Netflix approved: Canon Cinema EOS cameras

With the Canon EOS R5 C now on the list of Netflix approved cameras, we look at what that means for filmmakers and speak to DoP Patrick Smith about using Canon Cinema EOS cameras to shoot original productions for the global content platform.
A Canon EOS R5 C, with a mic attached to it, sits on a wooden bench in the bow of a boat.

The Canon EOS R5 C is the smallest Netflix approved Canon camera, but it offers the same professional filmmaking features you'll find in larger, modular bodies – including full-frame, 4K XF-AVC 4:2:2 10-bit recording, wide dynamic range and even support for anamorphic lenses.

Netflix has been a pioneer in standardising high-fidelity 4K HDR content for home entertainment, and its strict guidelines for evaluating camera technology and workflow pipelines have ensured that Netflix Original content consistently produces outstanding image and sound quality. Approved cameras must have been used for at least 90% of the final cut's runtime – although there can be more flexibility when it comes to non-fiction.

Netflix has now added the Canon EOS R5 C to its list of approved cameras, meaning that filmmakers in any genre, from documentary and drama to reality TV, are now able to use Canon's smallest full-frame Cinema EOS body as their primary camera or B-cam for Netflix Original productions.

The EOS R5 C can be used alongside the full-frame Canon EOS C500 Mark II, which gained Netflix approval shortly after its release, or the EOS C300 Mark III and EOS C70 – two filmmaking powerhouses which share the same DGO sensor technology and are also on the Netflix approved list.

"Receiving the Netflix stamp of approval for all these Cinema EOS cameras is a result of Canon's continuous pursuit of developing cutting-edge image technology without compromises, regardless of whether it's for entry level or high end," says Canon Europe Product Specialist Aron Randhawa.

 A Canon EOS R5 C sitting on a tripod and pointing at a man, the lower part of his face visible on the camera's rear screen.

The EOS R5 C continues to be refined as a filmmaking tool via firmware updates. Recent additions have included improved Subject Tracking autofocus, a Digital Teleconverter function for up to 3x magnification, and expanded lens support ­– each of which offers new levels of flexibility to Netflix Original productions.

"What's really exciting about the EOS R5 C being added to the Netflix approved camera list is the amount of flexibility that it can provide to the filmmaking industry thanks to its high specification and its incredibly small form factor," adds Aron. "This should really open the doors for filmmakers to explore shooting in much tighter spaces, and moving the camera in ways that they may not have thought about before while still remaining on a reasonable budget."

The EOS R5 C is just the latest Cinema EOS camera to satisfy the stringent Netflix requirements. "Many of our previous generation cameras were also approved for Netflix Originals, including the Canon EOS C300 Mark II, EOS C700 and EOS C700 FF," says Aron. Netflix Originals shot on these cameras include the Academy Award-winning documentary Icarus (2019), feature film Our Souls at Night (2017), and Emmy-nominated series Grace and Frankie (2015).

"This gives filmmakers an extensive choice of Canon Cinema Solutions, allowing them to combine different cameras while maintaining a consistent image quality," Aron concludes.

So what exactly are the camera requirements for Netflix Originals? Here, we explore why the EOS C500 Mark II, EOS C300 Mark III, EOS C70 and EOS R5 C made the cut, while DoP Patrick Smith, whose credits include Tell Me Who I Am (2019) and Captive (2016), explains how he's been using Canon Cinema EOS cameras to shoot a variety of Netflix documentary projects.

 A Canon EOS C300 Mark III on a gimbal, resting on the wing of an aircraft.

The DGO Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor and improved 16+ stops of dynamic range are just two of the key features filmmakers will find in the Canon EOS C300 Mark III.

A man with a Canon EOS R5 C camera films a female triathlete running towards him on a cliff path.

"There are a lot of cameras that can record 4K 4:2:2 10-bit but those specs alone don't really explain the image that's being produced by that camera," says Aron. "Netflix has taken the time to evaluate and approve the file system, the colour and the dynamic range of Cinema EOS cameras."

Demanding capture requirements

The minimum technical specification for a Netflix approved camera is a true 4K UHD sensor, a benchmark the Canon EOS C500 Mark II more than meets thanks to its Canon-developed 5.9K full-frame CMOS sensor, while the EOS C300 Mark III, the EOS R5 C and the EOS C70 can shoot Full 4K up to an impressive 120p. However, there are a host of other capture and camera requirements.

Netflix is one of the leading providers of High Dynamic Range (HDR) content, so the ability to deliver an appropriate file for post-production in HDR is important. The EOS R5 C delivers extended dynamic range with Canon Log 3 when recording in Canon's 4:2:2 10-bit XF-AVC format. Thanks to the groundbreaking Super 35mm DGO sensor, the EOS C300 Mark III and EOS C70 have a dynamic range of 16+ stops, while the full-frame EOS C500 Mark II is 15+ stops. The EOS R5 C, EOS C70, EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III also have the option of recording in either Cinema RAW Light or XF-AVC format, producing footage that can be successfully put through an HDR workflow, be that in PQ or HLG.

Other capture requirements specified by Netflix include a minimum data rate of 240Mbps at 23.98fps and a minimum of 10-bit colour processing. The Canon EOS R5 C, EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III all hit 810Mbps when shooting XF-AVC, while the EOS C70 delivers 600Mbps. Shooting in Cinema RAW Light, the EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III can achieve 2.1Gbps and 1Gbps respectively at full-resolution 25p, and both also offer 10-bit or 12-bit processing, depending on whether you're shooting at 25p or 50p.

"Often, camera specs alone cannot illustrate the true substance and detail of an image produced by a professional cinema camera," Aron adds. "So it's gratifying to hear from Netflix that it has approved the use of Canon Cinema EOS cameras for its productions when evaluating these intricate details of our camera designs."

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

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 DoP Patrick Smith with a Canon EOS C500 Mark II cinema camera.

DoP Patrick Smith has shot three productions for Netflix with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II, including a documentary, The Surgeon's Cut, following the world's leading surgeons. © Patrick Smith

A BBC Studios first for Netflix

Patrick has shot numerous productions for Netflix with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II including scientific four-parter The Surgeon's Cut. BBC Studios' first commission for the prodigious streaming service required a camera that would deliver high-quality images in a high-pressure environment.

"My episode was about a brain surgeon, so we were filming awake craniotomies – an extraordinary thing to witness," explains Patrick. "The EOS C500 Mark II offered so many brilliant advantages over some of the other available cameras: the full-frame sensor, its compact size, its compatibility with a range of smaller lenses and the Image Stabilisation (IS).

"We were asked not to use tripods while filming the surgery, but the in-built IS meant I could keep my distance – from the surgeon and the patient – and hold the frame with complete stability."

Patrick shoots about 50% of his footage handheld and likes to introduce subtle movement. "I often rock slightly from left to right. This gives the image a fluidity – and also stops my body from seizing up! I was really pleased to find that the Electronic IS wasn't too aggressive – it allowed me to keep some lateral movement in the frame but lose some of that high-frequency vibration."

 A close-up of filmmaker Elisa Iannacone looking at the vari-angle touchscreen of a Canon EOS C70 camera with an expanse of water and pink-hued skyline in front of her.

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DoP Patrick Smith with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II on a body-mounted rig in a hospital corridor.

"We used the Canon EOS C500 Mark II mounted to a gimbal to follow our subjects through the hospital," explains Patrick. "Most of the time I was working handheld, but this setup was used for some of the more stylised shots." © Patrick Smith

Producer Alberto Allica in hospital scrubs behind a Canon EOS C500 Mark II cinema camera.

Alberto Allica, producer on The Surgeon's Cut. "It was an HDR grade production," explains Patrick. "I sent some Canon EOS C500 Mark II tests to the post-production house. They said, if shot well and carefully, they could create high-quality HDR images from 4:2:2 10-bit XF-AVC footage." © Patrick Smith

An adaptable filming companion

The light weight of the camera and its compact, modular format proved advantageous when following medical staff around the hospital. "I needed to be able to keep up in those dynamic, fast-moving, reactive environments and the Canon EOS C500 Mark II was the right tool to have," he says.

"I love the modularity of the camera. I'm constantly changing the setup, either for the application or as the way I work evolves. I often need a range of additions: wireless video link, follow-focus control, matte box, onboard monitor, radio mic support and sound equipment. You find different ways to power them, different ways to balance them – and that's part of the enjoyment of filming with the Canon EOS C500 Mark II and the EOS C300 Mark III."

On this particular project, Patrick mainly used Canon's EF Prime lenses, but the Canon EOS C500 Mark II's support for the interchangeable lens mount meant he could also switch from EF to PL and use Canon's Sumire Prime lenses.

"The lenses are amazing – light, small and sharp," he says. "I've been using them for 10 years now, so focusing manually is instinctive. They're short throw, so pulling focus from infinity to 1.5m is only 10 degrees or so, whereas on a film lens that would be a much larger rotation. With film lenses I need a follow focus system or assistance to get it right, but with the stills lenses I can rack focus very quickly myself, just as accurately."

A filmmaker changing the lens on a Canon EOS C500 Mark II cinema camera.

The Canon EOS C500 Mark II provides support for optional interchangeable EF or PL lens mounts, so as well as the huge range of Canon EF prime lenses, you can also use Canon's full-frame Sumire Prime lenses.

Using primes rather than zooms helps maintain the visual palette. "I wanted to keep things looking as filmic as I could on the full-frame chip," says Patrick. "I'm now shooting nearly everything for Netflix in 2.35:1, which is such a cinematic aspect ratio. You have to ask permission to shoot anything wider than 2:1, but if you can justify it, they'll go with it.

"Being able to apply a customised aspect marker on the image is one of the camera's most useful features. It makes a massive difference when you're shooting in this Netflix world, where 2:1 as a minimum aspect ratio is something you really want to be able to see rather than just guess."

An index finger and thumb holding a cable next to the timecode in/out port on a Canon EOS R5 C.

Despite its compact design, the Canon EOS R5 C is equipped with a range of professional I/O options, including dedicated terminals for timecode in/out, micro-HDMI output, a USB-C terminal and XLR input available via the optional TASCAM CA-XLR2d-C accessory.

Perfect A/B camera setup

With the EOS C300 Mark III now added to his kit and approved by Netflix, Patrick has the perfect multi-camera setup, using a combination of the EOS C500 Mark II and EOS C300 Mark III for much of his work. "It's the perfect setup because they both shoot the same codec. They shoot to the same colour science. They have the same form factor. Everything just works really seamlessly across both of them," he says. "I can just stop and swap to suit the individual camera's strength. With the EOS C500 Mark II, I tend use on the wider frame because it's got a larger chip, delivering a narrow depth of field for that particular type of shot. The EOS C300 Mark III, I tend to use for close-up shots, while being able to shoot at 120p in 4K is extremely useful. The two cameras complement each other beautifully."

Patrick believes the Netflix approved EOS C70 will also be of great use to him when working on documentary film productions. "The small form factor and versatility of the EOS C70 makes it an ideal second camera for high-end documentary work," he says. "Whether it's rigged to cars, being run around on a gimbal or even as an extra angle on an interview, it has a real place on my core kit list."

The addition of the more compact EOS R5 C to the Netflix approved Canon cameras list offers filmmakers like Patrick even more creative options. "It can really fit into any type of story being told, regardless of whether it's a high-budget cinematic piece, a TV drama or a documentary," explains Aron.

The camera is equipped with an active cooling fan that enables long duration recording, while a tough yet lightweight magnesium alloy body ensures durability and versatility. "It's a multipurpose camera that can adapt to any type of storytelling," Aron continues. "Being so powerful and compact really does make it an exciting prospect for professional filmmakers."

The EOS R5 C's small size makes it a natural fit as a B-cam – but it could just as easily be an A-cam for productions that have no need for a more modular type of camera, such as the EOS C500 Mark II. It's also the most affordable Netflix approved camera in Canon's range, making it a great option for smaller budgets.

"You won't be making compromises when it comes to the image quality," says Aron. "So regardless of whether it's your A-cam or your B-cam, you can be certain that you're using a camera that is amongst the best in the industry."

Marcus Hawkins

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