Edited by Teena Katz www.teenavs7train.com
NAB (National Association of Broadcasters Convention) is behind us by over nearly two months now and the excitement has yet to end!
There was so much gear announced at NAB that it is just shipping out, with a ton of gear that has yet to even ship. 4K video was the main theme with a slew of camera announcements and delivery. This will be remembered as the year of 4K's real arrival where everyone can shoot 4K and should at least consider it. Sure, 4K presents challenges but it's more affordable than ever thanks to a ton of great NAB announcements, like the Sony A7s and the Atomos Shogon 4K Recorder monitor. Both work great when paired.
AJA and Black Magic Design led the way with new camera announcements. AJA with their first ever camera and BMD adding three new cams. There is so much hope and potential. Another highlight is the new amazing lens from Canon with Electric zoom servo for the Cinema Line.
As Movi turned one year old, the footage people shot on the stabilizers was amazing and operators are even teaming them with Steadi Cams.
DJI drones has a new Phantom 2 with a slew of great features including double the battery life, a better camera, and the ability to view the footage live on your smart phone or a monitor (but the FAA is still months away from setting up flying regulations). Cineo has new matchstick lights too. All in all, it was a great NAB!
This seems like it will be a great gear cycle. In Part 1 of our intro to the 4K article, we discussed infrastructure, which should include a brand new Mac Pro or some other robust computing machine with 4K abilities, graphics cards, and a server for storage, editing, and backup. Now that you have the final infrastructure (don't forget battery backups and setting this up in a safe place off of the floor), lets discuss workflow, cameras, and accessories. No matter what camera you buy, the final infrastructure and workflow should be fairly similar. Even with the inexpensive 4K cameras, you will need to support them with a robust infrastructure and workflow. You will most likely be shooting some codec that includes 4K RAW video (for best results) no matter what camera you choose, with the exception of the Canon 1DC, which only shoots motion JPEG in UHD (more on UHD later). Some cameras like the BlackMagic 4K record 4K on board in the camera. The impending Panasonic GH4 shoots compressed Ultra AVCHD on board, which is a compressed UHD 4K. I haven't seen the camera in person or used it yet, but I think even with this camera you will want to record to an recorder because you won't want compressed video if you can avoid it. Also, I never liked AVCHD so I doubt I’ll have a love affair with Ultra AVCHD.
Your workflow will most likely be one where you shoot onto an recording device, like an AJA Quad Ki Pro, an Odyssey 7Q from Convergent Design, or an Atomos Shogon (newly announced at NAB). There are other options, but these are the favorites right now. I am sure there will be others that come along too. Personally, I love Atomos, so the Shogon will be a favorite for sure. I love how they keep improving. I also love the 7Q. It's stunning and has great features. It is not only a recorder, but also a monitor and it offers a slew of great and needed features, like focus peaking and false color. In this space, it's reasonably priced (though please note that you have to buy a license after purchase of the device to open up the ability to record 4K). I just talked to Convergent Design and the folks there say a free firmware upgrade is coming that will allow all Odyssey 7Q users to record 4K ProRes 4444. This is great news. It means almost any 4K camera will work with the 7Q, including the Panasonic GH4, which ships this fall. Expect this ProRes codec to become a standard.
Atomos introduced the amazing Shogon monitor, a 4K recorder for under $2,000. It has all the great features you’d expect from Atomos, including their great pricing. It’s a big beautiful screen. It’s durable and has features like waveform, vectorscope, focus assist, logging, and a ton of other features! It will shoot Cinema DNG RAW, DXG, and Pro Res 4444, with more codecs promised. It also adds LUTs (look up tables) and it sports a touch screen. Atomos is usually my favorite and my monitor/recorder of choice in general. It will also record up to 120fps. I love that! I love high-speed footage. So, this excites me a lot. I can't wait to get my hands on it.
Assuming you have shot some flavor of 4K RAW video at this point and have a ton of SSD drives, store it in RAW video (RAW video takes a still image, RAW photograph, for every frame.) This means you are really shooting high quality images, which is great! You can grab one and use it for billboards, ads, or other purposes. It's that high quality. A lot of guys are doing that and have been for years with Red Epic cameras (which now shoot 6K). You will then transfer it to your server and stick the SSDs in a Pelican airtight case for safe storage as a backup to the backup your server makes (don't erase the SSDs until the project is over). We use the Small Tree servers and the Titanium is our server of choice. They are great. They are a server and storage array in one and they are true workhorses with practically zero down time. We rely on them and don't worry about storage or editing. You can have up to ten users at a time editing the same or different projects with no slow ups. Truly, great products. Small-tree.com
Now, you will either make an HD proxy (low resolution version for easier editing - less load on the computer) of the footage in order to edit a little more easily or you can edit in 4K. It will depend on your system and your desired workflow. Personally, it adds steps, but I would go into DaVinci Resolve and make the proxies. You are most likely starting your workflow in DaVinci because of two reasons. You probably shot flat - with little color, so you could get the most detail, dynamic range, and the exact look you want out of the video in post, and so you can paint the colors in with color correction during post. The second reason is so that you can add LUTs and make proxies. LUTs are essentially color correction templates - you can select pre-made ones or create your own. They are pretty standard and the idea is that they give the video some color and feel, so the client, directors, and producers can see rough cuts and don't have to stretch their imaginations too far. But, you don't have to do a full color correction before they make changes, which could eliminate a lot of completed work or add to the amount of work. LUTs can also be used if you are delivering the video to broadcast TV and they are demanding it be in the REC 709 space. But, then you probably just ruined fabulous video because that standard looks terrible; Come on broadcast, get with the program! You start with DaVinci, add your LUTS and send the video proxies to Adobe Creative Cloud/Premier to edit. Let’s face it as much as I love FCP Studio and FCP X, I know you're not using it. AVID is way behind the curve and Smoke is way too expensive and fringe. So, you are probably using the new "industry standard", Premier. You do your proxy edit in Premier. After client approval, you send it back to DaVinci, where you reconnect it to the 4K media, take off the LUTs, color correct, and export the final project. You then bring it back into Premier for final graphics and export again. Of course, at some point in the process you did all of your audio work.
Now, to deliver: You make a full HD version, a web version, and you export the full 4K version. Right now 4K will not be able to be broadcast over the air to TV or to cable customers so it is perfect for displays that are in lobbies, tradeshow booths, streaming to Netflix, and YouTube or other web streaming platforms. The users must have a lot of bandwidth to watch and the right hardware or it won't work. Shooting in 4K does future-proof your content to some and is great for archival purposes, but it's not for every job. However, 4K footage down-converted to HD looks amazing. Now you understand why the gear has to be so robust - it's the file sizes, the resolution, and this workflow. It's all about data speeds. 4K needs a lot of speed and big open pipes. This is the case with any of the 4K cameras. Figuring out your workflow is important. It should give you an idea of the time you need to spend on a project. Parts of your workflow can be flexible and can even change from project to project. Other parts should not change. The key is finding a basic workflow you are comfortable with and building from that. Then, just become more efficient at it. However, no matter what your workflow is, it is important to figure it out before you shoot.
Now we are nearly ready to discuss cameras. However, before we discuss 4K cameras, let’s talk about the flavors of 4K. 4K comes in two flavors right now: Full 4K - Digital Cinema Initiatives Compliant HD, also known as DCI HD, (4096x2160 pixels) and UHD also known as Ultra HD (3840x2160 pixels). UHD is considered the standard broadcasters and cable companies will adapt. DCI HD is reserved for movies and higher end projects. It’s similar to the 720p vs 1080p HD conversation. Remember, FOX Sports is still only broadcasting in 720p. Both resolutions look amazing and you can really crop into images and not loose image quality. This is a first for video. UHD seems like it will be a more affordable, more readily available, and more common format. Therefore, I like DCI HD a little better, because, it is better. Higher quality. Better resolution. If you are going to go - go all in! DCI will be what you watch in theaters. These are not official terms by the way - they are terms floated by a few manufacturers, consortiums, associations, and broadcasters. My bet is that they will stick. I like them because they are simple to understand and I don't have to keep putting up the resolutions.
Camera wise, here is how it lays out:
New - Announced at NAB:
BlackMagic Design URSA - This camera is the most innovative. First of all, the price is very affordable - under $7,000. Second, the workflow while shooting is interesting. The camera has three workstations; one for the DP, one for the sound tech, and one for a producer. The URSA sports a 10" LCD and two smaller ones at the other positions (battery drain might be an issue here). You can also use the camera as a solo operator too. It’s bigger than a DSLR, but smaller than a traditional ENG camera. It is built to compete with other cinematography cameras and looks closest to the Sony F series. The URSA comes in several options. One of the options allows you to swap sensors easily. It has XLR audio and a ton of great features. The URSA is supposed to be shipping in the Fall. The camera has a 35mm sized sensor, according to BMD. The URSA will have a PL lens mount.
BlackMagic Design Studio Cam 4K - BMD introduced two innovative Studio Cameras; One that shoots HD and the other that does HD or 4K live. Both sport 10" screens and look like an iPad with a lens mount. The Studio cams can be color corrected and shoot flat in the cinema profile and under saturated in the video profile. They pair well with the ATEM BMD switchers. The Studio cams offer the ability to view LUTs and also have focus peaking and other interesting features, which include: fiber optic communications with built in walkie-talkie functions, tally lights, and more. The screen has a sunshade too. Sensor size is supposed to be the same as the pocket camera (in the HD model) and the production 4K in the 4K model. The lens mount is micro 4/3s but with a PL adapter it can take many lenses. The HD studio cam is shipping now, though firmware updates for LUTs and color correction will come later for the cam and switchers. The Studio 4K will ship by the end of the year, allegedly.
All of the Black Magic cameras announced at NAB seem awesome and will change the way we think, work, and shoot! I like that idea. I like everything they offer and I am very excited about these, conceptually.
AJA Cion - This is the single most exciting announcement from NAB, in my opinion. AJA has always been a great company. Their products have always been top notch and they always have been a company that makes products I use and trust. Their AJA recorders, including the AJA Quad Ki Pro, are awesome and robust. They offer great options and flexibility, and like most AJA products, are flexible, durable, and reliable. At NAB, AJA announced their first camera, a 4K camera that will shoot UHD onboard and DCI 4K to an AJA recording device, like a Quad KI Pro through an output. The camera is amazing in fit and finish, and sports a 35mm sensor, and suede shoulder mount. It is also great in size, shape, and weight. The Cion will record to AJA SSD drives. The drives are the same ones AJA makes for their recorders like the Quad Ki Pro. The Cion has XLR audio inputs. The camera is laid out well and well thought out, feature wise. The mount is a PL mount and the camera is under $10,000. This is very exciting. I can't wait to get my hands on one. I think this camera will be stunning and a game changer. Look for this camera to ship by Fall.
Sony A7s - Could this be Sony's big comeback? This is a mirrorless camera that is tiny. It feels and looks smaller then the GH4. It boasts a mirrorless 35mm sensor and looks like a baby DSLR. On board, it shoots 1920x1080. Plug in a 4K recorder via HDMI, like the Atomos Shogon (which it was showcased with at NAB), the Convergent Design Odessey 7Q, or the AJA Quad Ki Pro and this camera is a 4K beast, recording uncompressed 4K that looks stunning. The camera takes Sony A mount lenses and with adaptors it can handle just about anything. This may have been one of the most impressive announcements at NAB and with its sub $3,000 price tag, even adding $2,000 for a Shogon, makes this the most reasonable solution for uncompressed 4K. This camera is very exciting and there is no doubt that I can't wait to shoot with it! It ships soon and will most likely be hard to get, as I am sure it will sell out everywhere. It has a ton of great features including a 1/8 microphone and headphone jacks. It’s been a while since Sony has impressed me, but they did it. I was skeptical, but no more. It could be a huge hit for Sony and I think it’s definitely a great step in the right direction. It shows Sony gets it and is trying to appeal to filmmakers. This is definitely a great B camera and a compliment to any more robust 4K camera. But, in many cases, this can be the main camera. It also will work well in a live, multi cam workflow.
Panasonic - Panasonic Debuts 4K Camera/Recorder, VariCam 35, With New Super 35MM MOS Sensor, AVC-ULTRA Codecs For 4K. This camera will be the new VariCam flagship for Panasonic. It was showcased, along with a price announcement at NAB, reported at $65,000, as Panasonic seemingly looks to compete with the Sony F65. No bones about this - It's designed to be a true high-end cinema camera. Details on this camera are a little cloudy still, as it's not expected to ship before Quarter 4. It will supposedly have a DCI 4K sensor, but record at UHD and record to AVC ultra on P2 cards. None of this sounds that stunning or mind numbing. Nothing that will change the way we think or innovate. The one thing that rubs people the wrong way is that while everyone seems to be dropping prices, including ARRI, Panasonic seems to be going the wrong way with price on this. It also doesn't seem to offer that much. But many people love VariCams and I would say this is completely a wait and see camera. Lets see what it is and how it is when debuts, before we pass judgment, especially given Panasonic's past track record with the GH4 and the VariCams legacy. But, at least you are aware of it. Some more details below from its pre NAB announcement.
Already on the Market prior to NAB:
Canon C500 - The C500 is probably my favorite current 4K camera. It has a full frame sensor that crops to a large Super 35mm when shooting 4K. It has a lot of great features, including 10 bit or 12 bit recording and 4:4:4 color (the latter for HD creation, through uncompressed Canon MXF files) and XLR audio in, with good pre amps and low noise. It sounds good. It is capable of shooting REC709 for broadcast. You can buy it with a PL mount or a mount for Canon's great EF line. It has built in ND filters and several HDMI and SDI outputs. In my mind, the only drawback, and this is a big one, is that it won't record 4K in the camera. You need an recorder like the Odessey 7Q (my recommendation) to record 4K, which you would record in Canon's version of RAW called, C Log. I will say this though, the idea of having to use an recorder drives me crazy. The camera has great ergonomics, a great feel, and I have to add weight and bulk to it. It reminds me of the days when I began my career with an Ikagami 340 Camera and a Sony 3/4" tape deck hanging from my shoulder, connected via cable. I had a lot of batteries to carry and none powered anything that long. It made life miserable. It seemed ridiculous then and still does. I feel like it limits the way you can shoot and what you can shoot. Ultimately, in this case, it's not the end of the world and you can rig it into a nice little tight package that's all one piece. That being said, I truly hate the idea that the camera can't record 4K itself, especially at the price. You can however, record either full 1080p in the camera for high-end HD productions, 1080p proxies for dailies, or off-line editing on board in the C500. But, then you basically have a more expensive C300. I believe that this camera is tough, durable, and a workhorse. A firmware update fixes the fan issues so the fan stops when you start recording now. You have time code and gen lock to sync time code with other cameras and devices on board. Canon seems to be rolling out an amazing auto focus system, which is now offered as an upgrade to the C300. I expect this will become available in the near future for the C500. While I almost never use auto focus, I do think this will be worth it and be very valuable. Additionally, I really love the images off the Canon cameras, especially the DSLRs. They are only second to Nikon, RED's, and ARRI's (though two of these manufacturers don't offer 4K cameras). I think they look stunning and beautiful. The sensor looks great, but you won't get as shallow a depth of field shooting 4K as you would with the full frame 5D Mark III because the full frame is cropped to 35mm. The images you can turn out are stunning and it's priced very reasonably for a very high-end machine. It is currently Canon's flagship.
BlackMagic 4K - This camera is currently the most affordable 4K camera on the market for a professional camera and will probably keep that title for a while. If you consider that you get DaVinci Resolve with it, which is a $1,000 program (you probably need it with any of these cameras) and BlackMagic's Ultrascope, you are basically paying $1,500 for the camera. But even at full price, it's amazingly affordable. The sensor is reportedly a 35mm sensor, though many seem to question that. I'm told by several reliable sources that it is a medical grade sensor, which doesn't have the best color space, but excels on detail. If that's true, it shouldn't matter because you will be painting in color later in post with DaVinci Resolve anyway. You will most likely be shooting BlackMagic's Cinema DNG codec (due in firmware update shortly), which is their flavor of RAW and is more flat than most. It will also shoot to Pro Res 4K MOV files, if you prefer. That's a lighter, easier codec. But, you will probably want to shoot Cinema DNG. The BlackMagic 4K will also shoot in REC709, if you’d like. The camera has 12 stops of dynamic range and has a Canon EF mount, so it takes Canon lenses. In a most unprecedented move for a digital camera, it has a global shutter that allows it to have no rolling shutter or jello effect and virtually no moiré. You lose a little low light performance for this and add a little grain, but from what I have seen it's totally worth it and controllable in post, especially with DaVinci. Fast moving objects, like racecars and trains, no longer look like they are leaning; neither does a building, if you pan fast. This is very important. More cameras will probably go this route in the future. You can actually see the blades of a fan or propeller instead of seeing that weird effect. It's awesome. Speaking about shutter, it has a cinematic shutter that works on angle, instead of split seconds, so you will have to learn that if you didn't go to film school and shoot film. But, it's not a big deal.
This is the exact same body as the BlackMagic Cinema camera. It has two 1/4" audio inputs, which are as much of a joke as the audio on the camera in general. No audio meters and no real ability to control audio (controls are deep in the menu and don't do much), couple that with poor quality pre amps and low impedance, and you will be recording dual audio with this camera and syncing it later in post, for sure. I am not a fan of the body, shape, or weight balance. But I will say this, considering the price and stunning image quality, and that this camera will record UHD 4K (not the full 4K) on board, with outputs for UHD via 6G SDI, giving you the ability to record into an device or use it in a live workflow, it's well worth it. Buy a rig and make it more suitable or user friendly and deal with the rest.
It doesn't have gen lock for time code locking with their camera or other devices. You do have focus peaking built in, and it’s great! I think that's really important. False color would also be amazing, but nope. The LCD isn't the best and you will need to use the free sunshade you get with it, regularly. At the very least, buy a monitor, if not a monitor, an recorder combo. The BlackMagic 4K only has a buil- in rechargeable battery (it's not removable or replaceable) that lasts just long enough to turn it on and plug it into power or a third party battery, which is a must. You record to SSD hard drives, which you can buy at any computer store, and were intended to spend life serving a computer. It’s great. It keeps media cheap and easy, and works well. You can replace drives in a snap and find them for purchase virtually anywhere; great for all the long shoots in remote places. The BlackMagic 4K might be durable, but the Cinema Camera wasn't. So, treat it gently to be safe. These are a lot of expectations to put on the third camera ever made by the company, and only in the past two years.
This camera proves what I always say - it's not all about stats. It's all about the image quality. I don't care what the stats say. I care how it looks. I don't care if Derek Jeter hits one home run all season, as long as that one was when it was needed and that he shows up in the playoffs to hit another when it's needed. I believe in the intangibles and that's why I like this camera. I also love when a company does what everyone else is doing but for a lot less and then adds cool new features and shocks the world. I guess I love the underdog, especially one that makes things affordable for me, so I can overachieve on a budget. That's what BlackMagic has done here. It's groundbreaking and a must have. It shoots beautifully and is offered at a great price. I will own one and you should too.
Sony FS700 - The best part about this camera is that it can shoot high-speed footage. Other than that, I don't love the form factor or the images that come out of it. It's a Sony product so I have some respect for it, especially since I used to exclusively use Sony. But, I am not sure that it's worth the price, especially with the additional money you need to spend to upgrade to 4K. (The 4K upgrade will be available soon.) The camera has a Super 35mm sensor and SDI and HDMI outputs. This is good for the future. This is a video camera first, so you do get a ton of great video camera features and less work around. You get great on board audio with XLR inputs. You get ND filters. It's Sony's entry level 4K and it's worth considering. You know it will be a solid product with dependable image quality and build. So, while I don't love the camera, it is certainly worth a look.
Panasonic GH4 - The GH4 is one of the most intriguing of the bunch. It's not on the market yet and has no official release date. But, the specs and sample videos are out. There is no pricing, although it's expected to be very similar to the BlackMagic 4K camera. The GH2 was a great camera that was highly touted and hack-able to be even better (I don't hack cameras. I won't even think about it. I don’t recommend it, but facts are facts, hacks happened and hacks made it better). Francis Ford Coppola publicly stated he would shoot his n feature film on the micro 4/3s GH2. With its small, cropped sensor it certainly packed quite the punch. It had one major drawback (some minor ones too) - when you hit record, it shifted the white balance to green. In daylight it was hardly noticeable, but inside it was unmistakable - no matter how much light you had, it appeared everywhere especially the shadows. When recording, it locked you out of changing the white balance and ISO, making it impossible to overcome. The problem was you couldn't anticipate it or work with it. Any other camera I have ever used doesn't change when you hit record. The GH3 improved on this and many of the other issues. But its build quality was poor and the images didn't look amazing. It seemed like a step backwards. So to say I am skeptical of a 4K camera that will allegedly upscale the video to make it 4K and will have a low price and small sensor, is an understatement. But it has a lot of potential, especially with its additional, optional battery brick/breakout box.
The camera will shoot Ultra AVCHD (compressed Ultra HD) to SD cards on board in the Ultra AVC HD codec, but with the breakout box you will be able to do amazing things: 6G SDI uncompressed output to an recorder, HDMI out, XLR audio in with real audio meters. With the breakout box, the camera and its price tag promise to be amazing. Panasonic also has a long legacy of making great cameras. So this is definitely a camera worth considering and is expected to be under $5,000 all in - maybe even under $4,000 before you add the recorder. The images we have seen so far have been great and beautiful, but no word on whether they were shot to an recorder or on board. My guess is recorder though breakout box. The breakout box is supposed to have gen lock for locking time code. I also want to know how durable it will be and how it will do with heat and cold. One thing I do know, the on board LCD screen will be terrific.
Sony PXW Z100 - We would be remiss not to add this camera to the conversation. It's different than the others, but still has a place at the table. Some features are impressive, while others are not with this camera. It's all about the trade offs and what you need.
It's probably the best run and gun reasonably priced 4K camera of the bunch (Sony has a slightly cheaper entry level version, but this one is significantly better and worth discussing). It shoots full 4K, not UHD. It's a descendent of the DSR PD 150, one of my favorite cameras of all time. Its direct predecessor is really the EX (or the HDR FX line) line up and it looks a lot like it too. The good - it's an all in one solution; Proper audio with XLR inputs and great pre amps for terrific sounding on board audio, ND filters built in, great battery life, SDI and HDMI outputs and a 20x zoom lens. The bad – it starts with a small sensor and poor low light performance. We aren't talking about darkness, we are talking sun setting a little. Also, I feel like it's a repackage with a new sensor and 4K capabilities compressed to a proprietary format, which can be taxing on the editing system and hard to work with (XDCam). There is nothing groundbreaking or special here. It's a safe and easy-to-use camera. It's a Sony. Anyone can pick it up and shoot it, literally (that's a good thing).
Sony hasn't been game changing in this segment in a long time (maybe since the PD 150). With the small sensor, there is no shallow depth of field or great control of the image, making this more like traditional video footage. Shooting at 50 or 60 frames (your only options) will make it more like video too. It's a video camera, not a digital cinema or production camera. It's certainly for everyday use. At first, the price seems good, and if you are doing news/ENG than this is a good camera that will have some shelf life. Quick down and dirty productions, like documentaries in hostile places, conditions where you really need to move fast and have the camera just work, power on, and record with no setup, true run and gun shooting. If these are what you are shooting, then this is probably a good choice. Otherwise, go with another option, especially because the price seems high for everything else.
One last note on the Z100: Firmware updates to make it better in low light and overall, as well as adding new features are promised. But, no word on timetable yet.
Panasonic 4K VariCam - For years, people have sworn by Panasonic VariCams. They shoot high-end news programs, commercials, and even movies. Personally, I have never been sold on them. I think their price tags are high, the images are fine, and you can do better. However, Panasonic has announced a new 4K VariCam that I expect will be in the range of the Sony F65. No word on price or availability yet, but so far from what we are told, it is intriguing. We don't know enough to comment now and there isn't any video floating around that was shot on it, but I wanted to mention it so you would be aware that it is coming. NAB will probably shed more light on it and it will most likely be a favorite of news, TV networks, and reality programming. This camera will have all the goodies for sure.
Canon 1DC - This is a camera I love. Take all the features you love about a Canon full frame DSLR, put them into the 1DC, add a few more features, throw in 4K, and you have the 1DC. The 1DC has a full frame sensor, but crops that sensor to Super 35 for 4K video, just like the C500. It shoots UHD to a compressed format (motion JPEG) but it seems to be a great codec that holds up through the editing process and is light enough to edit on most computers today (though you would need a 4K monitor and graphics card). The camera shoots with Canon's C Log color space allowing you to really work on color correction and motion. Motion JPEG works much the way RAW video does by taking a high quality JPEG still image for every frame, instead of a raw one. You can also grab one of these jpegs for a still photo that's high end for ads or posters. You will still have moiré and rolling shutter with this camera, which bothers a lot of people. The camera is built on the 1D frame so it's big and it's heavy. But, it's really durable and worth it. This thing is a beast. It will also shoot very high-end stills. Like the C500, it has multiple frame rates and can also shoot HD footage. Battery life and low light performance are pretty good. It has a 1/8 audio jack for inputting audio (I don't mind this, but a lot of people do - XLR would be better but this is typical for a DSLR), a headphone jack, audio levels, and audio control with a great pre amp for recording sound. It also has an EF mount, which will take all of your Canon lenses. This is a great camera. This is really the only run and gun 4K camera out now that is perfect for journalists. The only real drawbacks are the price (come on Canon, lower that tag) and the compressed UHD, but you really don't notice the compression. It shoots 8bit 4:2:2 and 4:2:0 color spaces and will do the broadcast standard REC709, which is becoming increasingly more popular especially if you want your video to air on broadcast TV. One other note, it doesn't output 4K over HDMI. It records to CF cards in the camera, which is great! But the fact that you can't use an recorder for 4K is not great. It's definitely a contender and worth looking at. It's a good companion for the C500, a good B camera, and it can be a main camera too. But at this price, around $13,000, you might consider making the jump up to the C500.
Sony F65 - This is a terrific 4K camera. It's Sony’s flagship and is for very high-end commercials and movies. It's expensive - the price of a Mercedes Benz, and that's just for the camera. Then you need lenses (Cooke optics are the recommended lenses here, but that will run you the cost of a Bentley) batteries, media, and more. But, it's one of the top cameras on the market. A lot of major big budget TV shows, prime time dramas mostly, are shot with it. It has a 20 megapixel, Super 35mm sensor and shoots DCI HD and UHD, 16bit raw video. The camera has a PL mount and it needs serious accessories and rigging. It shoots in Sony's special color space with 4:4:4 color. The F65 will shoot up to 120 frames a second in 4K and shoots directly to on board memory cards. This camera has 2 XLR audio inputs and a headphone jack for monitoring. The pre amps in the camera are among the best in the business. Audio sounds great on board, although when shooting a film or commercial, you are almost always recording dual audio and syncing later. You have 4K output via SDI for monitoring, recording to an device or something else. You also have time code and gen lock for time code, in order to lock the time code to another cam or device. This camera can also shoot in the broadcast standard REC709 color space. This is a great camera. I am just not sure you need to spend this much anymore, and even if you do, I'm not sure this would be my choice. But, it is a great camera with terrific results.
Sony F55 – It’s very similar to the F65, but at less than half the price. This camera is used a lot for movies and TV too. Many of the features of the F65 are present in this camera and it shoots beautifully as well, it just has fewer features. The F55 has an 8.9-megapixel Super 35mm sensor, with 14 stops of dynamic range. It records to Sony's SxS cards to a compressed XAVC Intra format that is compressed and records 8 bit 4:2:2. It is not the best. The F55 uses a special FZ mount for lenses. It will shoot up to 240 frames per second in 2K recording. This camera has 2 XLR audio inputs and a headphone jack for monitoring. The pre amps in the camera are really good and provide very clean great sounding audio. Although, as I said before, when shooting a film or commercial, you are almost always recording dual audio and syncing later. It features 4K output through SDI, which means you can use an recorder. It also shoots in the REC709 broadcast color space and it has gen lock for time code.
RED - RED is the Ferrari of 4K cameras. They have a nice lineup and offer up a lot of options, even 6K video recording with their Epic M Dragon sensor. RED is a whole different world. They are the most technically advanced and impressive cameras out there. They have a minimum of 16 stops of dynamic range and can be used for stills and video. RED has its own compression for offline editing, proxies and playback. RED cameras can do a ton of frame rates in UHD, DCI HD, and some, like the Epic M Dragon, can shoot them in 6K. The RED One in the early 2000s was their first camera. Red was the first to have 4K. They have their own color correction software and more. You need to be fully trained to shoot RED, and you really should be using all of their tools, like their graphics cards and software. This can all be worth it because it's exclusive and makes you desirable to clients - but it's not cheap.
One of my favorite shows on the internet right now is House of Cards, which is shot with an Epic. It looks beautiful. So does everything shot on a RED. The cameras have all the bells and whistles. They have multiple output options too, including SDI and HDMI. The RED cameras only take AES/EBU embedded digital audio over SDI. That means you need an expensive field mixer or other mixer, or you will have to record dual audio and sync it later. REDs are loud because the fans need to cool a lot as they tend to overheat easily and they eat batteries quickly. My only issue with RED is that no matter what, I cannot seem to justify the expenditure with them, or the workflow, or the fact that they are temperamental, at best. I love the results. I love that the cameras are computers and are designed by computer people, not camera people. I love that they do things differently, are creative, and don't follow the rules. But sometimes, we have rules for a reason. I love a lot of things about RED. I think they are perfect for a big important shoot. However, I would rent, not buy. The REDs shoot their own uncompressed RAW codec and boast global shutters. The REDs are tremendous. I would love to have one. But again, I think it's better as a rental option.
Go Pro - By far this revolutionary camera company changed the way we shoot, the way we think, and what we shoot. The Hero3+ Black Series shoots RAW protune (their own special RAW codec) 4K video at 15 frames per second (UHD and 12 frames of DCI HD), nine frames less than the minimum I would like. However, this can be used for all sorts of stunt shots and it is by far the cheapest and probably the most durable 4K camera. I am sure future versions will be even better and we will see better frame rates. For under $400, this is very impressive. It has a fixed fisheye wide-angle lens that can be cropped and autofocus. Battery life is terrible and I have never had an affinity for it, but I do appreciate them. However, if you can get it working you will amaze everyone with the results. Low light performance is improved. But, when you feed it too much light it has issues with hot spots and dynamic range. Hey, what do you want for this ultra tiny crash cam? View the footage through a smart phone app or with the optional LCD screen, either of which I recommend, or you won't know what you are shooting. Oddly enough, you really need a robust computer like we talked about earlier, to even view the footage off here. You can jam audio in with a 1/8 cable thanks to a mic input. It does have micro HDMI out, but not for 4K. I would say buy a few of these if you don't already have them, but you probably do - it seems like everyone does.
I wish Nikon had a 4K camera. I am sure it will come eventually and be amazing. I love the D800 and D4s. But, Nikon does not have a 4K camera and I don't know if they have plans for one in the future. I hope they do. Nikon has amazing image quality, great features, and reasonable pricing. I think a lot of times they are ahead of the curve (they started the DSLR video craze by being the first to put video capabilities in DSLRs) and their latest HD DSLRs are remarkable. Their lenses are also amazing. There is just something so real and honest about Nikon's images. Hopefully, they will jump into 4K with both feet, but right now, they have not indicated that they will. Check out the D800 and the D4s, as well as their lower end cameras, if you need great HD cameras with awesome features and reasonable pricing. I do have faith in them. I think eventually they will have something and it will be worth the wait. I hope it's not too long.
Remember, you will probably want to go with the camera that best suits your needs. You are really marrying this gear, especially if you go for the higher end stuff. So, pick wisely and think about what kinds of things you shoot most often and what your clients want. Think about your infrastructure, workflow, and the computers. Think about the fact that you probably will need more than one camera, not only for multi cam shoots. Although a good reason, you probably want matching cameras or at the least the same brands. You most likely won't want to mix HD and 4K cameras because the image quality will be noticeably different, but also as a backup for multiple shoots on the same day with different crews, for troubleshooting, workflow, comfort, shard batteries, recorders, hard drives or memory cards, lenses, etc. Think about how you will deliver and play it back. I recommend using an on camera monitor that is super sharp like the Odyssey 7Q; it's big and has multiple inputs and outputs and records. On all of these cams, I also recommend going to an recorder. If you do get a monitor, please realize it won't display in 4K, as there currently is no camera top monitor capable of displaying in 4K, even the ones that can record in it, display in a different format. There currently aren't many playback devices. You’re getting in early. You will be up to speed and have a lot of shoots under your belt quickly, which is great! You probably also want to use great camera supports, like Steadicams, Freefly's Movi for stabilization, cranes, dollies, and sliders. All of these tools and others will help make your production look more professional and cinematic, and your images even more stunning (we will talk more about these tools and others like them in future articles). So, take the plunge! Be creative, start shooting amazing stuff, and have fun! Just make sure you’re ready. Remember, there is currently no perfect camera and certainly no perfect camera for every job. There is no perfect workflow either. You have to make it perfect for you. You’re going to have to learn it, know it, work it, and work with it. You’re going to have to decide which trade offs you can live with and which are deal breakers. Remember this isn't a hobby. You need to make money and a good deal of it. Some cameras will help you command more dollars and get you bigger jobs.
Hopefully this article was helpful to you, offered some good insight, great tips and advice. I look forward to writing the n one and talking about more new, great, and exciting things; along with giving you tips on how to better your abilities. Since I am a TV guy I'll say, Thank You for reading, until n time...Be Terrific.