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Canon C500 EOS Review – Professional 4k Cinema Camera

by on April 18, 2016
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Overview

The introduction of the Canon EOS C500 4K Cinema Camera marked Canon’s entrance into the world of 4K digital cinema production cameras and it remains one of, if not the best, option in its class. The C500 brings with it everything that was great about the lauded C300 and improves on it, starting with the excellent Super 35mm sensor. The high resolution sensor is capable of producing full 4K RAW output which, as you can expect from Canon, looks phenomenal. There is no 4K professional digital cinema production camera that strikes a better balance between quality and a portable form factor.

The C500 also shares many design elements with the C300 including the design of the body and the large buttons with dividing ridges, which makes navigating the device a breeze. However, unlike the C300, the C500 was designed from the ground up to produce top quality 4K video footage for professional film makers.

The C500 also packs other top level features which make post production workflows for professional film projects smooth and enjoyable. One example is Canon’s excellent Log Gamma mode, included in the C500, which provides precise tonal reproduction and dynamic range resulting in tremendous flexibility for color correction in post-production.

Another excellent facet of the C500 is the immense compatibility with professional grade cinema lenses. The C500 is available with either an EF or PL lens mount. The professional standard PL mount supports a wide variety of professional cinema lenses, which many cinematographers already have on hand. Canon's standard EF mount gives you access to Canon's immense variety of lenses, including its growing number of EF Cinema Zoom and Prime lenses covered deeper in the Accessories section.

The C500 has all the elements needed to make it a top tier professional digital cinema production camera. It is capable of capturing stunning 4K RAW footage and if you are in the market for a flexible, portable, yet powerful 4K camera, the C500 is the best Canon has to offer.

The Good

The Canon C300 was at the top of its class when it was released and thankfully the C500 gets much of its inspiration from the excellent design and functionality Canon included in the C300. The C500 delivers exceptional performance, mobility and expandability allowing the camera to fit into most any professional workflow.

The C500’s modular, customizable design and features allow professional cinematographers to tailor the camera to fit their specific needs. It is certainly capable of being the backbone of any professional film project but for the price and portability, many professional cinematographers use the C500 as a field and backup option to their bulkier studio camera rigs.

As mentioned, the availability of both the PL and EF mount options give the C500 immense compatibility with a vast catalogue of professional lenses already in circulation. Both models have their pros and cons, but Canon added a new feature to the EF model making it an even better camera for professional film makers. As a result of user feedback, the EF mount model is Canon’s first Cinema EOS camera to feature a modified EF mount with Cinema Lock. Cinema Lock was developed specifically for professional film makers and makes it easier to swap lenses in and out while shooting. Instead of having to rotate the lens, the modified EF mount with Cinema Lock will rotates itself to lock the lens into place making for much easier and quicker operation.

As far as design, the C500 takes its cues from its little brother, the C300, and brings an ultra modular and compact design which weighs in at only 1820 grams. The camera is constructed with a magnesium alloy and is both splash and dust resistant making the C500 ideal for rugged field work. The C500 is also designed for customization in operation as well. The camera comes with 4 different start and stop buttons but also features 15 customizable buttons to fit your unique needs.

Like other top tier 4K digital cinema production cameras, the C500 is capable of recording 4K RAW footage directly to an external device at full 4K resolution. Using a single 3G-SDI output, the camera can output full 4K RAW (4096 x 2160-pixel) data in 10-bit color space, with full Bayer encoding and frame rates up to 60 fps. This makes the C500 excellent for integrating into many common professional film production workflows. One example of what this capability enables is the recording of proxy files at 50 Mb/s to the camera’s internal CF card as 4K RAW footage is being captured to an external device. This allows for rough cut editing to be done immediately after a scene is complete immensely speeding up the production process.

The C500 also features a Wi-Fi remote control which allows you to control the camera settings including ND filters, focus, white balance, ISO and aperture.

C500 (3)

$9,999.00 on B&H Photo

The Bad

The C500 hits all of the major requirements for a professional 4K digital production camera on the head, so there isn’t much negative to say.

There are a few subjective issues with the camera which some may dislike. For example, similar to the C300, the C500 lacks an autofocus system. The camera is clearly meant to be controlled manually, which is how most professional film makers drive their cameras anyways, but if you have a need for a quality autofocus mode the C500 doesn’t deliver.

However, the camera does have a few automatic options. You can enable it to automatically set exposure, white balance and audio levels but that’s about it.

Final Thoughts

The C500 was designed from the ground up with professional cinematographers in mind and it shows. The camera is packed with just about everything a cinematographer needs. It’s design allows for heavy customization while keeping the operation easy to understand. Just like the C300 before it, the EOS C500 looks beautiful, and the addition of 4K makes it a logical upgrade for any C300 users looking to make the jump.

The support for professional 4K workflows and the modular design which supports a vast array of professional lenses makes the C500 a wonderful option for any professional film maker and is easily tailored to fit right into your arsenal.

The C500 is certainly not cheap, but the footage produced by the camera is breathtaking and you will immediately notice you’re getting what you paid for. Still, it’s understandable to be a bit weary of the camera since it is Canon’s first shot at a professional 4K camera. However, you can take our word for it, the C500 nails just about every need of professional cinematographers and it certainly earns our recommendation.

C500 (4)

Specs
  • Camera Type: Digital Cinema Production
  • Video Resolution: 4096 x 2160 pixels (4k resolution)
  • Sensor Type: CMOS Super 35mm
  • File Format: MXF (OP-1a)
  • Memory Card: CF Card (Type 1 Only); 2 Slots (Movie Files); UDMA supported; SD/SDHC/SDXC cards
  • Mount Type: EF
  • Connectivity: WiFi, NFC
  • Max Frame Rate: 60 fps
  • Audio Inputs: 2x XLR inputs (auto and manual level settings) 1x External microphone terminal (3.5 mm diameter)
  • Focus Modes: Auto & Manual, 49 Autofocus points
  • Dimensions: Body only: 6.3 x 7.0 x 6.7 in (160 x 179 x 171 mm), With monitor: 7.3 x 9.8 x 7.4 in (185 x 249 x187 mm), With handle and monitor: 7.3 x 11.2 x 11.9 in (185 x 284 x 301 mm)
  • Weight: Body only: 4 lb (1820 g), Monitor Unit: 1.4 lb (645 g), Handle Unit: 6.3 oz (180 g), With monitor, BP-955, and 2 CF cards: 6.0 lb (2705 g), With monitor, handle, BP-955, and 2 CF cards: 6.4 lb. (2885 g)

C500 (5)

Overall Performance

The team behind the C500 certainly put forth the effort to make shooting 4K video smooth and accessible to the variety of different workflows out there. The camera features multiple 4K recording modes, each designed to fit into both cinema and television standards.

There are two options for recording 4K, the DCI production standard, which records at a 4096 × 2160 resolution with a 1.896:1 aspect ratio, and the TV-centric Quad Full HD production standard, which records at a 3840 × 2160 resolution and a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Both options output 4K footage as a 10-bit uncompressed RAW data.

The C500 is capable of shooting 4K video up to 60fps and can even record up to 120fps using what Canon calls 4K Half Raw settings which limits the vertical resolution to 1080 pixels. The camera is also capable of 2K shooting modes if you have the need and there is an option for 10-bit or 12-bit recording when in 2K mode.

The superb 35mm, 8.85 CMOS sensor performs as good as any professional quality sensor in the game. It offers stunning image quality and high sensitivity but is also able to lower rolling shutter relics and noise when compared to other models in its class. The ISO resolution has a massive range up to 20000 allowing for shooting in just about every situation imaginable. Even at a high ISO, the sensor is able to capture footage with low noise.

Pricing

You can get your hands on the C500 for $9,999, but keep in mind this includes just the body (along with the additional components mentioned in the Accessories section which come in the box). Additional professional quality lenses, which are necessary to get the most out of this camera, and other optional attachments will cost quite a bit more if you don’t already have them on hand.

$9,999.00 on B&H Photo

Positives
  • Extremely modular and customizable
  • Light weight and portable
  • Compatible with most professional lenses
  • Rugged, splash and dust resistant design
  • Capable of recording stunning 4K RAW footage
  • Designed for professional cinematographers
  • High ISO range
Negatives
  • Lacks quality autofocus system
  • Slight learning curve
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Bottom Line
 

With the ability to fit into almost any professional workflow along with the stunning 4K image quality produced by the C500, it’s easy to recommend to any professional cinematographer.

The C500 is not the absolute best studio package if you have an endless budget and are looking for the most robust 4K professional rig out there, but the C500 is easily the best in its class and price range. Compared to other professional 4K digital production cameras which approach its smaller form factor, nothing comes near the high quality 4K footage you can get out of the C500.

The C500 is more than capable of handling any 4K professional film project from start to finish, but it is also makes for an excellent backup and field option for any professional cinematographer. It is much more maneuverable than other digital cinema production cameras like the Red Scarlet. The C500 gets our high recommendation.

$9,999.00 on B&H Photo

 
4 comments
 
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  • Willard
    April 19, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    I would love to know when this was initially written and posted. April 2016? No mention of the c300 mark ii, or fs7 or ursa. Joke of an article.

    Reply

  • Dennis Hingsberg
    November 11, 2016 at 6:29 am

    Yes indeed, what a joke of an article. Canon released a 4K camera that can’t record 4K. But that’s ok, now they have the C700 which starts at only $34,000.

    Reply

    • Jeremiah Bostwick
      November 29, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      If you’re a professional DP or videographer you already know that there is NO camera system that will just “work” out of the box. Every system requires customization. Every system is modular. Complaining that an external recorder is necessary is absurd. As it is something you’d more or less have to do with any system.

      You’re going to have to buy monitors, rods, a matte box, ND filters, and an SSD recorder. Guess what? You’d do that anyway. This thing still excels at ease of use, and yes it DOES do 4k. It DOES do it in in RAW. It does have Canon log. And it’s 6 grand. Try and spec out a RED for anywhere close to that. And if $6k bothers you, don’t even look at an Alexa mini.

      For an owner/operator that is trying to seriously either work commercial projects or do film making this is an absolute steal. Every other option in the price range that does what this does is 4x as much easily. The only other competition is the Blackmagic URSA/URSA Mini and those come with their own sets of problems. From an “ease of use” standpoint, the Canon is a much better film making tool. And if you’re serious about film making ergonomics are huge, because every time you have to hold up a production for 1-3 minutes while you fiddle with settings is huge money (as it adds up to hours, if you repeatedly have to do it, which you would).

      So if you can’t understand this review, it’s probably because you’ve never been on a filmset. And I mean a real film set, with a budget ($100k+: obviously not for a full length feature film, but this is common for an advertisement or commercial shoot), and 15+ people working (with actual division of labor, camera dept, gaffing/grip, electrical, talent, executive). Then it starts to become PAINFULLY obvious why cameras cost what they cost. Why reliability and ergonomics matter. And why needing an external recorder for 4k isn’t a big deal. I’ll stand by my statement once again, there is nothing in this price range that comes close to doing what this camera does for less than $20k (other than Canon’s own other offering, the C300 Mk II, very competitively priced at $15k).

      Reply

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