ARTICLE

Perfect partners:
filming in the Kalahari with a
Canon EOS C300 Mark II and
an EOS-1D X Mark III

A man holding a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III camera with a gimbal attached to it.
Filmmaker Alex Wykes relies on a Canon EOS C300 Mark II cinema camera for much of his footage, but pairing it with a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III on a shoot in the Kalahari Desert convinced him that the DSLR makes a perfect B-cam. © VerriMedia / Marina Cano

Experienced filmmakers all have their favourite cameras, based on shooting hundreds of hours of footage in different conditions around the world. It would take a very special camera indeed to get many of them to rethink their kit choice.

For Alex Wykes, director at Verri Media, the Canon EOS C300 Mark II cinema camera has long been a mainstay of his filmmaking. But while shooting a behind-the-scenes documentary following wildlife photographer and Canon Ambassador Marina Cano testing the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III in the Kalahari Desert, Alex had the opportunity to add the same DSLR to his kitbag.

Across five days shooting in hot, dusty and demanding conditions in the Tswalu game reserve in South Africa's Northern Cape province, the filmmaker was able to put the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III through its paces alongside his favoured cinema camera – and he found it offered him a unique creative solution, enabling him to make the film he wanted, without compromises.

The workhorse Canon EOS C300 Mark II

"Over the past 20 years we've shot in jungles, mountains, snow, heat, cold and wet," says Alex. "We've travelled a lot and worked in hostile, difficult situations. So it's certainly not my first time getting down and dirty in the desert for those low shots."

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Alex knew his favoured Canon EOS C300 Mark II would be the ideal partner on a demanding shoot – especially when capturing close-ups of Marina at work. "We did all the tight shots, where I needed to be a bit more on-the-hoof and shoot handheld, with the Canon EOS C300 Mark II and a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens," he explains.

The four-channel audio on the Canon EOS C300 Mark II allowed Alex to work spontaneously, recording sync sound without a sound recordist using a radio lavalier mic on Marina and a shotgun mic on camera. "The camera's in-built mic preamps make capturing on-board sound really straightforward," he says. "There are some candid moments when Marina talks to the camera; I wanted to capture that immediacy and intimacy, so you feel you are there with her."

And Alex trusted the Dual Pixel CMOS AF to ensure Marina was in sharp focus, although he did switch to manual focus at times, in the knowledge that the Focus Guide technology would give a visual indicator of whether his subject was pin-sharp. "It's an amazing set-up for run-and-gun documentary shooting where you don't get a second take," he says.

Wildlife photographer Marina Cano lying on the desert floor holding a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III in front of two baby meerkats.
Alex Wykes and Bosie Vincent, who operated the second camera on the shoot, were keen to get footage that captured Marina and her subjects in the same frame. This often meant shooting at dawn or dusk, when the animals were active. Luckily, shooting in low-light is one of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III's strongest features. © VerriMedia / Marina Cano

A flexible, run-and-gun DSLR partner

But filming wildlife doesn't just call for action shots. You also need close-ups of the animals – in this case, fast-moving meerkats and packs of wild painted dogs – and ideally both photographer and subject in the same shot. "We wanted to link Marina's finished photos with what she's actually seeing, so we need to see what she's shooting," says Alex. "Marina is the star of the film, so we wanted to get the animals between her and the camera, so that we can film her and what she's shooting, and see her in the frame with the animal."

This is where the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III came into its own, allowing Alex to capture shots of a quality that would have been impossible on any other camera. "I sometimes use a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV on a gimbal to shoot 4K, but I don't use a DSLR on a regular basis. Ideally, I like to overcrank and shoot 4K at 60p on the gimbal. Now I'd definitely use the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III."

One of the features that persuaded Alex to integrate a DSLR into his professional shoot was the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III's frame rates, including the fact that its full-frame sensor shoots in 4K at 60p in Canon Log for a very wide dynamic range.

"Because we like to deliver our films in 4K, we love to shoot 4K at 60p, but we cut into 25p timelines, so we can slow down the 60p footage for slow motion," he says. "I'd use the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III permanently rigged to a gimbal shooting 4K 60p, alongside the Canon EOS C300 Mark II shooting 4K 25p – we often mix the two shooting styles."

Alex Wykes, holding a Canon EOS C300 Mark II ciname camera to his chest, films Marina Cano holding a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III above her head to shoot a meerkat in a tree.
Capturing the action – not just of the animals but also of Marina at work – was vital. The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III's high frame rates – 16fps when using the viewfinder and an incredible 20fps in Live View mode – proved invaluable. © Platon Trakoshis
Second camera operator Bosie Vincent adjusting the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III on top of a tripod.
Mixing footage from the cinema camera and the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III was easy because the EOS-1D X Mark III can shoot full-frame 4K Canon Log footage as 10-bit 4:2:2 HEVC/H.265 files – it's the first Canon DSLR or mirrorless camera to do so. It was more of an issue dealing with footage shot at different times of day, because of the rapidly changes colours in the desert. © Platon Trakoshis

Intelligent tracking AF

For filming wildlife – from wild dogs hunting to birds soaring across the skies – the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III's intelligent autofocus was a standout feature, both handheld and on a tripod. When shooting using the viewfinder, the camera offers 191 individually selectable AF points, 155 of which are cross-type for extra sensitivity. In Live View mode, the camera uses Canon's renowned Dual Pixel CMOS AF system. This has 90% horizontal and 100% vertical coverage and an astonishing 3,869 manually selectable AF positions. In both modes, the EOS-1D X Mark III's dedicated AF sensor and revolutionary deep-learning AF algorithm deliver breathtaking autofocus performance.

Two baby meerkats peering out from a hole in the desert. Photo by Marina Cano.

Photographing rare desert wildlife with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Marina Cano photographed curious creatures and elusive endangered species in the Kalahari Desert, in the first wildlife shoot with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.

"Being able to track moving animals is a big deal," says Alex. "The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is amazing at tracking and knowing what to focus on – it's the best I've used. And the touchscreen makes a huge difference to how quickly you can work.

"Animals are unpredictable, so you need something very clever, and the autofocus on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III could do it." The subject tracking AF was invaluable for shooting Marina as well as her animal subjects, too: "Nowadays I always shoot interviews using the face tracking AF – it means I can be a bit braver and shoot with wider f-stops," Alex adds.

When shooting in 4K, precise focus is critical, especially when shooting with longer and faster lenses at wider apertures at dawn and dusk – the best times for tracking wildlife.

Alex had a whole arsenal of Canon EF lenses, including a range of zooms – a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM and a Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM – in addition to a Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM prime lens and a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM super telephoto lens. But the lens he used most was the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x, thanks to its ability to capture action at a wide range of focal lengths.

Alex Wykes films Marina Cano as she kneels in the desert sand and shoots with a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.
As the filmmakers recorded Marina shooting with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, all of them naturally faced the same harsh conditions. The dark shapes resting in the shade of the bush in the background are a pack of wild dogs, waiting for the relative cool of the evening to hunt. © Platon Trakoshis
Camera operator Bosie Vincent carrying a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III, attached to a tripod, down a desert road.
Bosie Vincent showing the reality of shooting video in the desert, carrying his kit in the scorching heat. © Platon Trakoshis

Matching footage in post

One of the challenges filmmakers face when shooting with different cameras is maintaining a consistent look when the footage is put together. Using the same Canon lenses on both cameras helps, but Alex also found that the codecs in the Canon EOS C300 Mark II and Canon EOS-1D X Mark III were incredibly easy to match up in post production.

That's because the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is the first Canon DSLR or mirrorless camera to shoot full-frame 4K Canon Log footage as 10-bit 4:2:2 HEVC/H.265 files in the MP4 format, which is what Alex used for the majority of the shoot. It also shoots 12-bit 5.5K RAW footage, recording internally to CFexpress memory cards, which gives incredibly detailed, oversampled 4K video for maximum control in post.

Second camera operator Bosie Vincent using a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III to capture a shot of a cheetah, visible in the monitor on top of the kit.
The state-of-the-art technology in the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III enabled Marina and the filmmakers to capture stunning shots of wildlife from a distance without compromising on quality. © Platon Trakoshis
Three meerkats bathed in sunlight in the Kalahari Desert. Photo by Marina Cano.
The beautiful film features atmospheric shots of the stunning location alongside pin-sharp close-ups of the wildlife – and it was the quality of the Canon kit that made that possible. Taken on a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens at 1/3200 sec, f/2.8 and ISO1250. © VerriMedia / Marina Cano

"We did shoot some 12-bit RAW footage, but as we shot 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 with the Canon EOS C300 Mark II, we also shot 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III," says Alex.

"We shoot with Canon Log 3 on the cinema camera, while the DSLR only has Canon Log, but the Log codecs give you so much control, it was easy to match the colours in post. It was a bigger challenge to match footage shot at different times of day. In the Kalahari, if you look one way, the sand is yellow; but if you turn 90 degrees, it looks a different colour. But I was confident that as long as we were shooting Log with pre-set white balance, we could match the cameras. The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III has a really good codec with generous exposure latitude, which was easy to grade."

When shooting in 4K, precise focus is critical, especially when shooting with longer and faster lenses at wider apertures at dawn and dusk – the best times for tracking wildlife.

The final film oozes quality, with atmospheric shots of the desert as well as amazing close-ups of the fast-moving animals in action – a challenge for any filmmaker to capture. Thanks to the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III's state-of-the-art technology, Alex was able to shoot in new ways, and he's confident that this is a DSLR professional filmmakers should take seriously.

"I'm sold on the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III," he says. "I still love my cinema cameras, but it makes an absolutely fantastic B-camera. It's going to be perfect for capturing cinematic B-roll and cutaway footage to help illustrate the stories we are filming with the Canon EOS C300 Mark II."

Skrevet av Adam Duckworth


Alex Wyke's kitbag

The key kit pros use to shoot video

A man filming a baby meerkat in the desert with a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III.

Cameras

Canon EOS-1D X Mark III

Life is full of unrepeatable moments. Capture more of them with the EOS-1D X Mark III and tell your visual story to the world. "The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III is amazing at tracking and knowing what to focus on – it's the best I've used," says Alex. "And the touchscreen makes a huge difference to how quickly you can work."

Canon EOS C300 Mark II

A highly creative production tool that captures 4K/Full HD video with up to 15-stops of dynamic range. "It's an amazing set-up for run-and-gun documentary shooting where you don't get a second take," Alex says.

Lenses

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

Favoured by those wanting to carry a single lens on location, this lens delivers stunning image quality with advanced Image Stabilization.

Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM

A fast-aperture super-telephoto lens that delivers a professional performance – ideal for sports, news and wildlife photography.

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