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Canon C300 Mark III vs Canon C500 Mark II: When to pick which?

Does the extra $5,000 for the C500 Mark II translate into real-world advantages for professionals? Let’s find out!

Both the Canon C300 Mark III and Canon C500 Mark II were launched relatively close to each other. Many shooters will be confused as to which offers the better value proposition.

In other words, does the extra $5,000 for the C500 Mark II translate into real-world advantages for professionals?

In this article we’ll look at all the important specifications and see which camera is the better investment for the next 2-3 years for the owner operator.

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The basics

CameraPrice of CameraLens Mount
Canon C300 Mark III$10,999EF
Canon C500 Mark II$15,999EF

The Canon C500 Mark II is obviously more expensive.

The standard EF mount is non-locking. You need to pay $2,199 extra for a locking EF mount (called EF-C) from Canon. This applies to both cameras.

Will different lenses make a difference?

If you’re interested in learning about lenses and how that would impact your purchase, check out these two articles:

In terms of lenses, generally speaking, full frame lenses cost more than Super35mm lenses. This is true of photo lenses and cine lenses, broadly.

So, with the C500 Mark II, you are looking to purchase heavier, more expensive lenses to cover the full frame sensor that also resolve 6K and higher. Don’t forget to take that into account.

On the other hand, the full frame sensor of the Canon C500 Mark II does offer two tremendous advantages due to the larger sensor:

  1. You can still use Super35mm lenses in cropped more for 4K
  2. You can use anamorphic lenses that take advantage of the true anamorphic frame.

Usability and Workflow

For a lot of professionals, in this price point, usability is as critical as image quality. The good news (or bad news, depending on how you look at it) is both cameras have the exact same ergonomics in terms of buttons and dials:

C500 Mark II
C300 Mark III

Those who are purchasing either camera are probably mainly into documentaries, corporate videos, commercials, high-end weddings and maybe the occasional short or feature work.

These are money-making tools.

The Canon 300 Mark II and the original C500 both had audio modules separate. Thankfully both these cameras have changed that. For the better, in my opinion.

Genlock, power output and control

For the most versatile functionality you need to purchase the Canon EU-V2 Expansion Unit:

This gives you two audio controls on the operator’s side as well as two additional channels to record audio.

For just Genlock, you can purchase the cheaper Canon EU-V1:

These modules give you:

  • Genlock
  • Additional XLR inputs (only V2)
  • Remote control
  • Ethernet control
  • V-mount plate with P-tap output (only V2)
  • DC output to other devices (only V2)
  • Lens control for certain supported lenses (only V2)

It is clear if you need the cameras for any sort of regular broadcast work you will have to purchase the EU-V2 expansion unit. Also, if you have multiple accessories it’s a good way to power them as well.

Autofocus

Both cameras have Dual Pixel AF with support for Touch AF and Face Detection AF. Canon is the class leader here, and with Canon’s range of cinema lenses there’s nothing left to say.

What is dual pixel AF? According to Canon:

For DAF, each pixel in the camera’s CMOS sensor is configured with two photodiodes. Two independent image signals can then be detected at each photosite and compared using phase-difference to provide autofocus with compatible lenses. DAF can survey the scene and recognizes not only whether the subject is in focus or not, but in which direction (near or far), and by how much.

Canon USA

Here’s the question: Which camera would have the better autofocus?

This needs to be tested with the same lenses under similar situations. So for the purposes of this article I’ll assume they are equally good enough for all practical purposes.

Image Stabilization

According to Canon:

The EOS C500 Mark II is the first Canon Cinema EOS camera to feature built-in five-axis electronic IS that works with almost any lens including anamorphic.

The EOS C300 Mark III includes the same built-in five-axis electronic IS introduced with the EOS C500 Mark II that works with almost any lens, including anamorphic.

Canon USA

With image stabilization, unlike autofocus, certain generalities hold true (unless intentionally crippled). Image stabilization for smaller sensors will be better than larger sensors.

On the other hand, if you’re comparing apples to apples, with equivalent Super35mm frames, you can get similar IS with the C500 Mark II.

Therefore, for the purposes of this article, let’s assume they are both good enough for practical situations.

Comparison of video features

Now let’s get into the camera video specifications:

Sensor

CameraSizeDynamic RangeNative ISO*
Canon C300 Mark III26.2 x 13.8 mm16+ stops800 in C-Log2^
Canon C500 Mark II38.1 x 20.1 mm15+ stops800 in C-Log2^

*ISO range is from 160-25,600.

^C-Log 2 has the highest dynamic range. With C-Log 3 you get 14 stops (still great!).

It is pretty clear, according to Canon’s own estimation, the Canon C300 Mark III is clearly better in terms of dynamic range.

However, it remains to be seen if this holds over the entire spectrum of ISOs or if the C500 Mark II holds up better. Secondly, the larger sensor of the C500 Mark II is probably better in low light situations.

What this means for the average shooter is that the image quality differences between the two might not be significant enough. In other words, both are expected to produce stellar image quality that 99% of clients will approve of (the remaining 1% can pay extra for that Arri rental).

In RAW

CameraMax. ResolutionBit Depth
Canon C300 Mark III4096 x 216010/12-bit^
Canon C500 Mark II5952 x 314010/12-bit^

^Canon RAW is actually Canon RAW Lite, written internally, at about 1/3 to 1/5th data rates.

The data rates are manageable for both cameras, all things considering.

In 10-bit 4:2:2 internally

CameraMax. ResolutionData RateFormat
Canon C300 Mark III4096 x 2160160-810 MbpsXF-AVC
Canon C500 Mark II4096 x 2160160-810 MbpsXF-AVC

This is pretty similar.

Both cameras can record HD proxies simultaneously.

For me the Canon C500 Mark II strikes a great balance here. The data rates are great, but you get that extra 6K RAW for higher-end productions.

But, if all you are shooting is 4K, the C300 Mark II does it in spades, especially with this next bit.

What about frame rates?

CameraMax fps at 4KMax fps at 1080p
Canon C300 Mark III120 fps180 fps
Canon C500 Mark II60 fps120 fps

This is where the Canon C300 Mark III really makes a practical difference. This means you don’t have to go down to 2K or HD just to get high frame rates, and you can take advantage of all the possibilities of 4K.

Super 35mm and anamorphic modes

The Canon C500 Mark II can shoot 4K in Super35mm, at up to 60p.

It also does anamorphic internally. This means you can desqueeze the image internally instead of having to use an external monitor. The C500 Mark II is definitely a cinema camera.

For true anamorphic, the sensor needs to span at least 21.95mm x 18.6mm. The C500 Mark II clears this easily, and outputs 6K, so even ‘chopped off’ anamorphic will deliver true 4K.

The Canon C300 Mark III cannot do true anamorphic due to the smaller sensor height. If you really wanted that option you are better off with the C500 Mark II.

Inputs and Outputs for Video

Both cameras have important 12G-SDI ports and the obligatory HDMI A port. You only output 4K 60 fps via 12G-SDI. No 6K.

Media Cards

Media card costs are an important percentage of ownership:

CameraData rate for RAWPrice per GB^
Canon C300 Mark III125 MB/s$1.56
Canon C500 Mark II250 MB/s$1.56

^Sandisk CFexpress 256 GB.

If you compare apples to apples (4K to 4K), the data rates are similar. However, if you go to 6K (which is a very important reason to pick the C500 Mark II in the first place), you’ll double data rates.

One important thing to note is you get a free 512 GB CFexpress card and reader with the C500 Mark II. That’s a $600 dollar value right there.

Battery life and Power

Here are the official numbers for RAW:

CameraPower DrawBattery lifeBattery Voltage
Canon C300 Mark III31 W130 minutes14.4V
Canon C500 Mark II34 W115 minutes14.4V
CameraBatteryCost*Cost of 4 hours of operation
Canon C300 Mark IIIBP-A60 90Wh$429$792
Canon C500 Mark IIBP-A60 90Wh$429$895

*As of this writing. Original batteries only, from B&H. You can always buy cheaper batteries, but the same applies to both cameras.

There is a slight advantage to the C300 Mark III, though in real-world use, I’d say that advantage is not big enough to get concerned about.

If you use dual pixel AF, LUTs, etc., the consumption will be higher.

Cost of ownership

The C500 Mark II is definitely the more expensive all around, very generally speaking. Here’s the approximate increase in price over the C300 Mark III:

Body45%
Lenses25%*
Media and Storage100%
Battery13%

*Taking Angenieux EZ-1 and EZ-2 as examples. Canon doesn’t make lenses for both formats you can compare directly.

In proportion you might be spending 50-60% over what you would be spending with the C300 Mark III. So it’s not just a $5,000 difference. It’s more than that.

Which is the better camera for video?

Here’s a summary of each round, and the “winner”:

FeatureWinner – Solo ShooterWinner – Cinema
ErgonomicsTieTie
LensesTieCanon C500 Mark II
Third-party lensesTieTie
Video featuresCanon C300 Mark IIICanon C500 Mark II
Image qualityNeed to testNeed to test
AF for videoNeed to testNeed to test
Image stabilizationNeed to testNeed to test
Media cardsTieTie
Battery lifeTieTie

It should be blatantly obvious by now which camera is suited for what.

Are you a solo shooter on a tight budget?

If yes, then the Canon C300 Mark III is the right investment for you. What you get:

  1. About $5,000-$7,500 savings in investment
  2. 4K at 120 fps
  3. 16+ stops of DR
  4. Lighter setup because you don’t need full frame lenses
  5. Simpler post production and grading

I believe these are the features that contribute to food on the table. Not many clients pay extra for 6K or RAW workflows. Not only does it add to the cost of the camera, but also the time to work with RAW in post, and the cost of additional storage and processing power.

Are you working on high-end videos and low budget films?

Then pick the Canon C500 Mark II. Those extra benefits that didn’t contribute directly to income in the low budget space take on importance here.

Clients do pay extra for color grading or DI, and there are decent enough budgets for:

  • Assistants
  • Storage for RAW
  • Proper monitoring, LUT creation, etc.
  • Putting together a camera package in a modular system
  • Anamorphic lenses

You will be working with enough margins to recoup the additional cost in just a matter of months. It’s a no-brainer, really.

What’s the one for me?

If I had to pick just one winner for myself, I’d pick the Canon C300 Mark III. It’s the camera that excites me the most for the kind of work I do.

What do you think?

2 replies on “Canon C300 Mark III vs Canon C500 Mark II: When to pick which?”

Hi, Thanks for the comparison. I have the c300 mark III on preorder.
I mainly do events, weddings, corparate. Deciding between these 2 cameras was pretty easy for me. I don´t need or want 6K, more DR, more managable file sizes in raw, 120p, same body, autofocus at all frame rates and brilliant 10-bit 4:2:2 codec options. I´ve tried the C200 with Sigma 18-35 f1.8 and the 50-100 f1.8 a few times and I loved the image I got out of this combo, but the c200 raw is a bit too noisy for my liking, so the c300 mark III fixes that with DGO and adds the electronic image stabilization on top of that. So overall im very excited to go from my 3xSony A7III to this beast. Thanks for the article.

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