Which is the Best High-end HD Video Camera: Sony F5, Canon C300 or the Arri AMIRA?

The Arri AMIRA is supposed to the ultimate high-end HD video camera for broadcast, corporate videos and documentaries. Is it? First, here’s an introduction to its features:

This article compares the Arri AMIRA with the Canon C300 and the Sony F5. Why not the Canon C500 and Sony F55? Well, those are specifically marketed as cameras for 4K or Ultra-HD broadcast. The common factors for the F5, C300 and Amira are:

  • The are all limited to 1080p or 2K.
  • They have broadcast-quality codecs and are as broadcast-worthy as it is for cameras to be.
  • They can all be used ‘run and gun’ style without the need for external recorders (The Sony F5 can, though, to record 4K).


The basics

What does it cost to put together an Arri Amira, Canon C300 or Sony F5? Here are some of the basic differences:

Arri Amira Canon EOS C300 Sony PMW F5
Camera body $25,000?* $13,999.00 $16,490.00
What it includes PL Mount, Viewfinder and LCD screen Handle, 5200mAh battery, viewfinder Audio Input Box
Lens Mounts PL, B4 (2/3″), EF PL, EF PL, Can be adapted for most mounts.

*Rumors suggest the Amira could be priced in this range, but this is just a guess on my part. Arri did release an HD version of the Alexa earlier this year for $30K. Important: Prices are taken from bhphotovideo.com. Specifications are taken from the operations manuals or official websites. The prices and specs might be inaccurate or is subject to change. Refer to the manufacturer’s website for correct data.

Right off the bat you can see that the F5 needs a viewfinder and LCD monitor to be on even terms. Time to bring all the cameras “up to speed”:

Bringing them up to speed
Arri Amira Canon EOS C300 Sony PMW F5
Viewfinder 1280 x 1024 OLED 960 x 540 LCD Sony – DVF-EL100 1280 x 720 OLED $4,930
External Monitor Can only be used when VF is off. 1280 x 960 LCD Sony – DVF-L700 7″ $5,000 / Marshall Electronics V-LCD70MD 7″ $999
Battery Model, Price, Capacity Third-party BP-970G 7200 mAh $141.99 Sony BP-GL65, 4500mAh, $329.95
Recording time hrs 1.5** 4.5 2.0
Batteries required for 8 hours 5 2 4
Cost for 8 hours $2,444** $283.98 $1,320
Battery Charger and charging time (hrs) Hytron T2 $901 (2.5) Dolgin Engineering TC-40-CAN $344.95 (?) AC-DN10 $599.99 (2)
Audio inputs 3xXLR, 48V Phantom, Mic, Line, AES3 2xXLR, 48V Phantom, Mic, Line 2xXLR, 48V Phantom, Mic, Line, AES
Audio specs 4ch, 24-bit, 48 KHz 2ch, 16-bit, 48 KHz 2ch, 24-bit, 48 KHz
4K Capability No No Yes, with the Sony AXS-R5 $5,350
WiFi Operation Inbuilt WFT terminal USB port

**Based on the Hytron 140 at the original Alexa’s rated wattage of about 80-100W. I haven’t included the price of the Gold mount and cables.

All cameras have SDI ability, and can be integrated into a multi-cam broadcast environment whenever necessary. The Alexa is a power-hungry camera, and the Amira has many of the same features so it is unlikely to be much different (but who knows?).

Adding a viewfinder and LCD monitor to the F5 takes it beyond $20K. The Amira offers an extra XLR input, inbuilt Wi-Fi and a form factor to die for.

The F5 has a so-so form factor, while the C300 has the worst ergonomics among the three. Shoulder-mounting an F5 or C300 means adding a rig. Now, if I wanted a rig of similar quality to an Arri, I’d choose an Arri rig! The Arri rig for the Sony F5 costs about $1,615. If the Arri Amira arrives at its rumored price point, it will definitely be close to what the F5 is with the same features. Here’s a video that discusses rigging the F5/F55:

However, the big ace in the hole for the F5 is its ability to shoot 4K if needed. Check out the Battle for Cheap 4K to know how it does in that regard.

Media and HD Video

What do these cameras shoot anyway? Here are the specs:

Comparing video formats
Arri Amira Canon EOS C300 Sony PMW F5
Maximum resolution 2K 1920×1080 2048 x 1080
Color 12-bit 4:4:4 8-bit, 4:2:2 10-bit, 4:2:2
Compression and Codec Prores 444 Canon XF (MPEG-2 Long GOP) XAVC (MPEG-4 AVC), MXF
Maximum frame rate 200 29.97 59.94^
Data Rate MB/s 50.0 6.25 12.5
Effective Sensor Area 2880 x 1620^^ 3840 x 2160 4096 x 2160
ISO Range 160-3200^^ 320 to 20,000 640 to 2000
Inbuilt ND Filter (stops) 2, 4, 7 2, 4, 6 3, 6

^They say 120 fps is coming for both 1080p and 2K.^^Going by Alexa HD, assumed. Can be totally inaccurate.

How do the three cameras stack up as far as media cards and video formats are concerned?

Arri Amira Canon EOS C300 Sony PMW F5
Media Type CFast 2.0 CF Sony SxS Pro+
Capacity per hour (GB)# 175.78 21.97 21.97
Media size, cost# 60GB, ($600+ ^^^) 32GB, $73.95 64GB, $839.95##
Estimated hours/day 4.0 4.0 4.0
Media Cards Required per day of shooting*** 3 3 2
Total cost of media $1,800+^^^ $221.85 $1,679.90
Media Reader Yes, but no word. Sandisk $32.95 Sony AXS-CR1 $550

^^^A Sandisk Extreme Pro 160 MB/s 64 GB CF card costs $300, so the CFast cards are going to cost a whole lot more!#To know how I estimate media capacity and number of cards, read Chapter 6: Media from the Comprehensive Guide to Rigging ANY Camera. I’ve used a simple 4 hour estimation, which is slightly on the higher side for the average production.##There used to be a 32GB version for about $650 but that is no longer available.

All the three cameras downsample from a high resolution sensor to produce HD video. They have in-built ND filters and run-and-gun friendly exposure and focusing tools. The Canon C300 shines in low-light, while the Amira has 200 fps. The F5 offers many kinds of codecs, formats and workflows, and has a base ISO of 2000.



Based on total price, here is how they stack up:

  • Arri Amira – $30,000+*
  • Canon C300 – $14,882.73
  • Sony F5 – $26,568.89

The C300 is half the price! It has some ‘downsides’:

  • Frame rate is limited to 29.97p.
  • Dynamic range is the lowest among the three cameras.
  • Only 16-bit audio.
  • Poor ergonomics.

None of the above three are downsides if they don’t concern you. Most broadcast programming is shot at either 24p, 25p or 29.97p. For a better dynamic range you can shoot flat, and 16-bit audio is fine. On the other hand, the C300 has the following major advantages:

  • Brilliant low-light imaging.
  • Low data rate.
  • Uses cheap CF cards.
  • Cheapest power and battery requirements.

If your shooting style is limited to what the C300 can offer, there is no better HD video camera for broadcast or corporate video work. The only time it really lets me down is if it has to be used hand-held or in a shoulder-mounted position. Did I mention it’s half the price of the other two!

However, if you want 120 fps or more, then both the F5 and Amira look like ‘must-haves’. If you want an HD video camera that can scale up to 4K, then the F5 is the clear winner. If you want a rugged camera that can be taken into volcanoes, dust storms and heavy rain, then the Amira is built for it. Frankly, I cannot make a case for either the Amira or the F5 without taking into consideration its special features (features not all shooters need). If ultimate image quality is the criterion, then my eyes find the Amira the most pleasing (though I feel the F5 with the 4K recorder will do better):

Based on just what the majority of people need for HD video, I’d say the C300 is still the camera to beat. What do you think? Is there something I missed?


26 replies on “Which is the Best High-end HD Video Camera: Sony F5, Canon C300 or the Arri AMIRA?”

  1. Should have compared the Sony FS7 instead of the F5. For the price it leaves the other two in the dust.

  2. Sareesh Sudhakaran MarkDoddHowever you look at this camera, it fails to deliver at both ends of the market: high-end markets are already well serviced, this camera does not have 4K support. It may have limited use for say a high-end production that is predominately hand-held. At the other end, it’s way too expensive and needs heavy, vastly expensive PL lenses.  It’s like buying a Rolls Royce only to discover that the wheels are not included, and that they will cost you over double the price of the car!
    I would certainly want to hire this camera, but only when I can put lightweight, servo zoom 35mm lenses on it. I see an opportunity here for Canon to make a new range of eng-style EF lenses. As it stands, this is no documentary camera.

  3. MarkDodd  Maybe Arri knows the market. The price of the Amira body itself was disappointing to me. Maybe it’s not a rental product like the Alexa, maybe they actually want high-end DPs and production companies to buy it.

  4. The Amira is marketed as a high-end doc camera where hand-held lens ergonomics are everything. Problem is reviewers miss the fact that servo-zoomable PL mount lenses cost the earth and rent out for £300/day. The Amira is usually pictured with the eye-wateringly pricey Fuji Cabrio lenses. A doc shoot will need 2 zooms for most shoots to cover the limited 35mm zoom range. That’s £600/day in lens hire alone. This is beyond the budgets of most doc shoots. You can hire a complete C300 kit with a decent choice of lenses for around £250/day in UK. A typical 2/3″ broadcast kit comes in at around £350 with 2 zooms. The Amira represents no threats here.

    Arri say that the Amira will have a choice of lens mounts, but is this fixed (like PL of EF with the C300) of can you interchange? Say you opt for a B4 version to use cheaper 2/3″ lenses, then are you stuck with using B4 lenses.
    Then there is the question of image size. Will a B4 mount version use the whole sensor? If, not you are back to 2/3″ dof characteristics which defeats the object of a S35mm camera.
    The only info I can find from Arri is that the alternative mounts are’ in planning’.

    The Amira is undoubtedly a well-designed camera, but forget the tech spec arguments – unless PL zooms come down hugely in price I fail to see who will be using it.

  5. GerardoCampos If it’s okay, then why bother with higher data rates?
    I don’t make the specifications, so please don’t take it out on me. If you create a project with AVCHD and try pitching it to a large network, they will reject it outright. This applies to documentaries, fiction and even studio-based work.
    They only make exceptions for news-worthy footage, but like I said, you could shoot it on a first-generation Nokia smartphone camera and they’d show it.
    But it is not ‘absolutely approved’, even for journalists. For that Sony makes XDCAM-based cameras. The EBU use the words ‘may be acceptable’.
    If you’re happy with the FS700 (it’s a great camera by the way, and I like it over the C300), then that’s all that matters. However, this article is strictly within the context of lowest-priced broadcast-based large-sensor 1080p cameras. You switch on the camera and shoot broadcast-quality images – it should be that simple. The FS700 does not quality – but so what?

  6. Sareesh Sudhakaran GerardoCampos in th same document you mention here in the point: “1.2 Codec or recording format” and “2.7 HD Tier 3” mention this:
    ? minimum 24 Mbit/s AVC-HD codec, 
    ? 4:2:0,
    and FS700 is a 28Mbs AVCHD camera, so can be use for broadcasting as your document mention it, with some restriction, but can be used, and for journalist is absolutely approved:
    “For Journalism/News these standards can be relaxed to allow the use of. 
    ? 35 Mbit/s MPEG-2 based inter-frame codecs at 4:2:0. 
    ? 50 Mbit/s AVC intra-frame codecs at 4:2:0. 
    Additionally, AVCHD at a minimum of 24 Mbit/s 4:2:0 may be acceptable”
    extracted from your document; if 24Mbs is OK? then 28Mbs is OK too

  7. GerardoCampos Kindly share with me the EBU document that says the FS700 is a broadcast camera. Or at least share with me the official specifications document of one of the Chilean broadcasters.
    I have clearly defined how broadcast cameras are chosen here: https://wolfcrow.com/blog/choosing-a-broadcast-camera-part-one-camera-tiers/
    Even an iphone can be used for broadcast, but that doesn’t mean it’s broadcast approved.
    Regarding the C300, the point is that if you use it within its constraints, it performs flawlessly, and at half the price of the other two. But this is already stated in the article clearly.

  8. GerardoCampos Why not look at Sony’s official firmware road map and releases instead of bhphoto? 
    180p in HD mode, XAVC, will arrive in Dec 2013. In the Sept release, due on 30th, you’ll get 120p. 240p is strictly for 2K RAW as of September. I’ve already assumed 120p in my article, so I’m not sure what you’re referring to anymore.

  9. Sareesh Sudhakaran GerardoCampos and please read a little more about the cameras before keep responding with wrong answeres; you can find here that F5 do slow motion in HD and 2K XAVC: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/898427-REG/Sony_PMW_F5_CineAlta_Digital_Cinema.html , so future firmware will make XAVC HD-2K internal up to 240fps. So, please correct all the wrong info, not only in RAW

  10. Sareesh Sudhakaran GerardoCampos FS700 is not broadcast only for BBC, the rest of the world are using it, so more than the 99% of the world use the FS700 material for TV broadcasting including here in Chile.
    The ARRI is a very good camera to campare, my problem is not with that camera; my question is why you put a C300 with this 2 super cameras like F5 and AMIRA???? make no sense at all; but AMIRA and F5 or maybe F55 are in the same place

  11. Sareesh Sudhakaran ascentfilms The AES/EBU is not here yet, neither is 240 fps, and neither is any of Amira. So, all of this is pure speculation and I still don’t get your point. I believe that you have a strong bias toward the C300 (and I owned that camera, liked it for what it is). I am sorry I don’t mean to make this into a personal attach flaming war – this is clearly your site, your blog, and so you can post whatever you want – however, having owned the two existing cameras of the three you are comparing here, I have to say the article is confusing at best, and misleading at worst. Again, nothing personal. BUt if you want to make comparisons, it would be good to include methodology and be precise about specs. :)

  12. GerardoCampos The FS700 isn’t a broadcast camera…regardless of what you or I may think about it. Also, XAVC is basically AVC-intra (H.264), unlike the MPEG-2 50 Mbps codec from the C300.
    Regarding your second point, you have a good point! However, 240p is only for 2K RAW, and not for XAVC (which is limited to 60p for 2K). How many broadcasters shoot RAW? The Amira shoots 200 fps in 2K in Prores.
    As far as XAVC HD 120p is concerned, it’s already mentioned in the article. By December, it should go up to 180p, but not in 2K.

  13. Sareesh Sudhakaran ascentfilms Well, you are comparing specs that are incorrect, plus, as someone else mentioned, with a camera that is not out yet and quite a few items about it are pure speculation. That makes it hard to accept as is without comments. What was your point then?

  14. Sareesh Sudhakaran GerardoCampos C100 is a rare camera with almost no market; in price is close to NEX-FS700 but in specs is far lower, is lower than the NEX-FS100, but the FS100 is US$1500 cheaper than C100; C100 don’t do 60p and is 24Mbs camera only; so I put C100 out of the reality; C300 is far expensive than FS700 but is not even close to the power of FS700; C300 have no slow motion, only 720p 60p, FS100 is 1080p 60p, C300 use a old MPEG-2 Long-GOP 8bit (old Sony codec XDCAM) codec at 50Mbs 422, but the AVCHD 2.0 at 28Mbs is really close to it. FS100 can record in Standard Def 720×480 16:9; C100 and C300 can’t (many things need that S.D. recording yet) . Thats for the C100 or C300 thing. In the other hand you are comparing a future camera that is not in the street yet, with no price, with no final specs like the ARRI, so you are talking about a future camera for the next year; so the next year the F5 and F55 will run up to 240fps; so what is the problem with that???

  15. Also, the F5 will be capable of 4ch audio recording with firmware upgrade. Lots of technical incorrect info. Codecs too, the F5 can do HDCAM codecs in a couple of varieties. Media type SXS, SXS-1, SXS Pro, depending on format and codec that one wants to shoot. Batteries could be any V-mount or AB. Man, don’t write a review if you don’t research it fully! :)

  16. you must correct your specs about F5, the camera now can run 240fps and ISO is not 640 to 2000, is 2000 to 64000, and must say that 4K recording is 16bit RAW. And this comparision must be with C500 instead of C300, because C300 is more like an FS100

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