Canon Cinema EOS C300 Mk II Autofocus Test: How Good Is It — Really?

by Hugh BrownstoneLeave a Comment

Perhaps THE biggest competitive advantage of Canon’s Cinema EOS line is its dual pixel auto focus (you want to argue system or color science? Go on then, but for this article, we beg to differ). How good is it? The folks over at Newsshooter popped a Canon EF 35mm f/2.0 [B&H | Amazon] onto a Cinema EOS C300 Mk II to find out — and they are of two minds on the subject.

Real men (and women) don’t do autofocus.

That is, if you’re a PROfessional DP or camera operator.

Yet if autofocus WERE good enough, that aphorism might lose some steam.

Then again, a piece of software can’t anticipate precisely what a director’s or DP’s vision for a shot will be in the moment.

And if you’re a one-man band doing event work, autofocus can be critically important and in many cases is already good enough.

Canon has taken the lead in the cinema camera space with autofocus, so it was with more than passing interest that we happened upon this autofocus test from Newsshooter.

Our advice? Read the story first, THEN look at the footage.

Because the essence of the story is: it works, and sometimes works better than a solo operator can muster, but only in specific circumstances (using face detection when the person’s face is looking more or less directly at the camera). The writer really liked it, but the Steadicam operator was much less sanguine after her initial enthusiasm.

But we aren’t surprised. When we interviewed Chuck Westfall of Canon last month at Canon Expo 2015, he was very straightforward about the limitations of non-STM lenses working with dual pixel auto-focus, along with the limitations of STM technology for handling Canon’s heavier (premier) lenses (see video beginning at 23:11).

News shooter's choice of Canon’s EF 35mm f/2 USM was great: the wide aperture allowed shallow enough depth of field to highlight how well the autofocusing worked, yet as a non-STM lens it better represents Canon’s current lens lineup.

In the final analysis, of course, it’s just more grist for the mill that no camera is perfect, and that manual focusing remains a critical skill.

But I look forward to the day that autofocus on the cinema side becomes as good as it already is on the stills side.

My glasses prescription has just changed again, and I’m getting annoyed with aging.

It sucks.

Mike Lindup ‘On the One’: Canon C300 mkII face detect autofocus test video

CANON C300 MKII – AUTOFOCUS TEST VIDEO WITH LEVEL 42’S MIKE LINDUP

Via News Shooter:

We have covered the autofocus capabilities of the C300 mkII already on Newsshooter, but recently I had to chance to test it further on a no-budget music video with Level 42’s Mike Lindup.

As well as being a professional musician, Mike is also a keen videographer, and we both wanted to see just how the C300 mkII autofocus would handle this real-world scenario. Steadicam operator Ilana Garrard, Mike and myself had only a few hours on an overcast London day, but it was enough to shoot the test video.

Photo Credit: News Shooter | Ilana operates the C300 mkII on the Steadicam

Photo Credit: News Shooter | Ilana operates the C300 mkII on the Steadicam

The idea was to set the camera into autofocus and see if it could keep up with Mike as he moved along the streets of London. The entire thing was shot on a Steadicam Pilot with a 35mm f2 IS Canon lens. This wasn’t too complex a test, but these are probably the kind of shots that many shooters will be expecting to use autofocus for – especially if they don’t have the luxury of someone else to pull focus.

We tried both the iPad control mode, where you choose a focus point manually by touching it, and the face detection system. We quickly found that the iPad’s wireless wasn’t responsive enough in a busy urban area with lots of wi-fi users, so we were forced to rely on the face-detect AF.

Read full article at News Shooter “Canon C300 MkII – Autofocus Test Video with Level 42's Mike Lindup”

(cover photo credit: snap from News Shooter)


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