Cinematographer's Choice: RED Scarlet VS Canon C300
I figured I'll start a simple conversation which may or may not have already happened here (Did Search and found nothing but still)
The RED Scarlet-X TI Canon Mount Collection (Comes with all the minimum Bells and Whistles needed to run the Camera including SSD, Monitor, Batteries, Grip and Canon Lens Mount) costs $15,490.00 and it can shoot 4K Video and 5K Stills.
Meanwhile the Canon EOS C300 Body costs $15,999.00 only films 1920X1080p/i and 4K Stills.
Which Camera would you go with and why? I'm doing this only as Price Point. I know the C500 is a competitor to the other 2K/4K Cameras but is $10,000 above the RED Scarlet packages.
I can't really speak to the Scarlett, I haven't used it. But I have been using the C300PL for a few months, and I can tell you why we selected it.
First, let me gush. The C300 is probably my favorite camera ever, and I've been doing this for about 25 years now and gone through countless cameras, from DV up to 35mm film. It just simply does everything we need it to do, and do it very well.
When we were looking at new cameras last year, we considered a lot of stuff... from the RED to the Alexa and everything in between (ok, maybe not serious consideration of the Alexa, we're not made of money). The C300 just fit the bill for us.
My ONLY real complaint about the C300 is that I wish it had an interchangable lens mount. You have to choose whether to get the Canon EF lens mount, or the PL mount. It'd be nice if you could have both worlds. However, since we intended to keep using the PL mount Leitz-Panavision superspeeds we already had (a much bigger investment for us than the camera), we chose the PL mount. Frankly, I don't even own any Canoa n lenses so it wasn't a hard decision... but still, having the option would have been nice.
Thinks I like about it... the Super35mm sensor, of course. The built-in ND filters are a lifesaver. I hate having to drill down through LCD screen menus to make camera tweaks, and the C300 has tons of buttons to control just about everything (color temp, ISO, tons of other parameters) with real physical buttons, switches, and knobs right on the camera body. There are even multiple buttons in different places on the body for the same function, and many of the buttons are assignable... you want a particular button to do a specific function, you can assign it.
It's low-light capability is phenominal. It's range is 320-20,000 ISO. And it doesn't get noisy at high ISO levels. You don't even really seen any until about 16,000 or higher, and even then it looks very organic... much more like film grain than video noise. I tell people I could light a scene in a pitch black room with three birthday candles and it look great... and that's not an exaggeration. If anything, the camera is too light sensitive. In bright exteriors even with the full amount (six stops) of internal ND on and the ISO turned down to the minimum 320, I find I still often have to add ND in the matte box if I want to use lenses with very wide f-stops at all. Another few stops of internal ND would have been nice. It has seriously changed the way I think about cinematography and design lighting plots. I have pretty much gone to LED lighting now, the big HMIs are gathering dust in the studio and I haven't used them in weeks.
And yes, it's only 1080... but I think of that as "only" 1080... the word only meaning that isn't that big a deal for me. We pretty much only shoot broadcast commercials, so 1080 is just fine. If I was doing big-screen features or striking real celluloid film prints I might be wishing for the 4K, but for what I'm doing 1080 is fine. Heck, the Panavision Genesis is "only" 1080, and it has shot countless big-budget feature films and they look great. I don't really think of that as a hindrance.
It doesn't shoot RAW, but I'm ok with that. You can paint the image extremely well with all the couple of dozen+ adjustible parameters... or you can shoot in C-log (next best thing to RAW) to maximize color grading ability.
While the eyepiece viewfinder is very good (although in a bit of an awkward position), the LCD screen is great (super sharp, still perfectly fine even in bright sunlight) and the red-line focus assist is something I probably could never give up... espcially when shooting with depths-of-field only an inch deep, it makes pulling focus easy.
I said the lens mount was my only criticism. That's not true, I have a couple more, but they are minor. Firstly, ergonomically the camera is a weird shape. Because of the fairly deep lens mount and this funky "lip" on the bottom front of the camera, my pretty-darn-nice-and-expensive follow-focus unit wouldn't fit. It just wouldn't slide back far enough on the rods for the gears to mesh with the lens, which kinda bummed me... I had to buy a different FF unit. Also the camera is fairly tall, so you want to use a really low-profile rods/baseplate to keep your rig from getting top heavy. Zacuto makes the best baseplate for the C300... it's extremely thin and works well. I don't buy much Zacuto gear because, although their stuff is very well made, it tends to be very expensive and you can usually find another brand of a given piece of hardware that does the same thing for a fraction of the price. In this case though, we had to buy the Zacuto.
I do wish the ergonomics with the XLR mic mounts were a little better. If you want to use an XLR mic with 48v phantom power, you have to plug them into this kinda funky monitor attachment at the top of the camera. It'd be nice if they plugged right into the camera body... but it's not a big deal.
And finally... price-wise Canon made the C300 very attractive. Last year they offered a 24-month lease on the camera with a $1 buyout... with the 24 lease payments totalling exactly the regular purchase price. PLUS they added a $1000 rebate. So, although we don't usually lease anything (except vehicles), in this case it was like free money, so that's what we did.
Dang, I've written too much.... if you can't tell already, I love the C300.
Now, if only someone would give me Canon's two $42,000 and $47,000 lenses they have made for it.....
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
While I agree on almost everything Todd writes (great reply) I'd like to add some thoughts.
I do corporate videos and bought the C300 some 6 months ago. I have no experience of the Scarlet but considered it as an option. If I bought a new camera today I would have serious problems in deciding which one of them to buy since REDs lower price and the forthcoming Dragon.
As a customer I also feel annoyed that Canon charges quite a big premium for what they deliver, considering the new Sonys and REDs lower price.
(And by the way, here's some great information, specially reply #7: http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/new-canon-cinema-eos-camera-systems/502822-reas... )
Mixed thoughts on C300:
+ Very reliable. I haven't had any problems with it so far.
+ Base ISO of 800 and very good high ISO images. (While I do think grain is visible from 3200 ISO it's not a problem, and as many says quite "organic".)
+ Good battery life.
+ It has a fan but is quite silent. I've had no problems when recording audio.
+ CF cards are cheap.
- The monitor is ok but can't be used to judge white balance, specially not when using warm light. Side by side to a better monitor there is a big difference. Also the color space is very limited. Saturated colors gets flat very fast.
- The idea of having to attach the monitor to be able to use XLR is bad. It would be nice if Canon developed some smart accessories (like a small XRL-only accessory).
- Ergonomics could be better (but no problem). Why no easy way to adjust shutter speed and ISO. You have to use a tiny joystick for this. Three buttons for iris, shutter speed and ISO would be fine.
- The roll off to overexposed could be softer.
- While DR is ok I'm not impressed.
Mixed thoughts on Scarlet (while I don't own one!):
+ RAW. I really miss RAW, to be able to adjust WB afterwards and slight exposure errors is for me a big bonus.
+ PL and EF lenses can be used. Changing mounts can be done by yourself (even if it includes using a screw driver).
+ Upgradeable to Dragon-sensor (with 17+ stops of DR?), but supposedly at a price. (And from what I understand you'll get an Epic Dragon in exchange, so there really is no "upgrade" of the Scarlet - but a substantial rebate for an Epic Dragon update, if I got it right.)
+ DR might be better than C300 (13,5 stops vs 12 stops).
+ 10 bits 4:4:4 vs 8 bits 4:4:2.
+ 4K. While I never deliver more than 1080p i really appreciate to be able to crop and zoom in. For a 1080p production this can be done quite much without loosing sharpness. This one I really miss in C300!
- Base ISO of 320 (but is supposed to look good at ISO 800). I suspect I would need more light in general if I used Scarlet. I also would suspect high ISOs not to be as good as the C300. Someone's got experience?
- / + Workflow might take more time (RAW conversion) and lots of more storage. On the other hand you can buy an Atomos Samurai and record ProRes. You don't have to record in Raw! I think this is a point missing in many debates. Atomos Samurai costs $1600 and then you can use cheaper (than Red) SSDs.
- Fan noise is supposed to be quite high. Comments anyone?
- Battery life is supposed to be bad.
- Media is very expensive (RED SSDs).
? Software reliability? I've read recent threads that some functionality still isn't implemented and that there have been different bugs since release. Note: this is only what I've read and it can be wrong. Maybe an owner can chime in?
I'm writing in a hurry, sorry for misspellings/bad grammar. Now back to work...
[Petter Stahre] "Why no easy way to adjust shutter speed and ISO. You have to use a tiny joystick for this. Three buttons for iris, shutter speed and ISO would be fine."
But there is an easy way, Petter, I couldn't live without that. You don't have to use the joystick thing at all.
We have buttons/wheels assigned so I can instantly adjust ISO with the handgrip thumbwheel. I can also instantly adjust ISO with one of the dial wheels on the left side of the camera.
I have a similar setup for shutter speed... I have one of my assignable buttons (actually button 14) assigned to Shutter... press that and then the left side wheel (the same wheel I use for ISO and color temperature) then controls the shutter speed.
They are instantly available, and no menus. Especially with ISO and color balance, I'm constantly adjusting those so much that if I had to dig into menus it would drive me crazy.
I can't say I know anything about iris control, though. We use PL mount cine lenses, so iris control is only with the physical f-stop ring on the lens... the camera doesn't talk to these kinds of lenses at all, obviously. I couldn't say whether there are similar shortcuts if you are using automatic SLR-style EF lenses. There might be.
And thanks for the DVinfo link. Very informative. And re-affirms to me that my decision was the right one. We only considered the Scarlett a little bit, but now I know it definitely wouldn't have been the right camera for us.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
Thanks a lot Todd.
Yes, I've managed to assign ISO to a button but if I assign shutter speed to the other possible button then I loose iris control. And since I use EF lenses with no manual control of iris it doesn't help me much. Then I have to use the joystick for iris control instead.
So I've resigned to use the joystick for all three settings. I tend to forget I have a button for ISO :)
It works, but Canon could have solved this much better. I'm still hoping for a firmware update.
Ah, I see. I wasn't taking account into needing iris control... since I have no iris control with my lenses, I tend to not think about that.
I couldn't live without ISO button control... that's the one I am constantly using. I have it assigned to the handgrip thumbwheel, where it is most useful to me.
As I said I have shutter assigned to another button, but I'm really just wasting that button space... since I almost never tweak shutter speed. It's virtually always at 1/48th, unless I'm doing something special where I need a look that is slower or faster than a "normal" 180° shutter. I can't even remember the last time I changed it, honestly.
If your issue is that you have simply run out of buttons, remember that a whole bunch of the buttons that do have "regular" assignments (and are engraved as such on the body labels) are still assignable to other things instead. There'd be the option of taking one that you never use to control whatever its "native" feature is and just assigning it to something else, like iris or shutter.
I love pretty much everything about this camera. I've even started using zooms a little bit, just for convenience. Normally I hate zooms and love primes, and with my previous rig I hardly ever used zooms because my PL mount cine zooms were are sooo slow (my 37-140mm and 50-200mm are both slow as molassas at f/3.8) that they were completely limited to reasonably bright exteriors... and they were useless for real film unless shooting with a fairly fast stock, like, say Kodak 5213 or faster (usually best with 5219). But the C300 is so light sensitive that I can use them just fine for interiors now, and not even bright interiors. So even though I completely prefer primes 99% of the time, sometimes in situations where tons of lens changing would be impractical I can now use my zooms... which is nice.
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.
To address a few of your facts on the scarlet:
1. The Dragon sensor upgrade will be Epic only, rumor is RED will have a trade in program for Scarlet owners.
2. The Dragon sensor is testing right now at 20 stops.
3. Fan noise is variable. The cameras are usually set up for auto speed or high speed fan and that will automatically turn off once the record button is hit. I think, because the body of the Scarlet is mostly plastic, that it's not as good as the Epic when it comes to heat dissipation.
4. Lens mounts are easy to change with a standard allan key set. Four screws.
5. From what I recall, the Scarlet uses the same sensor as the Epic but with reduced computing power in the brain. This is why the Scarlet has more limited frame rates and sizes than the Epic, but the DR and other specs should be the same (even if I don't recall them off hand).
6. Post production is more intensive and, initially, more expensive. The C300 produces broadcast workflow standard files so if you or your editor is use to stuff like P2 or AVCHD then you'll be at home with Canon.
The other questions are more Scarlet everyday user or for those who have used the C300 extensively. I only use the Epic on a regular basis.
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I would go for the C300, which is what I use to shoot most of my work. Here's a quick price comparison you might find helpful: Red scarlet vs canon C300 vs 1dc vs sony f5 price comparison
For basic 4K I'd look at an F5 over the Scarlet, as mentioned in the article.
http://www.wolfcrow.com - Workflow information and support for filmmakers, photographers, audiographers and videographers.
Nice to see a good discussion going. I'm hoping to hear from a few Scarlet users but thus far been pretty insightful. Sareeh's link is a nice breakdown in cost and good to see real hands on C300 experience from Petter and Todd.
Sony's F5 is also nice, probably should have included it in this quandary.
The question about the RED's noise. I was Lighting Director on a project that was shot on the RED ONE, which from all accounts I've heard is much noisier. There was no problem with audio and we were cramped in some tight quarters for lot of scenes.
There is one area the Red One (and probably the Scarlet, but haven't used it) beats the hell out of the C300 - skin tones.
I use the C300 for great imagery with the fastest workflow for the cheapest price. It's a business arrangement.
But there's absolutely one thing I can state for certain: I will never use the camera for a project that is 'close at heart' - I don't like the images. They're too video-like, and the DR isn't all that great either. In fact, I can say that its imagery is very similar to the FS100's. You could make both of them match with very little effort.
Mind you, I can rent a C300 with CP.2 or L lenses for about $250 a day - otherwise I wouldn't have bothered.
http://www.wolfcrow.com - Workflow information and support for filmmakers, photographers, audiographers and videographers.
I have two C300s, and have been very happy with them. When you look at specs on a sheet of paper, the camera looks less impressive than it is in the real world. Using it is very straightforward. Decent handheld ergonomics. Great battery life. Low weight. Great low light performance. Good filmic look if you stick with LOG mode. 2 hours+ of 1080 video on a single 64GB card. Super easy post-production workflow. It's an incredibly versatile camera.
My impressions of the Scarlet is that there's more overhead to using it in the field, and working with content in post. Also, 4K? Most projects are not heading to the big screen. Still photos? Really, how useful is that to most productions. I might go the Scarlet route if I was just doing narrative work. It's got a very filmic image. But a lot of projects aren't just about a filmic image, given budget and time considerations.
The Sony F5 looks interesting, but I don't think it will match the C300's ease of use on a set (especially for hand-held work). I could still choose it for some projects over the C300, but it's a bigger camera to manage.
By the way, I've always wanted to shoot with 2 cameras, and have been able to do that with the light-weight, pint-sized C300. Even with two cameras, two tripods, two sets of batteries, etc., I'm able to easily transport and manage all my gear myself.
Los Angeles Cameraman
Canon C300 (x2), Zeiss CP.2 lenses, P2 Varicam, etc.
I can't really speak to the image comparison because I don't think looking at Vimeo and Youtube is a great way to compare images and I've never been on a side by side comparison shoot.
I did look at both cameras over a year ago and decided to buy the Scarlet over the C300 for a few reasons, mostly for what has already been mentioned in previous posts.
4K RAW, which I think to clients is actually more of a marketing buzzword but to us, it gives us latitude to create better images. There are plenty of times where I've been rushed on set and where I've turned a calamity into a happy accident because I had a RAW image to work with in post. A lot of that has to do with my inexperience as a DP but still I was saved because of RAW.
The ability to change mounts; although I don't own the PL mount I do own the EF and F mount. I generally only use one on a shoot but it gives me the option of using my Canon L series zooms that I previously owned and my Zeiss Duclos Cinemoded F mount primes.
And lastly, the user forum which includes the Red execs. I feel Reduser.net parallels the same community as Creative Cow. I haven't really experienced that with too many other forums. Add in the head guys at Red actually answer posts and listen to what the user base has to say and it's really invaluable. There are countless times where we've asked for something to come in a firmware update and a few months later it arrives. I don't really know that you'll find that with other major camera manufacturers.
Of course there's the bad, I've had to do fresh re-boots to the camera often. A lot of time the LCD will just freeze on me and I need to take the time to power down and power back up etc. I'm guessing Canon has all that stuff worked out because they've been in the game a lot longer.