I recently went on a shoot where one the cameramen had an Easyrig he was using with his XDCAM camera. My first thought was, can you use an easyrig with a Gimbal, such as the Movi, Ronin, Helix etc?
The weight of a camera a lens and a gimbal lifted out infront of your body means that you can only really hold the rig and operate for a few minutes at a time until your back and biceps begin to burn. The Easyrig would take this weight and sit it on the hips, making carrying a gibmbal very easy. One issue with this idea is that the overhead arm of the Easyrig is designed to sit a camera on your shoulder, not out infront of your body. An interesting solution to this is the Serene from Flowcine.
The amazing thing about this device is that, not only does it hold the rig out infront of your body for gimbal use, but it also has a shock absorber system. All gimbal systems are stabilized on three axis, meaning that the up and down bounce created by the operator walking along, is up to you to control. The Serene arm would take this bounce out. I was curious to know if this would work as a set up, until I saw it in operation on twitter from
Here you can see the gimbal is the Helix with an easyrig and the Flowcine Serene. This looks to me like the ideal set up for using with gimbals on shoots when you need to hold the rig for long periods.
Further reading: Gimbal comparison, Ronin M
The DJI Ronin has some some fantastic features: it is quick to set up, it can be operated in three diferent modes, it is really well priced for what it can do, however, it does have one disadvantage, it is a little on the heavy side. Much of this weight is from the large motors which are strong enough to control fairly heavy cameras up to 7.25 kg or 16lbs. If you have a camera that is lighter than this, you may not need all of this power.
DJI have released the Ronin M, a smaller model of the Ronin, designed to carry cameras up to 3.6kg or 8lbs. The pay off is the Ronin M is half the weight of the Ronin, meaning you can hold it for much much longer.
The big question for me is will it hold a stripped down C300. A Canon C300 stripped down is going to weigh around 2-3kg with an EF lens so it should be within the Ronin M limit. On the official DJI page the C300 is not listed on the cameras that the Ronin M will carry (only much smaller DSLRS etc are). However, when Dan Chung at News Shooter asked the DJI manufacturers, they suggested it was possible, but had't tried this out. I have called up a couple of distributors in the UK: CVP and Videogear in the hope that they had been able to try it out. However, as yet they haven't even been sent a test model. The DJI M should arrive in the UK in a 3 or 4 weeks (mid June 2015) and at this point I'd be interested to know if you could put a C300 on it. There are models of the Ronin M kicking about in the USA, but I haven't seen any with a C300 attached yet.
UPDATE: After a bit of digging around, look what I found, on Instagram of all places:
So it looks like the C300 will fit on a Ronin M!! Exciting stuff (for me anyway). The company who posted this, Cinemilled make all sorts of interesting camera accessories. They did say that the tilt bars were at max extension, despite only have a light lens on (I think that looks like a 35mm). However, they make tilt extension bars, which I am guessing would allow you to use heavier lenses. Cinemilled also mentioned being able to add more weight to the front simply by adding weight to the back of the camera to balance things out.
Update: I now own a Ronin M. For more information on setting The Ronin M up with the C300 see here.
I have now have a Ronin M on order, I am going to try mouning the C300 with a few diferent lenses, and if I run into trouble I'll be ordering those Cinemilled tilt extensions.
More info on the Ronin M is here. And Dan Chung's video is below.
You might also be interested in my MoVI, Ronin, and Helix gimbal comparison. and Easyrig, Serene Gimbal set up.
Lately, I have been obsessing about Gimbal stabilisers. I first used a Movi M10 shortly after it came out and instantly loved it. I was amazed by the results I could get, despite having no previous experience of gimbals or stedicams. I thought about buying a Movi at that time, but couldn't quite justify the cost, as I wasn't sure I could easily make my money back on it. Fast forward a year and the prices have come down massively. Dji are a large Chinese company that have a history of making drones and when they released the Ronin, Movi had to drop their prices to remain competative. New to the market is the Helix from Letus, another contender with a name that many in video will already know. There are plenty of other brands out there at even cheaper prices, but at the top end of the market, I would say these three are the ones to go for.
Freefly systems MoVI was the first to the party, so I'll start here. Advantages: The MoVI has several advantages, firstly, it has been around the longest and is tried and tested. Many facilities companies have been hiring these things out day after day and they seem tough and able to stand up to the rigours of filming. They are also light. Every ounce matters when you start holding your camera and rig with your arms stretched out. If you have never shot on a giro stabiliser take a 7.5kg weight a walk around holding it out infront of you, your arms will start to burn pretty quick. Freefly Systems are also based out of the USA with lots of distributors in other countries, so getting repairs, spare parts etc should be painless. Disadvantages: The first has to be price, despite a big price drop, the MoVI still comes in around $8k for the M10. The company no doubt has pretty serious R and D costs to recoup. The only slight quible I would have with the MoVI over other gimbals, is the fact that several attachments need to be tightend with an allen key against the carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is naturally smooth and slippery, so it probably needs to be tightend this way, rather than with a simple catch. The DJI Ronin on the other hand is alluminium and has quick release catches and screw tighteners, making it quicker to set up.
The DJI Ronin caused a bit of a stir when it was released, with prices well below what was expected. Advantages: The first thing to say here is price. The Ronin is an amazing deal. For $2500 you get the rig, a hard peli style case with lazer cut inserts, and they even throw in a remote controller for 2 person operation. Another great feature is the quick release clips that allow for a quick set up. I have spoken to several owner operators who say that after much practice they have got the set up time down to just 5 minutes. This is a big deal for me as I would envisage using something like a Ronin for just a few shots on a shoot, rather than operating on it for hours like you might a stedicam.
Another great feature that the Ronin has is the three operation modes: briefcase under slung and upright.
The upright mode means the camera is sitting above, rather than below the cross bar. The good thing about this extra height is that it brings the camera closer to the eye line. If you are filming a walk and talk, you don't always wanting to be pointing up at someones face, not the most flattering angle. It is also useful for over the shoulder type shots, where you need the camera to be at head height or above.
Briefcase mode allows the unit to be held low to the ground with one hand.
Underslung is the usual gimbal operation mode.
DJI are a large Chinese company that are very familiar to people interested in drones. I guess this can be an advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you view it. With good resellers in each company you should be able to get spare parts, however, I can say in the UK right now there is a 2 week waiting list to buy the product. The other issue with Chinese companies is you are never too sure about customer service, but again local resellers should help. Disadvantages: Before I say it, you probably what I am going to say: weight. The Ronin weighs in at 9.26lb or 4.2kg, this heavier than the other two gimbals here. This is due to the motors being larger, as they are designed to carry heavier cameras, and the fact the rig is aluminium, rather than carbon fiber. This doesn't sound like much, but to give you an idea, by the time you add a monitor a stripped down C300 (no lcd, side grip, eyepeice) you are looking at 7.5kg or 16.5lbs. Chuck on a RED Epic and your weight will go up a fraction. That is a big deal to hold out in front of your body or above your head. Anything over a few minutes is really going to be a challenge. You can always add an easyrig to take the weight, but then your costs and setup time are escallating.
A very interesting addition to this line up is the Helix from Letus. Letus are a US company that are very camera focused (rather than drone focused like DJI). The have been producing all kinds of camera equipment and you are probably familiar with them already. Price wise they sit in between the two above, at $3975 Advantages: I havent actually used one of these as they haven't been out long, but I think they look pretty promising. The weight is definitely a plus being 7.25lbs or 3.3kg. The next advantage over both the other gimbals is that you can put it down on the ground. This is great for small crews, where you want to stop and rest your burning biceps without having to run back to wherever you left the cradel. Also, since Letus is a company that makes camera gear, there are loads of clever add ons, like quick release plates, cables etc etc. Disadvantages: The main one here for me is time. At the time of writing (May 2015) these things haven't been out long at all, I have never seen one, none of the usual UK outlets sell them and there is very little demo footage availble online to see if they are any good. You can of course order one online from their website, and I am imagine they are probably pretty good, but it is a risk with so little info about them.
It is worth noting in each case I have gone for the large model that works with cameras such as the Canon C100/C300/C500, RED EPIC etc. All of the manufacturers have smaller versions, The Movi M5 the Helix junior and the DJI M. So if you are operating a DSLR you could go with the cheaper, lighter alternative. Interestingly, I have heard that a C300 fully stripped down will just work on the Ronin M, but I haven't personally tested it, so proceed with caution.
Update: The C300 does fit on the Ronin M. More info on setting up the Ronin M together with the Canon C300 here.
So which one to go for: If I were a rental company, or wanted to make a name for myself as a dedicated gimbal operator, I would get a Movi. As an occasional gimbal user in a rush to get new kit, I'd get a Ronin, or if I had time to wait and see how the product is received I'd get the Helix.
Further reading: The DJI Ronin M Easyrig, gimbal, Serene set up.
Canon had a very good run with the C300 and then Sony hit back with both the F5 and F55 and more recently the FS7. Canon recently dropped the price of the original C300, bringing it closer to the FS7 and yesterday announced the C300 mark ii. So how do the cameras stack up in the battle for the mid range?
Firstly, the C300 mark ii has only just been announced and won't be available until September 2015 and the price could theoretically change by then, but this is how it stands now.
| Internal specs
|| Canon C300 mii
|| 180 @ 1080
|| 120 @ 2k CROP
|| 120 @2k
|| 14 stops
|| 15 stops
|| 14 stops
||XAVC 10 bit
||XF AVC 10 bit
|| XAVC 10 bit
Comparing cameras is a tricky thing. The easy part of it is compairing the specs, like "top trumps" for cameras, even this, however, has its issues. Numbers such as those released for dynamic range may not be true or exact. Subsequent test after cameras are released are often different from those advertised by manufacturers. Above all else, one camera may often look a whole lot better than another camera, but the numbers may not reflect this at all. The next point is about individual tastes. Some people happen to love the super clean look of say a RED camera, whilst other prefer the more natural look of an Alexa. It may also be job specific. Clean colours may work better on a certain commercial, whereas more filmic tones might be better for a documentary. The next point to be made is that when a camera hasn't even been released it gets really difficult. The videos released from a manufacturer could have been very heavily graded. These days, with enough work, one camera can be graded to look very different from the image that it originally spat out. With that it mind you could think: I'll just buy any camera I feel like buying and someone can sort it out in post. However, as we all know, masses of programmes and items we shoot are not sent to a proper grading suite, or in some cases graded at all, therefore we need to buy something that looks good out of the box, but at the same time can shoot pictures with enough information in them so a colourist can go to work on it without the whole picture falling to peices. With all of this in mind let's take a look at how the C300 markii stacks up against the Sonys.
When you look at the specs and the pricing of the C300 mark ii against the Sony F5 it makes sense (despite the F5 now being over 2 years old), it's when you compare it to the FS7 that things get confusing (as the FS7 is very cheaply priced and has amazing spcecs).
To begin with let's look at the F5 and the C300 mark ii, as they go for a similar price. There are certain advantages the F5 and C300 mark ii cameras have against each other. The F5 is slightly more user friendly when it comes to ergonomics, with a proper dedicated eye piece it can be mounted on the shoulder more efficiently (although you do pay extra for the eye piece.) The slow motion capabilities are way better with the F5. The F5 uses a full scan to achieve slow mo, whereas the C300 mark ii only works with a centre crop. This could be a total pain. Imagine shooting on a 50 mm and then you decide you want slow mo, on the F5, no problem, on the C3002 you have to change lenses to a 25mm to achieve the same frame, or move the camera back. Either way, not idea. The F5 is FZ mount camera, it comes with a PL adapter or you can remove this and add an adapter and shoot EOS lenses. This makes the F5 more verstile as there are more lens options here. The Canon C300 mark ii is purchased as an EOS mount, if you want PL you need to get it attached by Canon. The F5 also has the advantage of a bolt on external recorder, which ups the cameras specs, particularly the slow motion, and you can now upgrade the camera to 4k, at a cost (or hack). With regards to price, as it stands now, the F5 will end up costing you a bit more, but not much. You need to pay for the view finder (which is optional on the C300 as you could choose to make do with the LCD. The F5 uses V lock batteries which are a little more pricey, although good quality, last for years and can be used for other purposes such as powering other cameras, LED lights etc. Having said this Canon's mark ii batteries are currently priced pretty highly, these could well drop down if the camera proves very popluar. The Sony F5 uses S by S cards, whereas the C300 mark ii uses Cfast cards. My guess is that the CFast cards will drop in price more quickly as people start to buy in quantity. All of that said your full set up will end up marginly more expensive on the F5.
To recap the F5 has:
- Better ergonomics
- Better slow mo
- Better lens options
Canon C300 mark ii
So what advantage does the C300 mark ii have? Firstly an extra stop of dynamic range, 15 stops is claimed by Canon. Obviously there is some scepticism with DPs and cameramen when it comes to claimed DR. Some manufacters exaggerate, others do not. Early impressions seem to suggest the camera will actually get pretty close to those 15 stops. If you want to look into the dynamic range of the mark ii check out Geoff Boyle's test Geoff Boyle is a respected cinematographer that has taken screen grabs and video pushing the C300 mark 2 7 stops under and over correct exposure.
The next big point here is the focusing system. I was incredibly sceptical when I first heard about this, and thought it sounded like a gimic, certainly not the kind of thing I would want to use. However, the more I have seen this in use on videos and so on, the more I have been impressed. I like the idea of the DAF system, where the camera tells you whether to pull focus closer or further from the camera, and I have also been suprised at how good the face tracking is. If you can put this camera on a jib or gimbal and the auto focus actually works, it will be a very impressive add on. However, as yet we just have test videos to go on. More of this here. The pluses for the focus system is that it can track someones a face as it moves around and that the focus can be controlled to move quickly or slowly. From watching the videos, it also does not appear to hunt all over the place for focus in the way a stills camera would.
Canon started off with good colour reproduction, great skin tones and a camera that was very easy for broadcasters to work with. They seem to be continuing along these lines. The ergonomics haven't been improved much although there are lots of little updates where needed.
A good improvement in the C300 mark ii is the removable cables connecting the LCD module to the camera. The number of C300 rental cameras I have seen with broken cables that have been replace by Canon is unreal. Crazy when you think the camera has to be sent off to Canon, loosing the owner shooting days. (In the picture the Japanese says "Monitor Unit" - (this is the first time my limited Japanese has ever been useful on my blog)
There is also the improvement of the top handle: the weak one screw has been upgraded with a top helmet, which screws to the top of the camera, and then a couple of hex screws attach the handle. The handle also has a few monting screws and options, which could prove useful. (Mounting a top light is always a bit tricky with the C300 and this could be easier with the mark ii).
Again, something that I'd be interested to try is the pixel comparison focus assist. in addition to the auto focusing mechanism, Canon have come up with a system that tells you on the monitor if a certain area is in focus or not. If this sounds a bit like peaking, it isn't. Apparently, this is a very acurate system which will tell the user which way to focus ie. whether the lens needs to be focused further or closer to be in correct focus. I think this looks like a great idea, if you want to read more on it, this is covered in more detail in Should I buy the new C300 mark ii?
Another small but very useful improvement with the mark 2 is the addition of a small internal microphone. When you remove the LCD from the C300 mark 1, you remove all audio, so if you are mounting the camera on a Movi for example you don't have a guide track for synching in post - this is total pain for the editor. (The way round this is to plug an external mic into the mini jack once the grip handle has been removed - still not ideal though) The video below gives a good look around the new Mark ii.
The camera it seems is all over sturdier, it is heavier and built in a stronger metal housing. I think this is a big plus, the extra weight does't bother me a bit, in fact I actually prefer a heavier camera for balancing on the shoulder.
To recap the C300 mark ii has:
- Potentially a nicer image straight out the camera
- 12 bit 4:4:4 recording in camera
- Assisted focus, and auto focus
- Less good slow mo options
So what about the FS7? The FS7 is insainly cheap for the stats it has. In terms of bang for your buck I don't think there is a better camera out there. The specs aren't a milion miles from those that Sony's F55 has for a fraction of the cost. When compared to larger cameras, it does feel a little plasticy, that said, it has a similar interface to many bigger Sony cameras, with many of switches at buttons in the right place, where a camera operator would actually want them. The fact that it is an E mount, might put some people off, to others it may be a plus. Personally I would feel a lot more comfortable putting a larger lens on an F5 or even a C300 markii than I would with this camera. It just doesn't feel that solid. That said it cost a hell of a lot less, so you have to expect some sacrifice.
So the specs are unbelievable, but what about the image? The camera has been selling well and is being used in all kinds of productions. On a personal note I find the look slightly video ish. Nothing out there has really blown me away, despite the amazing specs. I do prefer the look that the C300 markii puts out. On a general note, I often find Sony's cameras to have a vivid saturated look, going right back to the DigiBeta days; Canon by contrast has a slightly more muted filmic look. However, this is somewhat unfair as all I have seen of the C300 mark ii has been produced for marketing purposes, where as Vimeo and Youtube is full of videos put up by FS7 users, which probably doesn't show the camera in the greatest light.
In terms of colour space, the Canon C300 ii can shoot 4:4:4 internally, whereas the FS7 does 4:2:2. This is certainly a plus point for the C300. Colourists working in grading suits are certainly going to prefer working with the Canon over FS7 here, and that may push certain productions towards it.
I have mentioned this video in a previous article, but if you haven't seen it, it compares the C300 to the FS7. The one worrying thing is the purple fringing issue here on the FS7. You can clearly see it if you look at where the trees meet the blue of the sky. Hopefully this is just a minor problem and will be fixed in a software update.
If you are interested in buying the FS7, it is well worth reading the whole article at The Delivery Men.
To recap the FS7 has:
- Lowest cost
- Good slow mo
- Slightly less robust than the other two cameras.
Update: As the release date of the C300 mark ii nears, more videos have come out that show the picture quality and how the focus assist and auto focus funtions work. The first mark ii video was "Trick Shot", I wasn't that impressed when I saw this. I am not sure if the camera was to blame, or not. Following videos have been more impressive. This is really worth checking out here, in a much more in depth review.
Will the masses of C300 owners upgrade to the mark ii, or switch over to Sony? How will Sony respond? They may decide to include 4k with the F5 and therefore dent mark ii sales (although this may dent their own F55 sales). The value to the C300 is now pretty low with the recent price drops, so it would be a fairly big chunk to invest in the upgrade to mark ii. The way camera technology is changing, everyone is looking to upgrade and the question becomes when you are going to make the next purchase, rather than if.
Canon started with great colour rendition and have worked to improve it with the mark ii, so the question will be: does the camera produce better pictures than Sony's cameras? Having slow motion is a nice feature, but it isn't something that is used everyday by most shooters. There is also the question of demand. Although as camera operators we can nudge production towards one particular camera, often a programme will already have a set camera they want to use. The fact that a huge amount of TV is already shot on C300, will no doubt mean many people will want to shoot on the mark ii. The F55 is also very popular out there, but has a very different price point.
If you own a production company specialising in corporate work, it is probably a no brainer. For the price of the C300 mark ii you can almost buy two FS7s. I find it hard to believe many clients will be unhappy with the "look" the camera produces, and if they are, you can work on the colours in post. If you are a DP, or self shooter, it is a trickier proposition. You hand your images over to production and they judge you on this.
In the end I'll base my decision mainly on the look coming straight out the camera. I am not that into the ergonomics of the mark ii or the FS7 but I know I can deal with it. I also know any of the three cameras in the right conditions, and with nice lighting, will grade up pretty well, however, I want camera that will put out a great image that the director will be happy with ungraded. For fast turn around shoots this is essential. Once the camera is released there will no doubt be many side by side comparision videos. I think I'll wait until then before spending any cash. If I had to guess, I would say the broadcast world are so enamoured with the C300, that this trend will continue over to the mark ii and there will be a high demand for it.
A cheaper option than the mark 2 is the original Canon C300, compared here to the FS7 .
And a more in depth look at the mark ii here.
When the Sony FS7 came out I was expecting the price to be way higher considering its pretty unbelievable numbers on paper. When you consider the price of Sony's F55, this thing is incredibly cheap. Here is how it stacks up side by side to the Canon C300
|| Canon C300
|| Super 35mm
|| 180 @ 1080
|| 60fps @720
|| 14 stops
|| 12 stops
||XAVC 10 bit
||MXF 8 bit
The FS7 retails for around $8k in the US and £6k in the UK. By comparison the C300 currently retails for far more (around £8k UK, $11.5k USA) However, over the past months Sony have been shifting massive quanties of the FS7 and Canon aren't stupid, they know they must bring the price down.
Today B&H announced a massive price drop and are now selling the Canon EF at $6499. This is priced perfectly to compete with Sony's FS7. It is surely only a matter of time before other retailers start making similar reductions.
So which is the right camera to buy? This obviously depends on who is buying. If you own a large number of Canon lenses already, then this may push you towards a C300 (once the price drops), otherwise the FS7 specifications look a lot more attractive. The third option, is to wait. It seems Canon will definitely be announcing a new camera before long. One of the big bugbears of C300 users is the ergonomics of the camera, and the FS7 is much the same as the C300 in that sense.
This is a very unscientific test of the two cameras side by side, but it does help give a sense of the picture quality and the dynamic range of the two cameras. NB This isn't my test, just something I stumbled across on Vimeo.
One part of the video that surprised me was the weired purple fringing in the highlights on the FS7. If you look at the last few shots, take a look at the trees in the background at the centre of the image. When I switched between the FS7 and C300 I felt that the FS7 didn't have a particularly filmic look, instead it had more vibrant TV colours. Having said that, this could have been down to the weired fringing isue. That is enough for me to stear clear of the FS7 for now, but I am sure Sony will fix this in later updates.
Interestingly, sales companies in the UK have been struggling to keep up with demand and can't access enough FS7s. However, they have also said that C300 owners are not trading many cameras in at the moment, so it seems that many C300 owners are waiting to see what will happen next.
I see the FS7 being taken up by shooting APs or small companies, as the price for the cameras specifications can't be beat. As for me, the first camera I ever owned had a retail price of around 50k, since then prices have dropped and I bought my most recent camera the C300 at 12k (3 years ago). I would prefer to see a few improvements in terms of ergonomics and form factor. If a new camera came out that addressed these issues, then I wouldn't mind spending a bit more money.
If you are thinking of buying the Sony FS7 it is definitely worth reading Dan Chung's review on the camera. He as spent time shooting with it on paid jobs, so his thoughts go well beyond a few technical specs. Also The Delivery Men (those who shot the above video test).