Canon C100 and Atomos Ninja2 Test
(15-03-13)

Report by Lemac staff member Brett Williams:

It’s been said that one of the better pairings of recorder and cameras at the moment is the Canon C100 and the Atomos Ninja 2. The C100 has an internal record codec of AVC HD (24mbps, 4:2:0), while the Atomos Ninja 2 can record in either Apple ProRes HQ or DNxHD (Avid) via HDMI. It is also the only recorder currently on the market which successfully remote triggers from the camera record button.

I shot a brief test with this camera and recorder to spot the differences between the two formats, looking at full res ProRes exports to judge each codec in best possible quality. Please note that the video below is encoded in H.264 for Vimeo which leads to an obvious quality loss from both formats. If you are interested in seeing or downloading the ProRes .mov export of this test, feel free to contact me on brettw@lemac.com.au.

Canon C100 and Atomos Ninja2 Test from Lemac Film and Digital on Vimeo.

A note on the C100

While undertaking this test it was also a good opportunity to use the Canon C100 and get a feel for it’s merits and weaknesses. Internal NDs, waveform and zebras, XLR audio, a now improved focus magnification (allowing the user to check the entire image, not just the centre) and an overall simpler design than it’s predecessor make this camera very easy to use. There are really only two setbacks of significance: the EVF and the limited frame rate. Thankfully, Zacuto have a custom C100 Z-Finder (pictured, left) on the way that will work with the camera’s excellent LCD screen and will be an essential part of any C100 kit. Regarding frame rates, I hate to suggest a second camera, but there is a good chance that many owners of this camera might also have a Canon 7D, which paired with this camera for RAW stills and 50fps video would be highly advantageous.

In addition, it also features the option to use Canon Log, a gamma curve that takes greater advantage of the sensor’s dynamic range, resulting in a flatter image that works harder to retain highlights and lowlights for post production. Shooting with Canon Log, the camera also offers “View Assist” (like the C300), allowing you to view your images on the camera LCD with a standard video gamma look applied but not recorded.

Also worth noting about this camera is that it is not native 25P, but 25 ‘PF’ (also known as PSF). There are simple workarounds when using PSF footage. The easiest and most effective one is to conform your footage in post to progressive. This is what I did for the test above, which was shot at 25PF, and have had no issues working with it in a 1080/25P sequence in Premiere Pro CS6.

To learn more about PSF and ways of effectively handling it in post production, check out this great series of articles from Pro Video Coalition.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, I found the AVC HD codec held up much better than expected. Noise in particular appears more suppressed on the AVC than the ProRes files. Aliasing (although very minimal) looked more or less the same to me on each format. In terms of colours, the biggest difference is evident once shooting in Canon Log – the ProRes having a slightly more natural look and offering, arguably, a better starting point for a grade.

I also shot a brief chromakey test with the two formats, using the camera's standard gamma, and noticed no difference in post. With keying controls in software such as Premiere Pro CS6 so precise, there’s no reason to not be able to get a clean key from either format.

The shot of the soft light against the wall which fades in and out was to test for banding. Although it appears quite severe in the web video compression, it was equally mild and certainly within tolerances (for me at least) on the full quality export of both formats.

If you were filming for a situation where broadcast specs were required for acquisition, or you simply want a higher quality master, then the Ninja 2 would work a treat – especially if shooting in Canon Log. The Ninja 2 not only doubles as an on-board monitor but also has useful shooting tools such as focus peaking and exposure check, not to mention hot swappable batteries. If broadcast spec is not required, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with shooting straight to AVC HD. 

If you ‘d like to know more about the Canon C100 and the Atomos Ninja 2 or download the full ProRes export of this test, please feel free to drop me an email on brettw@lemac.com.au.

More on the upcoming C100 Z-Finder:

Sydney

02 9438 4488

Melbourne

03 9429 8588

Brisbane

07 3252 9777