I bought a Canon C100 this weekend. A camera that I thought was ridiculously overpriced at some point and hadn't even considered it as an option, but which has recently changed my mind thanks to a few recent shots where I worked directly with the camera. I really did a 180 with this camera and it is now one of my favorite cameras out there – up there with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. In a future blog post, I will give a more detailed overview of the camera and compare it specifically with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, since many shooters have torn the choice between these two cameras (although they are very, very different animals ). At the moment I wanted to share some quick thoughts about my first reaction to one of the camera's most impressive features, namely the extremely high ISO range.
One of the main reasons I bought the C100 was its ability to work in low light. I come from an MFT background and while my GH2 / GH3 / Blackmagic and other cameras have often outperformed Canon / Sony cameras in terms of resolution and overall image quality, the one aspect they always neglected was poor light . The smaller sensor size combined with other variables meant that I could never take pictures under street lights, with results like a 5D MKIII. That never bothered me too much because I don't want to (or need to) do this in most scenarios. But there are some circumstances in which this is necessary, and ultimately it became important to me to have a camera that can shoot at very high ISO values without being too loud, especially given the fact that certain projects are pending where I have to take pictures in this way.
When I decided to buy the C100 some time ago, I hadn't heard that Canon was planning to announce new firmware (18.104.22.168.00) that would add an extended ISO range of up to 80,000, among other things. For me, the current regular ISO limit of 20,000 was more than sufficient, at least on paper. I couldn't imagine going over 5000 or maybe 6400, especially given that my other cameras reached the top around 1600. When I got my hands on the camera, it turned out that this camera could record usable videos with ridiculously high ISO values. After getting great results at ISO 20,000, I immediately updated the firmware to see how far I could expand the extended ISO range. Ultimately it totally blew me away.
As you can imagine, ISO 80,000 is extremely loud and unusable for narrative work, even when strong noise reduction is applied. However, what you can use is documentary work. The images are still very grainy, but often when taking a document, the content is far more important than the image quality, and this camera can literally see in the dark. When shooting at 80,000 ISO, I was able to point it at a car parked in a dark shadow in the distance that I couldn't even see with my own eyes, but on the viewfinder I could read the license plate and see the inside of the car. For many shooting situations, this is absolutely critical and opens up many possibilities.
To get an idea of how noisy ISO 80,000 can be, check out this picture I took last night with a view of the valley here in LA. This was a Tokina 11-16mm at 2.8. I purposely used a 2.8 lens instead of a faster lens to really take it to the extreme:
Here is a shot of the camera in action on my iPhone. Notice how bright the images appear on the screen in contrast to the city lights in the background:
While 80,000 may not be used for narrative work, the good news is that you can get away with noise reduction with shots up to ISO 51,200. I absolutely don't recommend doing this for more than a few shots here or there, but if you're in an emergency you can get really solid results if you shoot so high and a plugin (like Neat Video that I used) ) use some strong noise reduction. Another point to consider is that if you're shooting with street lights on a relatively fast lens (like an F1.4 or 1.8), you probably won't have to go much beyond 20,000. In some cases maybe 30,000 and possibly up to 51,2000 for certain recordings. But 80,000 on a fast lens will blow out your highlights even with street lights, and in some cases, you may be blown out at 20,000.
Below is a shot at ISO 51.200 without noise reduction (note that this is at F2.8!):
This is with noise reduction and slight squeezing of the blacks:
It may not be perfect and there are some artifacts in the sky (which are actually more clearly visible on a still image than when played back as a video file), but it can be used for quick insertion. And remember that it was about 10 seconds of my time to reduce the noise. With a little more effort and more careful adjustment of the settings, this could have led to even cleaner results.
Is this a feature that I will use a lot? Absolutely not. And I don't recommend anyone, whether you're shooting a document or a narrative. But it is absolutely amazing to have. It opens up opportunities for shooting in the dark in situations where there is literally no option with other cameras. In addition, the "lower" ISO values (10,000, 20,000) are less scary. And as a side note, I can tell you that ISO 20,000 on this camera is remarkably clean. Yes, there is some noise, but in my opinion there is less noise than most 3200 ISO DSLRs, and the noise pattern in the post seems to be much easier to reduce.
If you're wondering, the expanded ISO range isn't the only feature that's been added many times over to the C100. Here is the full list of updates for the new firmware:
- 1. Possibility to move the magnification area around the LCD with the MAGN function.
- 2. ISO up to 80,000 was added.
- 3. A menu setting for the key lock has been added, which can now be used to lock all processes, including the START / STOP key.
- 4. Peripheral lighting correction data was added for seven (7) Canon Cinema (EF) lenses and eleven (11) Canon EF lenses.
- 5. Internal camera menus can now be controlled using buttons on the camera body. Until now, they were only controllable via the joystick handle unit.
- 6. In addition to (EF-S18-135mm f / 3.5-5.6 IS STM), the function provides continuous focusing and correction of the aperture on a subject in the center of the screen when one of the two EF STM lenses is appropriate. The lens (EF-S18-55 mm f / 3.5-5.6 IS STM) has been added.
For those of you who already own a C100, you can Download the new firmware from Canon here.
If you don't have one yet and are in the market, Get one for $ 5,499 at B&H!
Check back soon when I do a couple of tests to check the camera more thoroughly in low light. For now, look at mine Top 10 affordable lenses for shooting in extremely low light conditions.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning filmmaker from Los Angeles and founder of the boutique production house Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television and in various publications around the world. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!