Thin slicing is a psychology term used by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Blink.” The premise is you have garnered so much experience you can look at something and all those years of hard work all those years of finding what works and what fails bubbles to the surface, giving you a superhuman capability to see something. In the few days I had with the camera I saw the Canon C500 Mark II. I thin-sliced it as best as I could. I saw what it could do in the hands of a cinematographer. I saw it. Canon has made a very good camera. Now, this is a quick review and not so much of a deep dive as I’d prefer.
What I Shot in 5 Days
I shot as much as I could squeeze into five days. This time frame allows me to see big picture items, but smaller details I may have passed over due to the time frame of the review loaner. I took the Canon C500 Mark II with me everywhere. I shot footage of my daughter playing with her tea set. I will do this every day, and it is the best place for initial camera testing. I shot some Canon Raw Lite at a nearby Tennessee Lake. I shot some general news footage for a cold-case story. Lastly, I shot a ton of footage of tourists partying on the redneck highway in Downtown Nashville.
Canon supplied me with three lenses: A Canon CN-E 50mm, a Canon CN-E 85mm, and a brand new Sumire 35mm. This last lens blew me away with its quality and look. The Sumire transformed my daughter’s tea party camera testing into something dream-like. Check it out. I shot this rec709 and the footage is straight out of the camera.
Noise reduction is NOT applied to the image in-camera when you shoot Canon Raw Lite. Raw in all its raw image flatness is what you should expect from the Canon C500 Mark II as you should expect from any raw image out of any camera. Hey, it is raw. I shot an ISO test for the 5.9K Raw to see what zero in-camera noise reduction looks like on screen. Usually, a colorist would apply the necessary amount of noise reduction when coloring raw footage if necessary.
Coloring Canon Raw Lite
On an old 2011 MacBook Pro, I need an upgrade, and the Canon Raw Lite was just barely editable. Look, I have 1.5GB of GPU, and I still was able to process the Canon Raw Lite, somehow. I would not suggest using a 2011 MacBook Pro for this processing. I do it because I like to see what a bare-minimum machine can accomplish.
On a much faster machine, this process was, well, faster. As it should be, right? The Canon Raw Lite does require a little more computer power than Blackmagic Raw, but not a ton. The biggest question I had was this: is shooting raw worth it on the Canon C500 Mark II? This video below is just a small example and one not totally well color corrected. I am uploading a new version now and will update the post when it is ready.
For those big shoots where you will have a dedicated colorist and need to deliver a well-curated image, then yes, the 5.9K Canon Raw Lite delivers impressively. If you are shooting smaller projects, or any project not needing Canon raw lite, the 4K 10-bit delivers way more than enough color, dynamic range, and sharpness. If I were to use the Canon C500 Mark II every day, I think 4K 10-bit would be what I would shoot nearly all the time.
The Canon C500 Mark II felt solid in my hands without being too heavy. Yet, the camera is light enough to allow a shooter to hand-hold the camera for an entire 12 hour production day. The less than four-pound camera felt a little lighter to me. This lightness could be explained by the form-factor.
The ability to build the camera to include four channels of audio, v-mount battery, and anything else needed for more significant productions or down to just a handgrip and LCD is a considerable asset for shooters. Think from shooting with the Canon C500 fully rigged up with monitors, wireless video transmitters and then undressing the camera to shoot hand-held from the front seat of a car. The Canon C500 can be as large as you need or as small as you need.
The thing about Canon’s C line-up is they all feel like medium format cameras in my hand. These are cameras I shoot from the chest with two hands holding the camera body. I like this style of shooting. I do not know why I do. Maybe it has something to do with being able to get the camera into more tight situations than a shoulder-mounted camera.
When one looks at the top of the Canon C500 Mark II, she/he will discover six mounting points. Three on each side of the top handle. Critical it has become to be able to mount accessories to a camera. These mounting points have enough distance between each mounting point to allow the mounting of multiple accessories at once.
The top handle is solid. A thumb screw and a hex hold down the Canon C500 Mark II top handle. The addition of a recessed cold shoe attachment also helps the top handle remain in place. This feature also makes lining up the top handle to the camera a little bit easier. This grip is an excellent feeling top handle and a significant improvement over older Canon styles.
The 4.3″ size LCD Touchscreen felt bright enough for most work. I will say, this time of year, Nashville is not the best place to test screen brightness and dynamic range. Our weather has been nothing but cloudy with a ton of rain for far too many days than I prefer. The one weak build area of the camera is where the LCS Screen is attached. To me, this does not seem like a big deal because it is a small piece of the camera and easily replaceable. You can also position the LCD in just about any placement.
The touchscreen? I did not touch it. I did not shoot with the dual pixel autofocus turned on in-camera. Sorry, I told you I might miss a few features on the Canon C500 Mark II, and I missed this one. Sorry.
Canon EU-V2 Expansion Unit 2
The Canon EU-V2 Expansion Unit is my favorite option from Canon because I could use my V-Mount batteries on the Canon C500 Mark II and gain two more audio inputs with controls on the operator side of the camera. One also gets five expansion ports with the EU-V2: Genlock/Sync Out, Remote B (RS-422), Ethernet, DC Out (24V, 2A), and a lens control port.
I hand-held my redneck highway footage when I used the EU-V2 Expansion Unit, and the only reason was to use V-Mount batteries for longer shoot times. This expansion unit adds 2.3 pounds of weight to the four-pound Canon C500 Mark II. The added weight did not affect my shooting at all. The longer camera body meant I could cradle the C500 Mark II and EU-V2 Expansion Unit in the elbow of my right arm with a V-Mount battery pushed against my bicep. I liked shooting this way. All of these Canon expansion units have a tight connection to the camera.
The four channels of audio in the Canon C500 Mark II are paired together. As in, Channel 1 and Channel 2 are ganged together and so are Channel 3 and Channel 4. You can set all four to XLR inputs or all four to the camera mic. Lastly, you can split one group to XLR and the other to the internal camera mic. You cannot have three XLR inputs and one channel set to the in-camera mic.
Canon EVF-V50 OLED Viewfinder for C500 Mark II
I liked the LCD so much on the Canon C500 Mark II I had to force myself to test the EVF-V50 OLED Viewfinder. If you have used a Canon C300, you may be familiar with the EVF on the Canon cinema cameras. The version for the Canon C500 Mark II is an OLED display with approximately 1.77 million dots with a great image. The screen felt significant in the loupe, and the picture felt like it evenly matched what the camera showed on the LCD screen. A big bonus for me? I could use the EVF-V50 OLED Viewfinder without my glasses. I am very near-sighted. The $699.00 EVF seems like an excellent option.
Canon EU-V1 Expansion Unit 1
Yea. I had five days with the Canon C500 Mark II, and this expansion unit got over-looked. Sorry, but I did not test the EU-V1. My apologies.
Channels 1 and 2 audio controls seemed to been squeezed into a tight spot on the back right side of the Canon C500 Mark II. Yep, on just the other side of the I/O connections and XLR inputs and under a tinted door, you will find the channel 1/2 audio controls. This audio placement is not ideal but works fine. Shooters will need to take their eyes off a screen or off an EVF to adjust audio. Not my favorite position. For sound recordists? They may love the placement because it gives them an unobtrusive view and operation of channel 1 and channel 2.
When using the Canon EU-V2 Expansion Unit 2, you gain Channel 3/4 inputs and controls on the left, or operator, side of the camera. Placing Channel 3/4 on this side of the camera is excellent for adjusting audio while shooting for a camera operator. Still, now you may have to navigate past XLR inputs on the operator side of the camera. Make use of angled XLR connectors to keep the left side of your camera as clear as possible.
User Changeable Lens Mount
A first for Canon and much-needed addition. Changing the lens mount on the Canon C500 Mark II from an EF- Mount, Locking EF-Mount, or to a PL Mount is a two-minute process. Four hex screws and a few minutes was mostly all it took for me, or Contrast Visuals’ camera assistant Athena, to swap out a lens mount. Now, we did this without changing shims, which will take more time. The process was easy as it should be.
5-Axis Image Stabilization
A new feature currently only found on the C500 Mark II in the Canon EOS Cinema line is a built-in five-axis electronic IS that works with almost any lens, including anamorphic lenses. Sometimes I am dumb. Ask my wife, and she will tell you it is more times than “sometimes.” In a moment of complete idiocracy, I did not test the 5-axis image stabilization. I even had the feature selected a couple of times, and I still turned it off because I do dumb this sometimes. I have seen footage showing off the 5-axis image stabilization, and it looks fantastic, but I cannot confirm how great it is because, again, I am dumb and didn’t test this feature. Dumb. Yes, dumb.
Can the Canon C500 Mark II shoot full-frame anamorphic? If you have a full-frame anamorphic lens, then yes, you can shoot full-frame anamorphic. Or, you can crop into a Super 35mm image and go with a standard Anamorphic lens, which is far more available. I tested the anamorphic setting with a couple of Elite Optik anamorphic lenses from Nashville rental house Contrast Visuals. These lenses did vignette on the full-frame setting, and in Super 35mm, the vignette cropped out. Both the LCD and HDMI output de-squeezing options.
Many have nicknamed the section of Nashville known for partying, country music, and generally seen as a tourist trap. Broadway in Nashville, TN is all Honky Tonks, and none of them look especially great.
I took the Canon C500 MarkII down to Redneck Highway on a frigid evening. With only a Canon CN-E 85mm and the camera, I searched for something interesting. The Canon C500 Mark II made the search easy. Camera in hand and suddenly I could focus only on the interesting and not the trash problem that litters the city. The 4K 60p footage turned out amazing, I think. The 4K image is sharp and clear. The colors, as I hope you can see, are a level of saturation wholly new to me without coming off garish or strange. Ignore the shots where a cheap LED is rolling in the image. Most bars in Nashville do not have great lighting.
Look, if you are going to shoot 512 GBs of footage and expect a super-fast offload, you are crazy. With that said, the offload of the Sandisk 512 CFExpress card, via Sandisk reader, took way longer than I expected. Rumor has it a few of the Sandisk CFExpress readers floating around may not be reading as fast as they should. Has anyone else come across a similar situation?
Oh my, the skin tone is fantastic. Do not take my word for it. Check out these skin-tone tests I shot. Below are four videos: Rec709, C-log2, C-log3, PQ, and HLG from the camera in two different skin-tones. Then I took each clip and applied the corresponding LUT. If I did not have one, I tried to color correct to best match the Rec709 example. This is not a perfect example, but I think this shows just how good a standard look out of the Canon C500 Mark II appears.
Now, these tests above are what comes already loaded into the camera. Here is what Canon says about LUTs used in the C500 Mark II, “Users can upload and apply custom LUTs to the C500 Mark II. LUTs can be assigned to specific output terminals and the LCD or viewfinder. Clients can be viewing one LUT, while production works from another, giving different production roles the ability to customize the look of the image to their needs.”
Missing From this review is likely quite a bit. Remember, I only had five days with the Canon C500 Mark II, and five days is not nearly enough time to test and peek at every single feature in a brand new camera. But, five days is more than enough time to realize the Canon C500 Mark II is a beautiful camera capable of so much more than just helping craft a beautiful image.
Canon C500 Mark II Highlights:
- 5.9K FF CMOS sensor
- 15+ stops dynamic range
- EF Mount
- Dual Pixel CMOS AF
- Canon RAW Light Recording
- XF-AVC Recording
- Touch/Face Detection AF
- Supports anamorphic lenses
- DIGIC DV 7 Image Processor
- User-changeable lens mount
- 5-axis electronic image stabilization