ARTICLE

Discover Canon's next-generation sensor technology, DGO

The EOS C300 Mark III and EOS C70 have many differences, but both deliver 16+ stops of dynamic range thanks to Canon's revolutionary Dual Gain Output (DGO) sensor technology. Find out how it works and how filmmakers are benefiting from it.
DoP Ben Sherlock filming with the Canon EOS C300 Mark III in a rural setting with bushes and water in the background.

The Canon EOS C300 Mark III is the first camera with Canon's revolutionary DGO sensor, which delivers exceptionally clean low-light image quality as well as superb HDR footage. Director of Photography Ben Sherlock put it to the test.

The Canon EOS C300 Mark III introduced a new technology to the Cinema EOS System: a Dual Gain Output (DGO) sensor. This sensor, now also shared with the compact Canon EOS C70, captures exceptional image quality with wider dynamic range and low noise, making it ideal for HDR output. By producing two separate images at different amplifications in real time and then combining them, the DGO technology creates breathtaking, immersive cinematic imagery.

Director of Photography Ben Sherlock, best known for his stunning cinematic documentaries for the likes of the BBC and National Geographic, has been using the Canon EOS C300 Mark III since its release. Here he shares his impressions of the game-changing sensor technology and the impact it has had on his work, thanks to the camera's stunning 16+ stops of dynamic range.
Diagram showing how Canon's DGO technology reads out each image at two gain levels and then combines them.

The key to Canon's Dual Gain Output technology is that each pixel on the sensor is read at two amplification levels, and the two readouts are then combined into a single image. The higher amplification signal captures subtle details in the shadows and reduces noise, while the lower amplification retains information in the highlights. Combining the two produces stunning, clean HDR footage.

16+ stops of dynamic range

"When I first received the Canon EOS C300 Mark III, I was just expecting it to generally improve on what the EOS C300 Mark II had done," says Ben. "I was expecting to see the ergonomics enhanced and some of the technical specs, including 4K options and slow motion.

"All of that has improved. What I wasn't expecting is to have such a massive leap up in image quality and the feel of the image. Fundamentally, what has changed with this camera is the sensor."

The developers at Canon Inc. in Japan had been working on new sensor technology with the ambition of delivering reduced noise and enhanced image quality. The pioneering DGO Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor in the EOS C300 Mark III and EOS C70 is the result of Canon's years of expertise in sensor technology development

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FIlmmaker Jolade Olusanya squats in an alleyway with a Canon EOS C70 in a gimbal to film a parkour athlete leaping over a brick wall.

On the first shoot with the EOS C70, filmmaker Jolade Olusanya put the camera to the test with fast-moving parkour, high-contrast scenes, and even a night shoot on the streets of London. "With DGO you don’t have to worry about the sun going down and you don’t always have to carry a light source," Jolade says. "That’s important for a single shooter like me."

A Canon EOS C70 camera with Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens, with handle unit fitted.

Canon's groundbreaking RF-mount Cinema EOS camera, the EOS C70, benefits from a number of technologies introduced in the EOS C300 Mark III, including the 4K Super 35mm DGO sensor, which enables the camera to deliver a dynamic range in excess of 16 stops.

On the DGO sensor, each pixel is read out at two different amplification levels, one high and one low, and the two read-outs are then combined to make a single image. The higher amplification read-out is optimised to capture clean details in darker areas, while the lower amplification read-out is optimised to capture the details in brighter areas. When the two are combined together at pixel-level accuracy, the details in both the highlight and the low-light areas are maintained and enhanced, which enables the camera to achieve an impressive higher dynamic range in excess of 16-stops in the EOS C300 Mark III and EOS C70 when shooting in Canon Log 2, with superb HDR acquisition capabilities.

The DGO technology does not consume any more power than a conventional sensor, so it doesn't affect battery life. The tech is also compatible with Canon's renowned Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus system and electronic in-body IS for fast, reliable focusing and a super-steady image.
Ben Sherlock filming with the Canon EOS C300 Mark III.

Ben tested the benefits of the DGO technology in the Canon EOS C300 Mark III shooting in dynamic and high-contrast lighting conditions.

The Canon EOS C300 Mark III with monitor screen and EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens.

The DGO sensor in the EOS C300 Mark III works independently alongside Canon's renowned Dual Pixel CMOS AF.

Clean low-light images and HDR excellence

The DGO sensor gives improved ISO performance and flexibility in the field by reducing the noise particularly in darker areas to offer exceptionally clean low-light image quality. Ben has seen the results of this when shooting in a range of challenging conditions, including very low light and high-contrast scenes caused by fast-moving action.

"There's just something about the image – it looks so clean and organic," says Ben. "People just punch out of the screen in such a dramatic fashion. You point this camera at a person and they just instantly look better on screen.

"When I've been shooting incredibly dark or high-contrast scenes, this camera has been the standout one that I've been using. In those very high contrast or dark scenes, the image that's come out of it has been beautiful."
Ben has shot with a Canon EOS C300 Mark II for years, favouring it for his documentary work thanks to the quality of the image it produces, but he has been impressed by the advancements delivered by the DGO sensor. "The EOS C300 Mark II sensor worked so well already, but this one, for me, has definitely taken a giant leap forward," he says.

"The fundamental thing is, the sensor has a huge amount more sensitivity. It deals with skin tones better. The previous model dealt with skin tones incredibly well already. Every DoP I know says, 'We want to use Canon because when we point it at people's faces, their skin tones just come alive.' And the fact that's been improved on is pretty remarkable."

With each pixel being read out at two different amplification levels before being combined to make a single image, the resultant combined detail is greater than on a normal Super 35mm sensor.
Cinematographer Steve Holleran holds a Canon EOS C300 Mark III on his shoulder.

The evolution of the EOS C300 Mark III

Discover how the Cinema EOS camera builds on the heritage of its ground-breaking precursors, the EOS C300 and EOS C300 Mark II.
Ben Sherlock films using a Canon EOS C300 Mark III on a tripod.

Ben has been delighted with the rich texture, colour and detail captured by the DGO sensor in the EOS C300 Mark III.

Front view of the Canon EOS C300 Mark III without lens attached.

The sensor in the Canon EOS C300 Mark III shares the classic cinematic Super 35mm format of its precursor but includes next-generation features such as Dual Gain Output.

Rich textures and organic images

With an improved dynamic range, shooting with a DGO sensor carries further flexibility through to post production, particularly when grading footage of darker scenes.

"When you bring footage shot on the EOS C300 Mark III to grading, as soon as it sits on the screen, it just stands out against everything else that I've shot," says Ben, who will often have shot in Canon Log 3 and then graded for Rec. 709 deliverables.

"It's a joy to work with in post production. I've pushed the images really far. We've been shooting in some very dark conditions, filming with fire, so you're dealing with very high-contrast images, because you want to have someone's face correctly exposed but then you also want to have that fire well exposed.

"In post production, we've been pushing the cutters massively and really trying to pull up the shadows and really trying to bring down the highlights. It seems like no matter how far we push it, it doesn't snap. It just retains all that lush information – which is witchcraft, if you ask me!"

Unlike with alternative methods such as Dual ISO, the benefits of DGO apply to a range of ISO levels, maximising image quality regardless of the shooting environment. Canon says users can concentrate on shooting in a natural state without the hassle of switching the base ISO according to the brightness of the shooting scene.

"I shoot with a variety of different cameras," Ben says, "and that's a problem now because now I've got this EOS C300 Mark III footage which just jumps out at you. There's something so rich about the textures that are in there, the colours, the detail – but no noise. It's just the most organic feeling image that I think I've seen."

Modern movie-making and high-end episodic television productions are now seeing even greater demand for HDR content and particularly the ability to shoot in low-light scenes. Canon's breakthrough Dual Gain Output technology supports such a look without compromising the reproduction of highlight details.

Skrevet af Phil Hall & Lucy Fulford


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