Perfect partners: winning A/B-cam combinations

How do you choose the best B-cam to pair with your Cinema EOS A-cam? What features should you look for? Filmmakers and Canon experts offer their tips.
Alex Wykes with his fully rigged-up Canon EOS-1D X Mark III on top of a snowy mountain in Russia.

Filmmaker Alex Wykes paired two complementary Canon cameras on a heli-skiing shoot on the mountainous Kamchatka peninsula in Eastern Russia: a Canon EOS C300 Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS C300 Mark III) and a fully rigged-up Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens. © Richard Walch

In an ideal world, all professional filmmakers would have a main camera and an identical B-cam on every shoot – both set up the same, with the same lenses and codecs, for seamless integration. In reality, it is sometimes not possible to film on two top-tier Canon cinema cameras, so when a single camera just isn't enough, what are the alternatives? Opting for a different B-cam within the Canon range not only makes it possible to maintain a consistent look, but also offers distinct benefits, such as being able to take advantage of a smaller form-factor, different frame rates and enhanced low-light capabilities.

Brett Danton is a commercial filmmaker who has shot commercials for luxury car manufacturers, including Jaguar's F-PACE ad. He films on a Canon EOS C500 Mark II and uses a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III as his B-cam. The EOS-1D X Mark III has also proved to be a versatile B-cam for documentary filmmaker Alex Wykes, who pairs it with a Canon EOS C300 Mark II cinema camera on shoots that have taken him from the mountains of Russia to the Kalahari Desert. And documentary cameraman Dan Lightening – who has shot music videos for the Gallagher brothers, Nile Rodgers and Jamiroquai, as well as ads for leading brands – films on a Canon EOS C200, which works seamlessly alongside his Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

Here, the three filmmakers discuss their favoured Canon A/B-cam combinations and the benefits of pairing models with compatible lenses and codecs on their demanding shoots.

Two people stand in a valley looking at the Balcombe Viaduct in West Sussex, England.

The Balcombe Viaduct in West Sussex, England – the dramatic setting for Dan Lightening's skateboarding shoot, filmed on a Canon EOS C200 A-cam and a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV B-cam. © Dan Lightening

A Canon EOS 5D Mark IV on a tripod with a Canon EOS C200 behind, under the arches of the Balcombe viaduct.

The team put the Canon EOS C200 on a tripod and attached the EOS 5D Mark IV to a motorised gimbal, which gave them the speed they needed to capture not only the skateboarding action, but also the stunning scenery surrounding the viaduct. © Dan Lightening

1. Achieve a consistent aesthetic

It can be challenging to maintain a consistent look when shooting on different models, but rather than spending hours colour grading to match footage from different cameras, using two Canon cameras will help ensure that you capture footage with the same aesthetic and colour rendering.

When Dan Lightening filmed skateboarder Vladik Scholz at Balcombe Viaduct in West Sussex, he found it surprisingly easy to match his footage – despite filming in Cinema RAW Light on the Super 35mm Canon EOS C200 and in a standard non-Log codec on the full-frame Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

"The footage cut together perfectly," he explains. "The EOS 5D Mark IV has a really nice 30.4MP CMOS sensor. If you expose it correctly and shoot in environments that don't push the extremes too much, you get beautiful images – and there's enough there to tweak it in the grade."

Hybrid EOS cameras such as the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 Mark II are even more versatile B-cam options to run alongside a full-sized Cinema EOS A-cam. Not only do they feature next-generation full-frame CMOS sensors, they offer 10-bit RAW video capture at up to 6K (to an external recorder on the EOS R6 Mark II) or 8K (EOS R5), as well as 10-bit H.265 with Canon Log 3. These pro-level recording options make it even easier to blend clips with footage shot on Cinema EOS cameras.

The Canon EOS R5 C offers the ultimate in convenience. It is the smallest Cinema EOS camera and is based on the EOS R5's blueprint but features an extensive range of professional functions, including three Cinema RAW Light options, XF-AVC recording format, Look File support, a waveform monitor and more.

A technician wearing white gloves cleans the sensor of a Canon camera.

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"Because this is a Cinema EOS camera, it also supports Super 35mm and Super 16mm recording modes," explains Aron Randhawa, Product Marketing Specialist at Canon Europe. "Being able to go from full-frame to Super 35mm is really useful, as you can instantly match the field of view of a Canon EOS C300 Mark III or an EOS C70, for example. Its 8K full-frame sensor means that you're still getting 5.9K resolution at Super 35mm too."

A man leans down holding a Canon EOS R6 Mark II to video a woman cycling around a tight curve.

The Canon EOS R6 Mark II features digital focus breathing correction, which counteracts the focus breathing effect on lenses that don't suppress it optically. "It means that footage shot on a B-cam fitted with a more affordable lens will blend in more naturally with footage shot on an A-cam and, say, a Cine Prime lens," says Canon Europe's Mike Burnhill.

The rear screen of a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III being operated by a person wearing gloves in a snowy landscape.

The large rear screen of the weather-sealed Canon EOS-1D X Mark III was invaluable for composing shots during the mountain shoot. © Richard Walch

2. Maintain post-production flexibility

If you're shooting Log gamma with your A-cam for optimal dynamic range and editing flexibility, then it makes sense to have your B-cam doing the same. Canon Log options are supported by both Canon Cinema EOS cameras and hybrid EOS cameras – and two cameras using the same file format brings workflow advantages.

Canon Log is designed to deliver increased dynamic range, minimising loss of detail in the darkest and brightest parts of the image, and the technology came into its own during Alex Wykes' heli-skiing shoot on the mountainous Kamchatka peninsula in Eastern Russia. He was putting the rugged Canon EOS-1D X Mark III through its paces alongside a Canon EOS C300 Mark II cinema camera.

"The H.265 codec is really good and stands up to grading very well, but we do documentary stuff, so we're not going really heavy into it – it's all quite natural," he says. "There's a lot of contrast and light when shooting snow, so you get a lot of reflections."

For ultimate flexibility and quality, Brett believes nothing beats shooting in RAW. "Filming in RAW is like shooting a digital negative. I shoot in Cinema RAW Light on the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, and I can also film in RAW on the EOS-1D X Mark III."

Despite the different file formats, the footage cut together flawlessly. "It probably took me five minutes to sort it out," Brett says. "The beauty of RAW is that you can decide what you want to do with it in post-production."

The Canon EOS R6 Mark II, like the EOS-1D X Mark III, can also capture full RAW footage. "It's capable of outputting 10-bit 6K RAW footage in ProRes via the HDMI to an Atomos Ninja V+ external recorder," explains Mike Burnhill, Senior Product Marketing Specialist at Canon Europe. "That produces a larger file, but one that will be easier to edit for many users because it will fit nicely into existing workflows and software such as Adobe Premiere without any other plugins. It will still give you the ability to adjust white balance, exposure and other parameters."

For even more flexibility, the Canon EOS R5 offers a range of RAW video recording options, including 8K 30p 12-bit RAW internally to a CFexpress card. It also supports external recording to an Atomos Ninja V+ for 10-bit ProRes RAW at 8K 30p or 12-bit 5K 60p ProRes RAW from a 1.6x crop.

Internal 12-bit RAW recording to a CFexpress card is also available using Cinema RAW Light on the Canon EOS R5 C, making it a strong partner to the EOS C500 Mark II. The EOS R5 C provides three Cinema RAW Light recording options – Light, Standard and High Quality – to give greater workflow flexibility. Just like its 8K stablemate, it can also send 10-bit 8K ProRes RAW at 30p to an Atomos Ninja V+ via HDMI.

Filmmaker Kevin Clerc stares intently at the back of a Canon EOS R5 C camera set up on a tripod.

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The EOS R5 C, EOS R5 and EOS R6 Mark II are practical B-cam options for productions that don't require a RAW workflow. All three cameras are capable of recording in Canon Log 3 up to 10-bit, with all the benefits this has for maximising dynamic range in difficult lighting conditions and grading in post.

Alex Wykes, holding a Canon Cinema EOS camera to his chest, films Marina Cano photographing a meerkat in a tree.

Alex also paired a Canon EOS C300 Mark II A-cam with a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III B-cam on a shoot in the Kalahari Desert with wildlife photographer Marina Cano. © Platon Trakoshis

Camera operator Bosie Vincent carrying a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, attached to a tripod, down a desert road.

The team were keen to capture footage that showed Marina and her subjects in the same frame. Bosie Vincent operated the second camera on the shoot. © Platon Trakoshis

3. Seamless lens compatibility

Being able to use the same lenses on both cameras has obvious benefits. Not only do you not have to invest in extra glass, it also keeps your overall kit size down. On both the mountain and the desert shoot, Alex found switching the same lens between the Canon EOS C300 Mark II and the EOS-1D X Mark III offered increased flexibility.

The Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x lens extends the focal length of the full-frame DSLR to 560mm, and the Super 35mm cinema camera to just under 900mm. "A long focal length is important for shooting wildlife, and also in the snow because you have to film the other side of a valley," explains Alex.

Dan took it a step further, using a selection of Canon Cine Primes as well as EF Prime and EF Zoom lenses on his skateboarding shoot. "We used a real mixture of lenses," he says. "We had mainly a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM [now succeeded by the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM], a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens on the EOS 5D Mark IV, and then a mixture of zooms and primes on the EOS C200. It gives great flexibility."

The EOS C70EOS R5 C, EOS R5 and EOS R6 Mark II are all equipped with Canon's RF mount. This features a 12-point connection, which enables faster communication between the body and the lens compared with the 8-pin EF mount. Not only does this improve the camera's autofocus and image stabilisation performance, it opens up the range of fast, sharp and unique RF lenses to filmmakers.

EF lenses are also compatible with the RF mount via a range of EF-EOS R mount adapters, including one that has a slot for drop-in variable ND and polarising filters. "This means you can take an EF-mount Cine Prime or Flex Zoom lens off a Canon EOS C500 Mark II and attach it to an EOS R5 C, and get the benefits of full compatibility and ND control as well," says Aron.

A grey and white furniture set with a Technocrane set up to film over the top.

Brett Danton used a Technocrane to fly a Canon EOS C500 Mark II over this furniture set, but it can be time-consuming to remove the camera again for close-ups. A Canon EOS-1D X Mark III mounted on a handheld gimbal made an ideal B-cam.

A man crouches down in grass, filming on a Canon EOS R6 Mark II.

The Canon EOS R6 Mark II and EOS R5 C both use thermal management to enable longer recording times. The EOS R5 C has an active cooling system, while the EOS R6 Mark II's DIGIC X processor design offers improved heat efficiency.

4. Get shots that elude larger cameras

Selecting a more compact B-cam means it's possible to position it in places that your larger main camera may not be able to reach, enabling you to capture shots that might otherwise be impossible to get. Smaller B-cams are also better suited for use with a motorised gimbal system. Both these factors came into play when Brett was deciding which cameras to use to shoot an advertisement for a high-end furniture manufacturer.

With its small form factor and vari-angle touchscreen, the Canon EOS R5 C is a Cinema EOS camera that can be used to capture creative angles in very tight spaces without compromising on control and quality. "Perhaps you're shooting in a car or a small room," suggests Aron. "By mounting a wide lens such as the Canon RF 16mm F2.8 STM to the EOS R5 C, you can take advantage of the camera's full-frame 8K sensor to capture the whole scene, while still benefiting from the lightweight and compact body, which can fit in that environment."

The camera is also equipped with 5-axis Electronic IS that works in a coordinated way with supported IS lenses to give handheld footage a gimbal-like smoothness. Both the Canon EOS R5 and the EOS R6 Mark II use a combination of IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation), lens IS and Movie Digital IS to deliver rock-steady movies while you're on the move.

A Canon EOS R5 C is set up on a tripod, with another larger Canon Cinema EOS camera also on a tripod in the background.

"It's not just about being compatible with lenses and gamma curves or colour science, a B-cam should also be compatible with ease of use," explains Aron. "What makes the Canon EOS R5 C unique is that it offers the same professional-level recording formats and professional-level software functions as a larger Cinema EOS camera, in a lightweight and ultra-compact form factor for the first time."

A man with headphones around his neck sits on the ground, plugging them into a Canon EOS R6 Mark II, which also has a microphone attached on top.

"The Canon EOS R6 Mark II's Detect Only AF is an evolution of the EOS C70's Face Only AF," Mike explains. "The EOS C70 allows you to choose to focus only on a person, and if they leave the frame then the focus will stay exactly where it was at the last moment. Detect Only AF on the EOS R6 Mark II works in exactly the same way, but with planes, trains, horses, cats, dogs and birds as well as people."

5. Familiar functions

Consistency in colour science, lens quality and recording formats makes it possible to achieve a seamless look with diverse Canon A/B-cam combinations. But other functions that filmmakers are used to seeing on Cinema EOS cameras are now appearing on Canon's EOS R System cameras, enabling intuitive control when switching between bodies.

For example, the EOS R6 Mark II is equipped with a multi-function accessory shoe that is compatible with professional filmmaking accessories such as XLR adaptors and digital microphones. This is a feature it shares with the EOS R5 C.

Both cameras also feature the false colour monitoring and autofocus options found in larger Cinema EOS cameras. The EOS R5 C has Face Only and Face Priority recognition along with a Dual Pixel Focus Guide for accurate manual focusing, while the EOS R6 Mark II takes Face Only to the next level by combining it with the camera's subject tracking function. Detect Only AF won't refocus on the background when the specified subject – be it a plane, train, animal or person – moves out of shot.

"The EOS R5 C also has the same menu system that's used throughout our Cinema EOS range, so anyone who's already using a Canon EOS C500 Mark II, EOS C300 Mark III or EOS C70 will find it intuitive to navigate," says Aron.

"It has dedicated terminals for timecode as well, which means you can synchronise the EOS R5 C with your A-cam and with external audio equipment," Aron adds. "The camera also provides a waveform monitor, false colour scale and shutter angle, which are all standard requirements in the cinema industry. It can be confusing to have to work with shutter angle on an A-cam and then shutter speed on the B-cam, so having the cameras aligned in this way makes things easier."

6. Expand your shooting options

Deciding on your B-cam is a chance to look at potential gaps in your setup. You might want to think about a full-frame camera to complement your Super 35mm, or look for a camera that shoots at a higher frame rate or performs better in low light. Look for a model that offers something your A-cam doesn't, so it becomes an integral part of your kit.

High frame rate recording for super-slow-motion sequences is available in the Canon EOS C70, EOS R5 C and EOS R5, with all bodies being capable of recording 4K at up to 120fps. The EOS R6 Mark II can hit 180fps in Full HD, providing 1/6-speed slow motion recording instead of the typical 1/4-speed.

Alex also still finds that the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III adds valuable additional options alongside his workhorse EOS C300 Mark II. "The EOS-1D X Mark III offers features such as super slow-motion in HD, which is great for quickly shooting social media footage that doesn't have to be in 4K, " he says. "It also has RAW video capture for when we're shooting promos and commercial stuff, and the full-frame sensor is amazing in low light. Having a different B-cam really makes sense."

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Adam Duckworth and Marcus Hawkins

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