entry level Cinema EOS camera. Designed to be an all-in-one camera system, it is ideal for companies and individuals creating content that is not necessarily intended for broadcast television, commercial productions, feature film distribution or high-end special effects work. The C100 will fit in perfectly with productions that require high quality footage with a large-sensor look, but don't require or can't afford larger crews and long post-production timelines. Bottom line, this new camera is made for content creators that need a versatile and affordable camera that will easily cover a variety of projects.

The EOS C100 is a camera system that focuses on this huge and important market. Its features and ergonomics make it a great choice for much of this work, especially when selective focus, low light performance and usability are key. It also borrows many of the features and capabilities of the EOS C300. In fact, the EOS C300's DNA is at the core of the EOS C100 camera system. The EOS C100 also introduces new features into the Cinema EOS Camera series such as One-Shot AF, Push Auto Iris, Wide DR Gamma, Locking HDMI Port and continuous AF recording with EF STM lenses.

In this article we'll look at some of the key features of the EOS C100 and how it's designed to be an ideal entry level Cinema EOS Camera that will surely be used in a variety of today's changing production environments.

Form Factor and Functionality

The EOS C100 was designed to be an ideal camera system for single operators such as wedding & event videographers, or documentary producer Its size, weight and ergonomics make it a perfect fit for productions where one person is required to be the camera operator, sound recordist and producer/editor – a scenario that is becoming increasingly more common.

While the EOS C300 is considered to be one of the most ergonomically designed digital cinema cameras on the market, the EOS C100 has taken the concept of convenient form factor one-step further with it's modular core design that allows users to add accessory parts to the main body to suit recording needs. It is physically smaller and lighter than the EOS C300, coming in at approximately 85% of the EOS C300's body size and almost a full pound less, even with the built in 3.5" Multi-Angle LCD monitor.

The included handle unit has a built in stereo microphone, two XLR inputs and audio controls for controlling levels and mic inputs (for both the built-in and external microphones), and for providing phantom power to external microphones. The handle unit includes a tally lamp that can be checked from both the front and back. Other notable features of the EOS C100 are its built-in, manually operated Neutral Density Filters (with 2, 4 and 6 stops of ND), and it is built with a magnesium alloy body structure that is both dust & weather resistant. The camera has 15 assignable external buttons to allow each operator to customize the camera to their needs and One-Shot AF, Push Auto Iris and Continuous AF features to make single user operation much easier than most existing large sensor camera systems.

One-Shot AF, Push Auto Iris and Continuous AF

In run and gun situations such as wedding & event videography, getting the shot is paramount to everything. There are no second chances, so having features that assist the camera operator in making sure their footage is in focus and properly exposed is critical. As a result, the EOS C100 has three key shooting assist features that will ensure a shot is never missed.

One-Shot AF, activated by pressing a button located at the front of the EOS C100, allows the user to quickly obtain focus on a subject that is in the center of a shot without the need to use assist tools such as magnify focus. This is not a continuous auto focus feature and is designed to allow the operator to get tack sharp focus on different subjects as they are framed throughout a shoot.

With the Push Auto Iris function (which is also activated by pushing an external button on the camera body), the user can get one touch auto exposure for a shot. This can be a lifesaver when shooting in situations where the lighting is changing constantly such as during a wedding reception, a concert or performance on stage. The only thing to watch out for when using this feature is that there will be an aperture change, which can affect the depth of field of the shot. That said, this feature coupled with One-Shot AF could mean the difference between getting or missing the shot.

With a future firmware upgrade and Canon's EF STM lenses (available for the EF-S 18-135mm IS STM lens in the first quarter of 2013), the EOS C100 will feature continuous autofocus. When mounted on the EOS C100, supported STM lenses will keep subjects composed in the center of the frame in continuous focus. Again, this will add a much needed feature in situations that are unpredictable and don't give the user the opportunity to focus, or the chance to try the shot again.

All of these features make getting professional quality footage much easier in production environments that are less forgiving.

Super 35 Sensor & Low Light Performance

At the heart of the EOS C100 is the same Super 35 sensor found in the EOS C300 and C500 cameras. This Canon-engineered sensor produces images that have amazing clarity and that are tuned to accurately reproduce colors and skin tones. Additionally, because it is a Super 35mm sensor, video recorded with it will match the depth of field and angle of view used in virtually all motion picture digital cinema cameras on the market today.

The camera's sensor is capable of capturing images in low light conditions that would be next to impossible with small sensor camera systems that use 1/3rd, 1/2th or 2/3rd inch sensors. The EOS C100 is engineered to produce very low noise levels even at higher Gain/ISO settings. This means that the camera can shoot in low light/available light situations and still give the operator the ability to control their depth of field (not having to shoot wide-open), without high noise levels in their picture.

Like the EOS C300, the EOS C100 is also tuned to greatly reduce rolling shutter, aliasing and moiré. This produces a final HD picture that has tremendous clarity and information without many of the issues that have challenged prior CMOS based camera systems.

Canon Wide DR Gamma

To fully take advantage if the image captured from the camera's Super 35 sensor, Canon developed Canon Log gamma. First introduced in the EOS C300, Canon Log gamma was designed to allow users to get the most out of their Cinema EOS camera when recording footage (both internally or externally). Canon Log gamma is not a RAW recording option, but it does bring some of the benefits of RAW to colorists who want the most amount of information to work with when grading footage. When shooting with an ISO of 850 (2.5db gain) or above, users can capture image with 12 stops of latitude (6.7 stops below middle gray and 5.3 stops above).

While Canon Log gamma is ideal for workflows that include a post production stage for color grading, there are many productions that would greatly benefit from capturing the camera's full dynamic range, while generating a picture that is essentially ready to edit and output with very little to no color grading.

As a result of this need, Canon is introducing Wide DR gamma in the C100. This new Custom Picture Setting, based on the Wide DR gamma curve, is optimized for situations where no post-production processes are required. It is based on the Rec. 709 Color Space (the broadcast standard color space for HD content), but benefits from having a wide dynamic range and smooth gradation. Essentially, Wide DR gamma provides the same dynamic range as Canon Log gamma, but maintains a standard video curve. It will undoubtedly be very popular for the many types of production that this camera is ideally suited for.

It should also be mentioned that in addition to Wide DR gamma, the EOS C100 has the same Cinema Locked and View Assist modes as the EOS C300 and includes all of the EOS C300's Custom Picture settings, which allow complete customization of settings like pedestal, saturation, noise reduction, knee adjustments, etc. This makes the EOS C100's picture not only highly customizable to each individual, but also a great "b" or "c" camera option for the EOS C300.

Video Assist & Clear Scan Features

While the EOS C100 contains standard video assist features like magnify/expanded focus and zebras, it also includes higher-end features such as peaking, and video scopes. EOS C100 users can use the camera's Multi-Angle LCD to access 2 separate modes of waveform monitors (Standard and RGB Component). The peaking feature assists in getting accurate focus on subjects when shooting. These professional video assist features, not available on most camera systems in this price range, greatly increase the one-person operator's ability to capture great footage.

Under various lighting conditions or while shooting certain subjects, there are times that the camera will see flickering or scan lines; when shooting monitors, for example. These are due to a frequency mismatch between the camera and the source. Using the C100's Clear Scan feature, users can precisely dial in a specific frequency so that flicker and scan lines are not recorded.

Pre-Record Cache

There are times when the camera operator knows exactly what shot they need, but not when it's going to happen. To help in these situations, the EOS C100 has a three second pre-record cache feature. As soon as the operator sees the action they want to capture, they can press record and the prior three seconds from that point will also be recorded. Moments that could be lost forever can be saved by this one feature alone.

Recording Formats & Features

The EOS C100 records to SD cards using the industry standard AVCHD codec. AVCHD utilizes MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 compression technology similar to the technology used in Canon's HDSLR cameras. This codec is used in many professional and consumer video cameras today, and is supported by nearly every major modern NLE. The AVCHD codec, coupled with Wide DR Gamma or Canon Log gamma, makes the EOS C100 capable of recording footage that can be easily output, color corrected and graded, depending on the project.

Footage can be captured in a variety of resolutions and frame rates, with a maximum recording bit rate of bit rate of 24Mbps with a 4:2:0 color space in Full HD 1920x1080. At this setting, the EOS C100 can capture 2 hours and 55 minutes of content onto a single 32GB SD, SDHC or SDXC card.

The EOS C100 has not one, but two media slots and offers both Relay and Dual Slot recording. Relay recording supports 'spanning' which means that as long as there are two cards in the camera, the recording will be relayed to the other card when one card is full. This mode of recording is ideal for interviews, concerts, documentary shoots, reality television or any project where long continuous recording times may be necessary. With relay recording cards can be hot swapped for an almost unlimited continuous record time (up to 12 hours).

With Dual Slot recording, the camera will record identical content to both cards at the same time. This creates an instant backup in the field and is ideal for jobs that are being handled by one person who can't ingest and backup footage while on the job.

It should be noted that dual slot recording can't be used together with relay recording. Also, if the memory of one card is filled up before the memory of the other card is used up, the operation of recording onto both cards is stopped.

One additional feature of the EOS C100 is its ability to do in-camera HD to SD conversions. While requests for Standard Definition content this is becoming less prevalent, it is still required in certain markets around the world and having the feature truly makes the EOS C100 a versatile camera that can deliver content to anyone.

External Monitoring & Recording

The EOS C100 features an industry standard HDMI port that can be used for either external monitoring or external recording purposes. This HDMI connector also contains an HDMI lock mechanism (for compatible HDMI cables), and is capable of outputting an 8-bit uncompressed signal.

When used to monitor or record to an external display, the uncompressed signal can carry industry standard timecode as either metadata in the video stream or as a superimposed timecode burn directly into the video footage. This latter feature is ideal for situations like recording legal depositions where this feature is oftentimes a requirement of the production.

Sound Recording

Like everything else about the camera, the EOS C100's audio recording capabilities are designed to support a one-person operation. The included handle unit not only has a built in stereo mic, but includes two balanced XLR inputs and industry standard audio features for adjusting levels, choosing mic inputs, and also features phantom power to external microphones. The EOS C100's high quality sound recording options include PCM 2-channel or Dolby digital 2-channel recording.

In addition to recording audio using either the handle unit's built-in stereo mic or via external microphones using the XLR inputs, the EOS C100's body also contains a headphone jack and an industry-standard 3.5mm external mic terminal for plugging in a small microphone when the handle unit is not attached. This is great for situations where only reference audio needs to be captured to the camera and the smallest possible camera configuration is desired.

Conclusion

The EOS C100 is designed to be a single operator EOS Cinema Camera system for a variety of productions. Its size, weight, ergonomics and features such as One-Shot AF, Push Auto Iris, Wide DR Gamma built-in ND filters and Canon EF lens support make it an ideal choice for owner-operators that are producing a wide range of content for their clients. Whether used for weddings & events, red carpet premieres, product launches, sporting events, video podcasts, corporate events, student films or as a second or third camera with the EOS C300, the EOS C100 is a lot of camera in a small package. It will be exciting to see how this new camera starts to make its way into productions.

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

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