The Canon C200 and C500 Mark II are very different cameras. They are also very similar. Both have raw recording, both are part of the Canon Cinema EOS system, and both offer some of Canon’s latest technology—including the much-loved Dual Pixel CMOS AF. The differences are quite big, however, with the C200 packing a 4K Super 35mm sensor and the C500 Mark II being a 5.9K full-frame system as well as a significantly higher price.
Really, what everyone wants to know is if those added benefits of the C500 Mark II make it worth the significant upgrade over the C200 for the everyday indie filmmaker. Chris Francis is one of those filmmakers and put together his own image quality comparison between the two cameras.
This was a very practical test that Francis put together. It’s a straightforward side-by-side comparison and focuses in on the most common recording modes of the cameras.
This is the Canon C200’s 4K raw and UHD XF-AVC modes against the C500 Mark II’s 6K full-frame raw and 4K full-frame XF-AVC settings. He points out that he is choosing only the full-frame modes on the C500 because the 4K Super35 mode basically matches the spec of the C200. Fair enough.
Another tidbit about the test is about the lenses. The C200 uses a 50mm set to f/3.5 while the C500 Mark II uses an 85mm set to f/5.6. This was to make sure that depth of field and other image-related concerns due to different sensor sizes can be compensated for as best as possible. Also, a little bit of exposure compensation was used to equalize the images.
The most interesting differences were between the C200’s raw recording and XF-AVC settings because the XF-AVC showed significant differences in color and saturation. Now, the C500 Mark II’s XF-AVC mode was much closer to the C200’s raw.
This is significant if you want to use more compressed recording modes for your shooting. A better image straight out of camera can save a lot of time. Also, the C500 appears to be a bit more detailed than the C200, which makes a ton of sense since it is doing downsampling internally.
Now, the C500’s raw mode has even more benefits with its full 6K output for even more detail and information. There is also the not-so-subtle fact that the C500’s full-frame sensor is allowing the capture of a different overall look and feel to the shot. Even when matched up closely, that larger sensor and longer lens are nice to have.
The second round included the same clips with some grading and sharpening. It basically wants to see if you can get the C200 even closer to the C500 Mark II’s quality. Closing the gap can mean that the cost savings are well worth it for some shooters.
How about dynamic range? Well, that was next, and the cameras appear to be surprisingly close in this test. I would guess the C500 might be able to squeak out a minor victory is scientific testing, but who shoots in super controlled conditions all the time anyway.
The real advantage came when looking at noise. It was very clear when zooming into the raw clips that the C500 has a significant advantage when it comes to low-light as the noise was dramatically reduced in full-frame raw recording.
However, this advantage mostly comes from the fact that to match the images the C500’s 6K image is downsampled to 4K, which will reduce the appearance of noise. At 200% on each, it’s a more even comparison. Considering most will be downsampling the C500’s 6K image into a 4K timeline, this is still something significant to consider.
I think the C200 is a very solid pick for most indie filmmakers, though if you need a little bit more or want the best, the C500 Mark II is a great investment. It’ll provide a better, cleaner image and, to my eye at least, the color seems to be handled better on the C500 Mark II. And, you can transform it into the C200 by popping it into Super 35mm mode. What are your thoughts?