Is the C100 better for high-end production than the C300?

Is the C100 better for high-end production than the C300?

In many ways, the answer is surprisingly yes. It turns out that the C100 (that’s a third of the price of its big brother) can jump over the C300 when it comes to bit rate, colour sampling and compression. Basically, you can get better picture quality out of a C100 than a C300. What?… you’re probably asking. Well, here’s the deal.

The surprising Canon C100

The surprising Canon C100

First, here’s an overview of how the Canon EOS chain stacks up against each other when these cameras are “out of the box”.

C500 10bit / 4:4:4 / RAW

C300 8bit / 4:2:2 / MPEG-2

C100 8bit / 4:2:0 / AVCHD

DSLR 8bit / 4:2:0 / H.264

 

Colour Sampling Explained:

4:4:4 = Full Colour

4:2:2 = Half Colour

4:2:0 = Quarter Colour

 

Colour Depth Explained:

8bit = 256 Shades – 16 million Colours

10bit = 1024 Shades – 1 Billion Colours

 

How these codecs rank in terms of compression:

RAW (least amount of compression)

ProRes

MPEG-2

AVCHD

H.264 (most amount of compression)

Canon C300 - The more expensive bigger brother.

Canon C300 – The more expensive bigger brother.

Now, buy a $600 Ninja2 external recorder for your C100 and here’s what happens:

C100: 10bit / 4:2:2 / ProRes

C300: 8bit / 4:2:2 / MPEG-2

Atomos Ninja-2 external recorder

Atomos Ninja-2 external recorder

So, for a minor investment you can get a much cleaner image than the internal recording of a C300. Let’s add some other advantages of the C100:

Same image sensor as the C300 and C500

Same Processor as the C300 and C500

15% smaller

30% lighter

65% cheaper!

 

Now yes of course there are some features you sacrifice when buying a C100 compared to a C300 – such as:

No time-code outputs

No HD-SDI outputs (HDMI only)

Lack of high quality eyepiece

 

But, if you’re working in a production environment where you don’t absolutely need those features (particularly time-code out) then do you really need to spend the additional money? Even after purchasing a Ninja2 recorder and perhaps a Zacuto Z-Finder to turn the LCD screen into an excellent eyepiece, you’ll still be saving about $8,000.

Something to think about!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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17 Comments

  1. January 30, 2014, 12:17 am   /  Reply

    Hi Scott,

    Interesting article and very useful to map out the pluses and minuses of each system so clearly. I own a C100 and recently purchased the Ninja 2. Have used it on a couple of jobs, but really purchased it to shoot C-Log with as I didn’t feel the native AVCHD codec would take that much pushing and pulling in post… to be honest the jury is still out as to whether it has been a worthwhile investment. Can we be sure that the Ninja is really pulling a 10bit signal directly from the sensor, or is it just converting the compressed AVCHD? Side by side comparisons make it very difficult to spot the difference. Guess what I’m trying to say is I thought with such a big improvement in codec and compression the Ninja would bring much better results than it has done so far…. and it has reinforced what an amazing job the internal compression already does.

    • Scot McDonald
      January 30, 2014, 10:53 am   /  Reply

      Hi Glenn,
      You’re right in the sense that codecs like AVCHD are so good at compression that the picture looks amazing to the naked eye – in fact pretty much exactly the same as other codecs with less compression. I use AVCHD all the time with great success – especially for web delivered content. The interesting fact is that the C100 has the exact same 4K sensor (4606×2340) as the C300 and C500. The difference is how the signal is recorded and compressed. When you record the “clean” HDMI output from the C100 you’re bypassing any internal compression – the signal is coming right off the sensor and processor. So, not to worry, you’re not just re-encoding AVCHD. Your Ninja 2 recordings will have much less compression and considerably more colour information. This really makes a difference when you’re doing green screen work, very heavy grading, or you need your footage to be broadcast television compliant – many networks will not except anything less than 10bit 50Mbps 4:2:2.

      But, most of the time most of us C100 users are perfectly fine with AVCHD. I guess that’s the great thing about the C100 – it’s perfect for low budget run-and-gun stuff one day, and then fits right in on a film set the next.

      Scot

      • January 30, 2014, 11:23 am   /  Reply

        Cheers Scott… keep up the great work with the blog 🙂

      • kam
        February 23, 2015, 5:53 am   /  Reply

        Thanks for this post. I was looking at investing in one of the C line and I kept hearing great things about the c300-500.But with this bypass the cost savings and lighter load is really selling me. Thanks for the work you put in testing this out.

  2. February 8, 2014, 11:09 am   /  Reply

    The C100 only outputs 8bit out of HDMI, you may think that you are 10bit, but you are only 8bit recording to 10bit, no benefit whatsoever.

    • Scot McDonald
      February 19, 2014, 10:51 am   /  Reply

      Hi Bob,
      Yes, you’re correct that the C100 sensor output is 8bit and the Ninja recorder is essentially recording a 10bit version of an 8bit output. But, there are some advantages to this. If you’re adding 12-bit (or more) CG, effects, green screen or titles and transitions during post-production, the colours won’t be ‘crushed’ down to 8-bit when they’re inserted into an 8bit timeline or project, compromising overall quality. Even if you consider that pretty much a wash, I would argue that there is still great benefit to using a Ninja recorder for certain production situations. It does upgrade the internal native recording from 4:2:0 AVCHD to 50Mbps 4:2:2 ProRes.

      Thanks for your feedback!
      Scot

      • Tom Lowe
        February 17, 2015, 7:58 am   /  Reply

        What do you mean the 12-bit graphics won’t be crushed to 8-bit when put in an 8-bit sequence? Surely you mean they won;t be crushed if put in a 10-bit (or higher) sequence? Also ProRes is a much higher data rate than 50Mbps!

        • Dr. Roto
          March 21, 2015, 9:22 am   /  Reply

          Yeah, this is very wrong. I have been a feature film compositor for 18 years and I hear this false logic all the time.

          Yes, the ninja is a better recording opition as you get a higher data rate with ProRes. I recommed using it over the internal recorder just for the higher data rate. However, you are still recording an 8-bit image in a 10-bit container. If you have 8-bit processed image with 8-bit artifacts in the 10-bit captured image (such as banding from a sunset), there is nothing in 10-bit container that is going to improve it. The Ninja will just pad the file with empty zeros.

          Also, recompressing this faux 10-bit file to a 8bit timeline will not make a substantial difference.

          I’m always on the recieving end of these kind of images and have to deal with the upset DP or director who thinks he captured a 10 bit image and his stuff still has 8-bit artifacts. Choose your tool wisely and run test before commiting to a workflow/camera package!

          • Scot McDonald
            April 4, 2015, 3:12 pm   / 

            Thanks for the feedback Dr. Roto. You’re right, there is so much confusion around this topic. Me included!

  3. March 20, 2014, 11:28 am   /  Reply

    Now is the time to really look at the Atomos Ninja Blade.

    No, not a schill – I own a Pix220, and have opted to cross-grade to the Ninja Blade because it has

    1) Sorted the ‘improve the appauling colour of the C100’s LCD’
    2) Has a calibration system to ensure what you see is what you get
    3) Works with Canon’s C-Log so you can judge tonailty on its screen
    4) Works with FCPX so you can do an awful lot of pre-edit logging
    5) Works perfectly with the C100 (UNLIKE the Pix220)
    6) Has 2:2 and 2:3 pulldown removal that really works… although both modes are currently infected with a bug that shifts pixels 2 units to the left – Atomos have promised to fix this ASAP
    7) Sips power like a hamster – a couple of little NP-F570s last a very long time. An NP-F battery will see a producer through the first pass of shot logging.
    8) The audio meters are so much better than the C100’s
    9) Get a whitworth-to-whitworth stud, screw the sucker to the rear socket on the C100 handle and be happy. Be very happy (with a reasonable ball head of course).

    I could go on. Frequently do. Ninja Blade plus C100 = awesome.

    • Scot McDonald
      March 25, 2014, 9:54 am   /  Reply

      Thanks Matt – great info. Sounds like you found a great workflow. I’ll have to check out the Blade!

      Cheers!
      Scot

  4. Ganda
    August 27, 2014, 6:35 pm   /  Reply

    Hi Scott, thanks for the great review. Hope I can get the camera sooner than later.
    Cheers!

  5. Franco
    February 8, 2015, 4:17 pm   /  Reply

    Good blog. Is there a website I can get a good understanding of color sampling and color depth that explains it and manages to be practical at the same time?

    Also, Matt and Scot, I see that some of these advantages to the Shogun are mitigated by the C100 MkII, like items 1 and 3, I believe. What is pulldown removal?

    Finally, Matt suggests the Blade hanging off the handle up on top in the breeze. Since the C100 is used as much hand held as on a tripod, it seems to destroy part of the C100’s ergonomic advantages. Is there a way to hang the Ninja 2 right behind the back of the C100 body if you’re going to use it run and gun?

    Thanks in advance for any help you may have. I’m getting ready to go C100 Mk2…

    • kam
      February 23, 2015, 12:26 pm   /  Reply

      @Franco Pulldown is the way a camera will take an interlaced image and make it progressive. I forget the whole technical side of things but basically on an older tape camera to shoot 24p, you had to shoot in 60i and then in your editing workstation edit process your footage with a specific pulldown that your camera’s workflow requires to make the 60i into 24p. The extra information is used to make it progressive? Not sure if that makes sense but it’s the gist of it.

  6. Richard Bonaduce
    June 20, 2016, 2:41 pm   /  Reply

    BTW – I think you CAN get timecode out of the NINJA2, especially when coupling it with a C100..!

  7. Mi
    February 22, 2017, 1:30 am   /  Reply

    Hello Scott,

    I have found your article very interesting and very helpful. I have purchased a Canon C100 for all the above reasons you mentioned. As a feature film maker I wan’t to get rid off the 8-bit image capture but as now we are in 2017 and 3 years have passed since you posted this article there are more options now in external recorders. My dilemma is between the Ninja Blade and stick to the 1920×1080 10-bit 4:2:0 or invest more with the Shogun and the 4k option? Have you tried it? Has anyone else tried it? Do i get better image or I’ll see no actual difference and I’ll “waste” money which I can invest somewhere else in my workflow? Thank you.

    • Scot McDonald
      March 7, 2017, 7:16 am   /  Reply

      Hi Mi,
      Yes, things are changing so fast it’s hard to keep up! I think the decision to invest in an external recorder really depends on your workflow. If you’re shooting primarily with “baked in” picture profiles and just doing some minor colour correction in post, then I don’t think an external recored is going to buy you much. Straight out of the camera, I think it’s pretty hard to tell the difference with your naked eye between an internal AVCHD image an an externally recorded ProRes HQ 4:2:2 for example. However, if you’re shooting a lot in C-Log or even Wide-DR and grading your images not just to do minor corrections to colour balance and exposure, but to really give your footage a specific creative look and style, then recording in 4:2:2 really makes a difference. Amazingly so in fact. 4:2:2 footage loves to be graded and will suck up whatever you throw at it. 4:2:0 doesn’t hold up well in this regard.

      Hope this helps!
      Scot

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