Comparing Sony FX9 vs FS7mk2 vs C300 mk3 vs C500mk2.
We are all wondering what would be the next camera to buy. It’s time to compare Sony FX9 versus FS7mk2 vs C300 mk3 and C500mk2.
I wrote this blog entry following a post on social media looking like this: What do you think of the FX9 now that the C300 M3 has been announced? Don’t get into technical…just the elevator pitch.
So here is my answer comparing the new Sony FX9 and FS7 vs Canon C300 mk3 and C500mk2. Please note that I’m writing this at the end of April 2019 and I did not had access to a C300 mk3 to put it in front of the contender. It’s a bit longer than an elevator pitch but the idea is to get real use and work assignment done more than focus on pixel peeping.
As background and if you check my portfolio there; I have been the main camera operator on almost one thousand video projects during the past 20 years. I’m trying here to define the possible winner out of the new kids announced in late April 2020.
Spoiler: The FS7 mk1 is still the one offering more for the cheapest price! I just saved you the time to scroll to the end.
Video camera technical details versus real life situation.
Comparing video cameras looking at the specification of the body only do not look right to me.
Obviously, you will need to put this camera on a tripod, put some lenses, battery, cards. The full camera kit capabilities should be overlook more than just a specific dual auto-focus or new white balance menu.
You are really the only one to decide if you prefer a touch screen menu or a joystick one at the end. But getting the Audio level adjustments on the opposite side of a Canon C500 is unusable as a One man band setup.
Which cameraman are you?
The second question you should ask yourself to help you decide is; what would be the usage of this new tool?
Too many time, I have answer comparing camera with people doing different job at different budget.
Are you a single camera operator working on assignment, a production house working for their own client or a cinema enthusiast sending time creating movies on your backyard?
To me, each of this tree examples may have a different answer on the best camera to go for. There are way more situations but I’m trying to compare theses 3 as example only.
The single camera would like something as versatile as possible to cover every possible job, but keep it industry standard. (AKA C300mk3 and Sony FS7 ). Their client request a specific recording format to be able to edit the footage on their workstation later on. This is where I belong most of the time.
The production house may prefer something more dedicated to their line of work (AKA BMC / RED / C200 / Sony FX9 & F55). Their client don’t need to know what camera is use as soon as they have their film done nicely. Budget is from the company and can be higher than a freelancer. Even if we also produce movies for others, filling already the first category; we found our FS7 broadcast quality fitting most of our client needs for corporate movie as well. We use our F55 only when our client request something higher than 10 bits codec.
The aspiring filmmaker on budget will be looking more for a DLSR as Panasonic GH5 or Sony A7S with a cage or even Sony FS5. He do not really care about the way the camera look and can buy it bit by bit. Speed up time is not so much an issue and swapping camera battery 20 time per day not something they care so much.
There is plenty of bloggers all over internet with too much time on their hands. Their voice is usually the most present online. It do not means their choice is right for you.
I will try to avoid a specific v-blogger section including pixels peeping aficionados who never really got into real pressure work situation. They got the camera to test during 2 hours; but they dare to explain which one you should buy to film with.
When you are to film a factory under the rain within one hour; their Frankenstein rig using 16 bit raw recorder screwed on top a DSLR with a battery life of 12mn and 5 different lenses brand to swap, using ND filter and no sun hood suddenly felt short for delivering something.
Best bang for the buck: Sony PMXW-FS7 mark 1.
Just to get this out of the way first. If you are new to the business as single camera operator and want something that you can use immediately to start making money. There is a great offer on the older Sony FS7 mark 1 on second hand market. If you are aspiring filmmaker and like a tool to start filming, this may be interesting too. And a video production company may still like to get one as B-Camera/backup for interview.
Older camera models do not simply disappear when a new model is out. They are still producing great picture. With the new offer from Canon and Sony this beginning of 2020, it split the market into even more segments; There are plenty of nice Sony FS7 mark 1 kit to buy on the cheap.
The camera that can film something are many, but I’m comparing here the main contenders which will give you paid jobs.
Just make sure the top mic holder or hand-grip is fully functional. And there are also some easy fix on the ND wheel here.
You will be entering Sony world and you QXD card, battery and cage may even be compatible with a possible upgrade later on Sony FX9.
Make no mistake, the FS7 mk1 is able to produce amazing picture with a maximum recording codec at 10 bits, 60p, 4.2.2 on your shoulder! A RAW external output is possible, but too priced if you like to go this way. A C200 from Canon or BMC 4K may be fitting more your needs here. The BMC just got a 25% price drop today for a 6K sensor at 2,000 USD only.
The complete list of differences between the FS7 mark 1 and the mark 2 is here.
Still no love for the Canon C300 mark 2
And just to get things clear; the Canon C300 mk2 is still not the one to go if you like to do some corporate job at one point, even at discount price.
It’s the biggest mistake Canon did so far: producing a 4K camera with no high speed recording mode. The C300 mk1 was so perfect at the time…
Also, the locking screw on the camera top body is always getting loose, so all second hand unit need to be carefully checked if you like to purchase one. Same thing with the screen connector that get damage easly.
To be interesting as 4K camera, it have to be the bargain of the bargain price-wise. (Almost free)
If you are looking to shoot regular frame rate only to enter the movie shooting, you can have unbeatable offer now.
When the C200 came out, I still didn’t get why Canon lost so much time competing with Sony offer. I’m quite sure it would have been possible to get a C200 firmware for some cash to create a more broadcast ready codec recording mode installed. Canon lost one more year here with the absence of 50/60p.
And, yes, external recorder solve this; but the EOS Cinema Canon lineup is already a concept of putting plenty of pieces together that it start to be unsafe going to an event or outdoor with such.
Here is our C300/C100 dual camera on Full HD shooting.
And not so much attraction to the C500mk2 either..
And yes, I’m not talking too much about the C500 mk2 here cause the price point is not right. The Canon C500mk2 should be a bit cheaper than a FX9 to be a winner. The newly announced Canon C300mk3 should be below FX7 to crash it.
As today pricing, Canon C300mk3 offers a different camera with cons and pro and not a perfect winner against FX9. As you will need extra EVF and shoulder mount; suddenly Canon EOS cine line is not competitive price-wise.
What makes a camera great is not just the body, but the lens and so on.
I was a Canon C300/C100 user but moved to Sony FS7 as my clients requested 4K60p. It was not a easy decision as I am a Canon photographer as well. Moving to Sony is forcing me to use either adaptor or to invest in new lenses. It was a gap to jump. Many year later, I did not regret it. Even when production were asking for C300mk2, owning a FS7 still got me the contract paid. In 5 years, I have to rent once a C33Mk2 to fulfill one assignment only.
Now that I have experience with 2 bodies type from Canon and Sony; it helps put things to put in perspectives.
This is my basic setup when traveling. I’m crossing the border every week. Even with the right paperwork, I got stopped for control few time with a FS7, never with a C300. I guess it will be hard to do this smoothly with 2 x FX9 as I’m doing with my FS7’s.
#The FS7/FX9 can be used out of the box on your shoulder,
The plastic EVF lens is not perfect but much better than the rear position on the C300 one’s, and a cheap upgrade from Zacutto is solving it. Filming outdoor without a proper EVF is impossible.
The Canon C100/C200/C300/C500 large DSLR body style is a different story. Except if you hold it as a picture camera using the back Viewfinder to stay static; it’s not a camera easy to put on your shoulder out of the box.
I did many time few shots this way, but only to grab few second. An interview is not possible.
So you have to add a shoulder mount, arm extension and possible viewfinder this to the price. Suddenly, it getting Canon offer more expensive than Sony and way heavier.
It seems that C500 mk2 and C300 mk share the same body and the viewfinder may also be the same as the C200. So you buy once and keep it in case you upgrade, eventually.
#The C300 and brothers are smaller in a bag and can be completely dismantled compared to Sony
This is something I like as I’m travelling a lot. Being able to get a smaller cabin luggage. Removing the camera handle is tool-less compare to the Sony offer. It’s also interesting to get something a camera looking very small for some street b-roll. You can hide a C200 in plain sight, holding it in your hand, not a Sony FS7 and FX9.
I’m not sure I will still be able to put a larger FX9 on my slider too.
I can still put my FS7 on a modified Ronin-M. But FX9 will not let me do this anymore. Few extra centimetres which will stop me for shooting on gimbal? In this regard, C300Mk3 is a winner.
To give an idea, about 40% of my clients asking me to shoot b-Roll are also asking footage on a stabilized rig. The larger body on a FX9 start to be a problem. The Lego assembly of modul on the Cxxx Canon series help a lot getting versatile rig.
#Electronic ND filter is great. this feature alone is something fantastic.
Here is a small feature on a long list of differences, but a very important to me. It happen many time that using the vary ND wheel step by step to adjust exposure in order to keep my aperture and ISO where I want. Clearly not something Canon is offering on any of the coming C300mk3 and C500mk2.
I even been requested to rent filter and matte box when filming, just to get this little extra steps a ND wheel do not offer. A lot of weight to add on the camera when Sony is offering this internally.
It’s not a deal breaker but surely a technological advantage from Sony.
#Much Larger lens offer is a huge advantage for Sony.
The Alpha mount on FX7 and FX9 are opening a list of possible lenses to put on your camera much larger than on Canon EF.
All EF lenses can be mounted on Sony. Not one Alpha lenses can be used on Canon EOS Cine Camera. If you have been investing on Sony lenses, that will be again a extra cost to go for Canon.
And to add even more weight on Sony; I will says that the 2 hyper versatile S35 18-110 EZ and Full frame 28-135 EZ stabilized lenses are amazing for the price. There is nothing like this on Canon side except putting 10x more money. Yes, the quality will be different, but not 10 times better.
To my experience, going to a factory for B-roll when I have just 2 hours to cover the entire site; using just one single lens gave me a lot of shooting options and framing. This is for me the major advantage on going Sony for the kind of corporate assignment. You have a ready to shoot unit that cost you way less than one on the equivalent Canon EOS Cinema system.
And yes, I have used Canon the 24-105 F4 on C300 but I’m sorry to says it’s just like going back to DSLR 5D mark 2 times. Not something I can use, the lens is ramping like crazy and is not parfocal.
#Color science from Sony and Canon
I loved my Canon C300 mk3 with a 4K sensor used to produce great Full HD image. With the FX9, Sony decided to upgrade the FS7 4K sensor to a 6K one’s for better color and sharpness. So, out of the box, FX9 is also the winner here on the paper. Shooting 4K produce amazingly details color that you can play with in post to fix anything.
But the new Sony camera is not so ready yet with the current firmware. And there is plenty of reports on getting weird artifact if you are using different shooting mode than the full frame one.
The FX9 camera still have a crop and not full frame when you are going for 50/60p. This Full frame commercial advantage fell very short. This crop at high speed is not something they plan on fixing by firmware and a big disappointment for me. Looking at today offer, I would prefer a 4K 120p capable Canon C300 mark 3 versus a 1.4 crop so wrongly called full frame 60p from Sony.
#The big surprises with FX9; what you lost coming from a FS7.
It really feel like that FX9 was not ready and put on the market too early. There is no 50/60p 4KDCI anymore, neither in full frame or in S35 mode. Yes, it will be ready at one point, but nobody can tell when. So if you have a project with such requirement now, only buying Canon C300mk3, or the old FS7 can save you.
The second big missing feature removed from FS7 is the center scan in Full HD. This is something I’m using quite a lot also when covering conferences. This kind of project do not require 4K and be able to go with one lens and move around the stage and still get all I need without putting down a new lens is great. Now, I can do the opposite and shooting full frame and switch to S35, but full frame lens are usually heavier.
Also the ratio is not x2 but x1.6. This missing feature is in place in Sony F5, F55, FS7, and also help few cameraman using their B4 mount lens. Well; you will have to forget about it with the FX9.
Some small details to show a backward move from Sony with the hand-grip lanc connector being even more tiny than the one on FS7. Good luck to fix it yourself or not breaking it!
#Is camera Auto-focus is the new way to work?
The C300mk3 and FX9 auto-focus can be consider as similar, the FS7 is poor in this matter. This is a great improvement for these who need such. Yes, FX9 and C300 mk3 are getting amazing auto-focus capabilities. Unfortunately; I’m not so much in need for this. I can understand it may offer new way of shooting moving interviews for example; for now, I have been doing great by hand.
Maybe we will have a new generation of shooters relying only on auto-focus, so using large and expensive manual lens is over. You may be able to come to a shot with cheap drive by wire lens and get all done by pushing your touch screen…
Technically, Canon auto-focus technology is more advanced with dual pixel AF than Sony for video but the sample I saw shows very similar beautiful results.
C300 mk3 is using touch screen where Sony is using a joystick. I personally prefer the Sony idea as it can work under light rain or with gloves. I really don’t like to touch a screen. And as I like to get the EVF on my eyes, I don’t see how to do that touching a screen, honestly.
#Much better sensitivity with dual base ISO on new announced cameras.
Both the Sony FX9 and Canon C300mk3 are now using dual ISO mode that boost quite a lot the filming possibilities in lower lighted environments. It’s also one of the major improvement that you may consider when picking up your camera.
I have learn how to shoot and light with the FS7, so I’m not in need for such but I can welcome it. Does this worth the extra 2,000 USD between FS7 and FX9? Not for now to my experience. The FS7 was already a light sensitive camera compared to the previous generation.
#The full frame myth.
Out of this S35 camera comparison; the FX9 is the only one with a Full frame label. Does it worth to fall for it?
My answer is simply no cause it’s actually possible to have the same full frame look on a S35 cropped sensor using metabones speed-booster or equivalent. It will not be the same quality with a mandatory softness with wide lens.
On top of this; full frame lenses are heavier than S35 for very little usage to my kind of shooting. Artistic bokeh when shooting a educational video where the audience should see the entire equipment is mandatory. The full frame idea is more a marketing idea.
So, no; using 4K resolution but opening my lens at 1.4 giving me softness is not what I’m usually do. Full frame is not a reason to drop Canon S35 offer with the new C300mk3.
The best camera out of the gang for audio recording as single operator is still the FX9 with now a direct 4 channel inputs and level adjustment.
The C300 can do this too, but weirdly enough, they mixed up the XLR input and channel adjustment that make them almost impossible to use as One Man Band. The audio levels are on the opposite side of the camera and the XLR will just pop up in your head.
When you go for B-Roll only, there is no issue using the Canon. But for an interview with the camera on tripod? That’s another story.
How should I setup my camera for such?
This is a very important point to consider and I feel so sad to see the way canon have cripple this feature.
Cinema camera comparison sum up
At release; The FS7 was a ” WAOOOO!”,
Later, the FS7mk2 a nice upgrade and still is a superb camera. This is the one to give you the best for your buck.
The Sony FX9 is more a “Ok Great”, but when will it be ready? and look Canon is offering something new.
The C300Mk3 is a very well balanced camera but still a bit too expensive as you will need extra components to be ready to go out.
The big advantage that will gives me extra client is the 4K 120ps even with S35 sensor sounds great compare to a FX9 not even able to offer 4K DCI 60p!
Also, the coming Canon R5 may be a perfect match as b-cam unit to complete your C300mk3…
I’m writing this article on the 24th of April 2020 and a new FX6 is maybe few days away.
Canon announced today a large drop on pricing for their C200 and C300Mk2.
Nothing is written in stone!
All these comparisons are according to MY shootings requests. Everyone have different needs, and there is not one “perfect” camera for everyone. I like to check if the price I’m adding to a camera system will bring me back my investment.
Another question I’m asking myself is : “What is I’m loosing today all my cameras and needed a fresh choice to make money quickly?”
As some review website ask you: “Will you buy it again?” This is the most important though to keep in mind.
And the winner is…
(1) FS7mk1 with lens Kit lens is the obvious answer.
Going higher in price will gives me more capabilities, but not in a linear manner.
If money do not matters so much, a (2) Canon C300 mk3 is the best option so far. This camera seems more balanced than a half ready FX9. I can sell the 4K super 120p frame rate more than he full frame sensor.
The newly released (3) Sony FX9 will be coming in third and the C500mk2 to close the comparison.
I started writing this comparing post with a balanced feeling between Sony and Canon offers. At the end of the day, I’m quite sure it helped clear my head with cons and pro.
The unknown is the new possible FX6, but I guess it will be a full frame 8 bits only camera.
If Canon was to release a nice kit lens for the Cxxx series as Sony have; the comparison will be way more contrasted and Canon will be a clear winner.
With the newly announced 5R mirrorless, it feels Canon is pushing its way back in the video market.
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