C200 Slow motion in the snow – what could be better? 🙂

Canon C200 Review: The camera and its competitors

It’s a crowded market in the sub £8000 professional video camera world, with the likes of the Sony FS7, Sony FS5, Panasonic EVA, Blackmagic Mini Ursa, and the Canon C200 all fighting it out for your cash. After reading more spec sheets than we’d really like to wish on anybody and discussing 8bit technology more than a 1980s Nintendo fanboy we decided enough was enough with deliberation and to just make the plunge into the new world. Goodbye Canon C100 (kind of) and hello Canon C200 (most definitely).
Canon C200 and C100 side by side

Canon C200 and C100 side by side shows that the basic design remains the same, while the C200 has gained some size and weight.

Canon C200 review – Why?

The problem with this particular crowded market seems to be that every camera in it has a very good argument to answer the simple question of ‘Why?’. The Sony FS7 has become pretty much the industry standard for broadcast work; the FS5 is a feature packed smaller version of the FS7; while the Panasonic EVA has a spec sheet that seems to good to be true and ticks a lot of boxes when comparing specs; and the Blackmagic Design Mini Ursa offers a relatively affordable cinematic camera; and yet beside all these sits the Canon C200 with its rather confusing top-end offering of Cinema RAW Light but with a rather disappointing sounding HD 4:2:0 35Mbps.

Ah, so you chose the Canon C200 for the RAW Light feature?

Erm, you’d think wouldn’t you? But no, actually four months after buying the Canon C200 we are still yet to use the RAW Light recording. This is mainly due to the added expense of buying the CFast cards and not actually needing this feature as of yet, however this feature did influence our decision slightly in buying the camera, in means of future proofing our purchase slightly and some future projects perhaps benefiting from this feature.

So what drew you towards the idea of paying £7000 on a camera with HD 4:2:0 35Mbps footage rather than spending absolutely nothing and keep on using on your current C100?

Yes, we asked ourselves this several times! And the answer is in fact two-fold: firstly, our production company was set-up with two Canon C100s which we used on most shoots and despite being excellent cameras there is no doubt that the look of the footage from the cameras is starting to date somewhat when compared with the Sonys and the newer Canons, and that is of course without even mentioning the fact that the C100s do not shoot 4K, something which we are increasingly doing when filming interviews or when some clients request it for projects.

The second major reason why we chose the Canon C200 was for the simple, but seemingly overlooked, fact that camera spec sheets do not tell the whole story and in fact there are many subjective reasons for choosing the right camera for you rather than choosing by spec sheet alone. The look of the footage, the ergonomics of the camera in your hand and the general ease of use can be overlooked when choosing a camera, but these are arguably the most important on a day-to-day basis when using video cameras.

We spent at around six months researching and thinking of what camera to upgrade to, and this involved renting some of the contenders and trying some out in stores to get a feel for them, so we think our decision was not knee-jerk or ill-researched, but instead we think we chose the best camera for our type of work (this is the first video production job we shot with the C200) and what will turn into the best investment for the company. Check this video

So why specifically did we choose the Canon C200 over the other options? Well, read on to find out 🙂

Canon C200 alone

Canon C200 and C100 side by side shows that the basic design remains the same, while the C200 has gained some size and weight.

Why we chose the Canon C200

Whilst in the process of deciding which camera to upgrade to we had a handful of serious contenders: the Sony FS7, Sony FS5, the Panasonic EVA, the Blackmagic Mini Ursa and the Canon C200. It became apparent pretty quickly that it is possible to get amazing footage with any of these cameras. There are numerous examples of footage online and in 4k and HD all these cameras can get fantastic results. So just buy the cheapest, right? Well not quite. Price is all pretty similar apart from possibly the FS5 being the cheapest at the moment, but for the sake of a serious investment the price difference didn’t really influence or decision that much as we wanted the best one for us, not necessarily the cheapest.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll outline below what we thought of as the disadvantages for us were with each of the contenders:

  • Sony FS7: Possibly too bulky for our style of video production. We shoot a lot of documentary-styled commercial videos and felt that the Sony FS7 being the bulkiest of the options meant it might not be best suited for us and our productions especially when we want to film more candidly. Also we have an extensive EF mount lens collection where switching to Sony would involve another decision upon switching all our lenses or buying expensive third party lens adapters. Neither option too appealing really.
  • Sony FS5: Feature packed but when we’d used them in the past we weren’t keen on the Sony ‘look’ or the menu system used by Sony. Also this camera was rumoured to be awaiting a major upgrade when we wanted to buy so we didn’t want to buy a camera that was going to be out of date from day one.
  • Panasonic EVA: On the spec sheet this was a clear frontrunner for a long time, however when some hands-on reviews started to come out we were put off by some of the features such as the poor LCD screen and usability of the camera.
  • Blackmagic Mini Ursa Pro: A great looking camera but the pricing is deceptive as it starts at around £5000 body only but when viewfinders, batteries and media are factored in the price spirals to the top end of the budget. Ergonomically the camera also has the same criticism from us as the FS7 – probably a bit bulky and cumbersome for us.

I’m sure they’ll be various Sony, EVA or Ursa Pro users now shaking their heads and disagreeing with the above, but like I said previously all these cameras are capable of capturing amazing footage, which means to me it’s all about the smaller subjective differences which are the most important when choosing the right camera for you and your productions.

Canon C200 Review - C200 with Samyang lenses

Canon C200 Review with the set of Samyang Cine EF mount lenses we recently reviewed

The Canon ‘look’

Probably the most subjective really, but like people who shoot on film may have a favourite film stock for its look, many people prefer a certain digital camera due to the look the footage has. Likewise we’ve been using Canon cameras for the past ten years as our main cameras and as such we know the Canon look and can work well with it in production and post-production. Skin tones look nice and in general the footage looks warm and realistic. These may not be looks that everyone is after, and likewise people can argue that with sufficient post-production time and skills any professional camera can be used to get a certain look. And as true as that might be, having a starting point with footage that you’re happy with is a valuable thing too really.

Canon C200 Review C200 Being used handheld

The ergonomics of the C200 make it a small, relatively lightweight camera which is easy and stable to use handheld if required.

Canon C200 Ergonomics

As stated earlier a camera’s spec sheet only really tells part of the story; of course a top of the line specced up camera is a good thing to have, but it does only tell part of the story. Like anything, having the right tool for the job, feeling comfortable using it and not spending more time in menus changing settings than trying to capture footage are of great importance.

Coming from four years of using the Canon C100 cameras picking up a C200 feels good and familiar, but with distinctive upgrades where needed. The LCD screen and viewfinder are excellent upgrades with both providing a really vivid and detailed image that helps you really see the footage you’re capturing well.

There are physical buttons on the side and back of the body meaning that you can quickly access settings without the need to go into the menu. Likewise one great redesign from the C100 is putting the audio level controllers on the back of the camera where you can actually see them when operating! A much needed improvement.

The camera is bulkier and heavier than the C100 but with the better eyecup and viewfinder this can actually be beneficial as having a decent weight when operating handheld while using the eyepiece can result in some really smooth handheld footage.

Canon Autofocus

Being users of Canon cameras for so long now means we have acquired a good selection of EF mount lenses, some of which allow us to use the Canon autofocus. The Face-detection, object tracking and touch screen spot focus are great when working quickly or are trying to focus track a moving subject. We’ve used them when filming sports such as football and taekwondo to keep the moving subject in focus and even when filming interviews to keep a moving interviewee in focus.

Canon C200 Review Canon C200 On Slider

Testing out the autofocus on the C200 with a shot of a swimmer moving towards the camera. The focus handles it well, despite the swimmer moving quickly and bobbing up and down throughout.

Slow Motion Up to 120FPS

One of the biggest drawbacks from using the Canon C100s was the lack of high frame rates – true 1080p50 wasn’t even possible, only 1080i50 – meaning slow motion footage was never really an option with that camera.

So making the jump from only having 25fps available to now having up to 120fps is a massive upgrade and one that has really raised up our filmmaking possibilities to another level. The image from the slow motion is crisp and smooth.

Of note though is that – as is standard with high frame rate recording – no audio is recorded when using the slow motion feature meaning that although you can speed ramp the footage in post-production to get a mixture of real time and super slow motion, you will never have that audio to play with, which is a shame but understandable really. Similarly to note is that there is no auto white balance or autofocus available in the slow motion mode, which in theory is no problem, but if you’re switching between filming normal 25fps footage and then switch to get some shots in slow motion it is likely that you’ll have to set your white balance again and stick to manual focus.

A selection of slow motion shots from a project we did for a disabilities charity in the UK.

Things of note and differences between Canon C200 and C100

Four months into using the Canon C200 and it’s safe to say we’ve been delighted with our choice; it’s been reliable, easy to transition from the C100 and best of all the image quality iin HD, 4K and slow motion has been exceptional. That said however, like any camera, we’ve found a few little gripes that have made the camera feel slightly less than perfect.

No Internal Microphone

Perhaps the most surprising feature, or lack of, with the camera is the fact that there is no internal microphone on the C200, meaning an external mic must be used at all times if you require audio from your takes. Most of the time this is no problem really, however if you plan to use the camera on a gimbal and want to strip it down to its lightest and smallest configuration then using an external microphone is really not ideal. We’re a bit bemused as to why the camera doesn’t have a small internal microphone as this is often really useful for backup audio and for syncing multicamera shoots.
Edit: So, after initially saying that we didn’t like the lack of an internal microphone on the C200, guess what? It turns out there is one! Thanks to Alfred Schmidt for pointing this out in the comments 🙂 So, after four months of use we can confirm that yes, the C200 does have an internal microphone! I guess the manuals may be useful sometimes… However, the internal mic does seem to be quite inferior to the C100 internal microphone in that it is much smaller and you have much less control over it as it only has automatic levels and also cannot be used when a mic is plugged into the camera – it’s one or the other it seems. Its real benefit is that it can be used as a scratch audio if you strip the camera down to body only for lightweight filming or on a gimbal for example.

Can’t use the joystick to rotate through settings like WB, ISO etc.

Anyone who’s used the C100 or similar will be familiar with pressing the joystick while operating with your thumb to be able to then change variables such as white balance, iso, shutter speed and so on quickly on the go without going through the menu or pressing several individual buttons, however that feature seems to be missing from the C200. Each variable has a separate button on the side of the camera which means changing settings quickly and on the fly while shooting is a bit more cumbersome.

No top record button on C200

Again only a little difference but one in the real world which would be useful to have again. To us it makes sense to have the record buttons near where your hands are likely to be; which are on the side handle and the the top handle – like where they were on the C100. The record button is placed on the side of the camera on the C200, which is useful in certain situation, but if we were to only have two record buttons on the camera, I think we’d choose one on the right side and one on top. But maybe that’s nitpicking 🙂

HD footage in 4:2:0 and 35Mbps only with internal recording

Yes, this is well talked about on the internet already so we won’t go there too much, but of course we’d rather the camera shot at least 50Mbps in HD and had 4:2:2 colour sampling and it’s hard to believe that the camera isn’t capable of this with a proper firmware upgrade. The only reason why Canon haven’t I’m guessing is to try and preserve the market for the C300 users, which is a shame and hopefully in the future Canon will change this and give everyone the firmware update that would really take the Canon C200 to another level.

video production Royalty Free music: Music Bed Artists Profile Picture Collage

You’re never in any doubt what bit depth you’re shooting in on the C200 as it tells you at the top right of the screen. Just a shame it’s not 10 bit 4:2:0. We can only hope for a firmware update.

Canon C200 Review: Final thoughts

As was stated early on in this Canon C200 review, if you’re going to spend £7-8000 on a camera, then you’re going to get a great camera capable of capturing some stunning footage. And the Canon C200 is no exception. The HD footage is clear, crisp and detailed – a lot more so than the spec sheets would have you to believe. With the capability to record HD, 4K, super slow motion and to capture in RAW light internally in the camera, the C200 is a powerful camera with the potential to be used on a variety of jobs and deliver excellent results. If we were to make the choice for a new sub £8000 camera, I’m pretty sure we’d make exactly the same choice again and go with the Canon EOS C200.