Mar 9, 2023
We’re living in a golden age of film and video camera technology. Starting from the 4K cameras in our smartphones and into some of the lowest price points for mirrorless and DSLR digital cameras, there’s great quality to be found by a number of brands these days.
However, as you start to move up higher in the world of video production, there are certain needs and features which higher-end filmmakers and directors require which you can no longer find at your mid-tier $3,000 price point cameras.
When looking at the different cinema cameras which are 100% designed just for video and just for high-end production there’s a lot more variables to take into consideration. And while there might not be as many options as the lower end, there are still plenty of worthy cameras to compare and contrast.
Let’s look at two of the most popular cinema cameras currently on the market, and — despite their large difference in price and use — let’s see just how well a $10,000 camera like the Canon C500 Mark II compares to one of the best cinema camera options out there with the Sony VENICE 2, which retails at over $50,000.
As you can see in the video above, we put these two cinema cameras to the test in a full-barrelled, hands-on battle to see how they stack up against each other on an actual production set.
Now, as our hosts explain in the beginning, these aren’t two cameras that you’d usually equate as being the same level in terms of production size and quality. Yes they’re both cinema cameras a step up above your standard flagship mirrorless cameras even from name brands like Canon, Sony, and Blackmagic.
However, as we’ve covered in the past, the Canon C500 is often thought of as a more run-and-gun cinema camera for smaller production teams shooting documentary-style or on the run. Its design is durable and easy to grab and go, whereas the VENICE 2 is about as high-end as they come in terms of design and function for large teams or the biggest sets.
Still, as we see in our hands-on battle, there are certain elements of each camera’s design and build which are actually quite one-to-one in terms of how it can perform in different cinematic settings. Which leads us to ask which is truly the better camera for different filmmakers and videographers’ needs.
Let’s take a look at each to go over their different strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s first look at this beautiful digital motion picture camera put out by Sony. As its name implies, the VENICE 2 is the heir apparent to their hugely popular and successful Sony VENICE cinema camera which — along with other mainstay high-end cinema cameras like the ARRI ALEXA and RED’s latest line of cameras — has been used on countless major films and television programs.
With 16-stops of dynamic range, internal recording ability onto high-speed ASX cards, and recording formats up to ProRes 4K 4444 and 422, the 8K capable Sony VENICE 2 has about every bell and whistle your camera crew could hope to use for any production type.
Every inch of the camera is designed for the highest-end use and with the sophisticated DP in mind with 8 integrated ND filters plus even assistant-side info screens and controls so your entire crew can work in any situation.
As far as downsides go, as our hosts explain in their video comparison, there aren’t a ton. The VENICE 2 performs admirably in pretty much all light situations, has ever tool and feature, and gives you some of the best video quality currently possible.
If you’re punching too far up though you might need some help with the color to really make its video pop, but other than that by far the biggest note of concern is simply the price… which leans much towards renting than purchasing. (And even then, it ain’t cheap.)
Here are the full specs and features:
Now moving on to the Canon C500 Mark II (which is owned and often used by our YouTube host Chris Haggerty), this is still very much a highly popular and useful cinema camera that surprisingly offers much of the same image quality and functionality as the VENICE 2, but at a much more reasonable price point.
While it’s not 8K capable, it still features a 5.9K Full-Frame CMOS sensor capable of DCI and UHD 4K which itself can feature output in full frame and a crop sensor for Super 35 and Super 16 frame sizes while still maintaining its highest resolutions.
If you’re using the EF mount version (as the team is in the video above), you can still use an interchangeable lens mount system to utilize all of your favorite lenses or punch up with a higher end rented set for a shoot. And again, despite not having the VENICE 2’s 16-stops of dynamic range, you’re only going down one stop as the C500 Mark II offers 15-stops as well as some nice Dual Pixel autofocus support.
Still, from our camera comparison tests, it was quite surprising to see just how well the C500 Mark II footage stacks up against the higher-end VENICE 2. Of course the VENICE 2 is overall the better camera with more range, but you’d be hard pressed to pick out which is the superior image for many of the normal video setups which the team put them both through.
As far as downsides go, the C500 is simply built differently and for different purposes. It doesn’t have as many of the full-team features and controls as it’s really meant more for solo or small team productions, rather than full camera camera crews. However, at roughly $10,000 compared to $50,000 price points, it’s hard to knock any of its faults too hard.
Here are the Canon C500 Mark II full specs and features:
At the end of the day though, as our YouTube hosts will agree, the value for each camera comes down to the filmmaker behind it and the needs for each individual project. In particular, the Sony VENICE 2 is not a camera which is usually worth purchasing outright. Instead it’s usually one rented for specific productions and with the cost passed through to the client or investor.
The C500 Mark II on the other hand, as in the case of our Soundstripe DP Chris Haggerty, is more worthy of your consideration for purchases as — with the right amount of work and opportunities — can pay for itself in the long run.
Ultimately though the decision will be up to you and just how much camera you’d like to handle, and your personal definition of what makes a great cinema camera.
And, as always, be sure to follow us on YouTube to check out our latest camera reviews and tutorials.