Canon C500 Mark II First Look – 6K, Full Frame, Cinema RAW Light, Modular Concept

September 5th, 2019 Jump to Comment Section 28

Canon just introduced the Canon C500 Mark II, the long-awaited successor to the C500, which takes a much more modular approach than previous cameras in Canon’s Cinema line-up. Let’s take a look!

It’s been over 7 years since the introduction of the original Canon C500, which used to be Canon’s flagship cinema camera before the C700 was introduced in 2016. And it’s also already 4 years ago since the C300 Mark II was introduced. So with the competition heating up and new cameras being released left and right, it was definitely time for an update of Canon’s cinema line. And today is the day this is happening. 

Before we take a look at the modular design of the camera, let’s look at the tech specs.

The bare-bones body of the Canon C500 Mark II – Photo © cinema5D 2019

Canon C500 Mark II – 6K, Full Frame, 17:9 Sensor

It comes with a 5.9K Full Frame 17:9 Sensor which Canon claims offer more than 15 stops of dynamic range. It’s remarkable that we have a full-frame sensor here, and it’s the same sensor as in the high-end Canon C700 Full Frame which was only introduced one and a half years ago.

Different Approach: 6K in 17:9 Instead of 4:3 Sensor

Now, the competition with 6K resolution in Full Frame is Sony with their Venice, and most recently also Panasonic with their S1H – but with both you get the full resolution only when shooting anamorphic with the 4:3 sensor (Venice) and 3:2 sensor (Panasonic) . Canon takes a different approach in their cinema line and uses a 17:9 full-frame sensor to achieve their almost 6K resolution, which means that you effectively will have more resolution when shooting with normal spherical lenses than on the other cameras. You can shoot with anamorphic lenses using a 4:3 image area too, though, just in this case you will lose image resolution on the side with the Canon sensor. The C500 Mark II also offers anamorphic desqueeze options for correct preview of the footage.

Straightforward button layout, with the most important features accessible immediately. Photo © cinema5D 2019

DIGIC DV7 – Cinema RAW Light Internally, XF-AVC 4K 4:2:2 in 10-bit

Canon for the first time uses a new DIGIC DV7 processor which allows the camera to record Cinema RAW Light internally at up to 5.9K as well as XF-AVC in 4K 4:2:2 10-bit. So this camera finally does what everybody hoped the C200 and the C300 Mark II would eventually do, but even at a higher resolution with a larger sensor, quite impressive from the specs.

5.9K Over Sampling Processing for 4K Credit: Canon

Frame Rates in Cinema RAW Light and XF-AVC

Cinema RAW Light can be shot at 5.9K and 4K at up to 60 frames per second, and at 2K in up to 120 fps in a cropped mode, unfortunately.

Once you switch to the XF-AVC codec in 10-bit 4:2:2, you can shoot 4K DCI, UHD, 2K and HD only, there’s no 5.9K option in this codec. (4K is delivered by 5.9K Oversample processing so no image crop applied). With XF-AVC you can also shoot up to 60 frames in 4K, and 120 frames in 2K and HD – but only cropped.

Cinema RAW Light recording formats and frame rates
XF-AVC recording formats and frame rates

Dual Pixel AF – Now More Fine-tuned

Canon’s undeniably great Dual Pixel autofocus is also included and covers around 80% of the overall image area. This should work just as well as in other current Canon cameras – what’s new is that you can further finetune the autofocus performance by adjusting the autofocus tracking speed and response – which makes, of course, focus ramps easier.

Backside of the Canon C500 Mark II, with all the built-in ports on the right-hand side. The long connector at the back is to be used by the EVF, or alternatively, Extension Unit 1 or 2.  Photo © cinema5D 2019

New Modular Design – Small Body, Essentials Inside

The bare-bones body of the C500 Mark II itself only weighs 1750 grams or less than 3.9 pounds, and that’s remarkably small for a camera that already has many essential things included.

First of all, most essential connectors are already built in:

Monitor out, 12-G-SDI OUT as well as HDMI out, both of which support 4K 50p/60p with just one cable, timecode built in, minijack mic in and of course headphone out, and two XLR-ports built right into the body, with full manual controls and at the bottom a12.6V DC in. The camera uses the same batteries as the C200 and C300 Mark II. 

It’s great to have Timecode built right into this tiny body without having to use an extension box like for example with the Sony FS7. 

The camera has 2 CF Express Card slots, that’s the successor of CFast, and an SD card slot for simultaneous proxy file recording. It also has three fixed NDs at 2, 4 and 6 stops and can be combined to achieve 8 and 10 stops, but there’s no variable ND filter unfortunately. 

To switch to slow motion, there’s now a dedicated S&F button for “Slow and Fast” (just like the “S&Q” button on Sony cameras).

Manual audio controls on the side of the Canon C500 Mark II, for the two built-in XLR ports. Photo © cinema5D 2019

Included LCD, Removable EVF, Extension Units 1 and 2

The included LCD LM-V2 is a touchscreen which at 4.3” is slightly larger than the one found on the C200, and features a nice robust mechanical mounting system. 

Canon now made the EVF user-removable, which is great: that means that the camera can more easily fit onto gimbals and drones. The interface used to connect the EVF to the camera is the same they are using for other optional extension units. The EVF itself is a 0.46” OLED with 1.77Megapixels. 

There’s the small Extension Unit 1 which adds Genlock, Remote Connection and Ethernet to the camera. 

C500 Mark II – with the small Extension Unit 1 attached at the back. Photo © 2019 cinema5D

The much larger Extension Unit 2 adds first of all a V-Mount to the camera, and also a DC Out with 24 Volts, 2 Ampere, a D-Tap, Genlock, Remote, Ethernet, a B4 lens connector, 12-G SDI and additional 2 XLR plugs and the dedicated controls. 

Canon C500 Mark II fully rigged up with the Extension Unit 2 and a Canon Sumire Prime in my hands. Photo © 2019 cinema5D
All the included and optional components of the Canon C500 Mark II – Photo © 2019 cinema5D
C500 Mark II with the removable EVF attached. Photo © 2019 cinema5D

Of course it’s a shame that you can’t use the standard EVF anymore once you connect one of the Extension Units, but in general it’s great that Canon made the most modular camera we have yet seen from them (or many others, for that matter). You can even use the C700’s shoulder pad and rails with this camera, and the overall optical axis is lower than it was on the C300 series of cameras, which should make rigging accessories easier. 

Dual CF Express and an SD card slot under the hood on the Canon C500 Mark II. Photo © cinema5D 2019

User-Interchangeable Lens Mount – EF Mount, PL Mount, Cine EF Mount

What’s super exciting is that the lens mount delivered with the C500 Mark II is user-interchangeable. The standard EF mount can be swapped for an optional PL Mount or for an EF Cine Lock, by simply unscrewing 4 screws with an allen key. This is great because in the past, there were separate EF and PL versions of many Canon Cinema cameras, and the use cases therefore were much more limited.

User-interchangeble lens mount on the Canon C500 Mark II – Photo © 2019 cinema5D

Electronic Image Stabilizer

Canon has also added an image stabilizer for the first time in a cinema camera. They call it a 5-axis image stabilizer, so it’s technically not an IBIS because it’s fully electronic.

Conclusion from Personal First Impressions

Of course we haven’t been able to shoot with this camera yet, but from what we see, this is the most flexible and modular Cinema camera that Canon ever produced, and it promises to be very attractive to a wide range of shooting scenarios.

As someone who owned (and still owns) the original Canon C300 and shot a lot with it over many years, the C500 Mark II feels like a gust of fresh air from Canon in their ability to create really user-friendly and versatile cameras. Granted, the C200 was a big step in the right direction, yet the missing 10-bit 4:2:2 recording made it impossible for many to make the jump. The C500 Mark II, albeit at a different price, fulfils what many were expecting, and actually also a lot more that caught us totally by surprise. I can’t wait to shoot with it and try it out myself.

The Canon C500 Mark II will cost around €15,000 without the Extension Units and optional PL Mount, but while that might seem a lot, it’s actually the same price the C300 mark II cost when it first came out. However, the C500 Mark II offers a lot more bang for the buck – internal Cinema RAW Lite at up to 5.9K resolution plus the 10-bit 4:2:2, the interchangeable mount, great autofocus plus all the features you expect from a cinema camera. It’s the first time in a while where it seems like Canon really got it right – but we will only see for sure once we get our hands on this camera to actually produce some images with it. We will try to get one for a full review as soon as possible!

Full camera specifications can be found here.

What do you think about the newly announced Canon C500 Mark II? Did Canon get the concept right? Let us know in the comments below!


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