- It's pretty cheap. For around $1500, you can get a camera with a kit zoom lens, a decent prime lens (I chose the Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM, which works out to about an 85mm equivalent on the T3i due to it's sensor size), a bunch of decent SD memory cards, a bunch of batteries, and a basic filter kit.
- The T3i has a sort of sensor crop mode that's called "digital zoom', even though it only becomes that (as far as I know) once you increase the zoom factor more than the basic 3x level. This is nice for those of us who don't necessarily want to lug around a big zoom lens all the time, but it's really important if you need to shoot a subject that would normally cause moire and aliasing issues - since the sensor is cropped to 1920x1080 resolution instead of line-skipping from a higher resolution, the aforementioned artifacts are significantly reduced - at the cost of some image sharpness. Also, it's a 3x crop factor, so to keep the same framing and depth of field you might have to change to a wider lens/focal length or back up and sacrifice some of the image characteristics of having the camera closer to your subject.
- It has an articulating rear LCD display. This means you can see what you're shooting without having to always be right behind the camera. You can even flip the display over for checking framing while shooting yourself (which you might literally consider once you see how goofy you look on camera).
- It provides an upgrade path to other Canon DSLR and cinema cameras. By getting prime lenses that work on full-frame cameras, you're essentially future-proofing your investment in good glass that you can use on either better DSLRs or cinema cameras with a Super35-sized sensor and a Canon mount/adapter. The C300 seems like a decent upgrade goal, but you can also use Canon (or Nikon) glass on the newer Red cameras with an adapter.
The good news? I got Cineform Neo. Here's why that's awesome:
- It lets me transcode the 8-bit, 4:2:0 footage to 10-bit, 4:2:2 footage, at a fraction of the disk space of uncompressed footage - just like ProRes. Why is this important when it's not actually increasing the quality of the shot? Two words: Color correction. In general, any post processing that you do on footage benefits from a higher color bit-depth.
- Speaking of color correction, Cineform Neo has FirstLight, which is kind of the poor man's version of RedCineX. Like RedCineX, FirstLight lets you tweak color and contrast in meta-data. Translation: It lets you do really basic looks and color correction without rendering out a new file, and you can change the settings at any time, and those changes will show up in any program that can play the file.
- Cineform is a wavelet-based codec, which means that it kind of smooths the image a little, and compression artifacts look more like smears than blocks. This is an aesthetic preference, and it won't solve glaring compression artifacts from the original footage (I'm considering getting the Neat Video plugin for After Effects to help with that a bit), but it's still pretty cool.
- Like ProRes, Cineform is made to hold quality through multiple recompressions. I have yet to test this, but Cineform says anything at "High" quality or better can do this.
- It has a decent built-in capture program, so no need to launch your massive video editing program just to do a decent video capture.
- It has built-in presets for Premiere Pro, which happens to be my video editor of choice/necessity.
- It has no real image size constraints, so it can work with footage of any size, even 6K Red Epic footage (if you're insane).
- To get all the nifty features I've outlined above, you have to pay $300. I think they're worth it, but I could definitely see folks getting turned off by the price. The good news? Cineform NeoScene gives you just the conversion ability for $129.
- Cineform is about 2-4x larger than H.264 files depending on the source image complexity and Cineform's quality setting, so you'll need a bunch of storage space to convert your footage. Personally, I'm going to try to go for a film-style workflow and only convert clips as I intend to use them.
- Larger files means larger datarates, and if you're rocking single un-RAIDified hard drives like I am, your realtime capture will be thusly limited to standard definition (unless you like dropped frames).
Next up? Trying out the proxy generation feature of Cineform; which retains the metadata of the parent file, even if you manipulate it after making the proxy. Translation: any color corrections made in FirstLight is automatically applied to both the proxy and the original Cineform files. Also, I'm trying to figure out how to expose outdoor scenery properly. I think a color chart might be in order. Oh, and maybe posting some of my test videos like I promised people ages ago.