Dueling Canon C300 and Arri Alexa
When it comes to using a new Camera like the Canon C300, I don’t do camera tests to see how it performs. I prefer to battle test it on location. When HBO asked me to shoot a promo for their TV series Game of Thrones, it was the a perfect opportunity to see how the C300 compared in an interview setting alongside the benchmark for digital cinema capture: the Arri Alexa. I shot with two Arri Alexas as my A and B cam and two Canon C300’s as my C and D cam. The A and C camera were on a fisher dolly. The B cam was on a Dana Dolly to the side, and I had the D cam shooting profile long lens shot.
Chris Moseley operating on B Camera
It goes without saying that the two cameras are at two very different price points and classifications, but right out of the gate, the Canon C300 looked great side by side with the Alexas. I’m speaking strictly about how the footage looked at Video Village before any color correction and grading. Ultimately, the choice is determined by your time, budget, color space and compression preferences and final deliverable required.
I wanted to point out that the C300 cut together well with the Alexa. I love where this new technology is taking us. But a word to the wise. There are many exciting new products coming out this year, but you don’t need to jump early. The C300 is just another arrow in the quiver. Take a look at some screen grabs and sample footage and decide for yourself. Thanks to Derek Johnson for the BTS photos in the post.
Filmic roll off into highlights and shadows
Creamier skin tones
12bit Pro res 4444
1-120 FPS @ 1080P
Larger form factor
More color correction needed
1.9 GB per minute file size
More accurate colors
Less color correction
Decent dynamic range
Great skin tones
Smaller form factor
Cheaper lens package
0.4 GB per minute
Less dynamic range
Looks more video
Doesn’t have as smooth of a roll off into the highlights and the blacks
1-30fps @ 1080p
1-60fps @ 720P
SxS Pro cards
Pro Res 4444
Hoodman Raw 16gb X675 CF cards
Cine 2 Gamma curve
Panavision Primo 11-1 Zoom
Panavision Zeiss Ultra Primes
Leica R Zooms
David Benioff, writer/executive producer of HBO’s Game of Thrones
Dan Weiss, writer/executive producer of HBO’s Game of Thrones
Emilia Clarke, actress on HBO’s Game of Thrones
Screen grab comparison of Kit Harington
Screen grab comparison of Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
(Note that there is no audio on this piece.)
Thanks for doing this, Shane! Considering its cost, it’s amazing to see the little C300 keeping up with the Alexa – the C300’s only obvious give away really was the highlight handling on the white shirt at 00:14. It will be interesting to see how the new Sony FS700 compares! Thanks again!
Simon Shasha you are very welcome, yes I think it does pretty well but I think the C300 still looks like a video camera and not a digital film capture device. Not a fan of grey skin tones from the Sony. They are ENG manufacturer’s and sports gatherer’s not artists.
I agree with you. I think the C300 still has a bit of that video look happening. Skin tones on the Alexa are outstanding!
Quick question: What are you throughts on the GH2 (hacked) Vs the Canon 5D – as far as film/cinema look? There are some new feature films coming out shot with the GH2 and they look impressive. Just wanted to get your feedback.
Thanks for your great examples and information.
Great post, as always thank you for sharing your wonderful insight and experiences with all of us. For a camera costing about 4 times as much as the C300 you can see what you get for the money. The ALEXA is an incredible camera, but it is nice to know that Canon’s first steps into the professional realm actually does a great job of keeping up with the big boys. Exciting times for independent filmmakers like myself trying to find our niche. You are a true inspiration Shane, keep up the great work :-)
Daniel M, Thank you so much for all of your kind words and support. I agree, Canon is getting there. It is very exciting times.
thanks for the info shane, I would like to know something more on your light scheme, why do you mix a soft light like the briese, with a more hard light like the ring light? And the big diffusion light behind camera is for lighting the background? thanks for your help!
federico, you are very welcome and thank you for your support. Soft and hard it a great combo for beauty. The big diffusion behind camera was to wrap a little under their chins.
Thanks for posting this! The C300 profile CU in particular look stunning.
I did notice purple blooming on the C300 shots on people’s white shirts, fairly badly. Was it just that you were exposing for the Alexa? Or am I losing it? haha
Paul Antico, you are very welcome and thank you for your support. You are not losing it. I exposed properly for each camera. I notice that the C300 has this issue. Trying to dial it out has been difficult in post.
Great to see this real life test ( or use ) :)
seems the rule is always under a bit, never over .
Roger, this is why I always starve the sensor of light. So important. If I use my light meter with the Alexa I will expose normal, if I go with my eye I under expose 2.5 stops on average
Thanks Shane. The purple bloom is troubling. I think part of it is the internal ND but I haven’t tested enough to say for sure. It’s almost as if the cam needs to be under exposed a bit I’m finding or it can get a bit messy. Alexa definitely looks more filmic in the way the tones present. But for the price C300 isn’t too shabby. It -can- look great as you know. It’s nice to have different options in the kit though. For example, I might be more inclined to shoot a dramatic CU on my 5D Mark III for that aesthetic it presents. And thankfully no more moire.
Awesome post Shane! Game of Thrones is one of my favorite shows and always watch behind the scenes. Also great comparison of the two cameras, it’s nice to see C300 compared to a top of the line digital camera.
Blake, thank you so much for your kind words. Kind of, I think Canon has to stop using video camera technology to make video cameras
While the C300 looks amazing, the Alexa has that “charme” that is undeniable. There is a reason there is a K60 difference between he two.
Justin, could not agree more. I love the Alexa
Thank you for your great blogs. Like AC mag, these are great learning tools, and very inspirational. I have a quick question, similar to Federico’s. For your lighting, if there is a short answer, could you tell me how you know what strength your lights needs to be??? Do you tell your gaffer you are shooting, say at, 800 ISO and T2.8 and he lights accordingly? Or do you know from experience what sort of light output you can expect from various sources?
Many thanks again for sharing your knowledge. Good luck on your future projects,
Neel Potgieter, You are very welcome. This is all experience based. I was a gaffer for 5 years before shooting, I was a Key Grip before I was a Gaffer and I was a rental shop lamp tech before that. It gives me the ability to use this experience to know exactly what it will take. I used a Breisse 140 with a 5K tungsten globe, then put Rosco 1/2 CTB on it to separate them from the warm background. I find using color contrast in HD is very important
Incredibly useful and interesting post. Thanks, Shane. The thing that stands out most to me are the highlights on the C300. Specifically, when the actor’s hair crosses in front of the backlight at 0:00-0:04, and 0:14-0:23. Other sites online are referring to this as the purple/cyan highlight issue. Is this is present in the original footage? What are your thoughts on this issue?
Jonathan Natiuk, thank you so much for your kind words. We cannot get rid of that. I had the same problem on the Keith Urban music vid. Many people are saying it is the ND that is supplied in camera. No happy with the camera in general. It s a video camera that looks like video.
This is an awesome comparison between the two and once again, Shane, sick that you hopped back on Game of Thrones. I absolutely adore this series.
I’m a huge fan of the Alexa in everything it offers. It really has become THE standard for digital filmmaking much in the same way we used to compare photo-chemical film to anything else. So seeing the C300 match it for its price point AND, in my opinion, resolve skin tones slightly better, just blows me away.
Just reminds me once again how much I enjoy HBO’s open minded attitude when it comes to platforms, creativity and innovation in this art form.
KahL, Hi my friend. Thank you so much for the kind words. I love working for HBO, we always try to push the envelope. I love the Alexa as well and its ability to look filmic.
The C300 highlights on Kit’s white shirt look blown. Were they?
The Alexa is obviously running a flatter picture profile and doesn’t have a color calibrated matrix running, something I assume the post guys did with a DSC chart. I’d be interested to see if the lattitude difference shows up in the final grade. Did you receive any comments from your post team in that regards?
S. Allman, I baked all this in and there was no color correction done. This was straight out of both cameras
Shane, I was wondering why you chose to use the Cine 2 Gamma on the C300 and not the C Log?
Phil Balsdon, The reason for the Cine 2 Gamma was the fact that this was a fast turnaround for HBO so minimal color correction was the best way to handle this. I shot the Alexa on rec. 709 and the Cine 2 seemed the closest.
Understand. I’ve been doing exactly the same when there’s no time for grading, but I do find the C Log makes a huge difference.
Im using Cine2 too as it does seem to be the best allrounder, but interested in the c-log… how do you find exposing for c-log.?
Roger, I find it is OK, but boy does it look video while shooting.
Phil Balsdon, I like it, the C-log gives you great latitude but feels more video while shooting.
C300 has a strong video look, I can even see chromatic aberrations on the shirt of Kit.
The colors and texture of Alexa is superb, more cinematic.
I think Canon still have to work a lot if they want to be in the cinema industry.
Enrique Pacheco, I completely agree. The camera is a video camera. The 5D is inherently cinematic like the Alexa. Period
Hi, Shane! Great and very informative review (as always)! But what do you think is the main reason for 5D being more cinematic than C300?
Alex Rus, its codek, its color space and the fact that it comes from a digital still camera that was designed to eliminate 35mm still film. Special sauce in that baby
Exactly! This is why the DSLR have been so revolutionary – the fact that years of testing and R&D has gone into to them to lure FILM still phtogs away from film. It’s been the opposite in the HD world where video camera companies are trying to make products more filmic. I think this is why ARRI (and to some extent RED) has excelled because they come from a film pedigree and were never video camera manufacturers.
Gonna be a fun NAB this year as the video companies get closer and closer, especially now with 4k and larger sensors.
Thanks for showing this very interesting comparison Shane. It’s quite easy to get caught up in the spec wars between cameras so sometimes you just have to see the images side by side. The Alexa could easily be film, to my eye at least.
Ronan Casey, I agree, I love putting cameras to the test in real settings, see how they really perform. Thank you for your support
Have you shot with Epic? How do you think it compares with the Alexa?
gepinniw, no comparison. Alexa looks like film, the Epic looks like video.
Shane, your work on Act of Valor is mind-blowing! Thanks for all the behind the scenes info. Quick question. When you say the “5D is inherently cinematic like the Alexa”, did you mean because of the full frame factor?Also, would you use the new 5D3 for a low budget indie over the C300? (budget is 75k) Thanks Shane!!
David Levy, thank you so much for the wonderful kind words. Inherently cinematic comes from the way the senors rolls the highlights, sees into the shadows. The full frame sensor helps but the MK II was a magical fluke. MK II or the C300 would be a good choice. Not the MK III too many bugs still.
There is a definate green shift in the Alexa footage. Why not throw in just a basic color correction to try to match the shots to the clips from the show (which are much warmer)? The Canon footage looks better.
Nick, I could not agree more. The Alexa always outputs green. I think HBO was under the gun for time.
Shane: First of all congratulations on Acts of Valor, I hated to see Marc M. die so early in the picture but I’m sure you needed him for focus! Really impressed with Acts of Valor picture wise.
I love the Alexa and log c. Good comparison, I’m a bit confused by the green/blue? tones on the Alexa screen grabs. Obviously the Alexa could be dialed warmer and look better than the C300. But still impressive for Canon, as was your food shoot you posted.
Love to operate for you if you come to Colorado or have climbing to shoot! Give my best to Mark.
PS never saw the prudential ad we all shot on.
Bob Carmichael, Thank you so much for the kind words. Marc had to go,much needed in his real job. The Prudential spot played all the time, you can go on the blog and check it out.
Hi Shane, fantastic comparison and great promo! Do both camera’s have the same sensor size? The depth of field of the C300 is shallower in the shots. Was the iris the same on both camera? I also ask because a wide open lens on the canon may be the cause of the chromatic aberation (purple) we see in the C300 images.
Hans, Thank you so much for your kind words. We used Panavision Glass on the C300 which was C camera and then Leica on the D camera. The C300 sensor is about 20% larger than the Alexa, which will give you that shallow DOF.
First of all ,thank you Shane,i’m new in the game and i learned a lot from you.Alexa is really digital top ,DR,cinematic and soooo flat, so much space for grading.C300 is a nice jump from Canon but it needs some tweak,i agree Canon is thinking video for cinema,picture is already graded,sharpness is videoish(look at Nikolaj eyes wrinkles),strange blue shift in highlights(look at Nikolaj shirt wrist,blue halo overflows on the jacket),DR is also an issue in highlights(Look at Kit’s shirt,buttons near disappeared?).Maybe a bad response to specific lightning from the C300.A dynamic range comparison under natural light could be fun too.Anyway when we consider the job done on picture profiles on the 5D,we can think that more is coming for the C300.Lets Canon or hackers bring some nice curves and see what this sub 15000$ cam can really do…but 5d is still the best ratio cinematool to price !
Faudel, I agree, and thank you for your kind words.
Interesting how the C300 appears ‘sharper’ which i think leads to it feeling quite a bit more videoy. Thanks for the post.
Will you be commenting on the 5D3, especially in comparison to the MKII? Interested to hear your thoughts, regarding it’s bugs and OLPF. What bugs have you found?
People are reporting that since it has a much cleaner image in terms of aliasing and moire, it can be sharpened with good results unlike the MKII. Also, reports that IPB is actually a better codec than ALL-I with less noise. Have you managed to test the camera yet to see what it is capable of? I wonder if this new camera requires new techniques to get the best out of it?
K.wasley, yes on all accounts. I am going down the trail to understanding its pros and not showing its cons. More fun to be had. Give you more comparisons like these once the opportunity arrises on the MK III.
Thought you might be interested in this…
Here is a link to a video where someone removed the olpf from the 5D3. There is a company called MaxMax that can do it. Downside is it removes the sensor cleaning, but i’m sure a workaround will be found.
Also, there are reports that:
Premiere is not reading/exporting the 5D MKIII files correctly. Changing file extension to .mpg helps, but there are still gamma shifts on export.
IPB exhibits less noise and macro blocking than ALL-I. ALL-I appears a little sharper due to a bit more aliasing, but IPB sharpens in post nicer with less artifacts.
Some post sharpening produces halos’ whilst other types are much more successful. In general the 5D3 responds well to sharpening in post unlike the 5D2.
All-I has a low ISO ‘mosquito’ noise.
Highlight tone priority behaves better with 5D3, you get about a stop more noise in blacks, but for outside work with plenty of light could be v good.
What cons/bugs have you found with this camera so far?
Hi.Shane..What kind of professional format for Cinema?
thanks for very usefull information, I am about to buy the C300, but the color fringing bothers me a bit, especially since I tend to do a lot of work with a lot of backlighting.
Would it help to underexpose half a F-stop and then pushing it in post?
I saw above that you mentioned soft and hard are good for beauty. How could you apply that method with a small kit? Like a cowboy studio 3 light set?
Shane, thank you for this test. Do you feel that if you had underexposed the C300 by maybe a stop and graded it back up to match the Alexa that you could have eliminated some of the color blooming in the overexposed sections? Also, you say that you used Panavision glass on A, B and C cameras, but Leica glass on D camera? The profile shot looks ridiculously sharp, much more so than any of the other cameras. Are the Leica’s really that much better? Are you using cine versions of the Leica lenses?
I really appreciate the effort you put into educating people with your blog. It has really made some issues clearer for me. And pointed out some issues that I didn’t know existed. Thanks for all the posts.
I, too, am about to buy a C300. Should the color fringing be considered a deal breaker?
Do you have any idea if the color fringing is correctable?
$15K is a big expense for me and I want to be sure I am making the right choice.
Scott Allman, thank you so much for your kind words. I would wait till after NAB to be honest.
That’s what I’m thinking….
Thank you for sharing that video,
i had a C300 since mid February and still testing looks on different shoots.
i’m playing with different Glass combos and found that for some of my work Zeiss CP’s work the best (because i own them:-) but also that the C300 really likes the MK II version of the canon 70-200/2.8 which is a very impressive glass for the price and zoom range .
just as in your sample here on the close ups i did not like the sharpness on the skin since getting it and found that Soft FX 1/2 and 1 really help that super sharpness this camera produces on human skin.
what do you think? any better Filters i should explore?
Guy Jackson, you are very welcome. I love Soft Efx’s but it is bad with out of focus highlights. I would try Tiffen digital diffusion, and Tiffen glimmer glass
Thank you Shane,
Will try the digital diffusion on friday,
Guy Jackson, sweet, yes I prefer that. Especially when you are dealing with out of focus highlights
Thank you, Shane!! Much Appreciated!!
David Levy, you are very welcome. Thanks for your continued support
Great comparison and perfect timing for me right now!
How can I ask your advice on an unrelated topic?
The Gorilla in the Room wasn’t even there: RED Anything. If you’ve shot with an Epic and it ended up looking like video, then YOU screwed up. Tell it to Peter Jackson or Ridley Scott. Alexa a benchmark? maybe for HD…
stu all, the Gorilla in the room that you speak of is more like a gecko. Thanks for your comments
What is your opinion on the 7d considering its senso sizer matches the alexa more than the 5d?
Tom cheater, the 7D has more contrast than the 5D, The shadow areas fall off a little quicker becasue of the mega pixels being samller, harder to get light in there. I never have a problem matching sensor size. The 5D is the king of the hill.
Hi Shane, awesome comparison! I’ve got a project coming up which involves aeroplanes and aeriel videography. I am wondering which camera would be best to use to avoid any issues of moire, rolling shutter and aliasing (especially regarding the aeroplane’s propellors)? Thanks, James
James Oldham, I would use the Arri Alexa, and if you need something small the Arri M, which can fit in the basketball size helicopter rigs.
Very helpful as a comparison! Really great images too. Thanks for taking the time!
Alex, you are very welcome and thanks for your kind words
Once the EOS C300 drops to under $8,000 in price, there will be renewed interest in it. Hopefully Canon will keep the upcoming EOS C500’s price under $15,000 as well.
Jorge, that is not likely. Maybe the C300, but not this new baby
This is a great test, you have amazing resolve to put together a test this comprehensive on such a high profile promo. I’m inspired to do the same!
I shoot with the Alexa, Epic, and my new C300 frequently, so I wanted to contribute to this discussion:
– I feel like a more appropriate name for this would be C300 and Alexa “Straight to Video” (CINE2 vs REC709). This is an incredibly relevant test because “quick turn arounds” and “no/minimal color correction” is why many productions turn to the Alexa and C300. Again, this test is great!
– Both the Alexa and C300 look much nicer in their respective LOG formats, after color correction. It wasn’t in the scope of this test to demonstrate this but, for everyone who is scared of the C300 because of this test, I would consider renting the C300 camera and shooting a test in CINE2 vs. CanonLOG and then color correcting that footage.
I am obviously a bit biased being a C300 owner, but I wanted to contribute because I’ve gone through the testing phase of the C300 … trying all the different gammas, color correcting, etc. I’ve even done a test vs. the Alexa … the Alexa won of course … but the CanonLog is honestly where the camera is at it’s best and it doesn’t require an external recorder to reach it’s full capability.
Hopefully this isn’t seen as an attack, just an addition to the conversation. I learn a lot from your blog Mr. Hurlbut and I hope you continue to post.
Matt Workman, thank you for all of your insight and experience. None taken. I love all of these amazing new tools that are now at our disposal to help tell our stories.
Wow, I’m actually quite surprised at the difference. Alexa looks so beautifully organic in comparison. I honestly didn’t think it would be that stark. Thank you for posting!