Since 2009 I’ve owned the Canon 7D and that has always been my go to camera. For a while, it seemed as it was everyone’s go to video camera. And why wouldn’t it be? Great image, countless lensing options, and extremely portable. However, technology keeps improving and there is better out there. Not to mention I was constantly renting bigger and ‘better’ cameras for almost every project. I knew it was time to buy a new camera and it took me a while before I settled on the Canon C300. But how, or even why, did I choose that camera? Let me tell you.
I wish I could say money isn’t a factor, but like many of you that is usually the first thing we look at with a camera purchase. Often people will tell you, “If you can afford an Alexa, get an Alexa.” Well I can’t afford an Alexa so onto the next. I was looking at a camera that I could get work for right away so it would be paid off quickly. I didn’t want to build a bunch of interest nor have a long camera payment over my head. I also took the time to kit out each of these cameras to see what it would take to get on-set and start shooting. Once I got my price range I then looked into the cameras that fell into that range. It came down to the final four: Canon C100, Canon C300, Red Scarlet and Sony F5.
Need vs. Want
Once I narrowed my list, I went into Quickbooks to look at what I have been renting, thought about the projects I am getting paid to shoot, and which camera I could use on most of those projects. This took me from my final four to the semi-finals. C100 vs C300 and Scarlet vs. F5. What made this tough was that I wanted all of these cameras and could talk myself into needing them. The great thing about keeping my work so organized is I can see what projects are making the money and which will be used the most. What was hard about this step is these cameras could be used on almost all the work I do. Each have their advantages and disadvantages so it was time to bring in another important factor.
Everyone’s situation is different, but I want to get this camera on set as much as possible in order to pay it off quickly. The sooner it gets paid off, the sooner this investment puts money in my pocket. So I began calling rental houses and talking to other people in the area. What I found was that the C300 was the most popular camera around. Rented for reality TV, broadcast, sports and all types of commercial work. Many people also told me the Red Scarlet is a bit in the past. Most productions now request the Epic or Dragon. I reached out to Pittsburgh where I work often and they told me the same. It was time to put these cameras side by side to get down to my final 2.
Scarlet vs. F5
Both of these cameras produce a beautiful image and are on the large size of cameras. The specs are similar and when I put together the package for both of them, they came out to a similar price. My only thing with the F5 is I have only shot with it once and I’ve never had anyone request that camera. Again, I wanted a camera that will be in high demand to be paid of quickly. The Scarlet is something I’m extremely familiar with and feel more comfortable buying a camera I know well. Sony only offers a 2 year (with no interest) payment option but had trouble figuring out how I would make that payment doing the jobs I do. Red has a third party loan which has a few options. The 4 year plan looked best to me but I’d be spending thousands of dollars on interest. When it came down to it, I took the F5 off the list due to not shooting with it and only having a 2 year payment plan.
C100 vs C300
This is a debate you see everywhere and I read a ton of blogs on the comparison. I’ve shot with both cameras and always enjoyed the form factor and ease of use. Operating this camera is a breeze and it has a lot of great features. The argument of using an external recorder with the C100 to make it ‘better’ than the C300 did not apply to me. I was looking for a camera that didn’t need additional add-ons, cables, batteries, etc. Plus, the image out of the C100 is pretty solid but you are limited in color grading (yes you still get a great image but you can’t push it as much as the C300). The form factor of the C300 plus all the outputs made it pull ahead of the C100. The price being more than doubled did make the decision tough. Was not having an add ons and a better monitor spot worth the extra money? Probably not. BUT, knowing that the C300 was in such high demand and that it would pay itself off if marketed well, made me choose the C300 over the C100. Now for the final breakdown!
The Canon C300 vs The Red Scarlet
Ok ok, before we get all crazy let me first say this is not a camera test. I am not comparing the dynamic range or image quality here. I’m a business man. When it came to making the final decision the only thing I cared about is which camera will be paid of the soonest and make me the most money. Obviously I want a camera that will produce good clean image and allow me to grow as a cinematographer, but all the cameras I mentioned do this. As far as pricing goes, the C300 costs $13,999 and has a 2 year no interest plan via Canon Financial Services. I budgeted for an additional $2,000 for needed accessories. The Scarlet came to $17,600 and I needed an additional $4,000 to get everything else I needed. ***Disclaimer*** Everyone’s needs are different when kitting out their camera. I looked into gear that would last a while and handle abuse from renters.
As much as I want to be shooting a ton of feature films and episodic television, I am not. The feature I did shoot, already owned a Red and mine would have sat at home collecting dust (wouldn’t have the time to rent out shooting 6 days a week). The bulk of my work is corporate and commercial work which the C300 is perfect for. There is also the occasional run and gun gig which a lighter camera works best for. After breaking everything down and taking a hard look at my business and the jobs I get, with the budgets I’m given, the C300 was the right choice.
Did I Make the Right Choice on the Canon C300?
So far, I believe this is the best camera for me. I used it for a two day shoot right as it came in the mail and was then rented out the following week. Beyond being able to pay it off, I really dig the look and feel of this camera. With the addition of the Zacuto Recoil V2, I am able to have a very simple and lightweight shoulder rig that doesn’t need a ton of small pieces to function (review on that coming soon). The image quality is also amazing. I am very impressed with the quality and dynamic range that I get from this camera, especially in C-Log.
Hope this gives a little insight on how I went about my decision and that it can help you out on your next camera purchase.