A short history of Canon video cameras and Enterprise Screen
I’ve never been one for brand loyalty just for the sake of it but I have to admit that over the past 7 years I’ve grown increasingly fond of the Canon cameras that I’ve been using, first as a freelancer and since I joined Enterprise Screen. There’s something pretty special about them that’s hard for me to put my finger on.
Let me give you some background. Have you heard of the ‘DSLR Revolution”? Well if not I won’t bore you with the details but essentially the video industry was radically changed in 2008 when Canon released the 5D mkii, a professional stills camera that also happened to shoot video. They didn’t realise at the time but they had just taken a huge leap forward. Before the 5D mkii all but the most expensive video cameras used really small sensors that gave you a very ‘video’ kind of look, with deep depth of field and utterly rubbish low light performance. Suddenly with the 5D mkii you could use its massive sensor to record video that had a creamy richness and a filmic quality, coupled with the ability to use high quality but cost effective stills lenses and great low light performance.
Suffice to say it blew up the existing market. Overnight you had video cameras that were tens of thousands of pounds being out performed from an image perspective by a £1500 stills camera. The 5d mkii was followed by the 7D, with a slightly smaller sensor but better video features. That’s where I jumped on the bandwagon, nabbing myself a 7D in 2010 as I was leaving college. I shot a whole series of short films and corporate projects on it. I loved it because like so many other people at the time I was finally able to get the kind of ‘film style’ shots I’d had in my head all along.
Jump to August 2013 and I joined Enterprise Screen, having been able to get through the door partly because of all of the lovely 7D footage I had in my showreel. At that time the company owned both a Canon 5D mkii and 7D so I was well at home. It is worth pointing out at this point though that although the image quality from both those cameras was great they really were a pain to shoot video on. They had 12 minutes record limits, no way of recording decent sound and almost none of the standard video monitoring features you’d normally expect. What can you expect though from cameras that were really still for photography, with the video features just a minor add on. Despite all their flaws though they were so popular that for a brief moment you had everyone from students right up to big BBC dramas all shooting on the same cheap camera.
Finally though the camera companies started to catch up and the market split back up again. DSLR cameras are still to this day used by loads of low budget filmmakers for shooting great looking footage but for us professionals we were gradually offered a set of more professional hybrid cameras that offered all the advantages of stills cameras, including those giant sensors, but with more of the video camera controls and video features that we craved.
Step up the Canon C300! The first camera that I helped to select for Enterprise Screen. Initially panned by people who weren’t impressed by its design and specifications, it turned out to be a huge hit across the broadcast and corporate world because of the stunning picture quality it offered. If you go back through our footage archives from the end of 2013 you can see a sudden leap forward in quality after we started using it. With great video features and those all important broadcast quality sound inputs, it suddenly made my working life a whole lot easier.
With cameras this expensive it can sometimes be hard to get your money’s worth out of them but I have no doubt that over the last three years we’ve definitely squeezed every penny’s worth out of our C300. We’ve hauled it across three continents, come close to melting it in a glass manufacturing plant, drenched it in sea water in a speed boat, carried it half way up a mountain, had it blown over by a fighter jet and seen it nearly get smashed by a football at Celtic Park. It’s captured some of the most amazing scenes and scenery that this company will ever be party to and, despite all the wear and tear, not once has it failed us. The C300 has, without a doubt, been the most reliable member of the Enterprise Screen team.
The big question for Canon was how to follow up on their colossal success? Well in 2015 they shocked no-one with the announcement that there would be a C300 mkii released later that year and at the start of 2016 Enterprise Screen purchased one ourselves. Just like it’s little brother it too got a bit of battering for it’s specs and as before that wan’t something that bothered us. Keeping our original C300 as a second camera we were suddenly able to use the mkii to offer our clients some exciting new features including high quality slow motion and 4K video capture.
Over the past year I’ve greatly enjoyed shooting on the C300 mkii and a number of its key features and improvements make it hard to go back even to the original. It is however worth noting that footage from both cuts very nicely together and as you browse though our website or Vimeo channel you’ll find a number of projects where we’ve happily mixed both formats without the slightest indication.
The quality increase of the mkii does perhaps have its drawbacks though as the standard 70 minutes of footage usually captured on a single memory card has more than quadrupled from 32GB to a staggering 128GB, and that’s only HD! 4K being 4 times the size takes up even more. Suffice to say that we’re certainly having to purchase new backup drives far more regularly than we used to. Despite this though the quality achieved with this camera makes all the storage issues worthwhile when you see the incredible finished results.
With our Stateside expansion in 2016 we’ve also picked up the little baby brother of the C300 mkii, the C100 mkii (you’re probably beginning to see the naming pattern now). It’s still early days but for a camera thats so small it’s amazing that it still has all the great video features that we need. Considering how affordable this camera is you’d really struggle to spot the difference between the footage from this and the original C300 and if you need to squeeze into a tight spot you’d be hard pressed to find a better camera.
Recently one of my colleagues asked me why we shoot on Canon cameras. I wanted to tell them it was because of the great lens options they offered, the clever ergonomics, smart features and superior sensor processing but I suspect it’s a lot more straight forward than that. Over the last four years we’ve used 3 generations of Canon cameras and each one has raised the bar on it predecessor. Each one has given us truly excellent results whilst also hinting that the next generation could be even better, and each time we haven’t been disappointed.