A Canon EOS C300 Mark III attached to a drone, filming a ballerina in a bright fuchsia dress standing on the wing of a 747.
Cinematographer Steve Holleran found the Canon EOS C300 Mark III to be a step above its predecessors. "DoPs and operators are going to slip right into using the Canon EOS C300 Mark III. Everything is where you expect it and where you need it," he says.

In the middle of the Mojave Desert, near the town of Mojave, California, lies a giant aircraft scrapyard. Engines and fuselages sit covered in sand, relics of the past, next to huge, abandoned jumbo jets and other planes. For cinematographer Steve Holleran, this was the perfect location to bring a childhood dream to life and carry out the very first shoot with the Canon EOS C300 Mark III.

Through a dynamic ballet sequence, the LA-based cinematographer and adventure filmmaker challenged the camera's new DGO sensor and 16+ stops of dynamic range across a three-minute film involving harsh lighting conditions, action and bright colours.

"I've had a Canon camera with me on nearly every filmmaking adventure I've taken," says Steve, who shot acclaimed Netflix series Fire Chasers, scooped back-to-back Sundance nominations for his first three feature films, and is one of only a handful of cinematographers to shoot an entire feature film in one shoot. "Canon has been at the forefront of my feature and documentary work, from the Canon EOS C500 Mark II to the Canon EOS C700 FF, which I used on The Obituary of Tunde Johnson in 2019."

For his latest adventure, he took the Canon EOS C300 Mark III and a suite of Canon glass, including the new Canon CN10X25 IAS S lens, aboard an abandoned plane to put his creative vision to the test.

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Cinematographer Steve Holleran filming with a Canon EOS C300 Mark III from the ground, looking up at the wing of an aircraft.
"We put the Canon EOS C300 Mark III to the test on different platforms. It saw time on a car, drone, gimbal, tripod and slider setups," says Steve.
Cinematographer Steve Holleran uses a Canon EOS C300 Mark III to film a ballerina in a fuchsia silk dress, performing in the aisle of a 747.
"Shooting in the interior of the plane we had a lot of shadows in the interior and extreme highlights outside. This was a great place to test the dynamic range of a camera sensor to see what it can see in the shadows and what it can see the highlights in the same shot."
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What was your concept for this shoot?

"Boneyard Ballet is a magical journey following a ballerina dancing through an abandoned 747 jumbo jet in an airplane boneyard [graveyard]. It's essentially a visual ode to the art of flight – human and mechanical. We enter an old 747 through the cockpit, and in the cabin there's an old travel magazine. We see a picture of a ballerina dancing in an ad. As the page turns, it tears off and the foot of the ballerina steps out into the aisle – a reincarnated ballerina hops off the page from the past and we follow her on this lyrical dance."

Where did you get your inspiration for this movie?

"I used to take childhood trips with my dad to the mountains, and we would pass by old plane boneyards. Being an airline pilot, he would point out the planes he used to fly. He referred to them as 'big birds' and flight as a 'winged dance'. I happened to be practising Tchaikovsky on the piano around that time and was captivated by the idea of seeing a ballerina dance along the wing of a jet to Swan Lake. Boneyard Ballet was born out of those experiences."

What specs of the Canon EOS C300 Mark III stood out to you for this shoot in particular?

"I knew the Canon EOS C300 Mark III was going to be a good choice for shooting inside an airplane. The specs that instantly excited me were 4K RAW up to 120fps, 10 stops of internal ND, 16+ stops of dynamic range on the sensor and internal stabilization. Those four items together in a compact body made the Canon EOS C300 Mark III a cinematic unicorn."

How did the Canon EOS C300 Mark III feel in your hands?

"For a Canon user, it's like coming home. If you've ever used a Canon EOS C300 Mark II or a Canon EOS C500 Mark II, it's familiar, as the bodies, menus and buttons are all very similar. I loved that, because it means you spend less time thinking about how to operate the tool and more time using it to create. The internal ND up and down buttons are my favourite feature, as I can toggle between them with my left hand."

How did you find the new DGO sensor and the dynamic range it enabled you to capture?

"DGO – Digital Gain Output – enhances what the sensor can see in terms of stops of light. It gives the camera sensor 1.5 extra stops of latitude. The 16+ stops of dynamic range were a home run for me. I noticed it inside the plane looking out the windows. I noticed it on the wing looking up at the dappled clouds. It held and captured new details in the highlights that normally would be lost. That was exciting – plus knowing that what I was seeing would get ever better in the colour grade. I'd say it could see more – particularly in the highlights – than a large number of cinema cameras I have used."

A ballerina dancing on the wing of an aircraft being filmed by a cameraman on a forklift.
"There's a shot where our ballerina is airborne in a split leap at 120fps. I knew it was a dynamic shot in camera but when I saw it in post, I had to watch it over a few times to accept that it looked that much better in camera," says Steve. "It was delicately balanced, not too sharp, not too soft. It looked exactly what I had in my mind's eye when I conceptualised the piece. That to me is cinematic – and that's why I like Canon glass."
A cameraman with a Canon EOS C300 Mark III sat on the wing of an aircraft filming a ballerina dancing next to him.
"I was curious about how the dress would look in slow motion. There's a somewhat subjective relationship between fabric textures and their colours with each and every camera. Would it ripple and refract light the way it did in person or would it fall flat on camera? I was very pleased with the results all around."

How did the camera perform in low light?

"The plane interior was made up of a lot of low-light situations in the low range of the mid-tones and shadows. For me, it was one massive dynamic range and exposure test for the sensor, both at 24fps and 120fps. I was surprised by what it saw in the interior of the plane. It held highlights in the windows, three to four stops over what I would consider blown out. I could often literally see the rest of the boneyard through the windows and still have our ballerina properly exposed. I designed the interior of the plane with this test in mind and, from what I've seen, the Canon EOS C300 Mark III has outdone its predecessors. It captured a nuanced image across the shadows and picked up subtle gradations."

Did you make use of the Dual Pixel CMOS AF?

"We tested the autofocus and image stabilization inside the cabin on some of the tracking shots of our ballerina dancing. This was a great place to test the Dual Pixel CMOS AF, as there's a lot of movement and foreground to confuse an AF system. Its performance was great. I can see this function being extremely useful in single operator ENG situations, action sports and big movie stunts."

What rigs and accessories did you team the camera with?

"We put the Canon EOS C300 Mark III on a car, drone, gimbal, tripod and slider setups. Our shoot needed this flexibility and I also designed our shooting style with this in mind. I wanted something with a premium look but made using tools that indie filmmakers and documentarians have at their disposal, so we purposefully avoided cranes, jibs and dollies."

A Canon EOS C300 Mark III fully rigged for filming.

Canon EOS C300 Mark III: six key features and innovations

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What lenses did you choose and why?

"I worked exclusively with the suite of Canon lenses – PL and EF, cinema and still, prime and zoom. Canon opened up its massive inventory and allowed me to curate a specific set of glass for this shoot. It radically changed what I could do.

"For me, Canon glass has always created images that exceed expectations, even in unforgiving circumstances. There's a magical warmth to Canon glass – the lenses replicate light like you're looking at life 2.0.

"The Canon CN10X25 IAS S lens was the standout. I coupled that with the Canon Sumire Prime set, focusing particularly on the Canon CN-E14mm T3.1 FP X lens and the Canon CN-E35mm T1.5 FP X lens to take advantage of the scope of the 747 and the massive boneyard."

Cinematographer Steve Holleran uses a Canon EOS C300 Mark III to film a ballerina dancing in the aisle of a 747.
"You know when you put a Canon lens on it's going to be good day, but what you often see in editorial is unexpectedly imaginative."

What made the Canon CN10X25 IAS S lens a standout for you?

"The Canon CN10X25 IAS S lens is unbelievably versatile thanks to its small form factor, light weight, focal range, image quality, 1.5 extender and low T/2.95. I'm always looking for that sweet spot zoom that can cover the range I want, hit the low t-stop, and give me resolution without hyper-crispness. The Canon CN10X25 IAS S hit those three requirements out of the park – it does more than just about any other zoom on the market.

"It also has an insane focal range. As a DoP you're usually stuck carrying two zooms with you to cover a range like that, and usually one requires its own build-out with a specific matte box and support rods. The CN10X25 IAS S just slipped on like a glove as if it was another prime. I loved that aspect."

A cinematographer on a forklift films a dancer on the wing of a 747 in the desert.
"Out on the wing we had high sunlight coming through dappled clouds and we had a ballerina in a fuchsia dress. The test there was to see if the camera could hold the sun, the bright clouds, the white airplane and at the same time pick up the ballerina and her dress," says Steve.
Cinematographer Steve Holleran stands on the wing of an aircraft holding a Canon EOS C300 Mark III on a gimbal and films through the window.
"Build quality is essential, especially on location where you're dealing with real time limitations and a constantly changing environment," says Steve. "The heavier the camera, the harder it is to move around, and that means you lose time. Losing time is every filmmaker's nightmare."

How did you find the slow motion capture?

"I used 4K 120fps slow motion extensively through the whole piece, but you can see it particularly on the wing. The ballerina's final jump is all at 120fps. She is extended with the dress blowing in the wind for a long time and you really get to see the rippling effect. I loved being able to shoot at 120fps in RAW. You constantly have to compromise resolution or bit depth when shooting high-speed with a lot of cameras, but here you have high-speed and high-res options."

What recording format did you use, and why?

"We shot Canon Cinema RAW Light for its latitude and flexibility in post. I also recorded proxies internally at 2K ProRes 422, which I used to edit with. The ability to record proxies internally is a huge benefit. It means you can have RAW and 2K proxies ready to go straight out of camera. That's a life-saver in on-set dailies and throughout the post workflow."

Based on your experience in the field, how would you sum up the Canon EOS C300 Mark III?

"This camera should be on a lot of people's radar. It's jam-packed with high-end features in an ergonomic little body. The sensor quality is on a different level – you're looking at Canon EOS C300 Mark II quality, and the colour depth, the dynamic range and the latitude are really impressive.

"I would turn to it in a heartbeat on Super 35mm productions, from indie features to documentary series. I see it dominating a lot of action sports productions and live events and as a big win for a ton of shooters."

Autor Lucy Fulford

Steve Holleran's kitbag

The key kit pros use to shoot video

Steve Holleran using a Canon EOS C300 Mark III


Canon EOS C300 Mark III

Next-generation Cinema EOS picture quality with Canon's newly developed Super 35mm CMOS sensor, up to 120fps at 4K Cinema RAW Light, with a lightweight, modular design. "It's jam-packed with high-end features in an ergonomic little body. The sensor quality is on a different level," says Steve.


Canon CN10X25 IAS S

A new cine-servo telephoto lens with cinematic optical quality, thanks to its 11-blade iris, and broad focal length coverage but still compact and lightweight. "This lens is unbelievably versatile thanks to its small form factor, light weight, focal range, image quality, 1.5 extender and low f/2.95," says Steve.

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