Canon releases the c700, does anyone care?
It’s official, canon has lost the plot. Let me preface this by saying I LOVE my CN7 the images make me smile daily, but I have mixed feelings when it comes to their cameras. So when Canon announced the C700 into what is now a very crowded market I was sceptical, and upon closer inspection a bit underwhelmed.
When Canon first released the ludicrously designed C300 I was perplexed, it was an ergonomic and technical nightmare. It was taller than it was long, I had no idea how to hold it, the audio had grounding issues, the monitor unit cables were a disaster waiting to happen and the build quality well I would love to know who thought jewellers screws were acceptable to mount all this mess together. The images it produced however, were (at the time) nothing short of extraordinary. It set the documentary world on fire and had an amazing uptake despite the fact I suspect it was never designed for how we were using it. Its low price point (for S35) and reputation for being a “small camera” (what ever that means) made it the go-to camera for documentaries that wanted footage to look great or at least better than a 305.
Every job I was on for at least two years was being shot on a C300, the many companies that already owned 305s rushed out and bought C300s and a couple of stills lenses and sent shooting-APs out to shoot (admittedly with mixed results). Sadly, under the hood the C300 is only an 8bit camera shooting MPEG 50 with aspirations of Log Gamma. I have always believed that the camera is just a recorder you bolt to the back of a good bit of glass and the C300 left a lot to be desired. In its defence it is a very good 4:2:2 with a nice noise signature but it is still 4:2:2 combined with MPEG and Log and you are going to struggle in the grade.
By the time Sony and Panasonic caught up the C300 had saturated the market. It took Sony almost 18 months to release a credible competitor with the FS7 under cutting the F5 irritatingly but they had to stay in the game. Sony already had the higher end of the market with the F55 and Arri released the Amira (my ideal camera as it well… just works). Feeling the pressure Canon unveiled the C300 mkII probably a bit half-baked.
Canon managed to un-do so much of what made the C300 so successful, it was F55 expensive with the same form factor and a sensor that supposedly was an evolution of the C300 but is so noisy it may as well be 1stop slower the the original. It also had no backwards compatibility you need to buy all new batteries and Media (all of which were more expensive). So everyone I know in the market for a new camera went with the FS7 and an adapter for their EF Glass or is stepping toward the F55 / Amira set with PL (myself included).
Which Brings us tho the real reason I suspect Canon is in the camera business at all. Before the c300 PL was the lens of choice, hell the only mount, for S35 work. A couple of years later: ALL the major manufacturers, ARRI, RED, Panasonic and Canon offer EF mounts or have an adapter, with the exception of SONY but you can use Metabones to E-mount. Canon has created an enormous market for their lenses and the C700 may be the camera they use to sell people up to the cine-lens set (of course I could be over-thinking this, but that is exactly what I just did).
Which brings us to the present day, and Canon has decided to go toe to toe with some serious competition with the C700. As a DOP I am spoiled for choice at the moment: ARRI’s Amira, Sony’s F55, Panasonic’s Varicam LT are all great camera’s for what I do and once I bolt the CN7 to the front I really could not ask for more. Canon unveiled the C700 at IBC but there is a small problem, at this end of the market any new offering will be measured against some truly great competition. Time will tell if the C700 gets any uptake but for me you had better release something exceptional if you are going to give Sony or Arri a run for their money. From where I sit the C700 looks like an F55 but for 10k more… in 2014 perhaps, but Q3/4 of 2016 I think not.
So who is the C700 for? It reminds me of the C500 (remember that one) yes it may have some great features but so does the F55 and Amira, both of which are 3 years old and for 30K (after all the accessories to make it useable) it is just a non starter for me. I would gladly hire it if a production wanted “The newest camera on the market” but I would try and get them to reconsider and shoot with the current crop, “if it aint broke” and all.