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Canon C500 Mark II Noise Tests in Full-Frame and Super35

Testing the noise levels on the Canon C500 Mark II in Full-Frame and Super35 modes. Princeton, NJ. June, 2020.

I have been testing Canon’s new Cinema EOS C500 Mark II camera. It’s a full-frame video camera which can also record in Super35 and Super16. While many reviewers and owners have commented on its full-frame capabilities there has been less attention to its Super35 mode.

In this video I look at the noise characteristics of the C500 Mark II in full-frame and in Super35. Given that its Super35 is a physically smaller area than full-frame and that in Super35 the camera has a 1:1 4K pixel crop as opposed to full-frame where it downsamples from 5.9K to 4K, the odds are that Super35 will be noisier than full-frame. The question is by how much and whether one should use in-camera controls to mitigate the difference?

Canon C500 Mark II Noise in Full-Frame and Super35 on Vimeo and YouTube.

In the video we see that the image noise looks to be about 1.5 stops worse in Super35 than it is in full-frame. As mentioned, it is not surprising there is a difference but to see them juxtaposed is pretty striking. I no longer have a C300 Mark II to test against, so I can’t definitively say if the noise is better or worse than a C300 Mark II with its Super35 4K capture. It will be interesting to see how the C500 Mark II’s Super35 4K mode compares to the newly announced Canon C300 Mark III with its new dual-gain output chip.

To the second part of my question, should one use in-camera controls to mitigate the noise in Super35 mode, there is an in-camera solution. This comes thanks to UK C500 Mark II owners Simon of Power Boyz and Adam Kirby. They got wind of this issue and consulted with Canon UK who came up with a solution which involves going into the C500 Mark II’s Noise Reduction settings.

Canon C500 Mark II Noise Reduction settings. Spatial Filter and Frame Correlation.

On the C500 Mark II there are two parameters in the Noise Reduction setting, the Spatial Filter and Frame Correlation. One note: Noise Reduction is found in the camera’s Custom Profile tab and you’ll need to “unprotect” any of the shipped profiles in order to edit to them.

*The Spatial Filter controls noise by blurring the image. It has a scale of 1-12 plus Off with its factory default set at “1”. Frame Correlation controls noise by evaluating it relative to a previous frame. It has levels 1-3 plus Off. Its factory default is set to “Off”. Frame Correlation does not affect resolution but it does carry with it the potential to create image ghosting based on movement within the frame or due to camera movement.

You’ll want to leave the Spatial Filter as it is at 1 but the good news is that switching Frame Correlation from Off to 1 corrects the increased noise in the camera’s Super35 mode. According to Canon the reason behind this is that the C500 Mark II’s noise reduction system is optimized for the full-frame sensor. As such, it will produce more perceived noise when in Super35 mode.

You can see this change and correction in action in my video at 01:18. I compare a frame at ISO 3200 in Super35 mode with and without Frame Correlation set to 1. As far as the potential ghosting goes, I show two tests at the end of my video where there is subject movement or camera movement. I cannot see any ghosting in them caused by Frame Correlation being set to 1 but those are quick initial tests. The questions going forward will be if it causes a noticeable effect in certain filming situations and also whether one should change Frame Correlation to 1 for all modes regardless or if it is better set only when one is using Super35 mode?

*Please note: in the video I use “Off” and “0” interchangeably.

Update 06/11/2020: Adam Kirby, mentioned above, has his C500 Mark II noise tests on his YouTube channel along with comparisons to the Canon C200 and the Canon C300 Mark II.

Update 07/01/2020: I have added a follow-up article looking at whether it is okay to leave Frame Correlation set to “1” all the time, Canon C500 Mark II Noise Tests Part II.