Almost all of my most recent documentaries for RAI and Mediaset have been made using this minimalist, self-contained equipment: that is, by carrying everything I needed in my backpack!
Being able to operate the camera without its handgrip (for this contingency Canon supplies, as part of its standard equipment, a small accessory: a thumb rest which can be screwed into the camera to replace the handgrip) turns out to be particularly useful from another point of view too: the use of the C300 on various kinds of supports, such as a mini-crane or steadycam, which aren't too heavy or bulky.
Many accessories of this kind have in fact been developed in recent years to provide filmmakers with cheap, light and portable creative equipment which is still able to give a minimum of cinematic flavour to the images; the problem is that in almost every case these accessories have been designed and produced bearing in mind just the HDSLR market, excluding the vast majority of prosumer video cameras, which weigh more than 3 or 4 kgs.
Without its accessories the C300 is instead much, much lighter.
In my own case, I use a rather particular custom-built crane that's lightweight and small enough for me to carry it in my backpack (this is a requirement that all my equipment must meet!). It's quick to set up even in unsteady conditions and it can reach at least up to a decent height of 3.20 – 3.50 metres.
Thanks to this crane I have no problems with the weight of the video camera (it's really sturdy and could potentially support much heavier cameras), but when you're in the mountains, in the desert or on a polar ice cap, the problem you come up against is finding the many kilograms of counterweight required to balance the crane. And that, of course, is something that you can't carry in your backpack.
I've noticed that by stripping the C300 completely of all accessories I need to reduce the weight of the ballast by at least 5 - 6 kgs, compared to around 15 – 17 kgs necessary for balancing the crane with the "complete" video camera. And in the field, where you make your ballast by filling a backpack with rocks, sand or ice, this is an important advantage. This is another reason why I can now take the crane with me on any trip, even the most extreme.
Obviously, as always, all that glitters is not gold! The price you have to pay for using the minimalist version of the C300 is the fact that it's impossible to do sound recordings with it.
This video camera, in fact, so as not to betray its "tough and spartan" PRO nature, has no built-in microphones and the two XLR audio inputs are positioned on the side of the monitor block. Therefore, if you don't mount the monitor, you can't connect a professional external microphone.
It's true that the main part of the camera also has a 3.5 mm mini-jack stereo input; but apart from the fact that using this makes you lose the "professionalism" of the XLR inputs and it doesn't support Phantom power, you're still left with the problem of needing to mount an external microphone, with no power supply, on the camera's sliding accessory-holder.
It therefore becomes indispensable to have an external audio recorder or an extra video camera equipped with built-in professional microphones available.
I know perfectly well that there are small, light microphones, without Phantom, equipped with stereo mini-jacks, that could be mounted directly on the C300's slide without significantly affecting the weight of the system, but.... and this is a BIG but.... at least as far as I'm concerned...
It would be "nonsense", out and out "production suicide" to put bad, amateur movie-quality audio together with the cinema-quality images that the C300 allows you to achieve. The film as a whole would be degraded to a low-level production.
And it would make it unjustifiable to spend the amount of money that a video camera like the C300 costs...
At the most, a small commercial microphone can turn out to be useful for making it easier to synchronize the video with the audio recorded using external recording devices.
The C300's modularity has another weak point that can't be considered unimportant: the monitor cable connections to the body of the camera.
They are well made and professional quality, but when being used for "tough" filming in the field they are exposed to being struck, pulled and twisted; and constant connection/disconnection doesn't seem to help them stay in one piece either... More than once I've had a problem with at least one of the 2 jacks non contacting perfectly and disconnecting the monitor and external microphone.
It's absolutely necessary to be really careful with them the whole time.
Even in moments of great agitation, in harsh environmental conditions, the assembly and disassembly of the monitor must always be done without rushing and without haste, because otherwise you risk ending up without what you need...
Another note of a practical nature must be made concerning the plastic casters that fasten both the monitor and the handgrip to the metal slides: you absolutely must avoid tightening them too much because they tend to "stick" and you'll go crazy when you try to unscrew them. In this case, too, the Canon engineers could have made a little more effort.
Ultimately, however, the Canon EOS C300 turns out to be an extraordinary companion for any filmmaker, and is always ready in any situation.
You throw it into your backpack and you're ready to go and shoot your film, in a position to fully concentrate on the scenes that you're aiming to capture.