Canon’s C300 Mark II is not yet available to the public (it’s still listed as a pre-order item on major sites), but it was swirling in controversy the moment its price was first announced ($15,999, body only). Now (to mix metaphors and add gasoline to the fire), the folks over at cinema5D assert that the camera’s vaunted 15 stops of dynamic range that might have gone a long way to justifying that price…isn’t.
I don’t think cinema5D was trying to be controversial, and in fact I think their review is pretty darned even-handed (they compare the C300 Mark II to Sony’s FS7). And other than price, there is much to recommend the Canon Cinema EOS line and the new C300 Mark II in particular.
But wow – that purported 15 stops is more like 13? Really?
Still, if true Canon wouldn’t be the first manufacturer to have its own interpretation of dynamic range.
We’ve already got our hands on an FS7 for in-depth evaluation (stay tuned), and we’re trying to get our hands on a C300 Mark II (the request is in), but I already get the sense that these two heavyweights differ from each other primarily in things other than image quality.
Tip of the hat to cinema5D for furthering our understanding of the questions to be asked when contemplating a move up from DSLRs and mirrorless ILCs!
Canon C300 Mark II Lab Test – Dynamic Range 2 Stops Less Than Expected
Testing the Dynamic Range
So I looked at the dynamic range. At cinema5D we measure this using a DSC labs XYLA-21, an LED-backlit transmissive chart that displays 21 stops of dynamic range. Each vertical bar represents one stop of light. This way it’s very easy to judge dynamic range just with your eyes. At the end we evaluate the recordings with a software by IMATEST that spits out a dynamic range value. There’s some more science behind it, but I’ll spare you the details.
As we are recording each ISO value with each camera using the identical very sharp Zeiss 50mm CP2 T/2.1 makro lens with interchangeable mount we can compare all cameras to each other. In our database we have about 20 cameras on record so far.
In our tests and according to our workflow it turned out the camera actually has 12.3 stops (measured) of usable dynamic range.
Usable dynamic range. What is that? That means within this range you have picture information that you can use. Anything beyond a certain “Signal-to-Noise” ratio is so noisy we think it’s unusable. I must say 15 stops of dynamic range is something I cannot find in the Canon C300 Mark II. There’s always a chance there’s some hidden setting in the menu to unleash the HDR potential of the sensor, but I couldn’t find it.
Reading comments of other camera enthusiasts it seems that many expect the new C300 sensor to hold up to the performance of the ALEXA cameras. What I see is that the C300 Mark II is still far away from matching this reference standard and almost on par with the Sony FS7 (measured at 12.4 stops).
An additional surprise was that I saw a lot of noise in the dark areas on the Canon C300 Mark II even at its base ISO of 800. While the camera has a very clean image in the brighter areas and has a really neutral tone with minimal color noise, there is a point in the dark areas where the noise kicks in strongly. When I did some test shots of natural subjects I realized that images shot on ISO 800 that are just 1 stop underexposed can quickly become a little too noisy for my taste especially in comparison to a camera like the Arri AMIRA (our reference camera). That is rather the opposite of what I expected after all the talk about the Canon C300 Mark II sensor and processing being so new and advanced. Ultimately one has to admit the 5 year old Arri ALEXA sensor is doing better…
Read full article at cinema5D “Canon C300 Mark II Lab Test – Dynamic Range 2 Stops Less Than Expected”
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(cover photo credit: snap from cinema5D)