It's no secret that we're big fans of Canon Cinema cameras here at Digital Filmmaker. We've used a pair of C100s on hundreds of shoots, and it's still one of our favorite cameras. A couple years ago we moved to the C300 mark II and it continues to amaze us.
So when the Canon C200 was announced, we did a little happy dance. Finally, a C300 mkII in a smaller package. But then the specs were revealed, and we all felt a wave of confusion.
How can the C200 be both a super high end camera - better than the C300 mkII in some ways - and yet a low end camera that doesn't meet certain broadcast standards at the same time?
We're definitely much more into user experience and image quality than simple specs. Sony has been winning the spec game for years, and yet many of us still prefer to pay multiple times more for Canon cameras with much less specs.
But the Canon C200 is entirely a new beast of spec strangeness. It offers amazing high quality RAW recording, just barely passable 4K capture, low quality HD . . . and nothing in between.
Is this a game of protecting higher end cameras like the C300 mkII? Or does Canon want us to forget about specs completely and focus on the things they excell at: user experience and image quality.
One thing's for certain, we had to get our hands on a C200 and use it on a real world Canon C200 review.
TL;DR: In many ways the Canon C200 is a perfect camera, and it's the long awaited upgrade to C100 shooters looking to get into 4k capture.
But C200 users have to choose between a very low end HD recording, a "just ok" 4K image, or dive into the extremely complicated and expensive RAW Light 4K recording.
So for the rest of us documentary and corporate shooters who prefer middle of the road media - e.g. HD at 10-bit 4:2:2 - the C200 still doesn't compete with the C300 mkII.
Canon Cinema Cameras
If you’re a little new to the Canon Cinema line, here’s a quick catch up, along with our own experience and reservations.
The Canon C100 mkI was an immensely popular camera for documentary, corporate, and web video producers upgrading from the DSLR form factor. It’s an incredibly simple and reliable camera to use, and it’s been a staple for us on hundreds of shoots over the years. But the HD bitrate and codec was a little low for broadcast and feature documentary use.
The C300 mkI has had even longer legs than the C100. It’s been used on a majority of reality TV series for years, along with news, documentary, and feature film shoots. The portability, ease of use, image, and codec/bitrate all worked to the C300’s advantage in becoming an industry standard.
But of course, new cameras need to come out every few years, and new industry standards (or at least industry movements) need to be addressed. The big one being 4k capture. Yes, the C500 has been available for years and offers 4k external capture, but until recently it's been prohibitively expensive for everyday filmmakers.
And so the C300 mkII answered a lot of prayers, even though it was fairly spendy when first released. We bought it at its initial price and are still paying off the lease, and we don’t regret it a single day. There’s something incredible about the C300II image, that simple specs can’t explain for it.
We love the C300 mkII because the images make it look like we actually know what we’re doing. And we shoot everything in original C-log, rather than the new Clog 2/3 flavors. Our clients are as thrilled with the look as we are.
The only downside of the C300II is that it’s bulky - too big to comfortably use on a gimbal, to heavy to handhold very long, and too much camera for many of the tripods, shoulder rigs, and accessories that DSLR and small cinema camera shooters have lying around.
Oh and it doesn’t do 4k at 60fps. Which is a big deal if you’re shooting commercials.
Canon C200 Specs
On paper, the Canon C200 seems to solve everything a lot of the problems that have prevented DSLR and C100 users from moving to the C300 mkII. It’s more compact, it has 4k at 60fps, the XLR inputs moved to the camera body, which means the monitor unit is no longer a bulky mess like on the C300. And it’s relatively affordable.
Canon C200 Highlights
- The Canon C200 uses the same sensor as the C300 mkII, but features more advanced Dual Pixel Auto Focus, including touchable AF on the LCD screen.
- It has two XLR inputs and audio knobs on the body itself, which means a handle or monitor unit is not essential when using an XLR phantom powered microphone.
- There are HDMI and SDI outputs, and it uses the same batteries as the C300 mkII but comes with a more portable single battery charger.
- There are 5 internal ND filters, which is amazing.
- Both the LCD screen and EVF are much improved in their resolution and clarity (over the C100). The LCD screen has touchable AF, which is a super bonus for Canon Cinema shooters.
- The Canon C200 comes in an alternative package, called the C200B, which is built without an EVF in order to be more compact for gimbal and remote use.
Canon C200 Recording Resolution, Codec, and Bitrates
- There’s internal MP4 recording on an SD card, up to 60fps in 4K UHD, at 4:2:0 and 150mbps. Not great, but hey, 4k/60, woohoo.
- You can record up to 120fps in HD, with full sensor readout. But all HD recording is limited to 35 mbps, using an H264 codec, in 4:2:0 8-bit. That’s frustrating for anyone who shoots for broadcast clients that require 50mbps - no matter what you tell them about the current MP4 flavor being twice as better as old MPEG2 standards.
- But the holy grail of the Canon C200 is internal RAW recording. It uses a new compressed RAW codec called Cinema RAW Light, which can record at 1gbps, up to 12-bit, and full DCI 4k, on one internal C-fast card, with Proxy recording on an SD card.
- As a rough guideline, with a 128gb Cfast card, you can record 16 minutes of RAW Light at 4k/24fps. Depending on your computer, it can take several hours to transcode that 16 minutes of footage. And then it’ll take about 130gb of space on your hard drive.
The Canon C200 Release Demo Video
Part of the initial mix of excitement and confusion around the Canon C200 announcement came from the demo video. The actual video story itself is perfectly fine - it follows the journey of fish from sea to a chef's table.
"From Dock to Dish" is meant to display the versatility of the C200, along with its ability to shoot RAW in a fast-paced documentary style environment.
The problem with this demo video is it's on an entirely different planet from the kinds of productions that potential C200 owners would use it on.
The C100 official demo video was a wedding film, the C300 mkII demo was a short narrative. The C200 demo is essentially a short version of "Chef's Table," and they even got the same director and crew to shoot it and produce it.
If you've ever seen Chef's Table, it's the most beautiful food visuals you'll ever see. Meticulously lit, setup, and shot on a RED Epic Dragon using Cooke and Angenieux lenses, each episode certainly costs six to seven figures to produce.
See for yourself in the above BTS video. The Canon C200 is placed in a production environment that typically belongs to high end ARRI, RED, and Panasonic cameras. Doesn't it seem a little unlikely that these kinds of productions would choose an amped up C100 for their A cam?
At any rate, the demo video certainly didn't help settle the discussion about who the Canon C200 is for. If it's for actual high level productions, or for up and coming filmmakers who want to dabble with professional tools such as RAW capture, but most often will use the camera as a daily workhorse.
A few months after the C200 was released into the hands of early adopters, we found an opportunity to try it our for ourselves.
Our Canon C200 review
We rented the Canon C200 from LensRentals, for a fast-paced week of production in multiple cities. We primarily wanted it as a gimbal camera, but also as B-cam to our C300 mkII, so we could work fast and capture twice as much footage with both of the Dads shooting.
We generally prefer owning to renting cameras, because the rush to learn a camera, set it up properly, and become familiar with it before a shoot is a huge PITA. In this case, there was a lot of mix ups with Fedex and we ended up picking up the camera at 8pm the night before the shoot, took it back to our hotel room, and had a few hours to set it up, balance it on a Letus Helix Jr, and hope for the best.
Thankfully the C200 user experience is pretty similar to the C100/C300 that we’re very comfortable with. The menu look has changed considerably, but overall we became familiar with it fairly quickly. The buttons on the camera body were so similar to other C-cameras that we could comfortably find them blindly.
That’s the advantage of sticking to a brand of cameras - we’re sure it’s the same for Sony owner/operators who have to rent cameras without much lead time. Once you're accustomed to a type of workflow, terminology, and button layout, the only major change is figuring out that particular camera's ideal settings for image capture.
Canon C200 on a Letus Helix Jr Gimbal
Balancing the C200 on a Letus Helix Jr - late night before a shoot - was a little struggle, but not as diffiult as we imagined. So far there hadn’t been any confirmation from other users that a C200 would even fit on a Helix Jr, so we weren’t entirely sure it would even work.
From our previous tests, the C300 mkII can indeed fit on a Helix Jr, but it’s so tight that it barely works. The bigger Letus Helix Standard is necessary to make up for the extra height and bulk of the C300. But a C200 fit on the Helix Jr. without issue.
As you may have read from our previous Letus Helix Jr article, we’ve modified the handle to fit a C100/C300 hand grip, making it easy to toggle AF, adjust exposure, and start/stop recording. Since the C200 has an entirely different handle connection - a more industry standard ARRI Rosette - we didn’t have time to purchase additional connectors to make the Helix fit the C200 hand grip.
However, to our surprise, the cable on the C100/C300 hand grip, with a Zacuto Grip Extender, works perfectly on the C200. The grip connectors aren't the same, but the cable is, so that's a nice bonus.
Unlike the C100, which has a built-in LCD unit, with a Canon C200 you have to add the monitor unit to the gimbal somewhere. Thankfully, the C200 monitor requires no extra battery, which makes it a brilliant gimbal monitor. We attached it using a Cinevate Universal Accessory Mount.
Unfortunately the stock monitor cable is too short, having to uncomfortably stretch in order to reach the monitor. It’s because the cable attachment is at the front of the C200, unlike the back of the C300. A slightly longer cable is very necessary, but unfortunately it's quite expensive for a cable.
How did the C200 do on the Helix Jr? We used the encoded version, which is more fickle with PID settings than the original Helix. So, without having any time to adjust the settings, we used our C100 Letus Helix Jr PID settings and it worked just enough to get by with simple moves. But it definitely shook and jittered anytime we pushed the movements.
Canon C200 vs C200B as a Gimbal cam
Having a touchable AF monitor on the back of a gimbal is a game changer. With face tracking. All you have to do is press on a face on the monitor while you’re operating a gimbal, and that’s that.
The touchable monitor makes the Canon C200 one of the best gimbal cameras out there right now, for the solo operator at any rate. And even though using the grip handle is nice, the touchable AF monitor means you don’t really need to use the grip handle.
You can adjust exposure and WB on the camera body easily now with a jog wheel, compared to the C100 where it was impossible. And if you need to reach the menu, the monitor has control buttons built in (and assignable), which is really great.
And there’s internal scratch audio, which was one of the biggest pains of using the C100 mkI on a gimbal.
Gimbals like the Helix Jr and the popular DJI Ronin M are certainly up to the challenge of carrying a C200. But there are also a newer breed of smaller, single and dual handle gimbals that could potentially carry the C200, like the Zhiyun Crane 2.
More recently, several C200 owners have reported success with the new DJI Ronin-S gimbal. That could be the ticket, although it may be a little heavy for one handed operation. (Update: we did a DJI Ronin S review and the C200 works great).
We think if you can fit a C200 on one of these smaller, easier to use gimbals, it would be hugely preferable to having to use a separate dedicated gimbal cam, like a Sony A6500 or Panasonic GH5, at least for Canon shooters.
Being able to use your A cam on a gimbal means you don’t have to match picture, or buy extra accessories, or change your workflow at all. Canon C200 on a gimbal just makes sense.
So what about the Canon C200B? It’s billed as the gimbal version of the C200. The C200B doesn’t come with the LCD unit, but more importantly, it doesn’t have the built in EVF. That makes it a slightly better fit on gimbals or remote cranes, etc. And it’s cheaper.
We can see the benefit of a C200B for production crews who will use it 99% of the time on a gimbal, or for C200 owner/operators who would rent a C200B as a gimbal camera on productions where they need a gimbal camera on standby.
But for most users, we wouldn’t recommend the C200B over the C200 because you lose the EVF.
Even if you don’t use the EVF regularly, when you need it you need it. Whether it’s for shooting handheld as a point of contact, or for checking exposure and focus in bright sunny conditions, the EVF can be a lifesaver.
And the EVF really doesn’t take up that much space on a gimbal. It sticks out a little, but not much.
So for most people out there, we recommend the standard Canon C200 on a gimbal. In a pinch, you can quickly take the C200 off the gimbal and use it as a regular camera, without having to reconnect the monitor and hand grip.
In fact, we did just that on the first day of shooting with the C200. At one point, our C300 mkII was being used for our subject interview, and the C200 was taken off the gimbal so that one of us could shoot non-specific slider shots in a different part of the shooting location. That way we can use up valuable time and get B-roll even while one of us is shooting the interview.
The problem was, the C200 monitor and hand grip was left on the gimbal back by interview setup. Not wanting to disturb or interrupt the interview, we were able to use the C200 completely by itself, without any attachments (except the lens of course), and steal a dozen slide shots without re-rigging the camera.
And finally, the best part about the C200 on a gimbal is you don’t need to achieve perfect balance.
Shooting 4k at 60fps with reliable AF means you can slow down, reframe, and come out with some very decent gimbal shots.
We think we’ll see the C200 and C200B on gimbals more and more, as smaller and easier to use gimbals come out with better load capacities.
In the meantime, we recommend renting only renting a C200B when you need it for dedicated use on a gimbal or remote jib/crane, or attached to a car.
Canon C200 vs C300II
In addition to it being a great gimbal cam, the Canon C200 serves a much needed purpose as a B-cam to the C300 mkII. Before the C200, most C300 mkII users were turning to the Canon XC10 and XC15 for their 4k B-cams. But if you’ve read our long article, you know the XC10/XC15 image - despite having C-log - is on a completely different planet than the C300 mkII image. It’s like running a C300 image through a retro Instagram filter.
The C200, however, not only has 4k recording and C-log, it also has the newer Clog2 and Clog3 flavors, using the same exact sensor as the C300 mkII. So theoretically, the images should look nearly identical.
Maybe that’s true if you’re shooting in Cinema RAW Light, in 10 or 12 bit. But we used the C200 only in its 4k UHD MP4 mode. And we have to be honest here, the image is not nearly as similar as we had hoped.
We shot both cameras in plain ol Clog, using the same settings across the board. Perhaps our LensRentals C200 had something changed in the picture profile backend, but we noticed a difference right away, just looking at the LCD screens. The C200 color looked very different, more yellow than the C300II.
In addition to the color difference, the C200 image looks so much flatter and deader than the very lively and three-dimensional C300II image. Maybe it’s the 8bit 4:2:0, who knows, but it just doesn’t pop like the C300II does.
We know that the original C-log in the C100 and C300 is different than the C-log in the C300 mkII, so perhaps Canon has changed how the C-log in the C200 behaves, in order to work with the new codec and compression space.
Truth be told, any Canon Cinema camera image can look amazing with proper lighting, good glass, and accurate metering. On a sunny bluebird day, the images look good across the board. But for us, we judge a camera by how it deals with less than ideal conditions, like on grey days, in mixed lighting office environments, using average lenses like the Canon 24-105mm or the 18-135mm Nano.
In just about any ugly condition, the C300 mkII makes the image shine. The C100 looks pretty bad when dealing with mixed flourescent and tungsten interior lighting. The Canon C200 is certainly better than the C100, but it doesn’t perform magic.
And yes, we know that we’re probably doing it all wrong, lighting the scene wrong, misjudging exposure, incorrectly setting the white balance, and using terrible lenses. We’re terrible, unprofessional shooters who don’t know what we’re doing and are not properly utilizing the camera the way its intended to be used. (Do you smell our sarcasm here?)
But with some cameras, like the C300 mkII, we can break every rule in the book and still come away with a beautiful image. With the C200, you have to be a lot more careful with getting everything right.
Videography Gear Recommendations
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Documentary Filmmaking - We've traveled hundreds of thousands of air miles on many shoots, to bring you our list of our recommended documentary video production gear.
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Business of Videography - our video production services infographic helps you figure out exactly what kind of video the client wants.
Canon Cinema RAW Light
Actually, You don't have to be super exact when shooting with the Canon C200. You can shoot in RAW Light and fix all the mistakes in post. That’s certainly a welcome possibility.
But the problem is, we don’t imagine anyone like us - "sloppy," run and gun shooters - to be interested in filling up massive cards and hard drives with RAW footage that needs heavy processing and correcting later.
As it turns out, the whole benefit of shooting RAW - in that you can fix your mistakes later - doesn’t apply to most people who shoot RAW in the first place, who are doing it with precision, ample time, and an army of post production tools and/or man power.
So if RAW Light isn’t for fast paced documentary and corporate shooters, who is it for? Essentially, those who are shooting commercials, narratives, music videos - anywhere you might typically see a RED camera.
Canon is smart at giving that entire market something to consider with the C200, especially because there are many up and coming filmmakers who are buying into one camera system that they’re using for all kinds of work, including narratives, music videos, documentaries, web series, commercials, and so on.
Where capturing RAW would typically require external recorder/monitor units, it’s a theoretical breath of fresh air to have internal RAW recording. It means these video creators can simply grab a C200 body and shoot high quality content handheld, or placing it on a gimbal, or attaching it to the side of a car.
Well, at least theoretically. A real world production would never depend a shoot on one internal CFast recording, without any external backup. More on that in a bit. In the meantime, here's Canon's simple RAW Light workflow.
Having internal RAW recording is seen as an investment for Canon - maybe it doesn’t make sense for a lot of people right now, but as more and more of their cameras feature it, it will become more standardized. And we all know how industry standards are shunned and laughed at when they’re first introduced (still hearing the “Nobody needs 4k!” refrain?)
For us, we’re certainly very excited about the development, and we look forward to taking on RAW Light as a recording medium in the near future. For now, however, it feels a little strange to include it in the C200, but not provide higher quality compressed recording in 4:2:2 10-bit.
But of course, the theories and speculation are rampant all over the industry forums, speculating why Canon would do this or that. To protect the C300 mkII, to make room for a C100 mkIII, and so on. Maybe the multi billion dollar company knows more about the camera industry than some Justin? It's a toss up.
Demands of shooting Cinema Raw Light
The main barrier to using RAW light today (not just on a Canon C200), is simply the recording medium and processing requirements, both of which can change very quickly.
For example, right now we’re all confounded by the time it takes to process 16 minutes of RAW Light footage, to transcode it into an editable codec such as ProRes. There are lots of reports of processing differences between PC vs Mac, DaVinci Resolve vs Canon’s CRD software, but the main thing is that it takes a lot of time, even with new computers.
On a several year old Macbook, we’ve heard reports of it taking all night to transcode one 16 minute clip.
But computers become faster, the software gets better, and sooner or later all that will speed up. It’ll just mean you have to spend more money, like on a totally pimped out iMac Pro, for example. And isn’t that the whole point of introducing new tech in our industry? To sell more stuff?
Over the air TVs are still broadcasting in 720p Rec 709 by the way, so theoretically none of us have needed to upgrade our equipment for over a dozen years. But we insist on things like 6K, 12 bit, and RAW capture, even though our monitors (and eyes) can’t possibly tell the difference. But hey, it gives us an excuse to buy new stuff.
The other part of the RAW Light equation is the Cfast media, which is still prohibatively expensive. When we first started shooting with the C300 mkII, an officially supported SanDisk 256gb Cfast card was close to $700. And it hasn't changed much since.
We found a cheaper alternative in the Transcend CFX600 card, much to the chagrin of many of our peers. Why would we risk losing precious footage in order to save a little? It’s false economy. Canon provides a list of supported media, so just stick to it and you’ll be safe.
Except the supported, Canon-tested media is not guaranteed either. In fact, no cards are. At one point, SanDisk, the Canon favorite, was found to have a serious issue with the 1DX mkII that made Canon recommend all shooters suspend using their cards until a firmware update.
What it comes down to is, all Cfast brands and flavors of cards have failed C300 mkII users at some point or another. There are stories on the forums, online store reviews, everywhere. Cfast media is used to record much more data than SD cards, and so they are more likely to fail, simple as that.
And by "likely" we mean it will most certainly happen to you at some point, if you shoot on Cfast.
The Cfast issue has exploded even more with the C200. There’s a long forum thread on DVXUser that explores all the Cfast options out there. In summary, to record the RAW Light at 1gbps, the C200 requires Cfast 2.0 cards that have a minimum speed limit, a VPG130 rating that only SanDisk has at the moment. One alternative brand, EgoDisk, has popped up and claims it achieves that minimum speed rating as well, and it’s half the price of the others.
We ended up buying an EgoDisk 256gb Cfast card for our 1DX mkII, as well as to have when we rent a C200 again. But EgoDisk, a newer company, also insists that the popular Lexar Cfast readers are inherantly bad and will corrupt your Cfast cards. Say what?
Who do you trust? Lexar, EgoDisk, SanDisk? In the event of a failure, is it the camera at fault? Or the card manufacturer? The reader? The hard drive? The computer? Trust us, we’ve been down that road when our Cfast media failed, and it’s very frustrating to say the least.
So it’s up to you, whether you trust the big name brands, or you believe in user reports, or you buy into official recommendations. For us, we’re determined that all Cfast cards will fail. Which is the bummer of having only one Cfast slot in the C200.
Luckily, there’s a Proxy recording on the SD, which has saved our bacon a few times on our C300II shoots. But if you’ve promised a client high quality RAW footage, you won’t be able to get away with providing them a low quality proxy file. That's especially true because when you're shooting RAW Light, the Proxy record is only low quality 2k. You can't set UHD 150mbps MP4 as your proxy resolution.
So if you’re a professional shooter who gets paid for your work, and you are shooting in RAW light, the only solution to this dilemma is you have to attach a secondary recorder to your C200, to provide a backup recording if your Cfast card fails. Which, of course, defeats the whole purpose of having internal RAW recording.
Allow us to emphasize this point one more time.
If you are shooting RAW Light on a C200, and you can’t foresee ever using the SD Proxy as a delivery format in case of Cfast failure, then you need to use an external recorder with the C200 for backup. It’s as simple as that.
However, the C200 doesn't currently support RAW output onto an external recorder. So, in the event your Cfast card fails, the best you'll get is a ProRes file.
Finally, and this point is important to consider. If you want to record UHD/4K to internal cards only, you can only choose the 4K RAW Light / 2K 35mbps Proxy combination, or shoot only to UHD 150mbps. One or the other. You can't choose the UHD MP4 150mbps recording as your RAW Light proxy recording.
For us, we’re looking forward to cards becoming cheaper and cheaper, just as storage drives become cheaper for more space. And eventually we’ll use RAW Light on our documentary and corporate gigs. And when that time comes, either we’ll depend on the SD Proxy for backup, or find an alternative way to record to backup media.
In the meantime, sorry, there is no guarantee in the Cfast world. As we recently pointed out in our article for the Video Devices PIX-E5 monitor/recorder, we found an Alibaba page that showed one factory manufacturing Cfast cards for the top brand names out there today.
Perhaps each brand has different manufacturing requirements and testing procedures, and maybe the end results mean different dependability standards from one brand to another. But it still doesn’t make any one card a guarantee over another. If there was a guarantee, we’d all pay whatever we had to pay, for dependability.
On second thought, maybe folks who are in the market for a C200 won’t pay just any amount for dependability. If it theoretically cost more in Cfast cards than your camera itself, to shoot a day’s worth of footage, perhaps it’s time to look at other cameras.
In the meantime, you either have to be ok with the risk of total data loss using a single card recording RAW, or you have to add an external recorder/monitor to the workflow.
Other Canon C200 Improvements
There are a few things we really like about the Canon C200, like the new hand grip using an ARRI Rosette, which makes it so much more modular for rigging. The previous cinema cameras have relied on the Zacuto Grip Relocator, or the Wooden Camera one, for pretty much anytime you wanted to place a C100/C300 handle anywhere but on the camera body.
The other major body improvement we really like is the addition of more ND filters. Now there are 5 internal filters, which is a big deal. Internal ND filters is maybe the biggest reason we (and many others) switched from shooting DSLRs to using a C100 or C300.
In fact, now that we just bought the Canon 1DX mkII - to use as a B-cam and gimbal cam - we're lamenting having to go back to using ND filters again. How many do you get? Which brand? Do you use a fader ND or pick a strength? Do you get one large size and use step-up filters for all your smaller lenses?
For the record, we did all the research and decided on Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 1.2 ND filters, one for every lens filter diameter we own. Why? They have some of the most neutral color tint and minimal vignetting for the price, and ND filters can get very expensive.
We’ve used a Fader ND for years but the color, vignetting, and image softnening are a major disapointment. Thinking about which ND strength we use the majority of the time on our C100/C300, the middle of the road 1.2 (4 stops) seems to be our most used filter. Dialing in precise exposure from ND 1.2 is just a matter of changing ISO and aperture slightly.
Anyway, we’re getting off track here. The Canon C200 has ND filters all taken care of. Not only are internal NDs a thousand times more convenient, and less likely to affect the image negatively, they also save you a lot of money. 5 quality ND filters could cost you over $1000, in one diameter size and ND strength alone.
There are also IR problems with ND filters on a lot of cameras. Thankfully, Canon Cinema cameras don’t seem to have any IR issues with their internal NDs. That’s perhaps one benefit to using the C200 on narrative shoots, with the RAW Light codec, as opposed to tackling IR issues on a RED or Black Magic camera.
One minor change on the C200 is the addition of a little wheel on the camera body. This is a really great way to assign your ISO adjustment. Now you have instant access to an aperture wheel (on the hand grip), and ISO on the body.
If only we could control both aperture and ISO on the hand grip . . . but maybe it's a good thing, so we don't adjust ISO accidentally, when we're reaching for the aperture wheel.
Canon C200 as an Interview Camera
Let’s talk about the XLR inputs and audio controls for a minute. These two improvements are almost enough to make us switch from the C300 mkII to C200 for interviews alone. That, along with the middle of the road 4K recording. Why?
If you think about it, we all spend an absorbitant amount of our productions focusing on the interview shot. We churn through different types of lights, we get more sophisticated in our setups, we spend a long time perfecting the image, all for a shot that only appears in our videos briefly. That is, unless your bread and butter jobs are interview-only videos.
Not only are the majority of our business expenses dedicated to improving our interview gear, but our travel bags are mostly all filled with gear we use only during the interview. But worst of all, the majority of our hard drive space and computer processing power for editing is almost exclusively tied to the interview shot.
That’s because we, like many out there, like to shoot our interviews in 4k, even if our B-roll and final delivery is in HD. Only because it gives us the ability to zoom in and reframe the image. That’s it.
But for a 2 minute video, we’ll have at least an hour of interview in 4k to deal with, and now the entire video project is slowed down because our timeline has to deal with a lot of 4k interview clips. So now we have to transcode all the media to Proxy because the interview clips are slowing the workflow down.
And really, it’s not necessary. There is little movement in the interview shot. The lighting is good, and your exposure and white balance are most likely better and more accurate than any other shot in your production (because you have time to slow down and get it right). So, do we really need 400mbps 4k with 12 bit 4:4:4 for the interview shot? No, we don’t.
That’s why the C200’s UHD capture is actually perfect for interviews. At 150mbps, you can record as much interviews to your heart’s content, without pushing your hard drive space and processing power. You can even transcode or optimize the clips to ProRes, while keeping the original clips, and still use up less hard drive space than the C300 mkII does for 4k recording.
But the addition of the XLR inputs and audio controls is what really sells the C200 as an interview cam. If you shoot your interviews with your subjects standing up, the controls on the C300 LCD/XLR unit are nearly impossible to reach. You’re typically dialing in audio levels blind, or you’re standing on a stool. So, having the controls at the back of the camera is a huge improvement.
And now that the XLR inputs are in the camera body, you can pair the C200 with the external monitor/recorder of your choice, without building up an excessively complex interview rig. Whether you prefer a monitor only like the SmallHD Focus, or a monitor/recorder like the Video Devices PIX-E5, the C200 becomes a very compact interview camera now that you don’t need to depend on the C300 LCD/XLR unit, or the C100 XLR top handle.
Canon C200 monitor
The inclusion of the XLR inputs on the body is also what brings us to the most exciting part of the C200, the monitor, officially called the Canon LM-V1. Now that the XLR inputs aren’t paired with the LCD screen like on the C300 - you can make the C200 a much more compact and modular camera.
The LCD/XLR unit on the C300 ends up being so heavy, that it has a hard time staying level with the horizon. The XLR cables pull to the right. It’s really frustrating, and we’ve had to use a DIY screw method of keeping the LCD level.
The C200 monitor unit is perfectly lightweight, now that nothing else is attached to it. Plus, it’s powered by the camera, so there are no batteries to deal with. The only gripe is the cable is too short, as we mentioned above, and Canon charges a lot of money for a longer cable.
But the fact that you can use the monitor for touch auto focus is amazing. No more fiddling with the jog wheel to move the AF square to your subject. Now you can simply press on a face, and voila, in focus.
The main issue with the monitor - as has been reported by many early C200 users - is not the monitor itself, but the over engineered monitor mount that comes with the C200. Not only is it bulky, but if you have it placed at the front of the C200’s top handle, any time you press on the monitor to use the touch AF, the whole camera shakes a little.
We didn’t have a lot of time to experiment with the C200 during production, but in a short hour while taking photos, we put the C200 in a few different configurations that make for a much more compact and solid camera package.
For example, you can use our favorite Cinevate Universal Accessory Mount to attach the monitor via the side 1/4-20” thread. That’s actually how we used the C200 during our production week. The top of the C200 has two 1/4-20” threads, so you can decide whether to place it closer to the front or back of the camera.
Alternatively, you can use something like the monitor swivel that comes with the SmallHD Focus (and use the Focus itself if you want a brighter monitor for outdoors). You’ll need a shoe mount for this, and we recommend either the SmallRig one or the Wooden Camera one.
And then once you have your monitor attached, you can add a Rode VideoMic Pro Plus on top, for a super compact run and gun camera rig. This is how we would have our C200 rigged up for everything except gimbal shooting.
Alternatively, since you have XLR inputs on the body, you could use a more tradtional shotgun mic that requires phantom power, like the short Audio Technica 875R, along with a small microphone shock mount.
There are lots of ways to rig the C200 monitor and microphone, and that’s what’s exciting about it is you can use pieces of gear you already have lying around. But if you want even more flexibility, you could add the Wooden Camera C200 Top Plate, giving you even more threads to mount your monitor, microphones, and additional accessories.
Canon C200 Review Final Thoughts
There are a lot of things to be excited about with the Canon C200. Most of all, we're glad that Canon still has the power to surprise us all. Rather than feed us the specs and camera we think we want.
The introduction of the Cinema RAW Light format means that big changes are coming to our workflows down the road. In the meantime, there are still many barriers holding it back from wide adoption. For us, relying on only one Cfast slot for RAW capture is a huge limitation. But then again, many other cameras, including RED and ARRI, only shoot to one media slot.
What makes the Canon C200 very attractive today is its ability to shoot in compressed 4k. Which means the question of whether to shoot HD or 4k becomes moot. The majority of C200 owners will simply shoot UHD 150mpbs as the base resolution, without having to ask themselves if the resolution is worth the media space and processing power.
Not having to question 4k capture means you no longer have to worry about how to respond to clients when they ask for 4k, especially for very long productions where it seems wasteful and unnecessary. You can now shoot in 4k all the time, and choose whether to deliver to HD or 4k.
Being able to shoot long interviews in 4k means you can shoot medium wide and still reframe in post production, without worrying about huge hard drive consumption, proxy transcodes, or upgrading your computers.
But the most exciting part of the C200, for us, is the new 4-inch monitor. Touchable autofocus means you can use the C200 on a number of gimbals, and simply touch the screen to focus, rather than having to figure out how to attach the C200 hand grip to the gimbal, or rig up remote follow focus and monitoring.
In interviews as well, being able to touch the screen to ensure your subject is in focus from time to time, is so comforting. The worst feeling in the world comes from watching an hour long interview that is *just slightly* out of focus. You had all the time in the world, and yet somehow you still failed. Argh.
Magnification tools, external monitors, using button AF all can help, but being able to simply tap on the screen, right at your subject's face, is great. Outside of interviews too - can you imagine how easy it will be to track a subject walking away or toward you, by touching on the screen a couple times?
The Canon LM-V1 is a very attractive part of the C200. And in a surprise move, Canon has recently updated firmware to enable this monitor to work fully on the C300 mkII. Touch AF and everything. That's going to be a game changer for C300 mkII shooters. (We have a review of the C200 monitor on a C300 mkII now - check it out).
So in conclusion, the C200 is a perfectly great camera for anyone upgrading from a DSLR or C100 or C300. But for videographers who either have a C300 mkII or are interested in getting one, then the C200 becomes a more difficult argument.
Thanks for reading our Canon C200 review! Shoot us an email if you have any questions or comments.