The Canon C500 MKII is the impressive new camera in the Cinema EOS line. It touts a 5.9K Full Frame sensor with internal 12-bit CinemaRAW Light recording, an expandable modular design, better slow motion, interchangeable lens mounts and much, much more in a small, compact size. There is so much to talk about with this camera!
Whenever I look at a new camera for myself, I want to put it through its proper paces. I like to do extensive tests to know exactly how it will handle both in the field and in post. I also want to know all the ins and outs of the menus and ergonomics so when I begin shooting, nothing gets in the way of the filmmaking.
Since I am doing these deep-dive tests, I feel I might as well share my findings with others who undoubtedly have the same questions. When the C300 MKII came out at the end of 2015, I published an in-depth look at the camera to huge success. The responses I got from people all over the world were amazing. So I decided to do it again. I know the C500 MKII is an interesting camera to a lot of people, so I’m back to pop the hood and look inside.
As with my C300 MKII post, I am not being paid by Canon (or anyone else) to do this review. This is just from the perspective of someone who bought the camera and will be using it extensively for the next (hopefully) number of years!
I have always been attracted to the Canon Cinema EOS lineup. As an early adopter, first with the C300 in 2012 and then in 2015 with the C300 MKII, I have always found their cameras to be a perfect fit for the way I shoot.
In 2013, I worked on a film called Tiger Tiger shot with the C500 in 4K RAW, the first 4K camera from the Cinema EOS lineup. The C500 offered the same enticing attributes of the C300, but with the demanding workflow of 4K RAW. (Check out my series of blog posts working with the C500 on Tiger Tiger). While the basic ergonomics of the camera were what I was used to, the ability to shoot 4K was hindered by the requirement of a Codex RAW recorder mounted on the back (monitor / recorders like the Odyssey 7Q and Atomos hadn’t come out yet or were so new they were unreliable). The size of the camera quickly swelled to accommodate the format.
Cut to 2019 with the announcement of the C500 MKII. The camera offers everything we have come to love about the C300 MKII, but with the technical specs of the larger, more professional C700 FF without the size (or price tag). Canon has embraced a modular form factor, with the addition of the EU-1, EU-2 and EVF-50 that offer more options while still leaving all camera specs inside the basic body. No additional licenses or extension units for basic functions like timecode needed here!
I believe this camera will be a game changer in the world of documentary cinematography and I’m excited to hear if you feel the same way.
**Note: any prices listed in this post are as of January 2020**
I approach any test or “review” I do with a basic question: “How does this work and how will I use it?” The series will be broken down into four posts, each dealing with a specific aspect of the camera.
Post 1 - Physical and External Features:
Handheld / Tripod
Cinema RAW Light
Color Depth & Bit Rate
Relay / Double Slot Recording
Custom Picture Profiles
Digital Image Stabilization
Working with Cinema RAW Light
Canon RAW Development
Working with XF-AVC
Canon RAW Development
Size & Weight
The physical size and weight of C500 MKII is pretty darn close to C300 MKII. The C500 MKII, with the handgrip and a BP-A30 battery, weighs 4 lbs, 14 oz (2.2 kg) compared to the 4 lbs, 11 oz (2.1 kg) of the C300 MKII. The camera sits shorter and a little bit longer than the C300 MKII. With the addition of the Expansion Unit 2, the camera is now about double the length of the C300 MKII, including an attached battery.
The C500 MKII is now available with 3 separate, swappable lens mounts. Unlike other cameras, these are not adapters but rather hard mounts that are user-changeable with only 4 screws. The process can be done in less than a minute and a half. The camera ships with a standard EF mount, but the additional lens mount options are:
The PL Mount offers Cooke/I Technology for transmitting lens data, but does not support ARRI LDS.
Both the EF and Locking EF Mounts transmit Canon lens data.
The B4 Mount adapter is not a hard mount for the camera, but rather adapts from either the PL or EF mount. This is the same mount developed for the C700 / C700 FF.
Having the ability to change mounts depending on the type of shoot you are doing and the lenses you want to use is a gam-changer for me. Gone are the days of having to source a different body when wanting to use lenses with a different mount.
Modular Extension Units
Canon has introduced the idea of modularity to the C500 MKII. While the native body size is great when shooting stripped down or mounting on a gimbal, its oftentimes nice to build out the camera to shoot on the shoulder or power multiple accessories from a larger battery source. To do so previously required an erector set approach of adding a bunch of gack to get the required build. Now, you can easily add or remove any of the Extension Units with an Allen key and 2-4 screws. Canon offers 3 different Extension Unit options, dependent on your needs.
A basic extension that is great for multi-cam shoots. This extension adds a Genlock / Sync Out, Remote B Input and Ethernet while retaining use of the smaller BP series batteries.
This will be the more popular choice among shooters, as it offers the most functionality. This extension takes the place of the BP series batteries and instead gives a hard-mounted V-Mount battery plate that feeds power directly to the camera without cabling. At this point, it doesn’t sound like Canon will offer the unit in Gold Mount, so an adapter plate will have to suffice.
It also expands the terminal outputs to include the same as the EU-V1, while also adding a 24V-2A 3-pin Fischer port for powering accessories (this port DOES NOT support Start/Stop), a Lens Port for powering Servo Units on various lenses (such as the Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120mm and B4 Mount lenses), and a D-Tap power port.
The other main feature of the EU-V2 is the expansion to allow for 4 XLR tracks of audio (including the 2 already on the camera body). In the world of one-person shooting, this is HUGE. Each input is fully customizable with Mic / Mic+48V Phantom / Line selection and individual audio level control. Because this Extension Unit covers buttons on the back of the basic body, they are relocated to the side of the EU-V2: FUNC, MENU, CANCEL and Joystick.
Canon made the decision to remove the hard-mounted rear EVF from the body and instead make it an additional item that can be either added or removed as you wish. For me, this is great as I never used this EVF and found it getting in the way of rear camera access or making it difficult to balance the camera on gimbals. Unfortunately, this EVF cannot be used in conjunction with either the EU-V1 or 2, so it’s only made for shooting with the low-profile body-only build.
EVF-V70 & LM-V2
Similar to the C700 FF, C300 MKII and C200, the C500 MKII interfaces with a variety of EVF and LCD Touchscreen options.
Canon has passed the functionality of the C700 FF OLED EVF (EVF-70) over to the C500 MKII. This EVF is stunning (and better be, given the price tag!). Featuring 4 Assignable Buttons (preset as FUNC, EVF, MAGN and FALSE COLOR) as well as full menu control with use of the scroll wheel, the EVF-70 gives you full access to the camera without removing your eye from the viewfinder. This is a huge advantage over 3rd party alternatives. The screen is incredibly sharp (OLED 1920×1080 resolution) and acurately displays color, saturation, brightness and contrast. The EVF-70 plugs into the camera via a single cable. On the back of the EVF is a VIDEO port that plugs directly into the front of the camera body (Same proprietary port and cable that the C300 MKII uses).
The previous LM-V1 (4” LCD screen) that ships with the C200 and C300 MKII also works with the C500mkii. So even though the camera ships with the newer model, you can still use you current screen if you want something smaller.
Since there is only one VIDEO port on the camera, you can only use one of these options at a time. This is a bit of a bummer, Since I love shooting with both an EVF and small screen, and the minimal cable design is amazing, but that’s the way it goes.
The top handle has been completely redesigned, allowing you to attach and detach without the use of tools. The handle slides into the cold shoe mount on the top of the camera and tightens down with an end-capped screw that is easy to get your fingers on. The handle offers a variety of ¼-20 and ⅜-16 mounting points, 2 cold shoe mounts – 1 on top and one in the rear, and a front mount for attaching either the EVF or LM-V2 touchscreen.
The handgrip is different than the C300 MKII’s grip, but the same as the C200’s. Instead of having the internal cable that plugs into the proprietary rosette like on the C300 MKII, it connects via a standard ARRI rosette (which means you can connect any other grip here instead if you’d like) and connects to the camera through a port just under the rosette.
The grip itself has a REC button, 1 Assignable Button, Control Dial for adjusting either Iris or ISO (changeable in the menu) and a joystick for toggling though the menu or function settings.
At its base, the C500 MKII uses the same BP-A30 and BP-A60 batteries as the C300 MKII and C200. The DC input has been updated to a 4-pin XLR, allowing for a power solution from more 3rd party options. The camera does not ship with an AC power supply, so you will need to add one to your kit. The camera does, however, ship with a BP-A60 battery and single-port charger, which is nice.
With the addition of the Extension Unit 2, the smaller BP battery port is replaced with a hard-mounted V-Mount battery plate with D-Tap port. In addition to the D-Tap port, the EU-V2 has a 24V – 2A 3-pin Fischer port for powering accessories.
I have a feeling that this Extension Unit will always live on my camera, since I no longer need rods or adapter plates to get power from a professional battery.
Here is a chart showing the approximate battery run times. For this test, I was powering the camera, the EVF-V70 and a camera mic with 48V phantom power. The first section shows the battery time with just the camera on, but not rolling. The second section shows the time with the camera rolling continuously in 5.9K Cinema RAW Light. Run times can vary from these numbers, but this spread will give you a good idea of what to expect.
98 WHr Battery
Camera on, not recording
2 hours, 22 minutes
2 hours, 59 minutes
Camera constantly recording
2 hours, 18 minutes
2 hours, 39 minutes
The camera still keeps all of its much-lauded assignable buttons, with the addition of a few more. In addition to C300 MKII’s ND filter, Magnify, Peaking, Zebra, Waveform, ISO/Gain, Shutter, S&F Frame Rate and 2 White Balance buttons on the side of the camera, there are two additional buttons: LUT and S&F. The addition of these two buttons will make so much easier, allowing you to toggle on and off your viewing LUT, as well as quickly being able to switch into slow motion without having to dig through the menus.
The front of the camera still has 2 assignable buttons, Push Auto Focus and One-Shot AF, while the back of the camera has FUNC, that can be re-mapped, as well as the addition of an Audio Status button next to the XLR inputs.
In total, the C500 MKII offers 15 assignable buttons on the camera body itself, with a total of up to 21 including the handgrip, EVF-V70 and Extension Unit 2. To compare, the C300 MKII has 11 assignable buttons and the C700FF has 5 (while also having a built-in screen with its own assignable functions). For some strange reason, Canon has taken away the ability to easily assign the buttons without going into the menu. While this is unfortunate, the Assignable Buttons now have their own menu tab, so at least they are easier to find.
At the very bottom of the Assignable Button list is one called User Select, which allows you to add something from the menu that isn’t already listed as a preset. As if there aren’t already enough options, you can always create another! In total, there are an impressive 78 options in the list.
The camera has removed Media / Playback from the power switch and moved it to its own button. While I am a little concerned this can get bumped when shooting, it is well recessed on the angled section of the camera body and will notnengage if the camera is rolling, so you won’t have to worry about inadvertently switching modes in the critical times.
Just like the C300 MKII, the C500 MKII offers up to 10-stops of internal Neutral Density in 2-stop increments. As a default, the ND range stops at 6-stops, but you can up it to 10-stops in the menu. When shooting with 8 or 10 stops of ND, the single filters are stacked to achieve this level of ND. This means you might notice a slight shift in color.
Vents / Fan
The combination of needing to record high quality images while also capturing audio in a quiet environment have always been at odds with each other using digital cameras. The intense processing power required to record 5.9K RAW Light files means the camera needs to be well ventilated. With the C500 MKII, Canon has moved both the intake and exhaust fans to the assistant side of the camera to keep the warm air from blowing in your face when shooting.
Within the menus, you have a few options to control the fan speed and frequency. You can either choose ALWAYS ON, which has the camera moderate fan speed on it’s own – whether you are recording or not, or you can choose AUTOMATIC. With the Automatic setting, you can independently set the fan speed to Low, Middle, High or Maximum in STANDY and and Low, Middle or High in REC. It’s important to note that even when you are in AUTOMATIC, the fan speed could still intensify when in REC if the internal temperature is too high. It is also important to not block the intake and exhaust fans, so be mindful when mounting accessories on that side of the camera.
The camera has a wide variety of inputs and outputs, especially when you factor in the 2 Extension Units.
(1) 3G-SDI MONITOR Out (2048×1080 / 1920×1080, 1920×1080, 1280×720)
(1) 12G-SDI SDI Out (ON or OFF. Will only output the recording resolution, but does not output RAW like the C300 MKII.)
(1) HDMI Out (4096×2160 / 3840×2160, 1920×1080, 1280×720)
TIMECODE In / Out
3.5mm Stereo Mic Input
Remote A Terminal (LANC)
(2) XLR-3 Mono Inputs
(1) XLR-4 12V DC Power Input
VIDEO Terminal (for use with the EVF-V70 or LM-V1/2)
USB terminal for GPS receiver
System Expansion Terminal
Genlock / Sync Output
Remote B Terminal (for use with RC-V100 Remote Controller)
24V – 2A 3-pin Fischer port
Genlock / Sync Output
Remote B Terminal (for use with RC-V100 Remote Controller)
LENS Port (for use with lenses with a Servo Unit requiring power)
(1) D-Tap port
(2) Additional XLR-3 Mono Inputs (allowing for a total of 4 tracks of audio inputs)
Dedicated Audio Level Mixers for Input 3 & 4
A few notes about the video outputs. The MON. OUT port is capable of outputting 2048×1080 / 1920×1080, 1920×1080 and 1280×720. That means this port will work for all viewing monitors, regardless of the recording resolution. The same applies for the HDMI OUT.
With the SDI OUT, you will only get an output of the recording resolution, but not in RAW. I find this frustrating, not because of the lack of RAW output (although some will be annoyed by this), but because I am basically unable to use this port for sending a feed to an on-board monitor or wireless transmitter unless I am shooting in 1920×1080. Or unless I am using a 4K reference monitor on set.
Lastly, you cannot use all three (MON / HDMI / SDI) at the same time. You can only use 2 at once. Not sure why, but since the SDI OUT is practically useless, I guess this isn’t that big of a problem.
**UPDATE: Since the original post, Canon has released a new firmware version (188.8.131.52) which allows simultaneous output of both the MON and HDMI ports, as well as the ability to down-convert the SDI Out to either 1920p HD or 2048p 2K, depending on your shooting aspect ratio**
With the development of 5.9K CinemaRAW Light for the C500 MKII, the data rates were too much for the traditional CFast 2.0 cards. Canon has embraced the new CFexpress format as its recording media. The same physical size as an XQD card (for the Sony FS7), but capable of 1700 MB/s read and 1400 MB/s write speeds, these cards blow CFast 2.0 out of the water (525 MB/s read and 450 MB/s write). So this means purchasing new media for the camera (a feeling I am sadly too familiar with). CFexpress cards currently come in 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB options, but Canon has only approved the SanDisk Extreme PRO 512GB card at this time. It sounds like they will continually test other cards and add to the list as necessary.
Something interesting to note is that CFexpress cards will increase read/write speeds as the card size increases. So a 64GB card will read and write at a much lower speed than a 512GB card, hence Canon’s approval of just the 512GB cards.
Currently, the camera does ship with one 512GB CFexpress card and a USB-C card reader, saving you $599 on your first card.
The camera has two CFexpress slots, so you can function as you have on the C300 MKII with a continuous roll from card to card.
The camera also has an SD card slot that allow proxy recording, as well as LUT uploads and saving camera settings. More on these features later.
Record times and Proxy Recording will be covered in Part 2: Internal Specifications.
There are times when you want to see all of your settings on screen like battery life, remaining card time, resolution, custom picture, white balance, F-Stop, ISO, shutter and audio levels, sometimes there are not. Sometimes, you just want to focus on the image and make all that other stuff go away. The camera gives you the option of 3 different viewfinder overlays.
DISP Level 1 can be either All Displays or All Displays (Periph. Border).
DISP Level 2 can be either Main Recording Displays or Only FUNC/MENU.
DISP Level 3 can be either Only REC/STBY or No Displays.
Canon has always been really good when it comes to focus capabilities on their cameras. This camera is no exception with its Dual Pixel CMOS AF Technology. You have a variety of options to choose from, based on your preferred method of shooting and type of lens. It is important to note that any of the below-mentioned Focus Modes require an EF compatible lens. Something that’s cool is the Canon CINE-SERVO 17-120, CN-E 18-80 and 70-200 are all on this list.
Operate the lens in full manual mode, while also taking advantage of the Focus Assistance Functions (my preferred way of shooting).
The lens will in be manual mode, but with One-Shot AF you can quickly grab focus of an object within the focus field. Great you confirming your focus pull.
This allows you to focus manually most of the way, and then let the camera being your subject into perfect focus.
Here, you set your EF-capable lens to AF mode and let the camera do all the work. You can also use AF Lock to lock in the found focus point while adjusting framing. I always find this suspicious, because when the camera has a hard time finding a good edge, then it will fish in and out of focus, thus ruining your shot.
Here, the camera will automatically detect a subject’s face, focus on it, and track it throughout the frame.
You can select a subject in frame using either the joystick or touchscreen and the camera will find it and track with it. This mode requires the lens to be in AF mode.
Focus Assistance Functions:
Focus Guide is awesome. It gives you a visual indication of whether or not you are in focus, as well as how in or out you are. Unfortunately, this only works with compatible EF-mount lenses.
Peaking comes in two levels, so you can designate how you want to see it in various situations (maybe one color inside and another color outside). These can be routed through any of the video outputs.
Magnification can toggle between 5x and 10x, as well as being able to be moved around the frame. This feature now works when rolling without having to select that option.
Canon has introduced False Color as an additional Assistance Function within the camera. There is not a pre-assigned button on the body for this, but you can easily assign it to any button of your choosing. There is, however, a preset False Color button on the EVF-V70. This can be a helpful tool in judging the exposure of your scene.
Being able to comfortably build out my camera is almost as, if not more, important than the internal specs. If I can’t smoothly work with the camera on my shoulder, on my hip, or anywhere in between for hours on end, I don’t care how good the quality is. The footage will look like garbage regardless!
Since I have the camera early and haven’t been able to test out the available options of rigs, I am testing out my C300 MKII rig on the camera. And thankfully because these cameras are very similar in size, they work together great.
Handheld / Tripod
The handheld configuration of any camera is of the utmost importance to me. I will be shouldering the camera for many hours each day, so I need it to be as comfortable and balanced as possible.
For my C300 MKII, I have the Wooden Camera Unified Baseplate and Unified VCT Wedge Plate. While Wooden Camera has released a C500 MKII – specific baseplate, my current setup on the C500 MKII seems to work just fine.
I like operating with an EVF (used a Zacuto Gratical on my C300 MKII) and an LCD (used the LM-V1) so that I can operate shoulder mounted with the EVF and then drop down to hip height and operate from the LCD without having to hunch over into the EVF. For the C500 MKII, my current configuration is a swap of the previous setup: using the EVF-V70 as the EVF and a SmallHD FOCUS5 as the LCD. This setup balances incredibly well and fits right into my standard way of working.
Here are a few rigging options currently available on the market:
Wooden Camera currently offers three different Unified kits for the C500 MKII. They all build on each other and add more features. They range from $1,038 to $2,105. These rigs compare closest to my current setup.
Bright Tangerine has the Left Field Cage Kit for the C500mkii with a unique quick release system for $997. This seems to be best suited for tripod-based work.
ARRI has the tried-and-true kit specifically for the C500 MKII. The kit comes in varying levels ranging from $1,440 to $3,240. They also have larger studio kits for use with a dovetail and mattebox. There is also a separate adapter plate for mounting your EVF-V70 to this top handle mount.
Canon offers a dedicated SU-15 baseplate for $1,495 and SG-1 Grip for $1,995.
I also wanted to test the camera for use on my Ronin 2, both stripped down and with the EU-V2 and slim battery. Since I often employ the use of my Ronin 2 on many doc shoots, I wanted to see how the camera balanced in these two setups and if I needed to strip the camera bare to make it fit.
The C500 MKII in its body-only configuration fit beautifully on the Ronin 2. What’s nice is the top cross bar that adds additional stabilization can now be attached to the camera body via 2 1/4″-20 threads.
Amazingly, the C500 MKII with the attached EU-V2 and slim Switronix battery also cleared the Ronin 2 with no issues. This is a huge plus that will save a lot of time when switching configurations with a single camera in play.
That wraps up Part 1 of In-Depth with the C500 MKII. As I always say, the physical build, ergonomics and functionality of a camera are almost as import, and sometimes more important, than what’s inside. For documentary use especially, the camera can be a home run on the inside, but if its design limits your shooting ability and slows you down in the field, what good is it really?? I hope this helped give you a better idea of the physical aspects of the camera before we dive into the meat of the Internal Specs, Footage Analysis and Post-Production of the Canon C500 MKII.