Playing With Fire

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Gosh, I sure had a blast shooting with the new Canon Cinema EOS C300 last week. The camera arrived just before Christmas Eve and while I had an evening to test it under "Exterior - Night" conditions, I never saw the first lick of flame 'til the proverbial "Take One". That said, I’m very pleased with the my brief fling with this landmark Canon camera and I hope you enjoy viewing this little passion play as much as we enjoyed creating it...

Man, oh man, this is one really sweet camera. Strip it down or dress it up, it’s very easy to love. I, myself, have a soft spot for strippers - so to speak - and I generally try to keep things light and loose, camera-wise. Unlike many other C300 samples you might have seen, this clip was the product of a very tiny crew - just me, my assistant, and a friend who volunteered to bring his jib-arm out for a couple of hours. We worked with what I consider to be minimal production gear.

Not to put too fine of a point on it but when I share that we had just one camera battery, savvy readers will fully understand that this was truly a “minimalist” production. Working light usually means working fast and we were only on-location for about seven hours total, spread over two evenings. I recall having more than 25% of the battery left at the end of each evening and that really blew me away. Having done a lot of shooting with the battery-hungry HDSLR cameras, I habitually shut down any camera when I’m not actually setting a shot or shooting and this action undoubtedly contributed to the excellent battery life we experienced.

This particular C300 body was “EOS-mount”, rather than PL, and that meant I was able to work with very familiar glass. Both my Editor and I love lots of coverage options so I shot through Canon EOS lenses ranging from 14mm to 400mm with zooms being prominent. Yes, yes, I know, I’m very lucky to have assembled a lovely collection of premium Canon glass but I don’t own anything that hasn’t paid for itself, time and time again. While the investment can indeed be substantial, I prefer “owning” over “renting” because it means I can accept last minute opportunities - like this one - with minimal stress. Did you ever try renting premium camera gear on Christmas Eve in a semi-rural town? Good luck with that. We also used this opportunity to wring out the first production sample of our new 12" SYSTEM ONE Follow-Focus Kit for the C300. It’s compact, gearless, shockingly affordable, and - wait for it, wait for it - Coming Soon!

I brought along several LED lights but used them very sparingly. Between the ambient street light and the ever-present incendiary devices, I frankly didn’t need much extra illumination. I tested ISOs up to 20,000 but found my personal sweet-spot at ISO 6400. The nocturnal urban glow alone usually gave me from f5.6 to f6.3 and I felt that was a very impressive performance for such sketchy levels of illumination. The larger pyrotechnic devices used by Sekah and Sirius often demanded that I “ride the stop” to avoid over-exposure during the take and the C300’s excellent LCD screen made this a fairly simple proposition.

I also appreciated the adjustable-color Peaking feature and the fact that I had a choice of two levels of Zebra Pattern. The C300 features lots of Function Buttons that were slightly challenging to find by feel but all controls were conveniently placed for both tripod and handheld work. I eventually figured out how to find the main function controls by feel but I, for one, hope to see illuminated buttons on future iterations of the EOS Cine line. Lacking something better, I wore a little LED headlamp that irritated everyone on the set.

And so, my brief holiday fling with the C300 is over and she’s moved on to another. Dang, I sure miss that killer body. Don’t worry too much about my fragile emotional state, though, as I’m currently angling to lure a fine 1D X out for a weekend fling. I’ll bet we get along just fine too. Can’t wait. That said, if your production needs mandate a more fully-featured HD Video body with unbelievable low-light performance, run right down to your favorite Pro Market retailer and put your name on the list for a C300. It’s an excellent camera.

- B

Special thanks to:

Canon USA
Western Digital - Data Back-Up
Wendy Bridges - City of Prescott Film Commissioner
Eric Kriwer - City of Prescott Fire Marshal
Bryan Matuskey - Jib Arm
Maura Dutra - Behind-the-Scenes footage
Kiersa Koepnick - Grip/Electric
John Wilson - Rapid Prototyping


Production Kit: