Canon C300 Mark II vs. Sony FS7
Hi, this is Jay P. Morgan and Kenneth Merrill. We’re back for another camera comparison. This is the third we’ve done in this series. We’re looking at the Sony FS7 versus the Canon C300 Mark II. And the only reason you can make this comparison is because Canon drastically dropped their price on the C300 not too long ago. Because of that they’re starting to get into the same category- $12,000 for the Canon versus roughly $8,000 for the FS7. If money is the object then the FS7 is pretty attractive. And looking through this footage, we think you’ll see that it’s a good thing Canon dropped their price because we don’t think it warrants that much more money. It would be hard to justify that $16,000 price tag when you look at the FS7 and look at the footage comparably. It’s pretty amazing how close these cameras are.
First up we have the ISO test. The base ISO for the Canon C300 is 800. If you go lower than that, you’re gonna get less dynamic range. So we go 800, then 1,600, and then we’ll have the Sony jump in at 2,000, which is its base ISO, which isn’t really a problem because you have built in NDs. Both of these cameras have built in Neutral Density, which is fabulous. I mean, if you’re working and then running and gunning, have built in NDs is just incredible. That’s probably the top reason to buy something other than a DSLR. The C300 and the FS7 are almost identical until you get up to about 3,200. Once you get into 6,400, you start to see a little bit of graininess. Canon is holding pretty strong at 6,400. Both cameras kind of get a lot of noise in the red channels first which is interesting, and the blacks are certainly dancing. That black dress on the left when you hit, 6,400. Her hair is falling apart but who shoots at 12,500? You know, buy a light. Honestly, you’d rarely use that ISO and both of these cameras are very capable up to about 3,200, even 6,400- you run some neat video over that and 64 probably would be clean. So they seem to be pretty comparable. I think the Sony starts to fall apart a little sooner than the Canon on the high end. But they’re pretty comparable. These cameras are head-to-head competitors, there’s no doubt about it. And a lot of which one you choose to go with will depend on who you’ve been with before. I’ve used the Sony FS5 quite a bit and I’ve also used the C100 and C300, so I’m more familiar with the Canon. I pick up the Sony FS7 and it’s like an alien. But you know, there are people that say it’s just as useful as the Canon. I think it really just depends on your background. I did find using the two of them that the ease of use for the Sony was a little more difficult than the Canon. The Canon is just a little more intuitive. But then, I do have well, I don’t know, at this point I have as many Sonys as I have Canons. I have a whole case of both, so I’m using both of them, but more of the DSLRs. When I got the Sony, the Canon felt like it was easier to get to the manual, it was easier to find things. Sony was a little more difficult but then it’s probably just a matter of exposure. Once you get involved with it, it wouldn’t be as difficult. I think a lot of it comes down to ease of customization like we talked about in our last review. The Sony has a lot more buttons, menus, picture profiles and looks, so you can really dial it in to what you need. That’s a real advantage for some people.
Maximum Dynamic Range Test
In this test we shot the Sony in Cine EI mode, which basically means it just sets, I guess, the white balance is burned in, but it sets a white balance. Your ISO is 2,000 no matter what, and you can’t really adjust the picture profile. It’s just a flat S-Log3 picture profile. The Canon we shot in C-Log2, which is their flattest profile. We thought that would probably match up best with the Sony S-Log3. And they’re both looking really clean and really great. It’s interesting to look at the colors that each camera does better. I think the Sony picks up on yellows a lot better, but it can also reflect some yellow in the skin. If you look at the incandescent reflection on her right arm, it’s more pronounced than it is in the Canon. Different colors are going react differently for each camera and you have to just be prepared. It’s something you should really test out. If you’re going to make an investment, you should really test both of these cameras out. The red dress looks a lot better on the Canon than it does on the Sony, for sure. It’s kind of washed out a little bit. As we get up to a +4 stops, both of these cameras are still holding really well. That’s amazing to me. We’ve taken this footage at +4 and pulled it back into the correct exposure with color grading only. The Sony starts to clip a little bit in her face at +5 stops, but the Canon clips very hard, like it fell off the cliff. So that’s showing us that the Sony is going to have at least a half-stop more in the highlights. And once you reach six, I don’t know a single camera on Earth that can do 6 over, except ALEXA’s pretty close. But the Canon and Sony here comfortably do four.
Under Exposure Test
Now, we look at the underexposure test. I noticed in grading this, if you start at a proper exposure on the Sony, it’s already a little bit noisy. You really should go one stop over. That’s just across the board with S-Log it seems. You’re always better to give just a little bit more exposure. It’s just going to give you more to deal with. In the underexposure, as usual, the S-Log doesn’t perform super well. At -2, you’re already seeing a ton of noise in the dresses on the left. The Canon here is a little better but not by a huge margin. I would probably say the Canon would outlast by one stop in the shadows. Yeah, it looks like it. -3 on the Sony is really in trouble. But the Canon at -3 is not near as bad. The issues here really become color separation. I think the Sony actually holds onto its color- her skin tone is a lot better underexposed on the Sony even though the noise is completely useless, whereas the Canon loses the saturation in all the colors pretty quickly.
Harsh Backlight Situation
The point of the backlighting test was to see how much shadow and how much highlight or detail can we retain at the same time. We didn’t light our model at all. There’s a little bit of ambient in the room but she’s pretty dark in that scene, and you’re looking at the outside scene, bright windows outside. Both cameras do pretty well but we disagree on the results. Kenneth likes the Sony, he thinks it’s more open, that everything’s there and you can now grade it. But Jay P. thinks the Canon image is a lot nicer. You almost have a usable image. All you need is a little bit of light on her face and you’re ready to go, without grading it. Now there is one thing I noticed and I want to point this out with caution because I’m not sure if this is a copy of the camera that we had or if this is just a general flaw. I did read up and hear some people were having this issue with the C300, but if you look closely on her face, in the shot from the C300, you can see these magenta and green streaks coming across her hair and her face from these highlight bars from the background. I have encountered that one other time on a documentary shoot I had with the C300. I posed the question online to see if anybody had found a fix for that in case you are backed into a corner and have to shoot in this situation. Someone told me that doing a black balance on the camera would solve that problem. I have yet to test it but there you go. If you run into it, that might be the answer. On the other hand, the Sony doesn’t have any. So food for thought. I think you’re looking at some of the highlight and the shadow ratios is causing a flare or some sensor weird thing.
C300 or FS7?
These cameras are a close match. So it comes down to what are you used to using, how much money you want to spend, what features you need, and what lenses you have. Lenses will always factor into your camera buying decision. If you’ve got a whole collection of certain lens type, you’re going to make a decision based on that. But the mount on the FS7 E-Mount actually makes it really flexible because the short flange depth means you can adapt any lens you want to that system. I think if you’re shooting slow motion, FS7 all the way. You an shoot180 frames in 2K- that’s huge. I don’t actually don’t know of any other camera that shoots that frame rate for under 10,000. On the Canon, you can do 120 at 2K but it’s in the crop mode so your crop factor is going be three times compared to a full frame sensor. So the advantage of the Sony is that you have the ability to do slow motion in 2K and in 4k. It does 60 at 4K. Canon only does 30 in 4K, so if you do slow motion, go with the Sony.
What are the other advantages? They’ve both got built-in NDs. I think they’re both very flexible in post. They both have pretty good color. It probably just depends on your taste. I would say the Canon probably has better preamps in its XLRs, which is nice if you need to put audio right into your camera. That’s another reason why these cameras are so fabulous. So there are two XLRs on the Canon, the same with the FS7. But I think the preamps are better on the Canon. That’s a huge advantage. If you’re running sound, if you’re doing interviews or things that are quick, it’s really easy to get the sound back to the media on the cameras.
One thing that we forgot to talk about in our last review is autofocus. The autofocus on the Canon C300 Mark II is incredible. And even if you don’t want to use the autofocus feature itself, you can still use it’s electric contacts to tell you if your subject is too close or too far, because the camera knows. It’s really incredible. The Sony also has autofocus but we didn’t use it on set because we were shooting all these tests with a 50mm Canon lens so that the lens wasn’t an issue in the comparison. The FS7 would need native E-mount lenses to autofocus. Adaptors can be finicky sometimes. On the other hand, if you like speed boosters, you could use a speed booster with the FS7 because it’s a crop sensor, so that’s cool.
How about weight and form function? The Sony does go on your shoulder easier which is nice. That’s generally how people use cameras whereas a Canon is meant to be, I guess held in front of you, which is strange for a cinema camera. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. I was looking at it thinking, “How do I stabilize this?” You’re going to have to put it against your eye and your elbow, it’s back to the old 35mm, it’s back to DSLR basically. I have found that it works really well with an EZ Rig though. It’s a vest contraption that has an arm that comes over in a cable and it’ll hook on to the C300 and the camera just floats in front me which is really convenient. The full size is $4,000, but the one I use is $1,500. That would be great if you’re doing a floating look. But if you really want to stabilize it, that doesn’t stabilize it.
The one thing that the Canon does have over the FS7 I think is the EVF. The FS7 has one screen and it’s about a 4-inch screen that has a loop on it so it can either be a monitor or an EVF. The issue is that it’s not particularly good at either thing because a looped monitor, in my opinion, never looks as good as like a real EVF, and the tiny screen is just really small. The Canon has a really great EVF, I think. And plus it’s got an articulable screen which gives you both those options. So if you’re wanting to hold it out and work down low or something, you can do that, or you can get it right on the camera.
Also, the Canon is very strippable. You can take your screen attachment off, the top handle off, the side handle off, and you’ll still have full control of the body in just like a little box almost. My only problem with that side handle is it’s like, there’s a little cord you plug in and you turn it, and I’m going, “Really?” Sometimes it doesn’t connect so you have to unscrew it again. It’s kind of cumbersome. It seems kind of wrinky-dink to me at $12,000 camera, you know, there’s a little cable in there. What if that breaks? Do you have to buy a whole new handle? So that concerned me a little bit, but I’ve never heard anybody saying they had those issues. Maybe you just put it together and leave it built. These cameras are small enough you can do that for the most part.
All right, so there you have it- a look at the FS7 and the Canon C300 Mark II. Our conclusion is they are pretty head-to-head. Both are great options. It comes down to how you want to shoot and what you’re familiar with. You know, when you get up to the $10,000 range, if you can’t make a good image out of it, I don’t think the camera is the problem. So just to wrap this up- check your wallet, check the footage, and make your own decision.
We have a lot of tests that we want to do in the future. There are lots of great cameras out there and we want to put them head-to-head, but we’re wondering about the format. Do you prefer this kind of format where it’s studio lit or doing this kind of long slog of over and under exposure and ISO test, or do you want to see us go out and shoot more real footage in real locations that seems more practical? Let us know in the comments. Also let us know what cameras you’d like to see head-to-head.
Thanks for watching- keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.