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The Cinema EOS System explained

The Cinema EOS System explained

January 2012

Canon’s Cinema EOS System for professional filmmakers and cinematographers sees the merging of several of Canon’s existing technologies and product categories to produce a groundbreaking filmmaking system that spans Digital Cinema Cameras; EF and PL mount lenses, and DSLR cameras. CPN takes a closer look at the Cinema EOS System to explain its key technologies, features and benefits for production and post-production.

Cinema EOS System

Announced in November 2011 the Cinema EOS System fuses together Canon’s proven proprietary technologies in the fields of video, lenses, CMOS sensors and image processing to provide a high-quality, versatile system for the filmmaking and broadcast industries.

System at launch

At launch (in November 2011) the Cinema EOS System included the EOS C300 (EF mount) and EOS C300 PL (PL mount) Digital Cinema Cameras, a range of seven 4K ready lenses in a mixture of EF and PL lens mounts, plus the news that Canon is currently developing a digital SLR camera that’s equipped with a 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor and will support the recording of 4K video. These imaging products fuse together Canon’s proven proprietary technologies in the fields of video, lenses, CMOS sensors and image processing to produce the high-quality, versatile Cinema EOS System for the filmmaking industry.

EOS C300 and C300 PL – key features

  • 8.3 Megapixel Super 35mm CMOS sensor; Full HD
  • Interchangeable lenses – C300 (EF mount), C300 PL (PL mount)
  • Compact, modular design. Lightweight: 1669g (C300), 1869g (C300 PL) body only
  • Broadcast-ready 50Mbps MPEG-2 MXF recording (4:2:2) to two CF cards
  • Industry-standard outputs including HD-SDI
  • High sensitivity: low noise images at up to ISO 20,000
  • Extensive image customisation, including built-in Canon Log Gamma
  • PAL, NTSC and 24.00p mode as standard
  • Slow/fast motion, adjustable in 1fps steps
  • WiFi remote control capability via HTTP or Canon WFT-E6 unit
  • Seamless integration with existing workflows

Modular system with compact body design

The EOS C300 and C300 PL Digital Cinema Cameras have compact bodies that have a modular design for superb mobility and expandability. The core system incorporates the body, handle grip and thumb rest.

The cameras weigh 1669g (C300) and 1869g (C300 PL) and, at 133mm wide and a depth of just 171mm, the C300 and C300 PL allow for low-angle shooting, shooting alongside walls and straight-on shooting in confined spaces.

The EOS C300 and C300 PL cameras have compact bodies that are just 133mm wide and 171mm deep thus enabling easy shooting at tight angles and in small spaces. The C300 weighs 1669g (body only) and the C300 PL 1869g (body only).

The viewfinder unit tips up 60 degrees for shooting in narrow spaces and a display panel on the back of the cameras allows for easy checking of recording information – the panel can be backlit in low light situations.

With the option of removing the LCD panel and grip the resulting decreased body size can be mounted in very small and unusual places for creative shooting. A top socket allows you to add accessories such as an external microphone, a wireless receiver or a camera light. There are four Start/Stop buttons located in different positions around the cameras for easy access in any shooting situation. To help prevent any accidental operator error the buttons of the C300 and C300 PL cameras are separated by ridges and protrusions, while a lock switch locks all controls except for the recording button.

The dust-proof, splash-proof design of the cameras withstands everyday use in the field. Sealing flaps around the edges of access covers, dials fitted with o-rings on the axis of rotation and button key-tops are sealed with rubber boots to keep water out.

EF and PL lens mount compatibility

From the very start the Cinema EOS System has widespread compatibility with both Canon’s wide range of EF lenses and the PL lens mount; the standard lens mount in the filmmaking industry. This has been backed up by the announcement of a 4K Canon Cinema Lens series that currently includes seven lenses.

The Canon Cinema Lens series currently includes seven lenses: the CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6L S (EF mount), the CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6L SP (PL mount), the CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7L S (EF mount), the CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7L SP (PL mount), the CN-E24mm T1.5L F, the CN-E50mm T1.3L F and the CN-E85mm T1.3L F.

At launch this Cinema Lens series includes four zoom lenses: the CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6L S (EF mount), the CN-E14.5-60mm T2.6L SP (PL mount), the CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7L S (EF mount), the CN-E30-300mm T2.95-3.7L SP (PL mount), plus three EF mount single focal length lenses – the CN-E24mm T1.5L F, CN-E50mm T1.3L F and CN-E85mm T1.3L F.

All seven of the lenses deliver 4K (4096x2160 pixels), optical performance and offer compatibility with Super 35mm-equivalent sensors. Additionally, the three single focal length lenses can be used with cameras equipped with 35mm full-frame sensors, plus APS-C and APS-H format cameras.

Canon’s EF lens mount was launched at the same time as the 1987 introduction of the EOS series of SLRs and the EF lens mount compatibility opens up many creative possibilities. Currently the Canon EF lens range has over 60 different lenses for a total focal length range that stretches from 8mm up to 800mm, and also includes the EF1.4x III and EF2x III converters.

The introduction of the C300 and C300 PL Digital Cinema Cameras gives filmmakers who are already shooting Full HD video with Canon EOS DSLRs and EF lenses the opportunity to upgrade their systems, or for PL mount filmmakers to take advantage of the range of benefits in the Cinema EOS System to incorporate it into their workflow.

Front views of the EF mount EOS C300 (above, left) and PL mount EOS C300 PL (above, right) showing the different lens mounts of the two cameras.

The new Cinema Lens series also opens up a number of handling advantages and creative possibilities. Key features of the lenses include the use of an 11-blade aperture diaphragm that delivers soft, attractive blur. The zoom lenses feature engraved zoom, focus and iris markings on angled surfaces for improved readability from behind the camera.

The lenses employ anomalous dispersion glass that’s effective in reducing chromatic aberration, plus large-diameter aspherical lenses. By utilising all of these lens technologies these lenses are able to achieve high-resolution imaging from the centre of the frame to the outer edges.

The lenses can be used with standard manual and electronic movie industry accessories, as well as matte boxes. Featuring a unified front lens diameter and uniform gear positions, the lenses do away with the need to adjust or reposition accessory gear when switching between other lenses in the Cinema Lens series.

Image Quality

The Cinema EOS System continues Canon’s long history of producing quality imaging products for professionals. With Canon sensor and processor technologies, 4K Cinema Lenses, and compatibility with Canon’s EF lens range, the system produces footage to satisfy all the needs of demanding filmmakers.

8.3 Megapixel Super 35mm CMOS sensor

The ‘imaging heart’ of the EOS C300 and C300 PL Digital Cinema Cameras is a large, newly developed, 8.3 Megapixel Super 35mm Canon CMOS sensor for outstanding Full HD imaging performance. This sensor has a pixel size that is larger than that seen in conventional professional camcorders, thus enabling greater light-gathering capabilities.

This much greater light-gathering capability of the new Cinema EOS System dramatically reduces noise in low light situations, delivering clean, high-resolution images in natural light setups where filmmakers would need extra lighting when shooting with a conventional camcorder. The enhanced sensitivity of the C300 and C300PL cameras means that low noise images can be captured at up to ISO 20,000.

The large 8.3 Megapixel Super 35mm-equivalent CMOS sensor in the EOS C300 and C300 PL Digital Cinema Cameras has a pixel size larger than that for conventional pro camcorders, thus enabling greater light-gathering capabilities for high sensitivity and low noise.

The CMOS sensor reads 1920x1080 Full HD video signals for each of the three RGB primary colours to deliver signal processing that is equivalent to the processing seen in 3-chip RGB systems. CMOS sensors cannot distinguish colours, so light must pass through a colour filter for separation into the three primary colours of red, green, and blue. The most common filter array used for this purpose is the Bayer array; within the Bayer array filtering, each pixel has data for only one colour.

Three values for red (R), green (G), and blue (B) are interpolated from average values that are determined using the colour data of other, surrounding pixels. Because interpolation algorithms vary by manufacturer and device, discrepancies can occur in colour reproduction. In the C300 and C300 PL cameras twice as many green pixels as red or blue pixels are used because the human eye is more sensitive to greens, so a higher green resolution translates into a higher apparent resolution.

A typical 2 Megapixel Bayer array uses a narrow optical low-pass filter to reduce moiré. Moiré is also known as ‘interference fringes’ and refers to the same kinds of stripes or false colours that appear when photographing a regular pattern when the pixel resolution and pattern frequency do not match. The same phenomenon occurs in printing when images are converted to dots using halftone screens. The 8.3 Megapixel system in the C300 and C300 PL Digital Cinema Cameras means no pixel interpolation is needed, which results in a decreased incidence of moiré while realising high resolution with 1,000 horizontal TV lines.

Thanks to a new photo diode structure the larger CMOS sensor has a faster readout and increased capacity to provide a wider dynamic range. Unlike CCDs, which read all pixels at once, CMOS sensors scan one line at a time. For this reason, when fast-moving subjects are shot, the portion most noticeably in motion may be diagonally distorted – an inherent shortcoming of CMOS sensors called ‘rolling shutter skews’. The High-speed data readout developed by Canon reduces the skew effects caused by rolling shutter, thus resulting in the realistic reproduction of moving subjects.

DIGIC DV III processor

The DIGIC DV III processor is the latest iteration in the DIGIC DV family. Greater processing power provides enhanced colour gradation, wide dynamic range and beautiful reproduction of skin tones, in addition to supporting features such as extensive image customisation.

The combination of the large CMOS sensor with Canon’s high-performance DIGIC DV III image processor facilitates high-precision gamma processing and smooth gradation expression.

Canon Log Gamma

The C300 and C300 PL allow users to adjust image quality to match that of professional camcorders and EOS DSLR cameras, and offer Canon Log Gamma, enabling neutral image quality with subdued contrast and sharpness for a wider dynamic range (up to 800% or 12 stops of latitude) and maximum freedom in post-production editing and processing.

Canon Log Gamma has been designed with post-processing in mind and when it is selected users can preview on the monitor how Custom Pictures will look once applied. Canon Log Gamma also allows for seamless conversion to the industry-standard 10-bit Cineon format for colour grading, whilst Apple and AVID plug-ins are provided for efficient importing of recorded files into non-linear editing software.

Creative Control

The highly flexible Cinema EOS System allows filmmakers full control over every aspect of image capture – from frame rates to using PL and EF mount lenses, and from wide exposure latitude to customised shooting options – for quality, creative filmmaking.

Recording modes and variable frame rate recording

The EOS C300 and C300 PL Digital Cinema Cameras can record in 1080p, 1080i and 720p mode supporting both PAL and NTSC standard frame rates. These frame rates include 1080p/25, 1080i/50, 720p/50 and 720p/25 for PAL and 1080p/30, 1080i/60, 1080p/24, 720p/60 and 720p/24 for NTSC.

Because the standard 24p mode for NTSC is actually 23.98 frames a second, Canon has included an extra 24.00p-recording mode which matches the 24 frames per second (fps) frame rate of film cameras for high compatibility with common film production workflows.

The standard frame rates can be adjusted in increments of 1fps from 1 to 60 frames a second, depending on the recording standard selected, enabling the same over- and under-cranking options found in traditional film cameras. With this system fast motion shooting is available at up to 60x normal speed and slow motion down to 1/2.5x.

Built-in ND filters

The built-in ND filters are made from glass to prevent damage from the sunlight and allow for shooting with shallow depth-of-field, even with the iris open in daytime scenes. A four-layer system is used offering three densities – 0.6 (2-stop), 1.2 (4-stop) and 1.8 (6-stop) – with ND0 being clear.

The EOS C300 and C300 PL cameras feature built-in ND filters. A four-layer system is used, offering three densities – 0.6 (2-stop), 1.2 (4-stop) and 1.8 (6-stop) – with ND0 being clear.

Custom Pictures

On the C300 and C300PL up to 20 different Custom Picture profiles can be stored. For each profile 90 variables can be set including Gamma, Black, Black Gamma, Low Key SAT, Knee, Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Skin Detail, Selective NR, Colour Matrix adjustment, White Balance, and Colour Correction. With the Custom Picture system users can freely adjust image quality for greater control over how content looks. User created Custom Pictures profiles can be saved to SD cards to enable profile sharing on multiple cameras.

Creative possibilities

Time-lapse photography enables users to program the cameras to record a specified number of frames at specified intervals for a specified amount of time. This is useful for observing changes in natural phenomena over extended periods. Frame recording records a specified number of frames and is useful in clay animation and similar types of stop motion production.

Camera Operation

The Cinema EOS System is designed to meet the needs of many different users – from news gatherers to documentary makers, commercial directors and more. With a compact, modular design, superb handling, customisable controls, and a durable build, the system ensures you get the shot in every situation.

Left hand side view of the C300. Note the control for the built-in ND filters, dials for easy operation and the Custom Picture button.

Customised operation

The operation of EOS C300 and C300 PL can be customised to suit the needs of different users. Any one of 30 functions can be assigned to 15 different buttons on the cameras to give easy access to the functions you use most. You can also store your favourite button configurations to SD card to transfer to other Canon C300 cameras.

Using the ‘My Menu’ system of the C300 and C300 PL cameras you can select and store up to 14 of your most frequently used menu items that, via one push of a button, allows you quick access to these settings whilst shooting. As with button configuration storage you can save the My Menu settings to an SD card and load them to other C300-series cameras.

Camera operation can be fine-tuned using 12 Custom Functions. You can configure functions, such as shockless white balance or iris ring direction, to operate the cameras the way you want.

The 4.0-inch (10.1cm), ultra sharp, high quality 1.23 million-dot LCD panel can be rotated to the side of the cameras – this allows for easy monitoring of scene composition when operating the cameras sideways.

High quality, 1.23 million-dot LCD panel

A 4.0-inch (10.1cm), ultra sharp, high quality 1.23 million-dot LCD panel rotates forward and back through 270 degrees with an optimal position for shoulder-mounted shooting. The panel can also be rotated to the side of the cameras that allows for easy monitoring of scene composition when operating the cameras sideways.

The C300 and C300 PL cameras carry the assist functions seen on Canon’s XF-series of professional camcorders – these include magnification, peaking and an edge monitor function to ease and secure focusing.

WiFi remote control

The WiFi remote control capabilities that enable photographers to shoot still images with Canon’s EOS DSLRs wirelessly have been transferred across to the Cinema EOS System. Remote control shooting is available for the C300 and C300 PL cameras by using a Canon WFT-E6 Wireless File Transmitter unit and common devices such as smartphones, tablet computers or notebooks (verified browsers are Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox, and standard Android browser).

The right hand side of the C300 – note the SD card slot, mic terminal and WFT slot that accepts the Canon WFT-E6 unit to allow for WiFi control. WiFI control is also possible via devices such as smartphones, tablet computers or notebooks using verified browsers.

This WiFi shooting control allows for enhanced mobility when shooting in such situations as crane-mounted cameras or for other scene shooting when direct control isn’t possible. In addition to starting and stopping recording users can also focus remotely (in three levels) and adjust the aperture (iris) when an EF lens is mounted, whilst metadata input is also supported. Metadata input includes clip title, creator, location, description, GPS information, altitude, longitude and latitude, plus OK/check mark and SHOT mark.

When shooting wirelessly on notebooks and tablets the control screen user interface will display metadata input, focus control, iris control, status display (time code, media free space and recording icons), Live View, recording trigger, and camera settings (shutter speed, white balance, gain and other parameters). On smartphones the display shows iris control, metadata display, Live View, focus control and the recording trigger.

Production Workflow

With a Full HD MPEG-2, 4:2:2, 50Mbps codec, multiple recording options, file-based recording to CF cards, industry-standard HD-SDI, Genlock and Timecode terminals, rich audio controls… and more, the Cinema EOS System delivers stunning footage and Full HD movie workflow compatibility and flexibility.

Broadcast-ready 50Mbps MPEG-2 MXF 4:2:2 codec

In early 2010 Canon announced a Full HD MPEG-2, 4:2:2, 50Mbps codec that records in the industry-standard Material eXchange Format (MXF) file format for its digital camcorders. It has thus far been deployed in Canon’s XF305, XF300, XF105 and XF100 camcorders and the codec is now also in the EOS C300 and C300 PL Digital Cinema Cameras – this enables a combination of outstanding imaging performance, plus Full HD movie workflow compatibility and versatility.

The 4:2:2 colour sampling provides twice the vertical colour resolution of 4:2:0 enabling better gradation, finer detail, and smoother diagonals as well as helping to eliminate the threat of jagged edges, fringing and unwanted artefacts during chroma keying. The 4:2:2 colour sampling enables high quality post-production work that may simply not be possible using a 4:2:0 recording format, whilst the 50Mbps MPEG-2 codec balances broadcast-ready image quality with manageable file sizes, thus reducing storage and archiving costs.

The C300 and C300PL cameras feature two hot swappable CF card slots for continuous or simultaneous recording to both cards at the same time for backup and sharing purposes.

Carrying this codec Canon’s XF305 and XF300 professional camcorders are the only handheld/non-shoulder mounted HD cameras that have been accepted by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for HD programme production without the need of an external recorder with a higher quality codec.

Seamless workflow integration

The MXF wrapper is an industry-standard file format that’s widely used throughout the world of professional filmmaking: this enables seamless integration of the Canon EOS C300 and C300 PL cameras into existing workflows. Comprehensive metadata can be stored within the MXF video files thus simplifying archiving, searching and overall clip management, and saving time.

Straightforward workflow integration is key for film and video production and is catered for thanks to additional 35Mbps and 25Mbps recording modes and compatibility with all of the major NLE software packages.

Recording to Solid State memory can transform the way you work, increasing efficiency and reducing costs. Up to 82 minutes of 50Mbps HD footage can be stored on one 32GB CF card. Archiving video or ingesting for editing is simply a matter of connecting a suitable CF card reader to a computer via USB.

Back view of the EOS C300 showing terminals including HDMI, HD-SDI, Timecode, Genlock, audio terminals, plus dual CF card slots and back LCD information panel.

Footage can easily be browsed and reviewed in-camera via thumbnail images of each scene, saving time on the shoot. In addition markers can be added to highlight key moments so there’s no more fast-forwarding/rewinding to find the point you want.

Industry-standard terminals

The C300 and C300 PL cameras feature industry-standard HD-SDI, Genlock, and Timecode terminals, as well as independent audio controls and XLR inputs with phantom power. The SDI and HDMI terminals allow for simultaneous output, for example to an external recorder and an external monitor.

The genlock system makes it possible to perfectly synchronise multiple cameras for studio use and the shooting of 3D content.

Post-production Workflow

Canon’s Full HD MPEG-2, 4:2:2, 50Mbps codec records in the industry-standard Material eXchange Format (MXF) file format thus enabling incredibly high quality images, seamless integration into existing NLE workflows, and robust digital files that can easily handle major post-production work.

Workflow integration

Post-production is where the vision of filmmakers becomes reality. With the EOS C300 and EOS C300 PL cameras your image files can accommodate everything that post-production can throw at them. The 8.3Mb CMOS sensor rivals 3-chip performance, breaking out clean HD bandwidth RGB signals without any of the distortions associated with a de-bayering process.

The Cinema EOS System seamlessly integrates into NLE workflows using industry-standard file formats to make the post-production process as smooth as possible. It produces digitally robust files that are easy to transfer and preview, and hold up extremely well to multiple changes and multiple saves, multiple times.

The Cinema EOS workflow uses broadcast-ready 50Mbps MPEG-2 MXF recording (4:2:2) to two CF cards, and include industry standard terminals such as HD-SDI, Genlock, and Timecode terminals. The SDI and HDMI terminals allow for simultaneous output, for example to an external recorder and an external monitor.

File-based recording to CF cards

Rather than using proprietary and expensive memory systems, the EOS C300 uses two card slots to record to cost-effective and readily available Compact Flash (CF) Cards. Recording functions include relay recording, concurrent dual-slot recording, hot swapping and file copy and backup.

CF cards facilitate workflow-reducing transfer times when moving files to NLE systems. For expedition documentaries or reality TV, one card can be kept local, or backed up to a storage device, while the other card is shuttled back to an editing crew in a distant location. Additionally, there's no need for special hardware or transcoding when remotely editing or editing ‘on-the-fly’.

Rich audio controls

Sound quality and design are critical to the final production, and are equally dependent on the recording hardware to ensure clean usable files for editing. The EOS C300 and C300 PL control units provide two XLR audio inputs with +48V phantom power. A 3.5mm microphone terminal is also built into the cameras. Audio is recorded uncompressed in 16-bit PCM format at 48 kHz for high fidelity sound. Both XLR inputs, as well as the mic terminal, offer automatic or full manual gain control (-Infinity to +18dB). Additionally, a 3.5mm headphone terminal with 16 volume settings offers accurate audio monitoring.


Sometimes the most surprising and useful footage is captured before the director calls "Action" or before the cinematographer sees the subject enter the frame. The Pre-Record function of the EOS C300/C300 PL cameras continually captures three seconds of footage and saves it in buffer memory. This buffer is written into the start of a clip once the record button is pressed. Pre-Record gives DOPs, directors and editors some latitude in editing, adding critical seconds of content that can make a scene or avoid a reshoot.

File Browser (XF Utility)

As an alternative to using third-party NLE systems, the Canon File Browser Utility (included on product CD) can be used to check footage and add metadata directly from the EOS C300 and C300 PL.

Canon’s Cinema EOS System delivers incredibly high quality images with a full 4:2:2 codec, creating digital files that are easily ingested and are robust for major post-production work.

24.00p recording mode

Because the standard 24p mode for NTSC is actually 23.98 frames a second, in the C300 cameras Canon has included an extra 24.00p-recording mode which matches the 24 frames per second (fps) frame rate of film cameras for high compatibility with common film production workflows.

Robust, high quality, industry-standard files

Canon’s XF codec supports Full HD 1920x1080 resolution, harnessing MPEG-2 4:2:2 compression at 50Mbps: all to realise the aesthetic look you seek. Whether making rough cuts from clips recorded on one camera or integrating time-coded shots from a number of synched cameras, professional filmmakers are completely dependent on the image quality coming from the camera to achieve the final look they envisioned.

With NLE, digital special effects and post-production processes, image files need to be robust to hold up to multiple changes and multiple saves, multiple times. Canon’s EOS C300 and EOS C300PL digital cinema cameras deliver incredibly high quality images with their full 4:2:2 codec, creating digital files that are robust enough for major post-production.