Before I write anything about recently released camera bodies, I try to get as many viewpoints as I can.
It’s one thing to write a purely journalistic piece about something and another to make a judgment about that camera. When you write this way, one big thing happens: your opinions and thoughts about the camera morph over a very short period of time.
When you hear, “Canon has just announced their new flagship cinema camera,” your natural reaction is to get excited. And the Canon EOS C700 delivered on almost all expectations. As I watched all of the announcements and opinions roll in, and started formulating my own, I thought to myself, “Okay, this is seriously really cool.”
The Canon EOS C700 is definitely not the bourgeois filmmaking machine that many of us wanted out of the Canon 5D Mark IV or the Canon C100 Mark II, but it stands strong in it’s own right in an interesting, and opportunistic place in the market for Canon. The C700 seems to be an effort by Canon to compete on a variety of fronts, namely broadcast and film. When you’re doing something like that you’re competing with some of the best bodies in the world. So how does it stack up?
A lot of the innovations in the C700 and what makes it unique in the Canon library are actually innovations already found in other cameras. The modular design, the proprietary external recorder options and the form factor, the side mounted LCD– These aren’t things unique to Canon, but they’re elements that are unique within Canon. At first glance, this gives us all a lot to be excited about.
Even with the absolute success of the Canon EOS C300, there were so many things that needed to be changed about the Canon system to make a camera that excelled and propelled Canon into the larger market. The Canon C700 seems to be the response to that. This is where the C700 simultaneously succeeds immensely, but also fails.
The Canon C700 is by all standards a fantastic camera. In fact, it’s in the realm of such great cameras that the only way to really quantify it's quality is by the price. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not surprised by the price per se, but it does make it difficult to discuss the body without a large asterisk.
When we consider resolution, there really isn’t too much to complain about with the 4.5k. That’s plenty for almost every application. The Global shutter is absolutely essential to the success of the camera. Both of these specs, at that price point will draw comparisons to the Sony F55. Global Shutter and 4K.
But then, Canon takes a step forward with the 15 stops of Dynamic range. However, history tells us that it’s best to take these sorts of things with a grain of salt. 15 stops more often than not DOESN’T mean 15 stops. However, for the sake of argument, the Canon C700 has 15 stops of Dynamic Range. The F55, only has 14. But if you purchase the C700 with global shutter (which is basically one of the biggest selling features of this camera) you lose one stop, down to 14. So again, the cameras are virtually tied.
The cropped frame rates definitely could hurt the C700, but luckily it has some pretty cool features that innovate in ways that we don’t see in other bodies.
The ability to have assistants control settings off camera is very useful and the dual pixel auto focus is one of the coolest things that Canon has offered in years, on any body.
So why am I left underwhelmed?
Well, I think it comes down to two big points. One: The camera is really exciting because it’s from Canon. If this camera came from Sony, we'd be saying… well, didn't you already make that camera? Point being, the C700 succeeds equal to where other rivals succeed. It's not doing anything that we haven't really seen before, at that price point. But probably the biggest point is that it just feels a bit… late.
The Sony F55 may look a bit worn in comparison with the fresh C700 shine, but it’s three and a half years old. If you’re not particularly drawn to the autofocus features or not needing global shutter, you could just as easily buy a Sony FS7 or if you don’t mind losing a bit of image quality, the BlackMagic Ursa Mini 4.6K.
This highlights a massive disparity in how camera companies release bodies. Canon, Sony, Blackmagic– They're so different in how they do business. But because it’s so easy to make these types of comparisons in tech specs, you can’t help but wonder what is the THING that sells the Canon C700.
It’s a GREAT camera. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just not a unique camera. When your biggest competitor will be a three and a half year old Sony, is it worth pulling the trigger for $30,000?
At the end of the day, production companies buying into the Canon C700 probably won’t be doing it because of the impressive specs. They’ll be doing it for the intangibles that the Canon brand name brings — namely, the best lens library on the planet (for the price) and the best customer service out there.
Canon has given us a lot to think about over the past few weeks, but I think at the end of the day, the market will remain relatively unchanged.
Pre-order at B&H: Canon EOS C700 (available in November 2016)
(cover photo credit: snap from B&H)