I originally had this article titled "C300 vs. SCARLET-X," but I think that misses the point I want to get across. It's not a zero-sum game. For the C300 to be successful doesn't mean the SCARLET has to fail (or vice versa). The market is plenty capable to handle multiple cameras in any given price range. For most videographers and cinematographers one camera does solve all their problems. So instead of a “US vs Them” post I thought I would lay out my reasons for selecting the C300 over the SCARLET-X or F3.
A couple of background items before we begin:
- Our delivery format is web primary and disc secondary
- We post-process all our footage (Apple Color, DaVinci Resolve, Autodesk Smoke)
- We typically shoot longer form material (i.e. unscripted interviews)
- The camera must be a work horse in low-light environments
- Must maintain a reasonable crop factor for lenses
The reason I give the background is because, I believe, that has a dramatic impact on which camera to chose. Let me take them in order:
1. Our delivery format is web primarily and disc secondarily
The primary distribution for our content is internet. Whether our own site, Vimeo, YouTube, or Facebook our main method of distribution is the web. A camera that shoots 1920x1080 is more than capable of delivering the resolution we need. I'm well aware of the greatness of 3K or 4K to pan&scan an image or for image stabilization, but honestly that's overkill for what our needs are.
2. We post-process all our footage (Apple Color, DaVinci Resolve, Autodesk Smoke)
Now this one is tricky. Technically every camera listed above requires post-processing of some sort. Sony S-Log Gamma, R3D file, or Canon Log will require some sort of color grading during the post process. The negative (and positive) of the RED world is the additional R3D processing that must go on at some point in the post-process. Whether one chooses to edit proxy and reconnect to the raw file or transcode to ProRes (HQ) from the get go, introduces an extra transcode step that I wasn’t thrilled about in our workflow. While the added color information is certainly a plus, the added overhead in post was not something I wanted to entertain (especially given #3 above).
3. We typically shoot longer form material (i.e. unscripted interviews)
This is certainly one of the deal breakers for us. Because we shoot unscripted material we need a camera that can roll long form, documentary style. I need a camera that can capture 60, 90, 120, or 180 minutes+ on a card. (Now before the comments flair up - technically the RED can do that if the compression is set to10:1 or 11:1 or 12:1, but then I’m moving around a 90 minute 4K raw file...). I need a camera that can roll for 90 minutes solid without having to spend $2K for additional 90 minute SSD’s.
4. The camera must be a work horse in low-light environments
I’m not going to knock the SCARLET as a poor low-light performer. I haven't seen many test showcasing it in low light, but it's definitely not being marketed as a low-light champion the way the C300 has been. Likewise I wouldn’t knock a Canon 5D/7D as a poor low light performer (or a Nikon D300s), but I would say that those sensors are older technology when compared to the more modern D800 and forthcoming 5D MarkIII. Even the SCARLET, which adopts the EPIC sensor, is now 2 years old. If Moore’s Law is accurate then there would be noticeable advances in that short of a time on sensor technology. If you haven’t seen the videos on Vimeo yet regarding the digital noise on a C300 under extreme ISO settings (6,400+), then do yourself a favor and check ‘em out - here, here, and here. The results are stunning.
For many of my shoots I don’t get the luxury of a controlled environment. I have to travel light, be mobile, and shoot in poorly lit environments (i.e. church building, office, etc.) without much (if any) additional lights. I need a camera that can still capture great footage, maintain skin tones, be easily ingested into my edit suite of choice, and provide a flat profile so that I can grade heavily in post (on our current Canon 7D’s we run the Technicolour Cinestyle picture profile).
5. Crop factor
Finally, my last strike against the SCARLET is the crop factor for this camera. Given my background info above, if I have a long form talking head that I have to shoot and I only want a 2K image (no stabilization needed, minimal reframing, etc) then the camera “windows-in” on the sensor 3.24x. What does this mean in laymen’s terms - see the data sheet below which is posted over in the reduser.net forums. Basically it means my 15mm fisheye lens becomes a 48.6mm lens, my 50mm lens is now a 162mm lens, and my 70-200mm lens is now a 227mm-648mm lens. Those are some extreme crops. Additionally a 3K crop is 2.0x and a 1K crop is 6.4x.
For all of these reasons, I went with the C300. For the type of work I do the C300 gave me more flexibility than the other options (RED requires more post processing and the F3 doesn't play well with Canon lenses, without an adapter). Once it finally arrives, I'll post up the good, bad, and ugly about the camera.