Saturday, October 25, 2014

Which to buy - the $5499 Canon C100 Mark II or the $5995 Blackmagic URSA EF?


When Canon introduced the Cinema EOS line back in 2011, they held a big Hollywood event, with expensively produced introductory videos and many of the luminaries of the industry in attendance.  They spent a lot of money and made a big deal of it - and rightfully so.  They were stepping into the big leagues of Super 35mm digital filmmaking with feature-rich and cinematographer-friendly cameras for pro Canon shooters who wanted to step up from DSLRs.

The price points for the new Cinema EOS cameras were high - but not unreasonable in a world where the competition was the then-aging Panasonic AF100 (with its small sensor and poor low light performance) and the newer Sony FS-100 with its strange top mounted LCD/viewfinder and boxy ergonomics.

And when the C100 was introduced a year later, it quickly became a DSLR upgrader's favorite - the only Super 35 camera you could buy below $10,000 with the compact form factor of a DSLR, but with no recording time limit, essentially no moire, built-in XLR jacks with decent pre-amps, a top handle and manual rather than menu-based controls of key camera functions.

And it was 100% compatible with the wide range of Canon EF lenses, which a lot of shooters had in their camera bags.

As a result, over the past couple of years, as the price for this camera dropped from the $6499 introductory price to the current $4499 (for the non-dual pixel autofocus version), Canon sold a lot of them.

But, over the past few years, the landscape has changed. Now we live in a world where $5995 will buy a Blackmagic URSA - an EF mount Super 35 camera with a global shutter and pro SDI out that records to UHD/60p 12-bit RAW.

In this world, it makes a lot less sense to announce a $5499 Canon C100 Mark II that records at a maximum 1080p resolution and 60fps frame rate to an 8-bit compressed codec - and doesn't fix the limitations of the C100's consumer HDMI output.

Nor, as far as I can tell, does it fix the C100's CMOS rolling shutter problem.

Admittedly, URSA is 10 pounds heavier, CFast cards are expensive - and shooting with a "big screen TV" in your face instead of a viewfinder is an acquired taste - but, for TV commercials and indie filmmaking, the URSA's feature set and image quality are competitive with the $20,000 C500 at the price point of a $5499 C100 Mark II with a Blackmagic HDMI to SDI converter.

To quote Filmmaker Magazine, the C100 Mark II "...would be an impressive upgrade — if this were coming out in December 2013."

Even leading C100 advocate and shooter Noam Kroll won't be upgrading.

So, above $10,000, value-conscious filmmakers will probably choose the "C300 killer", the $10,499 4K Sony PXW-FS7 with a 28-135mm f4 servo zoom instead of the $11,999 body-only 1080p C300.

While below $10,000, the $5995 UHD URSA seems to be a much better value for the money than the $5499 C100 Mark II.

If Canon fails to address the resolution/price gap with their competitors, Cinema EOS could very well find itself in the same straits as their DSLR line - where, led by serious shooters like Dave Dugdale and Caleb Pike, Canon shooters seem to be giving up on DSLRs and switching to mirrorless 4K (and 4K capable) Panasonic GH4s and Sony A7s in significant numbers.

As someone whose first video capable interchangeable lens camera was a Canon T2i, I still have hope that the company will step up to the challenge - but even if they don't, there are some great alternatives out there.

As always, if anything here has helped you to make a purchase decision, please shop using the links above or the displays below and in the margins. And even if you're not in the market for a new camera, please comment and make suggestions below. It won't cost you anything extra, and it will help to keep these posts coming.

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