Canon C200 Review – Impressive RAW Footage & Ergonomics For Little Money

In terms of specs, the C200 is certainly Canon’s most interesting camera since their entry into the cinema market. A week after the announcement of this affordable 4K RAW camera, we had a chance to put it to the test, shoot a lot of RAW and MP4 footage and create this Canon C200 Review for you. If you’re interested in cinema cameras, or have questions about the performance of the C200, what we found will probably be for you.

Canon C200 Review

Please note: I did not notice any firmware related flaws, but the camera tested was still on a beta firmware.

Canon C200 Review – A Day With Canon’s New Baby

Canon kindly invited me to attend a press event surrounding their new Canon C200 cinema camera. Fortunately for you, I was also given the chance to record a lot of footage with it and draw my own conclusions for this C200 review. At this point I must admit that after having spent time with the camera and seeing the footage, there are a lot of good arguments that speak in favour of it! Nevertheless, I’ll run you through all the pros and cons I found.

Disclaimer: At cinema5D we have tested almost every cinema camera on the market. This gives us a pretty good idea about a camera’s strengths and weaknesses in order to recommend the best tool for the job. Still, keep in mind that this C200 review reflects my subjective opinion, derived from my own experience and shooting style. I hope it will help you make an informed decision for your own work.

Canon C200 Review - camera body teaser

The Features at a Glance

Here’s what the Canon C200 promises on paper:

RAW

  • Internal 12-bit 4K RAW
  • Smaller file size with “Cinema RAW Light”
  • Records RAW to CFast 2.0
  • Up to 59.94 fps in 4K 10-bit

MP4

  • Internal UHD MP4 recording – 150 Mbps
  • Records MP4 to SD card (>U3)
  • Up to 59.94 fps in UHD 8-bit (4:2:0)
  • Up to 120fps in HD with full sensor readout

Additional Features of Interest

  • Super35 CMOS sensor & active EF mount
  • Advanced Dual Pixel CMOS Auto Focus with touch screen and face detect
  • 5 Internal ND filters (up to ND 10!)
  • Good low-light performance and low noise
  • HDMI and SDI outputs
  • XLR inputs on the body
  • Proxy Recording onto SD card

“So what does this mean?” some might ask. Well, 4K RAW in a camera that costs $6,000 sounds great, and the fact that it can shoot up 60p RAW and up to 120fps in HD is very useful. A package offering the features, ergonomics, service and quality that Canon is known for are all very convincing arguments that make this camera a no-brainer for many filmmakers.

Canon EOS C200 body top

On the other hand, not everyone needs to shoot RAW – in fact I talked to a lot of people who actually really prefer not to. It offers the highest quality and can give you the most organic, cinematic and expensive-looking footage, but it also involves a process of transcoding and requires a lot of storage space. As such, if RAW is not used to its full potential, it may not be beneficial to many users like documentary and event shooters, for whom RAW alone may not be a good selling point.

The Canon C200 also offers MP4 with a compression of 150 Mbps, a standard h.264 compression that most entry level prosumer cameras get these days. But for many professionals, this doesn’t provide high-enough quality and, as a result, this camera seems to offer something that suits high-end shoots as well as the low end, but there remains a gap in the middle. At the moment, one would have to use the higher-priced C300 mark II to fill this gap.

BUT before we draw our final conclusions just based on spec sheets (suggestion: don’t do that), let’s put the camera through its paces and see how RAW and MP4 actually work in the field.

Canon C200 RAW Footage

The first thing most people will be interested to see is the RAW footage out of the Canon C200. For this C200 review I spent a couple of hours putting the new camera through the elements, ranging from harsh sunlight, to strong wind and eventually pouring rain. I love to be in the weather when it comes to shooting cinematic images, so the shoot was very enjoyable too. Check out my footage below:

I strongly urge you to either download the source file from Vimeo and watch this on a good 4K screen. It’s worth it.

Workflow

To see how the RAW footage performs, I created a very strong grading look that would heavily play with colors and contrast. First, I converted the Canon C200 CRM files (which are single files by the way, not photo sequences) into Apple ProRes 4444, so I had a format I could easily work with. The reason is that CRM is currently only compatible with a limited number of software applications, so I converted inside DaVinci Resolve 14 Beta and then went on to edit my footage in Adobe Premiere Pro. Canon recommends to use their own conversion tool, which allows you to select one of their log gamma profiles. I was told that Adobe apps will support CRM natively in the near future too.

The conversion in both DaVinci Resolve 14 Beta and the Canon Cinema RAW Development tool took a little under 30 minutes for 16 minutes of footage on an 8-core Mac Pro.

RAW?

At first I did not expect full-fledged RAW quality. The camera just seemed too easy to use and recording RAW is usually less convenient. Either the camera is bulky, too expensive or too difficult to use, or lacks built-in ND filters, etc… But I was surprised. The Canon C200 delivers excellent 12-bit RAW files that hold up impressively. The quality is organic, the rolloff is soft and most importantly, there is a lot of shadow information.

Canon C200 Review - Dynamic Range Observation

Canon C200 Review – Dynamic Range Observation

For the shot above I was standing underneath a large tree. As you can see, it had lots of thick leaves, while in the open, the midday sun was burning down. If you know this kind situation, then you know that the leaves under the tree should be very dark and the spots where the sun hit the wet leaves should be very overexposed. I had no trouble pulling the overexposed parts back and pushing the shadowy leaves into light. Actually, with any shot I took I had no trouble getting everything exposed correctly. I took some shots with and without ND just to see heavy overexposure and underexposure, and in the grade I was able to match both shots without noticing any noise whatsoever.

This is what impressed me the most. I could literally shoot any way I wanted, I didn’t even have to expose correctly. The footage (all shot at native ISO 800) is so clean, that I can push the material without risking a noisy image. The grading experience was very pleasing and of course I could easily control colours, while getting an overall organic look. As we know, the sensor is mostly similar to the previous Canon C camera sensors so not much has changed there, and people who are familiar with C cameras will appreciate the low-noise organic look. While the dynamic range may not be quite up there with the Arri ALEXA, the overall RAW from the Canon C200 screams quality and is certainly a professional high-end cinema tool that you should try before dismissing it.

Canon C200 with 50mm Cine Prime Lens

Canon C200 with 50mm Cine Prime Lens

How Much Data Does the C200 RAW Produce?

This is an important question. While the new Cinema RAW Light format has been called 3 times and 5 times smaller than traditional RAW formats, the camera still produces a lot of data. The benefit of the Canon C200 though, is that the media (CFast 2.0) is not proprietary and is becoming cheaper and cheaper, so it is easy to get several CFast cards.

Canon C200 writing RAW data

Canon C200 writing RAW data

I shot with a Transcend 128GB CFast 2.0 card in 4K 24p – This gave me 16 minutes of recording time.

Those 16 minutes turned into another 134GB of data after transcoding to Apple ProRes 4444, but when CRM becomes compatible with Adobe Premiere I won’t have to transcode anymore. If you use one of the supported apps for editing you can also save that extra disk space.

In comparison, the Sony a7S II records UHD at 100 Mbps, so it requires 12GB of storage for the same 16 minutes of recording time.

In comparison, the new Panasonic EVA1 records 4K at up to 400 Mbps, so it requires up to 48GB of storage for the same 16 minutes of recording time.

So to put things in perspective, in order to get RAW quality from the Canon C200 you need about 10 times as much storage space as when recording 8 bit on a Sony a7S II and about 2-3 times as much space as when recording 10 bit on the Panasonic EVA1. For many this will not be viable, because they simply need to record too much footage or they don’t have the extra processing power and time required to work with RAW. For me personally, I’m a convinced RAW shooter – I love to get the best out of my footage and I love to edit, and the extra space and additional rendering is worth it for me.

Canon C200 CFast 2.0 Slot

Canon C200 CFast 2.0 Slot

What About 150 Mbit MP4 – Worthless?

Oh, about that one. I must admit, like many others, at first I was disappointed by the low-spec 8-bit codec alternative the C200 had to offer on paper. 150 Mbps sounds underwhelming and we can get the same from most mirrorless cameras nowadays, can’t we? In theory yes, but the mp4 from the C200 is really not bad, and I would argue that it can hold up pretty well against most other 8-bit cameras.

Here are two jpeg screen grabs. Note that this is not a scientific test.

Canon C200 Review – 8 bit UHD MP4 – graded

Canon C200 Review – 12 bit 4K RAW – graded

Canon uses two green channels as on all other C cameras in order to get more accurate color information out of the 8-bit space. I was surprised by how well mp4 worked. It is certainly a usable alternative that makes sense in broadcast and documentary, but don’t expect to get 12-bit RAW quality from an 8-bit mp4. The video is certainly softer and a bit more mushy.

ungraded, 100% crop

Slow motion in 120fps works very well too. Even though the resolution is only HD, those HD images are quite good. They are down-sampled from a full sensor readout and they look very nice at first glance. Unfortunately, I noticed a bit of aliasing and moire in the slow motion footage, where it often became visible in contrasty areas with fine lines.

HD slow motion recording at 120fps | visible moiré pattern in the water.

For those who still need more than the MP4 the C200 currently has to offer, Canon announced that their XF-AVC video format will be available via a free Canon C200 firmware upgrade coming in Q1 2018.

Please note: The camera tested was still on a beta firmware. I think it is unlikely that the aliasing is firmware related, but it should be mentioned none the less.

Canon C200 Review – The Shooting Experience

Canon C200 review - first impressions, body side

RAW was what most people were interested in regarding the Canon C200. But for many shooters, ergonomics and reliability is another key aspect when it comes to evaluating a camera. Canon has certainly put a lot of their camera-making experience into the Canon C200. The result is a well-rounded and powerful cinema camera package that mostly works in tandem with the operator.

Auto Focus!

The auto focus on the Canon C200 convinced me. Canon’s Dual Pixel Auto Focus is simply better than what other cinema cameras have to offer. It works. I had it enabled for most of the shots with the Canon 100mm F/2.8 L Macro Lens that I used for this C200 review. With a tap of the touchscreen you can direct your focus to the right part of the picture.

Focus Assist!

This is a great feature that Canon introduced with the Canon C300 mark II. The focus assistant tells you when your subject is in focus. If it is not, three arrows indicate if your focus is in front of or behind the subject. This is very convenient, and allowed me to rarely need the magnify button for focusing, because I could just rely on the focus assist.

Overall Build Quality

The Canon C200 is a solid and ergonomic tool that feels rugged yet compact and light. The new Canon EOS C200 weighs 1.4kg, while in comparison, the C300 mark II weighs about 1.8kg and the C100 mark II weighs 1.1kg. Considering that this camera shoots RAW, I think a weight of 1.4kg is really good. The new top handle has improved over previous C cameras and feels very solid with several added mounting options.

Fast, Easy Menu

Canon has always had a good menu structure. It is also true for the C200. It was easy and intuitive to use.

10-stop ND

The Canon C200 has 2 separate rotating filter stages. This gives you a lot of flexibility and a range of up to 10 stops of ND filtration. This is extremely handy and lets you work with shallow depth of field even in very bright sunlight without the need for an external filter. Also, with the perfectly balanced internal NDs there is no color shift.

Built-in Connections

Unlike previous C cameras, the Canon C200 has the XLRs built into the body, which is a great improvement. The connectors and buttons sit in the right places for me. There is HDMI and SDI out and, contrary to some rumours out there, I can confirm that both of them output your Canon Log signal. You can also apply LUTs to individual outputs. There is no Canon Log 2 on the C200.

Proxy Recording

For some people who want an efficient workflow with RAW, the 35 Mbps proxy recordings in 2K will be a welcome feature. Proxys are recorded to SD cards. The camera has 2 SD slots, by the way.

Battery Life

One battery lasted for more than 2 hours. I never switched off the camera.

Canon C200 back

 

Canon C200 Review – What I Didn’t Like

Overall, I had a great experience shooting with the Canon C200. For me it opens up a lot of possibilities, mostly because of its low price and excellent all-round performance that delivers 12-bit RAW. But there are still some things that caught my attention in a negative way.

The Touchscreen

Yes, the whole screen attachment was definitely improved over previous C cameras. When you’ve worked with one of the older models, then you know it can be a bit flimsy, bulky and limiting. The C200’s new screen attachment, on the other hand, is stiff and it is easy to reposition the screen to where you need it and even detaching, which was not possible before. However, after a while the screen started to tilt sideways, because the screw at the front got loose. This has been the same on previous C cameras, something I guess users will have to continue to live with.

Canon C200 LCD

Another thing was that during my shoot the screen was not very bright. In direct sunlight I couldn’t see and I was forced to use the small EVF at the back. Later, a Canon representative showed me that the brightness can be dialled up in the menu. I am not sure how much this increases the screen backlight, so this is a point that would require another round of testing. However, I am pretty sure the C200 screen will not be able to hold up against the latest high-bright screens that are so convenient to work with, like the new smallHD FOCUS. If you use a third-party screen though, you will lose the touchscreen functionality on the C200, which is especially useful when using auto focus. The Canon EVF-V70 would probably be a great solution, but is a bit pricey.

No ProRes?

Now I’m being demanding, but just imagine this camera with Apple ProRes codec integration. This is exactly what the C700 offers, but it is a camera in a different price class. With Apple ProRes HQ 10-bit, the Canon C200 would be a perfect fit for everyone and for most of my projects. Unfortunately, the large divide between 12-bit RAW and 8-bit MP4 is just what the Canon C200 is, and for the price, I must say I’ll accept it gladly.

Aliasing in Slow Motion

As I mentioned earlier, there is some aliasing and moiré in 120p slow motion recordings. While the resolution and look is nice, the aliasing aspect makes it a little less exciting for me. Most people probably won’t notice.

Canon C200 Hero Image

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, it is really hard for me not to like the Canon C200. For $6,000 this camera does almost everything a cinema camera shooter could wish for. The 12-bit 4K RAW quality lives up to the expectations of the word “RAW”. At the same time, the C200 makes the RAW process easy and relatively affordable as you just need a third of the storage space of uncompressed RAW and you can record to CFast 2.0 cards. In a few months Premiere will support the new Cinema RAW Light format natively, as will other major apps, so if your machine is powerful enough, you won’t even need to transcode.

Add to that the fact that this camera offers the best auto focus any cinema camera currently has to offer, face detection, the convenient focus assist feature, great low-light qualities and a rugged, reliable, ergonomic body with up to 10 stops of built-in ND. Honestly, I find the price of this camera surprisingly low. The Sony a7S II costs almost $3,000 and is simply a small (yet impressive) mirrorless camera with 8-bit at 100 Mbps, and certainly in a different league than the C200. Even the URSA Mini Pro is currently $6,000, and people will have to think long and hard if the ProRes formats it offers are worth it in comparison to the new Canon C200.

So far, it has seemed like Canon have mostly done “their own thing”, always pricing their cameras at twice the cost of the rest of the pack. But the Canon C200 is a game changer in that regard, and a clear sign that will challenge the competition. How will Sony, Panasonic and Blackmagic respond?

The Canon C200 is available for pre-order now and will start shipping at the beginning of August 2017. I hope you liked my Canon C200 Review – if it was helpful to you we’d appreciate if you used the buy links below to one of our unbiased sponsors. If you have any questions or thoughts, please let me know in the comments.

Canon C200 vs C200B

The body-only version (Canon C200B) is only available in the US and costs $6,000. If you want the LCD, top handle with mic attachment, side handle and EVF, you’ll have to put down another $2,500 for the “full version”. In terms of media, Canon told me they recommend to use SanDisk 128GB Cfast 2.0 or SanDisk 256GB Cfast 2.0 cards for RAW recording and SanDisk 64GB U3 SD cards for MP4 recording.

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